Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Merry Christmas! Happy Epiphany!

In order to celebrate the fullness of the Christmas season this year AND to honor our children's Ethiopian celebration of Christmas, we've decided to send out our Christmas cards for Epiphany this year.

In Ethiopia, Epiphany is the date when the Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas. It is the Church celebration of the arrival of the 3 Wise Men to the infant Jesus. Many other cultures celebrate this day as their gift giving day as well in memory of the gifts given by the 3 Wise Men. For more about Epiphany click here . For some great Epiphany ideas try making an Epiphany cake or bless your home on Epiphany or start the New Year with a celebration of God's gifts and graces on Epiphany.

And, while you're preparing your hearts and homes for Epiphany, check out the photo session for our Christmas/Epiphany cards this year!

Any guesses which picture made the cut?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Let's hope Santa's a neat eater!

CB said, as we were putting out Santa's note and such..."I'll get the cookies and you get Santa's milk. But Mom, get Santa a milk cup WITHOUT a top on it, okay?"

We'll see how Santa does.
Peace on earth...

and good will to all. May God bless you all on this joyous Christmas Day! Please join with us in continued prayer for peace between all people and, in particular, for the people of Ethiopia. The conflict with Somalia (and on the Horn of Africa as a whole) continues to worsen. We also pray for the families in Ethiopia of our newly adopted children as well as the families who are waiting to travel to bring their new Ethiopian children home.

Luke 2: 1 - 14

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment, when Quirin'i-us was governor of Syria.
And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.
And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.
And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people;
for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Look for the gift

This is a most favorite piece of writing of mine. Many years ago, we received a quotation from it in a note (which we loved), but it wasn't until recently; as I researched some resources for a bible study on the topic of giving, that I found the entire letter shown here.

With Christmas just days away, gifts are on the minds of many. As Fra. Giovanni says, however, (poorly paraphrased by me) gifts come in many forms---things are not always what they seem---an ugly gift with the covering removed may bring great joy AND a joyful gift when opened may bring greater joy still! All are unique and divinely created.

Contemplate these words and the writings of this Renaissance man, and this Christmas take the time to pause and wonder and see the gifts all around you!

Letter Written by Fra Giovanni, 1513
I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got, but there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!
The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach is joy.
There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see - and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look!
Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by the covering, cast them away as ugly, or heavy or hard. Remove the covering and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power.Welcome it, grasp it, touch the angel's hand that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, believe me, that angel's hand is there, the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts. Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty - beneath its covering - that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage, then, to claim it, that is all. But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are all pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home. And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.
This letter was written by Fra Giovanni Giocondo to his friend, Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi on Christmas Eve, 1513. Born in Venice, Giocondo would become a priest, a scholar, an architect and a teacher. He was indeed a true 'renaissance man.' In 1496 Giocondo was invited to France by the King and made royal architect. If you've ever been to Paris and walked across the beautiful bridges Pont Notre-Dame or the Petit Pont -- both of these were designed by Giocondo.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Don't miss it!

H's godmother (and also our dear shower-throwing friend) emailed this announcement tonight:

On Friday, December 22nd the African Children's Choir will perform Silent Night on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Be sure to check your local listings for show time.

We were fortunate to see them perform live about 15 minutes from our home earlier this year. If you haven't seen them before---definitely, tune in Friday night for a show you won't soon forget---and if you have seen them before then you'll be sure to set your Tivo for this one!

Sharing a wonderful Christmas story received from a friend

In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach in Russia . They were invited to teach at many places including a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. The two Americans relate the following story in their own words:
It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem . Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the Baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.
Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city. Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia , were used for the baby's blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States . The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy's manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger.
Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately--until he came to the part where Mary put the Baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, "And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don't have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with Him. But I told Him I couldn't, because I didn't have a gift to give Him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept Him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, "If I keep You warm, will that be a good enough gift?" And Jesus told me, "If you keep Me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me." "So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and He told me I could stay with Him---for always."
As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found Someone who would never abandon or abuse him, Someone who would stay with him--FOR ALWAYS.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, throughout her life of missionary work, often reminded people that the goal of the Christian is to "... SEE Christ in everyone and to BE Christ to everyone." In many ways (adoption is only ONE of them) we are given tremendous opportunities each day God gives us here on earth. As Christmas Day approaches, take a moment to look there someone for whom we are called to BE Christ or are we SEEING Christ in all those around us? A, thanks for sharing this sweet story...thank YOU for being a living example of your faith.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Phone Call

I promised my mother in law I would call her this morning with some information.

Me: Hi, Mom. I have 8 1/2 black or 8 1/2 white.

MIL: (deafening silence--then moments later) Oh, you mean the SHOES.

What else could I have meant?

(left to right, H: age 8 1/2 and B: age 8 1/2)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Third Sunday of Advent

Nothing like an excuse for joy around Christmas, right? Well, through the waiting and pondering of Advent, the third Sunday in Advent Also known as Gaudete Sunday (The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday because in Latin, the first words of the opening antiphon for that day’s Mass are "Gaudete in Domino semper" ("Rejoice in the Lord always"). On this Sunday rose-colored vestments are permitted and the rose-colored candle is lit as a reminder that we are called to rejoice-source , the third Sunday is a reminder that for the people who have been waiting in darkness, the great light is almost here! With that in mind, and at the risk of letting a certain cat out of the bag, I decided this was too good not to share---virtual Advent cards---how cool and what a great chance to share some of this weekend's joy and wonderment with someone else today! On a somewhat related matter, as I present for you a little joy from our ark to celebrate the day!

CB and N in traditional midwestern Christmas garb.

H wondering why we're wearing hats (again!) but this time---inside!

Not sure about the lights and decorations...

But LOVING the camera...

Or at the very least, the camera lady!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The teacher

Before anyone gets alarmed, this is neither a self-serving promotion of my education background nor a gripe session about any other educators...rather, this is a story about my two oldest daughters, in particular H, who seems to have inherited (via adoption magic) the family curse--I mean, gift of teaching.

As I have said previously, both H and B like to play school. They also like to teach one another their native language. What they like better than either of these, however, is to set up Mom and Dad. For example, H will say, "Mom, say (meaning cross in Amharic) meus-keul." I rev up my lips and spit out, "meusk-ool" and she and B giggle hysterically, while H points her long, skinny index finger and says with a grin, "NO!" Same thing repeats again for Dad. Then, when they are finished mocking us, H will say to B, "Say, meus-keul." And B curls up her lips and sticks out her chin and sputters, "moosh-cool" Ha ha, I'm thinking to myself, that doesn't even sound close. Then H smiles at B and turns to Dad and I and says, "Mom-no. Dad-no. B-riiiigghht!" All I'm saying is that I would not enter into any type of bet with these two any time soon...but that's not the end of the story.

The past couple of weeks have been amazing. They have been full of joys and sorrows, but mostly joys. Through all the doctor visits, dentist appointments, antibiotics and other painful necessities in order to care for our new children---they (not so much Mom!) hang in there with us. After today's final round of bloodwork (8 vials drawn and many tears shed per child), it dawned on me. Here is a perfect example of faith, living right under my own roof.

What a revelation to me to truly understand the words of Sacred Scripture which say, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3).

The trust that our children have placed in us to follow where we lead, not knowing where they are going-or what will be there when they arrive-is a reminder of what God asks of each of us. I even have God's word written down for me as a guide, as well as thousands of years of church history and I still can't just stop myself from asking, "Are you SURE God? Is this REALLY what you want? I'm not sure if doing that or going there or (insert any number of things that fear and lack of trust hold me back from doing) is really such a good idea." But now, I have a vivid picture in my mind; one of a father holding his child and comforting her (or him) through the rough stuff and I know as much as that father loves and cares for his children, God loves and cares even more.

Our new daughter is such a good teacher, she's already giving us lessons.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Okra Pickles

I hear that they are very tasty--crunchy, yet tender and salty--but not too much. You should try them. Let me know what you think.

We all put our pants on one leg at a time...

although the rest of the dressing routine, well, let me give you an example:

We were given a lovely navy blue (very dressy-i.e.-Sunday church wear) dress for H. Yesterday morning, she came downstairs, dressed for breakfast in---you guessed it---the navy blue dress.
So trying to use this as a "teachable moment" for language and etiquette, I said to H, "You look very pretty this morning. That is a very fancy dress and it's pretty yucky out today, why don't we choose some different clothes for today and wear that dress a different day."
She looked at me, slightly puzzled, so I said (even less wordy this time), "Dress-pretty. Today-shirt and pants day." And as I did, I pantomimed putting on pants and a shirt.
This was met with an a-ha look and she said, "pants, okay" and ran upstairs to change (or so I thought). About 30 seconds later, I heard her coming down again, this time, she had on the dress, but with a pair of pants underneath it.
So, I thought to myself, okay I need to explain and demonstrate the shirt part again. I said to H, "Yes, pants, good, but also shirt" and with that I went through elaborate hand gestures of putting a pretend shirt over my head and sliding my arms into pretend sleeves. Again, the lightbulb flashed and she was off for her bedroom, and again 30 seconds later I heard her descending. When she rounded the corner from the dining room into the kitchen, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a glimpse of navy blue fabric. When I looked up, she still had the dress on (with the pants) and had added a shirt over the top of the dress. I can only imagine how strangely she must think parents instruct their children to dress in America.
At this point, I did my final silent mime show for the morning---taking off the dress, while keeping on the pants and shirt. She took off again, and as she did, I offered a quick prayer that we might make it to lunch sans the navy blue dress, but otherwise fully clothed. And then, voila, there she was pants and shirt and ready for breakfast. Does anyone know who the patron saint of wardrobe is?
Together at last!

First *official* family photo!

Mom's turn to hold Baby T, who needed Dad's help to stop playing with Mom's sweater pin and smile for the camera.

A kind woman at the airport offered to take a picture with all of us--letting Grandma and Grandpa get in on the fun!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"And how does this happen to me?..."

Elizabeth's words spoken in today's Gospel take on new meaning this year. In muddling through the process of becoming a family of 8, there are struggles, but there is also great joy. In those joyful moments, Elizabeth's spoken words become clear, "How does this happen to me?" Full of humility, she is incredulous to bear witness to the overwhelming joy of Mary. There are definitely moments, where we have been humbled over these last 10 days; when three under three cry simultaneously, when a rotation of sick bodies stumble through our bathroom all night long, when our language gets in the way, or dare I mention, the laundry...In these moments, there is no where else to turn but to God in total humility, and His response is opening our eyes to see and experience the joy that is underneath these surface struggles. Then we can truly marvel at our growing family and wonder, "How did this happen to us?" Blessed are we!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Just Because She Asked

Okay, Lizardo, here are some more...

Baby T and the women of the ark

Baby T allowing Mom to hold him, while he scans the airport for the preferred parent.

Watching Baby T do what he does best!

CB remarking, " I love his fuzzy head!"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tunes for the Ark I and II

On Friday, we received in the mail a most thoughtful gift from our good friends in California. They have been along for our journey, since it's inception---way, way back when God put the call to adopt on our hearts. Even more amazing, they stuck it out with us for the, oh EIGHT or so years that it took to come to fruition.

I was in the car with CB, showing her a picture of the family that came with the gift, when she asked:
CB: Who are these people? (remember CB is only 3 and last saw them when she was only months old!)
Me: That is the S family. They are friends of ours.
CB: Waaaiiittt a minute. THESE are the S family? (we have prayed for their family each night when Mr. S was deployed in Iraq and it has just felt right to continue to do so)
Me: Yes.
CB: Well, then who is this one? And this one? And this one? And this one? Who is that BOY?
Me: (after explaining each person) That's everyone.
CB: But there are no brothers? Where are the brothers? And a baby? Where is a baby?
Me: The girls USED to be babies (ignoring completely the brother question) but now they are all grown-up.
CB: Well, okay, but waaaiiiittt a minute. (studying the picture very carefully) Just how OLD is that mom?
Now, I'm no expert, but perhaps she's trying to determine if it is possible to ADD a baby and/or a brother to that family...if so, call her. She'll be glad to give you our adoption agency's phone number!!!
And to commemorate the journey this family of ark builders has been on, they created not one, but TWO cds of great, carefully chosen, music. Besides the fact that the music is so awesome, we are reminded each time we listen to it of how this process has not only involved our family. So many friends and families have been right there alongside us as we've built. People have come from far and wide with planks of gopherwood, wooden mallets and nails, and (yes, F) even pitch and bitumen to make our ship waterproof! We've been covered in prayers from coast to coast, the importance of which I can't even express, and now these beautiful cds fill our hearts and our ark with song to remember these days. Thanks C, R, D, R and A--we look forward to introducing our newest family members to you when you tire of sunny CA!
Here they come!
First Steps into the airport

Looking for the welcoming committee!

The Boy spots us!

24 plus hours in airports and on airplanes, quite a *labor* but looking none the worse for wear.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

At the airport



Still more waiting...

Yeah, mon!
As promised, here is the picture of the boy in his Rasta hat.

It's a little known fact, Normie, that the Rastafarian movement got its start in Ethiopia; thus the Ethiopian flag colors on all things Rasta-fied. So, the photo CD worked and more pictures to come!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

AHOPE for Children

If you missed this, take a moment and go watch. This is an MSNBC video featuring the work of Dr. Jane Aronson, whom I mentioned previously. It is a well done, informative piece highlighting the AIDS orphans in Ethiopia; in this case five who themselves are HIV-positive. Pay particular attention to the twelve year old boy from the US, who is hosting one of the Ethiopian orphans. His compassion and motivation to help the children, who are in the cross hairs of this crisis, is very moving.
In a way, it reminded me of one of the Boy's comments from his week in Ethiopia with his Dad. They were instructed by their driver that it would be okay to give a little money to the throngs of beggars who beseiged the car at each stop, but not too much or they may have trouble. So, the Boy had a small handful of birr (Ethiopian currency) and was ready to pass it out through the cracked window. But when more people came to the window than he had birr, he handed the money to his Dad and asked him to do it. When he told me this story, he turned to me and said, "I just couldn't do it, Mom. It was just too hard. How do I choose whom to help and whom I won't help." Then he looked away. I shared that I understood what he meant. As a parent, I can't bear to think of the desperation of parents in Ethiopia who are faced with my son's dilemma in their own family. How do I choose whom to feed, whom to school, or how to console a child in need of medical treatment that I can't provide. Tough stuff-even for an adult mind-let alone a 12 year old boy.
There is a great scripture verse that has been my screen saver for nearly the past six months.

It reads, ...once our eyes are opened we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act. (Proverbs 24:12)
So, take a moment, hear the stories, have your eyes opened...and act.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Not just a clever name

Today in the car, the Boy and I were talking about a project they will be doing at school to earn a "dress-down" day in January. He said in order to be out of uniform, the students will each donate $1-$2 to go towards the Africa mosquito net project. We talked a little about how worthwhile that will be, and that so many people are infected (with potentially fatal diseases) from mosquito bites and that the nets are an extremely inexpensive means of prevention.

Then he said to me, "I know they tell you that you can't get mosquito bites in Addis, but I was bitten FIVE times when I was there." Then after a moment of thinking, he added, "Well, it could have been a fly or something."

To which I replied, "Or it could have been the bedbugs..."

His face became very serious as he turned to me, "They have those in Ethiopia?!?"

"Yup, remember the plastic covers you put on the beds when you stayed there?" I asked.

"Uh-huh." He gulped hard.

"Well, those were for bedbugs," I told him, "Haven't you ever heard 'Good night. Sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite'?

"Yeah...but I thought that was just a figure of speech."

He is now wise in the ways of the world in more ways than he ever imagined!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

And I couldn't forget...

the photo of my first baby on his 12th birthday in front of the hospital where he was born.

According to his Dad, this moment is also captured on our digital recorder, including the part where he left a little bit of himself so that Germany will never forget him! I'm serious, he just doesn't react to time change well...
It's not all snow and shots, really.

If it wasn't bad enough to have to spend your first days in America in the bitter cold and snow, how about your new family (remember these people who you keep hearing are just so super?!) decide to take you to the doctor's office first thing Monday morning! The boy was totally jet-lagged (and as evidenced by his de-planing puke in Germany---and then Saturday and Sunday back home!--- his internal clock does not adjust quickly to time change) and his school books were in his luggage, their whereabouts unknown, so he stayed home from school on Monday. B has really clicked with H and they spend much of this weekend giggling and conversing in a combination of broken English/Amharic, then grabbing one another's hand and calling, "Come, come..." and running off to play. We decided that the doctor's visit would be, maybe, a little bit better with her there, too. So, B came along for the ride. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law came and stayed with N, CB and the recuperating Boy.
After talking with the doctor, he ordered all the tests recommended by orphan doctor, Jane Aronson. He believes that H's age is accurate and that she is probably 8 1/2, turning 9 in February (6 mos. before B does---I'm just waiting for someone to see that on paper and wonder how I pulled THAT off!) Baby T, however, he thinks is around 8 months old, which is what we have been thinking, but not what the birth certificate supports. So, we will be working to remedy that as we re-adopt here in the States. This is all somewhat irrelevant, unless you are a doctor looking at a immunization schedule. The baby, with the doctor assuming the age of 8 months, was only in need of one vaccination and the TB test. Poor H, on the other hand, had FOUR shots, while her Dad hugged her tightly and I tried to not cry. (In that respect, H may have done better than me!) Then, we got the order for the bloodletting...I mean, labwork. We decided to come back later this week, when the TB tests get read and worry about that then. As it is, the tetanus shot alone is making H's arm hurt like crazy, but she hated the taste of chewable tylenol so badly that she preferred a nap with a cold compress to any more than a half of a tablet. At this point, I'm not sure she isn't thinking Ethiopia didn't look so bad after all...sigh.
Taking the hint

Okay, Cath and Paige, et al...I have been a shameless non-blogger the past few days, not for lack of trying-mind you, but a few glitches in the otherwise seamless (haha) groove of the ark has kept me from my computer more than usual. I haven't even returned email (gasp!) Tonight, however, for those about to stalk---I salute you---with as much of an update as I can muster before someone wakes up, throws up, or shows up.

As you read, albeit briefly, everyone arrived safe and sound on Saturday. It was a really wonderful homecoming, if you don't count the fact that all of their their checke
d baggage ended up diverted on a totally different airlines to parts unknown, but our most precious cargo arrived on time and in one piece. We headed home with the Boy riding shotgun and me trying to make friends with Baby T, who until recently had decided that Dad was a much better Mom than me. I had spent the night before their arrival putting the finishing touches on the house re-do as well as the cleaning spree that just had to happen. I had all the carpets professionally cleaned, all the bed linens washed, and all the laundry folded, pressed and put away in the appropriate rooms. Then, around 11pm, I heard N coughing upstairs (not too unusual last week with the croup diagnosis and all) but all of a sudden, the coughing became much louder. I ran upstairs to find that N had decided to go into competition with her soon-to-be roommate for who could throw up the most. I'd be hard pressed to call a winner in that race, but I do know that N's clean-up required a late night bath as well as a turn with the steam cleaner over the carpeting...and this was the only night I declined having one of my sister's-in-law stay over ("No, I don't need help. It's just one more night. What could possibly happen?" Sheesh.)

Finally, we arrived home. Fortunately for us, it seems that our daughter is a VE
RY good reader in her native language. It seemed that her Dad was able to do some of his best communication with the little English/Amharic phrasebook throughout the week. It looked something like this:

Dad: After finding the word he needed in English, "Okay, H, read this one. Okay, do you have that one? Okay, now don't forget that one." (shuffling through the book) Now read this one."

This continued until a string of words was arrived at that formed the semblance of a sentence thus conveying a thought.
Our daughter is very patient with her ferenge family.

Everyone was just exhausted (except Baby T, who had spent the better part of the airplane ride asleep and by the time we arrived home, was on schedule--in Ethiopian time--to be waking up to greet the day) so by early Saturday night, B and I were the only ones awake, but even we crashed pretty early after such a long week. A friend of ours recently compared his trip to Ethiopia for the adoption to inhaling and holding a deep breath---for a looonng time~and then when it was over, just letting the breath out in one big sigh. I think he's got it down to a T.

We have pictures from the airport arrival, but we were unable to get a CD of the photos and my scanned ones are really crummy. So, tomorrow, my plan is to attempt an outing with the four who are currently home during the day, and see what I can do to remedy that situation.

We seem to be plagued by a host of technical difficulties with cameras, photos an
d video. Our digital camera refused to hold a charge nor did it allow the *rechargeable* batteries to, well, recharge which cut our picture taking down quite a bit. We were able to get quite a bit of video of Layla/Wanna, which was very nice, but I don't have the correct wire to upload it to the computer. And, as above, I am down the arrival photo CD. But, in the meanwhile, here are a few pictures of the boys on their trip with H and Baby T.

Meeting each other for the first time at Layla/Wanna

Celebrating after the embassy appointment was finished.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Photo Wall Addition

Upon their arrival home, as we've been going through the carry-on bags (since the four gigantic suitcases we left with only just made their way to the airport today!) I've been trying to learn as much about the trip and Ethiopia as I can vicariously. My husband continues to amaze me with the items he pulls out of his bag. For example, he was given a picture by Baby T's bedileuma (I'm not sure of the spelling of this, nor am I entirely sure if this is accurate-but I believe she was his main caregiver at Wanna House). She had come to know and love our kids over the past 5 months that they were there and wanted a special picture by which to remember them. It could only have been divine intervention (which according to my husband basically presided over the entire trip) that for some unknown reason, a copy was made of this photo, in an 8 by 10 size print and was presented to my husband when he arrived.

This was before we arrived, the day they went for passport photos. We are now in search of the perfect frame to hang it on our family photo wall. Still, many more photos and stories to tell. I'm hoping to have the boys share some of their trip in the first person as well. For now, I'm off to bed before Baby T decides that it's morning in Ethiopia and time to wake up !

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Just in case you are wondering...
They are all home (and as of now)all asleep! More stories and pictures to come! Thanks for all the incredible wishes to welcome them home!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Destination USA

They're flight is officially in the air and headed for the US. They had a going away party scheduled for this afternoon at Layla House. I'm sure they took lots of pictures. I can't wait to see them and hear all about it. For now, however, I'm fully focused on their arrival tomorrow---less than 24 hours away!
One of the things that I've seen done before, and I thought was a GREAT idea, was to have friends and family *sign* the new children's memory book. Since this blog has become a virtual memory book to share with H and Baby T as they grow and wonder about their journey to our hearts and home, I'd love for each of you to share a thought, a hope or a prayer with them to know that you all, too, were part of their story...each in your own unique ways. Thank you so much for being a part of such a special time and thank you for the great welcome you've given our newest family members!!!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Very Best

Today marks my last phone call to Ethiopia. I was able to chat with my husband for a little while tonight as Baby T had decided that sleep was a good thing. His Dad also cut way back on what he was feeding him and as a result, found that he wasn't leaving a trail of vomit across Ethiopia. Good news all around. His Dad also told me that they've obviously bonded across their fluid filled nights. Apparently, someone else tried to take Baby T out of his high chair and he cried until Dad came and carried him out himself! A little vomit is a small price to pay for that kind of attachment, I think. I spoke to the Boy briefly and he informed me that he has some new headwear--a Rasta hat. That should make an interesting statement around town, I'd say. And H has become more talkative and calls "Dad" now when she needs something. But the story doesn't end here...the bulk of their busy day was spent with H and Baby T's family at the house she grew up in with her mother. I know only a few details from their visit and, I expect, I may never understand the intensity of such a meeting. I do know that it affected my husband in a profound way and I am forever grateful to him for doing something which must have been difficult to do. They were able to take pictures of the kids' birth grandparents and aunt and godmother, who was a dear friend to her birth mother before she died. The aunt presented H with a necklace and a photo album made for her of her birth family and pictures of her when she was a little girl. Our agency's social worker came and translated as well as provided suggestions for questions to ask the birth family. She suggested asking what their birth mother wanted for them. And then came the reply, I'm not even sure who answered, but whoever spoke said, "She always wanted them to have the very best." Even now, typing her words, leaves me dizzy. They shared a meal together in the small 10 by 10 space our children once called home. Then, before they prepared to leave, the family spoke to the children giving their blessing on their new family and encouraging them to be good, work hard and do well in America. I don't think there was a dry eye in that small shack.
Their birth mother will get her wish, of that I am sure. That this family loved these two children so much that they granted them a chance to grow, to thrive, to learn--perhaps someday to return, is a living testament that they held up their end of the deal. Now it is up to us to hold up ours. May God grant us the wisdom and the courage to do so.
What a welcome!

Those who felt it necessary to mock my obsession, I mean-observation of the weather forecast for their arrival this weekend...Take a look at this:

Now, I am rearranging my plans for today to run out and do my last minute errands BEFORE the storm (that the FOX weather station called the worst since the blizzard of 99!) hits. I figure any housework can get done tomorrow when we are stuck inside the house. B may find herself with a mom-declared snow day, particularly if a foot of snow falls. Loading the girls all up to shovel a foot of snow off the driveway...I'm just not seeing it happening. AND based on just the rain event of yesterday, 200 flights were cancelled at OHare. Please keep the traveling portion of my family in your prayers as they prepare to leave Ethiopia tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Man of the House

B is an amazing kid. She always has been, but the past few days she has been a real trooper. She is quick to help (without a fuss!) or play with her little sisters or to keep a watchful eye on me, even, which this week is no small feat! I smiled to myself at the self-proclaimed "man of the house."
Then, today, I spoke to the traveling "man of the house." He sounded a little tired, but upbeat and managing to take things, as he does so much, in stride. It reminded me of Bill Cosby's talk to his children about being "the boss." He finished by telling them, that he had seen the boss' job---and he didnt' want it. I imagine B would think the same if she knew what her Dad had been up to the past few days
  • Baby T was into the second day of vomitting-usually on Dad.
  • Spending a few hours in an overseas US Embassy to ensure that all i's were dotted and t's crossed (which they were!)
  • The Boy was helping by keeping his headphones on and music turned up.
  • The running water was hit-or-miss today at the guest house.
  • There doesn't seem to be a tub (for bathing puking babies) at the guest house.
  • He is preparing to take our brand new daughter, who vascilates between happy and sad regarding leaving Ethiopia, to see an unknown group of relatives tomorrow.
  • I'm sure he's also starting to contemplate the trip (and the length of it) back home in less than 48 hours.

I'd have to agree with Cosby, I don't know WHO would volunteer to sign up for this job. Except my husband. For those who wondered, he has 100%, from start to finish, been a full-time rider--Captain, even--on this ark ride. He has been strong and steady through the daunting paperwork, through the emotion of accepting a referral, through the never-ending costs, and now through the a third world country...where the prospect of running water is not guaranteed...with a sick bring home two children who barely know him at all...on a plane which they've probably NEVER seen, let alone flown on...all on his "vacation" time. And I love him even more today than I did when he picked my baby sister up, off the side of a ski run and carried her down the slope to safety. But what's even more amazing, is that he isn't doing it for me. All of this and more that he's done and continues to do (without a complaint, I might add), he does because he's felt God's call, too, for our family and he's answered it.

Advent Virtual Cookie Swap

1-16oz. box of confectioners' sugar
1-12oz. pkg. chocolate chips
1-18oz. jar of creamy peanut butter
1/2 c. butter, softened
Combine everything but chocolate in a bowl with an electric mixer. Roll into bite sized balls. Insert a toothpick in each ball; place on cookie sheet. Freeze 2 hours.
Before removing balls, melt chocolate chips over low heat, stirring frequently. Dip frozen balls into melted chocolate. Place on waxed paper, cool at room temperature until chocolate hardens. Remove toothpick. Yield: approximately 5 dozen 1" balls.

These cookies are easy for little hands to be involved in the making, freeze well and who can resist a combination of chocolate AND peanut butter? Enjoy and Happy Baking!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Phone Call #1

First, let me make some corrections to what I wrote about our previous phone call. While it is true that the connection was crystal clear and great AND it is true that I have a bunch of Extreme Africa and Africa Plus+ phone cards; it is NOT true that one depended on the other for that call...It seems that in my excitement to call them yesterday, I wrote the guest house phone number on the back of one of the phone cards. Then, in my rush to call, I picked up my phone, looked at the back of the card and dialed...DIRECTLY! I totally forgot to use the code for the phone card! So, today, I made sure to follow the directions to call and lo and behold, it worked. The price, however, was a less than stellar connection, which started out with a series of fax-like beeps heard on both sides of the Atlantic.
Now that you know all about how to call/not call Africa using a phone card...
My husband reported that everything was going well on the ark. They went to Layla/Wanna this morning and met the kids. The Boy played with some of the boys there and commented to me, "Mom, there are a TON of babies in that little room!" This from a oldest of six children...
He said that Baby T is just a cutie and that he hasn't cried once. Even the Boy says that he just sits and smiles and plays with whatever you put in front of him. They did, however, go out for dinner, where Baby T threw up all over my husband as they exited the restaurant. Lucky for him, he's so cute! (the baby, that is---well, on second thought, I guess both of them!) H also added that he was asleep already when I called. Oh yes, (big grin) that means I talked to my new daughter today! Her voice was very quiet, but I know she said, "Hi, Mom!" We struggled to understand each other across the phone and language barrier. She also spoke to her new little sisters. When my husband got back on the phone, he said it had been a very busy day. He said H's emotions run the gamut from happy to sad and back again throughout the day. He also said that she (our shy, quiet girl) has many friends at Layla and is very sad to leave them. (Anyone looking to adopt a school aged Ethiopian girl?) H came in to tell him she was getting sleepy and ready for bed, while carrying the soft teddy bear my mother-in-law gave her. Apparently, she has carried it around with her all day. He also said that she had, for the first time at Layla, her hair braided and how beautiful she looked.
My heart just aches for her--to have joy battling such tremendous sadness is daunting for an adult, let alone for an 8 year old girl.
They are planning, for tomorrow, to go back to visit and play at Layla some and shop a little and get lunch before going to their embassy appointment in the afternoon. Then, on Thursday, the AAI's Ethiopian social worker has arranged for a visit to a relative's home to meet some of the extended family. Please keep all of them in your prayers for this difficult but important visit. I'm hoping to talk to them again tomorrow. Check back here, same time-same place for an update!

It is nearly 3:30 in the afternoon in Ethiopia. By my estimation, the boys have meet the kids and have been with them for nearly 6 hours so far, of which I have slept maybe 5. I have puttered around my house now to the point of exhaustion (not mine, the house's!) and have very little left to do on my to do list. During the night, out my windows, I have been able to take in the houses in our neighborhood that our already lighted up for the Christmas season.
It dawned on me somewhere in the midst of my cleaning frenzy, that I am doing exactly what I don't want to do. The self-imposed activity has had or will have any effect on what I should be truly preparing for this week. It reminded me a bit, as we prepare this Sunday to celebrate the season of Advent, which precedes Christmas, that slowing down to prepare my heart is more important.
Advent is a liturgical season and a time of waiting and expectation. For Catholic Christians, it is a time of spiritual preparation for Christmas. The problem is, that Advent falls right between two very festive, and in America, hugely secularized celebrations containing turkeys and Santa Claus, during which the spirit of Advent can get lost. I have to admit, it is hard to think about prayers, fasting and vigilance in preparation for the celebration of Christmas, but I think I get it a little more this year than in the past.
When I was a little girl, I remember having friends who put their Christmas decorations up weeks before us. I rememeber how when we finally put our tree up and decorated it, it was nearly Christmas already. Now, this is not a condemnation of people who decorate early; it is more a reminder for myself that there is purpose in the waiting. Taken in context, the purpose of Advent really isn't joy per se, but the anticipation of the joy to come. On Christmas Eve, some 30 years ago, I vividly remember driving home from my grandparents house and marveling at the houses suddenly aglow with the splendor of the night. It was pure magic. That the time had finally come to celebrate after what seemed to me the wait of an eternity, is not lost on me as an adult. For centuries before that first Christmas, all of mankind had been waiting and then, voila, God flipped the ultimate lightswitch and the Light of the World appeared! Again--pure magic and sheer joy for those who had dwelled in darkness for centuries.
That's the kind of end I want to our adoption journey. Sure, I'd like the house to be organized and clean, but not at the expense of my heart being ready. So, until I hear from the boys about their meeting today, I will leave you with a favorite Advent meditation the is going to take a prominent place on my freshly dusted table:

If as with Herod,
We fill our lives with things,
And again with things;
If we consider ourselves so important
That we must fill every moment of our lives with action;
When will we have the time
To make the long, slow journey
Across the burning desert
As did the Magi?
Or sit and watch the stars
As did the Shepherds?
Or brood over the coming of the child
As did Mary?
For each of us
There is a desert to travel,
A star to discover,
And a being within ourselves
To bring to life.
-Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen
What not to do while waiting

It is not a good idea to buy a coconut 2 weeks before your husband goes to Africa to bring home your new kids. It is also not a good idea to leave the aforementioned coconut in its plastic grocery store wrap on the counter in the kitchen during that time. Two things come to mind: coconuts are filled with milk AND they apparently have a VERY SHORT shelf life. Still one last thought, the smell that a rotten coconut has is distinct, if you have never smelled it---you will recognize it when you do---AND it seems to be a lingering scent that permeates the air for HOURS after you find it. Not that I know anything about this, of course...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Landing (with update)

So, they are (by all airline accounts) on the ground in Bole Airport--a full 8 minutes ahead of schedule! Now the REAL adventure can begin!!! Our agency director is supposed to be leaving for Ethiopia tomorrow, weather permitting, so it will be an added bonus if they can meet her and thank her in person for the dedication she has shown to the children of Ethiopia and the families, like ours, who have been so blessed by her work.
***Update---I just hung up the phone with the boys! They were standing in the kitchen at the guest house when I called. I was able to speak to both of them. They both said they were doing well, the flight on Lufthansa was awesome and they are pretty much awake (with quite a few others at the guest house, so I understand). All of their luggage made it there safely and they had, according to the Boy, a "unique" ride from the airport to the guesthouse. He said it was just a regular road they traveled on, which by his account contains no traffic signs/signals at all. They were welcomed warmly and were happy to meet the other families staying at the guest house. They are scheduled to arrive at Layla/Wanna tomorrow morning at 9:30 their time and meet H and Baby T! I can't believe the time is finally here! They plan to go out for dinner with all FOUR of them tomorrow night and I'm supposed to call to speak to everyone tomorrow around noon CST! On an aside, the internet connection is apparently a little "rough", according to my husband, at the guest house, so I'm not sure how much contact we'll have that way. On the bright side, our phone connection was crystal clear with no delay. We are using two types of prepaid cards (Extreme Africa and Africa Plus+). You'd think they were right next door! So, now to pass the next 24 hours of waiting...

Now Boarding...

Lufthansa flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Scheduled arrival---9pm local time (which is about noon CST today!) I spoke to the boys before they boarded their plane in the middle of the night (here) last night. They were doing fine minus the German tendency to anal-retentiven perfectioness, I mean, careful attention to detail. It seems that the rental car people uber-inspected the car upon return and found a tiny scratch UNDER the passenger door (really people, who looks THERE?) and had an intial damage estimate of about 500 Euros!!! (for those who are inclined, please pray about this unexpected expense) My first phone call this morning (actually, second after the pediatricin's office--I think N has a bit of croup) will be to the rental car agency here in the states to see what can be done about this. In the meanwhile, the carpet cleaners are coming to clean out of the carpeting in the house. This will be great to have everything so clean. What was not great, was staying up to the wee hours of the morning ensuring that all dusting and cleaning was done and everything was off the floor (it was a half-hour alone to remove all the Polly Pocket paraphenalia from the recesses of the family room), but it is finished and soon the carpets will be, too. My plan is to run N out to the doctors as the carpets are finishing, perhaps make a stop or two on the way home to give the carpets some drying time and then make my first ever call to Ethiopia this afternoon!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Christmas Markets, Birthdays, and Staus

The boys have arrived in Frankfurt. They got in a little earlier than scheduled and were able to get breakfast and their rental car with plenty of time to spare. This is a good thing, as when they were returning down A-5, they got stuck in a 3 hour long stau (scht-OW), the German word for their horrific traffic jams. If you ask me, this is what you get when you allow mach ten speed limits and the minimum speed of 45kms/hr on the same road, but I'm getting ahead of myself. In honor of their stau, however, I am snacking on the requisite peanut M&Ms and will make a point to purchase some nacho cheese doritoes later today.

Anyway, they made their way up to Giessen, stopping at KG along the way. It is, for those who are interested, nothing more than the church and the church hall across from it. Butzbach housing area is still there and when they got to Giessen, they found Marshall and Dulles housing areas under tight wraps. Both areas (including the PX/Burger King area) are entirely fenced in and require admittance by an MP guard. Needless to say, they did not get to go in to see our old apartment. They did, however, make their way to St. Josef's Krankenhaus, the hospital where the Boy was born---12 years ago today! They were able to get pictures there and some video. Unfortunately, right as my husband was videotaping (do they call it that with a digital recorder?) the Boy looked up and said, "Dad, I don't feel so well..." Fortunately, he turned the camera away just in time to miss the Boy leave a little of himself for posterity on the sidewalks of Giessen. When I spoke to them later, once they had checked in to the four star hotel they are staying at, their conditions sounded much improved. As a matter of fact, the Boy seemed to have his appetite back, brought on no doubt by the FREE executive mini-bar that occupies the ENTIRE floor above their hotel room! They were making plans to head out downtown. They could see the Christkindlmarkt from their hotel room window and were headed down for some gluhwein, I'm sure. We expect to talk to them once more in Germany before they depart in the morning for Ethiopia. We miss them both lots and can't wait for them to get back home. And I just had to include this photo for my newly 12 year old boy (see what happens when you boys leave me alone with the computer--nothing is sacred!)

Happy Birthday, sweetie! I hope you and Dad are having a great time together. I can't even believe it's been TWELVE years already. You are such a great kid and your Dad and I are so blessed to call you our son! We love you!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

And they're off!

We dropped the boys off this today and their flight is officially on its way! I'm not sure about other families who adopted internationally, but for me, it was bittersweet today. The good news is that the journey to bring our Ethiopian children home is in its final stages, but it is always sad for me to drop someone off at the airport--especially my husband. Those of you who knew us while we were engaged, know that we spent much of our courtship on airplanes completing the East coast circuit along the I-95 corridor. The airport scene always has a touch of that at departure time for me. The better news is, that this time our reunion will be heralded in by two new family members in 20 degree (if the weather forecast holds) weather. (Ed. note: There will be NO need for any of the members of my wedding party to comment on my fixation with the weather and major life events, thankyouverymuch.) We have family coming over in a little while to help do some final room arrangments and some of them have been recruited to spend the night with us to help pass the time and give me some extra sets of "grown-up" hands to help with the girls. I'm expecting a phone call sometime in the middle of the night to hear that they've landed and I'll update when I know more. Thanks to all of you who have called and emailed me with your kind thoughts, words and prayers. Our family is so blessed to have you all in our lives.
T minus one week

Well, the bags are packed. The boys have tickets in hand. The hotel reservations and rental car are ready in Frankfurt. We made our one final stop tonight with the Boy, who had a B-day gift card from his grandparents burning a hole in his pocket. He came home with an MP3 player to which he promptly uploaded his Itunes library. My mother-in-law is coming in the morning and we are trekking the boys off to the airport! This will be our last night in this house as a family of six! We're planning on our first communication when they touchdown in Germany. I'm off to bed and getting ready for our final week of waiting!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving thanks on the ark

Today, we spent a blessedly full day together. We brought everyone to Mass this morning, followed by a stop at Dunkin Donuts (where they closed at noon today) and bought up the last dozen donuts in the store along with two splendid gingerbread lattes-yum! We came home and baked (or more precisely, unwrapped and put in the oven) three pies and made a quadruple batch of the classic green bean casserole. After N awoke from her nap, we headed out to feast with about 50 of our local friends and family at my brother and sister-in-law's. When we finally rolled in tonight, N and CB were exhausted. They had spent every ounce of their, but thankfully not our, energy playing with their cousins, eating and chasing the big kids around the hall. We tucked them into their jammies quickly and after I filled their cups, I called for them---but no answer. I noticed some noise coming from the den and decided to go check and see. What I found is something for which I am truly thankful for, not just today but every day. There my baby girls sat, one on each knee of their dad's lap, while he downloaded old 80's videos for them. Of course, this set off the older kid's "family gathering" radar and they quickly materialized in the doorway of the room dancing and singing along to Elvis Costello's "Veronica" and as they did, everything on the top shelf of the hutch began to shake. It was at this point that I called out to them, "Hey, you two, you'd better stop. You're rocking the boat." To which the Boy replied, without missing a beat, "No we're not, Mom. We're rocking THE ARK!"
I am thankful for this funny, sweet and special family who share their days here on the ark with me, and honored by each day I get to spend with them. Happy Thanksgiving from our ark to yours!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Trash Night

Nope, this is not a misprint. Nor is it deja-vu. It is the plain, sad truth that I get to join with the ranks (albeit a much lower ranking) of CS and AG this Sunday night. My husband called from the other room last night, "You're going to have trash night duty!" Honestly, of all the things I've been trying to micro-manage, this one hadn't even occured to me. The only good thing about this is that at least one of the kids who is staying home has "Bring up the trash cans/recycle bins" on her chore cards!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Queen of Packing!
My mother-in-law has officially been crowned. It was so nice to have someone come in and help lift the physical and mental fog that has been hanging over my head (and most of my dining room table as well). Everything is neat, orderly and so well organized that my dear husband need only reach into a suitcase, not even looking, and pull out a completely clean and matching outfit for the kids. She came over yesterday morning and after a couple of hours and a few cups of coffee, we had two (of four) suitcases packed! One suitcase is completely filled with the donated items we collected during the Sacrifice Sale as well as toothbrushes and
dental floss from our dentist's office. The second suitcase is specifically for H and Baby T. We coordinated outfits for each of them, including for H--matching socks, hair accessories, etc... For Baby T, we took all the great toy recommendations everyone sent and gathered them together and rolled one toy into each of his outfits. He now has a little surprise when he gets dressed each day (and possibly more than one should he need to be cleaned up and changed again during the day!) We then wrapped each outfit with a ribbon and I wrote a little note to attach to each of H's outfits and to Baby T's special Embassy outfit. I'm hoping that H will take pity on my poor attempts at writing Amharic and chalk it up to my ability to write using Roman characters only. Hopefully, I haven't written anything offensive or terribly strange. I can just see it now...H will show a note to one of her friends at Layla House and the friend will say, "How nice. Why is it your mother says 'Your shoes are so tired.'" To which H will respond, "Oh, you know her, she only knows how to speak English."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Wanted: Used Church Van

We have joked before that the only thing bigger than our already big Suburban would be the inevitable next step up to a 12 passenger "church van." We do know a family who added their 6th child as well and did just that. This was before we saw these advertised in an old Catholic Parent magazine. If you own an SUV and are getting close to outgrowing it--check this out as a way to stretch your passenger room!

I'm a stranger here myself

It's finally happened. Fall in the midwest is officially over. The farmers are already turning their fields over for next spring and every.single.leaf. has dropped to the ground. Back in the northeast, fall was my favorite time of year. You couldn't go very far without running into someone in an Irish knit sweater, an apple orchard or pumpkin farm complete with requisite hayride, and, of course, the hills covered in the splendor of autumn reds, oranges and golds. Here in the midwest, it just isn't quite the same. When I was speaking to the Ethiopian born son of our friends, he remarked that he liked the midwest just fine, but he missed his mountains. I thought about his comment quite a bit for many days to follow, and I realized something...I miss my mountains, too-especially this time of the year and especially the mountains that my parents now call home (although I still cannot bring myself to call their new home phone number, so for now I bask in the ability to dial the 203 area code that still exists on my mom's cell phone.)

His comments make me wonder about H and Baby T and what parts of their home they might be missing when they land here in this very, very flat place.

But as an adult, and one who has had NINE different addresses in THIRTEEN years, there are some things that have softened the loss of my homeland (and anyone who tells you that it's just all the same old US of A--definitely did NOT grow up in New England!) that I wish I would have shared with our friend's son:

First, being the new person gives you greater empathy for those who come and are newer than yourself. Remember what it felt like to be the "new guy" and look for opportunities to welcome those who are trying to find their way in a new place.

Second, each place that you go will have its own hallmarks. Germany just wouldn't be Germany without the Christkindlmarkt or the Schnell-Imbiss. Georgia and some of her fine Southern women gave me my first taste (and the recipe, after I couldn't find it in any cookbook!) for sweet tea. The rolling hills in Kentucky with the full hype of Derby Day, the history in New York (not to mention the pizza), and even the sweetness of Midwestern summer corn! I still hold dear the special things I grew up with, but I've added many more to the list as well.

Third, look for humor in the differences. My children stare at me blankly when I ask for my pocketbook until I rephrase the question using the word purse; then they laugh. And to hear someone ask for I-talian dressing still makes me chuckle.

Finally, it really is all good. So much of where we've been and what we've seen and the people we've met are all pretty much the same. Sure there are a few differences, but pop will still be soda, and football will still be soccer, and to me baked mostaccioli will always be baked ziti no matter what it's called. I even noticed the other day, while driving down one of the farm roads out by our house, that as the sun set just so in the wide-open sky against the back drop of a lone barn amidst the yellowing corn stalks...fall isn't so bad in the Midwest after all.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Plane tickets, packing and birthdays!

The fantasy has finally become a reality! We've got plane tickets! The boys are leaving next Saturday and arriving in Addis on Monday night. We were able to finagle the stopover in Frankfurt so The Boy will be spending his 12th birthday in the city in which he was born. We're hoping to take an updated photo of the one shown here on the right. (Although, I think the Boy may be a little hard to pick up for the picture now!) My photographer extraordinaire friend, A, took this the day before we PCSed back to the States, as part of a cookbook/memory book made by the women with whom I shared my "military-wife" life.
After spending the week in Addis, they will all FOUR of them fly home on Saturday morning, December 2nd!!!
In preparation for their departure, a packing monster has taken over my body coupled with its evil twin the shopping monster. Between these two travel demons, there won't be much that does NOT get purchased or packed! My mother in law came over to help sort through the growing pile of things on the dining room table. (I'd get a picture but the camera lens is not large enough to capture it all!!!) However, with her help, we have now designated all the outfits that need to be washed and organized. On Monday morning, the plan is to lay out each complete outfit (include socks, underwear, etc) and roll/fold them up and tie a ribbon around them to hold them together. This way, Dad will have an easier time locating a complete outfit for each child. (Note: I will not be rolling his or the Boy's outfits with ribbon...) Then, I decided on each of the ribbons, to attach a little note for each day for H and inside each rolled outfit a little toy for Baby T, since I won't be there those first few days with them. I'll try to get a picture before it gets packed. Any suggestions for baby toys that would be small enough to fit in a rolled up outfit?