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?
Of Passports and Birth Certificates

On the fifth day of Hidar in the year of 1999 (according to the Ethiopian calendar), the official birth certificates were issued for H and Baby T! We received a file containing copies of the certificates yesterday! The certificates are written in both Amharic and English. It sure is strange to see what our names look like spelled out in Amharic. I imagine, it is equally strange for H to see her name in the Roman alphabet! Either way, in Amharic or English, the papers were just another confirmation that this is real and they are really, really ours! Holding the papers is good, but holding our children will be oh-so-much better!

And, to top this good news off, we received another update from Anne this morning. She writes:

Just wanted to let you know that I went to the passport office with H and Baby T yesterday. Baby T got to wear spiffy tennies -- he looked very cute. He is a very sweet little guy -- and is so loved by the nannies. He makes lots of eye contact, smiles, reaches out, and seems to be doing great. H came into Wanna and was helping to get him ready, tying his shoes, etc. -- she is so nurturing with him, and also with the other babies. She was so cute -- she had barrettes in her hair and looked so excited and proud. She has REALLY gorgeous hair -- oh, my. Loose, beautiful curls -- wow!

B and I are wondering if the barrettes H had in her hair were the ones we sent in her welcome bag?!
We are getting really close and soon, actually, just in time for Advent, we'll all be home together!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Amharic Lesson

I promised I would include some information about the Amharic language. The picture to the right is of Genesis 26 written in Amharic. This information is from Wikipediapia. Ethiopia has eighty-four indigenous languages. Some of these are:
English is the most widely spoken foreign language and is taught in all secondary schools. Amharic was the language of primary school instruction, but has been replaced in many areas by local languages such as Oromifa and Tigrinya.

Amharic language
Not to be confused with the
Aramaic language.
Spoken in:
Total speakers:
27 million as a first language, between 7-15 million more as a second language
Language family:
Afro-Asiatic Semitic South Semitic Ethiopic South Ethiopic Amharic
Writing system:
Ge'ez alphabet
Official status
Official language of:
Ethiopia and the following specific regions: Addis Ababa City Council, Afar Region, Amhara Region, Benishangul-Gumaz Region, Dire Dawa Administrative council, Gambela Region, SNNPR
Amharic (አማርኛ āmariññā) is a Semitic language spoken in North Central Ethiopia by the Amhara. It is the second most spoken Semitic language in the world, after Arabic, and the "official working" language of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and thus has official status and use nationwide. Amharic is also the official or working language of several of the states within the federal system, including Amhara Region, the multi-ethnic Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region, and Afar Region, despite the latter's homogeneity. It has been the working language of government, the military, and of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church throughout modern times. Outside Ethiopia, Amharic is the language of some 2.7 million emigrants (notably in Egypt, Israel and Sweden), and is spoken in Eritrea by educated Eritreans of the preindependence generation and younger deportees from Ethiopia.
It is written, with some adaptations, with the
Ge'ez alphabet (used for the language of the same name) called fidel in Ethiopian Semitic languages (ፊደል fĭdel 'alphabet,' 'letter,' or 'character').

Note: The strange square boxes are the places where the Ge'ez characters should appear, but a special download was needed to translate them for this article.
Ge'ez (ግዕዝ Gəʿəz) is an abugida script which was originally developed to write Ge'ez, a Semitic language. In languages which use it, e.g. Amharic and Tigrinya, the script is called Fidäl (ፊደል), which means script or alphabet.
The Ge'ez script has been adapted to write other languages, usually Semitic ones. The most widespread use is for
Amharic in Ethiopia and Tigrinya in Eritrea and Ethiopia. It is also used for Sebatbeit, Me'en, and most other languages of Ethiopia. In Eritrea it is used for Tigre, and it is traditionally used for Blin, a Cushitic language. Some other languages in the Horn of Africa, such as Oromo, used to be written using Ge'ez but have migrated to Latin-based orthographies.The Ge'ez script is an abugida: each symbol represents a consonant+vowel combination, and the symbols are organized in groups of similar symbols on the basis of both the consonant and the vowel.
Ge'ez is written from left to right across the page.
In Ge'ez, each consonant can be combined with seven vowels:
ä, u, i, a, e, ə, o

You can listen to the sound of the language here. As for how much Amharic my husband and I speak...tinnish! I'll let you guess what that means.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Batten Down the Hatches

The seas are getting stormy around here. Today, in no particular order, I was treated to the following:
  • our three year old, CB, wailing and gnashing her teeth through a doctor's visit at which she required a breathing treatment and antibiotics for bronchitis.
  • still no update on our travel arrangements---I've heard of "Ethiopia time" but is everyone in America who deals with Ethiopia required to be on it? Sheesh.
  • our 6 month inspection for our foster care license, where I met our new case worker.
  • my darling two year old, who speaks her own form of broken English, and her three year old sister cheering, "Hooray! Hooray! We've got lipstick!" This drew my attention for a number of obvious reasons. When I got to where they were, I discovered that the lipstick was actually a purple colored GLUE-stick!

It's no wonder we don't hear more about Mrs. Noah on the ark. If she was smart, she grabbed a cup of tea (or more) and headed to a quiet spot near the mice and deer and curled up with a good book for most of the trip!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Chicken and Biscuits

Last Sunday night, my whole family was headed out for a leisurely dinner with some very dear friends of ours, D and J and their three sons. We'd been planning this meal for a number of weeks now (she promised chicken and mashed potatoes-which my kids love-and asked me to bring some biscuits), and even after an extremely long and tiring week, we were looking forward to it. Now, that being said, our families are in and out of each other's homes (and lives) on an almost daily basis--for better or for worse, in sickness and in health...sorry, J, I know you think D and I spend WAY too much time together as it is!!! So, after the aforementioned long week, it was going to take all my effort to pull the pony tail holder out of my hair and put on something other than a "blue suit" (A, I'll allow you to elaborate if necessary). Needless to say, I was not planning to "dress" for the occasion, and just as a side note, my dear husband made no attempt at persuading me to, other than saying, "Don't you even want to take a shower?" So, at the last minute, I threw on a sweater, brushed out my hair and brushed (I think) my teeth. We loaded our crew up and headed off for dinner, but when we arrived, with our basket full of still-warm biscuits; we found this instead:

I imagine the look on my face said it all:

We walked in to find (much to the boy's dismay) no dinner, but lots of yummy appetizers, a roomful of friends and family and, more importantly, love--for us, for our family, and for our newest two ark riders...H and Baby T-- squeezing out of every nook and cranny of the room!

It was such a special night for our entire family. We received so many beautiful, thoughtful and generous be the recipient of such generosity humbled us beyond words. ( Okay, well maybe not entirely beyond words. )

Besides all of the amazing gifts for H and Baby T, I think my favorite gift of all was a gift crafted by my...always willing to go along with my harebrained schemes, "I'll try anything once," carpool partner... and lovingly finished by this group of women whom I am blessed to call my friends was this:

It has already found a place of honor on our dining room table. The notes from everyone and the beautiful words from St. John's gospel remind me of what I told the ladies that night at the end of the shower: H and Baby T aren't so much lucky to be coming home to our family as they are lucky that our family has been blessed with friends and family like these; who are waiting, too, for them to come home.

I told my kids, I think we've got a new favorite meal. Can you guess? It's definitely chicken and biscuits!

Sunday, November 12, 2006


There is a family in our agency, who waited nearly 8 months for the referral of their baby girl. When they received the referral, however, they were just too late to make court before it closed until October. They were assigned to our group and were *scheduled* to have a court date on October 16th, too. As you know, court didn't happen until November began and then we received embassy dates for later this month. The family decided to travel early to not wait another moment to be with their darling daughter. So, they're in Ethiopia RIGHT NOW...Why am I telling you all this (especially for those of you who have followed this story, too)? I'm telling you this, because while they are there early to deliberately spend time with their new daughter, they have gone out of their way to A. find and spend time with H and Baby T and B. make the effort to get to an internet connection to upload and send this to us:

Outside at Layla House

Sitting up!!!

She also included this note:

I saw Bedlu and Helen briefly early last week. Bedlu is a happy boy -- he looks terrific. His spots are healing up, he's happy and looks very healthy! Helen is such a sweet, sweet girl -- you're going to adore her (I know you do already...). She was so helpful to us when we were touring Layla -- so polite, and just so precious.

I am so grateful to this family for sharing their precious time with our kids as well as their own whom they waited so long to see. This is really a great testimony to our agency that families who travel help each other out like this. It makes the surreal seem real to see this family, finally, actually in Ethiopia, and it is a light at the end of our own tunnel.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sale and Travel Update and More Perspective

First, some very good news...thanks to some very kind and generous friends (you all know who you are!) our sale has BROKEN the $1,000 mark! Thank you all so much!!! I emailed our agency to tell them our results and hope to hear if they know how the money will be spent. I'll let you know if I hear anything.

Second, some not so good news...the very sweet woman we were working with to make our travel arrangements suffered a mild heart attack on Friday. The travel office isn't sure when or if she'll be back at work. All this time while we were wondering why no one had returned our emails and we weren't getting any further by making phone calls, her family was probably waiting for news too. Generally speaking we know when we're traveling, we just don't have *official* dates or flight numbers yet. The good news is that we can and will get them. As I remarked to my husband, if worst comes to worse, we could by a last minute ticket the day before and just hop a flight to go. It's just not worth getting all worked up over. Life is too short, and it took a travel agent to remind us.
All in the perspective

B: Mom, my teacher has this book, but her cover looks different.

Me: Yes. Your teacher has a newer copy of the book. This cover is different, but the pictures and words are the same inside. Your mom just has an older book because she's a little bit older than your teacher.

B: No, no, Mom. That's not true...

Pause for dramatic effect

B: You're A LOT older than my teacher.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

No Greater Love

When putting the flyer together for the Sacrifice Sale, I chose the scripture verse, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." (Jn 15:13) It seemed an appropriate way to put in terms children could understand what it was we were asking them to do. Over the last few days, however, I've come to think that maybe the children really didn't need all that much of an explanation. As I spoke to children, teachers and parents about Ethiopia and the orphan crisis, I was continually humbled by the people who joined with us in making this sale a huge success, in many, many ways. For example:

  • The fourth grade girl who held her dollar tightly in her hand, picking up and examining many items before her teacher called for the students to line up. She turned to me, looked at the dollar in her hand, and barely whispered, "Here. I just want you to have this. I don't need any toys." Sacrifice.

  • The parent who asked, "Hey. How's the sale going?" And when I responded with the amount we had raised at that point she shook her head saying, "Oh no, no. That just won't do. We need to do more." She wrote out a check on the spot for over one hundred dollars. She took a single bandana to use for her kid's party games. Sacrifice.

  • The family who delivered a sealed envelope with only the words, "Sacrifice Sale" written in pen on the outside. When the envelope was opened, long after this family was gone, we found inside a brand new one hundred dollar bill--no name, no note, their good deed known only to God. Sacrifice.

  • The child who carried a ziploc bag filled with 100 pennies he had counted out at his home. Sacrifice.

  • The families whose children brought home toys that chirped, buzzed, squawked, beeped and rang. Sacrifice.

  • The teacher who bought less than 10 items and said, "Everything is just one dollar? That doesn't seem like enough. I'm going to give you a little more." Then handed over a check for fifty dollars. Did I mention she teaches at a Catholic school? Sacrifice.

  • The people who stopped to ask about adoption from Ethiopia and in asking, shared their own stories--of infertility, of miscarriage or of loss--with me. Sacrifice.

  • The parents who volunteered at the sale, while juggling work schedules, child care, parent-teacher conferences and illness. Sacrifice.

  • The child who found the book she had donated when her class came to the sale and spent her own dollar to buy it back. Sacrifice.

Kimberly Hahn says, "We have been bought, at a very, very high price. God loved us so much that he sent His only Son, who lived only to die, that we might see Heaven." SACRIFICE---and do you know what? These children, these teachers, these parents, they get it.

We have always loved our children's school and felt that it was the best decision that they attend. However, with the prospect of H starting school there shortly, followed by CB next fall--the cost of ever rising tuition has been a frequent topic of conversation here on the ark. If anyone learned about the meaning of sacrifice from this sale, maybe it was me. The cost to educate our growing family here may be a sacrifice for us, but after witnessing the generous hearts of our school community these past two days, this is one sacrifice we're willing to make.

***Our sale went on to raise $729.71 and gather a suitcase full of socks and underwear, which is an amazing gift from our school children to the children of Layla House (our orphanage). This donation will be matched, up to $1,000.00. So we're going to try to come up with the last $270 and change to get the full match for Layla House before my husband and son leave in about 2 weeks!***

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

In Brief

I'm fighting a little cold and I need to be at school again tomorrow for the sale, but...a brief update--we had already raised approximately $230.00 when school ended today. We're hoping to raise even more!!! We also had some donations of socks, underwear and toothbrushes/floss made to take with us. There were also a few families interested in adoption information. So, it seems like so far--so good! The sale ends tomorrow night so I hope to have some more news when it ends. Before I turn in, however, I wanted to share this interesting article my brother forwarded to me. It has to do with some changes in international adoption policy according to the Hague Convention. It gives a lot of great information, particularly for people just starting the adoption process or those who might be considering it. That's it for now. G'night.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sale Starts Tomorrow!

The "Sacrifice Sale" that our family, along with two other families who have adopted children from Ethiopia and who go to our school, begins tomorrow! We're really hoping that this will be a great opportunity in many ways. We hope to raise funds for our agency's orphanage and also to educate other families about adoption--specifically in Ethiopia. We want to promote cultural understanding and teach our children about sacrifice. It's funny, though, how we as adults are quick to think we are always the teachers and our children are always the students. In spite of ourselves, our children manage, on more than one occasion to remind us that they, too, can teach; and in some cases, the lesson is better taught, when it comes from them. Pray for a successful fundraiser tomorrow and to learn more about sacrifice, stop by and read this story (told by one of the other families hosting the sale) for a lesson you won't soon forget.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Scripture Request Update

Thank you for all the various scripture verses for us to ponder. We're trying to narrow down the list. Here's what we have so far:
  • "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to Me. Don't stop them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people who are like these children.'" -Matthew 19:14
  • "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before your were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." -Jeremiah 1:5
  • "He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will..." -Ephesians 1:5
  • "And if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ--if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him." -Romans 8:17
  • "...So that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts crying, "Abba! Father!" So that you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God." -Galatians 4:5-7
  • "Let us love one another, for love comes from God." - 1 John 4:7
  • "May the Lord bless and keep you, may his face shine upon you and be gracious and give you peace." - Numbers 6:24-26

A few of these were shared with us in a very special, very surprising way over this weekend, about which I will post later once I can let my words wrap around my thoughts. Thank you everyone for your help and if you have further suggestions--send them my way!

Halloween 2006-Part 2

N, as Snow White and CB, as a pink poodle!

B, as an angel and The Boy as a soldier.

Minus the sneakers (yes, A, I said "sneakers") he is wearing all of his Dad's old BDUs from his time in 3/5 CAV when The Boy was born! Twelve years ago, you couldn't have possibly convinced me that our first, sweet baby would have ever fit into his Dad's Army uniform! (sniff, sniff)

Halloween 2006

The boy and CB before trick-or-treating started.

All smiles for candy!

My youngest in-law, J, walked the full TWO hours outside with the oldest group of kids and came home with a ton of candy!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Inspiration requested

I'm looking for some assistance. I have gotten into the habit (okay, maybe it's more of an obsessive hobby) of stamping--thankyouverymuch, AG, my own personal stamp pimp--our family Christmas card. I'd also like to do an insert card this year with our adoption announcement on it. I had planned to include the scripture verse from 1 Samuel when Hannah says, "For this child, I prayed...". I really like it, but as I have shared with some of you, my thoughts on this verse have changed somewhat since I first found it. Originally, it seemed like a perfect fit. We had prayed for our adopted child (as we have for all of our other children) but now we have TWO adopted children and "For the children, I prayed..." Well, it just seems off a bit. That's the smaller of the issues with the verse, however. As we've gone through the adoption process and come to a greater, although not yet full I'm sure, understanding of adoption; one thing has been really driven home: as great and wonderful as adoption is, especially considering the alternatives in some cases, at the heart of adoption is great loss. Our children will have lost their birth parents, the first family they knew, their homeland, possibly their language and probably more that we haven't yet realized. We wouldn't have "prayed" for this for anyone, let alone our own children. So, I'm looking for a new scripture verse or a way to spin the one we've chosen to reflect how we really feel. Any suggestions? Go ahead, I'm listening...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

What to pack?

We've been thinking of some very basic things we need to bring as well as leaving room for the items we're bringing to donate, but after seeing these pictures of Baby T, it seems some "gender appropriate" clothing may be in order!!!

Gotta love the pink sleeper covered in little hearts! Look at his face, he's just screaming, "Will somebody pleeeease take this off of me!!!" I wonder who his friend is?

A nice picture. First, because our sweet boy is in it, peering up at the camera from the bottom right corner; and second, because we can see him in relation to some other babies--it's hard to guesstimate sizes when he's the only one in the picture!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Thank You!!!

To all of our family and friends, who overwhelmed us with phone calls, emails and blog comments today! We are so grateful for all of your support and encouragement. It seems surreal that less than 4 weeks from now we'll be journeying halfway around the world to bring H and Baby T finally home. My Ethiopian mentor of sorts must not be too far removed from their journey this summer because she hit the nail on the head when she commented, "You're probably wondering now how to get so much done in such a little amount of time!" This is so true, but we're staying the course, and perhaps, as we do you'll be inclined to hang out just a little bit longer on the ark (is anyone counting-have we even been on board 40 days yet?) and see what happens as we prepare to drop anchor later this month.
Tacos for dinner

Not really news of note, but each time I've called my dear husband today to give updates on our court situation, I apparently make note of this. Sorry, dear. So, I told him on my next blog entry I would mention that we were having tacos for dinner. (At this point, he's probably sighing and shaking his head that I actually did just that.) But, the REAL reason for this subsequent posting today---after receiving such good news is to announce that we ALSO have an EMBASSY DATE!!! Our embassy date is on November 29th. The boys need to arrive is Addis no later than November 28th and can depart for home (what a nice ring that has) as early as December 1st. If memory serves from other traveling families, they could be home as early as December 2nd! We always believed we served a God of miracles, now we know for sure.
We passed!!!

Sorry hon, trying to contact you before blogging this news, but I just couldn't wait! We just received word that ALL of the Group A cases passed court today! Guess we'd better start packing!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Prayer Request

If you are so inclined, a couple of prayer requests:

For our court case tomorrow, and for all the other Group A families that court passes smoothly and without a single snag leading to the assignment of Embassy dates and travel dates in the near future!

For the peace talks and growing hostile environment on the Horn of Africa (where Ethiopia is located). The attempt at peace talks failed and the next attempt won't be until mid-December. There are long-standing issues here--religious, border disputes, name a few. You can read more about the situation unfolding here. It is so easy to be disconnected from the in-fighting of a few impoverished, ancient nations a continent away until pieces of your heart sit, helplessly, away from you, while the situation deteriorates around them.

For these intentions---Lord, hear our prayer.

From Today's Gospel

from John 11:17-27

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you."

Heavenly Father, give comfort to all those in need today. Amen.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

St. Gianna and Gianna

As it is All Saint's Day today, it seemed appropriate to mention one of my personal favorite saints. St. Gianna Beretta Molla is, among other things, patron saint for mothers and physicians. She has also interceded in difficult pregnancies (for those of you who know me well, you can see why she's a favorite of mine!). Her feast day is April 28th. You can read more about her here and here

Her daughter, Gianna Emanuela, herself a medical doctor, gave the following testimony at Maracana Stadium in Brazil during the Second International Celebration of the Family (1997). "Dear Mom, thank you for having given me life two times: when you conceived me and when you permitted me to be born… My life seeks to be the natural continuation of your life, of your joy of living, of your enthusiasm, and it finds its full meaning in the engagement and dedication to whoever lives in suffering. Dear mom, intercede always for all mothers and all families who turn to you and entrust themselves to you." Reportedly, her words brought tears to the eyes of Pope John Paul II.

A few days ago, I stated that the best gift is not the gift at all but the giver. The same holds true for the gift of life, where it's Giver with a capital "G". St. Gianna, in her own small, earthly life as mother, lived that belief with heroic understanding. Her committment to living the Gospel, even when self-sacrifice was required, points us ever closer to the heart and mind of Christ.
When I happened upon this story, I assumed that Gianna was the name given by the adoptive mother in the story. Instead, I realized, Gianna was the name given by her birth mother. Was this an example of St. Gianna's intercession--only God knows, but one thing we know for sure: a great miracle happened in this other Gianna's life. What is also certain, is that this young Gianna also possesses a heroic understanding of the gift of life and in that, the Giver. This young woman, whose own life bears the daily pains and struggles of her birth mother's *choice* says, "Can't we just give a little and say, 'I may not be the best mother for this child, but I love this child enough to sacrifice for it'?" she asked. "Isn't that the ultimate love?"

For Catholic Christians, the saints are shining examples of lives that mirrored Christ. We look to them, in their intimacy with the Lord, to point us closer to Christ. As an adoptive parent, often times we are bestowed the title of "saint" for helping children who might otherwise go unhelped---but as kind and wonderful and mutually beneficial as that is---it's no miracle. The gift of life is, has and always will be a miracle in the purest sense of the word. God gives that gift and we can *choose* to accept it or reject it. Sometime last spring, a young Ethiopian woman, joined the rest of the saints in heaven when she made the choice to give life to a miracle--our Baby T--and sacrifice her own in so doing. St. Gianna Beretta Molla, Pray for us.