Monday, September 29, 2008

Down Time

The travelers are weary tonight. It's 8:30 and everyone on the Ark is asleep 'cept for me and Baby Girl, who--by the way--slept from 9pm last night to 7am this morning! She seems better and better to me each day. We have our first doctor appointment on Wednesday and a precautionary ENT appointment set up for Thursday, so the jury's still out on any official diagnoses for her (minus a few sketchy ones from Ethiopia). She is sleeping and eating well and has a fiery temper--especially when she's hungry and my spoon-feeding isn't as rapid fire as her royal highness demands. Who says all things are passed on through genetics? *grin*
We said our good-byes to Grandma (who will henceforth be known as Gram-cracker per Naomi's nick name assignment) and Grandpa (who is Baby T's new best buddy...every time the door opens he calls out, "Grandpa?" and sulks off sullenly holding his football). Fortunately, the blows of our typically weepy good-byes were lessened by the knowledge of an upcoming holiday visit!
Baby Girl is finished watching the White Sox highlights (Go Sox!) and her voice beckons. It is music to my ears!
My big girls kept some lovely journals from their trip. I'm going to offer them a "guest blogging" opportunity to let you all know their impressions of the trip. If you have any questions for them, let us know.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Remembering How Much I Like My Sleep...and My Babies

The Ark is whole again.

Our newest little arkling has, indeed, developed a case of the chicken pox. Spots are popping out with each stroke of the keyboard. In spite of her pockiness, her teething, the time change and the nasty sinus-style infection she has, we are overjoyed to have her home.

Not so much concentrating on the lack of sleep this particular arkling is allowing her new mama, but instead focusing on the *quality* time she's saved for me---even if it is six hours planned between 9pm and 3am!

One of the sisters at Mass this morning (my apologies to those who attended hoping to meet our little sweetie!) upon hearing of our mother-daughter late night bonding session said to me, "Well then, I guess you got to walk the talk of your article last week, didn't you?" Yes, I did, sister. Thanks for the reminder.

But, I know you didn't stop by to hear about my so-sleep-deprived-I-forgot-to-put on make-up-this-morning day. You stopped by for a glimpse of a few of the firsts. So, without further ado, here are a few to tide you over. (You'll have to wait for the airport arrival pictures because my digital camera was with the travelers and we were reduced to using--gasp!--throwaway cameras that need--deep pitiful sigh--developing.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Departures and Arrivals

We're departing now for the airport!

We'll be arriving home larger than when our journey began!

Meet you at the baggage cla
Publish Post

Friday, September 26, 2008

Destination USA

Ed. Note: Some of you may remember this from a few years back. It is as true then as it was now and I wanted to recreate the same virtual memories for our new Baby Girl. Please join us by leaving your well wishes in the comment box.

Their flight is officially in the air and headed for the US. There was a going away party scheduled for this afternoon at the orphanage, even though our darling girl was the only one departing. 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 child(ren)'s memory book. Since this blog has become a virtual memory book to share with our Baby Girl as she grows and wonders about her journey to our hearts and home, I'd love for each of you to share a thought, a hope or a prayer with her so she knows that you all, too, were part of her 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 member!!!
All I Can Say Is...

More Good News

I just have to mention that when we first relocated here, The Captain opened a local bank account for us. While leaving the bank (located in the middle of a strip mall) he noticed that there was no obvious drive-thru lane (a must-have for a mother of small children!). We called the bank and much to our dismay, found out that there was, in fact, no drive-thru service there. So began the rigmarole of closing that account, finding another bank and opening another account. But today, I am counting my blessings. You might be familiar with the first bank we tried. They've been in the news a bit today.

Let's start with the fact that Baby Girl's cold seems to be improving. The lone spot on her cheek disappeared and seems not to be of the pox-variety!

Then, let's add that Hannah, Beulah and The Captain had a mini-reunion of sorts with Hannah's aunt, uncle, cousin and godmother! I am eagerly awaiting more details and pictures (that goes without saying, I suppose).

Not to mention, that the travelers are less than an hour away from boarding their flight for home! Look for a very important post coming soon about that!

Finally, I just discovered (Thanks, Dawn! Now go have that baby!) that the African Children's Choir is coming to the Chicago area! We saw them a few years ago at Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville. They'll be there again (as I expect will we) on October 5th. If you'd like to check their Chicago area schedule, click here. They tour in other locations (including Canada) and that schedule is available here. If you've never seen them before. Take a look at them here...

God is good, friends. All the time.
Ummm...Nothing Much to Report

But have you noticed the ticker above? I'll be back once I get a hold of myself.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Hair's Been Styled, Now the Baby Can Come Home

I joked to a friend yesterday that I've started to make plans based on whether or not I want to do them with baby-in-tow or not.

As many loads of laundry as I've done this week, the sad truth is that half way around the world there are four people exponentially creating piles of laundry faster than you can say "extra large front loader". It makes the to-do list with Baby Girl.

Ditto the dishwasher, vacuuming and grocery store. All must-dos.

Preschool class field trip? To the bowels of the local grocery? Definitely not.

One thing that made the short-list to be done before Baby Girl's arrival was to have my hair cut. This afternoon, during quiet-time for the little ones, I slipped out in my car and headed down for 45 minutes of head massaging, primping and preening. Something I schedule for myself every time a baby comes or every 8 to 12 weeks--whichever comes first. I'd take a picture of my newly styled hair for you all (because I know it will keep you up at night if I don't.) but the digital camera was otherwise occupied today with more important matters.

Today, The Captain and my two big girls (who are both feeling a little homesick again), met our Baby Girl's grandmother. And using a camera no bigger than a pack of post-it notes, captured the moment for me to see. Try as I might to wiggle into that picture when I see it, to experience that hour spent between her first and forever families, I will never truly know what happened there. It is one of the little heartbreaks of our adoptions that I have. Knowing little of digital technology, her grandmother was captivated by the instant picture that appeared on the tiny screen. She insisted (and we promised) that we send copies of the picture to her.

Because someday, she will look at that picture--just as I will--and try to relive that moment. To recapture just one more time the feeling of holding her precious granddaughter in her arms. But the moment will be gone. All that will be left is a picture.

I think you'll probably agree. My haircut picture really isn't that important after all.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

From the Front Lines

I had a chance to speak to Hannah on the phone yesterday afternoon. As I expected, the information coming from my two daughters is quite a different story from the few non-specific grunts I received from the pre-teen Boy when he traveled.

She said, "Mom, you know how cute Baby Girl is in her pictures? Well...she is more cuter than that when you see her!"

Today is their appointment at the Embassy (actually, given the time change, it may already be over!) Tomorrow they are meeting Baby Girl's grandmother. I expect this will be an emotional couple of days.

On the homefront, we finished a round of high school visits, which I dragged both my mom and dad on (it's not hard to get sucked into the chaotic schedule that is the Ark even when visiting!). We toured three completely different high schools: our town's public high school, the diocesan co-ed high school, and a Benedictine all-boys high school.

Any of you with high schoolers want to chime in with your pros and cons about each? My head is about spinning with information now! I may as well add more!
Free Shipping from The Catholic Company!

Chris "the reviewer dude" Cash at The Catholic Company sent word of this great deal being offered through the 28th. If you are interested, here are the details:

1. Simply place an order. You can place this order through our website, by phone, by fax, or by mail.

2. Use this coupon code: BLOG

If you order online you will type in the coupon code during checkout. Simply type BLOG in the coupon code box located at the bottom of the payment page.

If you order by phone simply tell the coupon code BLOG to your customer service agent.

If you order by mail or fax simply include the coupon code BLOG on your order form.

*Terms and conditions: This offer cannot be combined with any other offers. Applies to U.S. delivery addresses only. Applies to standard shipping only. Cannot be used on orders already placed or on backorders. Offer expires at 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time on Sunday, September 28, 2008.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Late Night Phone Calls

Twice last night I was rocked from a deep sleep to the sound of the phone ringing. Lo and behold! The Blackberry has-at a minimum-phone service in Ethiopia. And I was awakened by The Captain who called to say, "We're here. I have cell phone service. Oh, and we're just waiting to be picked up by the orphanage director to go get Baby Girl. We'll call you later, bye." ACK!
And he really expected me to go back to sleep? (Although I was informed if they were going to be sleep deprived, we were ALL going to be sleep deprived. Sounds like a woman in labor, don't you think?)
About an hour and a half later the phone rang out again. He was calling but this time with our darling daughter in tow! He said she's a "real cutie", but she has a nasty upper respiratory infection and was started on antibiotics yesterday. It's also very rainy there.
Hopefully, these are not chicken pox related symptoms. Also, the travel seems to have caught up with Beulah and she was feeling a little under the weather. Again, praying that she'll be feeling better today.

More updates as I have them...
New Column

You can read my latest column at the Beacon-News today: What to expect of parenthood? Unexpected benefits
Another Picture

subtitled: why I love traveling parents!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Labor Pains

The photos just keep rolling in from across the pond. Here are two more shots from The Captain of the first day in London.

While The Captain reports that everyone did well (read: actually slept) on the flight over, the phone call I had told another story.

Before I tell you what happened, know that I am certain everyone is fine and dandy and should not return home in need of a good therapist. It's just me realizing with older children that the labor of adoption is full of joy and pain not confined to a pregnant mother. It is a shared process. Friends, family, even a remote part of the blogosphere reads and feels the pangs--of all kinds--alongside me.

I never expected one of the pains of adoption labor, however, would be the separation from my older two girls. The three little ones sought out playmates in the form of Mom, Grandma and Grandpa. Not their first choices, I'm sure. While speaking to the "big girls" on the phone today, Naomi informed them, "It's a little fun without you, but don't's not too much." And then for emphasis, looking at me, added, "No. Not. At. All."

Which hopefully provided some comic relief to my darling pre-teen daughters who both dissolved into sniffles and gulpy tears when I spoke to them myself. How joyous they had been before departing. How excited to ride an airplane. To visit England and Africa. To watch Kung-Fu Panda. But somewhere along the way, they realized that their journey to our new baby girl was taking them perhaps farther than they thought possible away from home. Pre-adolescent girl hearts are not something to be trifled with, especially not as a pair. But the journey continues and as my heart overflows with joy to hold my newest daughter, it breaks just a little, to see my oldest ones (who will grow in leaps and bounds from this experience) taking their first tentative steps away from home.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Look kids--Parliament...Big Ben!!!

Normally, I curse the Crackberry with all my being, but today not so much. Now, if it only has service in Ethiopia...6 days to go!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How Will I Ever Wait a Week?

Thanks, Anne and Steve, for the pictures!

Friday, September 19, 2008

'Twas the Night Before Travel...

and all through the Ark,
much excitement was brewing,
a flame waiting to spark.

Too tired to rhyme more,
I'll leave you with this,
I am seven days shy of new babyhood bliss!

Amidst the hubbub (and bad poetry) around here this week, I will make a valiant effort to update regularly.

Fortunately this time around, I have my two girlfriends-in-training on the scene who will leave no detail unshared.

Oh, and I still have to finish telling this story.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Back To School With A Purpose--Final Edition

And the winners are...

Michelle, of Dei Gratia, whose name was pulled first for the Catholic Classics Volume VII African-American Sacred Songs and Anne Marie, whose name came up second for the book, Audrey. (Email me and I'll arrange to get your goodies to you both!)

Thank you to everyone! My heart (and my duffel bag) couldn't be more full!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bible Study Starts Tonight!

Giveaway winners announced tomorrow!

Travelers leaving soon!

Stay tuned...

Monday, September 15, 2008

C is for Cookie...Crisis

Do you remember me telling you how I adore these cookies? How I wanted nothing more than to share them with my children during our weekly tea time? Well, this is going to put a big damper on my plans.

Going to store now. Stocking up. Must have cookies.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Last Few Days Of Back-to-School With a Purpose!


Just a reminder, if you are participating in our fundraiser to bring school supplies to Ethiopia, that all supplies should be in by this Wednesday, September 17th. Already, I've received so many boxes and bags that our dining room table was covered! And there are several more to come!!! I will make sure to take a picture when all is said and done. Look for the winners of the giveaways to be announced later this week! In the meanwhile, I have to get started on packing...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Is there a better use for zucchini?

I think not. But try it for yourself and decide.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Says Who?

The National Catholic Register ran this article, which was brought to my attention on the Catholic International Adoptive Parents Yahoo group.

While (must I repeat this again?) no adoptive parent believes that adoption is a panacea, many--if not all--believe that adoption at least gives a child a fighting chance at a life with a mom and a dad who love them, whether biologically connected or not. If it is not possible to love another person who is not your genetic cohort, then we have an awful lot of explaining to do in our marriages--all of whom (we don't have single-branch family trees now, do we folks?) bear no resemblance to our chromosomal pool. And yet in a sacramental marriage, in spite of our different gene pools, we manage to love one another and sanctify one another, pointing one another toward Christ step by step and day by day.

If the article's author is correct, then blended families, extended families, foster families and adoptive families are unable to offer "the love of a parent for a child to encourage us to acknowledge and work on our sins — and to make us grateful for the gifts that we have been given." In fact, she believes " biological parents, both mother and father — are the best people to raise their own children" leaving all others as a poor substitute in their wake.

To read the full article, click here. Or, if you're feeling saucy, you can email the editor of the National Catholic Register at editor at ncregister dot com.

Here is the letter I sent them:

To the editor,

Regarding Ms. Selmys article, "It Is in Love That We Are Made", I wonder how extensive the author's experiences are when she speaks of this "pattern that I have seen repeated throughout my encounters with adopted children."

I wonder if she has ever met an adoptive child who is well-adjusted. I can't imagine that ALL of the people at the homeless shelter were adopted. Perhaps it is just possible, that there were people there without parents...or maybe, just maybe, raised by their biological parents and still struggling to make their way?

I wonder if she has ever seen the other options that an adopted child might face, had adoption not been part of their life?

But most of all, I wonder, has she ever looked into the eyes of a child, who so little resembles her, and been showered by God's grace by what she sees?

I know I have.

Jane M.
Mom to seven incredible blessings--three of whom were designed not by my hand or gene pool, but all by the hand of God
Deja Vu All Over Again

Late last night as I made a final check of my email, I was alarmed to read that the same childhood illness that affected Baby T at the orphanage has sneaked back into our agency's nursery, where our darling baby girl waits. I can't imagine this little face

marked with the offending pox. And try as I might, my arms can't stretch far enough or fast enough to reach her.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering to Remember

The Captain announced that his travel plans included a return flight today, September 11th, and once again I was reminded how that one moment on one beautiful, blue-skied morning, I was changed in a profound way.
Isn't This New Ticker Cute?(UPDATED)

But, it would be much cuter if I could figure out how to place it at the top of my blog permanently...

Any advice?

Dawn, you are my new hero! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: First Day of Preschool Edition

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.
Catholic Carnival 189!

This week's Catholic Carnival is being hosted by Lynn at Organic-Chemist! There are many thoughtful posts in this week's mix and several regarding the current election race. Stop over and read for yourself!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

New Column

Ed. Note: As I have been tasked with writing about our adoptions, you may notice that this particular column contains information previously written here on the Ark. But I didn't want to miss any opportunity to share some of it in a more public forum.

You can read my new column at the Beacon-News today: Adoption process sheds light on needs of children, impoverished nations

Monday, September 08, 2008

Building The Ark: The Toddler Years

Going down in history "On this day..." there are many noteworthy events:

First off, today my dear old dad was born.

Next, the world was graced--literally--on this day with the birth of our Blessed Mother.

And, trying not to steal the limelight from these the birthday of this blog!

The Ark is now officially two years old, which means we won't be sharing well, playing nicely with others, using our inside voice and will probably need a nap. It will depend on the day moment whether we have a full blown toddler meltdown complete with leg-flailing and sippy cup throwing.

The good news is if you stick around long enough, we should grow out of it.

Please leave us a comment to say hi if you've been reading here awhile. Maybe our moms can schedule a play date for us?

No! Really, don't leave without saying 'hi'? It would be a good idea, trust me. Remember, the warning:

We are TWO now...and prone to hysterical tantrums when we don't get our way.

Oh, goody! We are just tickled you reconsidered. Please excuse us now, I believe it's time for Barney.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Job's Tears

You probably all know the story of the suffering of poor Job (if you don't, there may not be a more poignant account out there than this one by Regina Doman) but, do you know the story of Job's Tears? I didn't until I read about them while looking at the beautiful rosaries on Barbara's site.

Late last winter, or maybe it was early last spring, I stumbled upon Barbara's rosary quite by accident. My eyes welled with my own tears as I read the name for her rosary and believing I was being given a sign of some sort, I contacted her to purchase the beads.

To be continued...

Saturday, September 06, 2008

New Baby Mambo

There's a little dance I've been doing lately. I've dubbed it the "new baby mambo." It's one of those one step forward, two steps back kind of dances with many dizzying twists and turns throughout.

It goes a little like this:

One step forward: Oh my! Oh my! There's a new baby coming to our house. Hooray!

Two steps back: OH MY! OH MY! She'll be here in THREE weeks! How will I ever get ready?

One step forward: I've done this six times before. There's no need to get ready. Babies come when they come and I'll get through this. I have before.

Two steps back: I'VE DONE THIS SIX TIMES BEFORE! Have I lost my mind? I haven't even had time to catch my breath from the last baby. How can I be ready for this one?

One step forward: A brand new life to cherish and care for--is there any gift God gives that is more precious?

Two steps back: A BRAND NEW LIFE TO CHERISH AND CARE FOR--ACK!!! What if I mess up? How can I care for one more soul when I already have so much entrusted to me?

Spin, spin...Twirl, twirl: Sleepless nights and busy days full of planning, waiting, wondering have consumed me for many weeks now. Will it ever stop?

Spin, spin...Twirl, twirl: SLEEPLESS NIGHTS AND BUSY DAYS full of cuddling, nurturing and tending to my new little one will consume my future days. I wonder aloud, "Will it ever stop?"

And knowing all too well the fleeting nature of this time, I pray, Please, Lord, don't let me miss it. And the dance goes on.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Looking Forward, Looking Back

We are staring down the final two weeks before departure to bring our darling baby home. And, as is the ever changing face of international adoption, times are a-changin'. Much publicity has been given to this article, written last week which challenges adoption as the best solution to the orphan crisis in Ethiopia.
Speaking for myself, and perhaps other adoptive parents (from Ethiopia or otherwise), let me say this: No adoptive parent in their right mind believes that adoption is a cure-all for the world's plethora of problems. Any adoptive parent worth his or her salt will tell you that adoption is simply a Mickey Mouse band-aid on a massive hemorrhage. And any reputable adoption agency will ask, no, require of its adoptive parents, a commitment to the country and its waiting orphan children. Our agency offers several ways for adoptive families to become invested in the country of their adopted children's birth. One way is through sponsorship programs. From our agency's website:

There are many orphan children in Ethiopia. Years of terrible events, including war, famine and disease – particularly HIV/AIDS – have produced a society where many children have no parents. Often elderly grandparents or other relatives try to raise the children, but many are too old or in such deprived circumstances that they simply cannot provide even basic needs. As a result, there are many children being relinquished to orphanages or fending for themselves in the streets. AAI recognizes that international adoption cannot meet the needs of all the orphaned children in Ethiopia and therefore has developed sponsorship programs to serve those children who are able to live with extended family members or neighbors while they continue their schooling.
One program focuses on the older siblings or family members of children adopted through AAI (the Orphan Student Project) and the other is a sponsorship of students in Nazret, Mukatore & Sheshamone (Orphan Student Education Fund).

And its not just the children who are able to be sponsored. In an ongoing effort to provide the best childcare possible and keep staff turnover low, there are sponsorship programs aimed at staff education. In Ethiopia, where higher education is not the norm for women, this is a tremendous blessing to the women who work in the orphanage.
They have an active volunteer program, which allows for Americans over the age of 18, who meet certain criteria, to give of their time and talent as a volunteer working with orphan children in their orphanage, Layla House. This program has even included young adults who once lived, as orphans, at Layla House themselves, who return to volunteer to help.
If these programs don't speak for themselves in AAI's willingness to give back to the country that has shared their children, their most precious resource, with the world, read this:

Dessie is a town of 100,000 people nestled in the hills approximately 200 miles north of Addis Ababa, on the road to Djibouti. It is a town – like many in Ethiopia – which is mired in poverty and has been devastated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Over the past few years, the town leaders have invested time and money beginning to build a much needed school building. When they ran out of funds, they sought the assistance of the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, which recommended that they submit a proposal to AAI for financial support. AAI has agreed to assist in raising funds to finish the school and to help build another school building so that all the children in the town would be able to fulfill their dream of finishing their education. Read more here.

It is difficult in the last few weeks of adoption, no matter how big the blessing, to ruminate on the reality of what is about to happen. What the future holds for our family, for our adopted children and for the orphans in the country of Ethiopia remains to be seen. But we must constantly remind ourselves that there is more to adoption than money. Behind all of the numbers are real people each with a story to tell. And many are in need of something more than donated parcels of food, shelter and clothing. You may have all the riches of the world, but if you have not love...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Feeling a Little Better

Thanks for all your kind words and well wishes. I am feeling a little better today and will be following up with my regular doctor as well.

We're just back from morning Mass and in between gym and library. No rest for the weary around these parts, huh?

And so it goes.
Wordless Wednesday: Cake Decorating Class Edition

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

How I Spent My Labor Day

Much to the chagrin of my holiday plans, I spent my day first at the walk-in clinic and, from there, was diverted to the ER of a local hospital with abdominal pain of an unknown nature. After several tests, etc...I returned home feeling only slightly better and with instructions to follow-up with my primary doctor this week.
Fortunately, last night involved a bedtime of 5:30pm and 12-plus hours of sleep. If I was supposed to be somewhere, do something, etc... in the past 24 hours, please forgive me for not stepping up. Hopefully, I'll be feeling back to normal soon.

I hope your holiday weekend was a lot less eventful. ;-)
What A Bad Dream!

Naomi woke up and marched right in to demand, "WHO let the kitten out this morning?" Admitting my role in said action, I attempted to send her on her way. But she wouldn't budge. Instead she protested, "I was sleeping and she was biting me on the head. I thought a snapping turtle was attacking me!"

I'm not sure about her frame of reference here, as I am fairly confident we've not had any snapping turtle attacks (at least none that I'm aware of!)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day Wisdom

" Researchers at Harvard say that taking a power nap for an hour in the afternoon can totally refresh you. They say that by the time you wake up you'll feel so good, you'll be able to start looking for a new job."

~Jay Leno

Even God rested on the seventh day. May you all enjoy your day of rest today, friends.