We were blessed to have received some pictures of our children when they were younger. Here's one of them. Look at those little cuties! This must have been about 5 years ago.


The Longer Version

On Friday, as we got in line to pay for our Badger tickets to cross Lake Michigan, I checked my voice mail. I said to Lee "Oh. I bet we didn't pass court again today." (Since we'd had no luck on Wednesday and power outage on Friday.)

I listened to sweet Terra's voice saying "Congratulation! You passed court today!" The message was longer but I didn't hear anything else after that. I yelled over to Lee, who was sitting with the luggage "Hey! We're parents! And we're traveling June 7! Get on line quick and post something." Then I started calling our parents. Left messages as neither set of parents were home. (Where the HECK were they! Hello! Important news!)

Got a call from AWAA, but was on another line, so called back, assuming it was Terra. But it was the travel coordinator. Oh gosh. Paid for Badger tickets. Called Travel Coord as we were walking onto the car ferry. She asked if she could call me back since I was clearly distracted, and the ferry was loud with all the cars being loaded on. I said sure. We got seats and settled in, and then I realized that NO, she couldn't call me back because in about 10 minutes we were going to be out of phone range. Called her back and left message saying that she'd have to call me soon and that my in-laws were traveling with us as well. She didn't get that message, as I called her back again just as the boat left the dock.

We made the travel arrangements, I gave her the credit card number. Whew! Still have a signal... called Lee's sister Carrie who was very excited for us. I think we got a "Holy Schnickeys" out of her. Called Lee's mom again. Left message about tickets being ordered and that June 7 was a go.

Lost signal.

If all that sounds choppy and breathless... well, it was. It was all HURRY HURRY HURRY, and after so much PATIENCE PATIENCE PATIENCE it was quite overwhelming.

When we got to our motel in MI, my credit card was denied and I had a call from the anti-fraud dept. of the credit card co. Well, yes, I suppose $10,000 in tickets to Ethiopia DID look a little suspicious! Got that all sorted out and collapsed into bed, where we watched cable TV. (We don't have cable at home, so it's sort of a treat for us... except that nothing was on....)


They are ours!

Now that it's official according to Ethiopia, we can post photos...

Here is the 1st photo we saw of Habtamu and Yordanos, sort of a pre-referral. Based on the little information we received, and this photo, we asked for the full referral, because, you know, who WOULDN'T?

Here are the most recent ones of them opening our care packages:

I'll post more later. Just wanted you all to be able to see!


Travel Date

We're leaving June 7 for Ethiopia. And I don't know if you realize this, but that is in LESS THAN 2 WEEKS. Just in case you didn't notice that.

We're still in MI, taking the SS Badger (linked for you, Sean!) tomorrow a.m. to head home, where in less than 2 weeks we will be leaving for Ethiopia.

ALSO, our travel plans include leaving June 7 for Ethiopia.


One down, one to go...

Our first court date went through this morning. What this means is that Ethiopia has reviewed our paperwork and we can now come and get our children!!! No travel date yet, but this means it will be soon!
Chris and I were at the ticket office for the SS Badger when she got the voice mail. Fortunately they've got a hotspot so I could post immediately! Yeay nerds!


No Lights for You!

Weeeeeeeeelllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll.... There was no power in Addis Ababa today, so no one got court time. The plan is to try again tomorrow.

Besides the electricity, the paperwork part that is breaking down is the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA) needing to send a letter of recommendation to the court. This apparently is not happening expediently.

So! Please pray for electricity tomorrow and quick processing of paperwork.

No Court for You!

Our court day did not happen yesterday. We are having the same issue that a bunch of people are having. A necessary document was not delivered, even though it was promised that it was delivered. They will try again today.


Uncharted Territory

Last week, my friend Karen and her friend Jonathan (whom I do not know) went out and bought us 16 spices that I would need for Ethiopian cooking. AND, Jonathan put together a binder of Ethiopian recipes that he'd used with his cooking students. (!) Thank you, thank you, because I never would have thought to ask for that!

Now, I'd always labored under the delusion that I did not like to cook because I work full time and am too tired when I get home, and that I probably wouldn't like cooking anyway, and what am I going to do, because 2 children will live here, and would like to eat regularly. BUT, when I saw the beautiful colors of those spices, something stirred inside me. It made cooking seem more like art.

I am cooking Doro Wat as we speak. That is a spicy chicken stew, usually served with injera, but I didn't order the teff flour yet, and that's got to ferment awhile before cooking. We'll have it with rice.

I had a lot of firsts with this recipe:

1. I minced real ginger root. Don't get me wrong, I've BOUGHT ginger root before because I love it's knobbly shape. Every one I've ever bought has shriveled up my fridge... except this one. It dropped off the side shelf of the fridge and onto the floor, losing one of it's appendages in the process. I didn't see where it went, and considered it lost. Later, I saw a TOE on the floor and almost started yelling, but it was just the ginger's toe. It really was the same size and shape of a pinky toe.

2. I made a recipe that serves 10. Of course, I didn't realize it until I had cut up the chicken, AND the onion, and I thought "Hey! That's a LOT of chicken and onion!" (Have Lee tell you about the year I made 200 chocolate truffles because I kept doubling and quadrupling part of the recipe, which meant I had about 150 more than I'd intended. Lee called it a "Bumper Crop of My Wife can't do Math".)

3. I used Fenugreek and other actual spices in a recipe. The only spices I've used in the last, oh, since we've been married are those to make Christmas cookies and pie. I'm not even kidding.

4. I purposefully set aside vegetable matter for composting. (!) My head may just explode from all these firsts.

5. I marinated chicken. No, really, never done that before.

6. I used a lemon that I bought. See #1. The life cycle of ginger root, lemons and limes all ended in dessication.

So, now that it is 8 pm, dinner is ready! Did I mention how I don't have time to cook? Apparently I do!

P.S. UPDATE: the doro wat was very good. It had a nice cumulative spicy heat that didn't leave you gasping. In fact, Lee and I decided it could have been a little MORE spicy, so I'm sure it would have been totally BLAND to any Ethiopian. I will definitely make it again. With more heat! BAM!


I have my copy of There is no Me without You. Anyone want to borrow it? Let me know.

Court Day

Today is our court day. We haven't heard anything yet. If you all would pray for us...

Since Ethiopia is several hours ahead of the U.S., our court ruling has probably already happened. According to some of the other families, there's a new paperwork rule that's been holding things up. I will call AWAA this afternoon if I haven't heard anything by then.

I'll update as soon as we hear something.


Banana-nana bo-baHUH?

The most common question we get about our adoption process is, "Do they speak any English?" The answer is, "We're assuming not." Usually the questioner then smiles and says something to the effect of, "Well that's going to be..." at which point interject with, "Yep! It sure is!" and smile back.

The second most frequent question asked is, "What's their names again?" Habtamu and Yordanos is the short answer. From what we know of the Amharic language, the letter 'A' is pronounced 'ah' and we've been told that the accent is on the second syllable for both their names, but in all honesty, we haven't heard their names yet. The question in itself doesn't bother me. I understand that these are very foreign sounding names and not ones that 'stick' in our American brains. I totally get that. I keep hoping that someone, while searching for some kind of schema to which they can relate their names, will actually come up with something. Yordanos and Jordan are probably as close as you are going to get. But seriously, they are African names and unless you have some Ethiopian connection already established in your mind, their names are going to require straight up rote memorization for most of us.

What's getting under my skin are the helpful souls that keep trying to fix their names for us or offer up multiple nick-name suggestions. Initially, this was really interesting to me. You'd be surprised how many different logical conclusions can be drawn for nick-names when you're unfamiliar with the root. Charles to Chuck is not really intuitive, but it's a common accepted association. I kind of thought that people's collective brains would eventually converge on some naming convention, but so far they really haven't. Which tells me that whatever names they go by, a bunch of people aren't going to think it makes any sense anyway.

So, the short answer to the question, "Well, what are you going to call them?" is "We don't know. We'll see." Since our children are not entering our family as babies, we've accepted the fact the joy of naming kids is not going to be part of our story. Our children will come to us pre-named. And frankly, that's about all they've got at this point. There are opposing views about whether it's better to let newly adopted children keep what little history/heritage they have, or if an Americanized fresh start is more appropriate. Due to the ages of our kids, we fall in the former category. And that goes for nick-names too. We really haven't thought about them a whole lot, mostly because we figure they probably already have nick-names, we just don't know what they are yet. The other reason that hasn't been a big priority is probably from bad habits we've picked up trying to name pets. We generally use the 'Spaghetti test' for naming cats... just keep throwing different names at them until one sticks. Not a whole lot of forethought, just the belief the right name will present itself.

So, having said all that (if anyone out there is still reading...) We got several pictures through email on Friday of the kids opening the care packages we sent, and then posing with the shirts and gifts. We were starting to worry that maybe we'd actually beat the mail to Ethiopia, or that they were holding the gifts until we got there, but that's not a concern any longer.

Also, one of the pictures was named, "Yordi.jpg" How cute is that?

Yordi... I suspect folks could get used to that. :-)


ME: Show Me the Money! GOD: OK!

I recently started to get worried about money... of course, for all these past months Lee has been the worried one, but I was able to Poo Poo his fears, because "God will take care of us." and "That's why we have savings." Then I started to get worried about it, and "GWTCOU" is all well and good, but I didn't see how it was going to work.

We'll be going down to one salary indefinitely, we've got more adoption fees to pay. We've got savings, which used to look like a lot, but I was panicking, thinking "It's not going to be enough! Where can we get more money?" I was especially worried about the International Program Fee, because it's a big chunk of change. (For perspective, at this point, anything under $1,000 and we're like "Awesome! That's cheap!" ie: Vaccination Shots: $535. Awesome. Chump change.)

I was looking back through previous emails yesterday, trying to back them up and organize them, and get them out of our email which was filling up with all the attachments. I found the email that said "Now, x fee and your International Program Fee are due." And then it hit me, we've ALREADY paid that fee that I was all worried about. AND, we had money from friends and family in a fund that we forgot about. Between the 2 items, I found us about $10,000. That, my friends, is NOT chump change.

And I said to God, "Ok. I totally get it. This is your plan, you'll finance it. I don't have to worry about it."

We've had questions about how much adoption costs. Here's the fee list from America World for our program. Ours will be a bit more because of getting 2 children, but it's not DOUBLE those fees, thanks be to God.

Will we take any and all money offered toward our adoption expenses? Absolutely! But more than money, we covet your prayers to the Lord of all, because He is the one truly holding the purse strings, and He is very generous to his people.


Laying in Supplies: Round One - The Grocery Store

So item #147 on 'The List' was 'Stock up on staples.'

Being a household of two, and being used to dining out quite a bit, we have been seriously negligent on keeping what I would consider to be an appropriate amount of food in the house. You know how like, you run out of buns before you run out of hotdogs? No big deal until pretty much everything in the kitchen fails the buddy test. Cereal without milk, popcorn but no butter, pepperoni but no pizza, you get the idea. Again, that's assuming you could find anything at all... The contents of our frig consisted of SoyMilk, half a carton of milk gone bad, an onion, 2 Rum drinks, 4 pathetic strawberries, 6 cans of Coke, chocolate syrup, and various condiments. I'm not saying you can't make a meal out of that, I'm just saying you can't make very many consecutive meals out of that. The freezer and the pantry were in even worse shape, and we got to the point where there was just no denying that we needed to get to the store and that we might as well take care of #147 while we're at it. Of course it's a shame that we didn't reach this point a day earlier or later, because being Mother's Day, the grocery store was full of lost and confused men trying to be 'considerate' in the only way we know how... doing it ourselves and not about to ask what a 'Cumin' is.

So we join the fray, and the mission was three-fold. 1) Get the basics, 2) Stock up on necessities, 3) Figure out if our grocery store has any African foods or spices. We didn't even make it into the produce section before Chris realized that this was not going to be a One Cart operation, and went back for a second. Two carts was a first for me and I wondered if this was something that was going to be a regular occurrence for the rest of my life.

As we walked down aisle two, my morning coffee wore off. That was a bad sign of things to come, but Chris dealt with my whining and feet shuffling like a trooper, she's going to be a good mom.

Ok, as a side note, I love the midwest, but we are not particularly accommodating to African tastebuds. If you're Hispanic or Italian, you've got a fighting chance. There was even a sizable selection of Scandinavian foods, but African? Zilch. Unless you're in the coffee aisle, we don't even offer any African knock-off products. Nothing brags about being African. I guess in my ignorance I thought that if you looked hard enough you could find a little bottle marked, "Ethiopian spice blend" with a silhouette of the African continent behind it. I was wrong about that, but I found "Bear Spice" while searching for it. Bear Spice? Seriously? I guess there's more of a market for people eating Bear here than people trying to make African cuisine, but whatever. It wasn't a total wash though. Chris spotted a bag of TEFF in the health food section, which was a pretty significant find. At least now if we make injera, the dough will have a chance of tasting 'right' even if they aren't accustomed to spicy bear meat as a topping. ;-)

So by the time we got out of the grocery store, we had 3 carts and a receipt literally the length of my arm and amounted to more than my last guitar. Good Times.

But hey, at least #147 is off 'The List.'


I'll have what SHE'S having!

It makes sense that when you are in the process adopting or fostering a child in the US, you have to answer a bunch of questions about your medical history and pass a clean bill of health. But when I've mentioned to people that our cats also have to be up on their vaccinations (with documentation,) I've gotten some queer looks. I guess there's an extra step there that folks don't think about. I mean, just because *I* don't have fleas or rabies doesn't inherently mean that my household doesn't, right? Anyway, this is my longwinded way of saying that we had to take the cats to the vet yesterday for their yearly checkup. Cats, carriers, cars and clinics are always an amusing combination. Chris called me with cryptic little messages throughout the morning to keep me apprised of the situation.

BEEP-BEEP The Chicken is in the Bucket.

BEEP-BEEP The Turkey has been basted.

BEEP-BEEP The Eagle has landed, and is hiding under the bed.

We had a pretty good laugh at the cat's expense yesterday morning, and at the very least that's one more thing off 'The List.' As a bonus we don't have to worry about feline distemper for a while, now if only they could do something about their attitude...

Also on the topic of preventative immunization, Chris and I had a consultation at the Winnebago County Health Services building regarding our impending international travel. On the way, I asked Chris if I should be psyching myself up for getting shots today. "No, it's just a consultation," She said. "Really?" I replied. "If that's what you need to tell yourself," she said never one to miss an opportunity to play mind games. Thanks oodles, hon.

So considering we're here in the heartland, I was actually pretty impressed with how informed they were about what immunizations we were going to need on the other side of the globe. The clinician printed off a list of requirements and recommendations. Chris, of course, had also done her homework and not only knew that we would not be traveling in the Yellow Fever region, but also knew there was no way we would be talked into paying $95 each for the inoculation. That's my girl!

The clinician got the last laugh though, because the Yellow Fever shot is the only one they didn't have on hand that would have required rescheduling. "So you folks just want all your immunizations now, then, right?" she asked. I glared at Chris and mouthed, "Con-sul-tay-tion" at her. She just smiled and agreed that we might as well do it now.

So six immunizations later (that's Polio, Tb, Hepatitis A, Hep B, flu, and Typhoid for those of you playing along at home) we finally get to leave.

If you need me, I'll be hiding under the bed with the other Eagle.

Note from Chris: I really did not know we were getting shots that day. And, technically, we could have rescheduled making that a true consultation. Also, I got one more shot than Lee. And I can't lift my arms. Also, we got awesome band aids!



Shows excitement, or emotion... what is it with Schoolhouse Rock?

Anyhoo.... OUCH! is my interjection. Those shots hurt.


Yes, the numbers are staggering. Adopting two children out of this environment is not even a blip in the percentages. It will take all of us to make lifesaving drugs available to the parents of these children, and for the children themselves. If ever a phrase like "if we can put a man on the moon, certainly we can (blank)" is appropriate, it is now.

There are many agencies at work making ARVs available for adults and children with HIV/AIDS. We sponsor a child through this one.

Also, be sure to read There is no me without you. I'm making it your assignment for the next couple of weeks. Ok, not really, but kind of, yeah really. As soon as I get mine back from my MIL, I'm happy to loan it out.



Our Daughter:

…as sweet as she is, she can sure go off on her brother! He will do something to bother her, and she will start speaking to him really high pitched, loud, and fast. It’s quite funny. For Easter, we took the children out for ice cream…Y., being such a little lady, eats her ice cream out of the cone with a spoon, and very slowly. Recently Y. said that she missed her parents…and she meant her parents in America, not her birthparents!

Today we cut out the photocopies of the dossier pictures. Y. and H. have them hanging beside their beds. As soon as Y. saw her mommy and daddy, she kissed the picture!

Our Son:

H. is such a little gentleman! He is always sweet and polite. He has a smile that is totally charming! For Easter on 4/27 we went to Nurse Fortuna’s house for dinner. H. ate 3 huge plates of food!!! Later on everyone was laughing about how much his stomach was sticking out. I think we can assume he is a big eater!


6 years to 6 weeks

A little explanation about the last post (of which Chris has updated since I started writing...)

There are 2 important court dates for us in Ethiopia. The first one, since we've signed over our power of attorney (in Ethiopia) we don't have to be present, but that's the one where the court decides if our paperwork is in order and we are suitable parents. I have to admit, it's nice that they figure that out before we fly out. The second court date is the one where the official adoption takes place, and we have to be present for it.
The first one, as Chris so eloquently stated, is May 21st. On the 'Gardner timeline' this doesn't mean much. Paperwork gets stamped, been there, done that. But in reality, it means that the second court date will be scheduled 2-3 weeks after the first.

Let me do the math on that one...

So our conservative estimate of "Sometime this summer" became "6 weeks" in the course of an single email, which incidentally was not from our Adoption Agency. The Agency called and left a voicemail, but we didn't check the messages until after we got an email from another adopting parent with the same court date. It was kind of like getting a phone call from someone claiming to be your new roommate when you didn't know you were accepted into the college yet. It's not that we aren't ecstatic, just no time to process.

Six weeks.

Six weeks!

And just for the record, If Chris and I act dazed, confused, or just generally burnt out, it's probably because we are. We have lists that don't end and about 45 things sitting in the #1 slot. I know not everything will be wrapped up beforehand, but I feel like if it doesn't get done now, it's going to have to wait another 15 years. We need new doors, we need to get that tuck-pointing done on the chimney, we need to drywall the closets... Need. Need. Need.

And yet when people ask us what they can do for us, our answer has been either, "Nothing yet" or "We don't know." And it's true. At that moment, I can't think of a single thing that needs to be done. I either blank completely or my inner-voice reminds me that, "You could remove the asbestos insulation in our basement" isn't an appropriate response.

I also feel like I haven't been appropriately reciprocating the enthusiasm of our friends, but it's nothing personal. You're excited, I'm excited, but for those of you who are married folk and had to stand through a long receiving line at your wedding, you know you just reach a point where it's hard to smile and it's time to get on with the party. I really am excited, but my face doesn't always reflect it.

The other night, before getting the May21st email, I had kind of an epiphany.

I was ready.

I don't think I've told myself that in the last 6 years. I just wanted my kids. I wanted the travel part to be over and to be back home. I was ready for the planning and the preparation and the paperwork part of the whole ordeal (I mean process) to be over, and I was ready for the next adventure. I was ready to spend my evenings after work with my kids. I was ready for games and lessons and skinned knees and tantrums and hugs. I've gotten really good at waiting, but it was time for something different. I was ready and what I really needed, wasn't going to be solved with a trip to Home Depot... it was my kids.

We talk a lot about adoption happening "in God's time." If you're a cynic, that's how us religious types console ourselves while we wait for some injustice to pass. If you're God fearing, you are generally advised to use "the time you are given" to learn something. This will, more often than not, be in the life-lesson/character building department and generally painful, but ultimately totally necessary and life changing.

Maybe patience wasn't the lesson. Maybe it just took me 6 years to really be ready for children.



Ok, I can think a LITTLE more clearly now. We are, of course, thrilled to have a court date. But, YIKES... that means travel in 6 weeks or less.

I have been on a container mission. Plastic containers for everybody! Our awesome handyman, Rick, is speaking to us again (after the 11 hours faux tin ceiling incident.... oopsie... who knew it would take that long?) and is drywalling a couple of closets for us. We've got bags and bags (and bags!) of stuff for the Salvation Army or a garage sale, but let's get real, people, like I'm going to be able to pull off a garage sale before we leave. Mostly, I just want that stuff OUT of the house.

We have scheduled a consultation for our shots. Lots of calls back and forth with Lee's folks, who are traveling with us, about which vaccinations we NEED and which we DON'T. We're probably not getting the yellow fever shot, or taking malaria meds. CDC says that's ok if we don't leave Addis Ababa. There are about 5-6 others that we will get. Including polio.... there are recent outbreaks in that area, which blew my mind.

Oh, also... BOOK REVIEW... There is no me without you. Get it, read it. Mama G. (Grandma G!), I'm bringing my copy to you after work today. I'm still processing it all... the numbers are staggering. I don't think we're made to understand human suffering on that scale.

Now I'm reading I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World. Seems interesting... I'm only a little ways in... the author is talking about how pre-schoolers view race (they don't), and what can be done to instill a healthy self image.