Alright, now I'm just curious...

I added Stat Counter to this blog, because so many people have said they read it every day... get a life, people! Just kidding, come back, I love you!

Anyhoo, I added the counter an hour ago and there are 33 hits already. Ok, about 5 of those are mine, and several others are (what's the term? being botted?) But who all is out there? Would you consider leaving a comment letting me know you're lurking and/or reading. I would love to know who you are. You can remain anonymous too, especially if you'd have to kill me for knowing your secret identity.

You have no idea how much it means to Lee and I to know you are out there. We surely do thank you for your support and prayers. Seeing that there are comments on a post is just about the most exciting thing in my day. Ha ha. No, really. That doesn't sound too desperate, does it? :)


Ok, all you mothers out there... I know everyone says that parenting is a thankless job that takes years and years to yield results. Well, hey... 3 weeks in, and I gotta say, that part sucks. Excuse my French. What do you all do to stay sane and not take what they're dishing out personally? Even with their limited English, they manage to make things perfectly clear. "Daddy Yes, Mommy NO."

Our friendly neighborhood Ethiopian (Zac) came and visited today, and it was balm for our children's souls. Their attitude was much better after they were able to air their grievances to him in front of us. There was lots of finger pointing by the children at us. At one point I knew that Yordi was telling Zac about how I wouldn't give her water after playing at the park. She was very dramatic. The real story is that she said to me "Water!" much like Henry VIII would have commanded it. I said "Water, please." to indicate to her the tone of voice that would get her water. Then she said "Mommy, mommy, waaaaaaaaateeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer" and threw herself crying on the grass. I told Zac this and he told her she always has to say please, not just to mommy and daddy. Love you, Zac! Zac also brought us injera made by a woman in Elgin. And I finally made a doro wat (chicken stew) that was eaten by Habtamu (Yordi didn't like the injera. What the?!)

Lee wanted me to tell you about Habtamu's new lesson for today. Now, the children call out Mommy, Daddy about a million times a day... all with the same urgency. So, we're not always quick to respond, because they just want you to watch them pee or something... and we feel they can do this themselves. Then there's about every 50th time when they have a legitimate need. Yesterday Yordi was calling and calling me, and I was all "just a minute...mutter...mutter". When I finally went into the bathroom to see what the heck, and she was out of toilet paper. That, to me, is a legitimate need. (Especially since, when we first met, she didn't use TP when she peed.) At any rate... Habtamu was calling from upstairs... whatever... million times a day. Lee finally got up there, and H. had his hand wedged UNDER the bathroom door. We may never know why.



Surviving our Heritage

One of those things you either love or hate about our community is that our town celebrates all the major holidays a week early. So today was the "Heritage Festival" complete with carnival rides, a parade, and fireworks.

We decided to take the experience head on and make one of our first public appearances.

The carnival rides we had actually seen yesterday on our daily walk, so the kids had already done the, "Daddy, Me" thing to which the response was, "No Money. Tomorrow money." That worked until about 7:18 this morning. The thing was, my folks were coming out and the parade didn't start until 4pm, so we piddled around most of the day until about 2:30, knowing that we couldn't do the carnival for more than an hour. I'm happy to report that our children gloriously conquered their first carousel. It was a little touch and go there for a minute, but they figured it out and had fun (the pics are great, I'm sure Chris will post them at some point.) Next we had to tackle the "54 inches or shorter" dilemma as H was too tall for the 'car ride.' Again, a week ago this would have brought the whole thing to a screeching halt, but he handled it magnificently today. And speaking of screeching... the Tilt-A-Whirl was not as graceful of an experience. H and Y thought they could handle it if Daddy went with them. After about 4 times around, there
was no consoling either one of them. Daddy couldn't stop the ride even if he wanted to. (The before/after pictures are classics but will probably stay off the interwebs) And as a side note, I'm convinced that carnies gain strength from the screams of children, and this operator was buff by the time we stopped spinning.

We couldn't figure out a way to describe a parade to someone who has never seen one. H kept pointing and making a break for the very beginning of the parade route where the police cars and firetrucks were lining up. I don't think he really believed me when I told him that they were going to drive right in front of us, so I pretty much had to drag him back to the spot on the curb we had staked out. And then the candy flowed... and flowed... and flowed... and then all was forgiven. Today we learned that our kids don't like ice cream sandwiches (the Dean's Ice Cream truck gave them out in the parade.) Chris was appalled, I was just glad that I didn't have to buy a box of them to find that out.

For a week, Chris and I have been searching for the Amharic word for "fireworks" so we could give our kids a heads up about the 4th of July, but it's not in any of our dictionaries and it's not like there's a synonym for it. Finally today, I had a head-slap moment, went to youtube, typed in "fireworks" and started pointing. They were unimpressed. Chris was pretty much finished with the day after the parade, but I pushed because we only live 7 blocks from where they were going to do the display. We were either going to see them, or we were going to have to explain what was booming outside. We got to the park early. Too early. We had way too much time to kill. By the time it got dark both kids had gone through the cranky/slap-happy/sassy/glazed-over cycle about 4 times, and Chris had gone through it twice. When the first fireworks went off, H's eye's just about popped out of his head and Y screamed, then ran away serpentine through the crowd. Our friend Julie caught her somewhere near Marengo and helped her settle down and enjoy the rest of the show. My son, who had said, "Toilet daddy" 3 seconds before the fireworks began, remembered that he still needed to go about 15 minutes later. Fine. So I escort him to the bathroom and he spends the finale looking for a hand dryer while I got to watch the back of the pavilion glow various colors. Faaaantastic. Note to self: next time take the potty break during the opening sequence.


Pushing buttons

Both Chris and I hit breaking points today. We're not to the, "Where's my 30-day money back guarantee" point, but you'll see what I mean...

This afternoon the kids and I were watching S&M, I mean Sound OF Music, sorry, it's an honest mistake after the 7th viewing, when a stranger came to the door. I told them to stay in the house but they beat me to the door anyway. I wedged out the front door in a vain attempt to not be followed onto the porch but that didn't work, so I tried it again with the porch door where and I successfully picked off my children. Then, as I'm trying to talk to this guy who was running for some office, my little darlings are making faces through the clear glass door and/or opening it behind me. So I'm standing there, discussing gas prices with one hand holding the door closed, when I hear the unmistakable CLICK of the lock. I thanked Mr. Candidate for his time and excused myself to attend to other matters. Indeed, the door is locked. I ring my own doorbell. My wife assumes that it's the kids messing around and doesn't answer while I glare into the smiling eyes of my daughter on the other side of the door twiddling her fingers on the door handle.

"Open the door," I say. She giggles.
"No TV," I say. I get a big smile.
"3. 2. 1. No TV," I say as I start walking around to the back door.
*CLICK* "Daddy Come!"

Oh, my dear, it's waaaaay too late for that now. I storm through the kitchen, mumble something in Chris's direction, and followed through on my promise... I turned off the Sound of Music. My children were sitting on the same couch (in perfect scolding position) so I stood in front of the TV and grunted, "No TV." My son points at his sister and says, "Yordanos no tv. Habtamu tv." My daughter then smiles and points back at her brother. "No," I said thinking as quickly as I could, "I said stay in the house. Y and H no stay in house. No tv." I left the room and we found other things to do for the rest of the evening, but I have to confess I did have an "Oh crap, what are we going to do for the next 4 hours without tv" moment.

What's significant here to me is that this is the first time I can recall that they've really turned on each other. We don't know what all these kids have been through together, but I think it's a good sign that they're feeling 'at home' if they're willing to start ratting each other out for personal gain. Up until this point they've pretty much always come to consensus, and it's been difficult to punish or reward one without the other because they keep sharing their misery or misfortune.

Chris hit a pizza/pasta Waterloo as we have had both daily for nearly 2 weeks. She had mentioned earlier that the sight of spaghetti sauce makes her ill now, and I really didn't get it. Then I watched my son *drink* the extra sauce from the bottom of his bowl today. The short story is summed up in Chris's mealtime ultimatum, "No Dinner, no Jell-O."

The kids ate their rice dish with relatively no hassle.

PS) H's life lesson today was that just because you *can* eat water softener salt straight, doesn't mean you should.

New Pics

I realize I haven't posted pics in awhile. Our life has not been that exciting. We drive around... take the long way everywhere so that the children get some down time. Um, ok, it's relaxing for us... they are good travelers... you know, the way they fall asleep and all. :)

We go to the playground every day, so all of our pics have a same-ness about them. Yesterday the blue slide, today the blue slide, tomorrow the blue slide.

They really like this song... sorry for the repeat, I think it's funny how they're coloring and singing...

Ethiopian Standoff Part 2

Last night was night 2 of the going to bed without Mommy and Daddy laying down with children.

Tactically, we erred by getting them in bed by 8. It was too early. They came down a couple of times, and were escorted back up. I didn't hear anything after 9:45.... until 10:15. I think Habtamu was still awake and went in and woke Yordanos up and dragged her to the top of the stairs to yell for Mommy. I KNOW she was asleep. Gah. Up again to turn off all the lights they'd turned on... Y went willingly to bed... heard H get up and get her again. We're going to have to put a stop to THAT.

No tantrums from H since Monday. 3 times in the chair on Monday for H. We keep saying to each other, "It can't be that easy." We keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and it doesn't. He shrieked like a little girl when he burned himself on the pizza stone yesterday, but it didn't escalate into a full-fledged tantrum... just a kid that got burned and had to have his hand run under cold water for a bit.


Getting Away

Like Lee said, we've each been able to go off by ourselves a bit, and that's been wonderful. I've seen people I know while out and about, and honestly, I have ducked and covered. I know that people want to know how things are going... but with my 55 minutes of freedom, the LAST thing I want to do is talk about the kids. I will become more social later... promise!

You know, I waited sooooo long to be called "Mommy", and I ended up fleeing that very word today. Mommymommymommymommy come mommy mommy mommy come. Never mind that I AM RIGHT HERE, STANDING NEXT TO YOU, CHILD. Or, I am making LUNCH... you want LUNCH, don't you?

Mommy? Yes?
Mommy? Yes?
Mommy? Yes?
Mommy? Yes?
Mommy? YES?!
Mommy? WHAT?! (This is the word they repeat... when mommy loses it... not the 577 times before when I answered kindly. Argh.)

Anyway, wanted to tell you about the charming (it is, if we weren't in a hurry to get the heck out of dodge at the time) new ritual when one of us leaves. The children are actually excited that "something" is happening. There are no longer wailing and tears and gnashing of teeth when someone leaves. Now it is an "event."

The children escort leaving parent to car.
H hands seatbelt to driver, and closes car door.
Window must then be rolled down for departing kisses.
They follow the car out of the driveway, waving madly.
They want to know which direction the car will turn at the end of the street.
They watch car leave until it makes said turn.
They seem very satisfied that car turned direction stated, and go back in the house.

On a different note... their obsession with the puppet show in Sound of Music has reached epic proportions. We watched it 4 ... no, 5 times in a row today. The puppets are still creepy to me. I love when one of them busts out with Do, Re, Mi in the car. Next up... Fiddler on the Roof...

Pink in, black out.

Parenting is stupid because if you knew what was going to work, you would have done it the first time. Day 3 without a tantrum so it seems like we're out of the woods. H even burned himself pretty good on the pizza pan and didn't explode so we're taking that as a good sign. I wish we would have dealt with the fits 'correctly' before the airplane ride home, but I guess that's way behind us now.

Oh, and all you other parents out there lose points because nobody warned me that when you hold a crying child, whatever was in their mouth becomes part of your shirt. That should be on page 1 of the child-rearing manual, folks! Don't be holding back on a brother!

I woke up this morning with what can only be described as an Unholy Exhaustion. I just couldn't move, so Chris hung out with the kids for most of the morning by herself. This is good because I'll have to go back to work again here pretty soon and it's reassuring to me to see that the kids might not eat her alive. When I did finally drag myself out of bed, I went straight to Walgreens and picked up some B vitamins (I had been diagnosed in the spring with a deficiency and the primary symptom is 'lethargy.') Came home and took a vitamin, ate a banana, had a shot of green tea and immediately started feeling more like myself. Chris was even able to leave the house solo again later, and I don't know where she went, but she smelled like pound cake when she got home, so it turned out to be a good day for everyone.

Oh, the title is what H learned today about how Pepto-Bismol works.

Ethiopian Standoff

Lee mentioned last night how we were trying a new bedtime ritual. We had been laying in their beds until they fell asleep. I think it was the right thing to do for a little bit... everything was new and they needed the assurance that we were there and would respond. The problem was that then they NEEDED us to fall asleep, and they NEEDED us when they woke up to pee and they NEEDED us to get back to sleep. And Lee and I were exhausted. It's still important that they know we are here for them, and if they were babies, I'd have no problem responding to those genuine needs. However, we've been feeling like we're the ones who were being trained at bedtime.

So, last night we followed the usual bedtime ritual... pajamas, brush teeth, guitar time and coloring, 3 books, to bed. We tucked them in, kissed them goodnight and headed downstairs. Oh, the wailing. Just from Yordanos. And, you know, it sounded very dramatic. We waited for her to come down and I escorted her back up, no words, no eye contact, no payoff. The next time, they both came down... back up, no words, etc...

For the next few times they both would come down and sit huddled together on the base of the stairs. They were SOOOOO tired, but would not yield. Lee took them back up, and finally at 10:30 (we should have done it earlier, probably), Lee stood up there in the hall until they fell asleep... about 3 minutes.

Also, they had both turned ON all their lights, and turned OFF their fans. It's hot up there, and they keep complaining about how hot it is, and yet, will not leave their fans on or their windows open, and they insist on sleeping under their comforters.

H just came down. Sounds like Y is awake now too, and they're playing. Excellent.


pieces coming together

Well, the most significant thing that happened today is what didn't happen. This was day 2 without a tantrum. There were several things throughout the day that could have pushed him over the edge but didn't, like when his water bottle was missing or when he noticed that one of the lights in his shoes went out. So we're hoping that the terrible 2's are over, and maybe we can move on to the threes. Whoever is praying the "keep it together boy" prayer, please keep it up, it's working.

And two pleasant surprises:

Turns out the kids like jello, so we can add that to the repertoire.

Also, the past couple days we've been creating scenarios where one of us leaves. Initially there was the, "No mommy stay! Stay! Oh, mommy stay!" but one good, "Mommy's getting bananas for breakfast tomorrow" and there was no further argument. So where I'm going with this is that today I took the kids to the playground by myself so that Chris could have a bit of well-earned mommy time. The playground experience was pretty uneventful, and time-wise we had hit about the 45 minute mark when the kids were finished. I really wanted to give Chris a full hour, so as I'm trying to figure out how to casually kill 15 minutes, Y unclasps her seatbelt and says, "Daddy, One." and makes a circle with her finger. "Ok," I said, as if I had a choice or knew what she was talking about. All I really knew for sure was that it was going to take some time. So she jumps out of the car, runs a lap around the parking lot, and gets back in the car. Not to be outdone, her brother decides to do it too. She gets out again and does a total of 3 laps. Then we all ran around the school. Then the kids decided they would run home, not that they knew where home was, as long as I drove really slow beside them and told them where to turn. When all was said and done, they ran about a mile and a half, maybe two and insisted on doing it again tomorrow.

By the gods, do we have a hobby? Now if only there were a strong track program here in town they could participate in... (for those of you not from around these parts, Belvidere likes to run.)

As a side note, bathing was no problem tonight, however this is the first night Chris and I are not responding to cries for Mommy and Daddy. If you really want us, drag your butt all the way downstairs so we can turn you around and escort you right back upstairs. No words. No eye contact. I've done it 4 (make that 5) times now since I started writing, but there hasn't been any begging or sobbing since the second.


Lee's Odds and Ends Ethiopian Summary

As it sounds like another round of America World adopting parents are getting ready to head out, I thought I'd compile a personal list of "Things I wish I had known, understood, or thought about beforehand." Many of these will apply just to older children, but you'll get the idea.

-Ethiopians love children. Seriously. From folks working at the Hilton to people walking down the street, everyone is nice to the children. Our kids are accustomed to being touched, kissed, and addressed directly. So if you're concerned about older children being unresponsive and distant, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised.

-Altitude. Addis Abeba is situated at about 8500 feet, so even if you are in decent shape, expect to be unusually exhausted. Any cardio you can do beforehand will really pay off when you get there.

-Don't get too excited when you hear "Mommy/Daddy." Turns out those are terms of respect, and are not necessarily singular like they are here in the States. Even knowing that, it's a little jolting when your child runs up to the hotel security guard and says, "Good Morning Daddy."

-Cold things and ice are novelties. In Ethiopia they don't flaunt their refrigeration like we do here. We're always trying to be the coldest, but there I don't think I even saw an ice cube once we got off the plane. (That might also be because most of us touristas are sensitive about the water...) Anyway, drinks were cool, but not 32.5 degrees.
Our kids have an aversion to cold stuff. I think everything we've served straight from the refrigerator has been out-right rejected (today it was carrots.) But room-temperature foods have had a much higher acceptance rate (raisins and grapes were today's successes.) Even things they think they'll like, like milk, have been uncomfortably chilled for them.

-Packaging. I don't know if it's an orphanage thing or what, but our kids were baffled by food packaging and needed to see the actual food before they'd think about eating it. We found this out the hard way on the plane where everything was individually wrapped. They'd just sit there staring at their plates. So we'd open everything and then they'd decide not to eat it.

-Oh, they have opinions all right... On a similar note, we had read that children from orphanages tend to not have preferences because they've never been allowed to make decisions on things like clothes or food. Our kids certainly have preferences, just no schema for making a choice. Again, I go back to food packaging. While at the hotel, we'd walk into the convenience store and one child would point to a pack of gum and say, "Daddy, Me." Thinking like an American, I was tempted to oblige, (it's just gum, right?) but we were there for juice boxes so I shrugged it off. Next thing I know I hear, "Daddy, Me!" and that same child is now pointing at 2 pound bag of dried dates. Yeah, like I want to deal with the aftermath of that. We take a couple more steps and the same child goes, "Me, Daddy?" while pointing to a large bottle of Jack Daniels. At this point, the game is up and I point to a shelf with 3 flavors of juiceboxes; apple, peach or pineapple. This child then states "Me Daddy" and points to a bigger juicebox on a different shelf labled "Tomato." That was my crash course in parenting.
Another interesting side effect of this is that product branding is, at this point, completely lost on them. They both had requested Coke at restaurants (most likely because of the novelty,) but I've got a case of it sitting in the kitchen sitting next to the cat food and neither has said a word about it. Chris and I will continue to use this to our advantage. No golden arches for you!

And lastly,
Be happy being one of the Wonderfuls. There's an old joke about how even if you are "one in a million," there are still a thousand people just like you in China. I really liked the fact that through America World, we were banded together with several other adopting families. The benefit of that is tremendous. There's a lot of camaraderie and the information exchanged is absolutely invaluable. However, for me it was hard on my ego to be in close quarters with 5 other "one in a million" families. I'm used to being good at what I do, and I hate punting when other people are watching and/or getting it right. If I could do it again, I'd prepare myself more for becoming a small fish. From the moment I stepped on the plane in DC and saw that some of the other folks were traveling first class (which makes a whole lot of sense when you're talking about a 13+ hour flight,) I knew that the playing field wasn't level, and that I was just going to have to sit back in coach and take it like a man. There were many "I should have thought of that first" moments for me throughout our week in Ethiopia that I just had to accept. At one point after a particularly exhausting day, I looked over at Chris and said, "I'm sorry I'm not wonderful like the other guys." She didn't even look back and just went, "Pfft, like I would have married any of them. Good night," then rolled over. That's my girl! :-)

But when all was said and done, after all the miscommunication and stress and waiting (usually for the Gardners) and illnesses, it was a successful trip for everyone. We all played our parts wonderfully. I pray that the other adopting families will have similar success.

Proud Mama

I am so proud of Habtamu today. No meltdowns. There were times that could have (would have - last week) easily led to them, but he rallied each time. I think the chair really did the trick.

I know the chair worked for Yordi. Yesterday I was the chair for her for bedtime. The children know the routine... it is the SAME, every single night. Why they act like we're not going to make them get pajamas on and brush their teeth, read 3 books, and go to bed, is beyond me. Anyway, I was the chair for her again tonight for about 10 seconds, and she calmly said "Mommy, pajamas." OK, then.

She likes me to lay with her as she falls asleep. I did again tonight, but when I got up she woke a bit. I told her "Mommy, toilet." She nodded. I did go to the bathroom, I just didn't come back. I stood in the hall for about 5 minutes and she didn't move the whole time.

I'd just like to thank my parents and Lee's parents who did whatever was necessary to get the kids in bed so they could eat popsicles and frozen chocolate cookies. Ok, that last part is just me. :)

This and That

For the past two mornings, the children have taken to cleaning. Habtamu has taken control of the vacuum and this morning, he went so far as to take all the couch cushions off and vacuumed under them. What the? Who are these children? Yordanos has swept the stoop and sidewalk both days.

Breakdowns are fewer and further between. Still waiting for one today.

Food has been not varied. Mostly pasta, pizza, pancakes. The 3 P's... Anyway, I introduced grapes and raisins yesterday. H likes the grapes, Y the raisins. I imagine it'll blow their minds someday to know they're both grapes. Aunt Carrie and Uncle Paul left a dinner for us of salsa chicken and cous-cous. I thought, "Oh, yeah, like they'll eat THAT." H kept looking in the pan and saying "Yum." Huh. He ate it... no cous-cous. Y ate raisins and two bites of chicken. So, thanks, Aunt Carrie and Uncle Paul for surprising us with a meal our children will eat that is not pasta!

I told Lee this morning that I didn't feel like being a parent today. He said "Yeah, me either. What can we do that requires the least amount of work today?" I said "Well, I've done my part... they've watched 1/2 of Sound of Music before 10 a.m. Woot."


2 to 12 in 24 hours

(Lee here)
Today's adventure consisted of taking our children to the dentist. We knew that they had seen doctors (had blood drawn, etc,) but we still don't know if they have ever been to an Ethiopian dentist. So we thought we'd approach the situation cautiously. H has been complaining about a pain in his mouth since the airport, but bailed last time we had an opportunity to make an appointment. Fine. Whatever. So for the past 3 days we've been reminding him that the appointment is coming. He mimes back the action of yanking a tooth out, so we thought we were on the same page. Turns out though, I think he really expected his tooth to be pulled and therefore wouldn't go anywhere near the chair when it came right down to it. Y, however, has a loose tooth and I think was bracing herself to have it popped out. We didn't force either issue. We'll make the first dentist visit pleasurable. Our dentist, being totally cool, at least got both kids to open their mouths (H, standing in the hallway, back arched into my chest) and said that things looked fine but of course she'd like to get x-rays at some point. Her diagnosis for H was that he has some inflammation that is probably just has a gum infection. I was impressed she could even see that considering the circumstances. She also noted that his molars are all in which means he has the mouth of at least a 12 year old.


You don't say.

We left promptly and I think the kids were kind of stupefied by the lack of experience, especially since the previous visit to the doctor was an all day event. Oh, but wait until next time...

Sanity subsiding: We've watched Sound of Music four times now since I last posted and the kids now occasionally blurt, "Gubbittahma ti hurblseetma MARIA!" (to the tune of "How do you solve a problem like Maria.") And um, I have to confess, Julie Andrews gets hotter after each viewing. That's a normal reaction to a SoM overload, right? Tell me I'm not alone on this one. Anyone else been here? Anyone? Um, never mind. I was just kidding...

Stolen Moments

Some people have wondered about how the cats and kids are getting along. In general, cats and kids ignore each other. The kids get startled by the cats because they are so, well, cat-like and stealthy. They've developed an irrational fear of Rico. "Yaaaaah, black cat, mommy, black cat!" Then Rico freaks out and runs under the bed.

I think our cats are a little depressed. They were used to all our attention and our laps all the time. Murray just looks sadly at us as we walk by. :( Today I went into the bathroom with Murray just so I could pet him. (The kids are really good about not barging in when you're in the bathroom.) Anyway, Murray just purred and purred and rubbed. My poor little kitten.

Bedtime is the cats' favorite time. They're all over us.

We saw Sibbie being carried by Habtamu. I said to Lee "I'm surprised she's submitting to that." Then Lee and I said at the same time "She must be desperate."

I escaped, I mean went to the store this afternoon. I was starting to lose my sanity around the edges. I had a Almond Joy in the car. Alone. Not to be sacrilegious, but I think I saw the face of God while I ate it.


Chicago takes all day...

I'm so glad we went to one of the University of Chicago hospitals today. Chicago traffic not withstanding. Sorry, Brian, for the panic call while we tried to "go back the way we came" (haha, not possible in Chi-town... all roads lead to East 90, instead of West. Doh.)

The children were nervous and overstimulated by the time we got there. The children's waiting room was not terribly crowded, but filled with bright colors and tvs and and and...

First stop was weighing and measuring. H was already melting. Y did everything after I showed her what was going to happen. Then she talked H into it.

We met with an awesome nurse practitioner who specializes in cases like ours. We also met the Dr. in charge of international adoption studies there. ALSO in the room were 2 students. SO.... 6 adults and 2 children in a typically small exam room. Panic ensued.

H broke down, which was good, because the Dr. pretty much ruled out any physiological issues. He said "Oh, yes, it's a tantrum, much like a 2 or 3 year old." He gave us an idea of things to try, and we tried at lunch, and it was awesome.

If truly a tantrum, any attention given to it feeds it. H lost it while we were getting pizza at the hospital cafe (which was very good, btw, although we were starving), and we let him slouch at our feet. He loves pizza, so his behavior was irrational at best, as he kept saying "pizza, pizza, no, no, no pizza". We didn't answer. We sat at a table and prayed, as he sulked and we ignored him and didn't look at him. Finally, he started eating and came back to himself.

At home, they both lost it, because, I'm telling you, Chicago sucks out your soul. We did a restrained (so he wouldn't hurt himself) timeout with Lee being "the chair". The Chair doesn't have emotion, nor does the Chair negotiate. The person who is not the Chair, asks "finished? Yes or No?" If the crier can say Yes without crying then they may leave the chair. Also, Yordi always wants to stay with H while he has his bouts. This feeds them for him. So, we're separating them now, which causes Y to start screaming. BUT, H calms down faster.

And, so we are doing pretty well. It all feels better as we figure stuff out. You all have been so wonderfully supportive, and we do thank you for your continued support. The time will come when for us to bring the children out into the larger world. It takes a village, and we're glad you're our village.


Under the Influence

(Lee Again)
As far as our children are concerned, the Gardner DVD collection consists of 3 movies.

1) Schoolhouse Rock Anthology
2) Little Women
3) A Spongebob DVD

They have not questioned the situation and we haven't told them otherwise. That being said, someone has learned the word "C-R-A-Z-Y." (We spell things when we don't want the kids to pick up on it... oh, did you think that only worked on toddlers?) Now admittedly, one of us may have said someone was acting that way, but we certainly wouldn't have added the finger motion that generally goes with it.

So the library has shifted:

1) Schoolhouse Rock Anthology
2) Little Women
3) The Sound of Music

Pride and Prejudice is probably next in the rotation, but we're open to suggestions.

On a different note, Chris and I have noticed this weird "object permanence" (for lack of a better phrase) phenomenon with our kids. If something is gone, they generally don't miss it or ask for it again. I don't know if it's something they were conditioned for at the orphanage, or if it's just a kid thing, but it's kind of hard not to abuse. Now if they see it, that's a different story, but today there wasn't even a second thought about SpongeBob not being in the DVD bin even though we've watched that sucker 15 times this week.

Maybe they were as tired of it as we were...

PS) We had Kraft mac and cheese for dinner. It's not really Biblical, but I'm convinced that Heaven is also covered in a powdered cheese mix. The kids found it palatable only after adding Prego.

PPS) Thanks again for all your comments, support, and encouragements. You are really the "POLO" to our "Marco" that helps keep us going.

Larger than Life

Lee and I have talked about this before, but this whole adoption experience has opened amazing doors for us and others. If we had had a baby (not possible for us, but that's another story), we would have had showers and people would have been happy for us. But this adoption has opened the flood gates WIDE OPEN for a bunch of people. I have never heard my father weep... he was so happy for us. Help has come from unexpected quarters. Through friends of friends we found an Ethiopian close to us. I called him and asked him to come over for a little bit this weekend so the children could get to know him. His whole family came and were AWESOME. We never would have met them and/or had the Ethiopian connection. What we would have missed! Church has been amazing, as have family and friends. I can see God's hand in everything happening now for us as a new family.

We had a good day today. Aunt Carrie and Uncle Paul came for lunch. They even got a little show from H, and were able to finally meet the children. They leave for a mission trip on Tuesday in Mexico (4 hour flight - lucky!) Lee's folks left for a mission trip to ? this morning. Grandma, I'm sorry we didn't get to talk to you. Things were crazy around here, what with all the visiting and yard work:

While Daddy mowed the lawn, Habtamu vacuumed the house. The novelty of the vacuum cannot be underestimated. He was enthralled... "Mommy, mommy?" he'd point at another rug. Knock yourself out, kid.

The kids then helped Daddy clean up the trimmings from the bush out back. Shoot, I would've started them on chores earlier had I known. Actually, now that I think about it, Yordi has swept the kitchen for me, and she's a great kitchen helper... likes to stir things.

This uplifting message brought to you by the 2 greatest kids on the planet.


Sorry about the no blog yesterday, folks. Life got in our face and sucker punched us. Habtamu was a mess all day. We never saw our son - not once the whole day... he was replaced by a stranger who whined and cried and screamed (and I mean screamed - like he was in the torment of Hell, which I don't doubt he was), and clung to Lee like a life preserver for the whole day. Lee slept with him last night in H's double bed to comfort several times when H woke up crying "Daddy, Daddy." H woke up crying again today, but seems to be back to himself. We're not going anywhere today. Uncle Paul and Aunt Carrie will come for lunch, but that's it.

I slept with Yordanos in her single bed. She's small. :) And she sleeps on the veeerrrrry edge of the bed anyway. They both do... not sure if that's just a kid thing or what. Y woke up happy as usual, but she was really upset at the end of the day yesterday (we all were) because we couldn't bring H back from whatever personal hell he was in.

Tomorrow we go to the international adoption doctor at the U of Chicago. Tuesday H goes to the dentist.



(Lee's two cents)

So it's been two weeks since we got on the plane and I'm just now starting to feel like writing. I'm so glad that Chris has had the fortitude to blog daily.

Just so all you parents know that African kids are just like the "Made in the USA" ones, we were eating dinner on the porch the other day when after trying about 8 different psychological approaches to get H to eat a rice dish, I finally took a bite myself and said, "Try it." Y looked up and responded, "Toilet?" (A word they both know very well) "No" I replied, "TRY IT." "No toilet?" She smiled, and took at deep breath, "toilettoilettoilettoilettoilet..." Gah, you'd think she was 6 or something. It wouldn't be funny if it wasn't so funny.

Also, I'd like to note that while on the all-banana, wholegrain, no-sugar, no-fat, rice, water-only, oranges, Cheerios, and picked over airline-food diet... I have lost 8-10 pounds. I supplement this with a steady regime of lugging an 82 pound boy around the house for muscle tone. Add kicking and/or a staircase to really knock those calories off.
Oh yeah, I'm feelin' the burn!


I have to say that all your comments have been so wonderful and kind and understanding. Lee keeps thanking me for blogging, but really, it's my link to you all. We are really feeling the love!

As for what can be done for us... prayer is the most important thing. I will be calling people on the list of helpers from church tonight or tomorrow to set up help. BTW, what an awesome church we have for setting up a list like that.

We are concentrating now on just being together. We'll be asking for more help in the days to come, don't you worry!

Break Dancing

We're getting into a groove. H has an "episode" every morning, then pulls it together for the rest of the day. We've got their U of Chicago specialist appointment on Monday, and I've got a call in to a children's mental health facility. Hopefully we can get some answers next week, and see where we are. We're thinking PTSD for H. He's older and a bit more emotionally sensitive than Y. I hate to think that we "broke" him by bringing him here. And yet, whenever I go through the "should we have taken them from all they knew?" routine, I come back to "Yes. They will have a chance at a life here... jobs, good health, etc..."

Y is a happy, funny little girl. She wakes up happy with kisses and hugs. Mostly complies. Has issues normal to 6 year old. She can get sad, and she'll go off for 20 minutes and then come back herself. When H gets really bad, she'll cling to me with hugs and tears. Loves to draw and copy words from books.

Turns out there are tons of Schoolhouse Rock! songs that I have never heard, and about 10 that I know VERY well. Did they just show those few all the time?


This is the Life

I had made an appointment for a haircut waaaaay back in, oh, I don't know... BC (before children). Today was the day, my appointment was in Elgin. We decided to risk the trip and visit Grandmommy and Granddaddy. We also had to have HR at Lee's work copy the kids' birth certs to get them on insurance asap.

Done and done and done. No meltdowns, except by me, who wanted an hour of not thinking about the kids, but my hairdresser wanted to know about them, so it was as if they were still with me. I'll have to schedule something else for time off in my mind. Hey! I know... I'll got to bed now.

We sent Y & H disposable cameras in their care packages last month. I got the pics developed and they were thrilled. Well, H wasn't because he thought Y's pics were better than his... I just saw a lot of torsos and cut off heads for both. :) Through hand gestures and my guessing, Yordi wanted to send pics and letters to the people at the Transition Center. So we spent a pretty happy evening sorting pics and me writing letters for her. Lee did the same for Habti. A near breakdown occurred when I gave Y dog stickers and H sports stickers. When H realized that Y had gotten DOG stickers, and that she had used them ALL ... well, how the heck would YOU feel? He was heading for a meltdown, but I clapped sharply (don't ask me why I did it - I don't know), and he snapped out of it. Huh. We did the same thing awhile later when (gosh, I don't remember what happened... anything, everything, nothing) and it worked then too. Y crashed on the floor in the living room. H crashed on the couch. We carried them up and they went to bed without a fuss. I'm not going to worry about the lack of oral hygiene if they will (for the love of all that's holy), go to sleep.

And, check this out. I have stayed up 1/2 hour later than my children to write this. Ok, I'm crashing now, but I'll take the 1/2 hour and remember it fondly when they wake up at stupid o'clock. :)

Oh, oh, oh.... one funny story. I meant to write this in Bring Sexy Back, but I was too tired. When I got home from Walmart, Yordi had discovered my shoes, which are pretty lame, but exciting to a 6 YO. Anyhoo, she was digging in my closet and found the dress that I'd worn in Carrie's (Lee's sister) wedding. She recognized it from one of the pictures we sent for our dossier. When she had first seen the picture at the Transition Center, she had kissed it and said "Konjo" (beautiful). So, I'm in the kitchen cooking Doro Wat and she wants me to put this dress on. Well, people, I was not sure it would fit anymore, because, you know, that wedding was 3 years ago ... but I was game. It did fit, even without the painful undergarments. Yordi was thrilled and kept petting me and kissing me and wanting me to walk like I was a model. I had to stir the doro wat a couple of times while still wearing the dress and I thought, Well, this is the life... :)



We've been limiting the kids' white sugar intake to, um, none. They didn't get treats that often in Addis Ababa, and we saw definite behavioral issues from both of them when they had it - so, no sugar in the house. We have fruit a lot during the day... they'll eat oranges and bananas.

Anyway, since *I* can handle sugar, I've been sneaking frozen cookies that I put in there before we left. My friend Katherine made them, and seriously, they're saving my life. The kids don't open the refrigerator... not sure why (think they're not allowed?) , but anything cold is suspect to them anyway. Yordi pulls a face everytime she drinks water from the fridge.

I just ate a popsicle. The kids are upstairs for computer time with Daddy.

Here's a list of what the kids will eat with no problem:
Bananas (they ask for bananas all day long... I think they've had 2 1/2 each today)
Hard Boiled Eggs (I tried this one because one of their dishes includes a HB egg. They eat about 3 a day. Each. Hence the 3 dozen eggs I was purchasing yesterday.)
Pizza (They actually asked for this tonight and I complied. They even ate it though it was homemade.)
Popcorn (I tried this one today. In Ethiopia it's customary to serve a snack with the coffee ceremony, and that snack is sometimes popcorn... we had it there when we visited the Kid's Care orphanage where all of our children were before being in the Transition Center.) Anyway, they ate 2 full bags this afternoon
Pancakes (I make whole grain Buckwheat pancakes, no sugar, no syrup and they love them. I left the rest out all day and they picked at it until the stack was gone. And, honestly, since I am now "distracted mom", the pancakes were not my best effort, but they still ate them even though they were a bit dark. I kept forgetting I was doing something.)
Water (They get water for themselves throughout the day and no longer ask for Coca or Fanta. We've been drinking only water too, so that's GOT to be good for us.)
Cheerios (They kept pointing at the box on top of the refrigerator, and I kept saying no because I thought "They don't even know what they are." Finally, after they were begging for yet another banana I pointed at the box, and they were greatly excited.)

Driving Miss Crazy

During lunch, which the kids did not eat, they kept asking about Mommy Car, which they could see from the front porch where we were eating. The gist was "Can we go in Mommy Car after lunch?" I said "Sure." So we all got in the car and drove around. I don't know what they get out of it, but it was therapeutic for us. They were happy and quiet in the back, and eventually fell asleep. So we drove around some more.

I'm totally ok paying $8 in gas for them to fall asleep in the car. We've got to keep them up until at least 8 again tonight. Last night, they were dropping where they stood at 7. We kept poking Yordi to wake her up. Gave up at 7:30, put them in bed. Both started the "No sleep" mantra which is "nooooooooo sleeeeeeeeeeeep, nooooooooo sleeeeeeeeeeeeep, mommy, noooooooooooo sleeeeeeeeeeeep, daddy, nooooooooooooo sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeep" The only cure for this mantra is actually.... sleep. And at that point I would have KILLED SOMEONE to be able to go to bed, and here we were offering it to them freely. After listening to the mantra outside of Yordi's door for 5 minutes and debating the whole "let them cry it out" or "comfort while you can" dilemma, I decided to surprise her. I swooped in the room all excited and happy and said "OK! No sleep! Let's go downstairs! What would you like to do? Cards? OK!" So we played a little UNO for 15 minutes, with Mommy falling asleep between turns. Finally I said "Mommy is going to bed... time for everyone to sleep now." And she went quietly to her bed. I guess my thinking was it wasn't good for her to go to sleep in that grumpy state of mind. She woke up happy.

Habtamu didn't wake up happy. He sleeps angry, if that makes sense, then wakes up angry. We're looking into getting him some help with his feelings. Please pray for us as we seek services for him. There's definitely something not right. It could be grief and change and etc... we'll make sure it's not anything physiological. We started out the day with 2 episodes. We're trying to avoid more today, but he's on the edge. I suspect there's one more episode in him tonight.

In unrelated news, Yordi took all of the clothes out of her dresser, refolded them all, and put them in order in her drawers. Then Habtamu did the same. Huh. I'll bet YOUR kids don't do that of their own volition! Y&H brush their teeth and wash their faces in the morning. Right after making their beds. I'm not kidding. :)


Bringing Sexy Back.

So I'm standing in line waiting to pay... just kinda reading the magazine headlines, and I see "Fresh New Ways to be Sexier." I'm thinking that standing in line to buy kids' shoes, chicken breasts, and 3 dozen eggs (at WalMart) is not on their fresh list.

Playground Fun

After a rocky start this morning at stupid o'clock, we took the kids to one of the local school playgrounds. Since it was only 8:30, no one else was there. At 9:40 a family of mom and 4 kids pulled up, and we kinda thought "Cool, maybe we can interact." Within 30 seconds this mom was nose to nose with her little girl screaming at her for accidentally knocking her little brother down. She had been on the monkey bars, and her mom said something like "We're here for less than a minute and you're already acting crazy, swinging like a monkey?!?!?!" Um, yeah... so she's NOT supposed to swing like a monkey on the monkey bars? We beat a hasty retreat.

I thought about telling Lee to just drive around, but he beat me to saying it. "You want to take the 'long' way home?" Heck yeah. We just drove around town for about 1/2 hour. The kids didn't know where home was, and they were laughing and having fun in the back seat. We went by our church to show them the outside. Maybe later this week we'll visit inside.

We devised a schedule, since computer time is becoming a point of contention. Ok, I know it's only day 2, and we were so cashed yesterday that they literally spent all afternoon on the computers. We will now have 1 hour of computer time right after breakfast and right after lunch. We set the timer on the stove, and tried to explain it. "When you hear this BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, computer finished." We'll see how that goes.

After the playground, and the lovely drive, which ended after there were cries of "Toilet, Mommy!" from the backseat. Although, Yordi had actually squatted down and peed on the playground. Looks like she knew what she was doing. Doh.

Yordi redecorated this afternoon:

Special thanks to Kristie and Kay for painting Yordi's room pink while we were away. It is so beautiful! And special thanks to Pastor Jim for running out for the 2nd gallon so Kristie could keep painting.

Also, Kristie and Katelyn painted this awesome Hello Kitty for Y. Thanks! It look great in there.

4:50 to Crazy

Well, they didn't get up at 4:50 at first.... they got up at 2:00. Actually, H got up to pee... I heard him do that, then I heard all the lights being switched on and him waking Yordi up. I went up and used gestures (polite ones, but at that moment all bets were off) to indicate that they needed to get back in bed. All lights off, went back downstairs... heard them talking... back upstairs... back downstairs.... talking... back upstairs... planted myself between their rooms... back downstairs... Yordi calling for Mommy... got my head in a headlock, Y kept waking herself up to see if I was still there. Went and got my pillow and blanket... "slept" on her floor. H was solidly out, stinker.

Today has not been stellar so far. Lee's still jet-lagged or something... I'm totally grumpy and trying not to take it out on anyone. Y is happy. H woke up crying.

Dropped the eggs with which I was going to make french toast on the floor in front of the fridge. Yordi came by and said "Oh my God." Which, at that point was pretty much how I felt. I mustered an "Oh my goodness", but there was much internal gnashing of teeth.

Pray for us in our hour of need.

Yesterday was really good. No meltdowns. Today it might be the adults who have the meltdowns, and the kids who got 9 hours of sleep will be like "What? Why are they so upset?"

Breakfast Rules!

Apparently, breakfast foods are win/win...

I made pancakes yesterday (which I thought were pretty nasty), but they loved them. French toast today, they loved it. Huh. Both have already had a banana and were asking for more. Seriously, what's the rule for bananas... they shouldn't eat more than 1 or 2 a day, right?



The reason I'm able to post so much today is because the kids are totally distracted by the computers upstairs. And I'll just say that today is a wash, and I apologize for ever criticizing anyone about "letting technology baby-sit your kids". I totally get it now. They were up at 4:50. That's a.m. folks. We're hoping for a bit later tomorrow.

Here's Habtamu... how we like to see him. He really is a great kid and is generous and caring for Yordi. He's also pretty good with the fancy soccer footwork. I think we're going to be ok. I just noticed that he's been wearing the same pair of socks since last week. Ew.

In this video, Yordi is saying "Fashion Show, Show, Show..." We don't know where she got that. This video pretty much sums up her happy go lucky attitude. Also, she loves the Hello Kitty stuff, which I also happen to like. :) Her outfit for 3 days in Addis was a white HK pajama top and jeans. She finally got a big smudge of doro-wat on the shirt and I was able to make her choose something else.


Wanted to document this for posterity...

The first time Yordi said "Oh my God!" I looked at Lee and said "Did you hear that?" He said, "Well, she didn't get it from us!"

The problem is that it's so totally cute (she says it like "Oh my gawt!") ... um, ahem... and so inappropriate. So we started saying "Oh my Goodness." every time she said it. We didn't tell her not to say it.

Today she said "Oh my goodness."

Then Habtamu said "Oh my God."

Cause I'm a Genius

OK, quick post about food issues. In Addis Ababa, the kids would only eat traditional Ethiopian food. That's usually a spicy stew and injera, which is really good with the stew, but kinda tastes like Yak if eaten alone. (To me, that is.) H&Y hardly ate anything on the plane... like crackers and juice, maybe. They kept trying to order a Coca (Cola)... ha ha... no dice kids. We kept intervening and I think the Ethiopian stewards were like "Just give them a Coke." Well, later, there were children running up and down the aisles of this PACKED airplane, and I had a righteous moment because they were all the kids that I had seen drinking Coke. Ours were sitting next to each other, copying English words from magazines. They LOVE doing this, and will do it at least an hour every day.

Anyhoo, I made spaghetti last night when we got home. I know that they had spaghetti a few times a week at the transition center. They both said "No, mommy... no pasta." I said OK, but didn't offer anything else. We had everyone come to the table and pray, and they reiterated that they weren't going to eat. I said OK, but you have to wait for Mommy and Daddy to finish. After a couple of minutes they started to eat... just a very little bit, then they said "Finished." So, I wrapped up their bowls for today.

Today I made a yummy vegetable curry sauce for rice. Um, without the curry. How can I not have curry? As I was making it, they both walked by and said "Lunch?" And I said "I'm making lunch." They said NO. I said "Oh, this is for Mommy and Daddy." Again with the "no lunch". So I heated up the spaghetti from yesterday without comment and left it on top of the stove. I'd made a big batch of rice in my new rice cooker. (Thanks Greg and Julie for picking that stuff up for us! It was awesome to come home to a fridge full.) I put plain white rice on H&Ys plates and we all came out to eat. They said again, "No lunch." Lee and I made no comment, but started eating ours, which was so good. Surprised myself even. After a few minutes, Habtamu says "Mommy, Me" and pointed at the "curry". I made him say please. heh heh. Then Yordanos said "Mommy, me please." I got them "curry" and they tucked in... I even got a heartfelt "Thank you, Mommy." from Y. They didn't finish... ate about 1/2 (about 1/10 of what I've seen them eat in one sitting.) And H says, "Mommy, pasta!" I said, "Oh, there's some on the stove." So they both ate about 1/2 bowl of that too.

We have decided to make no comment when they say no to something. I think it'll work. No tears, they ate, we all sat together at a meal. Awesome.

Lee and I high-fived at the end of the meal. Go Team Gardner!

When in Doubt, Punt....

Our trip home was as terrible as you can imagine, and then some. We became "that" family on your flight, with a 9 year old screaming boy, who is writhing, and crying, and screaming, and, in general, OUT OF HIS MIND. Fantastic. He did it twice... once upon landing in DC and then again, during the whole take off to Chicago. I totally can relate... I felt that way by that point too... awake 36 hours by that time.

We're going to have to do a lot of work with Habtamu. He has the emotional age of 2-3. Once we realized this, it was easier to be patient, but yeesh... it's a lot of work. If he doesn't get what he wants, he throws a tantrum... to various degrees of intensity depending on how tired he is, if he had sugar, etc... He does the 2 year old "I want, I don't want, I want, I don't want..." I made pasta for dinner last night. He walked by and said "Mommy, no." then 2 minutes later "Oooh, pasta." He ate a little.

Yet, he can be the sweetest kid. When he finally smiles, it's like the sun coming out after a long winter.

Yordanos was golden through the whole journey. She would get upset when Habtamu was screaming, well, heck, who wouldn't be.

More later. We're heading into meltdown time, because I told H no about a couple of things in a row. Doh. Bad Mommy! :)


Home again.

We're home. We're safe. We're exhausted. More later.


A Little Better

Yesterday got better when we got back to the room for downtime... and bedtime was 8:30... they're still sleeping... 11 hours later... no they weren't exhausted or anything. :)

I got up a few times for Yordi calling out... she's really a night talker. She called Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! and I went and rubbed her back and face, but I don't think she was really awake. Then she called out Fortu! Fortu! Fortu!. That's the director at the Transition Center. H&Y were favorites there. It is so hard for the nannies when children and babies leave. Some nannies really connect with the babies they're in charge of... there were lots of tears. And Yordi knows everyone there. All the nannies, all the babies, she can name them all!

Ok, kids are waking up. I gotta go.

Last Post Until the U.S.

We are flying out tomorrow night at 10:30 - that's 2:30 p.m. for you all. Please, please, please pray that everything is on time, and that we all can survive without pitching a fit (me) or having a melt-down (also me). Also, please pray that our flight is not full so that some or all of us can lie down for some amount of time... because, Lord Have Mercy, it's gonna be a rough ride with 2 new children who are leaving everything they've ever known to go with people they've known for 5 days. I'm just sayin'. We'll arrive at O'Hare at around 1:30 pm on Sunday. Ugh.

H&Y are doing much better today. We opted out of the group activities today, and spent time at the pool this morning. We've ordered room service (again) because we're lame like that. Later we'll probably hit the playground. A nice easy day. Grandma and Grandpa are hitting a couple of museums this a.m. I'd like to see them, but not with the state of things now.

The children are learning English very quickly. It's scary. Our Amharic is not coming along so well. We try it out on them and they look at us like we're from Mars.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a huge hit, as is anything I-Spy.


The Gloves Come Off

Today was a really hard day. For the 1st 2 days H&Y were totally compliant and all over us with kisses and hugs... and today, it's as if we (especially me) were covered in boils and sores, and they want nothing more than to defy us. Yes! Welcome to true parenthood. There's just so much going on and everything is different for us and them, and there was the visit to the Kid's Care Orphanage, where the children were originally... and I'm not sure what they understood from that... and then there was the late lunch that took FOREVER... seriously, 2 starving children having to wait an hour for lunch... Ugh.

Also, I had to get antibiotics and anti-nausea meds from the clinic this morning... I'm not up to par. Several others are experiencing similar bouts.

We're used to the pouty lip from Habtamu... if he doesn't get his way, or if there is any perceived slight. Sometimes he bounces right out of it by tickling, other times it goes on for 1/2 hour and ends in him crying, which is the sign that it's almost over. Lee is so great in dealing with that.

Yordanos broke out her defiant, going limp style today. She usually is happy go lucky. She was running off and not staying by me, so I grabbed her and held her... ooooh, she did not like that... she let me put her on my lap on the way home, but wanted no kisses from me.

They both have this shoulder shrug thing that means "NO WAY CRAZY PEOPLE and GET AWAY, but STAY HERE." Ai yi yi.

The other families traveling with us are the BOMB. Awesome. 2 families are looking at extended stays because of paperwork not being right from the USCIS. Please pray for them... they have until tomorrow a.m. to get the right papers so they can fly out Friday.

Anyway, these families are so encouraging, and they all assured me that all parents feel like they don't know what the heck they are doing.

A little about the area... we're staying in the Hilton, which is much like other Hiltons... outside everywhere we go are beggars... most heartbreaking are the mothers with babies and the children who's only English is "Hungry." We were told not to give any money, and that is hard. I had a little boy follow us all the way back to the bus. As I led my currently defiant children past them... it's just so difficult... the problem is too large.

Oh, funny story from yesterday... we did not buy the children shoes because we didn't know the size. We did bring them clothes, and both were thrilled, except H who kept asking about shoes. We had someone explain to them that we'd go tomorrow to buy shoes. We got them and Y said "Thank you Mommy" and H said "Socks?" Doh. So we paid about $11 for 2 pairs of shoes out on the street and $10 for 3 pairs of socks at the Hilton. Sigh.

Really, I cannot stress enough how awesome it is to have Lee's parents here. On the paperwork "party" night, Grandma ran and had copies made several times. They have totally picked up the slack for when we leave stuff behind, and/or don't know where our children are. Ha ha... just kidding, but not really. :)

This parent thing is HARD, but there is joy there, and once we get home and have more control over our situation, it should be better. There's hope, right?

Thanks to you all for your kind comments.

I have not had time to go through pictures yet, so maybe when we get home. In fact, I have barely had the where-with-all to TAKE pictures.


Several Firsts

Before we came here, Lee and I wondered if the kids had ever seen juice boxes... nope, they hadn't. I packed one each in their backpacks for "gotcha day", the day we picked them up. They were very excited about them and drank a bunch. We kinda lost track of them in the excitement, and found them later, half full, in their backpacks. Um. Lee said "We're not very good parents." A couple of books didn't take to the apple juice treatment very well.

H&Y were so excited to be going to the Hilton. We wandered around with Grandma and found a playground. Apparently they had never been on swings. This was the greatest thing since sliced bread for them. We pushed them for over 1/2 hour. Yordi looked scared at first, but then got into it. We tried to teach them how to pump for themselves, but that didn't work this time.

On our walk yesterday, they both seemed interested in the pool. I'd brought their suits, so Lee took them down this a.m. Apparently, neither wanted to get in, but finally Yordi did and Habti followed. Then, of course, we couldn't get them OUT of the pool.

I have a video clip of Yordi pulling each item out of her backpack, examining it, saying what it was (sometimes in English... she'd usually copy me if I said "t-shirt" or "pajamas") When everything was out, she hurled herself at me and said "Thank you, Mommy!" Then I told her to put it back in the suitcase, and she folded each item and put it back.

Blue jeans are the biggest hit with both. I only have one pair for each, so they'll look a little rough by the end of the week.

The kids slept great last night. Lee put them to bed himself, as I was filling out paperwork for today's embassy appointment. Lee and I didn't sleep well. Yordi was mumbling in her sleep and I couldn't tell if she wanted me or what. Lee or I would whisper to each other every hour... You sleeping yet? Nope.


We've safely arrived in Addis Ababa. The flight was as bad as it seems with the 24 hours of travel stretching to 34 as we waited for a visa (1 1/2 hours), waited to get our luggage (1/2 hour) and got through "customs" (one x-ray machine and no clear line or direction... "single pile" line as Lee calls it).

We met the children today and that was as awesome as you imagine. There was another couple adopting older children as well as us, so we got to go 1st because our children were all crowding around the door as we came in. Yordanos cried and wept and hugged me around my neck for a long time. Habtamu and Lee hugged, then we all switched. The children were overwhelmed of course and it took awhile to warm up to us. We spent several hours with them and the other adopting families. Sometimes I took pictures of other people with their babies, and I'd turn around and I didn't know where my children were. I said to Lee, "Um, we're not very good at this! Where are our children?" Lest you think they were off playing in the street, the Transition Center is a walled in barb-wired compound, so there were not that many places to go. The children always came back to us with hugs, and kisses from Yordanos. She's a great hugger and kisser. I could get used to that.

They have been learning English, so they were very proud to write out letters and numbers for us on the magna-doodles we got them. I think they understand a bit more than they probably let on. We got to meet their teacher who said they are very good students. We got to see some of their workbooks and their writing is pretty good! Lee spelled out BANANA on Habtamu's magna-doodle and then Habtamu spelled it out for Yordanos who wrote it on hers.

Everybody loves Y and H. It will be sad for the nannies to say good-bye. The older kids there don't have one particular nanny like the babies sometimes do. Lots of nannies called out to Yordanos when she did something they didn't like. Mostly it was when she'd copy something I just did... for example, I kissed her up her arm in 4 places, and then she pushed my sleeve up and did the same. They said something to her about that.

Nurse Fortuna, the administrator of the TC, said that Y&H's aunt (H&Y's mother's sister) just called and would we be willing to meet her. We said of course! After a little bit she said the aunt could come right now. Yikes. The meeting went well... lots of hand gestures. She hugged and kissed my neck a bunch of times, and patted her heart while saying "ow, ow, ow" (That's "yes, yes, yes.") We got pictures with her and the children. Also with them was their mother's aunt and their mother's cousin. The children handled it well. I'm not sure how well Y knows them. H was a little down? confused? The aunt held his face in her hands and admonished him with something, pointing at him and then me and kissing his face a bunch of times.

A couple hours into our visit the children were calling us Mommy and Daddy and leading us by the hand to show us their world.

More later. I'm not able to get to my blog here, so I'm having Uncle Paul do it for us. Thanks Paul!



On the eve of our departure, I just wanted to mention that the amount of love and support we've received throughout our adoption process has been borderline ridiculous. We knew we had 'a support network' going into it, but we had no idea how excited and involved everyone would become. Things we didn't even know we needed are being noted and taken care of. We've gotten the kind of generosity and attention that can't be created by people alone, and is usually reserved for folks going through a tragedy. There's just no way to thank all you guys enough for your unending enthusiasm and willingness to help.

I tried to describe in an earlier blog (and ended up bailing out) about how this adoption is so much bigger than just 4 people. It stopped being about "our family" and became a "whole village" endeavor very early on. Chris and I have found that Belvidere is less than six degrees from Ethiopia. Two months ago, we didn't have any African contacts. Now, through friends of friends we have the phone numbers of two Ethiopian men (in Belvidere no less) who still speak Amharic. Through a different set of friends' friends, we've received an Ethiopian cookbook, complete with African spices, and a local chefs recommendations.

We never expected to receive so much from so many. If we've been acting kind of stunned and disorganized, it's because we are. There's really nothing left to say except, "Thank you."


Oh, and I'd also like to mention the corporate 'sponsors' whom I visited in the past two days while attempting to prepare for the trip. In order they are: Sears, Eddie Bauer, Walgreens, K-Mart, ShopKo, Walgreens, ShopKo, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart, Applebees, and Wal-Mart.


Yep, that's my boy!

I just wanted to give a little shout out to Apryl, who went to Ethiopia a month ago and has already met our kids. When you're an obsessive, adopting parent and you get any kind of report from the Transition Center, it's really hard to take it at face value. How much is getting sugar-coated? What exactly does, "well behaved" mean? Are they they really good kids, or are they just putting on a show? Would they tell me if my kids were atrocious? You get the idea.

The blurbs on Yordanos have really painted a picture of her character, but Habtamu's have generally had a little more room between the lines. "He's all boy" is a phrase that sticks in my head. Now, there are probably a bunch of guys out there that would hear that and breathe a big sigh of relief, as I'm sure that's what the reporter intended. But I was never really an "all boy" kind of boy. I'm hardly a manly man now, so for me, "all boy" just brings up more questions. Is he a good sport? Is he actually athletic, or does he just like to run around in circles until he runs into something? Are we talking quarterback? Paratrooper? Lumberjack?

Anyway, Apryl described Habtamu this way:

Sweet and Goofy.

Those are pretty much the words that bond all us Gardners together and it's incredibly reassuring to me to know that we will both be starting our relationship on familiar territory.



No Borders Know Love T-Shirts are here!

From the "Never-too-late-for-a-fundraiser" Department:I know it's a little late to threaten you all with, "We're not going to Ethiopia unless you buy a shirt," but I also know that there are some gentle hearts out there who have asked what more they can do to help. I meant to have these shirts available about 2 months ago but I kept tweaking and dinking with them until, well... umm, 3 days ago. But the good news is, they look fantastic and you can get your own here!

Get yours in Cheetah, Giraffe, Elephant, or Zebra! Styles and sizes are negotiable. If you don't see what you want, let me know and we'll work something out.

I wanted to create a shirt that was conversation starter and not just self-promoting. Special thanks goes to the Kidd Family t-shirt fundraiser for inspiration. And thanks to all of you who have already shown us what love without borders truly is.


Bonus Pics

I know it seems like I am just posting and lurking today... but really, I'm doing laundry, moving stuff into our new closet out of the children's closets, eating popsicles... oops, note to self: 1 popsicle ok, 6 popsicles defeat purpose of low-cal treat!

Here are pics from a couple of months ago.

(Not Habtamu's birthday, but one of the other children at the TC.)

Like many of these children, their exact birth date is not known. Our children were given the same birthday, July 17. (Different years, of course!) I am SO glad we can celebrate their 10th (Habtamu) and 7th (Yordanos) birthdays together at home!

Even the Lint Cries Out.

I'm doing about 57 loads of laundry today. I just pulled out a load from the dryer, and noticed that the lint in the trap is sparkly. Even the dryer lint is excited about getting children! (It's sparkly because of a couple of shirts I bought Yordanos yesterday.) Gosh, I hope she wants to be a girly girl because does she ever has CUTE clothes now!

Is that what having children is like... a wonderful life where even the lint is happier? No raining on my parade, please. :)

And it's dumb, but that sparkly lint made my heart swell with love for our children who we will meet next week!


F.A.Q. Travel Edition

Been getting lots o' questions about the trip itself... hopefully this will answer some of the questions you have. Please feel free to ask more questions in the comment section.

1. How long is the flight? We are flying to Dulles (in D.C.) from O'Hare (Chicago), then have a few hour layover. I believe we will be meeting up with the other families adopting through AWAA. Then we have a "non-stop" flight that touches down in Rome to refuel (we don't get off the plane), then on to Addis Ababa. It's about 24 hours of travel... some 16-18 hours in the air. If you're looking for things to pray about this is a big one. I'm not so concerned with the trip over, but keeping 2 kids occupied on the way back DOES worry me some. I get air-sick, and believe me, I've stocked up on everything possible to try to mitigate the severity.

2. How long do we stay in Addis Ababa? We will be there for about one week. We arrive back at O'Hare the afternoon of Sunday, June 15.

3. Do the children speak English/How are you going to communicate? We're still getting this question, and believe me, I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around it too, so I totally understand why it keeps coming up. We are assuming that they do not speak any English. If they know any words at all, it'll be a bonus to us. We have learned a few words of Amharic, but honestly... their language is so different from romance/germanic languages that I (who am good at languages) am unable to get more than a few words to stick. There's just nothing for the words to stick to, since the root is completely foreign to my brain. Between the 2 of us, we've managed to learn about 1/2 dozen words. PITIFUL! I know it! We'll be cramming on the plane, I think, and relying heavily on our dictionary and fellow travelers. I'm sure if we were in Ethiopia longer and heard the words daily and in context, we'd be able to speak some, but man, I may have to play the dumb American card here. The children will learn English quickly through immersion. We have found through a friend of a friend an Ethiopian man in our area. He is willing to help us with translation, etc, so if all other forms of communication fail (arm waving, speaking LOUDER, because, you know, that helps) we'll be able to call him and find out what's going on.

4. Are we nervous/excited? Yes. We are in a bit of a daze. BUT, there is only so long one can keep up intense emotions. I would say that my worry circuit has been fried, and is no longer functional. We do not have the bandwidth to be nervous/worried, etc 24 hours a day. When people have received a lack luster response when they ask if we are excited, they often say "It doesn't seem like you're excited." And I think to myself... I can't really worry about how it looks to you... but rest assured, we are FULL UP with joy and peace, and all the other appropriate emotions. When all those emotions come at once, there might be a deer in the headlights sort of look about us.

5. How do you pronounce the children's names/Can you spell them phonetically? Since the children's name are originally in the Amharic language, the names you see have been transliterated into English equivalents, so they pretty much are already phonetic. Remember phonics? That'll come in handy in pronouncing their names... I'll break it down for you.

Habtamu. (the a's in this case are pronounced "ah". The 'u' is pronounced 'oo')
H(ah)b t(ah) moo. The accent is on the second syllable. HabTAmu.

Yordanos. (o's are pronounced "oh", a is "ah".)
Yor(like "your") d(ah)n (oh)s. Accent is on the 2nd syllable. YorDANos.

Please do not start shortening their names to anything. We've received several suggestions for nicknames, but that'll have to be between us and the children. And there may already be nicknames in Amharic that we don't know about. We'll let you know if they'll be going by nicknames. Thanks for your understanding.