Thursday, March 13, 2014

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a blogpost! ;)

Wow... My last post was 4 + months ago... I never meant to abandon this blog like this.  I have followed so many adoption blogs over the years, and so many do exactly this; they come to a screeching halt immediately after homecoming.  I always feel a little ripped off... I pray, I cry, I rejoice with you during the journey, and then you cut me off?! I want to see how it all turns out! And yet...

And yet, here I am, having done the same thing.  Many of you follow me on Facebook, so you've seen pictures and funny stories there.  But for those who don't, and who are wondering how we are doing, I thought I would offer a quick update.

We've been home 5 months now, and are starting to get our feet under us.  Don't get me wrong... Bereket is doing amazingly well, and he is a delight to us.  But it is a hard good...a good hard... So many relationships to sort out and untangle...  So much to teach... So much to learn... So many appointments... So many tears... So much laughter...

We had pictures taken before Christmas, and  though I was disappointed to not get a quality shot of all 5 of us, we did get some good ones in other combinations, so I'll share them here...

So many great shots, right?  And then it all falls apart... Apparently this is the best shot of the 5 of us:

 Not putting that on the livingroom wall! Yikes!  Both boys look stoned or something...  I am going to try to do a "retake" in the same outfits so that I can do my collage wall as planned.

Bereket's birthday is next week, and we are having his party or "happy birthday" (as he calls it) on Sunday.  We decided to stick to family and one friend for this year's party, as his circle of relationships is still pretty tight.  I have been learning to cook Ethiopian food, and have been wanting to have family over for an Ethiopian meal, so we decided to do an Ethiopian Feast for his party.   We shall see how it goes; Ethiopian dishes feel very labor intensive to me and take a long time to cook, so it might be interesting.  Thankfully, Dave is a great sous-chef and we work well together.  I am also making the cake.  Bereket has requested a "Pikachu" cake (Pokemon character).  Those of you who know me, know I have a love-hate relationship with cake decorating.  There is usually much frustration involved! But, I am so excited and thrilled to throw Bereket his "first" birthday party that I know it will be worth it.  I will try to post pictures of the party... Hopefully not months after the fact!

And this is where I'm going to wrap up... I know, not much actual content! Sorry... By the end of the day, my brain is spent... I have so much respect and admiration for those of you who can maintain a blog over the long term!


Monday, November 4, 2013

School Days...

So... School... Many of you have asked if we are back to school, or how things are going, so I thought I would try to do a little update.

We did start school on the Monday after Dave went back to work, the 21st, I guess it was.  I had made up a school "schedule" which I knew we would never follow exactly, but hoped to use as a framework for our days. It had a balance of group activities, independent work, focused time with mom, and physical activity.  We were to read poetry and do crafts and do science experiments and, and, and.

And, well, reality hit.  Bereket lasted about 30 minutes our first day, and declared himself "done" school. I let him wander away to play. Thomas followed shortly. Faith considered it patently unfair that they weren't being made to do more school, and there were tears as we discussed the difference between 1st grade and 4th grade.  I decided over the next few days to go to strictly a rotational basis, letting two play and calling one away to work with me.  This worked marginally better, but even still, the two who were playing often needed my intervention, and the one at the table was left crying "But it's MY school time!"  I felt like I rushed around putting out fires, and frankly, not much learning at all was taking place!

When all 4 of us are in tears every single day, something has to give.

And so, this year, at least for the next few months, might look different than our typical homeschooling routine.  I have decided that I absolutely must prioritize relationships first, behavior second, and academics a distant third.  There is nothing to learn this year that is more important than learning how to live peacefully as a family of 5. I will be focussing on phonics for Thomas, math and LA for Faith, and English and family skills for Bereket.  Lots of reading out loud, playing games, playing outside, doing chores, etc. I will squeeze in some focussed work with Faith and Thomas most days, and Bereket is very excited about his new Rod & Staff workbooks (colors, shapes, numbers).  So we will still "do school" but I'm not going to worry about how many chapters of science we cover or whether we learn all the Kings of England. lol

I have had a few of you ask if we have considered putting some/all of the kids in public school this year.  We won't be, for a few reasons, which I'm not going to outline here.  Just as every problem encountered in "regular school" isn't best solved by homeschooling, public school isn't necessarily the best solution to every homeschooling problem.  In our case especially, I think what we need most is time, and that's one thing homeschooling gives us lots of.

Doing Yoga the first day...
Making this year's pizza boxes to store completed work. 

An open invitation...

I hope I don't offend anyone by posting information on my own blog about the upcoming shower being held in Bereket's honour, but it seemed to best way to get the word out...  Please feel free to attend if you are interested and able, but don't feel obligated in the least!  Didn't my sister make a beautiful invitation?!

[Invitation removed for privacy]

Monday, October 21, 2013

Our first week at home!

So, it's just over a week since we got home... And what a week it has been! We had so much fun seeing people at the airport on Friday night.  I don't know what Bereket thought, but he smiled the whole time. ;)

Saturday morning, Faith slept until 11:30 when I finally woke her up.    We laid low and did laundry all day, but we did get out to watch the kids bike ride around the crescent.  Bereket was so excited to "cycle" but it was much harder than he expected.  He had no idea how to peddle and basically couldn't get the bike to move at all. But he is very persistant and kept at it, even though he didn't have much success.

Sunday we were still in complete jetlag recovery mode, but again, the kids rode their bikes for several hours.  By the end of the afternoon, Bereket had made a lot of progress and could more or less ride around the crescent.

Monday, my parents came for a visit in the morning, as they had been in Arizona when we got home. The kids were out cycling when the arrived, and Dave and my Dad watched Bereket bike for another hour at least while my mom and I and the other kids had a visit inside. Monday afternoon, Dave's parents send Thanksgiving dinner over for us, and Faith and Thomas went for a short visit with Dave's side of the family. Thomas also had his first piano lesson. He is getting so grown up. I know he will do well in lessons this year.

Tuesday was a busy day. We went to apply for Bereket's Alberta Healthcare and then to Dave's work for a few minutes. We had to get a couple things at Costco, and then at Southgate. All the kids needs new shoes, so we went to a couple shoe stores, too. Bereket's old shoes were a size 12, and i guessed he was a 13 or 1, but he actually measured for a 2! It was a long busy day but we got lots accomplished.  In the late afternoon, I snuck out for a chiropractor visit and massage.  Tuesday night was also the first night of Beavers.  It was a nature hike, so that seemed like an okay activity for Bereket to participate in, but he was so tired, he fell asleep on the way there and back!

Wednesday was Dave's last day at home with us.  We had a doctor's appointment for Thomas in the morning, as he complained of a tummy ache most of the time we were gone. The verdict: too little fibre in Ethiopia, lol.  Then we all went to our piano teacher's house for a "catch-up lesson" for Faith and Thomas.  We were there about 2 hours, and I really feel like it helped all of us not be so far behind (both kids take group lessons).  In the afternoon, Dave winterized the trailer and did some other jobs around the house.  Wednesday is Faith's regular piano lesson day, so Dave and she were back for lessons in the evening.  We were sad that it was the last day together but going back to work was a good thing, too. We have never spent this much time together, ever. I think Dave was "kidded out" (probably "wifed out", too!)!

Thursday was my first day alone with the kids.  My mom offered to come and take Faith shopping for boots, but I had a couple stops to make, so we all went out together.  I sold a bunch of stuff at Once Upon a Child.  I'll have to try to take in a few bins every couple weeks.  I have SO much stuff to get rid of!  My mom stayed for a quick visit and left shortly after lunch.  The afternoon went quickly with quiet time and outside time.

There was Connections on Friday (our homeschool workshop/gym day) and I decided to give it a whirl.  I stayed with the boys in their class.  They both really enjoyed it, I think.  Bereket did well following the group and listening to the teacher.  When she told them to write their names on their papers, he carefully printed his on the top - in Amharic! :)   We all had lunch together, and then the boys had gym and Faith had workshop.  I didn't go to gym, as I figured dodgeball is fairly self-explanatory.    They had a great time, and it was so fun to see so many of our homeschool friends.

After Connections, my sister and niece came over for a quick visit.  Jocelyn goes back to work after her maternity leave in a few short days, so we wanted to make sure and have at least one chat.  Bereket LOVES babies and was pretty thrilled with Chloe. :)  Faith was having her birthday sleepover that evening, so it was a quick visit.

Around 5, the girls started showing up for the party.  This is probably the most slacker-style birthday party I've ever hosted.  I bought the cake and barely even tidied the house! lol  Faith had 4 girls between 8-10 years old over and I think that is just about my favorite age!  They all got along so well, even though none of them know each other, other than through Faith.  They played, had pizza and cake, opened presents, watched a movie and then played the game Life.  Around 10, two parents came to get their girls, and the remaining two guests and Faith played for another hour or so before setting up beds in the basement.  Another hour of giggling and they were all asleep.  It was seriously the most pleasant birthday party ever!  Sometimes I feel like this upper elementary age is the "parenting age" I've been waiting for! lol.

Saturday morning, the boys had soccer.  Yes, both boys are in soccer.  I had to make a spur-of-the-moment decision about whether to sign Bereket up for soccer.  I could tell that his personality is not that of one content to be a spectator, and figured if we had to drag him along to games and practices, he may as well be involved, not playing on the ipad in the bleachers! He LOVED it.  Thomas had a blast, too.  Our team seems very "young" for U8, and I don't think we'll win many games, but hopefully everyone will have fun.

Saturday evening was a bit nuts.  We had shrimp alfredo for supper (one of our very favorite meals) and Bereket gobbled it up.  After supper, he had a bath, and had great fun playing in the tub with the snorkel mask.  

After his bath, I lotioned him up like usual and we started reading stories.  He started scratching and complaining about his armpits and groin.  We learned the word "itchy" and I gave him a children's Benedryl, just in case there was something in the bathwater that bothered him.  Within the next 10 minutes, though, the itchiness had spread to his entire body, including his face, and he was covered in hives.  The skin around his mouth looked blotchy and puffy and he was coughing a lot, with sort of a wheezy, gaspy sound on the inhale.  I quickly was very alarmed, and we packed for an ER visit.  Dave stayed with the kids while I took him in.

We were assessed quickly and did our intake paperwork (despite us not having his AB Healthcare Card yet, he was already in the system - Yay!).  I sat us down in the waiting room and expected to sit a while but they called us in right away.  The doctor came in and was fairly concerned.  He gave Bereket a dose of stronger allergy medicine and kept us under observation until we knew the swelling around his mouth wasn't getting worse.  Bereket played with the ipad when he could, but he was SO itchy he kept pausing it to scratch.  At one point he was whimpering "Itchy, mama, help itchy mama" and I felt so bad there was nothing (more) I could do for him.  Eventually, around 9:15, he handed me the ipad, said "Sleepy" and laid down and fell asleep (I wish it was that quick at home!).  They came in and checked on him a couple more times and around 10, they sent us home.

And so that was the first week home!  It sounds crazy, doesn't it?! Looking back, I can hardly believe it, but it was just sort of a consequence of the time of year and having been gone for so long... We didn't want to miss yet another week of all our activities. Sunday was church and a quick visit with Grandma Grace and Grandpa Rick.  We planned to start school on Monday, and I was feeling overwhelmed at everything I still needed to get ready. I'll post more about the first day of school soon.

One last thing - Can you please pray for wisdom and understanding for Dave and me?  We are facing some challenging behaviours with Bereket that I'm not likely to blog about, but it is hard to know the best way to respond.  I'm feeling lately like the adoption books do a fairly good job with "There will be challenges, and here are some examples" but not such a good job with "And here's how you deal with them".  We love him so much but it is exhausting at times, and I just hate feeling like I don't know how to respond. Thanks. :)

Monday, October 14, 2013

With a thankful heart...

Just a quick post to say how thankful I am for this blessed life I live... So truly blessed to be home, in Canada, with my amazing family. Sometimes I wasn't sure if this adoption was going to happen, but it finally did, and I am so thankful. 

Bereket, you are so sweet and brave and I am so grateful you are in our lives. 

Faith and Thomas, I am so glad I get to be your mom. And I praise God for the kind, compassionate people I see you becoming. 

David, you are truly an amazing man to walk through life with and I'm so glad to have you as my partner in this journey. 

I am so humbled and blessed by all the people in my life who show me kindness and caring and friendship. Thank you. 

Lord, thank you so much for the good gifts you continue to pour out... They are so much more than I could ever deserve and I so often fail to be truly grateful. Forgive my ungrateful heart and help me become a person who recklessly shares the blessings in my life with others. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Sorry, we got home late last night but I forgot to update the blog!

After 28 hours of travel, we made it safely and somewhat soundly to Edmonton. On the first flight, Bereket slept pretty well, Thomas and I about 1.5 hours, Dave less than that, and Faith, not at all. Trying to sleep on an airplane reminds me of trying to sleep in a hospital; it is noisy, bright and uncomfortable, and when you finally DO get to sleep, they wake you up for no good reason! On the first flight, we left Addis at 12:20. We did not need chicken and rice at 2 AM! And then muffins at 4:30! Argh!!! Lol

We got London around breakfast time, and so we ate before once again going to the family lounge. That place is so awesome. I seriously don't know we would have passed the time otherwise. We left only to eat lunch and when it was time to go to our gate. Faith and I napped for a couple hours in the quiet room before the next flight. 

On the second flight, the kids were allowed to watch movies, and they each watched a few. Bereket was hilarious watching "Hotel for Dogs". He kept trying to give me a running commentary. "Mommy, dogs uh-oh, police everybody, oh no!!!" Of course at a louder than usual volume because he had headphones on. I was cracking up at his enthusiasm. 

Eventually he and Thomas fell asleep. Faith, Dave and I did not. I started to wonder when Faith was going to come unglued. 

When we got to Edmonton, we had to go through Customs, like everybody, but then we had the added step of Immigration. This is where Faith fell apart. Or rather, she curled up in a ball on a chair and slept, and then melted down when we woke her to go. So for the first bit of our "Airport Party" she was sobbing into my belly. Eventually Grandma Grace took her over to the side and she woke up enough to have fun and visit with Chloe (her baby cousin) and a few select others. 

The Airport Party was so awesome! I hope someone took some pictures, as I didn't get any! So many friends and family members came out to welcome us home and meet Bereket. It was amazing and we felt very loved. Bereket was positively beaming! 

We went to McDonalds but due to my directional impairment we went to the one in Nisku without the play land, not the other one WITH the play land. I sure hope nobody was at the other one waiting for us! This was mostly family and our neighbors. It was fun to have just a little more time to visit before heading home. 

All three kids fell asleep on the drive home, and then the boys kind of for a second wind. We wanted them to shower before bed, so we did that quickly. Faith fell right asleep (and is the only one still sleeping this morning) but the boys took longer. It was their first night in the same bedroom, which I'm sure contributed! Eventually everyone fell asleep and now 4/5 of us are up and starting the process of getting life going again. Bereket is pretty wild, going from thing to thing, "Whatisit? Share? Everybody? Bereket yes?" He wants to do everything all at once. Lol. I'm sure it will take some time to settle down, which is totally normal. Exhausting, but normal. ;)

So! We are home, and real life will begin! I will keep the blog going at least for a little while, though likely not daily. Thanks so much for reading along!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

And we're off!!!

After a fun filled last day, it is finally time to head to the airport! I will try to post from London, otherwise we will see you when we get home!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

When we get home...

So!  After 9 weeks in Ethiopia (and 6 years of waiting before that!) we are finally ready to come home to Canada with our newest addition.  We are so, so excited to be coming home; I have never been "away" for longer than 10 days, for any reason, and so I am really missing my family and friends.  And of course, we are excited to introduce everyone to our new son.

I wanted to take a moment and write a bit about Bereket's transition when we get home.  While we have had the advantage of having 7 weeks with him in our care here in Ethiopia, we are anticipating a bit of regression and disruption with the move to Canada.  Here, our family has been pretty isolated.  We really only spend time with 3 other families, and they have their own newly adopted children to worry about, so their relationship with Bereket has not really impaired his attachment to us.  When we get home, we are blessed (SO BLESSED) by the dozens of people with whom we normally interact on a regular basis.  And while we are so thankful to have such a large support network, it may be very confusing for Bereket to figure out who is who, and what role they have in his life.

For this reason, when we first get home, and for an undetermined amount of time, we will be keeping Bereket's circle pretty small.  Because of the busy nature of our life with two other school-aged children, our "cocooning" may look different than other adoptive families you may know.  In some ways, we will be jumping right in to life (piano, scouts, etc.) and Bereket will tag along when necessary.  Of course, if we notice Bereket is overwhelmed with too much running around, we will make adjustments as needed.

The biggest thing is that we will be intentionally restricting who he interacts with, and how those interactions go.  Grandparents and our siblings (and their children) will be able to visit in the first few weeks, but we will limit visits with other relatives and friends for the first while.  When you do interact with Bereket, please keep the following things in mind:

~  Please feel free to be friendly with Bereket, but not overly affectionate.  We believe that demonstrations of affection should be limited to those that Bereket has an actual relationship with, not people he is just meeting.  So a friendly hand-shake or high-5 is fine; hugs and kisses, not so much.(Grandma's and Grandpa's - yes, you can hug him if he permits!  I'm not an ogre!) ;)  As your relationship with Bereket develops naturally over time, then normal displays of affection will develop in the context of that relationship.

~Please do not gush over how cute he is!  Yes, he is adorable, but we don't want that to be the focus of every interaction...  Also, I've heard so many times from adoptive parents how their adopted child is just fawned over to the exclusion of their other children, and how hurtful that can be to them.  So please keep that in mind.

~When playing with Bereket, please redirect requests for nurturing back to David or myself.  So if he is hungry, thirsty, gets hurt, needs a cuddle, etc., please direct him back to us, with a friendly, "Let's see your mom for a [kiss, drink, etc]"  At this stage in the game, he needs to have his needs met by us.

~If he calls you "Mom" or "Dad", please correct him.  "I'm not your mom, I'm [Susan, Mrs. Smith, Grandma, whatever].  Your mom is over there. [point]"  Repeat, repeat, repeat. ;)  It took 5 weeks here, but he does now call Karen "Karen" not "Mom".  He needs constant reinforcement that not everyone who has something he wants is "mom".

~Please do not initiate lap-sitting or carrying.  If he requests to be "up", please redirect him to one of us.

I hope this doesn't sound like a huge list of "rules"!  I don't want to be overwhelming or make you all (who I love so much!) feel rejected.  We just want to apply the things we have learned to help Bereket get off to the best possible start.   If I notice something that I feel could be an impediment to his attachment, please do not take offense if I mention it.  I know that it can feel like an unnatural way of interacting with a child; I've struggled myself with friends' newly adopted children.  The reality is that attachment, especially in older child adoption, is an ongoing process... It could take years, really, for him to be completely attached.  So we will be constantly adjusting our actions based on how he seems to be doing.  We appreciate that this might seem arbitrary from the outside, but please trust us that we are only doing what we believe to be best for Bereket.  Our desire is that his strong attachment to us serves as a springboard for his eventual attachment with you; indeed, everything in his life will be easier if he is strongly attached to us, his parents.

One last thing - Please extend a lot of grace to us as we figure this all out.  Parenting an older adopted child is tricky business.  We may at times seem overly strict, and at others, overly permissive.  There may be different rules and privilages for different children, based on their needs and abilities. Please trust us that we are doing our best.  Your thoughtful encouragement is always appreciated!

We love you all and can't wait to see you!

10 Things I Love about Ethiopia

10. Pineapple Ambo. Ambo is sparkling water made in Ethiopia, and it also comes in a few flavors. My favorite is pineapple, which is also the least common at restaurants.  It is oh so yummy!

9.  When construction workers yell, "Hey Baby!" I know they are talking to the kids!  People here LOVE the kids, and are quick to call out "Hello babies!".  And our kids have figured out the drill and will smile and wave back.

8. Boston Day Spa.  Similar in feel and quality to spas at home, at a quarter of the cost!  Enough said!

7. Kindness to disenfranchised people.  I have learned a lot from how the middle- and upper-class Ethiopians treat beggars, pan-handlers and shoe-shine boys.  I now leave the house with a pocket full of small bills, and hand them out with a smile and a kind word, rather than avoiding eye-contact.  This improves my day, and theirs!

6.  Coffee.  Who knew? If you add enough sugar and milk, it turns into something drinkable?! haha.

5.  Communal Living.  I LOVE having such a close relationship with our "neighbors". Sharing household items, planning outings together, popping over for a quick visit.  Love it!

4.  Walkable neighborhoods.  From our guesthouse, I can walk to a grocery store, bank, bakery, stationary store, and many other shops and restaurant.  I will miss being able to run down the street when I need something.

3. GT Guesthouse.  This place is amazing.  The space, the staff, everything.  We have been treated so well here and would recommend it without hesitation!

2. Friendly drivers.  Even though I really miss having my own vehicle to drive when I want to, our time here has been so blessed by the amazing drivers we have had.  Markos, Sinteyehu, Getchow and Binyam have all been so great!  I'm so glad we haven't been at the mercy of public transportation or random taxis.

1. Beautiful countryside.  It is the homeland of our beautiful son, and our lives will always have an Ethiopian connection.  Though it has been hard at times, our lives have been forever changed for the better by our time here.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Birthday Central!

So, Faith's birthday was on Friday, and yes, we did have a little party for her.  We ordered in pizza, sang Happy Birthday and had cake, and even a few presents!  We are so blessed to have such dear friends here with us. They make every day less lonely, and special events even more special!

Bereket is starting to get the hang of birthdays.  He seemed to understand that the gifts were just for Faith, but then said, "Bereket happy birthday, Faith give me" and pointed to her gifts... Translation: "When it's my birthday, Faith will give me her books!" Haha. So we explained that when it was his birthday, we would give him different gifts. 

Tonight we celebrated Karen's 50th birthday.  We had gone in the morning to Entoto Mountain, but the main attraction is the view, and the fog was terrible! Haha. So we were back in Addis before lunchtime. We dropped off a few folks at the guesthouse (upset tummies and a tired baby) and then the rest of us went to Oh Canada! Restaurant for lunch. Karen's husband Paul had asked me to help arrange a surprise Skype date for Karen with their whole church at 5:30.  This was complicated by the fact that Karen had made plans to go for supper with Tilahun. I talked to him and he agreed to be "late", so that we would have time to Skype. 

Around 5, we went upstairs with cake and sang happy birthday. Around 5:20, we told her to get the computer out because Paul had a special Skype planned. She thought he had arranged for her to Skype both her kids at once.  But as we waited for him to come online, she realized it was church time back home, and started to think something was up.

The whole congregation (and some of Karen's friends) sang happy birthday to her, and then we listened in on a couple hymns.  We lost the connection for a while, but it came back on in time for us to do communion with them.  After communion, Karen said goodbye to Paul, as Tilahun was there to take her and Ibssa for supper.  

All in all, it didn't go exactly as planned, but I hope she felt very loved! :)

Now the kids are just finishing a movie, and then it will be bedtime here for them.  4 more sleeps in Ethiopia!!!


Friday, October 4, 2013

Save the date: Airport Party!!!

Tonight I booked flights for me and Bereket. I debated waiting and going into the Ethiopian Airlines office tomorrow morning, as I'd heard I could possibly get his one-way ticket a little cheaper there than through my agent. BUT, looking online, there were only 9 seats left on the flight, and as we debated, it dropped to 4, so I said forget it! So we emailed the agent and booked the ticket. Also, the agent isn't open on the weekend, so if somehow we couldn't do it tomorrow at the office (computers down or whatever!) it would be Monday. Anyway, it is booked now!

SO! I would like to invite you to join us at the Edmonton Airport on Friday, October 11, where we will be arriving at 6:15 pm on Air Canada flight 899 from London. This will be a chance for you to meet Bereket before we begin our "cocooning" phase (well, continue it, really, as we've had a 6 week head start).  I will be writing a whole blog post about our plans for introducing Bereket to the people in our lives, and the reasoning behind cocooning. 

From the airport, the plan is to hit the Nisku McDonalds for some much-missed fast food and some active play in the play land, and you are welcome to join us there, too. 

So please, if your schedules allow it, we would love to see you next Friday!  No gifts, please; information about an adoption shower will be forthcoming. 

Thanks again for all your love and support! We appreciate the prayers and kind words from each of you so much!

Visa is in!!!!!

So today, we got very unexpected news... Our visa is in Addis!!! Woohoo!!! 

I'll back up a little. Our visa application got to Nairobi on Sept. 10. We had noticed that lately visas were taking around 10-16 days, and so we were hopeful we would get our visa on the 23rd, or maybe the 30th. (Visas are send in a diplomatic pouch on Wednesdays and it is usually opened on Mondays).  We didn't get it on the 23rd, which we knew was on the early side. But things were further complicated by the fact that there was a terrorist attack at an upscale mall in Nairobi, killing over 70 people and injuring hundreds more. Among those killed was a Canadian diplomat from CIC.  So we had heard that the High Commission was closed, except for emergencies.  

They were "closed" for all of the week after the attack, and most of the next week, too. I will admit to being frustrated. My understanding of "closed" was "no one is going to work" except for one or two people who would be there to address "emergencies" (in my mind, I imagined things like Canadian victims of crime in Kenya?). So I was frustrated at the idea that everyone was at home for almost two weeks. 

It turns out that was hardly accurate. My understanding now is that the staff was hard at work providing consular assistance to Canadians in Kenya directly  impacted by the terror attack. Arranging medi-vac transports, repatriating the deceased, that sort of thing. Important stuff. 

AND- they did continue work on our visa. In fact, I believe that they notified the embassy that it was in the pouch, and that is why Martha was notified today instead of Monday. Which we hugely appreciate, as it gives us more time to arrange flights. 

It is a little bittersweet. We are the only family that got our visa. The others are all still waiting. And two of the families have flights booked for the ninth that they will have to change (at large expense). So I'm sad for them. 

Anyway, that is our good news for today! It is Faith's birthday, and I can't think of a better present! We are going to have the other families over for pizza and cake tonight to celebrate. We were going to go bowling, but our ride didn't work out, so we will go another day. 

Thank you so much for your love and support over this excruciating process... We are almost done... And then "real life" can begin! Praise God for all the blessings in our life!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The crafting has begun!

So today, my crafty kids must have reached their tipping point! Amazing the fun you can have with some notebook paper, markers and scotch tape!
(And the wifi is finally working at the new guesthouse! Hooray!)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Still no visa (warning - whiny post ahead!)

Another week, still no visa.  This is getting old.  We are still waiting, and have no idea how long it will be.  We had to move to the new guesthouse, and while it is relatively nice, the sheets are scratchy, the kitchen is under-equipped and the wifi hasn’t worked since we got here! The lack of internet leaves us feeling bored and disconnected from life back home.  Everyone is feeling cranky and it just really sucks.  And every day here at this point just sucks us dry financially. 

This is the point where I’m going to kindly ask you not to tell me to look on the bright side... Yes, we are all together. Yes, we have our new son. Yes, we are safe and healthy.  I know these things, but I don’t want to hear it. 

Sorry, I know whining is obnoxious.  I’m stressed out.  I think Dave and Faith and Thomas are going to head home, as we just can’t leave life at home on “pause” much longer.  Of course, that has its own stresses; both in terms of being here with Bereket by myself, and the eventual “reintegration” when we get home.  I kind of feel like it would be easier for us all to be jet-lagged at once, but both home and able to spell each other off, vs. Dave already being back at work and I’m on my own with all three kids right off the bat.

I typed this up at Chilallo, and then went to visit Karen at GT to post it.  I’ll also spend a few minutes on FB and try to download Faith a few more ebooks; man, that kid can read!


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Another fun day...

Well, today was our last full day at GT Guesthouse (hopefully - we may return here if we are still in Ethiopia after Oct. 5). I just can't say enough good things about this place. The space itself is just about perfect for our family, but more than that, the owners and staff are so amazing!  Lee is like having an on-site concierge.  She helps with everything from tracking down specific kids DVDs, ordering take-out, helping me make an appointment for a haircut and spa treatment (coming up on Monday!), and so much more.  Her hospitality (and excellent English) are so incredible.  Today, Faith was upset about something in the courtyard, so Lee asked if Faith liked to color.  Faith said yes, and Lee proceeded to DRAW her a beautiful Ethiopian princess to color.  Faith went upstairs to get the markers, and was planning to color outside, but couldn't find a suitable surface.  So we asked if she could use the coffee table in Lee's office.  Before long, Bereket was in the office too, wondering what was going on.  So she drew him a picture, too! So now Faith and Bereket were both coloring in her office (while Thomas was upstairs playing with Ibssa) and Dave and I were just hanging around!

Anyway, we took it pretty easy today.  We had mostly packed yesterday, and our only real plans were to have Markos, Menisa, Jacob, Ashe, and Aserat over for supper so they could Skype with Bekah and Arnie.  Around 4, I went with Rob and Candy to order the food.  We are learning how the whole take-away thing works... They don't make the food until you show up to pay, so don't bother phoning if it is close enough to do the pickup yourself.  And bring your own containers, as other wise they charge you through the roof. (Plus, the little foil pans with cardboard lids don't work well for things like Shiro).  We lucked out and got a server that spoke excellent English and was just SO helpful with helping us order and make sure we had lots of food.  He took our containers back to the kitchen, and at one point, came out and said, you need more space, do you have other containers (I did have some smaller ones).  I thought that was so honest, as it would have been very easy to just fill the containers and give us less food. Also, I requested that they packed the injera in ziploc bags, so it wasn't all soggy before we got home.  Anyway, all that to say we had an awesome feast, all for only $35!  For 14 people!!!

We were just walking up to the guesthouse when Markos and 3 of the boys arrived.  One thing I love about GT is that they don't mind us having guests, even if those guests happen to be shoe-shine boys. ;)  I've heard some of the guesthouses can be very snobby about who they let in.  We went upstairs and I got busy preparing the platters of food while the boys said their hellos to everyone else.  We quickly tried to Skype, as the wifi was on and working well, but we couldn't get ahold of Bekah and Arnie.  So we ate first.

I think everyone was able to find something they liked.  I still find ordering traditional Ethiopian food a bit of a gamble... I'm never quite sure what we are getting!  But it was a good assortment of meats, sauces, and even some veggies.  The boys ate lots, and we packed up the leftovers for Jacob, who wasn't able to come.

During supper, I did get ahold of Bekah by iMessage, and they had misunderstood the time we were scheduled to Skype!  And they were driving, so we tried, but between their cell service, and our less than awesome wifi, we couldn't connect.  We tried many times throughout the evening, but eventually gave up.  We did record a video message for them, which I hope went through properly.

The boys, including the 18 year old, had lots of fun with the Playmobil toys.  It was so fun to watch.  I'm guessing they haven't had many toys in their lives.

Anyway, it was another fun night.  It is so great to be able to love on these boys just a little bit while we are here.  Karen gave them each some money to buy something they need.  And Markos was such a sport all night... He didn't eat (maybe fasting again?) and I think he would have just left without asking for any payment for driving the boys over if I hadn't paid him.  And as always, he is so great with the kids.  Oh, and we were able to show him the little video that friends of ours had made of their little boy talking to Markos.  So for anyone who has been trying to get ahold of Markos, he has no internet access as the gov't has blocked it.  I guess phone is the best way to get in contact with him.

All in all, it was a great day!  Now we will soon go to sleep for our last night at GT, and then tomorrow we will move to the new place.  And hopefully, we are in the final leg and will get to come home soon!

Friday, September 27, 2013

An update on Thomas...

We haven’t had internet for almost 24 hours, and who knows when we will, but I realized I could type this up and post it when it eventually comes back on.

So Thomas... He’s doing alright.  He has probably had the hardest transition, which is what we expected, as Bereket is so close in age to him.  And yet, emotionally and socially, Bereket is behind, which can lead to some interesting encounters.   Both boys are intensely competitive, and they do best when we can set it up so they are on the same team, competing against an adult or older boy.   They both have a very highly developed sense of “fair” (is that a 6 year old thing?), and of course, life is regularly unfair.  We are trying our best to give each child what they need during this tricky time, but they don’t all need the same things at the same time.

Still, though, generally Thomas is his usual fun self.  He does enjoy having a playmate, even if it doesn’t always work out perfectly.  He has been having a blast playing basketball in the courtyard, and loves Ashe, the boy who lives here, and Sinteyehu, the regular driver here.  He also has gotten over much of his shyness, and when we go to the grocery store or somewhere, he often chooses to wait in the van with Sinteyehu.   He is friendly with people on the street, and is quick to wave and smile if he notices someone trying to get his attention.

Thomas also has passed a lot of time drawing in his notebook.  His drawings are starting to be very detailed:

He also asks regularly for me to “give him some math”.  That is definitely his favorite subject in school – other than PE, of course! He still isn’t really interested in reading, though he’ll end up learning just because he wants to be able to label all his drawings! He loves listening to books read aloud, though.

Thomas is enjoying having his own room, just as a place to get away from Bereket when he is being too intense.  It has me questioning how it will work to have them share when we get home.  Maybe we will set up a room in the basement for Thomas to hang out in, even if he still prefers to sleep upstairs on the bunkbed.  A few weeks ago, he told me he was “Bereket-ed out for the whole week!” which I thought was a pretty accurate way of putting it.  So we try to watch for signs that they need a break from each other and then give them each the space they need.

This feels like a tough update to write, as there really isn’t much to say.  We are having some challenges, but mostly he is his usual self.  I know he is ready to get home, as we all are! 😊

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

An update on Faith

Ok, this series of posts is inspired by requests from the grandparents on how the kids are doing... So I won't be at all offended if some of you choose to skip them!  Just in case some of my newer readers do choose to read on, I thought I would back up and tell you a little bit about the girl who first made me a mommy.

Faith is almost 9 (next week!) and is such a blessing in our lives.  She is smart, funny, articulate and caring.  She is also very sensitive, both emotionally and to changes in routine.  She likes things "just so" and can sometimes have the intense reactions one would typically expect from a younger child.  In other words, she is not a kid I would consider a great candidate for the challenges of living in a developing country, all while adjusting to a new family member!  We were prepared for lots of outbursts, emotional regression, and just needing to manage her very carefully.

However, we couldn't have been more surprised!  She has done AMAZINGLY well... Handled all the changes and new places and faces like a trouper!  Even with the food, which is very different from home, she has just rolled with the punches and ordered things that "sound good" and handled it so well when they don't taste at all as expected.  She has been friendly and outgoing with all the new people we have encountered, including things like letting the tour guide hold her hand in busy places, or crowding into vehicles with people she doesn't know well.

We joke she has matured two years since we got here... and it's true!  We are so proud of her... Don't get me wrong; we have always been proud of her, but seeing how she has handled the challenges we have faced, especially knowing it is not necessarily in her nature to be flexible, ;) has been especially impressive.

When we got to GT, she was so thrilled to have her own bedroom.  She went in to read and didn't come out for 2 hours! lol

This is a very common sight around here... She has read 9 books since we got to Ethiopia and is half-way through the 10th.  I've had to start borrowing e-books from the library to keep up with her!  Love technology (even though it takes just about as long for me to download the book as it does for her to read them!)

 Goofing around with her new brother!

One of the main ways Faith has passed the days here is by writing in her notebook.  She has written a few stories and poems, but the thing I have gotten such a kick out of are her "schedules".  I have a homeschool book at home that teaches how to write a daily schedule for homeschooling moms and their kids.  Faith LOVES that book and has spent a lot of time at home looking at the sample schedules.  For whatever reason, since we've been here, she has had a ton of fun writing up schedules for imaginary families.  Here is an example:

 She has done dozens of these!  She also has made a few meal plans:

When I was looking in her notebook to take these pictures (with her permission) I also found the following pages that made me giggle:

(Sorry I don't know why those ones are sideways)

I think its so funny that she spends her free time making healthy eating charts! haha.

As always, Faith has a huge imagination and has no trouble coming up with stuff to do...  Today she "lassoed" this "horse" and went for a ride.

A few minutes later, I noticed she had upgraded horses...

Anyway, she does miss home, as evidenced by her list I posted the other day... But all in all, she is doing so well, and we are so glad to have her along with us!

Monday, September 23, 2013

One month later...

Today marks one month since Bereket came to live with us forever!  I had hoped to mark today with celebrating his visa arriving, but that is not to be.  However, I wanted to take a moment to jot down some thoughts about this first month as a family of 5...

First of all, Bereket is doing really well. He is smart, affectionate, thoughtful and creative.  I can't wait to see more of his personality unfold as his language skills develop.

Secondly, when I say he is doing "really well", I mean in the context of everything he has experienced... Losing his family, and then his orphanage friends, adjusting to a new language, a new family, new expectations... Given everything he has been through, he is doing great.  Please understand, though, that this does not mean everything is sunshine and roses.  Temper tantrums do not make cute Facebook status updates!  There are many things that we take for granted which are actually learned skills:  taking turns, sharing, waiting for anything, playing gently, hygiene, telling the truth, table manners, complying with parental instructions. ;)

I share this, not to sound critical, but to be, well, real, about the transition.  And also so that you understand some of our parental fatigue... It is hard to be "on" 24-7, especially when our previous kids had finally gotten to a relatively independent stage.  We just never know what he is going to do... Bite a ball (popping it), spray the hallway with a toilet sprayer, run into the street... it is impossible to stay 2 steps ahead all the time!  Although we obviously now require hand holding at all times in public (much to his chagrin)!

Ok, now that I've got that out, I'd love to share some of the "fun" things... the moments that let us glimpse the "real" boy who we no doubt will see more of as time goes on...

~Bereket is very creative.  He loves to draw pictures in his journal and "write" stories.  And he loves to share what he has created with us... He will explain in as many words as he has exactly what is in the picture.  One day I still wasn't getting it, so he got out the ESL picture dictionary and found a photograph of the "excavator" he had drawn. 

His notebook is filled with pages he has copied out of various books... He even found my notebook where I had written our flight numbers for our tour of Ethiopia and he carefully copied it all down.

~Bereket loves card games.  He learned how to play Old Maid within 2 days of being with us!  He has also learned "Go Fish" and "War".  War is pretty funny... He starts off pretty "honest" but after a few hands, he starts trying to claim any cards, even if his "3" is clearly less than my "7".  So you have to watch carefully, and it's not a great game for him to play with the other kids.  Faith and Thomas have both learned to play Solitaire, and Bereket desperately wants to play too, but it's just a little too complicated (descending alternating colors, etc).  So he has made up his own version that always ends up with him as "champion"!

~Speaking of "champion", Bereket is VERY competitive. He LOVES to win and is very distressed if he doesn't.  We are working on the idea of being a gracious winner AND loser.   As challenging as this particular trait can be, I also like to think it is a sign of a person who pursues excellence. ;)

~Bereket loves to play with Playmobil.  I wasn't sure if he would, as I've heard that older adoptees sometimes don't "play" the way we westerners traditionally do.  But he loves playing with the little miniature figures.  People, animals, and bicycles are his favorites so far!  A gift idea would be assorted Playmobil animals, or maybe the Super Spy series.  He has shown me that page in the catalog many times. ;)

~ Despite the fact that it must sound like an absolute sea of words, Bereket (usually) likes story time.  We have read two chapter books since picking him up, and he actually sits better for those than the picture books.  He asks every night for "story-story" and is very disappointed if for some reason it is not happening (late night, etc).

~Like Thomas, Bereket loves playing sports.  He is pretty coordinated, and I can tell his strength will improve over time.  As I said above, he is very competitive, and it works best if we find a way for he and Thomas to be on the same "team" against one of the older boys, or they often end up fighting.  I'm hoping as Bereket's language and family skills improve, the boys will be able to play together on their own.

~Bereket is an awesome helper.  He made our bed, and has helped me with meal prep and washing dishes.  If he is melting down about something, I can often distract him by getting him to help me with some random task.

~Bereket loves self-portraits.  He has filled my phone camera with pictures of his chin and nostrils, but he occasionally gets a good one!

~Bereket loves to count.  He can count to mid-teens in English and much higher in Amharic.  He often will count things for no apparent reason.  We are working on matching the numerals with the number of objects they represent.  (Ie, he can count seven cars, but if I show him the number "7" he might say "five")

~Speaking of counting, Bereket has spontaneously figured out the "I love you more" game... When he says "I love you", I usually say "I love you, too"... Just the other day, he replied back with "I love you three" and we went up from there!  After about 15, he jumped to 50, and then 100, and then we went up by hundreds until we got to "one hundred zero" which I think is 1000.  So cute!

I hope this gives you a little glimpse into our newest boy... We love him so much and are so proud of him!  He will have many challenges to overcome, but we can tell he is a fighter!