Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sweet friends

I posted earlier at how my sister-in-law (shoot, lets just forget about the in-law part as she IS my sister born in my heart who just happened to marry Marty's brother) had come to my house and cleaned her heart out.

She read my post to the blog and said . . .

It wasn't her. I thought she was trying to sidetrack my gratitude at first, but she was steadfast. She insisted that she DID do the food as well as researching spices for Ethiopian cooking which we found today sitting in our kitchen . . . but not the house-cleaning.

Well this had me stumped. Only one person that I know has the key . . .

My goodness gracious!! We were so very fortunate to have found a Professional Pet Sitter whom we not only utilize for trips but who we have long considered a friend as well. Carol Infalt has welcomed us to her home to see her wildlife rescue creatures (see the raccoon pictures posted early in the blog) and watched as our family has grown through adoption twice. We have left our pets with her or left them here for her to visit with fantastic results. She is the one who left the gifts for the boys as she has surprised our girls before too. They STILL are playing with the playhouses and Barbie cars.

So, I'm not saying if you live in the area and have Carol assist with your animals that she'll clean, organize, and shower you with gifts but I am saying thank you for the most wonderful, joyful surprise I could have imagined. I'm sorry I didn't recognize sooner that it was your handiwork. You are an angel to us and we so appreciate your friendship.

Thank you God

We started the day waaaaay early as I had posted before. The guys were wanting to go outside since 3:30 a.m. and the girls were up by 7 and they were all pretty much playing together (Julia was grumpy) and such. Paul was so absorbed by his bicycle and we were all outside and got a late start on breakfast. I was amazed that it took a dozen eggs and more than a bit of bread to get the toast going. Marty was egg man and I was setting the table for my family of six for the first time and trying to get the toast ready when he was. The kids were assembled and suddenly I heard Samuel's voice loud and clear . . .

"Thank you God"

I have never heard him say two words in English linked together, much less three.

"Yes, Thank you God for this food" I replied.

And he stated "Thank you God for this DAY"

Paul smiled and pressed his hands in prayer before him and began to recite the prayer that I had witnessed on video earlier this year (and meant to memorize) -

Thank you God
for this day.
We love you.
We need you.
Be with us.
Protect us.
Bless our food.
Bless our thoughts.
And guide us
in your way.
In Jesus' name
We pray.

I think we Phillipsons have a perfect blessing to embrace in our household ritual.

meltdowns, museums and mastry

It is just after 8 a.m. on our first day. Paul has been outside I say . . . all except five minutes since 6 a.m. He LOVES his bicycle. He rides now with confidence and has learned how to pedal and apply brakes. Marty has raised the seat as I think our clearance purchase could have been for a larger bicycle. And he doesn't care. He has a bicycle. He has glasses. He has a hat. And he has a family.

Mary and Sam are buds. I'm not sure about Samuel's name. It simply doesn't fit him. He's not a Samuel. He's just Sam at this point. And to be honest, we were having some real problems with him being out of control in Ethiopia. Now he's just a happy kid who is racing around and calling "Malee?" Mary is beside herself with glee. Her brothers are home. Currently she and Sam have alternated between playing "museum" and going outside to ride the tractor (parked) and blowing bubbles. Julia joined in the bubble fun. Mary has been outside longer today than I can remember.

Julia? She's having some problems with it all. I'm not sure if she's tired or overwhelmed. I've seen a gentle side of Sam that I have not known and Julia wants no part of it. For those of you that know her, she seeks comfort in the fuzz from her blanket and today she's about picked it bald in one spot. With the older kids so involved with each other (or Paul with his bike) then we have plenty of time to give her some extra hugs and such. I think she's going to be fine but I believe she misses her Alabama family as well as being out of sync with conditions here.

Let me scoot. Julia is alone in her room screaming "MINE, MINE" and all of her siblings have not been near her of late. We are about to prepare breakfast . . . i.e. Marty is going to make his famous scrambled eggs. The boys LOVE eggs and ate them each morning for breakfast.

I've hung a few coats. There is a pile of luggage/bags/stuff still in the living room but I'm simply to take one at a time and do it leisurely. I'm having too much fun trying to simply observe this family in flux and delighting at what I see.

Home Again, Home Again - Jiggity Jog

Wow. After about 30 hours of flights, airline food, countless trips to the bathroom, delays, seven security checks, one fright with a very curious boy who simply decided he was independent enough to go to the bathroom without permission/telling/accompaniment (Washington Dulles Airport), probably 25 granola bars (I think the boys think we LIVE on those things), missed flight, etc. we landed in Madison, WI around 6:30 yesterday evening. We got our one bag (long story in that we had to recheck it in Chicago as we had missed our flight and then got the "special" security check with the pat-down since we had to grab our bag then re-enter another terminal), and Marty held both boys hands with the rolling suitcase and a backpack and I had the rolling carry-on with a backpack and various other carry-ons draped, stacked, etc. I wish I had a photo of it but at that point I was too exhausted to attempt to stop to snap the image.

So why am I typing at 4:30 on Sunday morning when I've had less than 10 hours of sleep out of the past four days (yes, I figured it up)? My sons are used to Ethiopian time which is 8 hours ahead of us. They are awake and Samuel has very good projection for such a little guy. To my utter dismay Samuel woke apparently for the day around 3:30 and asked for water and then to go to the bathroom. I wanted to cry when Paul not only got up but then proceeded to change from his Superman pajamas to his brand new soccer outfit (football to them) complete with socks and such (we haven't showed them the guards or they haven't figured them out), washed his face, and proceeded to start playing with his new soccer ball and ask to go ride his bike some more. Agh!

But Samuel fell asleep on the way home from the airport (about a 45 minute ride) and did not ever wake up. Shoot, both boys fell asleep HARD on the flight from Chicago (a total of 28 minutes air time) and Paul then drifted off within three miles of home yesterday. Once we got him out of the van though - he was up and awake and exploring for the next 3+ hours.

I took a MUCH needed shower almost immediately upon our return and we realized that Mary Romer and her dear friend Tish had just checked into the Comfort Suites in Johnson Creek and had our daughters just a few minutes away. Marty then jumped in the shower and I went outside where Paul was BUSY with his bicycle and determined to get a handle on speed, brakes, and steering. Samuel was simply placed in the bottom bunk of their room where he stayed until 12:48 the next morning when he climbed in bed with Marty and I.

Then the big moment arrived. Marty had just emerged from the shower in his shorts and T-shirt (which had Paul's huge eyes taking in the impression since men in Ethiopia don't wear shorts) and Mary Romer's van pulled around the driveway, across the front of our bow-window in the living room, and to the garage. I gingerly stepped outside (bare, tender feet) - behind Paul. He is so very inquisitive. Mary Phillipson was already in the driveway and I was astonished at how grown-up she seemed. Her hair was pulled to the side in a ponytail as Tish was considerate enough to think of how a ponytail might be uncomfortable when strapped in a car seat for the long trip. Julia just looked different. She had remnants of chocolate chip cookie at the corners of her mouth. I probably would have burst into tears at seeing them again if I had the energy to produce them.

And the girls? They were tickled pink to see us - but no more so than if they had been playing in their room for an hour and emerged to announce their presence in the living room. That was affirmation to me that it was all just fine. They were all excited to tell us of adventures, show us new coats they had, and new soccer outfits for the boys (official) complete with socks, guards, soccer bags, and each boy has an official soccer ball. Paul was quiet but appreciative. He disappeared to his room and emerged in complete gear in no time. Mary Romer has pictures of him in his get-up and also one with the girls and will send with her iPhone. I have no idea of where my camera is.

So, we adults were catching up and realized that there was no noise. We went to the girls' room (where the upstairs toys are as the boys' room isn't complete) and nada. Oh no! I wasn't intending to introduce Paul to the basement playroom yet as there is clutter in one end but toys, toys, toys in the other. Of course the girls were dragging out things and Paul was perched on the wonder-horse happily bouncing up and down. They were relaxed and just content to be.

We adults continued touching base and the children emerged upstairs with laughter and excitement to the girls' room (we had already been in the boys' room and observed Samuel sleeping). Mary announced wardrobe change complete with tutu and sunglasses glasses (since her brother was dressed up in her eyes). I tried to tell Paul that Mary Romer was my sister and Mary Phillipson was telling him that she was his sister. It was just sweet.

Eventually Mary Romer and Tish left (all too soon) and we got the kids in bed. We wanted to watch the Packers play but the toll of the trip was too great. We were in bed at 10:15.

Of course Samuel climbed in less than three hours later and the rest . . . well you know.

I'll try to backtrack and tell you stories and fill in as I can. We had dial-up in Ethiopia and since blogger is blocked in that country I couldn't see what I had sent (especially since I couldn't contact for a few days as my emails had the blog address in my signature and thus didn't allow me to send them). I can't tell you how many emails I "lost" after pouring out my heart . . . they wouldn't even "save" either. Agh!

But we got the boys. We got home safely. We got our girls back.

And I have to tell you about my sister-in-law, Sheryl. I left my house . . . a wreck. It was disheveled at best and of course it needed the floors cleaned and everything dusted before I left - and that was before the dogs were here for another week. I walked in to smell freshness. My floors look better than I can remember seeing. The house was so nice. It sparkled. The kids rooms were amazing. Mary saw her upper bunk and said "Mom - my bed is so ORGANIZED." I have a refrigerator full of meals, milk, bread and desserts lined on the countertop. Mary Romer (who was here of course right before we left since she got the girls) immediately suspected an angel had been of assistance (hehe - she knew that it wasn't possible for us to have pulled it off after having seen the house 24 hours before we left). Mike had assembled the boys bikes we had bought earlier this year and they were waiting at the garage door and taken out our trash (we only get one pickup bi-weekly) and let the dogs out each morning. Carol Infalt (our pet-sitter who would come twice more daily to tend to the animals) had again played good-fairy and filled the boys' bedroom with all sorts of stuffed animals . . . lots of monkeys and gorillas in there.

Paul takes it all in with his HUGE eyes and intense scrutiny. He is pleased.

Samuel? Hehe - he is still marching around and I have shushed him this morning probably 200 times. He has no volume control and is set to "blast" mode.

Paul has fallen asleep now on the futon in the living room with children's TV on. I just heard a crash so I need to investigate. I'm dying here - it was Samuel who was scaling the child-gate we had put at the end of the hall to keep the dogs from entering the bedrooms (Paul was overwhelmed). The canines are out right now but I was trying to keep the boys from the girls' room and from keeping EVERYONE from being able to rest.

I love all of you guys. Thank you so much for lifting us in prayer. We have a long adjustment ahead but right now just simply rest. We have so very many blessings and I have no doubts that we can make it.

Please continue to pray for us to be exactly who God needs us to be for these children (all of them). Rest will make a HUGE difference. I'm not sure when that will be accomplished but I am home. HOME. It is humbling to know how loved we are.

I'll get to posting and adding photos (we have about 2000 with what the boys took - probably of which 10% of theirs is acceptable) when I can.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Mary and Julia

Well, It has come and gone too quickly. Craig, Grand Tine,
Lamar and I are so attached and find ourselves dreading
the end of all this work but fun! These girls have brought
joy to us!! We hope to get to Wisconsin tomorrow and meet
the new brothers! Mary is excited! I have not documented
nearly enough, but the memories we have! Priceless!
Thanks so much for my dear friend Tish who VOLUNTEERED
to go with me to take the girls home. Craig is working and on call
this weekend! Praise be to God and safe travels! Love, mary

we are leaving!

We're about there.  We've been trying to pack when one of us feels we
can sneak away from our "helpers" to organize. We're culling items
out. All the meds are (Orphan Allies packages as well as OTC
medications) are staying here as well as sample shampoo, toothpaste,
mouthwash, umbrellas, baby wash, rain ponchos, some toys, etc. We
don't want the baggage and feel that there may be othe r families to
come that may benefit.

Now we're just sitting on pins and needles. Rahel (from our agency)
is to come by and bring the boys' passports and visas. Tensions are
mounting as we are simply READY and Caanan laughs and reminds us that
we have nine hours until check-in.

I want to take more photos. This may be my last blog entry in
Ethiopia. I'm excited yet dreading the trip home. I think the boys
are picking up on our restlessness.

Jill just got her "packet" for leaving. We are next! Yipee!!


I forgot!

I didn't mention the front courtyard!  It is large and has enough room

to run and kick a soccer ball around and throw the nerf dart. There

is a patio table with umbrella and garden area as well as an outdoor

grill as well.

Also, the roof! As I mentioned, it is rainy season. I'm not sure but

I believe we have a metal roof. I LOVE the sound of the rains on the

roof - especially while in the bedroom. It is so peaceful and lulls

you into sleep submission easily.

New Flower Guest House

Ethiopian adoption is in a state of flux for those who may not be

familiar. The number of adoptions and agencies has increased

dramatically and thus has created more confusion as well need for

regulation and control to keep the possibility of corruption low.

Helen is a warm, lovely Ethiopian woman who owns a guest house in

Addis Ababa. She lived in the United States for many years so has a

grasp of our cultural climate, etc. She also is in the rather

precarious position of advocating adoption of Ethiopian children as

well as listening and heeding the increasing restrictions of the

adoption powers of Ethiopia. On top of that she is our liason while

in her country on what is considered acceptable and unacceptable.

I would guess a majority of the adoption agencies are now forbidding

their adoptive families to take their children from the orphanage

until they leave for home as there has been a concern of perception

not as much of the white (European, Canadian, American) families

adopting their children but of how we may be dressing in this very

conservative culture or allowing our children to be out late, behaving

in ways they don't approve, etc. Some agencies have their own guest

houses and in that way they can take their child(ren) during the stay

here and forge that bond so very much needed before you board a plane

for the 17+ hour flight just to get you back to the United States.

Certain hotels here have begun refusing to allow adoptive Ethiopian

children to stay with their families. Our agency does not have it own

guest house so we were tickled pink to find that Helen's New Flower

Guest House had room for us. Marty goes out daily on long jaunts but

the boys and I stay here. Helen has hired a sitter to stay with the

boys should we want to explore together and eat out at a restaurant -

but I don't want them to get the message that at this tender point in

our new family life I'd prefer eating out than simply being with them.

What can I tell you about her home? Coming here is like visiting a

sister/friend that you have simply not yet met. She lives here in the

guest house so although you are paying to stay here that is quickly

forgotten as you find yourself enveloped in simply being welcome. We

are staying upstairs where there are four bedrooms and three baths.

We're in the HUGE master bedroom (with a fireplace and balcony) with

our own private bath. Athough all the rooms have locks/keys I don't

know we've ever utilized it (except maybe turned the key at night to

keep the boys IN should they wake up). Our bathtub is very deep and

the hand-held shower has a tremendously long cord so that you can

easily wash babies as well as yourself. There isn't a shower curtain

so we have found ourselves washing our hair first by leaning over the

tub and then climbing in to rinse and wash our bodies. It works just

fine! We're here in rainy season so it is cool and we have our

windows and balcony door open often until we get a mite chilled.

I've never stayed in a guest house before so I'm still finding myself

comparing guest house to a hotel. The winner? Guest house - hands

down! We have closets with locks on them and while at first I

(mistakenly) assumed it was for our peace of mind that our things

would not disappear either from the staff or other guests, I utilized

them for the first time yesterday when I discovered that my boys who

are VERY curious have determined that anything is theirs to explore,

taste, take, tamper, etc and while I love that curiosity our video

camera, laptop, cameras, phones, etc are NOT playthings. We have some

boundaries to set but we'll make it.

Currently there is one other family here who I have mentioned, Victor

and Jill with their 4-month-old daughter Sophie. Wow. If we had been

in a hotel we would not have interacted with such a neat family.

Marty and Victor have had several really funny (Jill and I say

bonding) experiences on their various outings. I consider them

friends and we have shared supplies and such. Its a very relaxed,

easy setup and so very nice to have other families going through

similar emotional changes in this adoptive process. Jill and Victor

hit a snag at embassy on Wednesday and when they learned they passed

yesterday I felt their joy was mine as well.

Helen's living area is nice and the living room is open to the dining

room and fireplace. The kitchen is open to all guests. They will

cook for you, you can go to the market and cook for yourself, you can

go out and eat and have a sitter stay with your children, or you can

go out (often having a staff member with you) and bring the food back.

Helen will often eat with you.

The staff? Oh my goodness. I'm totally enthralled with Caanan who

has been so outstanding with communicating between my sons and I. But

everyone here is just . . . marvelous. The back courtyard is where

the clothesline is for washing and the detached kitchen sits to the

side. With the windows open you listen to soft conversations dotted

with frequent laughter. Helen has only been at this new location a

very short time and they are still making little tweaks here and there

(moving a picture, adjusting a light fixture) and they apologized to

us. Ha! It simply made me feel that much more like I'm home.

Everyone seems to keep so busy but they all seem to enjoy each other's

company as well. Everyone has been helpful in working with the boys

as well (especially as they have become more rambunctious).

Funny, our hotels in China were in these marvelous, elaborate

five-star retreats with these amazing amenities and I find myself so

much more relaxed, comfortable, and welcome right here. I'm not sure

what the combination of it is, but I'm so delighted that we are here.

What would we have missed had we not had this experience? Simply

put - family!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Last Night in Ethiopia

We are winding down. Tonight I had traditional Ethiopian food (actually we ALL did). The red lentil was a little spicy for me but I liked the other a lot. Today we went to the kitchen (separate building from the guest house) and took turns making injera! Jill's looked the best but just tore up and ended in a pile upon attempts to remove it. Marty's did good but then in the removal was just find in the transfer until the last 1/4-to-1/3. They placed it on the pile with the other but we had to leave (parent duty with Samuel needing a nap). Victor did his next and Jill reported that they later removed Marty's injera from the stack and placed it with hers. I didn't get a chance - so no embarrassment.

I love this place though. The staff is so wonderful and well-suited for helping with the children. Paul and Samuel know that we are going on the plane tomorrow. Hopefully, they will sleep through much of the LONG flight. We have our seats on the side (two) in consecutive rows so they can both have a window seat! I'm sure Paul will prefer sitting with his dad. Boy will Marty's arms be really built up in no time . . . they wrestle and Marty lifts both boys and spins and they swing readily. Samuel got a new outfit today (the one that he always wears - sweats with a hooded jacket that is best for this cool weather needed washing in a big, bad way) and Marty and Victor went out to purchase it. 18 months - and it is PERFECT!

Paul and I got some good Play-dough time in today. He was impressed with my giraffe and dog.

Here is Marty's account of one of his many outings with another adoptive father staying at the New Flower, Victor:

It started out as just a walk to find another outfit for Samuel but the stores close to where we are did not have what we wanted or was too expensive. So, we kept walking through the diesel fumes and goat herds. Three miles out we finally found a store and we found an outfit that was just right (after a little haggling). Then, we embarked on a mission for Victor who needed a bulb syringe to clear the nasal passages of his and Jill's gorgeous daughter, Sophie. We went to grocery stores, we went to pharmacies . . . most people looked at us as if they had no idea of we were asking for. One told us the method for clearing them (not to be read by the weak of stomach).

"Cradle your baby in the crook of your arms. Lean forward and cover her nose with your mouth. Inhale quickly through your mouth, turn your head, and spit" Seriously!! This was NOT acceptable to Victor (go figure).

As an aside, it was really fun watching him try to explain just what it was we were after. He would try to pantomime by holding his nose and sniffing and making sucking noises. I was trying hard not to laugh.

We must have gone into 20 supermarkets and pharmacies along the way.We also went into children's stores thinking they might have it. Somebody told us to go to a certain clinic and we asked other people where it was because we were told it was just around the corner but nobody seemed to know where it was. Finally on our way back we went to a beauty parlor, thinking they might have a little bottle that we may be able to devise to use for our purpose; they kicked us out -saying men were NOT allowed in the beauty parlor. We then ended up stopping at a doctor's office and were told that we would have to go to the Rwanda Embassy to pick up such an instrument. So, having found out what we had to know, Victor decided that Sophie could wait until they got home.

Carole back with Marty's input:
After the walk, the guys (Marty and Victor) were kind of tired (understandably so) and eventually went upstairs to nap. Samuel was already asleep so the opportunity could not be missed. I played more play dough with Paul downstairs and signified that Marty was sleeping and stopped him several times from ascending the stairs. Apparently I turned my back because I heard his distinctive footsteps on the spiral staircase with great determination and I realized I could not catch him. Paul's mission that time was to place a play dough spider on Marty's arm amid much laughter. He raced downstairs and pulled my hand "Mom, Mom" and I followed. I apologized to Marty over Paul's delighted squeals and we came back downstairs. Samuel was still OUT. Later on I realized Paul had once again disappeared and soon heard his and Marty's footsteps coming down. Marty explained that while he was sleeping Paul had come and dive bombed him in bed. Paul's eyes danced with delight. No rest for the weary.

I felt myself wearing out and went to lie down. About an hour later Samuel woke up. We all came downstairs to our Ethiopian dinner and then later the Ethiopian coffee ceremony. They roast the coffee beans inside first and bring the bowl over for you to smell the aroma wafting. The fire was roaring in the fireplace. Incense is also burned and then the coffee is made. The house was filled with smoke and a really nice aroma. We didn't have coffee but DID eat some popcorn provided. I'm going to miss them.

Oh! And our sons drink hot tea frequently with meals. I don't know why that surprises me but it does.

The boys are now ensconced in bed in their pajamas and sleeping. I guess its time to go ourselves because we have a LONG trip facing us tomorrow. We should be home at 3:45 on Saturday.
-- Carole

more on boys!!!!

Caanan is a VERY special man who is an employee of Helen's New Flower
Guest House but oh so much more.  He has been the liason between our
sons and ourselves. Each day I approach Caanan and tell him of things
I would like him to possibly explain to them and during the day he
will engage them in conversation. We've discussed the trip back, car
seats, Sarah and Andy, Grammie, etc. I also wanted to explain that
the girls' room is decorated with colors and decals and theirs was
not. We were waiting to see what color they may want and what
"theme". Caanan talks softly and Paul gives a sharp intake of breath
for a "yes" and says "no" or shakes his head for a negative response.
I hear Caanan beginning to name colors. No. No. No. Laughing. No.

Caanan finally turns to me and says he says he wants a WHITE room.
After ALL that worrying and beating myself up. He then said he may
want some type of vehicle for a "theme."

This morning I pulled up the site where I had ordered their decals
(jungle theme) and he was fascinated by the computer as well as when
the animals started pulling up.

"Monkey!" he exclaims. I'm trying to hide my surprise. Yes. And
then he softly begans exploring the designs. "Elephant. Two
elephants!" "Tiger" "Lion" Leopard stumped him. He knew "bird" but
TYPES of birds stumps him. There was one set of four birds and I
said "shall we count?" And he confidently says "one, two, three,

My oldest son has been holding out on me. I think he's been shy in
sharing his vocabulary. I LOVE his accent. Caanan says that his
ability to recognize the jungle animals is revealing that he has been
exposed to schooling.

Samuel has been getting naps. They seem to be keeping the outbursts .
. (well, I can't call them outbursts - they are crying jags - to a
degree we feel better able to cope with.

They boys continue to simply blossom. I wish I could tell you more
about Paul and Marty but I cry just thinking of how I could describe
them best. It is beyond beautiful. I'm crying now just thinking
about how to share with you.

I'll go now and try to post once or twice more today.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We Cleared the Embassy!!!

We did it! Our appointment was at 2 and we didn't get seen until 4 and the boys were WONDERFUL. They were quiet and then teased a bit and played with Marty and each other. No toys. I am amazed. One couple from the guest house did not pass and we're kinda of shocked . . . and they were before us (while we were there) so we were sweating bullets for a bit.

But we then took a taxi tour of the city, seeing where Marty was last year as well as many sights. It was wonderful. We DID make it to the weaver's market and I'm already regretting not getting more scarves - but I'm keeping true to my promise to Marty. I spent about $50 and we're stopping right there.

Can't wait to see you. We have one more full day. The boys are wonderful. MARVELOUS! They are BOYS and I'm laughing at both them and myself; I've got to get used to rough-housing. They are a delight. Helen told me that not only is Samuel calling me Mom but he is using an especially posessive term in Amharic that is similar to "my mommy" which she finds especially endearing. She approved of my purchases. We are celebrating tomorrow with authentic Ethiopian food right here at the Guest House (with her fries of course I'm sure).

Love to you all,


the girls

A short note. I have to brag on the girls. Mary has been sick and went to the Dr. and was given an Antibiotic and it tastes terrible. She has been brave. This morning, after much talk on independence, she dressed herself, got Julia's clothes, and took her med, without crying, and with an ice cream sandwich!! :) yeah Mary and Julia is easy!! :) proud Aunt MAry

They are boys!!!!!

Today is our embassy appointment. It is at 2. We woke to an accident in Samuel's bed but had a good night. I still find myself waking early and lying in bed for far too long. I got up and showered and headed downstairs and realized it was 6 - and realized it was much improved.
Last night we saw the first roughhousing of the guys. There was laughter and I was torn between allowing Paul to be the child that I'm not sure he has been allowed to be in his young life or quashing it. When it involved Helen's pillows I had to intervene. But they are boys! There was lots of laughter and playing "lion" and physical activity.
I'll keep this short. We are good though and are going to try to visit the weaver's market after the embassy today as they are close and we've been told it will be okay to have the boys out with us with it so close.
We love you! We are approaching the final steps of our journey!


Tuesday, August 26, 2008


The boys

First there is Abel. He was actually standing in the front room of the orphanage when we first arrived. We both said “hi” and he didn’t really look at us but didn’t shy away either. He seemed to know that we were there for him and hung around. I pulled out his camera and he immediately took interest. Here’s what I can tell you about him since spending the first 24 hours with him.

He is quiet. He is artistic. He loves to draw and color and will stay in the lines and takes great pride in his work. He makes hats, boats, and airplanes out of paper as well as a “camera” that uses two separate pieces interlaced so that the lens appears to open and close with a snap. He doesn’t seem particularly interested in food. He’s low key. He’s SMART. Electronics or any gadgetry seems to intrigue him and he’s not destructive with even my camera. His smile stands out so brightly against his dark complexion and can light a room. I’m amazed at his grace. I knew he could do the handstand and backbend but his cartwheels seem effortless. The role of big brother is filled well. He nutures Tekleab yet can tease at times, but will give in once the tears or whines increase in severity. There are basic words he knows and I believe his understanding is just around the bend. He recognizes some words (fish, dog) and recognizes the numbers 1, 2 and 3. He loves his Dad. They have played soccer, nerf darts, and paper airplanes . I wish I had a photo of them on the loveseat this morning. Marty had his arm draped over Abel and Abel was stroking Marty. The contrast in their complexions was so striking and they were both at such peace I wanted to cry. His voice is soft and his laugh is so natural and unforced. He calls me “Mom” with ease. Sleep is marked with snoring. He wakes like his dad . . . quiet and without fanfare. He doesn’t communicate much in the mornings, no fuss, no food. He stumbled into the bathroom after taking care of business and emerged with his face washed and fresh. This child is so NEAT and easy to be around. He’ll be ready for kindergarten soon and I can see him embracing the experience.

Tekleab is his own person. He’s loving and more outgoing (which is the exact opposite of what we were told). He’s naughty and responds to correction with a deliberate repeat of the offending action and a laugh while scampering away. He is a flirt and a tease. He loves his brother and plays off of him to get what he wants. He will grab whatever catches his eye and will wrestle anyone to secure it. If he is unable to attain it the whining starts, soft and high-pitched. Its not exactly a keening noise but close. If that fails, then the full cry begins and it will elict a nose run. I was overwhelmed at first and then when ignored, Abel gives in to him. It is a process that works! Later today I imitated him (it was almost nap time) and Abel laughed easily at my antics. Tekleab was asleep within two or three minutes. I think with time, structure, and firmness we will be just fine. I’m having to remember that all of this change isn’t easy. Its funny though, he’ll call “mommy” and take my hand and point at the object that is wanted and I’m supposed to get it.

Both boys have no problem being naked in front of us. They arrived without underwear and Tekleab’s clothes especially were HUGE on him. It is really kind of cool here and they are currently decked out in Old Navy sweats that fit perfectly. Tekleab slept in his windbreaker last night. Hold on to your hats, Wisconsin winter is coming. They have showered and seem to LOVE their new shoes and spiderman
socks. Tekleab especially loved to smell his pajamas. I put some Dowy wrinkle release on them and that just added to his delight. He will ask frequently for water.

At dinner last night Tekleab literally fell asleep at the table before supper was ready. I cradled him and then tried to wake him gently but he was out. He slept on the love seat while we ate and then Marty carried him to bed. It was 6:30. I felt awful because he didn’t have a nap that day but we were so busy into the “getting to know you” gig. Abel at his egg sandwhich and I had marvelous pasta that reminded me of the killer noodles we had our last night in Taiyuan on our trip to get Julia. Marty ordered Helen’s famous french fries and they were as delicious as they were built up to be. The brought THREE bowls of them and soon Abel was staring with those huge dark eyes and we recognized that he was tired too and headed upstairs, not before taking a bowl of fries up for later in case Tekleab woke up famished.

Well I woke sometime before 3 and could NOT get back to sleep. Finally at 4 I took my shower because two showers in a row takes the hot water and I didn’t want to leave Marty in that situation again. I had noticed around 2:30 that Tekleab sat up then creeped over to join Abel in his bed. Marty and I chuckled. Well one I stepped out of the shower Abel sat up again and held up his arms. I cradled him and he just melded to my body and with a sigh his head dropped to my neck. We were content. I walked over to Marty and we then scooted to place him with us and snuggle. He’s pretty good at that. Then he’d pop up, ask for water (sounds like Aqua) and then padded up to the fireplace mantle where the cold fries were and brought the bowl back to bed. So we sat in bed munching cold fries in the dark and drinking water. He’d lay down between us and I’d hear his breathing relax and deepen over Abel’s snores.

Then WHAM! A leg would flop or I’d suddenly have fingers in my ears or toes up my nose (literally). He flip-flops in bed even more than his sisters. A couple of times he’d wake with a scream and crying out. One time Mama was the first word. His heart was pounding against his chest and he soothed down. We spent hours trying to rest fitfully, bonding, and eating.

Once Abel awoke we began our day of bonding at Helen’s New Flower.

newest email from Carole in Ethiopia!

This is from Carole:
What can I say? We have sons!

Abel is quiet and conscientious. He is an engineer in training as he loves gadgetry and is very curious and careful around things. He is quick to learn and fascinated. He wakes like his dad (no talk, no food) and went to the bathroom and washed his face. He is very nuturing toward Tekleab while still being a brother at times.

Tekleab. Remember that grin with mischief? That is HIM! He is lively to the point of being hyper. He can be naughty and will look at you and laugh while scampering away. He calls me Mommy. He is sweet and flip-flops in the bed like his sisters. He is into EVERYTHING.

We are staying holed up in the guest house and trying to simply bond without getting too, too bored. Embassy is tomorrow. Our cell phone can receive calls but we are having trouble placing them. We did use the land line finally yesterday.

We miss you all. I see things in the boys that remind me of the girls and that is so poignant!



Monday, August 25, 2008

A Note From Carole!

Hi, I feel that I should apologize . . . Mama asked me to keep everyone updated, but I have had some trouble posting. I have good news though. She sent some of us an e-mail and here I a am to pass it along to all of you . . . .

Hey guys,
We are having a little internet problem so I'm writing another another guest's hotmail account. It is Monday afternoon - GORGEOUS day. I don't have everyone's address memorized so please inform who you can think of that we are good.
The boys? WE HAVE THEM! They are quiet at first - Paul was in the front room and we greeted him as we entered. Tekleab is a pistol - a very active 3-year-old. They are brothers . . . fussing over the one Fisher Price camera and Tekleab keeps trying to take ours. He's into everything. Abel is very concentrated and artistic. He loves coloring (stays in the lines) and Playdough and tossing the nerf with Marty. They are upstairs horsing around. Both have called me Mom or Mama. I love it. Their voices are sweet.
We have our embassy appointment sometime on Wednesday. We delivered the supplies already. Our windows are open. Its funny, after China Ethiopia wasn't such a culture shock. I wish we could SEE more but we can't go out with the boys and I'd rather stay here with them. The other guests are really nice and we are bonding. One got her 1-year-old daughter with us and the other couple get a baby girl tomorrow.
The orphanage? Lovely. Lively. Clean. LOVING. Caring. I was so very impressed.
I wish I could get into their minds already. Paul is so solemn at times, especially in the taxi on the way home. He is a cheek kisser like his dad. They are gorgeous, handsome boys with dark eyes and curly lashes.
Much love to you.
Carole Lamar - mother of 5!

So, there it is!! I am officially a big sister to brothers. At least it feels more official knowing that they have them. I hope everyone is doing well!
God Bless, Sarah

They have arrived! Paul and Samuel with them!

MAry and Julia are napping. I called the cell phone in Ethiopia and talked with Marty. They arrived safely and have the boys! They fell asleep at the table, but were good. I let Mary and Julia talk with their Dad and didn't talk long. It seems the computer there is unable to blog so we might have to wait until their return. :( Blessings on a safe journey and having their boys! The girls are great, Mary's fever seems to have broken. I'll post if I hear again! continue prayers! much love, mary

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mary and Julia to Huntsville AL

A short post, I am new to this :). Mary and Julia traveled with Craig and I and they are really great travelers! We visited Grand Tine and Grand Lamar for an hour before bath and bed and they are still asleep! A fun time is waiting for all of us!! Prayers for safe travel to Carole and Marty! love craig and mary


It is now 1:00 a.m. on the morning of 08/23/08. We are packing and planning and taking out trash. I just realized I did have any deodorant or bras packed and had to make another dash to the luggage! Ahhh - wouldn't life be dull without those "ah-ha" moments?

The house - not like I would want it, but I'm staying focused on the boys.

Our friends Mike and Diane (leaving NEXT week for their daughter) brought over six totes to be delivered to AHOPE. Actually we are simply escorting the totes to the airport in Addis Ababa and will have a representative of that very special HIV+ orphanage meet us at the airport and transfer the totes. Also, another dear friend Sharon is meeting us at the airport to see that we get the totes checked, weighed, paid for and if the plane cannot accommodate all that we have, she'll take them back with her to be shipped with another adoptive family. What a network of adoptive families there is - it is amazing!

I'm on adrenaline actually I believe. I'm tired and fighting a cold but at this point don't care. Its amazing to be packing BOYS underwear (I have been told that guys don't wear panties) and such. We have not been able to reach Ethiopian Airlines to confirm our flight and just hope it'll be okay. I emailed and didn't get a response.

The girls are safely in Huntsville, AL and I have not spoken with them today. They were occupied or sleeping when we'd call and I didn't want to make a big deal out of the inability to see them. I did hear squeals of delight from both my mom (Grand Tine) and Mary when they arrived.

Sooo, I guess we're about off. If we've forgotten something I guess we'll either do without it or adjust. We're kinda giddy at this point.

I love this man I'm married to - couldn't imagine this adventure of life without him.

Goodnight everyone and sweet dreams. We'll be well on our way to attaining ours in a matter of hours.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Tires and more tires

We purchased four new tires for "Stan the Van" as my minivan is affectionately known as on 6/30/08, right before I took my last trip down to Huntsville, AL with the girls. Of course the roads were pretty rough considering all the potholes and construction but I was noticing some "shimmy" at certain speed ranges. I overlooked it.

Well, a few weeks ago I finally called our mechanic. I told him I knew it couldn't be tires as we had just replaced all four of them and he said to take the van back and double-check the balance before bringing Stan in.

So I did. And lo' and behold I had a defective tire. They said I was about to throw tread. I had it replaced.

And I noticed it drove better . . . but still a little vibration.

Earlier this week I returned and explained that I just felt there was problem. I didn't see a bump/bulge but at times it almost felt like I was hydroplaning. I'm about to have four children in the van with me and I need it to be safe.

And . . . presto! Another bad tire. They said the steel belt must have frayed or something because the tire LOOKED good, but could not be balanced.

I still had to pay 11.88 for disposal and such which I didn't agree with. But . . . oh well.

Guess what I felt as I drove HOME from the tire place? Yep, you got it! Not bad but there. I'm calling Marty as I am on my way home . . . wanting HIM to "fix it" somehow. I'm frustrated and between the stressors of leaving/preparation and just wanting it to be right I'm showing the strain.

So, I return Thursday and Marty is with me. As we approach a technician questions me . . .
"Light blue Honda minivan?? NO!!!" I don't know whether to laugh or cry. It IS ridiculous. I'm now hesitant to drive it though and afraid of a blowout with my children in the car.

They inspect the tires as we browse. We return.

And there is a difference of opinion as to whether I should have ever been charged for tread wear since the purchase was so recent but we are at a 75% failure rate. We are getting all new tires. Different brand. Higher mileage.

We waited a while but the girls were swimming at the hotel with Aunt Mary and Uncle Craig.

One less thing hopefully to deal with.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Our friend Nancy sent us this scripture - what a comfort during this frenzy! Thank you for reminding us.

Exodus 23:20

Behold I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.

Amen and amen.

Ramblings from a sleep-deprived mother

It is now 1:23 a.m. and I'm up. I can't sleep. I'm nervous and excited and overwhelmed with . . . details. What items have I not bought/packed? What details have I overlooked? Why didn't I put my feet to the fire sooner to have everything done/organized/cleaned?

Mary began with a stuffy nose yesterday that turned to a cough and fever. Mary never runs fever - I can count the number of times on one hand. My sister and brother-in-law will be here from Alabama today to begin the transfer process of the girls and have a short visit. True, he's a doctor and she's a nurse but I'd rather be the caregiver if she doesn't snap right out of it.

Julia who is usually restless at night (she'll scream in her sleep regularly) is actually calm for the moment. The windows are up again and I'm listening to the night sounds and comforted.

I'm concerned for our sons. First and foremost I feel that they are in a wonderful orphanage. I think it can get hectic at times but I feel they are safe and fed/clothed/housed with love and care. They have been there since the beginning of the year and I have watched as especially Abel has gone from the "deer in the headlights" look about him to curious for electronics (always seems intrigued with the adoptive parents' camera, usually on the couch with them or standing beside the chair). He's crept from almost always being in the shadows of group pictures and usually not looking at the camera to first cautious glances, the first hint of a smile playing on that handsome, solemn face, to our first grin, and recently to him beaming first with a toddler girl being picked up by her Dad and just this week with him on a couch with two apparently good buddies. I realize that he especially has been transformed by this refuge and he has found "home" for over half of this year at what we simply refer to as an orphanage. He has forged friendships/brotherhood bonds.

I guess I'm feeling nostalgic because I reflect back on how I felt when I moved from Memphis, TN to Wisconsin. I didn't notice the Midwestern accent (unless they spoke more like they did in the movie Fargo) but the people here sure did notice mine! Some were nice and said how much they enjoyed the way I talked. Some ridiculed. Some just commented that I was not FROM here (some still do). I moved here to marry and Marty was so excited to point out my new surroundings. We explored his old stomping grounds, schools, houses where he had lived and each place was surrounded by stories and I could envision what life was like for him growing up. It was so welcoming and yet at the same time I felt unbalanced because I couldn't share with him on the same level. My roots were far away and I couldn't reciprocate. I LOVE being here and all the changes and looked forward to embracing it but . . . wished I could share all my haunts and weave my history into his life as well.

After a few weeks I realized something else. I had quit looking at people's faces in public. I guess I had been scanning crowds unconsciously looking for a familiar face and was daunted at times by the realization that I wasn't about to run into a childhood chum or former schoolmate, coworker, neighbor, or former church member. I was an outsider and although this new life was thrilling and warm and exciting I also felt a little disjointed. And I was 42!

So, I'm thinking I guess more especially of Abel with his being older and I envision him more the caretaker of his little brother. And although I feel he will have a good live/home/surroundings etc. as a Phillipson I wonder how overwhelmed he's going to feel. I'm not talking simply about a change of accents and feeling like he can't share his life history with me, but a WHOLE DIFFERENT society. A different language. A whole new cuisine (if you can call my ability to prepare food that). He's going to be uprooted from his friends. In the orphanage where he has been living with his friends and sharing sleeping quarters (and maybe even bed itself) for 24/7 for the last half year a friend becomes family pretty fast. Shoot, I think of my sister-in-law that I MET for the first time when she began dating Marty's brother last year around Halloween and how she became my sister/friend so quickly (way before the marriage). We didn't live together. We didn't spend hours and hours together cavorting and such - imagine that . . . she prefered Mike to me! But how we bonded!

I simply ask for prayers for our newest family members. I pray that I can be sensitive to how traumatic this change may be in our sons' lives. Change is hard.

I don't want to get caught up in the idea that since we are providing home/family/love/materialism unfamiliar to these guys that it is instantly good and a natural order of process to be embraced without looking back. I want to be a nurturing mother that allows them to grieve and its difficult to know how to best soothe them or anticipate what is best when you don't know them - their personalities - their idiosyncracies - where their buttons are or as Dr. Phil would say . . . what their currency is.

Maybe it didn't help that yesterday as we were preparing for the trip we watched our first meeting with Julia still on the movie camera. 09/03/07!! Wow. She was so upset.

And I look at her now and laugh. She views the video and chatters away and I think she may recognize herself, but maybe not. And this child could not be any more MINE. We were giggling with a friend last night over a temper outburst from Julia. Marty was teasing that she got that sense of flair from me and we both agreed that this very strong-willed girl is very much like me. Marty and Mary are more similar in traits.

And I'm amazed and humbled at how this happens and wonder how you can't just see God's hands fashioning this. And I know that no matter what bumps and such that my sons and I will find our footing and begin to build our relationship much in the same way as we did with Julia. I have faith we will learn but just want to stay focused on looking to God to guide us and not beating myself up or becoming too overwhelmed when it seems that it may be taking a loooong time to find our way to family.

All change, even GOOD changes are a struggle.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Tomorrow my sister Mary Romer arrives with her husband Craig. They will ultimately take the girls home with them. Oh my goodness! This IS happening.

I have two packed Rubbermaid totes on my front porch as well as a box I'm sending out to a fellow Hopester (our affectionate terms for other adoptive parents at our Hope Adoption Agency) who has more room for donations. Also, I am returning my latest Amazon purchase - defective!

The girls and I have have tattooed arms this morning. Mary has two cats and a "meow" and Julia has more diplomatically a dog, a cat, and an "Arf".

I need to get cleaning the house - speech therapy arrives in two hours. If I can get the living room cleaned I think I'll do better.

Then back to WalMart for a THIRD time to see if I can get my new tires to function. We've had one defective one replaced already but Stan the Van is just skating all over the road lately and has the shimmies. I think EVERYONE around here is on edge!

Monday, August 18, 2008


I am in the midst of also trying to ensure that we have all our paperwork in order - some extra forms we take to fill out for our embassy appointment, notarized home study, dossier copy (every required paper for the adoption), passports, etc. to pack in our handy-dandy backpack. They had been in the study on a shelf right above this very computer desk. A few days ago I went to register our trip with the US government and when I didn't immediately find my passport by reaching up, let the session time out for "another day/another time."

Well, yesterday I started trying to get this going in earnest. Mary and Marty's passports were right there. Mine and Julia's were not. I pulled out the desk and found a multitude of dust bunnies but nada on the passport front. Marty joined in. We sifted and sorted. He went to the basement to check my former workspace down there and I moved from cubbyhole to cubbyhole.

We were both tired and frustrated and trying to not lose perspective. Nada.

Marty kept telling me that he felt we had moved the two missing passports "just in case" we needed them for Julia's surgery or maybe when I applied for her social security or . . . something. I haven't needed them and I thought he was crossing over that edge of reasoning.

I finally had to give up and retreated to the bedroom. I'd been up at 4 and my eyes were dry and scratchy. I had researched how to obtain an emergency replacement and while it was EXPENSIVE I knew that this situation was not going to keep me from traveling to meet my sons for the first time and experience the country of their birth.

I prayed for clarity.

And without fanfare (I feel cheated) Marty walks in with the see-through Velcro folder he felt the missing documents were in and voila!

Where were the passports? Interestingly, they were in the middle of the floor of the boys' room. The room we have painstakingly cleared drawers for and folded clothes and culled all sorts of things to convert it from the "catch-all" status to their domain. No clutter anymore except for some pictures I need to move downstairs and a heavy clock that needs a good oiling of the mechanisms before being rehung. It wasn't "hiding" anywhere . . .

I don't need any more "excitement" around here!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Controlled chaos and differing agendas

It seems that this is REALLY happening. I found a pretty neat-looking backpack on sale (half-off) yesterday at Kohl's and since mine broke in China last year, I now have a new carry-on. We are strictly limited I'm told to the 15# though. I plan to take the laptop and CD player and simply activities for the boys on the trip back because I'm not sure how much shopping there is to do in Addis Ababa for play dough, coloring books, stickers, etc.

It seems that wherever I start to concentrate it isn't the activity that Marty had in mind to accomplish and vice versa. Its really quite funny. We had some time this morning where the girls joined us in bed (or should I say the girls and I climbed in with Marty once we realized he was awake). The windows were up as they have been just about all week and it was nice to giggle and simply enjoy.

I tend to swing between resignation as to my limitations and frustration that I'm not further along in preparation for the trip as well as cleaning.

Then I look at my girls. Julia put this crazy wig on that she found downstairs. Precious, huh? I need to face it that at this point in my life I'm never going to be accused of being a Stepford wife.

BUT, we have fun. We applied tattoos today (three to each arm). We bought a single piece of cake and split it four ways. Why? One woman at WalMart is hearing impaired and saw Julia sign and was so enthralled with her. Cookie and cake are similar if not exactly the same and while Julia was thrilled with her cookie, she was asking for a CAKE. I guess I'm thinking . . . hehe - I'm buttering them up so that they won't forget I can be the fun/indulgent Mama too. Heck, I've got Mary Romer and Uncle Craig to compete with - I have to stack the deck somehow!

Oh well. I need to accept that I won't get it all done. I probably never will. We'll do what we can and make sure to take the time to make memories. I know that although they are looking forward to finally having the boys home it's going to be difficult to share the attention/spotlight.

And one more story! We frequent WalMart as it is the closest, most convenient shop-all store here. Currently they have these banner/pictures that hang from the ceiling advertising the back to school supplies and such. One such is a very stunning young man standing by a locker who is as Mary would say "brown". I was engrossed in looking at travel supplies and mentally going over my list and Julia begins excitedly . . . "Mama! Mama!" I survey quickly to check Mary's location (usually the source of Julia's excitement) and she is right nearby and not distracted by any item that Julia may be jealous of her access to. I then look at Julia in the basket to see what has her so worked up. "Mama, PAUL!" as she points with pure delight at the hanging banner.

So Mary thinks that any dark-skinned person is Ethiopian and Julia is now seeing her big brother in advertisements. Just goes to show you how terribly handsome he is that he is confused with a model in his youngest sister's eyes, doesn't it?

Recycle Jesus

Mary was in VBS at church this week. She was sooooo very excited . . . maybe too much so. Sunday evening Marty and I took her along with Julia so that Julia could say her goodbyes and not fret when she couldn't find Mary. At pick-up Mary was wound so tight . . . more enthralled that they had cupcakes with sprinkles that you could apply yourself with a spoon. Of course once we get home it is about 9:15 and her bedtime is between 8-8:30, so she's pushing past p-max (maximum pressure).

Monday I returned a mite early and saw the children assembled and learning a song "Babel Rabble" and the motions that go with it. Mary was out of control, taking another girl's hands and they were in a dizzy game of spinning and such. We had a talk about what Vacation Bible School was for . . . while play was fun and you can have a great experience while learning, it was learning that should be key. And I know she cannot read the words on the overhead to the song and it was a mite advanced, but she needed to back it down and not disturb the other children that were wanting to learn the words and motion. Now granted, the number of children participating was pushing 100.
Tuesday I heard more about VBS. Kids are something else in their descriptions. She had her craft projects and such. To backtrack, the theme of VBS was "The Amazon Adventure." So, we had "trees" hanging in the hallway and the safari hats and such. It looked like fun. So Mary tells me that they went outside and played a new name that she really liked . . . called "Recycle Jesus." Whaaaat? I'm all for being green and wanting to save the planet, but ?????
"Please tell me more."
"Well" . . . she continues without seeming to take a breath (we're in the parking lot still of the church while others are headed to their cars and such). "Its a lot like 'duck, duck, goose' but instead you say 'recycle, recycle Jesus' and you run really fast if you are chosen as Jesus."
Hmm, my mind is spinning.
Then the light bulb comes on . . .
"Disciple, disciple Jesus???"
"Exactly Mom! Recycle, recycle Jesus!" I have to laugh. I have to call Sarah immediately from the cell phone to share this Mary moment and email some close friends/family members before the next day is done.
And the blessings flow. We had to skip the last night though - the sleep deprivation finally took its toll as Julia refused to sleep without her sister present and then of course Mary was sooooo wound up upon her return we were well past 10 at night. I'm still not convinced that Mary had self-control or listening skills honed. If she didn't I need to apologize to my White Stone community.
I must say she gets it from her Daddy's side of the family!!! :o)

Blessings -


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Adoption etiquette - Three questions NOT to ask in public with my children listening

There are so many various views of adoption - even in the cyberspace adoption world, especially with us adopting children who are racially different from us. Some passionately believe we can only live in a racially diverse environment and others feel that love will prevail as long as we give the children examples to look toward/model themselves that have similar physical characteristics.

I have been surprised at how many personal questions pop up by complete strangers. Once people realize that I am Julia's mom then they will look at Mary and ask . ..

1. "Is she yours?" Of course I realize they are asking if Mary is my biological child but they have put me in the situation of marking Mary as MORE my child than my other children (well, except Sarah but since she has never lived here with us I tend to think of her as grown and out there in the big world as an adult already). I usually rephrase my response to either say . . . "you mean biological?" or answer with "Mary is our biological daughter and we went all the way to China to adopt Julia." I slightly stress "all the way" because I want to ensure Julia that she is no less precious to us because she isn't biological. Mary took that special trip to China as well and stressing "all the way" conjures up the excitement and experience we had on the adventure. In all actuality there was more planning, preparation, frustration, expense, hoop-jumping, etc. in making Julia ours. Although our sons' adoption hasn't been as drawn out and filled with policy changes - it has still been tedious at times . . . although our support group online from the agency has made the journey . . . pleasant! Wow, I do feel that.

We will also get more personal questions . . .

2. "You can't HAVE children?" Hehe. Yes, we can. We do! Between us we have five glorious kids. Now why complete strangers (often times store clerks) think that I need to discuss the potential for my ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy vs. simply choosing to adopt/encompass/meld children into my family/home that are in need of a family is astounding. I know that most times the remarks are innocent and I do not take offense - but REALLY!!! I honestly don't know if we can have more children or not. We have had one significant miscarriage after Mary and with our advancing age it is likely that we may not be fertile anymore. I don't know - what is more I don't care. Adoption is a choice that we made. I'm open to discussing all the factors we considered, etc but not in the check-out line at WalMart . . . usually with the girls focused on our next task, nap, activity, meal, etc. I'm actually excited to facilitate an open discussion with anyone who is considering adopting and will also share my fellow adoptive moms email addresses/contact information so they can give a more well-rounded experience.

When asked in front of my children though often the question is presented that adoption must be the second choice/backup plan for us and that naturally we would have been reproducing kiddos if it were possible. This isn't true.

Now for the kicker . . .

3. "How much did he/she cost?" Oh my, don't get me started. These are my CHILDREN, not a puppy or commodity. Yes, adoption is expensive. Yes, you have to be prepared. But do you ask someone who has had an operation how much out of pocket they paid? How about their home costs? Their car? Their engagement ring? It is offensive, especially when spoken in front of my children. I did not BUY my children. Instead, I took the step of faith that whatever materialism I may have to forgo it is so very much less than the expense of when God adopted me to be His daughter. He paid with his Son.

Did you ever think that Jesus was adopted as well? Joseph wasn't his biological Dad.

What is "necessary" monetarily to be in place to parent children? Their own room? A prepaid college fund? Promise of their own vehicle at 16 or a private education? Does living what I believe "take away" from our children already home if it means they may not have designer clothing (which I wouldn't be buying anyway)? I'd rather parent by (hopefully) showing our children love, support, stability, acceptance, and a life centered around God. I do not want them to feel "beholding" to me for loving them. For me, it is as natural as breathing.

If you'd like to discuss how WE were able to adopt, I'm happy to. I can provide links to resources or point you to my adoptive guru friends who can give you the hook-up to assistance. There are grants and special adoption groups that have anonymous donors to assist with fees, loans, etc. While the fit of adoption is perfect for us it is not for everyone and I'm not out campaigning that my way of creating family is supposed to be your way. It takes sacrifice and commitment and determination. It requires forethought and love. It is . . . parenthood.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Passing time - bedrooms

We're in major turmoil currently in our house physically. The girls room has been "dressed up" by Mary's recent birthday as our present to her was curtains/bedding and a flashier paint job on the wall. Well . . . sorta. We kept two walls the same color but with the T-shaped bunk bed configuration you can't shift that monster around with any ease and I HATE painting.

So, we picked some colors she liked (purple, pink, light blue) to add to the soft green and then with the aid of good ol' painters tape came up with a workable pattern. I had sent wall art to Ethiopia earlier (Dollar Tree) and I figured . . . hey, I can't mess THAT up! The results tickled Mary pink. We're currently needing to reinstall the curtains as I have since added room-darkening roman shades (due to my girls delighting in waking anywhere from 4:30-6 a.m.) and haven't gotten around to installing them again (everything shifted). I still plan to add a "canopy" around the perimeter of Mary's upper bunk with sheers - once again time is a factor.

The boys actually got their bunk bed first. We found both sets on Craig's list. They have a double bed on the bottom and twin on top so that if they choose to sleep together - there is room. Mary was immediately intrigued by the bed and would at first climb in the top bunk to escape her sister (and taunt her) but Julia learned to climb easily. We DID have to remove the lovely ceiling fans we had so painstakingly installed before though as the bedrooms are rather small and there was the potential for a head injury by leaning out of the top bunk. We'd found the girls happily placing Littlest Pet Shop animals on the blades (the fan was off) and then giving them a spin to send them flying around in circles. Julia climbs in the top bunk but cannot get herself down yet . . . THAT is how I was able to paint their room. I had forgotten that . . . she could watch me contentedly and I could paint without interference.

Although the girls have the bunk beds they choose to sleep together probably 50% of the time. This provides mixed results as you hear them snickering and animated conversations much later than we'd like at times. If we don't have a pressing engagement the next morning I usually let them cavort. Its interesting though in that they both refuse to use covers and flip-flop on the bed constantly. Sleeping with either child is a potential painful experience as you never know when a flailing limb may catch you off guard. Their beds are both twin-sized so them sleeping together can get . . . inventive as shown above.

Right now we are thinking the boys' room will simply be a work in progress. I was wanting to paint it if I had known their preference (I was thinking a very light olive/green or gray/blue). I have more extensive wall mural appliques in a jungle mural theme that would look like you're under the canopy . . . but I remembered Mary's delight in having an active participatory role in her room. Choosing made it HERS (and of course Julia's but then Julia just likes being with Mary). Its looking like we won't be painting unless time suddenly appears and I'll try to let the boys know that we will be helping them to create them a space to reflect their personalities. Shoot, because I'd like sleeping with glow-in-the dark stars on the ceiling with leopards and toucans and such on the walls doesn't mean my sons will! They may want . . . sports figures or spiderman or cars.

Please though . . . no Hello Kitty!!

Furry friends and surroundings

The boys are coming home to pets. We had heard that hyenas could be a very real threat in Ethiopia and since our dogs are large (70# and up) we wanted to get them used to the idea of having companions. Our second album we sent to them from us contained multiple photos of the dogs and cat along with the girls playing beside them, laying on them, blowing bubbles at them (to have them pop). Hehe - once we thought the side of Marty's truck was dented because Cooper raced with such gusto after an errant bubble lifted on a breeze and he crashed full-force into the truck trying to keep it from lifting out of range. Chester and Cooper are goldendoodle brothers whose dad is a Standard Poodle and mom is a golden retriever. Louie is a huge golden retriever (not the tallest but the heaviest/sturdiest I've encountered) that was Marty's dog before we married. I brought a little black cat from Memphis when I moved here named Gilda. She thinks she is a canine and will "hold her own" with her brothers - except when Chester gives her a goose when he's feeling frisky and then its worth a race around the house or yard.

Julia had watched dogs from her foster home we had been told but apparently didn't have much contact before meeting our guys. She was cautious but curious and we kept the child gate up so she could view them and get used to their habits once we arrived home. We found her "chatting" with them through that child gate within hours. The gate went down the next day and it was a smooth transition. Before her cleft was repaired and while she was still gorging her food she would get frequent "assistance" from Louie in cleaning her face. I was amazed watching this less than 20 pound child leaning into him to offer herself to his massive tongue (he's over 120#). He has always been gentle. The only bumps and pushes come from when the guys think Marty is about to go outside (potential walk) or throw the kong or such. They will scramble and then . . . look out!

The cat? Goodness. The first day upon our return Gilda walked to the door to be let out (she had been contained indoors while we were in China). I drew Julia's attention to her and said . . . "see the cat?" in a soft voice. The cat didn't approach or look at us - she was wanting the door opened. Julia screeched and began shaking in a movement similar to a seizure her horror was so very profound. I felt terrible and immediate picked Julia up and opened the door. Julia's terror was palpable. Egads - I considered the dogs as potentially traumatic but this little front-declawed feline? Now this cat Mary considers her personal domain and once Julia realized Mary's relationship (and that her interest in Gilda would drive Mary NUTS) then the problem resolved quickly.

Our front yard provides all sorts of places to explore and run and such. There is a creek mainly in the spring that crosses the property complete with a wooden bridge necessary to get to the very front of the yard. Since we are in Wisconsin we have snow in the winter and I believe a good balance of seasons. I sent lots of photos of snow so that the boys will have an idea of what is around the bend (we got over 100 inches last year). Being a transplanted Southern gal, I still think snow is absolutely exciting and find myself continuing to be fascinated by snow plows (until 2002 I had only seen them on the national news).

Yet I digress (I know you are shocked). Life around here is basically pretty simple. I recently became a stay-at-home mom and wonder how I managed when I was still working from home full-time. I guess you simply do what you need to and don't analyze. With the boys coming home I am not anticipating returning anytime soon - we'll get adjusted first and probably get the kids all settled in school. Did I say settled? Thinking positive. With adoption you are told to expect the worst and then delight in the results. I do believe that you have to consider all scenarios and have your eyes open but I absolutely do not believe that you should limit your families potential with negative thinking either. It can be a delicate balance.

Our house is a 70s ranch. Its not "fancy" by materialistic standards but we find it charming, safe, and filled with joy. I make no excuses. It is often cluttered and disorganized (I'm constantly working on that) but in my heart it is a castle. The children will not have their own individual rooms. I was raised sharing a room with my sisters until junior high and although it could get frustrating at times to share (we switched partners regularly) we also learned about compromise and . . . goodness all the secrets shared and frustrations that surfaced that goes along with not being compartmentalized in your own private domain. I'm not sure that if given the opportunity that I would have the children in individual rooms . . . I'd rather have more common living areas/play space. Did I mention a dishwasher? Ha!!

So, here's to life on Phillipson Pharms . . . Phillipson phields? :o) We feel we have our own little piece of paradise here.