Archives for May 2009

All packed up and ready to go

Four travelers. Four big bags to check. Three small bags to carry on. Not bad.
Next stop: Seoul, South Korea.

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Adoption: our little girls, part 3

(Part 2)

Although we were sad that the adoption of the baby in the US hadn’t worked out for us, it helped tremendously to know that we were headed to Ethiopia soon to get our daughter. In February when I got on that plane with my second daughter as my traveling companion, I was jubilant. Yet I was also concerned. Our little girl, now 20 months, looked sober in so many of her pictures. I feared she would be an unhappy child.

For the first three days in Ethiopia, she looked at her big sister and me sternly. Cooperated, allowed me to hold her, but looked ever-so-serious. Finally on the third day she smiled. Laughed for the first time. Cuddled in. Fussed when I walked away. It was as if she suddenly decided that we were okay people and she would be all right.

Some toddlers take a year or more to settle in, but once she made up her mind about us, she never looked back. She was (and still is) a delightful, easy little girl in every way. Eleven months after she came home, in January of 2005, we started talking about adopting that little sister we’d had in our minds all along. We decided that when the money came, we’d know it was time to begin.  Within a couple weeks the money came. Within days we were neck-deep in adoption paperwork again. We got the referral in March of a beautiful 3 month old baby girl who turned out to be born in the same area of Ethiopia as our first daughter.

In June 2005, I was on a plane to Ethiopia again, this time with my oldest son and my 3 year old daughter, whom I couldn’t bear to leave home. Our new little girl was 6 months old by then, and living at the same orphanage where our first daughter had lived for almost a year. The nuns at the orphanage were jubilant to see their little Tsion (Zion) again. She was 3.  Traveling with a toddler to adopt an infant was a big job, but with the help of my teenage son it was doable.

There was much rejoicing when we arrived home with our two little girls. John and I now had 8 kids (4 girls, 4 boys). We wondered if this would be it for our family– it seemed like a good number and a good place to stop. But we’d been wrong a few times before. So when people asked us if we were done now, we just smiled and said, “Who knows? We’ll see what God says….”

Related posts
Adoption: The first time
Adoption: Our second son
Our little girls, part one
Our little girls, part two
Adoption: How we afforded it

Four days

We leave for Korea on Tuesday. That means I have exactly four days to pull everything together.
Major tasks:

–Packing, obviously. I have a large heap of stuff in the corner of my bedroom that I think would be easier to transport if I managed to get it into suitcases. Preferably zipped. Big job there. Especially because large portions of what I need to bring isn’t even on the pile yet because it still needs to be laundered. Yikes.

–Filling the freezer with easy food for the family staying home. At least 4 of the home-people can cook, so it probably isn’t truly necessary, but it does assuage my ‘mom’s leaving’ guilt to know that at least the foraging’s easy while I’m gone.

–Braiding little girls’ hair so they don’t look like ragamuffins while I am gone. (Never mind that they sometimes look like ragamuffins while I’m here.)

–Catching up on laundry. (I amuse myself with my grandiose schemes sometimes)

–Mapping out who’s in charge of what while I’m gone, so that the house doesn’t fall apart too badly. Probably this will involve a chart on the fridge.

— Planning my daughter’s birthday party. She turns 7 the day we get back. We’ll be doing her party a few days later.

–Writing notes to my kids and hubby to open while I am gone.

Also on my mind is planning the food for our annual church camp later in June. This will be the third year I’ve been (mostly) in charge of the food. 4 days, 80-ish people. Usually I stress over it, but this year I put helper sign-ups on the bulletin board at church, decided I’d use some of my 30 hours on airplanes to make up the grocery lists, and let it go. The worry might hit me after I get home, but for now I am NOT worrying.

Tomorrow I am hoping to share a bit more of our adoption story, and maybe some pictures. I am starting to be able to get some decent pictures with the manual settings on my camera, although I am still SLOOOOOOOW. Thankfully my victims subjects are mostly cooperative. I am hoping to get at least a few nice pictures in Korea. We are so excited to be going!

More stuff rumbling around here too–life is interesting! But it is bedtime and I still have bills to pay, so I must quit writing for now.

Adoption: Our little girls, part two

(Our little girls, part one)

We were matched to an expectant mom at Thanksgiving. We talked to her on the phone every few days, and it seemed that the talks went well. The time between then and her Christmas due date dragged. Could we really be getting a baby?

Finally a couple days before Christmas she called saying she was in labor. Could I come? Within a few hours I was on a plane to Chicago, bringing along my two oldest boys. I peeked in to say hello to her as she labored, then waiting with the boys in a hospital waiting room as she labored more. Hours passed. More waiting. I tried to imagine holding a baby soon, but it all seemed unreal.

Finally a nurse came out and let me come back to talk to the mom. One look at her face and I knew. She’d changed her mind. She apologized and said she couldn’t do it. I totally understood– I’d been wondering how she could do it too. But it felt like a bad dream, a bad dream in which I hugged her and smiled woodenly and told her I understood and it was okay, and went to look at an impossibly adorable newborn girl that wasn’t meant to be my daughter after all.

The boys and I went back to our hotel. I still held a tiny hope that she would change her mind, would call and say the baby was ours after all. No. It was done. The next day was Christmas Eve, which the boys and I spent in a hotel room because the first available flight home was on Christmas Day. John and the other kids saved their gift-opening til we got home on Christmas evening. I smiled and acted enthused, grateful to be home, but was all too aware of the newborn sized car seat sitting empty in the corner of the living room.

The brightest bit of that odd, sad Christmas was a picture on the fridge of our now 18-month old daughter, still waiting in Ethiopia.

Related posts
Adoption: The first time
Adoption: Our second son
Adoption: How we afforded it

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Review: Grill Daddy

Recently I was asked to review a new grill cleaning brush called the Grill Daddy. Thinking of our greasy BBQ grill, I quickly accepted the offer of a sample. The grill Daddy has sturdy steel bristles that are safe for any type of BBQ surface, and a built in water reservoir so that you can use steam to assist with the cleaning effort. Sounds like a good idea, huh?

When the brush arrived, my husband, grillmaster-in-chief, raised an eyebrow, joked about it melting on our grill, and several times predicted that the thing wouldn’t work any better than the average $3 grill brush.

We always barbecue on Sundays after church. This Sunday John heated up the grill per directions, filled the water reservoir on the brush, and gave the thing a shot. His suspicions about the brush melted away as fast as the grease on our grill.

“This thing really works!” he said three minutes later while looking at a clean grill. He decided that next time he’ll scrub the grill right after using it, instead of heating it up and letting it run an extra 5 minutes before cooking. But he said the brush is plenty sturdy, and the steam feature really helps get the grill clean.

Adoption: Our littlest daughters

Part 2 | Part 3

Way back when we first began discussing adoption, the picture in our heads was of a little girl from China. As we learned more about adoption, we realized that Korea was a better fit for our family at the time for all sorts of reasons, including Korea’s lower family income requirement and shorter adoption trip. We were delighted with the little boys who came to us from Korea. But after that, knee deep in raising little boys (four altogether), John and I both found ourselves wondering if there might be more little girls in our future.

In 2003, 3 years after our 6th child came home, we began to talk seriously about adopting another little girl — maybe even two, especially since we already had the pairs thing going at our house. Our first two biological kids were girls, then we gave birth to two boys, and then adopted two boys. We really liked the fact that each of our kids had a same-sex similar-age sibling.

The idea of adopting two little girls because even stronger in our heads when we realized that (due to our large family) we would not be allowed to adopt from Korea again. We investigated adopting an African American newborn, and we knew from past experience that we wanted our child to have a sibling who looked like her. But for now, we would just see what happened with one more child.

We updated our homestudy and pulled together a photo album to go with our ‘birthmother letter’. Right from the start, I found the birthmother letter to be difficult. It felt like we were trying to coax a baby from someone: showing our most picture-perfect side so that a woman in difficult circumstances would decide we were more fit to parent her baby than she. But that’s what you’re required to do, so we did it.

Our social worker said we’d probably be matched to a birth mom within 3 months. We pulled out the baby girl clothes and waited eagerly. Six months went by. Nothing. We began to wonder if we were on the right path. In August we heard of a baby girl in Ethiopia who was born missing her right hand. Since we already had one child with a limb anomoly, she caught our attention. We called her agency, Adoption Advocates International, and found out that there was a family interested in her, but if they backed out, we would be considered.

We did more research about Ethiopian adoption, and asked our social worker to update our homestudy for an international adoption. Within a couple weeks we found out that the Ethiopian baby had indeed been taken by the first family. By then, Ethiopia had caught our hearts. We decided to go ahead and be put on the list to adopt a baby from Ethiopia. And after talking things through with our social worker, we decided to also stay on the domestic adoption list just in case something happened there.

Both the domestic and the international agencies were okay with us going ahead with two adoptions at the same time if that turned out to work out–maybe we’d get our two little girls the same year. By then we were getting discouraged with the domestic route, and were starting to doubt it would work for us. But it didn’t cost any more to stick with it awhile longer, just to see what would happen.

By October, we had the referral of a beautiful little one year old girl from Ethiopia. (Ethiopian adoptions were going much faster back then!) Most of the pictures showed a stern-faced little girl– we worried that she was an unhappy baby. We were delighted when finally someone sent a picture of her smiling with a caregiver. Ironically, she turned out to be an optimistic, resilient and joyful little girl –just not too fond of orphanage life, I think!

In November we were notified that a birthmom in the US had finally chosen us. She was due at Christmas time. If everything worked out, we could have a newborn at Christmas time, then go to adopt our little girl from Ethiopia just a couple months later.

Other related posts
Adoption: The first time
Adoption: Our second son
Adoption: How we afforded it

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First homegrown berries this year


Decision-making and fear

This post about decision-making is worth reading.