Saturday, December 26, 2009

Introducing Yunnie!

My Mother in Law is an amazing seamstress. She sewed Samson this doll with matching pajamas. The doll is beautiful and very professionaly made.

At the care center in Ethiopia, the nanny's called Samson - "Yunnie", a shortened version of his birth name. When we were first home, Samson called himself "Yunnie" all the time, which was fine by us because we were happy to keep that name around for a while.

But just in the last few days, I noticed that he started to refer to himself as "Samson" all the time even though we still sometimes call him "Yunnie".

So when he opened up his Christmas present from grandpa and grandma and it was this amazing doll that looks like him, I asked him, "What do you want to name your new doll".

Without hesitation, Samson said, "Yunnie".

The girls received new nightgowns from grandma for Christmas too:

And more pictures...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Here is this year's Christmas letter. More pictures and updates on our family coming soon!

Christmas, 2009

Dear Friends and Family,

We now know first-hand the joys of boys! Our family traveled to Ethiopia in August to bring home our new son and brother, Samson.

Samson will turn 3 in February. He has an inquisitive personality and wants everything, including his own car, set of keys and cell phone. Rightly so, we are a little nervous about what he will want when he is 10. His personality is both demanding and charming at the same time. He is also all boy, with endless energy. He will kick anything that resembles a ball and likes to wrestle with family members. We are so lucky to call him our son and brother!

We feel extra blessed to have the three girls to help ‘mother’ him. We joke about how he came home from Africa with 4 mothers and one father.

One of those mothers is Lauren, our oldest daughter. She is in eighth grade and will be 14 in February! We are so proud of her accomplishments academically, musically and sports-wise. But most important, we are proud of the path she has taken in life, which has kept her humble and has formed her into a very nice young woman with admiral character.

Olivia is our next oldest or as she likes to say, “the kid in the middle”. She is 10. We admire her gift of imagination that she expresses so well in her writing and drawings. She is our story teller and always ready to give the family a good chuckle. Sometimes during a birthday celebration, she will surprise everyone with a poem or a memoir showing her creative and positive thoughts of the birthday person. Olivia and Samson share a similar look in that they both have dimples on each of their cheeks. Oh, and they both have brown eyes.

Avery is our youngest daughter, 6 years old, in the 1st grade and makes a great playmate for Samson. She has a sweet and vibrant personality. She is also a very talented little gymnast. In Ethiopia, she got quite the stares because of her light complexion and blonde hair. She loves school and likes to read stories to her new brother.

Steve enjoys the challenges of his job as CFO for a local company. Samson adores him as his father. Each night when Steve returns home from work and Samson hears the garage door open, he goes running to greet his daddy.

I (Tammy) am a SAHM (Stay at Home Mom) and would not want my life to be any different. I love my job as wife to my husband, mother of our children and keeper of our family nest.

Our cups are overflowing with God’s blessings to our family. We hope this Christmas Season you too find God’s abundant blessings from the benefits of being adopted into His family.

With Love,
Steve, Tammy, Lauren, Olivia, Avery and Samson

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Special Day!!

Yesterday, December 16th, was our court date for finalizing Samson's adoption. I was not near as anxious about this court date as I was while we waited to hear news of him passing court in Ethiopia exactly 6 months ago on June 16th. The court hearing was uneventful in itself but this indeed was a very special day for our family.

The reality of the day gave me such a feeling of peace and relief. The reality that all of our legal paperwork is final; the reality that he is now ours in the eyes of both the Ethiopian and US courts. This is the end of one part of our journey to our son - we crossed the finish line, so to speak. But it's only the beginning of much to come and much to look forward to.

Samson and I began our day together by taking out his traditional Ethiopian clothes for the first time since we returned from our trip. These were the clothes the Care Center had him dressed in for the going away ceremony. The events of the day, when he came into our arms forever, flashed through my mind as I stared at these beautiful clothes. I prepared to sit down and tell him stories of that day, like when he drank from a bottle of pop; like when the girls held him tight in the back of the bus; like when we chanted his name when he paraded down the stairs with the nannies and other children; like when he got his hand print in a book at the Care Center.

But before I could say anything, Samson looked at the clothes with an inquisitive look and said, "Mommy, what's that?"

I said, "These are the clothes you were wearing when you joined our family".

Still a little puzzled but with a look of a little recognition, pointing at the clothes, he asked again, "Mommy, what's that?"

I said, "These were the clothes you were wearing when you cut the cake at the care center?" (It's tradition for the oldest boy and girl being adopted each week to have the honor of cutting the cake together)

Then he said, "Meazi, mommy?" "Meazi cut cake?"

Meazi was the oldest girl adopted within our group, therefore, helped Samson cut the cake. We have shown him video of this just a couple times but it's been a while. The clothes must have jogged his memory. He remembered his friend all on his own! He remembered cutting the cake with her. This was already an emotional day for me, so when he spoke his friend's name, I lost it!

Then all the way to the courthouse he kept asking, "Mommy, where is Meazi?"

I said, "she is home with her mommy and daddy".

He said, "Mommy, is Meazi OK?" 

I replied, "Oh yes, Meazi is OK. She is better than OK. She is home with her family who loves her dearly and takes very good care of her."

This was the conversation all the way to the courthouse.

My handsome boy who officially became my son!

The family waiting for our turn in court.

The judge declared Samson ours forever!

After the court hearing, I returned the girls to their schools and Steve, Samson and I met at a favorite local restaurant where Samson enjoyed chicken strips and fries. He was extra happy yesterday. I truly believe he understood the importance of this day. The rest of the day, he gave mom a lot of extra attention, hugs, kisses and smiles.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

We have a court date

in the US to finalize Samson's adoption! In the eyes of the Ehiopian court, he is ours but not in the US. Our court date is next Wednesday, December 16th. He has been our son in our hearts and minds since we passed court in Ethiopia on June 16th but next Wednesday, it will be official.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The meaning of Christmas

I found this video on another blog. I love how this song, 'Christmas with a capital 'C' spells out the true meaning of Christmas and how the recognition of it becomes lost when it is thrown unde the umbrella of 'Happy Holidays'.

Friday, December 4, 2009

When you don't have coffee beans...

Samson and I drink coffee together each morning after delivering his sisters to school. I drink mine in a special mug from a local potter, he has his coffee in a miniature coffee cup. I prefer grinding my own beans but sometimes we brew grounds that I purchased because they were a great price at the store. I brought home 12 bags of whole beans from Ethiopia but guess what?! They are almost all gone. So, I've been substituting inexpensive grounds to make my beans last longer.

Most mornings we come straight home after dropping the girls off at school. However, the mornings I need to do a long grocery run, I sometimes go through a drive thru for a special coffee treat. I almost always order a small, skinny, vanilla latte. I have done this enough that Samson has figured out what I'm doing, thus feeling a little left out since I'm ordering only for myself. So, now he says, "Mommy, can Samson have skinny too?"

Some people may see this as odd that a 2 year old would enjoy coffee in the mornings with his mom. When we were in Ethiopia, we learned a few things about Samson and his heritage. One of those things is that his birth family had coffee trees. We were told that all family members, down to very young children will drink coffee each day. Unfortunately, because of a severe drought in Ethiopia, many families did not have a coffee crop this year.

So, do you know how Ethiopians drink coffee when they don't have coffee beans? THEY CRUSH UP LEAVES FROM THEIR COFFEE TREES AND BREW THE CRUSHED LEAVES IN THE WATER INSTEAD. I will not complain about not having coffee beans to grind for my coffee again.

Why even bother drinking coffee if its only source is from crushed coffee tree leaves? First of all, a simple known fact is that Ethiopia is known as the birthplace of coffee. Coffee serves as an integral part of their social and cultural life. Brewing and drinking coffee each day is a strong Ethiopian tradition. 

A traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony is considered a mark of friendship or respect and is an example of Ethiopian hospitality. We had the opportunity to attend two special coffee ceremonies in Ehiopia. The first was after our birth family meetings and again at our guest house on the day we were departing.

Almost all ceremonies, as was the case for both of ours, are performed by a young woman dressed in traditional Ethiopian clothes. The ceremony begins with the roasting of the beans over a tiny charcoal stove. When the beans are ready, the woman grounds them with a mortar. Then the grounds are stirred into a black clay pot called a 'jebena'.

The coffee is served in cups and offered with sugar and sometimes cream. For each of our ceremonies, we were also served tender-kernelled popcorn.

Like, I mentioned, I am running low on my Ethiopian coffee beans and I wish to purchase more. I forgot to mention that any Ethiopian coffee that I have tried has been the best I've ever had. So good that I really don't enjoy any other coffee as well but again, I'm not going to complain. Anyway, I want to purchase some more real soon. And since I probably will not be traveling there in the near future, I plan to order from one or each of these sights that come highly recommended. The beauty of this coffee is that it is fair trade and it supports orphans in Africa.

Check them out:
Saints Coffee

I do feel a little conflicted, however, when I can order Ethiopian coffee beans by the click of a few buttons and a family in Ethiopia is relying on coffee tree leaves for their coffee. Coffee is not something to take for granted anymore.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Daddy's Initials"

Another funny Avery story...

Avery, who is in the first grade, brings home a math worksheet each day from school. A parent is suppose to correct the worksheet and initial it at the bottom before they bring it back to school.

Yesterday morning as we were getting ready for the school day, I asked her to get her math out because I had not initialed it yet. Her response was, "don't worry mommy, I took care of it. I wrote daddy's intials nice and neat on there so that the teacher will never know I wrote them and not daddy." She was very proud that she thought of doing this on her own to save mommy time.

Well, I just had to look, so I peaked in her folder and saw what she wrote.

(By the way, her dad's name is Steve.)

But she wrote 'DH'.

The 'D' is for 'daddy'. And the printing was very much 'first grader' level.

Hmm...I wonder if the teacher will ever know???

Monday, November 16, 2009

"I Love Mom"

Usually when Samson tells me he loves me, he says, "Mommy, I love you". He almost always uses those exact words in that order.

The other day, when we were looking at pictures of him wearing my favorite PJs, he pointed to the words and said, "Look!" "I -  Love -  Mom!". Seriously, I maybe spoke these words to him 4 - 5 times but several days ago. So, when he said the exact words in the right order, I was floored. He must have quite a memory! I know I have used this picture before but had to show it again.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Memoir from My Daughters Part 3

Lauren's second English paper for this school year:

"Five o'clock, five o'clock," Auto Girma said, as he knocked on everyone's doors to wake them up. We had to leave at 6:00 a.m. for the little town of Hosanna. It would be a four hour bus ride there.

On our way there, we saw the beautiful countryside of Ethiopia. It was filled with big, beautiful hibiscus trees, fake banana trees, and thatch roof huts. The terrain was made up of big rolling hills that swooped down into enormous valleys. Once in a while, we passed through a small village.

Halfway there, we stopped at a "nice" hotel to use the bathroom. Most of the toilets did not flush and the bathroom was for both men and women. We also had to bring our own toilet paper.

While we were standing in line to use the bathroom, some maids were peeking out of a doorway and watching us. They were pointing and giggling at my little sister, Avery, who has almost white hair. They weren't making fun of her; they just really adore people with blond hair because they don't see them often.

When we reached Hosanna, a traditional coffee ceremony was presented for us and the other adoptive families in our group. The lady who did it was a very beautiful Ethiopian woman in traditional Ethiopian garments. These traditional outfits are usually made of cotton fabric with colorful embroidery stitching on them. Many of them have crosses embroidered on them.

In a coffee ceremony, the beans are roasted right there on hot coals. The lady who did the ceremony came around with the roasting beans so we could smell the aroma of them. When the beans were roasted, she crushed them up and poured water over them. The, she poured the coffee into the cups and a man gave one to each of us. It is impolite to not take coffee so my sisters and I had to drink it. We only used a little spoonful of sugar with it. Surprisingly, it was very good.

Coffee is a very important crop in Ethiopia because that is where it was first discovered.

We had to walk a half mile to a different building to use a bathroom with a western style toilet. While walking down the muddy street, children from the village crowded around us. They asked us, "Hello, how are you? What is your name?"

I specifically remember a girl whose name was Tesfanesh. She looked like she was about my age. She didn't have fancy clothes or money, but she seemed pretty happy because she was smiling widely and laughing.

(Not Tesfanesh but another beautiful girl who loved getting her picture taken.)

As she walked alongside me, she talked to me in Amharic, the main language in Ethiopia. She started pointing down at my feet. I couldn't figure out what she meant until another mom told me that she liked my shoes. Then I told her, "amasenganallow." which means "thanks you" in Amharic.

I thought it was a very amazing experience meeting her because she was just like the African children I have heard of or read about. She appeared very poor, very dirty, had torn clothes and probably not much more than that. I admired her because even though she had she had close to nothing, she looked happy and content with her life. I wanted more than anything to take her home with me.

It makes me feel guilty thinking about this when I have clothes, when I have clean water, when I have money to buy food and I still complain about them.

When our bus pulled away, all of the children ran after us, probably longing for us to stay with them.

On the way home, we visited a school our agency was sponsoring. It consisted of two small white buildings which had nothing in them but a concrete floor. There were no desks, no books and no chalkboard. There was not a playground outside for the children to play. Imagine this school standing next to Discovery? I'm very thankful for the school I go to.

We also had an opportunity to visit a hut that a family so kindly opened up to us. IT was a very beautiful hut, with lovely painting on the outside. Inside was the family's kitchen, living room, bedroom, and it was also where they kept their cows, goats and sheep. It was really interesting seeing how this family lived compared to my family. I don't know how I could survive in these conditions.

Outside and across the street was a stream of orange colored water. There were children playing in it and people collecting water from
it. It may have been the only source of water they had.

Going to Hosanna opened my eyes to the world's poverty. What's sad is that two billion people on our earth live like this.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Give the Gift of Water Today!!!

Because others can say it better, go to this blog for more information and donate TODAY, Friday, November 13th!!

From the CHARITY WATER website:

Every day, 4500 mothers bury their children due to contaminated water. They are forced to sustain their families with a diabolical liquid that contains both life and death. This lack of clean water is the leading cause of death in underdeveloped nations. And it just doesn't have to be!

So as we gear up to scurry through department stores and browse endless catalogs in search of new jeans, Tonka Trucks, gadgets and dolls....we are pausing. We are pausing. And today, November 13th, we are buying water. Clean, life-saving water.

$10 will provide one person in Africa clean water for 10 years. It will literally change and possibly save someone's life. A mother. A child. A brother. A grandfather.

We are rallying together for a cause. Clean water. One day. $10. Asking everyone to let this be their first gift. Let water, let life be their first gift of the season.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Memoirs From My Daughters Part 2

Lauren's turn......
One neat thing about being a kid and taking a trip to Africa during the summer is that you have a lot of unique experiences to write about for English papers. This is Lauren's first English paper of the school year.

On August 4th, our family sat at the Minneapolis airport waiting to start our trip of a lifetime. We were going to Ethiopia to pick up a little boy and make him part of our family. He was 2 1/2. Our flight was 9 hours to Amsterdam, a 4 hour layover there and then 9 hours to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The flight was, by far, the hardest part of our trip. By the time we got to the airport in Addis, my family and I were all dead tired. To top it all off, we had to wait hours standing in lines at the airport. Once we had our luggage and we were on our way to the guest house by bus and we were very relieved and happy to take a rest.

While driving through the streets of Addis, I was amazed at what I saw. There were many big buildings, but also many homeless people and little shacks. At the guesthouse, it was very hard to sleep because: 1. The beds were very uncomfortable. 2. There were dogs barking all night. 3. We had very heavy jet lag and it wasn't time for us to go to sleep.

The next morning we got to meet my brother. Meeting him was one of the best moments of my life. My brother was one of the cutest kids I had ever seen. His big brown eyes were just staring up at us with a blank look in them. Seeing him in person for the first time made me feel like he was truly my brother and I loved him very much. He was very shy at first but then he started playing with us. We brought a little ball so we could interact with him. We rolled it back and forth with him. After about 10 minutes, he started to warm up to us and wasn't so afraid to play with us. We were only able to spend 1 hour with him, but we got to go back that afternoon. It was really, really hard to leave after waiting so long.

All of the kids at the care center were very loving. They gave us hugs and pulled our heads down to give us big sloppy kisses on our cheeks. All of the little girls loved us and would swarm around us when we arrived.

Throughout the rest of our week, our agency planned activities for us. We got to go to a street market and go shopping one day. We visited a school and the National Museum of Ethiopia another day. Wherever we went, people crowded around us trying to get us to buy stuff from them.

One Monday night we had the opportunity to go to an Ethiopian meal. Everyone in our group sat around little tables with big pieces of Etiopian bread called injera on them. Many different dips and sauces were piled on them. You have to tear a piece of injera off and pick up the sauce or dip with it.

Ethiopian food is really spicy and hard to get used to eating. After every bite, my mouth was on fire and I had to quick grab my pop. The injera is like a spongy, sour, pancake bread. I didn't enjoy the food.

Tuesday we were finally able to get Samson and bring him back to the guesthouse with us. At the care center, they had a going away ceremony for the kids who were being adopted that week. The children and their nannies were dressed in traditional outfits. They came down the stairs while the rest of the children clapped and chanted their names. Each of the adopted children put their hand print, kept at the care center, in a book and received a card from the care center. We were so happy to have Samson, finally, in our arms forever. We were able to spend 2 days with him before we left. He warmed up to our family and seemed to have fun with us.

When we were sitting in the Addis airport Thursday night, waiting for our plane, Samson didn't know what he was up for but I'm sure he knew it was something good.

I learned how much poverty their was in Africa, but I also learned how people can be happy with what they have. God has truly blessed us with Samson. I will never forget this experience.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Memoirs From My Daughters Part 1

In hopes of hanging onto as many memories about our trip as possible, I have asked each of my daughters to write about their experiences.
Olivia wrote the following about our traditional Ethiopian restaurant experience:

One of my most fun an craziest times in Ethiopia was when we went to the Ethiopian resturant. It was an amazing experience! The dancers were great! When we first got there we saw a whole bunch of  Ethiopia skins and paintings! Then we sat down on fur and leather seats. We all ordered our drinks. I had pepsi. If you looked on the stage you would see about. .  . . five musisans. With really strange instruments. The food  I had was some kind of meat. But I wasn't so sure of what it was exactly. It was very chewy and I got a lot stuck in my teeth. Then we got to see the dancers!(while eating our food) I loved it! The food was great,and it was even better with all the entertainment!The dancers had a lot of strange moves up their sleeves. They were great!Then are you ready for the best part of all?!THE DANCERS CAME OUT AND MADE US STAND UP AND DANCE!!!!!!grown-ups like my dad and then a lot of the others. The dancers had a whole lot of costumes that they had to change into on only a few seconds of time! The last performence we got to see I thought that their costumes looked like Easter Eggs, because of all the purple and pink they were wearing. So I guess that's all I got to say but really it was really something special to me.

P.S I have my own blog. Go check it out:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Last Week in Review

No, this isn't from last winter. This is from our second snow fall 2009.

Samson showing off his new PJs - they are mom's favorite!

First bus ride with Avery's class

Elmo, Beautiful Maid and Snow White

Isn't he handsome?!

"Suds Man" - Samson dumped A LOT of soap into the bath water while I was not looking. It took me a while to figure out how there could be so many suds!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

You could be the Snowflake that Starts the Avalanche

I have heard it many times before and I heard it again this morning "what a good thing we have done for that little boy." It just makes me sick when I hear these comments. Like we paid the ultimate sacrifice; like we have reached beyond quota; like we deserve to be held in the highest regard for adopting a child.

Listen everyone......our son came to us not because of what we have done; he came to us because of what we have not done.

It is true that during our adoption journey, God has showed up in many places. As a  Christian, I have never before felt God's presence as strong as I have during our process. There were so many miracles along the journey, some I can share and other experiences I can't share because they are so sacred to our family. But God was evident and he even spoke to me at times. My relationship with Him is much stronger because of our adoption experience and circumstances surrounding it.

I don't believe, however, that the Lord is more present in my life because we chose to adopt. My relationshiop was closer during this journey, because this is one time I really needed Him. For the first time in my life, I took a journey where most parts were out of my control. In International Adoption, there is so much out of our control, that you have to rely on Him. It's because of this type of day by day surrendering that I have amazing testimonies to share, all to His glory, not mine. God is always there in every aspect of our lives, we just don't always choose to surrender to His will.

If anything, after this journey, I feel ashamed. I feel ashamed at how much injustice there is in this world. I am ashamed at the way I live while families struggle to survive. They are the ones making the ultimate sacrifice, making the difficult decision to place their child in an orphanage because they are unable to provide for them due to severe poverty, the root of all injustice.

While in Ethiopia, our traveling group got the opportunity to meet birth families and although non of us shared our stories and regardless of each family's story, I will never forget the pain I saw in the eyes of birth families. I saw a birth father weeping, a woman flooded with tears over her loss but what I saw in most birth families was a withdrawn, grief struck, painful look on their faces. Nobody wants to give up their child. They are no different than us. They have feelings and heartstrings just like us. As a mother who loves her children, I cannot imagine the pain and loss these families feel.

Now home, I feel like I must make a difference. I must no longer claim ignorance. My eyes have been opened and I want to do whatever I can to prevent more families from breaking up. Will you join me?

Yes, the statistics are overwhelming...

The newest estimate of the number of orphans in the world is 147 million.
30,000 children die a day from starvation.
1.6 billion people live in severe poverty and another 2 billion live in extreme poverty.
Half of our world lives without clean drinking water.

However, "organizations have reported that it would take less than $3 billion per year to save 5 million lives. The National Center for Health Statistics reported that people in the United States spend between $30 and $50 billion each year on diets..." (from Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger).

Max Lucado once said, "When you think you cannot make a difference...
                        Behind every avalanche is a snowflake.
                        Behind a rock slide, is a pebble.
                        An Atomic explosion begins with one atom.
                        A revival can begin with one sermon."

Do you want to make a difference? Do something NOW!! Do your Christmas shopping and make a difference in the world. Donate in someone's name in lieu of gifts or ask loved ones to give you the gift of a donation to an organization that helps those that our hurting in our world.

--Here is a link to donate towards a well in Ethiopia started by a group of adoptive parents who traveled the week before our family:

--Here is a link to donate towards Drawn from Water, an organization who rescues children from superstitious tribal laws:

--Help Tom Davis' crew build a carepoint in Ethiopia, where they are experiencing the worst drought since 1984 and millions are on the verge of dieng from starvation.

There are so many other avenues to donate but the three I have listed are closest to my heart right now. Donate not to make a quota or to fulfill a tithe. Donate because you know you can make a difference. You could be the snowflake that starts the avalanche.

Don't wait, donate and you could save a child from being separated from his family before it's too late.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From Fairytale to Reality

We have left the Fairytale story and entered into the joys and frustrations of parenting with boundaries. However, when the excitement and newness of adding a child to your family wears off, there is still so much to appreciate and experiences to be thankful for. 

For example,

The nights it takes me 2 hours to rock him to sleep, I remind myself of those days I used to dream of rocking him.

The days he wants to be held all the time, I remind myself how long I waited for my first time to hold him.

On those days when we have to use his middle name (Samson Kelaye), sometimes even his full name, I am so glad we kept part of his birth name to honor his first family.

During times when he frustrates me and his cuteness will no longer let him get away with it, I remember his beautiful referral picture that I carried proudly in my purse and told friends that with those eyes, he will not be able to do anything wrong.

On those cold Midwest days when all he wants to do is play outside, I remind myself of the visions I had of chasing a son around the yard.

When his high-energy, toddler days wear me to complete exhaustion, I am thankful that he can run, walk, climb and jump.

When Steve and I work on consistency in disciplining him, I am thankful that we can seek God for discernment and direction.
When it seems like he wants to control everything, I understand why because most of his life has been out of his control.

When he throws a temper tantrum, I have to remember how much he has been through in his young life.

When I stumble over balls preparing dinner in the kitchen, I am so thankful for a son.

We may no longer be living in a fairytale, but Samson, you are a dream come true. And for this, I am thankful for the miracle of adoption. We may have stepped out of a fairytale but you will always be our Prince!

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I was reading through my journal and came across some funny things I wrote about Avery when she was 4 years old.

The fist was when she came home one day from preschool and told me that she was trying to exercise at school and her teacher said, "no running in the classroom".

Then, one day she came to me with great excitement and pride in her voice and stated that she knew how to spell TV. Then she spelled, "OFF".

Finally, one time she claimed to be "smarter than a college grader."

She still makes us laugh and smile. I just need to remember to journal more.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Older Orphans

Our adoption journey in itself has been life changing, but there have been precious experiences along the way each in themselves, life changing.

One of those experiences was my visit to AHOPE orphanage in Addis. AHOPE houses children with HIV and one of their compounds was within walking distance of our guest house.

I'll start at the beginning...

I met an amazing woman online who is in the process of adopting 2 of these children. Her son, who I believe is 8 years old, was in the compound near our guest house. She asked if I would take pictures of him if I had the opportunity to visit AHOPE. I was very honored she asked and knowing how much this would mean to her, I was very willing to take on the task. You may remember that I have another online friend who traveled weeks before us and gave our Samson a hug from our family and told him we loved him. So, I know how priceless this connection can be.

Our week in Ethiopia was packed full of activities and each day we were there, my trip to AHOPE looked uncertain. I feared that I would not be able to carry out the task that I so honorably accepted.

But on our last day, a few of us from our travel group, through our guest house manager, were able to arrange a visit. And I am so glad I didn't let our week there end without this opportunity.
Upon arriving at the orphanage, we were first greeted by a guard at the gate between the walls of corrugated metal. Once inside the gate, we received a warm welcome from a few of the children who were playing in the courtyard.
After a brief orientation and tour from the director, I asked about my friend's son and it didn't take long before I was introduced to this amazing and handsome young man. The director explained to him that we wanted to take pictures of him to bring back to his new family in the US.

His big, beautiful, kind eyes lit up and the next thing he did was tuck in his shirt. At this point, I just melted. I was so touched by his kindness and desire to make a good impression. I took a few pictures of him and thanks to Julie, who was touring the compound with me, we were also able to get video of him.

During our adoption process, we have received numerous comments about how we are doing such a good thing for our son, like we are rescuing him. I never want to be admired for doing this "good thing". He is a gift to us as a result of a tragedy in his life. I would never consider him as the lucky one - we are the lucky ones. I could say more about how I feel about these comments but hopefully you get the picture.

However, I admire the families, like my friend's, who are willing to open their hearts and homes to older children, children who have a slim chance at being placed with a forever family.

Before I left for Ethiopia, I thought about all the older children who are orphaned. Their biggest wish is to be chosen by a family before it's too late, before they are too old to be adopted. (By the way, what I mean by older children are children who have been waiting because of their age.) There are tons of families open to children Samson's age. He was orphaned for 4 months before we brought him home. We waited 12 months for his referral. But there are older children who wait several years for their family.

I have read countless stories of older children praying in their orphanage bunks each night, that a family will come for them. I have also read on other adoptive parents' blogs letters they received from children, in the orphanage, who were not matched with a family. These letters were written as a plea for the family to please find them a family to call their own. My heart just aches for these children=(

Before I left for Ethiopia, I also thought about what a blessing a family and a home would be to an older, orphaned child. Then after I met my friend's son, I realized what a blessing this young man will be for his future family. I do not have first hand experience myself bringing an older child into my home, but do know from reading others' blogs that older children can bring as much joy, laughter and blessings to a family as a younger child. At least I would not be afraid of jumping into an older child adoption if that is where God leads us.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Styrofoam Toy

I recently looked through our pictures from our trip to Ethiopia and came across a picture that has left a lasting impression on me.

When our group traveled south of Addis to Hosanna, we saw many children out and about, curious about the Americans walking around their streets. Many of them greeted us with a hand shake and asked, "what is your name?" They were proud of the little English they knew to engage conversation with us. They all appeared to be happy with beautiful smiles.

As we were walking to our bus after touring a new school under construction, I noticed a group of about 5 - 6 children who were playing with a piece of styrofoam. It had been broken into many different pieces so that each child could have their own piece.

My thought at the time was that this piece of styrofoam was a treasure to them. They waved it to us as if to say, "Look at this!" "Look what we have!" They were so proud of their "toy". If only kids in America could be happy with a piece of styrofoam.

As our bus pulled away, these same children chased after the bus, waving their styrofoam.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2 Months Home!!

It feels like just yesterday that we met Samson for the first time. It seems like just yesterday when we saw the fear in his eyes and felt the resistance in his body language as his nannies handed him over to our family. It seems like just yesterday when we boarded a plane to come home with the most amazing gift ever - a new son. We were in love!!!
But what was he thinking? Where did he think he was going? I can only imagine what was going through his head! Poor thing - it's understandable that he would be afraid! The whole time I was thinking, "if he gives us a chance, he will learn to trust and love us as his forever family. No more disruptions. No more moves. Just give us a chance to show you the love of a forever family."
2 months ago, we left as a family of 5 and came home as a family of 6. It seems like just yesterday but at the same time, it feels like he has been with us forever.

Some of the changes we have seen in 2 months:

When we came home, he only understood his language and we communicated using sign and body language. 2 months home, he fully understands what we ask of him and his English is growing by leaps and bounds. Some common phrases and words he says:
"Mommy, watch this!" "Daddy, look at me!" (when he wants to show off one of his many talents)

When he sees or hears an airplane, with finger raised in the air, he shouts out, "Airplane! Airplane!"

"That's Yunnie's!" Yunnie is what they called him at the care center and when he claims something as his, he calls it Yunnie's.

He can say his ABCs and count to 10.

He is extremely independent and says, "I want to do it" to almost everything, including turning on and off light switches, dressing and undressing himself, applying his own lotion, changing his own diaper, applying his own shampoo. He wants to be in control of everything!

Some English words and phrases that are cute:
"Sammyson" (Samson)
"base a mint" (basement)
"Kee Kee George" (Curious George)
"Opsiea" (oops)
"lo shun on" (I want to put my own lotion on)
"Olawfia" (He still says this for Olivia)

Physcial changes:
He has grown over 2 inches!

He continues to grow stronger. After two months home, he can pull himself up on our bed, go down a slide sitting up instead of laying down and he also climbs stairs more on his own instead of asking to be carried.

And the most rewarding changes we have seen are in the area of attachment:

When we were first home, he would wave "bye bye mommy" when I left the house.

2 months home, he clings to me when I try the leave the house.

When we were first home, he fought hard not to be put down for nap time.
2 months home, he snuggles in and molds to my body for nap time and sings lulabyes along with me.

When we were first home, he would allow us to kiss him but would not give kisses.
2 months home, he gives out many kisses, sometimes unsolicited.

When we were first home, he would go to just about anyone.
2 months home, he prefers his mommy and daddy.

And the list can go on.....

We are so LUCKY - our family is overflowing with love!!!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

First Fall

This is Samson's first time to experience the beauty of fall - pumpkins, changing leaves, apple orchard and a hike through the woods. Check out our scarecrows and flowers: