Friday, January 25, 2013

And one more makes.... how many is it now?


So, first I have to apologize; my pictures are never really what I want them to be, but these are particularly not so great.  :-/   I generally use Hannah's camera because our half way decent one broke a couple of years ago.  But it is bulky, so we took with us an old pocket digital that I found in a drawer.  The quality is not so great.  But more at fault is my failure to remember to take pictures, which goes hand in hand with my failure to remember lots of things lately.  I read inspiring, amazing blogs by people with eloquent words and magazine quality photos.  Oh yes, I will do that; I will take pictures of us leaving for the airport, and all these things.  But then, life I guess...  figuring out how to get two kids to their basketball games, and two kids to their cheerleading, and two people refereeing games and coaching other games, and everyone accounted for in between and transported while I finish packing and wondering if I remembered everything for our trip to the airport in the middle of all of that...  making lists and more lists and forgetting where I put the lists.  Looking back only five days later now, I smile at my few pathetic pictures and laugh at myself and say, "Well, he got here didn't he?"  That was the main bit and it got accomplished, so I'll let my apology suffice, and proceed to describe the pictures that I do have, and hope you enjoy... 
Onward, shall we?



And this is the guest house room we stay in when we go to Ghana.  I say that like we frequent the place.  Well, three times is frequent enough.  




Now don't go envying the opulence and all here.  I know you're all jealous and stuff.  I don't mean to show off or anything, but that bucket in the corner was placed especially for us to make up for the fact that there was no running water at all.  Last year we had water, just no hot water.  Okay.  Sort of like camping I guess.  I saw the bucket of water this time, and the scoop floating on the top and didn't make the connection until I tried to turn on the spigots.  "Oh!  I see now,"  I said to myself, then laughed out loud.  Water is overrated anyway, and we were exhausted.




The tub.  For decorative purposes only.




So this is as good a time as any to mention that this was a grab and go mission.  We had wanted to have Lazarus escorted to us, but hey, I got an idea!  Instead of arriving at a local airport clean, fresh, rested, and emotionally and physically sound and prepared, to meet a new family member and bring them to their new home, it would be far better for everyone to take 76 hours -- 56 of which are spent in airplanes in the air, airplanes sitting on the ground, airports, and transportation to and from airports -- in which you actually sleep ten or twelve hours of it all, so that you can arrive home completely depleted, exhausted, physically ill and emotionally spent, and THEN take on the transition of a new child to your family.  Hey, sounds like a plan.  Let's do this thing.  (I don't make up this stuff, I just comply.  Adoption rules make about as much sense as the sadistic nazi who came up with the design of the Frankfurt airport, which we incidentally, have walked probably 89 miles of.)

And incidentally, I will say I am quite thankful that we were even able to make such a short trip.  I am well aware that several countries require families to stay weeks or even months for some sort of futile bonding exercise. It is baffling to understand how anyone came up with the idea that to transition a child to a new family, you should throw both parties into a situation where they are both in completely unfamiliar territory, stressed, and exhausted.  Not only is this a useless exercise, but I am convinced it is a detrimental one as well.  Try running a dating service this way:  we'll match you with your lifelong mate, but in order to meet each other, you must first complete a decathalon, be stuffed into the hull of a ship for a week, and then deposited into an alleyway in downtown Detroit to meet and greet and see if you are a good match.  Genius.   I am also quite convinced that the majority of in-country disruptions would never occur had the child been escorted.  Nothing like being completely emotionally and physically depleted when meeting a new child to make you doubt your abilities.   It is unreasonable to say that having an adventurous spirit and love of international travel should be a prerequisite to being a good parent.  I'd love to see a study of this and the statistics involved.  Obviously this is something that bugs me, but it bugs me for a good reason:  children are not being placed with families because this is just one of dozens of requirements that are oppressively burdensome to very good, loving families that would otherwise make phenomenal parents to children who needs homes.  No apologies for this tangent.



So where was I?  Yes, I will admit to being a little tired when we arrived at our "guest house" room about 10pm Sunday night.  So, we retired to our lovely beds which were cleverly clad with no bedding because of the oppressive heat.  We were not there for the luxury, we were there to rescue a little boy who had had far too much of his life stolen from him already.  We would have slept outside if we had had to.  And with the chickens, clanging pots and pans, crying children, and car horns outside our windows (which we left wide open to let in the possibility of the odd draft to waft through -- hey, it was a theory anyway) it actually seemed sort of like sleeping outside!  It made me nostaligic about our trips to Haiti.  Ahhh... memories....




So this is the next morning, walking across the road to the church where dear Auntie Comfort and her daughters live.  Auntie Comfort was Kiki's foster family until she came home to ours.  We love her and her daughters dearly.  






It was a regular Monday morning, and children were headed off to school. 





Looking down the road, the church is sitting on the right, and the guest house is across the street on the left.  





We were directed to the internet cafe about half a mile or so down the road.  We had only been able to get one quick message home to tell our kids we were okay, and this was on a pay internet service in Frankfurt.  There was free wi-fi at the airport, but you had to have a passcode which they would send to your phone, which, of course, couldn't be sent to our phone because we were out of the country.  sigh...  Well when we landed in Greensboro the next day I received the passcode so I have it now.

Anyway, the internet cafe was closed and wouldn't open for two more hours, so we walked back to the church.





So we visited with Auntie Comfort and her family and some little girls she was fostering, gave them some candy, and enjoyed their antics for a while.   They were hilarious.  They would run after each other and the one girl had the most infectious laugh I have ever heard.  It was adorable.  They would tear after each other grabbing candy from each other, and if one put the candy in their mouth, the other one would fish it out of her mouth and put it in her own (after dropping it on the ground a time or two) and laugh hilariously.  We laughed with them.  What a trip.  (And in case anyone was wondering, yes, this is where Kiki spent several months of her life before meeting us.)








Ah, the Paterfamilia.  What a guy.  His shirt got read many times on the trip.  It says, "Defend the Cause of the Fatherless"  with the verse from Isaiah 1:17 -- "Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."





So I had heard all about the orphanage where Laz lived.  It was not a good one.  My friend who had brought home two sons from there recently had had to have one hospitalized because he was so weak and malnourished.  I had also heard that nobody was ever allowed past the front office, if that.  I had briefly entertained the thought of requesting to see where Laz had slept, so I would have some idea of what he was used to.  We drove up to the orphanage and I hardly realized that it was an orphanage.  It looked somewhat like a storefront, with dorms behind it.  Then I realized that it was not as simple as just barging past the front office into the rooms beyond (which I would never have done anyway).  The office area appeared to be separate from where the children were kept.  I was not concerned about this at all, as my focus was on Laz, and at that moment could have cared less about figuring out how this orphanage was configured.  





I have never had a satisfactory "gotcha" photo for any of my kids.  We always get too wrapped up in the moment, in what is happening, in meeting our child and trying to glean as much information as possible out of their caregivers in the few moments that we have.  Which, in itself is always humorous.  You ask two dozen questions and some are understood, and few are answered appropriately or honestly.  That's not a criticism, just a fact.  Whether China or Ghana, or probably most other countries as well, they want to look well, want to look like they know what they are doing and have been taking good, loving care of the children who have obviously not seen decent treatment, let alone good, loving care in their lifetimes.  But somewhere in the midst of just asking questions and talking, some little tidbit or two may be revealed that comes back to you later and gives some insight on behaviors.

Laz was brought up to us in an umbrella stroller.  I was not sure it was him at first, because he was so tiny.  Then I saw his eyes and that smile, and of course knew.  I knelt down and said, "Hey, I know you.  Hello!"  He smiled hugely and looked a bit shy even.  Several women milled around.  I chatted with my son.  Art handed him the sleeve with the pictures of all his siblings that Art keeps in his wallet.  He took it eagerly and began to look at the pictures intently.  He was very interested.  He never said a word or made a sound though.  We had been warned that he did not talk at all and most likely had cerebral palsy.  This is all that we had been told about him.  The last picture we had seen of him had been over six months ago, and was a small, cell phone photo from the day he went to court.  He had had a bandadge on his forehead in that photo.  I noticed a little scar in the same spot now.  




We were only there probably less than fifteen minutes.  After months and sometimes years of documents and paperwork, when it comes to the gotcha day, Art is always the one to sign the papers.  I am always engrossed with our new child, and wave him to do it. :-)

We got in the car to drive back to the guest house and prepare to leave for the airport.  Laz was thrilled to be riding in a car, and very excited.



It was easy to see that he most definitely had cerebral palsy, with his right side being his favored side, but still weak and uncoordinated.  He had great eye contact, and I watched to see what other clues he would give us as to what was going on inside that little head.   We brought him in the room and I set him on some pillows and knelt down to give him some toys and books, and see what would interest him.  Everything did.  He loved the cars the most, and put them in a ziploc bag lying on the couch beside him.  He would take them in and out of the bag repeatedly that day, and all the way home on the planes.  He literally wore that bag out at one point, and Art found another one to replace it.  He would take the cars out, and line them up in lines, or try to stack them, or place them all spaced out and try to balance goldfish crackers on them.  :-)

While he was sitting here, and I talked to him, he made some noises.  My heart sang!  So he COULD make some sounds!  Well, well!   What of this?   Over the course of the trip we found he could make lots of sounds.  Probably all the sounds necessary for speech.  And he could laugh, and yell, and point intently at things he wanted.  This child could communicate.  Very good.





What a handsome face.











And here we are at the Greensboro airport at last, and meeting his new siblings.  He did very well on the plane all things considered.  It was grueling trip back, including more delays, and a mad dash across the Chicago airport to catch our last flight.  I am convinced that we only made it because of constant prayer from the time we got off the plane from Frankfurt and saw the mile long immigration line.  I prayed through the entire line, asking God to move mountains and get us home, and that we would get an officer who was experienced with adoptions so that we would not be detained by someone who didn't know what to do.  And these prayers were answered.  





He is a very happy boy most of the time.  He is very excited about everything, and seems genuinely delighted and fascinated with all the new things, and the attention and affection being flooded over him.  My main concern is to not overwhelm him or overstimulate him.  I just can't even imagine how his little head is adjusting to all of this.  I just sit and watch him at night and am amazed at how seamlessly he has transitioned, all things considered, and remain thankful that this, too, has been a tremendous answer to our specific prayers for God to prepare him and ease his transition to our family.





So, Kiki is four and a half, and they tell us that Laz will be seven on February 1st.  Seems preposterous, but on the other hand, I have recently read several blogs of children who have been grossly neglected that weighed less than 30 pounds as teenagers.  It is possible.  Maybe improbable.  But pretty much irrelevant as it would be almost impossible to prove his DOB is significantly different, and even if we could, it would not make a big difference in the long run.  He is 34 pounds and wears a size 3 diaper.  His little legs are like sticks.  He loves to eat, though, so this should change quickly I think.  I also consider his teeth in thinking about his age.  He has all of his baby teeth, but he also has his six year molars, which Kiki does not have yet.  It is a mystery.





Everything is new to him, and he approaches everything with gusto.  He gets very excited when I show him something new, and so far, he has tried hard at everything I have presented him with.  He is like a little sponge.  




The whole trip home, we never heard him cry one time.  The first time I heard him cry was the night we brought him home and he was startled to meet Biscuit.  Here he is the very next day.  He made peace with her pretty quickly!





And where to even begin to say how great Kiki and Laz have been for each other!  Kiki has really stepped up, and loves to play with him and take care of him.  She is always interested in helping me with him, and so far plays very well with him.  They seem to be at about the same level right now, although this may change in the years to come.





He does sit up well on the floor, and also manages to get around in his own way.  He is very determined.  This is what keeps these kids alive.





No, not a knuckle; this is his little knee; bless his heart.




Holding Mommy's hand.





Kiki gave him a doll and a bottle, and he put the bottle in the doll's mouth right away.  





The kids introduced him to the back yard and he ate it up as usual.  He is not very impressed with the cold though, not surprisingly.  And while you wouldn't know from the way my kids are dressed in this picture, and the bare feet of Hannah and Maggie, it was actually in the thirties.  I wear my winter boots and coat in the house most of the time, and the kids run outside in barefeet.  Go figure.





Concentrating.  Lots to catch up.





What a happy face!








And life goes on in other areas too.  Maggie's 10th birthday was Thursday.  We will be celebrating it this weekend so there will be more pictures of that hopefully soon after.  But for her actual birthday, she requested homemade donuts for breakfast.





All six littles enjoying donuts.




Laz's first donut.  I think he is in favor!





Well, this picture speaks for itself.  So glad these two have each other now!  








Kiki with her cheerleading squad.  What a trip.




Adorable.







Art and Canaan refereeing.





Not a clear picture, but I love seeing how amused Canaan is while he refs the little girls' teams.


Okay, that's all I've got for now.  What a whirlwind week.  I can't even comprehend that it was less than a week ago that we boarded the plane for Ghana.  Amazing.  I still have not recovered and am exhausted, falling into bed as soon as I get the kids to bed each night and sleeping like a rock.  Also lots of sore muscles from toting around a little person that I am not used to lifting.  But, I will get used to it, and life goes on.  I can sleep when I'm dead, right Gina?  The house is a mess, and not everything is getting done how I would like it, but it's better than nothing and good enough for now, and there is lots of love and learning going on which is better than a clean house any day.

More soon....

...




Saturday, January 19, 2013

Happy New Year!



Our New Year's Eve tradition is to have a bonfire in the back yard, and burn that year's Christmas tree.  We've been doing it for many years.  It was easy in Florida, but we've had a couple  years here in NC where it was not wise to be burning a bonfire.  But this year the weather was perfect and we burned two Christmas trees!  It was lovely.








Kiki getting ready to get her hair done one last time before Widsar leaves for home.  Personally I LOVE her hair all free and fluffy like this!  I think it's adorable.  But she does have a bit of a Bill Cosby expression in this picture.





Climbing trees.




Doing the obstacle course again.  So much fun!
























Time to take Widsar to the airport.  SNIFF!  




Yes, I will always come back to you.  Maggie needs lots of reassurance.  People she loved have abandoned her before and she really doesn't like good-byes.  









Sisters. <3





We have begun a very long unit on learning about each state.  Right now we are studying our first area, New England.  The first state was Massachusetts and we learned a lot about how cranberries are grown and processed.   Then we made cranberry bread, cranberry juice, and our own homemade craisins which were pretty awesome!





Yummy!


Maggie and Silas practicing their music.



Need to build up some callouses!



The kids have all learned how to play chess and I am surprised how much they enjoy it and how well they do at it!  Eden had it explained to her one time, and she remembered all the moves and everything!



Upward Basketball season has begun.  Maggie and Isaac are playing basketball and Eden and Kiki are cheering.  


We studied about lighthouses in Maine, then we made our own lighthouses with little battery operated tea lights.  They were pretty cool!





Another paper cutting done by Hannah.  So awesome.


I never get over how delicate and intricate it all is.  She does it completely with an exacto knife.  Some of the lines are about the size of a hair, and everything connects together completely.  Just amazes me every time she does one.







So one Saturday it is 73 degrees out and the kids are all outside in short sleeves and barefeet.  Then just  six days later, we get our first snow of the year!  Everyone has been eagerly waiting for some snow and it was very exciting!  Here Hannah came in from work with snow sparkling all over her hair!




Dad and Canaan had a snowball fight out in the night.



What do you think of it Pizza?







The next morning was a play in the snow morning!  It melted quickly through the day, but we got a lot of mileage out of it while we could!










The snow that fell during the night seemed to be great packing snow, but by morning it had iced over and was very crusty and icy.  But as things warmed up, the snow got wet again, and we were finally able to make a snowman.  It did not last long though, and melted over before the day was over.
























Hannah was leaving this morning for a tournament, in which she is judging, doing a demonstration, and helping out her students.  I thought she looked like a stewardess or something!  So professional.  She looks like career girl Barbie.  





Practicing her cheers!!



All ready for Game Day One!!




-