May 27, 2008

Is it Summer Yet

I feel as though the season played a cruel joke on me. We had been blessed with some pretty outstanding weather for the last month and I got spoiled. Summer is usually not my favorite season, but I was actually excited this year. The boys had been playing for hours in the backyard and this would not only keep them happy and busy, but would wear them out. We could eat all of our meals in the backyard which meant less clean up for me; a quick hose off of the little picnic area and the boys splashing in their mini pool and clean up was complete. Yes, for once, I was happy that summer was here. (Mind you, I am a person who will stay out of the sun at all costs --my immune system has been slowly eating my pigment over the last 20 years and so summer sun has never been my favorite thing.) I usually love a moderate cold spell.......

But, the last couple of days have been the worst. One week, it is 100 degrees and then these last couple of days we are barely at 50. This meant less time outside. This meant no water fun for hours. This meant, when the rain came in, that the boys had to eat at the table and mommy stressed about not letting the floor and the table get too dirty with flying food. The boys did pretty well, all and all. They got to stay up a little later since they hadn't burnt as much energy. And, not too much food made it to the floor: Ben somehow managed to throw spaghetti on Sebastian's hair and face without splattering it anywhere else. That, my friends, is an art form!
So, never again will I moan and groan about the heat and the sun and being stuck outside for hours on end. Gone are the days when I could ignore the season and be happy to plop in front of the TV or play video games all day long. It is a new era in my life where maximizing outside play is the key both for happiness and sanity.
We are lucky to have the whole summer season ahead of us and as a former teacher, I know how quickly the months of June, July and August seem to fly by. As yesterday the weather seemed to pick up and the boys were able to play outside once again. Viva El Verano! There is so much to look forward to doing whether it be playing as a family in the backyard or visiting and celebrating with family and friends.

One of the things that kept us busy this long holiday weekend was getting the boys' picture taken again. As most of you know, professional studio pictures have been a disaster. There isn't one picture without tears and screaming. Goofy cheesin' and silly faces at home. But, step in a studio with a stranger taking a picture and forget about it. So, we felt brave and were rather stir crazy from this week. We had an appointment with Sears at 12:30 and hoped it would all go well. We had wanted to slick them out in the cutest of summer apparel, but it was cold and I think we did okay with the wintry alternatives. The boys had a late snack, an early nap and we made it to our appointment just on time with fingers crossed. Of course, Sears was running late. They were an hour behind and moving at a snail's pace.
But, we waited and the boys did a lot better than their Daddy with the wait. Of course they were bored and a little whiny, but so were we all. Michael was so mad that while we waited he said that we better order the minimum so as not to reward their bad service. However, then we saw the pictures and fell in love. We ordered a huge package because we couldn't help ourselves. Our boys took their first no tear pictures and I think that the pictures captured every aspect of their little personalities.
So, we got over it. I tell you though.....I can stare at those pictures for hours. We had one loaded as our screen saver the night they were taken and I was just staring and thinking and reflecting on our journey to becoming a family. (yes, again) I will never know how I got to be so lucky. We are truly blessed. Michael and I sat that night and talked and talked and just reveled in the boys and reminisced about all of their feats. Not only do we have wonderfully smart, talented and loving children.....they are lookers!
So, I finish up this update as quickly as I can.....the boys are ready for some outside fun. Mommy needs to set up the pool and make lunch. Meal time has been a little tricky as of late. Ben has become a picky eater. I haven't found the answer for it yet. He will not eat something that he does not want to eat. It either finds its way to the dog or he will sit forever and stare and play and not eat it. If you try to feed it to him, the lips pucker, the tip of the tongue pokes out for a little taste test and the head turns away. Sending him to bed without an alternative does not faze him one bit. Luckily Sebastian eats everything. He is easy going. He will trade his fruit for Ben's meat. It is interesting to watch their bartering system. 1 chunk of banana for two chunks of chicken. They hand each other the trade as Ben learned that his brother wasn't to be trusted. The other day Seb helped himself to Ben's piece of mini moonpie which he was saving for after his meal and which Seb had eaten his own as an appetizer from the get go.
I try to hide foods among foods Ben likes. He eats around it. If the texture is different.....he knows it is a won't be eaten. He loves fried rice and chow mein, but will pick every strand of cabbage, every pea and carrot out and place it to the side of his plate. Sebastian doesn't waste anytime in eating his. He even insisted on an extra coconut shrimp at lunch yesterday which Ben wasn't the least bit interested in. Sebastian will try anything. At least one bite and if he doesn't like it, he will shake his head and say, "Nah, Nah, Nah!" Ben won't even try it. Even if it is something he usually likes....if it looks different....forget it. So, I continue trying to introduce new things and give him the same meal we all are having. I also have stocked up on things he likes. The boys love Salsa. They are dippers. I have never seen babies take so much care dipping their McNuggets in Hot Mustard or Sweet and Sour sauce. They do it so neatly. The same as the chips and salsa. They love it. So, I have stocked up on fresh salsa (not the processed jar stuff) hoping that the little nutritional value upgrade from ketchup will do some good. I love both of my boys and love that they are unique. I do wish in this instance though, that Ben was a little less picky with his food. Not even to the extent of Sebastian who very often is just like his Daddy - a human garbage disposal.

May 12, 2008

One Kick "Butt" Mother's Day

So, this is technically my second Mommy's Day with the boys. But, I have to admit that it feels like the first. I barely remember the actual first because we were still jet-lagged, trying to learn how to be parents and my eyes were still partially swollen shut from the pink eye. Not that it wasn't special mind you....because I was finally a mother. Before I had dreaded Mother's Day...almost as much as I dreaded Valentine's Day when I was single. A very painful reminder of what I didn't have or couldn't have every year. So, that was definitely over last year because I was very grateful to have two little boys to call my sons, but I couldn't take full advantage of the day which I see as the ultimate excuse to just do nothing for once. Not that this doesn't just delay things until the next day. Any dishes not washed or laundry not done do not magically disappear and will be twice the work tomorrow.....but an excuse for procrastination is always welcomed.

My first Mother's Day gift last year was a double stroller....thanks honey...what a gift for me, huh? Mike is not the romantic gift giver he once was (showing up at my college classroom every week with long stem roses)....and of course, this year he didn't buy a gift...which was just fine. I don't need a stroller or blender and I have two vacuum cleaners and mostly laminate floor anyway. I will try not to sound too materialistic and admit that the best gift of all is for us to spend all day as a family. And the money that would go to some crazy gift could allow us to do whatever we want as an outing. It is nice to have an outing once and a while you know and luckily, one of his patients gave me/us a great Mom's Day gift. He handed over his four tickets to the Dodger's Game (probably because his wife had forbidden him to go), but I love baseball and so it was a great excuse to take the boys to their first MLB game.
So, we did it big. Now, I do feel like quite the sell out because I am a SF Giants fan and hate the Dodgers. I grew up in Candlestick park watching Dodgers fans get beat up in the bathrooms and thrown over the railings to the bottom decks. We threw gum on their seats and expletives were the norm. Of course, when I wear Giants gear to Chavez Ravine, I expect no less treatment and had some scary moments in turn. What a rivalry! And, we are no longer in SF and the owners in SF are not tops on my list anymore, so, I decided to sell out.....maybe just for the day......and hand down to my boys a love of the game. A pure love for the national league baseball and if that had to be in Dodger town, we would bleed dodger blue. We would go all out. We would have our matching Russell Martin jersey shirts and hats and would be good dodger fans booing the Astros and cheering the bums.
Many would call our bringing twin 2 yr olds to a ballgame crazy. And I agree, I was fearful. But, we had 4 seats and we could leave at anytime (hey, it was only a dodger game). I am glad to report though, that the boys had a great time. They watched a bit of the game. We had great seats, even though in the upper deck it was right behind home plate with a good amount of sun and shade. Ben took in a good portion of the game sitting quietly on Daddy's lap. Seb was busier. Standing in front of the seats, dancing to the in between inning music and sitting on Mommy's lap here and there. They loved seeing birds fly by (we were fairly high in the sky). Seb made friends with every person he could sitting around us. Every time the crowd cheered, Seb would pop up with a proud smile and clap as if they were cheering for him. Not short on confidence, my son. They thought the wave was great. They loved the beach balls that were smacked about from fan to fan and Sebby got to hit it twice. But, most of all, they loved.......

the food. We didn't even get to the Dodger Dogs which are very tastey I must say. We didn't get the fries or the chicken strips. We were junk food junkies at this game. We started with a helmet full of popcorn and some churros and we added some frozen lemonade to the mix. We oogled the snow cones and the cotton candy and mommy so wanted the dreyers ice cream as well. It was Mother's Day so we didn't worry about the crazy pricing mark ups and just had a good time. The boys picked out a Dodger's Bat and Ball set which I am sure will have to be confiscated later as I don't think the dogs will like being poked with them.
We stayed until the 7th inning. We could have stayed longer and I did stay until the no-hitter was broken up, but not long enough to see the Dodgers blow it and lose, hehe. The boys liked the experience, but we were parked miles away and wanted to beat the traffic. Now, being a real baseball fan....I would never leave a game before it was over....but this was a Dodger's game so I didn't feel as bad doing it. It was a long trek to the car, but the boys were troopers. We carried them some, they walked some, we carried them some, they walked some and then we were at our car and making our way home with no problem. They slept in the car after their day of excitement and by the time we got home, it was dinner time and Mommy's don't cook on Mother's they?

So, we decided to go out for dinner. Of course, with no reservation, our options were limited and we decided to go to our favorite fast foodish Chinese Food restaurant. A ton of great food for a low price was the best thing after the pricing at the game. The boys love their Chinese Food too and Sebastian as usual charmed all the other patrons. Every single table of people had to stop to say goodbye or comment on our smiley, happy, handsome boys on their way out. And if we hadn't gained enough weight or spent enough money yet, we ended the day by going to Baskin Robbins for dessert. Of course, I was so stuffed, I barely touched my ice cream creation until later that night while I sat glued to the Survivor Finale. It was a good day.

And after this very shallow recall of my day....I do want to say that I know what is important. I can have a day like this....a day focused on nothing and doing absolutely nothing of substance and be happy about it because I have these two amazing boys to love and who love me. All day, I had my two boys spontaneously coming over to me with a smile and putting their arms around me and kissing me and giggling with joy and happiness. Without that, none of this would mean anything....would be enjoyable. Because I have the love of my boys and because I work so hard to make my boys happy everyday of the year....I don't feel bad in having a day to just have a day. Because of my boys and their love and their happiness......
My mother's day was kick booty!

May 5, 2008

The Last year in Review - Pictures

A Photo Tribute to Ben and Seb

This week Last Year - The End

The Homecoming
Okay, so I realize that a week is only seven days, but Ethiopia week stretched on a little longer. I will close by finishing up our trip by lumping the last couple of travel days together. We had a fabulous time in Ethiopia. Not only meeting our boys and becoming parents, but meeting new people and enjoying a country which we knew so little about before starting the adoption process.

On our last day, we had to be packed up with our stuff out of the room by 1 p.m. so that it would be ready for the next family. I must say....the luggage wasn't packed near as nicely and tightly as it was coming in. I guess with two babies getting into everything and with being so tired, you really don't care about the wrinkles and fitting things in just perfectly. The boys were crawling around like crazy and getting into everything, so it really was a rush job....but, we got it done. We chilled in the common areas and visited with families as they came in and out of the guesthouse, following the schedule for their week. We had our last meal, hugged the wonderful cooks and the minibus came to drop us off at the airport. We would have a five hour wait, but were thankful for the ride. We checked ourselves in and carried the boys in their slings around the airport. We still couldn't process this unbelievable trip and just kept plugging along because if we thought about it all.... We were exhausted and I had not one ounce left to support any kind of memory emotion. We boarded our plane to leave Ethiopia in the dead of night. Luckily we had the bulk head seating with bassinet and we had purchased one extra seat for the boys, so we had plenty of room. Depending on the wants of the boys, they took turns sitting or laying in the seat next to us, sitting in our laps or lounging in the bassinet. Of course, no leg of the flight was without its drama. Once in the air, Seb had fits of screaming bloody murder. He had his sippy which apparently didn't help his ears as much as a bottle would. He wouldn't take a pacifier. He just wanted to cry and cry. Of course, the flight attendants felt they should whisk him away and ease his crying fit. Michael did not think this was a good idea. It was the whole bonding thing. We needed to continue fulfilling his needs and couldn't have people constantly taking him to do this for us. We didn't want to be rude, but had to hold onto Seb and try to calm him ourselves. He really did calm down after we had been in the air awhile. It was really smooth sailing once we hit Italy.
Now, the poop department was something else entirely. We had packed a ton of diapers and ten outfits. Upon landing in Dulles, there were no outfits left and we were unshowered and covered in food, poop and spit up. I am surprised they let us back into the U.S. with the way we smelled. At one point Seb had such a poopy explosion, it went through his two layered outfit, the Et Air blanket and onto the bassinet. Luckily, the passengers let Mike skip in line to the bathroom to clean Seb up right away. He then had to give the blanket back to the flight attendant. He asked what he should do with it. She took it with a smile and shoved it under another passengers seat. I guarantee you, with that smell, that passenger wasn't smiling for the rest of the trip.

We landed at the Dulles airport on Monday morning. It took no time at all to make it through the immigration line. Although, finding our luggage took some time. Luckily, one of the airport security guards took pity on us. Two frazzled, crazy looking parents with babies in slings trying to wrangle several luggages and not knowing what to do......that man had a big heart. Many would have run in the other direction. He helped get our luggage, escorted us to the other immigration line and helped us recheck in our luggage through to CA. We then had a couple of hours to get Mike a new shirt and have a snack before going on to Denver. Of course, I send Mike to get a snack for the boys and he comes back with a bagel and hot chocolate. I was like dude, why not a muffin and juice. Our toothless and (we didn't know at the time....lactose intolerant) boys would not do well with this breakfast. Back to the snacks in the diaper bag for them. Although....unfortunately, we gave Ben a little of the hot chocolate and 15 minutes later.....he threw it up all over me, exorcist style. At this point, there was no time for a new shirt as we were about to board the plane. I cleaned up the airport chairs and carpet the best I could with baby wipes and thought that juice would have smelled a lot better on my shirt and pants than curdled milk. But, we were making our way home. I just had to hold on for a little bit longer. Of course United had to make things worse on us. We were there forever waiting to board. We were there before anyone else. Of course, they decided to redo all of the seating. We reminded them several times, we needed our three seats together. They said it was no problem. Of course, when they pass out the new seating arrangements.....only two are together. We could cramp together and waste a seat or separate the boys with each of us, still not maximizing our investment. They would not reorganize their seating plan. We were upset...but of course, upon getting to our seats we were allowed to switch. I think the man who had the seat next to us, saw a smelly frazzled woman with two active babies and do I get out of here?

We landed in Denver and rushed to board our next flight. There wasn't much of a cushion and so we immediately boarded and United had arranged our seats together this time. I was still exhausted and now that we were so close to home, it was hard not to cry. I pushed it back so as not to think about the extraordinary life changing trip we had almost completed. We weren't home yet. I couldn't think about it yet. I didn't want to cry yet. We had a pleasant flight. There was an adoption agency head on our flight and she came over and talked with us and played with the boys. Again, she offered to take Ben for a walk around the plane. I kept thinking....what is it with people wanting to take these we look that bad? I won't answer that, we probably did.
As the plane pulled into our local CA airport, it was even more difficult to keep the tears back. We deboarded the plane and made our way down the big escalator to where my mom, stepdad, and Nonny were waiting with balloons. I had tears, but wasn't bawling yet. We kissed and hugged and said our hellos and introduced the boys to their Nonny, Papa and GGNon. The men went to get the luggage and I sat on the airport bench, trying to hold it all in. My mom asked about the trip and I got maybe two sentences in with a shaky voice and I lost it. I was bawling. I was crying hard into my mom's shirt in the middle of the airport. I was overcome with the emotion of the last week. I was home. Safe. I had the comfort of my Mommy's arms and shirt. I buried my face and cried for a long while with Ben in between us still in the harness. Although in a very long winded way I have described this week to all who would read is really indescribable. I can tell about events and schedules and try to touch on the feelings....but I can never relay what the trip was or meant to us. It is something that no one can imagine unless they went through it. Most of it was happy emotion. Some of it was sad emotion. Happy about becoming a family. Sad about the extreme poverty that created the opportunity for us to become a family.
Mike was back to work the next day. Luckily my mom stayed for a week to help me with the night time feedings when I was jet lagged and to take care of the babies when both my eyes were swollen shut due to pink eye. When my mom left after that week I was scared, but my Nonny started coming twice a week to help me out and we had a nice little schedule. It is hard to believe a year has passed. It went so fast, yet, it feels like these boys have been a part of my life forever. They are my everything. They have filled a void in my heart and have made me happier than I could ever imagine. No matter what happens in this life, I can be content as I have been more than blessed by my two little angels. We love you Ben and Seb.

May 4, 2008

This week last year - Day 7-

Even though we were not leaving reminded us that the vacation was almost over....our real lives were just around the corner. There were only a few things to do on this day and for most families, it was a day to prep their luggage and begin their travels home. In the morning there was to be a braiding class and Ethiopian cooking class. We didn't get to see much of either. The staff member that was sent over to assist in translation was a nurse from the care center and one of Seb's favorite people on the earth. As soon as he saw her walk through the was as if the progress of the last couple of days melted away. It didn't help that if Seb even whimpered, this compassionate woman would take him into her arms and coo until he was all giggles again. It wasn't that we could blame her or get mad, but we needed to create that space and boundary so that Seb could be happy with he was the day before. Mike took Seb to the swing outside (as you probably can tell by was Seb's favorite place). Keeping the distance minimized the damage, but it meant we couldn't take full advantage of the instruction offered.

Later that day, I had the scare of my life and it made me feel like an awful parent. We put the boys down for a nap in our room in the little portable toddler beds. Our room was a stone's throw from the front room so I sat on the couch and listened for a whimper or cry. Mike decided to go with the other's on a tour Massi was giving of the new new guesthouse which would be first opened with the new group coming in this week for overflow guests. The staff was moving all of the beds from the office, which in the early days of the program used to double as a guesthouse to this new guesthouse. So, I was alone, but felt I could handle the sleeping twins. So I sat in the front room, not really paying attention to the soccer game on the TV waiting for the boys to awake. Finally I heard a cry and went in. Benny was awake, but there was no sign of Seb. I looked around....had Michael come back and taken him to the swing without me noticing. I looked outside - there was no one. I ran around the common areas - no baby. I asked the other visitors if they had seen Mike...had he come back....had anyone come back. They said they didn't think so. I was in panic mode now. Running about with Ben in my arms and looking for Seb. The craziest thoughts went through my head and I didn't want to scream out too loudly because I felt so inadequate to have already lost track of my kid. Finally I went into the Bailey's room to take a look as I was going to go room to room at this point. And there was Seb. By the closet, sucking on a rather large screw. I felt horrible. How did he make it there without me seeing or hearing? I felt lucky that he didn't come to harm. This was a great ushering into parenthood.

The other families packed up their things and got ready to leave. We had a picture taking and said our goodbyes. We had exchanged information so that we could keep in touch and we have. For only knowing people for a is amazing how quickly we have become friends. We still frequently communicate and share our lives with eachother----the good, bad and ugly. I am thankful for each and every friendship we made that week. Whether it be for advice from the wise and practiced members or commiseration on similar issues, they have really helped me through this process of becoming a parent. I can't wait until the reunion :) I just hope that if we ever go through this process again, we can be so lucky. But, does lightning strike twice? What are the chances we can all go through it again at the same time? That would be perfect, haha!

Mike had to take a ride with the group to go pick up the twins documents-birth certificates and passports and immigration paperwork. Since he was in the minibus, he would have to make all stops before coming home - that meant the Hotel and the airport. I was nervous again about watching the boys...this time they were awake and all over the place. I wanted to finish moving our stuff to the Bailey's room before the next group arrived. We needed the space even though it was only for a couple of days. Luckily, the SD couple volunteered to help out. They were great with the boys and their girls weren't at the guesthouse as of yet so they didn't mind. The time flew by as I finished moving our stuff and then spent time with the boys and visited with our CA compadres. I changed my first poopy diaper of the trip since Mike was not there. He will never let me forget that he was the diaper duty man on our trip. I was so freaked out about the concept of changing the diapers (I get nervous doing things I have never done before...or was that my excuse), but I left that to him. For the trip all the way through the plane ride it was his job and he didn't complain.... well not too much. But, over the last year.....with him working so much and me being the SAHM, I think I more than surpassed his totals. But, every time, even as of late....I complain about a diaper.....Michael says he has a get out of jail free card. He did the dirty work on the trip so he is exempt. I don't know if it works that way, and I don't know if that is quite fair.....but it is what it is. My husband getting out of dirty diapers duty now, by bringing up one week in the past year. But, I do have to agree that that one week is the most important week in our lives, so maybe it does work that way.

Michael and Massi returned with pizza and ice cream which we all enjoyed. We went to bed, already missing our travel group and getting ready to meet the next. And of course, the night was a night of interupted sleep and poop everywhere. The spice of life!

May 3, 2008

This Week Last Year - Day 6

The Down Day - A Day for Bonding- Not much to report

This day had no preordained plans and it was up to the families what they wanted to do. Anyone that knows us, knows that given a choice we will be as lazy as possible and stay at home and do that is what we did. This had more to do with us all adjusting as a family than with us being lazy though. Many of the other families were going back out shopping. Although we could have used more gifts and would have loved to join them, we didn't think it was wise to drop the boys back off at the care center. We didn't want to lose any of the headway we had made with Seb. We also couldn't take them with us as it is against custom to take small children out in public. I certainly was not ready to take care of the boys on my own. There was no way I would let Mike go out for us. So, The Bailey's kindly offered to do some shopping for us and we had them pick up a few items while they were out and we couldn't have done a better job ourselves.

There wasn't much to tell or describe from this day. We just spent good old fashioned bonding time together. Playing in the front room, in the courtyard grassy area and swinging on the swing. We fed the boys rice cereal and formula. They ate on our laps for meals. Ben with no teeth and Seb with two, enjoyed the injera and wat, but to this day hated eggs. They smiled and cried and pooped and smiled and cried and played and pooped. We were really settling in. Tomorrow we would have to say goodbye to our wonderful travel mates. A new group would be coming in. We were staying a couple of extra days because of flight availability. The Hilton may have been a better option as the next group was HUGE, but not knowing that ahead of time, it did allow us the chance to meet more people. That night another couple from CA would arrive. They really reminded us of home as they were from San Diego and the typical cool, surfer So. Cal folks. They would have the other small room across from ours until our group left and that night and following day we shared the bathroom. We gave them the overview - the lay of the land- and they scoped out the rooms to see which they would take when our group left and before their group arrived. We had dibs on the Bailey's room which was closest to ours, but a bit bigger and had its own bathroom.

It was nice to have a down day to take things easy. The previous days, although enjoyable, seemed like we were rushing from here to there. So much to do, but no time to digest or think about the events of the week or the experience. This day....we could breathe and kind of soak it all in. I think it was this night that Mike and Nathaniel went out after dinner to pick up some Metro Pizza. We were ready for a little taste of home and pizza seemed the best way to accomplish this. Anna and Heather helped me keep an eye on the boys until the guys returned with our snack. We enjoyed the company of our travel group and I was sad knowing that we would all be retreating to our own parts of the country tomorrow and the following days.
+++++Fast forward a year......being it is Saturday and the perfect day to celebrate, we are going to celebrate becoming a family today. We are going to spend every moment of today grateful that we found each other and thankful that we are a family. If the boys will cooperate, we will have their 2 yr. old picture professionally taken - hopefully it won't be a crying, screaming, tortured look like the last time. We will go out to lunch. We will come home to our nice backyard and CA weather and set up their little pool and relax for the rest of the day. Life is good!!!

May 2, 2008

This week Last Year - Day 5 -

The First Real Taste of Parenthood

So, after another amazing breakfast we made our way to the care center to spend some time with the boys. We decided to be brave and take them back to the guesthouse today. The one thing about the guesthouse is that it is a first parents greatest nightmare when it comes to childproofing. There are stairs and wires and outlets and sharp corners and being that I was already scared of the prospects of making a horrible error with the boys on our own....this made things even more challenging. Also, we did not pack enough toddler toys to keep them busy. Yes, empty water bottles came in handy and a variety of other things as well, but a bored baby = an exploratory baby and so with the stairs and wires and outlets looking like much fun, we had to be on guard at all times. On a good note, Seb seemed to be adjusting rather well to us when away from the care center's many familiar faces. Mike was great with him and would take him out to the courtyard or the grassy area and swing him. We were still in the very small room which now was even smaller with two toddler sleep thingys shoved in. It wasn't too bad though. We enjoyed getting to know the boys without the distraction of a million people and we could tell some progress was being made.

Later that afternoon, we had a meeting with the doctor where we could go over any concerns and also where they would give us the medical records etc. Each family had a scheduled time and after the appointments we would have the Goodbye Ceremony. The doctor's meeting didn't take too long and we waited in the room and played with the boys as the staff set up for the ceremony. A little before the ceremony was set to begin, we were to put the boys in the traditional Ethiopian attire for the party. We also decided to change the boys diapers at this time since we were taking off their clothes anyway. Seb got changed without a hitch. Ben, on the otherhand, as soon as Mike took off his diaper decided to do his imitation of a fire hose. Being the unexperienced parents we were, we didn't cover the hose with a wipe to protect us and our surrounding from a good spray. Anyone who knows Mike, knows that he can get flustered in a tight situation. I had to suppress a laugh as I saw my stressed husband trying to clean the baby, himself and the play mat all before the ceremony began. I thought.....this is it.....a real moment of parenthood. This was the first of many times we would be soaked with a number of the boys bodily fluids. This would be barely the tip of the iceberg really.

All of the families were lined up in chairs, holding their children, on the periphery of the room. The older children were in rows of chairs in the back of the room. The staff were across from the parents and with the older children. It was almost like a graduation and you could feel the emotion in the air. Again, I tried to keep my emotions in check as I didn't want another crying video memory of myself. The older children sang and it was hard not to wonder if each and every one of them had a family already. The staff passed out little heart shaped cards to each of our children. The videographer came around to tape everyone and asked for a message. I didn't want to I was trying to hold it together, but of course, Mike was plotting against me, or maybe he couldn't talk either for the same reasons. So, I managed to mumble a very lame thank you which I cringe at everytime I watch the video, wishing I were more eloquent and could truly express how grateful and blessed I feel to have the opportunity to raise these children. I felt this way then, but now I feel it more. Now that I know what it is to be their parent and to wake up happy every morning to their voices. I have so many words, but still I think I would fail to articulate them in such a way to really explain how I feel. There are no words that can fully express what I feel. As I know it is delusional, but I am so full of love and emotion for these boys that it is almost like it is a feeling that is so intense no one can understand. Like it is a feeling I invented, as how could anyone feel this much. Or maybe I am just full of "it" today. I don't know......back to it I suppose....

The children were also each called up to put their handprint on the wall in paint so that they would always be a part of where they came from and so that their memory would live on there. Of course, the boys did not like the paint and cried....if only given the chance now they would be in heaven and would have thought to make a mess. Fingerpainting instead of a handprint, but, it was a lifetime ago. I think they also felt the emotion in the air and were probably confused and scared and this was probably a very traumatic week for them. The staff led the families in a prayer. I kept my tears at bay, although I didn't really have to. I don't think there was a dry eye in the place and we were surrounded by friends. It was a truly special event. To close, they had a banana cake. We stayed for awhile and ate our cake which was delicious. The children played and we said our goodbyes and thank yous to the staff. We retrieved the boys' photo album and embroidered blankets that we had sent before we knew them. It was time to journey back to the guest house with our boys.

We had to take turns taking rides back as they had a car the size of a geo metro and there were many of us. Luckily, one of our travel mates let the four of us squeeze in with her and her son in the back seat. Talk about a can of sardines or maybe a clown car....I don't know, but we were exhausted and happy to squish such a kind, Christian woman since she had offered to let us do so. That night would definitely be a trial. Our first night of dealing with the crying and nighttime feedings. The first night of poopy blowouts. It was an art that Seb had perfected and something we had to get used to for almost six months after this point. You have not had the joy of cleaning a diaper until you have wrangled with the poopy blowout. This was a staple of our lives in that it occurred all day, from the morning through the evening. Because it happened so often, we had to wash by hand and hang to dry onesies almost constantly. It was worse at night because you are half asleep and as if in a cartoon, the distinctive horribly toxic odor wafts under your nose like a finger summoning you. You awake, praying you will catch it in time. Please be contained in the diaper this time! But, alas, it has a mind of its own. It will not be contained. It will find every crease and crevice to make its way out and leave its mark on every piece of clothing, every body part, every blanket and piece of bedding that you can imagine. An hour later, even after you think you have done a CDC outbreak contamination quarantine like job, you will find a splatter of poop somewhere and say......where did this come from? I tell had a mind of its own. It didn't help that in these first couple of nights, changing diapers led to very unhappy screeching babies. I guess if an acquaintance...almost stranger....woke me in the dead of night to change my diaper, I might scream too. So, we thought for sure that the other guests in the guest house would think how horrible we were. What must we be doing to these kids? Why could we not fulfill their needs and make them quiet so the world could sleep? Mike was panicked. Should we be taking these kids if they are so unhappy with us? It takes time babe. We will be okay. Don't lose faith. And he didn't. And we didn't. And we made it through. And I hope that the boys will always know how much we love them and we will be happy if they love us even a tenth of that because that is a whole lotta lovin'.

I think to this point of all the things that had to align for us to have these boys...these perfect additions to our family and in many ways extensions of ourselves. There were so many things that occurred in our lives good and bad that lead us to the specific point of starting this process when we did and if even one thing went differently; if Mike became a Dr. in KC, or if my sister didn't fall in love when she did or if we would have delayed when Mike was in his accident....we wouldn't have our boys. It is weird. We see so much of ourselves in them and it could be nuture vs. nature or it could be that it was meant to be. I say this with a heavy heart as I don't think God thought us better than their Ethiopian parents and I don't know how to reconcile the thoughts, but.......thinking here......I don't know. How did we get matched up with these two guys....these boys who are perfect for us.....these boys who are so much like us. I think all of this blogging is driving me crazy. Anyway...the week is coming to an end.....never fear......the fluff blogging will be back in no time. After the week tribute to Ethiopia is over of course.

May 1, 2008

This Week Last Year - Day 4-

Shopping.....Time with the boys......The Crown Hotel

(we were tired but happy)

****Note - from here forth, pictures do not necessarily match the dialogue *******

This day seemed more of a touristy day.....not that we didn't spend a good amount of time with the boys, but we were out and about in Addis for much of the day. After another wonderful breakfast the minibus came to take us shopping. It was nice to get another glimpse of life in Addis, but if I didn't mention it before, car trips are like riding the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. There isn't much order to traffic and you swish here and there on unpaved uneven rocky roads with no seat belts. This is not a complaint. I enjoy wild rides and Indiana Jones is one of my favorite so it is just an observation really. Another thing....Upon leaving the guesthouse, you could never miss the goats. There were always goats for sale. Those goats were so obedient, following their master when told in a perfect group and resting on the ground waiting, in essence, for their death the rest of the time. When purchased, sometimes they were thrown in a bag and over the purchasers shoulder and carted away. I also spied a grotesque pile of heads and felt bad for these well behaved little guys.

We made our way to the first stop of the day, a line of stores selling every kind of treasure you could imagine. They say that the farther down the line you go, the cheaper the same merchandise gets. We haggled price, probably not too effectively as we knew what we wanted and I guess the American in us, just paid the price. Now on items we weren't sure of, that was a different story. Shop owners did not want to let you leave without buying something. Not in a sinister manner as I guess that sounds, but they will haggle until the price is so low, you either feel bad not paying it or you just want to politely leave and that is the easiest way to do it. We got some very nice things for our family and friends at home. We also picked up some future gifts for the boys. We definitely didn't buy enough. If ever we go back, we will definitely buy more more more. It was nice to shop and that means a lot coming from me who hates shopping even here at home, but it didn't come without its price. We could somewhat deny the street vendors selling their maps and watches etc. But, it was hard to see the disabled people and starving mothers with their starving babies needing help and not being able to give it. We retreated into the car to try to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of not being able to help. From the window, Mike couldn't resist buying a shoe shine from a little boy and it really turned into a poor idea. He should have just let the boy shine his tennis shoes. Instead, my husband, being the butt that he is, told the boy to shine one of our travel mates more appropriate shoes. The travel mate didn't realize this and was trying to turn the boy away who couldn't not shine the shoes because he took the money. In the confusion, the guard came over with his stick to hit the boy. Mike, quite embarrassed had to explain the boy's way out of trouble. This stick was not a new concept. If the vendors got too pushy or if the beggars would not leave....the stick came out and the people cowered in a way that you knew that they had experience with the stick. It was one of those things that made my stomach turn. We needed the protection, but to see other human beings in that condition and having to come up against a stick....that was just something that bothered me and still bothers me. If I was in a similar situation....would I risk a beating so that my baby could eat that day....just horrible. Not really a choice at all. But, we saw why we could not give handouts first hand. When you give handouts to mothers and children, when they turn the corner they get mugged for their gift and can be hurt. In our case, mothers with their babies (who were obviously starving) crowded our windows looking for something, anything to take away. People had granola bars and began passing them out through the window of the car as we were about to leave. Unfortunately, word gets out at super sonic speed and we had a crowd around us forming. You could feel the crowd pressing around the minibus and we had to leave in a hurry.

We left for our next destination which was more of a one stop shop with everything you could need and it was inside more of a compound. The people still followed, but there was a gate and some distance so catastrophe could be averted and guilt wasn't as in your face. Here there was no haggling, but the prices were still very good. We ended up buying some really nice jewelry and boy, the people in our group emerged with bags and bags of stuff. If only we had the room in our luggage, we would have left with just as many.

We then drove through the merkato which is the authentic market place in Addis. We were not allowed to really go there because it was deemed too dangerous. It was nice to drive through though and get a taste of what things are like. The streets were jammed with people and there were many old Toyota pickups piled high with stuff and people....and I mean piled. We drove through town and saw some schools and universities. We saw a beautiful mosque and Mike was even amazed to see a shop full of shiny chrome car rims. Our outing ended as we made our way to the supermarket to pick up some groceries. We bought some formula, cookies and rice cereal for the boys. They had everything there....all the comforts of home....from Twinkies to Rice Crispies. Go figure!!! I couldn't imagine coming all the way to Ethiopia to enjoy a Twinkie, but that is just me.

We came back to the guest house for a nice lunch and a little rest. We unpacked our stuff and got ready for what was going to be a nice evening at the Crown Hotel for dinner. We went to the care center to spend time with the boys. Some guests were ready to visit with their children in the guesthouse, but we decided to play it safe and spent time with the boys on their own turf. Of course, that decision was cemented when Seb screamed upon seeing us. But, we made the most of our time together. We played in the playroom and the courtyard. We took turns with the boys one on one and then together as a family. Seb really started to calm down...but every time he saw a familiar face, it was two steps back. He loved the staff and knowing him now it all makes sense. Seb loves us and it takes time for him to feel comfortable with new people. He likes to be with us constantly and doesn't prefer to play independently. Ben on the other hand is an independent dude. He loves us and loves to spend time with us, but he can look at a book alone or is content exploring the backyard without holding our hand. So, it is no surprise, that Seb needed time to trust us. It was hard to leave them this day to go out to dinner. But, it was good not to rush things. It was good to transition slowly. This would be the last night they would spend in their familiar care center toddler bed together with their roommates and nannies and everyone they knew. Tomorrow would be the last day they were at the care center at all.

So, we left for the Crown Hotel. We had a wonderful night. We were seated and ordered our drinks. Their was a great buffet with so many yummy foods that I don't even know the name for. Our hands were washed in the traditional manner. We enjoyed watching the dancers. After the meal, as it always is in Ethiopia, there is coffee service. The coffee is to die for and can last for three rounds. Even on our followed every meal. It was great. This was really a great trip. We were bonding with our boys and enjoying Ethiopia to the fullest. We couldn't wait for the days to come. Although, we were a little scared about taking the boys tomorrow. We hoped Seb would be ready. So, we enjoyed our last night of sleep, uninterrupted sleep for awhile.