Monday, December 31, 2007

Five Weeks from Today

We spent yesterday afternoon at the home of friends who have a 7 pound 3-week-old. Between holding him and holding our other friends' 21-pound 6-month-old (who, for the clothes-buying grandmas reading this, fit nicely in 6-9 month rompers), we got in lots of baby time. Let me tell you, Paul looks pretty darn sweet holding a baby.

Even with a couple of two-year-olds thrown into the mix, it all seemed pretty manageable. Hold the baby, feed the baby, play with the baby, talk to the baby, change the baby... So I'm not sure why I felt a total wave of adrenaline when I was lying in bed last night. Wow. Five weeks from today we are going to be the ones responsible for doing these things. It's so exciting, a little terrifying, and right now it seems totally unreal.

In other news: The greatest thing about being some of the few of our high school friends who have stayed in our hometown is that come holiday season we get a deluge of visitors. I love having everybody around and right now we have two friends staying with us for the long weekend. What a treat!

Paul gave me an Ergo Baby Carrier (mine is cranberry) for my birthday. This came highly recommended by several people including someone who still carries his 4 year-old in it while they hike. It's so well-padded and comfortable that we may just splurge on a second one to take with us to Ethiopia. We're going to be holding them so much, especially during our two 5 hour layovers, that I think it might be worth it.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Fresh Mozzarella and a Dead Mouse

My birthday was yesterday and to celebrate Paul and I made our very first batch of homemade mozzarella cheese. Yum! I gave him a ricotta and mozzarella making kit for Christmas and we were excited to try it out. It was easier and messier than I'd anticipated and the results were delicious. We ate it all, but we have plenty of rennet left (enough for 29 more batches!), so anyone who visits can help us out in our new endeavor. It definitely turned out better than the homemade beer we made with last year's Christmas gift!

I'm not posting a picture of the mouse Stella killed last night - although I did take one to show Paul when he comes home tonight. I came downstairs this morning and there was a tiny, saliva-covered little rodent in the middle of the floor. Last winter we were sitting on the couch with the dog when a little mouse ran across our entryway about 25 feet away. She came within 6 inches of catching it and a couple days later she caught one in the middle of the night and left it next to her bowl. It was obvious that she'd repeated her feat last evening, although you wouldn't have known it from her lazy stance on the couch. Disclaimer: We don't have a mouse-infested home; Stella is just very good at catching the few mice that do appear. I'm pretty grossed-out by this, but I can't help feeling a little bit of pride in her talent. Most dogs don't really do anything to help out around the house but ours occasionally does!

Warning: Two back-to-back posts about the dog? This blog is entering dangerous territory! It's a good thing Norah and Atticus will be home soon so I can start boring you with "what my kid did" stories instead!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Stella Investigates

Stella has had a busy week so far. Yesterday I took her on a long walk and then she played with my parents' dog for quite awhile. When our friends came over in the evening she was completely tuckered out and was acting like a model dog. She curled up on the couch and was fast asleep so I didn't think anything of it when she stayed downstairs when everyone went up to see the nursery. When we came down she was still on the couch. Closer investigation, however, proved that the plate of cookies had only a single one left instead of the two dozen that should have been there. In addition, the bowl of dip that was also on the coffee table was nearly empty. Investigation of her nose proved that she's not quite as well-behaved as she led us to believe.

I am going to attempt to post my very first video here. It's kind of dorky and I sound like I'm talking to a two-year-old instead of the dog, but I wanted to try out my new camcorder!
P.S. I can't believe this actually worked! I feel like a technological genius (rather than someone who just spent 2 hours figuring out how to post a 30 second video of herself talking to the dog like a moron).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Holidays!

We celebrated our last childless Christmas weekend by sleeping in. We're both night owls, so I'm really going to miss getting up on my own lazy schedule and drinking a cup of coffee while the rest of the house is still asleep. Paul and I joke hopefully that Atticus and Norah have been spending their time in Toukoul establishing sleep patterns that will be convenient for us. Perhaps they'll arrive home to a completely new environment with a completely different time zone and feel the urge to sleep from 9 pm to 9 am each day - I'm holding out hope for that but trying to cherish this last lazy vacation at the same time.

We spent Christmas Eve with Paul's family, Christmas morning with my parents, hosted dinner at our house, and then had some friends over in the evening. Is it any wonder that I was falling asleep on the couch by the end of the night? It was great to spend time with everybody though. We tried out our new baby carrier using our youngest nephew as a guinea pig. He's a month older than Atticus and a lot of fun to spend time with. It's crazy to think we're going to have two of our own soon! Our niece got an American Girl doll and named it Norah. Atticus and Norah might not be home, but they still got a lot of gifts and cute outfits. In best blog news, my parents and grandparents gave us an awesome digital camera that also works as a camcorder. I'm very excited about being able to take good pictures again, and as soon as I figure out how I'll make a short film and test out my posting capabilities.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The New Flower Guest House

On the recommendation of a few families who have recently traveled to Ethiopia, we have made reservations at this guest house. It looks very nice, is reasonably priced, and they're accustomed to the needs of new adoptive parents.

ETA: Since I've noticed that many people still come to my blog after searching for "New Flower Guest House" on Google, I should add that we were very pleased with our experience there. Helen, the owner, and the rest of the staff were lovely, the accommodations and food were very good, and it was a very nice place to spend our first week as a new family. I believe Helen has since moved the guest house to a new (nicer) building, but the one we stayed in was very pleasant. If I recall correctly, Helen is an Ethiopian who spent a decade living in the U.S. before returning to Ethiopia. For awhile, she ran a side business searching for birth families of adopted children so she had a lot of interesting insight into why children are placed for adoption in Ethiopia. Most of her guests are adoptive families from various agencies and we met some very nice people while staying there. In addition, the hotel staff was great about providing us with cribs and doing anything else they could for the kids. We would definitely stay there again and recommend it to others!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Six Weeks from Today...

We will be on our way to meet our babies. I booked our flights this morning! We will be leaving at noon on Saturday 2/2 from our hometown and flying to Dulles in Washington, DC where we'll spend the night with our friends Liz and Joe. The next morning we'll leave bright and early and fly directly to Addis Ababa where we'll arrive at 8:30 am on Monday and hopefully meet Norah and Atticus in the afternoon. For the record, that will be nine months to the day after submitting our paperwork to Ethiopia (although it did take us 6 months to complete all the paperwork and immigration stuff).

We'll depart Addis very late the evening of 2/12, fly to Dulles, connect through Chicago and then arrive home about 6:30 pm on 2/13. Phew! I'm delighted that we'll be able to bypass driving to and from Chicago, especially after the return flight home. Our transcontinental flight will be through Ethiopian Airlines which has the reputation for being one of the most family-friendly airlines out there. Our travel agent said on his last return trip from Addis he shared the plane with 22 children! At least our kids probably won't be the only ones being fussy on board!

Friday, December 21, 2007

New Pictures!

We got a bunch of new pictures this morning as well as weight updates. I'm going to ration the cuteness by posting the different photos over the next few days. Doesn't Atticus look like a chunky little guy? He's only weighing in right now at 15.6 pounds and 25.3 inches, but he's definitely got the Butterball look going on! He will be 8 months old next week.

Norah currently weighs 12.3 pounds but she's already taller than her older brother by an inch and half!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Why the Girls Were So Psyched about Health Class

The middle school girls were so excited for this afternoon's health class to begin. I couldn't understand why; they'd asked about the topic of class earlier in the day and I'd told them we'd be discussing first aid. We've had lessons on it in the past with little fanfare.

Two o'clock rolled around and the girls came bouncing into my classroom completely pumped to talk about first dates. I guess there's a reason we're told to enunciate carefully when working with English language learners.

As I was leaving school the cleaning lady stopped me. "Wasn't that your baby shower yesterday?" she asked. "You're hardly showing at all!"

P.S. A gigantic congratulations goes out to a good friend who just landed an AWESOME job. I'm so excited for you and I can't wait to visit you there!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The staff at my school held a baby shower for us this afternoon! I guess this adoption thing is really happening - it still doesn't feel real and probably won't until we get to meet Atticus and Norah. Other people believe it though and that's awfully fun.

The babies' room is quickly beginning to overflow with kid gear. Binkies, bottles, clothes, bouncy chairs...these kids sure need a lot of stuff. We received our first baby carrier today along with a double jogging stroller. I know it's going to be important for my mental health to be able to get out of the house once the kids are home, so I'm especially excited about these two gifts!

My Husband Can Break into Anything

A few months ago our friend's apartment burned down. He wasn't home and everyone else in the building got out alive, but he lost most of his belongings. Shortly thereafter, Paul insisted we buy a fire-proof safe to store our most important papers. Even though it was a boring thing to spend money on, I agreed with his rational and we purchased one and dutifully loaded it with our passports, birth certificates, tax returns, and adoption papers. Obviously, we should have a safety deposit box as well, but this seemed like a good solution for the items that we needed to be able to access at any time.

Last night we needed to look at some of that paperwork so we trotted into the office, turned the key on the safe and....nothing happened. Even though Paul had practiced opening it with the key ahead of time, it wouldn't work anymore. We couldn't help but laugh as we realized that our most important documents were sealed tight and unavailable. I was sure we were going to have to lug the entire heavy contraption to a locksmith, but Paul, ever the Boyscout, set about tinkering with some screwdrivers, hammers, and other blunt instruments and soon enough our treasures had been released.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I am lucky

Our wonderful principal's gift to her staff this year was a half day off for each of us. Mine was today and I bolted out of school at noon with a list of 20 things to accomplish regarding the adoption. I was so excited - I was going to get it all done!

I did talk to the adoption coordinator, drop off the mail, pay the car payment, stop in at the local neighborhood association, prepare and take gifts over to my mom's house to be transported to family in the East, visit the county tax assessor (They nearly doubled the assessed value of our house and since the property tax here is calculated at 5% of your assessed value our taxes doubled too. We did not take to that news happily), and call about whether Paul needs to have his passport renewed (he does). Then I talked to British Airways for two hours. It's a long story that involves the friendly representative quoting me a price that was nearly half of any other fares I've been able to find. I asked her if that included taxes and fees and she said yes. Insert two hours of hashing out details, trying to get ahold of Paul while on hold with BA because the tickets weren't refundable... Anyhow, two hours later I'd already given her the credit card number when she announced that with taxes and ticket fees the fare would be exactly what I've been quoted by other airlines. So, I didn't buy tickets today. The good news is that February is a comparatively cheap time to fly to Ethiopia so I should be counting my blessings on that front.

I'm reminding myself that we originally didn't think we would even have a court date by now, much less have already had a successful one. In terms of complications, we have had a very easy process and I have no right to complain.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Legal Parents!!! Travel Dates!!!

We're legally the parents of Norah and Atticus!!!! I just returned home from work to find a message that our adoption coordinator left yesterday asking us to call. My cell phone has been dead all day and we were at a Christmas party late last night, so I was a little behind on my messages. Anyhow, the lawyer for our agency was able to present our case to the Ethiopian court early yesterday and we made it. It's official.

We were also given an embassy date and a travel date. We need to be in Addis Ababa on February 4th to begin filling out paperwork and our embassy date will be February 7th. We should be returning home on the 11th. Of course, those dates are slightly approximate because we still need to book flights. Still, in seven and a half weeks we'll be meeting our kids for the first time. Can you believe it?!!!! I can't!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why I Haven't Been Posting as Much

I don't know. I think I've just been busy and I haven't felt very inspired to write. We're still waiting for our court date (on Monday! 12/17!). Someone on my adoption board had her court date today and it didn't go through because the judge wanted to see some more paperwork. I'm going to be seriously bummed if that happens to us. Perhaps the reason I haven't been posting as much is just that there are only two topics that spring to mind: 1.) I Want My Babies to Come Home! 2.) Oh My Gosh! I Am Not Ready To Become a Parent! Happily the former emotion dominates nearly 90% of the time, so please keep your fingers crossed on Monday. They should be able to tell us later next week when we'll be traveling.

Other tidbits of non-interesting news:
  • We finished painting the nursery on Sunday night. It's yellow. I'll post pictures soon.
  • I singed myself on our heater unexpectedly last weekend and got a silver-dollar sized second degree burn on my wrist. It's really ugly and my students keep asking if it's a hickey.
  • We're planning to attend three Christmas parties in the next three nights (Yippee!).
  • Yesterday was Our Lady of Guadalupe Day (I'm sure there's a more official term) which is one of my favorite days at our school, but we had Mass then instead of the normal Friday and so today I felt like I was at work on a Saturday. That was a downer.
  • The teachers at school are throwing me a small baby shower next Wednesday!
  • I need to stop typing and hop in the shower or my entire schedule for tonight will be blown.

Monday, December 10, 2007


We're planning to take an overnight trip to this city while we're in Ethiopia.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Vomiting in a Designated Receptacle = A Developmental Milestone?

There's a stomach bug going around my school right now. I had one student who made it to the bathroom in time (no small feat considering my classroom is on the third floor and the bathrooms are on the first) but a fourth grader projectile-vomited in the middle of church the other day. The other students handled it beautifully, but they did look relieved when I moved them to another pew. There's a lot of talk about developmental milestones like scooting, crawling, etc., but surely self-management of vomit should be included on this list, right? I know that's a skill I'll be really, really happy to see our kids master.

For about 10 minutes on Friday I was under the impression that we might travel to Ethiopia in the middle of January. While I would be delighted to bring Norah and Atticus home sooner than planned, it did make me panic a little. Holy cow, there are a lot of things to get done before they come home! A call to our adoption coordinator confirmed that we definitely won't be traveling until at least February. We're painting the nursery this weekend and I'll post some pictures when we finish later.

Paul and I also have to make some decisions about our travel plans this weekend. Our answers are due on Monday and the choices are harder than I'd imagined. I've been so excited about visiting Ethiopia ever since we started this journey. Now, though, I'm starting to get a little scared. It's sinking in that we're going to spend our first week as first-time parents in a developing country where we don't speak the language. I'm a little intimidated by that. I keep reminding myself that people do this all the time and come home with wonderful experiences to share.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

This blog is being written by a family that was in Addis Ababa last week picking up their baby from the same orphanage that our kids are in. Scroll down it to see some pictures of babies in one of the intake orphanages. It's not the orphanage where Atticus and Norah are, but it's still interesting to visualize them there. I can't wait to see my first goat strapped to a roof! I've never seen that before!

Edited to get my facts straight.

Monday, December 3, 2007

It was a good day. We had our staff retreat today and it was actually very good and helpful. Normally I dread retreats in general, but especially staff retreats which haven't always been very uplifting (We once listened to 5 hours of lecture about the history of Notre Dame and Father Moreau - snooze).

I met another family tonight that adopted from Ethiopia! I'd actually heard about this couple who adopted three older children last year, but I hadn't had the chance to meet them. I saw the mom and her 8 year-old son in a store tonight. They caught my eye because their interactions were just so sweet and I'm really excited for our turn to come. The son speaks English beautifully, but something about his slight accent and some of the things I overheard him saying about school made me think they must be the family I'd heard about. I finally got up the courage to ask and the mom was very, very nice. As I said, her son was just delightful. Hooray for new contacts!

Adding to the goodness was the fact that I had a cavity filled and it wasn't nearly as traumatic as I'd feared. My dentist explained everything as he was doing it and I was in and out of the office within half an hour. I've been a little wary of doctors getting too close to my face ever since an eye specialist stuck a probe IN MY EYE without telling me ahead of time this spring. That type of experience can make a person jumpy.

I waited in line at Kmart for 20 minutes tonight to purchase some really pretty Martha Stewert dish towels for my mom. When I finally made it up to the cashier she swiped the towels and then said, "Oh I hate these. They're such poor quality and they don't absorb anything." Honesty is a good policy unless you're a salesclerk and you've already sold the item. She seemed surprised when I asked her to void the sale. Sorry for ruining your Christmas present surprise Mom. Maybe Santa will bring you some new dish towels that don't suck.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

My Husband and I, We're Different People

The news that we have a court date and will probably be able to travel in mid-February or early March has affected Paul and I in very different ways.

My reaction: We only have 10-14 weeks to get ready!!! Oh my gosh!!! There's so much to do!!! We need to research strollers!!! Car seats!!! Diapers!!! Formula!!! We need shots!!! We need to paint the nursery!!! We need to paint the rest of the house since we'll never have time after the kids come home!!! We should be poking the dog and pulling on her ears and mouth indiscriminately to get her ready!!! I need to write 16 weeks worth of lesson plans to leave for a sub!!! Do we need scabies medicine to take with us?!!! What do babies eat?!!!

Paul's reaction: We have 10-14 weeks. That's a lot of time sweetie. We can probably wait and set the nursery up after they come home since they'll be sleeping in our room at first. Let's just take one thing at a time. Would you like me to go out to the backyard and collect some sticks for your nest?

I'm not bashing Paul - he's a wonderful counter-balance to my over-preparedness. Still, it appears we actually have real, live babies coming our way. Surely we should be getting ready, right?

We did clean out a closet and some cupboards this weekend. As of a few hours ago, we're the proud owners of a whole heck of a lot of cloth diapers and their accessories. Paul did some research and I'm pretty sure we've decided on car seats. These things seemed so simple when we were looking at other peoples' babies, but it turns out there are a lot of choices. Stella, for her part, has been experimenting with how many baby items she can fit in her mouth at once. I'm not too worried about her being rough with Norah and Atticus - she's always been great with other kids. Their stuff, however, might be in peril. She plunged her face into a box of hand-me-downs the other days and pulled out a mouthful of baby socks. You can fit a lot of baby socks in a dog's mouth. At least we don't have to worry about baby-proofing too much. Our social worker was delighted when she visited our house because she thought we'd already child-proofed it. Actually, we'd just learned to keep anything that an energetic lab might eat out of the way. It turns out that the two things are pretty much the same.

Friday, November 30, 2007

We Have a Court Date!

Our court date (where the kids will legally be declared to be our kids) has been scheduled for December 17th! That's a lot sooner than I'd hoped for! Our coordinator said she still thought we wouldn't be able to travel until mid-February at the earliest if this court date goes through, but I'm really pleased that the court date has been scheduled for December. I thought for sure that we wouldn't get one until at least January.

In other news, we finished our second round of parent-teacher conferences today. Phew! That was exhausting.

I'm sorry if I've been sounding negative or whiny on here recently. I'm going to try to focus more on the positive from now on.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Waiting Supreme: I Seem Destined to Become More and More Irrational As Time Passes

I honestly thought waiting for a referral would be the hardest part. It was driving me nuts and I really, truly believed things would be okay once we knew who our kids were. Other mothers on the adoption blog I frequent talked about how waiting to travel was even harder, but I didn't believe them. At least they have pictures of their babies and can prepare for them and realize they actually exist, I thought.

HA! They were right and I was wrong. There were about two weeks after our referral that I didn't feel any worry or stress about the wait, but those days are over now. I want them home.

Do all new parents receive more advice than they can handle? I had a professor once in college who had never held a baby before her own son was born. I remember being aghast at that and thinking that holding a baby would have been pretty high on my priority list while gestating. Still, we both have experience with babies and are reasonably intelligent people... why is it that a lot of people seem to assume we won't be able to figure out how to feed, diaper, and care for them? I'm being far too sensitive and probably paranoid. I assume people are offering to let us hold their babies because they think that we'll be at some sort of deficit since ours aren't biological kids. I've yet to meet any first-time parent who feels completely prepared and knowledgeable so I guess I just figure that we'll learn what to do pretty quickly just like everybody else does with their first kids. Allegedly, one of my first phrases as a baby was "I can do it myself." - I guess old habits die hard. Like I said, I know I'm being too touchy. We're probably going to need a lot of help and support when Atticus and Norah come home. I'm just feeling a little overwhelmed and defensive. Is this normal?

Rationally, I know the adoption probably isn't causing hormone fluctuations. I wish I could attribute my mercurial moods to that. We have parent-teacher conferences this week and I can't tell you how often I'm on the brink of tears. Honestly, that's the case every year; I love my students and I feel so bad when their parents cry and so happy when their parents are happy. This year, though, the feelings are even more intense: Parenting, it seems, is pretty serious stuff and I hope we have the presence of mind to be good parents and not let our pride and egos stand in the way of our kids' success.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Breath In, Breath Out, Throw Clay As Necessary

I had my first ceramics class in ages last night. My mom paid for a 4-week class as an early Christmas present. I've taken courses before. It doesn't seem that long ago, but I realized last night that I'd never tried to throw a pot before while wearing my wedding ring, so it must have been at least 4 years ago. I've really, really missed working with clay. There's something so therapeutic about kneading the clay, staring at the wheel, bringing up the pot, and destroying your mistakes. Plus, the studio is always warm (important in these cold winter months) and there are usually neat people that I get to know while in class. I should have enrolled in a course a long time ago.

I'm a little frustrated today about adoption stuff. We were told we would receive weight and health updates on Monday and we haven't gotten them yet. I'm pretty sure that it's because our agency has been very busy with a huge number of families whose cases went through court yesterday. As far as a I know, all of the court hearings were successful (i.e. none of them were cancelled) and all the families were also given embassy and travel dates yesterday. I'm sure our agency has had its hands very full calling all of those families and answering their questions. All in all, this is very good news. I'm delighted to know that families are making plans to travel. I'm just bummed because it feels like we don't know anything at all about Atticus and Norah. I can't tell people when they'll be home, what they like to do, or even how much they weigh. What kind of a crappy mother doesn't know anything about her kids?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy 7 Months Atticus!

Atticus officially turned 7 months yesterday. It's so weird to think about that - I try not to spend too much time contemplating what they're doing and how they're growing up without us in an orphanage because there's nothing I can really do to speed up the process. In the meantime, we spend a lot of time looking at their pictures. I really like these photos my mom took on Thanksgiving of me and my mother-in-law looking at Norah's newest pictures for the first time.
It's been a fantastic long weekend. I love having long stretches of time with no real plans and plenty of opportunities to hang out with Paul and sleep in. We bought two cribs this weekend! Our entryway looks like a baby gear store exploded since there are crib parts and baby clothes stacked everywhere. We need to start painting the nursery and assembling the cribs if only to have an organized place to put everything.!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

We received new pictures of Norah today right in time for Thanksgiving dinner!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

He's So Cute!

We received updated pictures of Atticus tonight! Hooray! I thought he looked darling in the first photos we got, but he's even cuter in these! I want them home so badly! Paul and I couldn't agree about which of us would get to post the pictures first, so the other photo of Atticus will be appearing on his blog shortly. He's just so darn cute! We should be getting new pictures of Norah and updated weights for both of them on Monday. Cute, cute cute.

Turkey-Related Injuries

I managed to bruise both of my pinkies lifting up our turkey this morning. The metal edges of the baking pan dug into them as I was transporting it. I kept thinking about the fact that the 18 pound turkey is just about the same size as Atticus. I'll have to remember not to carry him in a roasting pan.

One of my students had a visit yesterday from her baby sister who was born the week after Norah. She was so tiny! I'm getting really antsy to have them home. The visiting baby had about 4 inches of beautiful hair. A lot of Latino babies are born with a full head of hair, and so my students were expressing dismay that Norah is completely bald in her picture. They were worried something was wrong with her. I told them lots of babies are bald and pointed to the picture of myself as an infant that's on our bulletin board (I have baby pictures of all my students on our board - it goes a long way towards helping me to treat them nicely when they're not acting like the Children of God that I try to remember them as). Anyway, one of my students looked at the picture of me as an infant and said, completely seriously, "Oh, maybe that's why your daughter is bald. She must get it from you."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Read This Before Teaching

This past weekend I read The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle by Dan Brown. Not the Dan Brown who wrote The Da Vinci Code in case you're wondering. This man graduated from NYU and then enrolled in a Teach For America-esque program and became a teacher at one of the most under-performing schools in the Bronx. He begins his tale with an account of punching his fist through a chalkboard in front of his 4th graders because he's so frustrated - you've got to love that kind of honesty.

It was exhausting to read this because there was so much I could relate to. It took me right back to those first months of teaching at my current school when I sat in my car each morning for two weeks and cried because it was so hard and I didn't want to go through another day of learning classroom management and The Unfairness of Life 101.

Anyhow, it was a great read and I'd recommend it to anyone who's thinking of entering the field of teaching - especially those headed for inner-city schools.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

This Is Why It Took All Day to Rake

Stella and my parents' dog Kramer helped us rake the yard this weekend. It turns out that with a little training Stella might be capable of being a cadaver-finding dog or something similar. She managed to find every disgusting thing that's been buried in our yard over the past two years. Dirty diapers don't scare me anymore after prying a half dozen decaying rodents out of her mouth. Seriously gross.
Paul and I also ventured to Babies R' Us - that place is really overwhelming. I have enough of a fear of accumulating too much stuff that I'm tempted to scrap the whole baby-gear thing. How much crap can two little babies need? Still, it's really nice to be in the position of needing (well, not needing) cribs and onesies and all the accoutrements that Babies R' Us claims we must have. I am very, very thankful for that.
I wish I could post the pictures I took of my students on our field trip Friday. We went to the big university and then the historical society. I think they enjoyed the entire thing, but their favorite part by far was when I turned them loose in the historical society's big garden. I didn't think they would be impressed but I'd underestimated the power of huge piles of leaves. It was total and completely joyful mayhem. The student I was concerned about last week had still not returned home as of Friday afternoon. The case hit the papers and news on Friday, so I feel more comfortable posting about it. She has called some of her friends, so right now she's in a better than worst case situation. Still, I'm hoping there will be good news when I get to work in the morning.
There's a rumor on the street/in our bedroom that my dear husband may soon be launching his own blog detailing his version of our life. It may contain more Douglas Adams references than I make. I'll keep you posted.
P.S. The formatting of this thing is driving me nuts. I need to remember to figure it out tomorrow.

Friday, November 16, 2007


They finished our fence today! Wahoo!

I took Stella out tonight for a victory lap. She's been barking and quivering in front of the fence posts all week, so I was relieved when she immediately embraced being able to run with abandon around the yard. We were having a great time chasing each other when suddenly she stopped, pulled a dead chipmunk out of a pile of leaves and began racing around the yard with the most joyful expression I've ever seen. I'm not sure Paul and I even looked that happy when we got our referral call. Total elation made all the better for her by the fact that we were mid-game in our round of chase.

I guess tomorrow we'll be raking our backyard.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mad at the Universe

I had no idea how little the police will do if your teenager runs away on his or her own accord. Apparently runaways, even those that could be in danger, are just not worth the trouble of finding. I'm paraphrasing here, but I'm just so freaking frustrated with the system right now. I can't imagine the state I'd be in if a child of mine disappeared. They don't dispatch bulletins about runaways to the news - I never realized that before. I had also never considered how hard it would be to be a non-English speaker in this type of situation. Who advocates for those families? How could being an undocumented citizen work against you, yet again, if you hesitated to file a report for fear of being deported?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is it Thanksgiving yet? I think everybody is very ready for a mini-vacation!

FYI, I took the pictures of our kids down for now because they're not legally our children yet. That won't happen until our court date a month or so from now. We not prohibited from posting them by our agency or anything, but I felt a little weird having them up permanently until we're legally their parents. I figured just about all of our friends and family had already seen them so it was safe to take them down. I will definitely post new pictures though as we get them. I love blogs with pictures and I don't have hesitations right now about putting pictures of our kids online. To my mind, it's akin to taking them out in public - there could be weirdos staring at them, I guess, but most strangers are nice people. I'm reminding myself to be conscientious about keeping last names/addresses, etc. off the blog and that's enough for me right now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Internet Safety

When I asked my students which of them had a MySpace account every single one of them raised their hands. Last year when I asked only a handful did. The average number of friends they reported having was upwards of 150. Only a few of them had privacy features initiated on their accounts.

The Internet is a scary place. Some friends and I were just discussing this past weekend what uncharted territory it represents for parents these days. A speaker at an education conference I attended last month referred to adults as Computer Language Learners while kids these days are Computer Language Natives. I can navigate my way around computers fairly well, but then again, so could the 4 year-old I babysat this summer who would have happily spent all day on Webkinz if she'd been permitted.

Computer skills are vital to success these days, so we'd be doing our kids a disservice to cut them off and completely restrict their access. Still, how can you properly monitor them if they know more than you do about the subject? This isn't an area where most young parents have a lot of role models. My parents certainly didn't have to monitor what I looked at on the Internet since we didn't have it until my senior year of high school.

So... I'm off to research Internet safety some more. Our kids are only infants, so I probably don't need to worry too much right now, but it's good to be prepared.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A New Look for a New Era

If there were more templates that I like, I would probably be changing the format of this blog weekly - it's fun to play around with the different choices!

It was wonderful visiting our friends this weekend. I suppose there won't be many more weekends when it's easy to jump in the car with one change of clothes and drive without much planning or gear. I'm going to try to appreciate it while it lasts! I was able to meet our friends' baby this weekend for the first time as well - such a happy and fun little guy! I can't wait to have our own at home!

Paul is still in San Francisco at a conference. I'm so, so, so grateful that he was home when we got The Call. I can't imagine what it would have been like if it had come 12 hours later when he was out of town. I'm excited for him to return tomorrow. Tomorrow will also mark the start of construction on our fence. Those of you who have visited our house know what a great addition that will be!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Glued to the Computer

It's a gorgeous day here and I'm headed down to Bloomington to see some friends. We've been planning this for awhile and I'm really excited about finally seeing their homes. I have to say though, that I'm finding it hard to move away from the pictures of Atticus and Norah on the computer. I need to get them printed so I can feel free to go places without feeling the need to constantly stare at the screen. I still don't feel like this is real.

Friday, November 9, 2007

How It Happened

Thanks so much to everyone for the barrage of good wishes! It has been so much fun getting to tell people and share our pictures! As several people predicted, I didn't sleep last night. Well, I did fall asleep for about half an hour but then I felt compelled to get up and check my e-mail again to make sure this isn't all a hallucination!

All of the sudden I have so much to post about but I'm still not feeling very articulate. Regardless, I don't want to forget the details of The Call or last night's celebrating, so I'll do my best to recount it a little bit.

The Call occurred when I was driving to get my hair cut at about 3:45pm yesterday. My cellphone rang and I didn't recognize the number. I usually don't talk while I'm driving, but decided to answer it because I thought it was a friend who had been trying to get a hold of me for some time. When I answered, our adoption coordinator was on the other end. As she said hello, I told myself she was just checking in and I shouldn't get excited. Then she asked if I wanted to know who our kids are. I said I needed to pull over! She asked what I wanted to know first. EVERYTHING! She started out by saying we had a baby daughter. A DAUGHTER?! A BABY?! Born approximately 8/5/07. And we had a SON born approximately 4/24/07! I took notes as she was telling me about where they were found and their health records. I felt reasonably calm at the time, but my notes prove otherwise.

When we hung up, I started frantically trying to reach Paul. I tried his cell, I tried his office number, I tried the cell numbers of several friends he works with, I tried random numbers within the company's system. I couldn't reach him. It had only been about 10 minutes at this point, but I was already beginning to wonder how long I would last before calling other people to blurt out the news if I couldn't reach Paul. I had to tell someone! The hair salon ended up being the first to know we'd gotten our referral because I had to call to cancel my appointment that I was already late for.

I drove home and finally reached Paul. Our coordinator had e-mailed me photos and medical information about both kids immediately after getting off the phone with me and I was DYING to see those photos. We decided to open them at the same time. However, I couldn't get the pictures to open when I clicked on the links of Wokenesh and Paul could. He was tearing up and telling me how beautiful she was and I couldn't see! A few frantic minutes later, we'd solved the problem and I don't know how long we looked at the pictures and talked about them tearily before hanging up so Paul could drive home.

When he arrived at home we spent more time looking over their pictures and medical history and just hugging each other in disbelief. By that point I was getting really antsy to start calling people, but we needed to call our coordinator first and ask her some follow-up questions. Finally, the time had arrived for us to begin calling family and friends. It was a really, really fun night.

Paul had to leave the house this morning at 4 am to make a flight to San Francisco for a conference this weekend. I had planned to get the laundry done yesterday afternoon, but that obviously didn't happen so I have no idea what he ended up packing. Like I said, we didn't get much sleep last night!

This morning I arrived at school a little early so I could show off our kids to my coworkers who have also been waiting impatiently. More fun! I also had my yearly physical scheduled. My blood pressure was 30 points higher than it usually is which concerned the nurse until I told her about our excitement. I showed her the pictures and she asked me to wait a moment. She came back in with a photo of a happy family with two little boys. She pointed to the baby in the picture and told me it was her son that she'd placed for adoption three years earlier with the family and then raved about what a great family they were and how happy she was that her son was with them. My doctor was adopted herself and has been very supportive of us through the process, so she was also really excited to see the pictures. (Yes, I did show EVERYONE the pictures today, even the college volunteers at school who don't know me.)

Oh, and we have agreed on names! They will be baptized Atticus Tedros Ourlast and Norah Wokenesh Ourlast! We had been fairly certain that we would be going with the name Norah if it fit a daughter, but we were truly undecided about a boy's name until last night. The name Atticus had been on the table for quite some time and it was my personal favorite, so I was delighted when Paul said he thought it would be a good fit. He could have demanded to name the baby Bubba and I still would have been over the moon, but finalizing two names that we both like made the night even happier (as if that were possible!).

It will probably be several months (February or March I'd wager) before we're able to fly to Ethiopia to bring them home. It's sure to be a whole new torturous time of waiting, but for now I'm just really happy although, of course, we both wish we could fly over there right now. They're so little and I just hope they're being taken care of and loved by the staff at the orphanage.

I'm sure I'll think of more I should have added later, but for now I think I'm ready to crash. Again, thank you to everyone for your enthusiasm and support! Getting to spread the word last night made for one of the best and most memorable times in my life. I promise I'll keep you all updated!

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Introducing our son Tedros and our daughter Wokenesh. We got the call a few hours ago and we're going nuts. I'm far too frazzled to post much yet. He is about 7 months old and she is 3 months old. Holy Freaking Cow!!! This is a good feeling.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

An Ode To Our Families

(Okay, not really an ode because I recognize that I'm a terrible poet).

Many potential adoptive parents (PAPs) are hurt to find that their extended families are less than overjoyed by the news that they're adopting. "Don't you want a baby of your own?" is a question I see lamented far too frequently by other PAPs on adoption boards. Family members have concerns about bringing a "stranger" into the family, the possibility of a genetic roulette, birth parents swooping back in years later to reclaim their children. Misgivings stem from all sorts of sources, usually out of the desire to protect the PAPs. Add in the myriad of issues that arise from a trans racial adoption and there's a lot of room out there for ignorant and hurtful comments that indicate hesitation on the part of the extended family. We've gotten tastes of this from acquaintances who have hinted that adopting is a consolation prize for us, including one rather drunken admonishment that we just have to have biological kids because they would have, like, super powers or something. Uh, thanks but no thanks.

This post, however, is designed to praise our own families who have been amazingly supportive of this adoption from the very beginning. There are a lot of special people who are waiting to welcome our kids into the family and that means the world to me. My mother-in-law has a Moses basket waiting on her hearth to symbolize waiting for new grandchildren. I think my mom would have purchased enough baby clothes to outfit an entire orphanage by now if she only knew the sizes and genders of our kids. My grandma has been knitting mittens. My dad asks about the progress every time I talk to him to the point that I'm tempted to tell him that yes, actually, we leave tomorrow to pick them up. Oops, did I forget to mention that when you asked about the status of the process yesterday? We have a little niece and nephew praying for their future cousins. I don't want to leave anybody out because we've gotten so much support and it's been so wonderful. Adopting can be a very boring process; it's a lot of waiting and paperwork and more waiting. It helps a lot knowing that our families are impatient too and are excited about our children. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Another Article That Made Me Cry

About 85% of infants placed for adoption in Ethiopia were found abandoned. My understanding is that a former law prohibited living birth-parents from placing their children for adoption. Many still assume the law is in effect and so abandon their children. In addition, there aren't enough spaces in the orphanages and so children who have living family members are often turned away in favor of those who are abandoned or who have no living family members. For birth-parents who are truly desperate to place their children in better situations, I would assume that abandonment might seem like the best possible solution.

We are sincerely hoping to make contact with our kids' birth-families. If that's not possible, however, our agency has suggested that we might want to try going to the town where they were found, contacting those who found them, or asking around their villages for people who might recognize them.

This story from The New York Times is about one man who made contact with the person who found his daughter on the streets of China and took her to the orphanage. I was rather skeptical about trying to contact someone who might have found one of our children, but after reading this beautiful account I am much more convinced that it would be worthwhile.

The Good Wife's Guide

Most of us have probably seen The Good Wife's Guide at some point in time. It's allegedly from a 1955 edition of Good Housekeeping and extols wives to prepare for their husband's return from a hard day at work by gussying up, tidying the house, and admonishing the kids to be quiet. It's sexist and sets the bar a tad bit high. I remember thinking the first time I read it, however, that it would be so, so nice to come home to a clean home and a welcoming spouse each day. Who wouldn't love that?

I returned home from New York last night to find Paul had scrubbed out the inside of our refrigerator, vacuumed, wiped down the bathroom sinks, and generally tidied up. He has a much higher threshold for messiness than I, so this was done purely for my benefit. What more could anyone want (except for a referral, of course)?

Speaking of referrals, Paul had his own short-lived excitement yesterday. He opened an envelope from our agency to see a bunch of paperwork entitled "Understanding Your Child's Referral Information". A bunch of medical test results, developmental reports, and a letter about where the child was found were included. Unfortunately, when he looked more carefully he saw they were all clearly labeled SAMPLE. Bummer.

There has been another delay for the families from our agency who are awaiting travel dates. Their court dates have been pushed back an extra week. Again, I think we might have to wait for a referral until after they pick up their kids, so... who knows - More waiting for everyone involved.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Live from New York

I'm away from home visiting my grandparents this weekend. I'd forgotten how early it gets dark on this side of the country. When we finished our supper at Old Country Buffet last night it was only 5 pm, but already it was completely black outside. When I was at Middlebury this used to hit me hard every year. By December it would get dark by 4:15 and I would be ready to go to sleep for the night. We don't get much more daylight in the Midwest, but it's enough that it makes a difference. Score one for team Indiana.

I think we're all going to Bingo tonight - wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

The muscles in my cheeks still hurt from laughing so hard last night. I think we have more pictures of Paul's pumpkin head than we do of our wedding: Mr. Pumpkin approaches the dog, Mr. Pumpkin takes a nap, Mr. Pumpkin drives a car, Mr. Pumpkin as The Thinker... I'm waiting to see how great he smells after wearing a real pumpkin on his head all day.

The students weren't allowed to dress up today, but teachers were told they could as long as their costumes related to the curriculum somehow. I went as Turtle Wexler from The Westing Game (the book my 6th grade students are currently reading). I ended up being the only person in the entire school who was dressed up. Still, it was a lot of fun and my students seemed to enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Gotcha" Day

This woman's post about "Gotcha" Day has me thinking about the subject today.

"Gotcha" Day is one term people in the adoption community use when celebrating the day when children are united with their adoptive parents. A teacher friend of mine was recently talking about a former student who used to bring in cupcakes every year to celebrate her "Gotcha" Day. I think it's such a great idea to make it a day of family celebration each year and commemorate the date on which children joined the family. I definitely plan on doing something similar and making it an annual family tradition to celebrate.

I tend to agree, however, with the woman who wrote the post I just linked: the word "gotcha" doesn't have good connotations for me. It makes me think of playing a practical joke on someone at best, snatching and stealing children at worst. I certainly don't like that! Around here, the anniversaries of our children's adoptions will most likely be called "Family Day" since what we want to commemorate is the special day that they became a part of our family.

News of our adoption: is no news at this point. Most of the families from our agency who received referrals last month have recently been given court dates for mid-November, meaning they'll most likely be able to travel to bring their kids home sometime in December or early January. I'm operating on a theory right now that all of the children currently in the orphanage have already been matched with families and are waiting to be taken home. Until that happens, there won't be space for new children from the satellite orphanages to be brought into Addis Ababa for medical testing and be matched with families. So... we very well might have to wait until the other families travel before we get matched (again, December or January). Sigh. I'm trying to remind myself that this scenario would give us a little extra time to save up some more money and would allow my maternity leave to be timed so that I wouldn't have to go back to school for very long before the end of the school year. Mainly though, I wish someone could just give me a date. Even if I were told that we won't have our kids home until say, May 10th, I think I would be okay. I could plan my schedule, know what I can and cannot commit to in the spring, and then chill the heck out. It may look as though I'm just lying around the house and/or pacing around the house, but really this waiting stuff is very hard work.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Holiday Safety Tips

This is an important podcast from Talk of the Nation on NPR about zombie safety. Halloween will be here before you know it and we should all be prepared. When Zombies Attack

Sunday, October 28, 2007

At Least I've Never Done That!

My school hosted an alumni open house today and I had a chance to talk to many older people who graduated more than 60 years ago. I heard a lot of crap about "kids these days" and received more than enough feedback about the arrangement of my classroom (I have discussion centers, beanbags, and yoga balls) and why it must contribute to a lack of classroom discipline. I enjoyed talking to everyone and hearing about what the school was like back in the days when the average classroom had 60 students. Several of the older women had brought along pictures of their own classes at that time. Wow. If I had 60 students to manage, I would be a mean, crabby, nun-style teacher too.

However... I'd like to think I wouldn't smack a kid's head into the blackboard causing him to have a brain aneurysm and die. And then get away with it because it was all in the name of classroom discipline. When the little old ladies told me that story about an incident at another local school 70 years I feel bad when I raise my voice and feel like hitting students.

So anyway, that was the most unique part of my weekend. Yesterday was rainy and cold here - perfect for hunkering down and spending a peaceful day hanging around the house. Paul and I took Stella on a long walk today in the sunshine and autumn leaves. I washed the floor... really nothing to write home about, but quiet weekends like this tend to be my favorite.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Attachment in Adoption

Attachment is basically the process of helping your children to realize that you're their parents. Children who are adopted internationally have often been bounced from caregiver to caregiver throughout their short lives. Even if they've been lucky enough to have a stable situation in foster care or a good orphanage, they still will have had their lives massively disrupted by the adoption and will need help feeling safely and securely bonded to their new parents. I'm hardly an expert on this subject, but it's one we've been talking a lot about in our house so I figured I would jot down some of the tips we plan to use once our kids get home.
  • Carry your kids as much as possible. Hopefully our kids will both be amenable to being carried in slings because we plan to do this a lot (as a side note, doesn't the couple in the photo above look kind of creepy?).
  • Limit visitors as first. In the first several weeks or months our kids will have a lot of changes going on in their lives. They need to attach firmly to us, the people who will be permanent fixtures in their lives, before we start introducing others that they might not see very often. We'll probably host a baptism party open-house or something similar a few months after we get home so that they can be properly welcomed into our community of friends, but at first we'll be very conscientious about who they're exposed to.
  • Parents need to be the ones meeting the kids physical needs. The books all recommend that Paul and I need to be the only ones feeding, changing, and bathing them at first. They need to be assured that they can trust us to meet their needs. It's also recommended that we feed them by hand even if they can do it themselves. For example, if we can get our toddler to let us feed him or her a bottle while cuddling it's a great way to bond. Many older babies can hold their own bottles, but we should do it for them.
  • Similarly, parents should respond immediately to night wake-ups for the first few months. Normally, parents would probably be sleep-training older babies or toddlers to self-soothe and might be allowing them to cry it out for awhile. Our newly arrived kids, however, need to be treated for the first few months like newborns when it comes to wake-ups. Again, they need to be shown that their needs are going to be met by us. We're planning to keep their beds in our bedroom at first to make this easier.
  • Spend lots of floor time with your kids. Playing and spending fun time together is really important to bonding (duh) so we'll be hanging out a lot playing peek-a-boo, building with blocks, etc.
  • Establish predictable routines and expectations right from the beginning. I think this is important for all kids, but especially for a toddler whose life hasn't been stable from the beginning.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I Go Through Puberty Every Year and Other Great Reasons to Teach Middle School

I hated junior high. I felt fat, friendless and unpopular. The boys were mean and the girls were even worse. The changing body, the bad fashion sense, the cliques of popular girls and middle school relationships....ugh. Seriously, I didn't have it that bad, comparatively speaking, but 7th and 8th grade were probably the two least-favorite years of my life so far.

It might seem strange then that I've chosen to re-immerse myself in a middle school. Eight hours a day I'm surrounded by kids who are in the middle of the battlefield that is adolescence. Hardly a day goes by when some aspect of puberty doesn't smack me in the face: getting braces, putting in contact lenses for the first time, pimples, first periods, body insecurity, fights with parents, hating your parents, breaking up with boys, breaking up with best friends... it's all in a day's work around here. Most adults look at me with pity when they find out what I do. "Better you than me," they always say.

The thing is, middle school is so much better the second (and third, and fourth, and fifth) time around. It's so much better when you know that the petty things that seem to matter so much now will mostly not matter in the long-run. In addition, it's such a cool age of kids to work with. They come in as green little 6th graders and leave as young adults. In middle school they're just beginning for the very first time to figure out who they are and who they want to be. I feel really blessed to have the same students for 3 years in a row. Watching them transition from tiny kids who play house and imagine that "Fat Granny" lives down the sewer grate, as they do when they're 11 years old into the mature 14 year-olds who graduate three years later is truly amazing and it's humbling to get to be a part of that.

Teaching the same students for three years has also strengthened my belief in redemption. I get second chances every year. The kid who hates me this year, who's determined to hold a grudge against me forever because I accidentally used his apology note from detention as a funeral shroud for the classroom pet, well, give him two years of growth and hard work on my part and he might turn into a nice, reasonable young man who can laugh at that memory. I've seen it happen. In the past week, ten of our former students have taken time out of their busy high school lives and stopped by to visit us. Those are some of my favorite moments, seeing them looking even more grown-up and so excited to tell us about what they're doing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Heather Doesn't Live Here: A Reminder about Stress Reduction

I'll be the first to admit it: I'm a tad bit tightly-wound these days. It's been a long journey and I'm not enjoying the wait for a referral phone call. Someone told me not too long ago that I shouldn't acknowledge these feelings, that I should just feel optimistic, be positive, etc., etc., etc. - I kind of wanted to scream at that moment. I think on a scale of 0-10 I probably rank about a 7 on the positivity scale. I generally have a pretty sunny outlook but I do like to indulge in dark humor and I get crabby when people tell me what I have the right to feel.
Anyway... the last couple of days I've been feeling like a caged animal. The phone keeps ringing and it's not the adoption agency. It's not even somebody calling for me. We've had our current phone number for over 2 years, yet we still get calls almost daily for a woman named Heather. Heather evidently was a very popular lady in her heyday - especially with sketchy gentlemen callers. Calls for Heather always seem to come at the most inconvenient times like when I'm napping, up to my arms in dishwater and across the house from the phone, or in the middle of my favorite show. But I always answer, because it might be the adoption agency and I won't want to miss that call. When I answered the phone breathlessly today and it was a man asking for Heather, I snapped. "Heather DOESN'T live here. This isn't her number anymore. Don't call her on it!" I schooled him (see, it wasn't that severe - I'm not that mean of a person). It turned out the man was calling to solicit funds for wounded puppies and sad babies, or some other such charity and then I felt like a total jerk.
So, I took a note from the stress-reduction workshop we had after school today (SIDE NOTE: You know what doesn't help with stress-reduction in the workplace? Having to stay after after work to listen to some chiropractor sell you stress-reduction treatment.) I went outside and burned off some of my pent-up frustration and stress by mowing the lawn while breathing deeply. I have to say, it did make me feel better and got me through my daily pity-party a bit more smoothly. It kind of kills me to admit the guy was right.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Hike, A Nuclear Power Plant, and a Dead Cat

Today was a beautiful day for a field trip. We hopped on a chartered bus at 8:30 a.m. and took off for the Indiana Dunes State Park. I had worried that our field trip there would consist of four hours in a park shack listening to lectures, but instead we took a three hour hike through the woods leading to the beach! It was sunny and warm and the leaves were beautiful. For most of our students it was the first time they'd ever hiked, ever seen wetlands, ever been to the dunes... it was a fantastic learning experience and will give them some real-life experiences to draw upon in their science classes.

After spending an additional hour doing volunteer beach cleanup, we jumped back in the bus and drove to the Cooke Nuclear Power Plant which is also along Lake Michigan. I can't say that I really understand more about nuclear power than I did yesterday at this time, but it was a unique experience. The facility was built in the 60's and was eerily reminiscent of the Dharma Initiative. I did learn about how they secure nuclear waste (it involves 3 1/2 feet wide cement walls and some steel), how they transport it, and how many gallons of water it takes per minute to condense the steam (1,500,000 gallons a minute). I did not see Homer Simpson.

Tomorrow my students will begin writing narratives about their field trip experience. I'm looking forward to reading about the moments that impressed them the most and hoping that their narratives do not focus heavily upon the dead cat we saw or the surprise trip to McDonald's that our principal hosted towards the end. I haven't forgotten the first time I assigned field trip narratives and received 20 papers entitled "The Time Joe Puked on the Bus".

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Happy Birthday Grandma!

Today is my grandma's 88th birthday. She's one of the best grandma's ever. I spent all of my summers with my grandparents while I was growing up and she did all the things a grandma is supposed to do. We went berry-picking and made jam, they let me catch tadpoles and keep them to see what happened, they drove me hours each way to ballet class and supervised endless amounts of swimming at the lake. They spoiled me and made me feel like the center of the universe, which after all, is what grandparents are supposed to do.
My grandma is an inspiration to us all. She spent decades teaching and can still empathize with the problems I encounter in my own classroom. She probably reads more than anyone in my entire family, which says a lot since most of us are book fiends. My mom is there visiting her this weekend and it's safe to bet that they're probably out enjoying a nice fall day hiking in Vermont. I wish I could be there.
Happy Birthday Grandma! I love you!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Farmers Market

It's a gorgeous fall day here and we just went for a drive to a new farmers market. Wow! The entire barn was built using pegs and it is a beautiful facility. The selection of produce really isn't as good as our farmers market here in town but they have lots of beautiful handmade furniture, quilts, organic meats, soaps and natural products. The building has the nicest women's bathroom I've seen in a long time. I asked Paul to go check out the men's bathroom for me but he explained that men aren't allowed to go in bathrooms if they don't actually have to use them . Especially if they go in and tap their feet or stick their hands under stall doors. There was also a petting zoo with a baby pot-bellied pig (I want one in the worst way) and a baby bear eating a cantaloupe.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Twenty-Two Weeks (Not That I'm Counting)

Tomorrow will mark 22 weeks since our dossier reached Ethiopia. On the Ethiopian adoption blog I frequent, a woman this summer received significant sympathy for having to wait that long before receiving her referral. I'm just saying...

In all honesty, I'm not entirely prepared to add two children to our lives. We have the following items tucked away in our home waiting for them:

  • a pair of pink-striped tights, size 2T (the first thing I bought - Keep in mind that we don't know the gender of our future kids)

  • 33 gigantic disposable diapers (a gift from one of my mother-in-law's daycare parents whose child had been potty-trained)

  • 2 sippy cups that my mom bought last week

  • 2 stuffed monkeys

I know that people adopt domestically all the time with very little notice and their children survive just fine. I'm sure that a few quick trips to Target and some creativity can solve a lot of "stuff" problems. I'm also remembering the time our niece, who was about two, was sitting on my lap (I was wearing a short skirt) and asked for a drink of water. Without thinking about it, I offered her my glass of ice water which she promptly dumped down my legs. Or the time our friends' three kids came to stay with me for the day and I was shocked to find out we had absolutely nothing in our fridge they would eat. Hummus? Leftover tofu stir fry? Gin and tonic? In hindsight, seating them on our couch with their oatmeal also wasn't a good idea.

I'm a teacher. Anticipating logistical problems and messes is a part of my training. I've worked with small children in the past, so I don't understand why certain complications that would seem glaringly obvious to most onlookers don't occur to me. Maybe I'm just a very hands-on learner? At any rate, going from zero to two children overnight is sure to be a learning experience for all of us.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Some Days Being a Teacher Is Nice

Today was a good day at school. I caught two boys who don't like to read with our class novels tucked behind the other work they were supposed to be doing - they couldn't put them down. I love that they're enjoying Tangerine by Edward Bloor and The Giver by Lois Lowry so much.

Another of my kids, a boy who generally struggles to pass his classes, got a 20/20 on our vocabulary test today. That's never happened for him before. He was so excited when he turned it in; he knew he'd done well and he couldn't wait for me to grade it. When the A++ and the sticker, and the EXCELLENT! stamp were all in place I gave it to him to go hang in the hall and he was glowing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Some Sobering Statistics

  • The average life expectancy in Ethiopia is 48 years.
  • 131 of 1000 infants born alive will die before their first birthdays
  • 174 of 1000 children born alive will die before their fifth birthdays
  • The maternal mortality rate is 871/100,000 live births.
  • 10% of births are attended by medical professionals
  • The average Ethiopian lives off the equivalent of $780 US dollars a year.
  • 34% of adult women and 49% of adult men are literate
  • 35% of eligible Ethiopian children are enrolled in elementary school
  • 12% of girls and 19% of boys will enroll in secondary school
  • 10% of Ethiopian schools have libraries
  • 11% of the country's children are orphans - That's 5 million children missing parents.

My favorite English teacher used to say statistics are meaningless unless the author interprets them. These particular statistics aren't new to me - I've been thinking about them a lot for the last year or so. Still, I'm struggling to find the right words to interpret them. As I sit here, it's making me think about the ways in which these statistics are probably already adding up and exerting their influence over the lives of our future children.

I wish I could deceive myself and imagine that our kids are going to be delivered lovingly by storks, fairies wearing tutus, or Santa Claus himself. I can't really wrap my mind around the idea that our children's path to us is likely to be the direct result of their birth families' misfortunes. Logically though, I know that's the truth. Somewhere on the opposite side of the world, our children's families must feel as though their lives are falling apart while I'm sitting here in my comfortable computer chair wondering when we'll get our referrals so that our own family will feel complete. It seems like a cruel way for the world to work.

I don't mean to make it sound like I'm ready to dress all in black, draw the shades, and listen to The Cure all day for the rest of my life. When I think of our children coming home I'm filled with optimism. They will have a stable family and a hope for a better life and I'd like to think this is exactly why their first-families will have decided to place them for adoption. Tonight those families are on my mind.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Commonly Asked Questions

There are some questions we get asked all the time about our adoption. Here are a few of them along with the answers:

What do you know about the children you're adopting?

We don't know very much at all yet! Our letter to the board of the orphanage stated that we seek to adopt two children, one 0-6 months and the other 0-36 months. We don't have a strong preference about gender, so I'm predicting we'll be referred two boys (there is a strong bias for adopting girls in the adoption community). We don't know whether or not they'll be biological siblings.

Will you have to travel to Ethiopia?

We don't have to, but we are planning to do so. We want to be able to tell our kids about their first country, experience it for ourselves, and hopefully be able to make contact with their birth-families. Paul and I both enjoy traveling and we're very excited about having the chance to go to Ethiopia. I'm not too excited about the idea of traveling 20-30 hours to come home on an airplane with two young children who have just had their lives completely up-ended, but I guess it will give me my own "labor" story to tell in the future.

Why are you adopting two children at once?

There are a variety of reasons why we've chosen to adopt two at once. Most importantly, we always said if we adopted one child we would want to adopt a second to avoid making the first child feel like the odd-man-out in our family. We know we'd like to have several children eventually and anticipate it will be harder for us to finance future adoptions once we have a child at home (especially if we end up choosing for me to work part-time or stay home full-time). Finally, we feel we have the support system in-place to make this a manageable feat. I've corresponded with several families who have adopted two at once and they've all said it worked out well for them in the end. Please remind me of this if neither of our kids ever sleep once they get home.

When will you be traveling to bring them home?

The million-dollar question! We don't know yet! Right now we're just waiting for our referral (which is when the orphanage matches with children who need a family). As I said yesterday, that could happen tomorrow or it might still be a few months away (I hope not!).

What happens after you receive your referral?

  1. We celebrate like mad! The orphanage will send us pictures along with any medical and family information they have about each child.
  2. There will be a court date in Ethiopia in which they are legally declared to be our children. This usually happens 4-6 weeks after a referral but is subject to the court's schedule. There are a couple of caveats here: A.) Birth parents could reclaim their kids before the court date. This very, very rarely happens (maybe 0.25% of the time) but it happened this week to a family on an adoption board I frequent. Ultimately, it's good news if a birth family decides they can parent after all and they absolutely should have that option. If it happens though, I reserve the right to be crushed. B.) Sometimes the courts run out of time and dates have to be rescheduled. This isn't the end of the world, but it can be very frustrating for adoptive parents who are longing to bring home their kids.
  3. An embassy date is scheduled and we are told to buy plane tickets for that week. Usually they seem to schedule embassy dates for 2-4 weeks after a successful court date.
  4. We fly to Ethiopia! We will be staying for about a week before bringing our kids home.
P.S. The picture above represents some of the paperwork we had to fill out in triplicate and get notarized. I think our bank's notary was really starting to hate us!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Until we have kids, pictures of Stella will have to provide visual entertainment.

I Guess I'm a Blogger Now

After hearing from my mother that an e-mail I'd sent about somebody's experience adopting from Ethiopia had practically gone viral, I started thinking that there might possibly be a market out there for my own blog about our family. So here it is - my maiden post.

I hope I'll have some interesting information to post soon. Right now I don't have any terribly exciting news about our adoption to post. The courts in Ethiopia re-opened last week after being closed for nearly two months. They close every year for the rainy season and in the past it's caused huge back-ups in the entire process. Since the court opening though, everyone who had submitted their paperwork ahead of us has received their referrals. On Friday a woman who submitted her dossier the month after us got a referral. I fought back the urge to yell "LINE CUTTER! NO FAIR IT'S OUR TURN" when I read that. The board of the orphanages matches children in need of homes with the parents they feel will be the best fit so it's all very woo-woo cosmically mystical and referrals aren't given out in order. So... we could get a referral any day now or it could be months. Every time the phone rings I think it might be our adoption coordinator: Don't be surprised if you call our house and I sound breathless and disappointed when I find out who's calling!

I'm a little grouchy and anxious these days waiting for our referral. Paul has lots of faith that the agency is saving the perfect kids for us but mainly I walk around convinced they've either forgotten us or decided that we're not parent-material. Meanwhile, we're having a nice weekend spending time with Pat, going tailgating, and shopping with my mom. Well, I went shopping (baby shopping!) - Paul stayed home and watched the game. I'm getting the sense that I need to schedule a lot of activities for myself in order to stay calm and optimistic.

This post is starting to get really long and I haven't even invited anybody to read it yet. If this blogging thing seems to work out I figure it will be a good way to keep everyone updated once our kids come home.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!