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

Awasa

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.