Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Cows...OH NO!!!

So, off to Washington D.C. we went for the Memorial Day weekend. I thought it would be fun and a nice opportunity for the girls to hang out with Lynn’s mom. Lynn was skeptical of undertaking this adventure with four kids so soon but I dismissed those concerns and said, “How hard could it be?” Duh.

Sleep made things tough both nights. Somebody explain to me why my kids cannot drag themselves out of bed for school or church on Sunday mornings without me almost starting a war, yet when we go up there they don’t go to sleep until after 10pm yet are all up before 6am. Why? Someone please why? The later Lynn and I might be able to sleep, the earlier they wake up. I promise you they will all be up before dawn on Saturday morning…unless of course we have somewhere to be. Why can’t they use these super kid powers for good instead of evil?

But back to the point of today’s post. Every once in a while I remember that Zenash and Tarikua have only been in this country for a little bit over a month. Every once in a while I look at them and consider just how much has changed for them in such a short time. How overwhelming it must be to them sometimes. I am certain that I would be an absolute wreck. But for the most part they march along and soak in all of the new experiences. In fact they revel in them and seem to trust that we are providing them with fun opportunities to try something new. Much like Savannah and Carson we are always up for an adventure. However, perspective is a funny thing and there are occasional things that are just so foreign to them that they cannot deal. Last night, for example, I showed Zenash a hamburger I had cooked for dinner.

Zenash: “What theees?”
Dad: “It’s a hamburger Zenash. Would you like to try it?”
Zenash with a wrinkled nose and disgusted look on her face: “NO!”
Dad: “In America everyone likes hamburgers. You will probably like it too some day.”
Zenash contemplative: “Eees dog?”
Dad laugh’s “No” repeatedly to the next several questions
Zenash: “Eees cat? Eees Peeg? Horse? Goat? Lamb? Duck? Bird?” and finally… “Cow?”
Dad: “Yes! It is cow! Do you want to try it?”
Zenash: “No.”

But I digress. The real illustrative story and the point of this post was the zoo and how different the girls’ perspective is. We explained to Zenash that we were going to see animals. This was unexpectedly troubling to Zenash. “Zoo why Mom?” followed by “Animals why?” and concluding with “Animals no! Me car!” We got out of the car and, “No-o-o-o-o- pleeeeeeease Dad. Animals why??!?!?!” I then explained to her that animals were on the other side of glass and walls from her. I suppose these girls grew up where animals are predators and to be avoided. Zenash surely thought we were out of our minds to actively seek out lions like we had indeed discussed earlier. And as we walked into teh zoo Lynn and I got it. Our solution, let’s start with the farm animal exhibit! We'll sort of ease into the experience. A+ parenting! We should go get a couple more kids!

Unfortunately the concept of animals on the other side of walls is not the type of thing we are able to explain to Tarikua with signs yet. Even more unfortunately, she is apparently very afraid of all animals. Remarkably this includes farm animals. Now, I am not aware of vicious milk cows roaming the streets of Ethiopia stalking and presumably violently eating small African children, but I can only assume by Tarikua’s reaction that (a) this occurs, and (b) that she has witnessed it. Again, if reactions tell the story, my precious Tarikua narrowly escaped a bovine death herself. Perhaps on numerous occasions. Oh, apparently donkeys are also vicious, and (moving right along the zoo path) so are prairie dogs and turtles are not as innocent as they might seem; ruthless killers all.

However, to her credit Zenash calmed down in the farm exhibit and after explaining that her mother’s friend milked cows asked a question about the donkeys. “Donkeys why Dad?” Asked in a manner to say, “Seriously…you brought me here to look at donkeys??? You don’t remember the 40-50 donkeys we saw every day in Addis carrying things?” Oh yeah Zenash? The lion was a little more impressive smarty pants huh? I don't think she breathed and it was obvious she thought the lion might jump the moat. But 10 minutes into the zoo experience Z totally got it and was so pleased with herself. She very badly wanted to see the zebras. “Z for Zebra, Z for Zenash! Dad Zebra in Ethiopia!” Zebras, elephants, gorillas, gibbons, lemurs all very very good!

But I will confess, the terrifying moment of the day definitely came in the unlikeliest of places. The Small Mammal House. Much like I wasn’t aware of the vicious, flesh-eating cows roaming the streets of Ethiopia, I certainly wasn’t aware that a cow is a "small mammal." Thus begging the question of why some zoo designer put a life-sized and very realistic (albeit one dimensional) cow model in the middle of the Small Mammal House. And given the milk cow's appetite for small Ethiopian children was it really necessary to put one just around the corner of a wall where you aren't expecting it? Seriously. Why? And for anyone reading this who may have witnessed this spectacle and wondered what the horrible white man was doing to the little African child to make her scream like she was being attacked by a … well a blood thirsty cow I guess… please know that it wasn’t me. It was the cow. I swear. I am just the genius who decided that the solution upon her initial freak-out was to make her touch the picture to see that it wasn’t real. Guess we won’t be going into a Chick-Fil-A any time soon.

Just updated with a  video taste of the adventure.

video

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Prayers

I had intended to update friends and family with life in our family with this post.  As I started to type minutes ago I learned that another family we know through the Internet has experienced a tragedy in the midst of their travels.  

Many of you might know that Lynn and I had a last minute dash to bring soy formula to Ethiopia for a sick baby at the Soddo orphanage where our girls had lived.  This family had  gone to receive beautiful twins in the last week.  We just learned that her family arrived in Ethiopia and that one of the babies passed away in her new parents' arms shortly after receiving her.  They are confident that this precious angel had been hanging on to be with her forever family.

Please lift the Minor family in your thoughts and prayers.  


Monday, April 27, 2009

So many firsts!

I am so touched that so many friends are keeping up with our journey on this blog.  I will apologize for all of the spelling errors.  Not my usual style but I will trust no one is grading me at home.  I also head back to work tomorrow and wanted to get one more under the belt.  Tonight's offering is a list of my top five fun "firsts" since coming to the U.S.  Adopting older children is interesting.  Instead of having firsts (first steps, first words, first haircuts, etc) spread out over weeks months and years, we get them rapid fire.  Like 100 a day!  I am constantly kicking myself for not having a camera!  Not to mention all of the firsts for Lynn and me including a child losing a tooth tonight and running outside to throw it on the roof.  Cool!

However, before I launch into the blog, I must confess that we hit a couple bumps along the way yesterday.  So "Leave it to Beaver" we are not.  The day started off with a bad night's sleep for everyone, a bad cold for Tarikua and a rookie mistake by dad the day before.  Therefore, I start with this pledge.  "I Dad, father to one son and three beautiful, strong young ladies, hereby pledge that I will henceforth never take two girls shopping for clothes and shoes allowing them to have matching outfits for church the following morning unless I have also picked up a third matching outfit for the daughter not attending the shopping expedition. This shall especially hold true when the odd girl out is Tarikua and the older girls are eager to show said youngest sibling that they are fancy, pretty and well- attired for church.  I acknowledge that a young girl's expectation to accessorize and match is a God given right.  I further acknowledge that the same purple Crocs worn for five straight days are not an acceptable substitute when Zenash and Savannah have received pretty whit flats.  Moreover, I shall henceforth heed the advice of daughters in attendance on said shopping expedition, especially when said daughters either hold up shoes and say, 'Dad.  Tarikua?' and/or say 'Dad, shouldn't we get something for Tarikua too?'  When both daughters independently make said statements, I shall obey thinking not of such petty things as the mortgage or utility bills. Under no circumstances should my response to advice from said older daughters be 'Oh, I'm sure she has something at home.' In the event I break this solemn oath I shall henceforth deserve any temper tantrums offered." Dumb, dumb, dumb...  Here is tonight's Top Five Firsts for Zenash and Tarikua:

5)  Speed Bumps-  first trip to the park today.  Many firsts including slides, swings and chasing ducks (until an animal control officer arrived and Dad changed the game to avoid a badge giving us a stern talking to).  But lets be honest who doesn't like to chase a duck.  And if you've never actually seen a duck it really makes the quacking and chasing all the more fun!  Plus crossing the green metal grate bridge was also a riot!  Both girls giggling and clinging to my hands, not sure what would happen next.   But the piece de resistance of a first outing to the park with Dad......?
Speed bumps, seriously.  Speed bumps were met with howls of laughter and "again! again!"  I did laps in the car and the laughter was multiplied when I would do a countdown.  Priceless!

4)  Water guns-  it was hot yesterday and the water guns came out.  I was concerned that my more reserved daughter might not like getting wet.  Wrong!  I have raised Savannah to be a strong girl and don't intend on raising shrinking violets.  No worries.  These girls brandished water guns like Navy Seals and soaked any kid willing to engage.  An accidental squirt hit the old man and when I responded with a smile I was finished.  Why does Dad always get the bad water gun?  I mean really, couldn't I get the Super Soaker just once?  

3)  Escalators- this happened at the airport. The way the girls laughed uncontrollably and wobbled off and on to the steps, they looked like drunken conventioneers at a Las Vegas casino. 

2)  Electric Car Windows and other gadgets-  the car windows are in constant motion.  Every light is on in the house.  The food processor is just about dead.  There are CD's in the DVD player.  And, for my Facebook friends, the garbage disposal appears to be down for the count.  It is either a coffee bean or a rock in there.  Live and learn I suppose.

1)  Walmart- and finally the above-described first trip to Walmart with my big girls.  (Apologies to Tarikua) On Saturday Z had lost her shoe in the river (a whole different blog) and it was the only pair we had for her.  Off to Walmart with instructions from Mom to find sandals, dress shoes and tennies.  My sweet Zenash walked into her first Walmart and her jaw dropped. Savannah grabbed her hand and said, "You are going to love this!" Uh oh.!   Zenash walked into the shoe aisles and picked up a pair of old school nursing style shoes. "Dad. Look!"  Savannah took the shoes from her and said "Oh, no, no, no."  And my sweet Zenash received her first lesson in being a picky shoe shopper.  (This lesson last an hour and a half... seriously.)  However, after finding a pair of flip flops to replace the pair now two feet deep in river muck, Zenash ran to the men's shoe aisle.  "Dad.  Look!" I smiled and said "Nice."  Another pair.  "Dad. Look!" I smiled again.  "I have some sort of like that.  Did I wear to Embassy?"  Furrowed, frustrated brow.  Another pair. "Dad.  Look!"  And it dawns on me.  I just put flip flops in the cart for Zenash and Savannah (the little manipulator) and her response was that I should have shoes too.  So sweet.  However the crowning moment was when both girls found matching lime green high heels and teetered up and down the aisles giggling and nearly toppling.  New sisters.  Sweet little girls.  However, rather quickly the began to stabilize and suddenly they were walking in them just fine.  I wasn't ready for that as I watched them both grow before my eyes. "Dad, can we get them? We can walk in them!"  "Not yet" I responded as I pulled them into a tight bear hug.  "Daddy isn't ready yet."  I held Zenash's face in my hand and said, "I've only had you a few days."  I then turned to Savannah and held her face in my other hand and said, "And I feel like I've only had you a few days too."  I looked at them and whispered, "Just be my little girls a little while longer."  Savannah grinned, hugged me and said "OK" and instinctively Zenash followed suit.  Heaven.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

A New Beginning

SELAMTI!  (Greetings)  Back to an Internet system that can handle this page!  Where to begin... 

If I went through the journal I kept and tried to relay the last week of our lives, I would probably crash this page.  More importantly, I am now the father of four children at once.  So I will have to share stories from the trip piecemeal.   In short, Ethiopia is the most remarkable place I have ever visited.  The people are kind, beautiful and generous beyond measure.  They are grace and goodness personified. Love abounds and I am a better person for each one I met.  We will go back.  We travelled with fantastic, fantastic new friends.  God blessed us with travelling companions that I know are friends for life.  What a journey.

My girls, my precious new daughters...  Zenash is thoughtful, peaceful, a little shy, sweet, beautiful, nurturing, wonderful with babies and young children, remarkable at games, sharp, and has a wry little sense of humor.  For now she is a bit of a daddy's girl which is A-OK with Dad.  However, she adores Lynn and I fear my top spot will be short-lived.  (It is already being threatened by Savannah) And while we are at it let me just say that hearing the word "Dad" and "Mom" with Zenash's sweet soft voice is like a song in my heart.  She reminds me very much of my beautiful Savannah.  They are almost identical in size and (as I alluded to above) have so far hit it off beautifully.  As I type Zenash is braiding Savannah's hair.  Savannah has welcomed Zenash into her heart and home without hesitation or limitation.  I am so very proud of my big girls.  

A taste of stories to come...While we were in country, Zenash took great joy in suddenly finding herself able to share with those less fortunate than her.  She gave her granola bars to hungry children.  She shared bubble gum and lollipops with joy in her heart. If I gave her a pack of gum, she gave some to house staff, guests and other families.  Her reaction to suddenly owning things and having a little bit?  Share with those that didn't have what she had.  This morning, she held a coffee ceremony to celebrate our homecoming.  This included roasting the beans we brought back, and preparing breakfast.  It is a BIG deal in Ethiopia.  When I tried to help with electric ranges and a food processor (that by now probably has a burned out motor) I was directed  "Dad sit".   As I type she is braiding Savannah's hair.  She is simply lovely.  

Miss Tarikua... where to possibly begin with her.  She is adorable, hysterically funny, strong-willed, a bit mischievous (but in an endearing way), sharp, curious, appreciative of any act of kindness, and cuddly.  The best part is that she is very aware of all of these things and has figured out how to use these characteristics to her advantage.  She is an absolute love sponge. She is quite a bit like Carson and my kind-hearted Carson has been so gentle and good with her. She loves Mom and Dad but is especially attached to Lynn.  She has quickly taken to being an American and it is apparent that she very much understood what was happening.  She was coming to have a mom, dad and new siblings.  She spent yesterday afternoon in a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader outfit.  I mentioned above that Zenash took joy in giving... I can't miss the opportunity to share that in these instances Tarikua usually was swatting at her as if to say, "Stop giving our stuff away!"  

A taste of Tarikua stories to come.  As most are aware she is deaf.  However, she gave us an early surprise on Tuesday morning.   Our new friend Tye had brought a guitar to donat to his new daughter's orphanage.  Before doing so, he played at our guest house.  For a year, Lynn and I had both slightly mourned that we might never share our love of music with Tarkua.  But I came downstairs to the sound of music.  I found Tarikua with her ear pressed to Tye's guitar.  His left hand fingered chord positions while Tarikua smiled and strummed and Lynn and I wept.  She was making music.  As I type, I cry yet again.  God is so good!

Our return.  I spent most of the week telling people that Ethiopia has the coolest people on earth.  Upon our return I must amend to say that Ethiopians are tied with our friends and family. Once clearing customs and immigration we were greeted by Carson, Savannah, Lynn's mom, Lynn's sister Laura, Cousins Austin and Dakota, Pastor Natalie, Amanda Grace, Lynn's life-long friends Cathy and Patti, and Patti and Gabe's daughter Ava.  There were signs, balloon, gifts from Grandma and much cheering.  Tears, and hugs and a new family is born.  (I hope most of you are friends on Facebook with Pastor Natalie and got it all live from her Blackberry) Watching my children cry and hug each other for the first time was the greatest moment of my life.  More beauty...  We had our first meal at...McDonalds.  A day of many firsts indeed as there isn't a single McD's in Ethiopia.  As we drove into Waynesboro, Lynn commented that she wished that the house was cleaner and wondered where everything would go.  Remember the whit dresser?  I told Lynn I would go first thing s we would have a place to put things.  We didn't have time.  

As we pulled up to our house, our jaws dropped.  Our Soul Food Sunday school class had planted flowers and done tons of yard work.  We went inside and it was immediately apparent that the entire house had been cleaned top to bottom.  The house was draped with banners of the Ethiopian colors (red, yellow and green).  We had a surprise gift basket  and two very generous gift certificates from  Lynn's work (lets be real the "basket" was two enormous tubs of food and toys).  Our friends down the block had gotten keys from my mom and dad and been hard at work.  There were beautiful flowers from other friends down the block.   Bags of clothes had appeared in our bedroom.  Sign language videos from Arlington friends in the mail.  Our day was full of friends and neighbors coming by to met the family and my work has been beyond generous in allowing me to schedule medical appointments and bask is the glory of this moment.  God is good... And last but not least, remember the dresser?  It had appeared in Tarikua's room and it was perfect.  Lynn and I cried as we felt like we were on one of those reality programs where your house is re-done.  We cried and hugged.  I am sure Zenash was confused and surely thinks Americans cry and awful lot.  All of this is not to mention, all of the friends who cared for Savannah and Carson and the dogs while we were away and those that so generously donated money and goods for us to take with us.  They were received in the spirit of Ethiopia with love, appreciation, and the intent to share.  If I have somehow failed to mention your contribution, please lease, ease know that it is because I am a bit overwhelmed and not because your love has failed to impress.  Trust me, I have felt every ounce of love that has been offered!

As I conclude, Carson has taught Zenash how to play the Wii and Tarikua has discovered glitter glue.  So many firsts.  I cannot begin to tell you how I feel at this moment.  Rich and blessed beyond my widest dreams? That just doesn't approach it...  I am most certainly not worthy of the love I have experienced in the last week.  How very fitting that we arrived in Addis on their Easter Sunday.  I think I have celebrated Easter every day since.  I will try to share stories in the coming weeks.  This life is certainly a grand adventure.  I wish all of you could hear the laughter I hear right now and feel the love in this house.  It is awesome.  Transitional times certainly are ahead but for now I bask in the love of this family of four children.  I bask in the love of friends and family.  I bask in the love of new friends in America and Ethiopia.  I bask in the love of God who put this on Lynn's and my heart.  I hoe this will teach me to trust Him more often.  His ways are not my ways but I have to tell you, His ways have proven to yield much better results this week.  To all, an open invitation to come by and see us (especially while the house stays this clean!) and know that we love you all!  God Bless you all!


Friday, April 17, 2009

CRUNCH TIME!

Reality check Top Ten...

1. We will not be able to finish everything we had planned on doing before leaving for Africa tomorrow. Tomorrow.....wow. AFRICA ...WOW!!!!!!!!

2. #1 is OK because there is nothing we can do about it and there is no reason to spoil this amazing moment because the furniture isn't just so, the windows aren't cleaned, the grass isn't mowed, there is still some soot on the ceiling of the kitchen from the small cooking fire I started last month... and I better stop because if I keep making this list I will start feeling bad about it all again. Breathe deep.... Once we get on the plane I am hoping we can relax and just live in the moment. However, until then Lynn desperately wants a pretty little white dresser and a rug for Tarikua's room but I just can't see it happening before we leave in less than 24 hours. I have convinced myself that someone who has never owned anything in her precious little life will not know that she is missing a dresser to put things in. But Lynn knows... so I will need to take care of that when we get home.

3. If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. See #2. Gotta get that dresser! Doing my part to help the U.S. out of the recession!

4. We are doubling our number of children without doubling the number of parents. As the saying goes Lynn and I are suddenly running the family with a prevent defense. Bend but don't break.

5. We have amazing friends and family. Thanks to so many reading this we are going to be taking over some much needed supplies and a very nice monetary donation to the care center and Tarikua's deaf school. So many have also responded to help out with Savannah and Carson and the dogs while we are away. The school has been great. Work has been great for both Lynn and me. God is great! THANK YOU ALL!

6. Fishing with Carson for an hour last night was a good idea. There are about to be four beautiful women in my house. Carson and I are going to be doing a lot of fishing. :-)

7. First Baptist Church is such a terrific place. Mission Hope has been such an amazing resource. The congregation and staff are just phenomenal! Here is but one example. Our children's minister is driving my kids to meet us at the airport next week for our homecoming. BIG LOVE TO NATALIE AND OUR WHOLE FBC FAMILY!!!

8. Lynn just got an E-mail from a family in NY whose daughters were friends with my new daughters in the care center. Among other revelations I have learned that Zenash does not like pasta. A picky eater. Lynn worries about dressers, I worry about having to get a second job to afford daily carry-out from the local Ethiopian restaurant which is awesome but not cheap.

9. Its funny but I find myself telling complete strangers about this adoption. I told the very nice owner of Jess' Lunch in Harrisonburg about it last week and she bought my lunch for me despite my protests that she didn't need to. Tears welled in her eyes and she said I had made her day and only made me promise to bring them there for a hot dog. (Glad she doesn't serve pasta- See #8) Hey, maybe I should talk about the adoption to the guy at the dresser store! For some reason I feel close to Zenash and Tarikua when I talk about them and talk about the trip. Its the only way I've known to love them for the last eighteen months. As I write, my heart is in Ethiopia. My hand is holding theirs. I imagine Lynn holding them. I hope they love us because we love them so much already. I wonder how much they know and understand. It is night time there. Are they thinking of us as they drift to sleep? Are they able to sleep? Time alternates between creeping and flying. I worry, I smile, I love... So very soon.

10. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, Savannah and Carson are truly amazing kids. God has already blessed me beyond measure. I wouldn't have dreamed of doing this without them on board. Forget about toys and rooms and the junk. They are about to share their parents with two strangers. What dear sweet little souls they are. I love them more day by day and I am utterly convinced that this experience will touch us all is amazing and wonderful ways. We may be in for rough times as reality sets in but I am so proud of all that they are, and I am so confident in their ability to welcome Zenash and Tarikua to the family. I think they must get it from their mother. Lynn's capacity for love is so amazing. Her heart is like a balloon that swells and swells but never pops. Like the song says, "somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good." Either that or its Grace. Yeah... I think that I probably just converted several people who knew me in my youth or childhood.

Stay tuned......

Sunday, April 12, 2009

To our friends

It is late in the day on Easter Sunday.  We are now less than one week from flying to Addis to pick up our daughters.  At this time a mere seven days from now we will be waking in beautiful Africa and preparing to meet our daughters for the first time.  Wow... Please check back often in the coming weeks.  We are planning on posting photos and video from our trip and regular updates.  We want all of you to be a part of this and to be a part of our lives.

We have been so blessed by so many who have offered to help us in many different ways.  It is very powerful and overwhelming!!  For those of you who are still looking for ways to be a part of our adoption, it is customary for adoptive parents to bring donations to the agencies that have helped and cared for their children.  The needs of these agencies are so great, and many supplies are not available in Ethiopia, so they rely on us, as the primary means of bringing over needed supplies.  As you might imagine, we are a little burdened with the costs of bringing our girls home, and have not been able to do as much as we would like in this respect.  We are still hoping for donations of these things:
Diapers- newborn, size 1's, 2's and 3's.
Formula- milk based
Financial donations for Tarikua's deaf school and the CWA orphanage where our kids have been cared for for the last year.

If you are able, we would welcome gifts to take with us next week.  These offerings can be made through our church's adoption ministry, Mission Hope.  

Please send donations to 
First Baptist Church Adoption Ministry
301 S. Wayne Ave.
Waynesboro, VA 22980

Checks may be made payable to 
First Baptist Church 
Memo Line:  Adoption Ministry:Ethiopia

We thank everyone for all the support you have given us, most important are your love and prayers!!  Please know that your love and support for our family and the promises of love and support to come are what have given us the courage to follow this dream!  Keep checking our Blog for updates from Ethiopia!  Know that we take all of you along with us!

Much love and many blessings!

He is good!

Bob and Lynn

 

Monday, March 23, 2009

Introducing!

Lynn, Bob, Savannah and Carson are proud to introduce the newest members of our happy family!