Archive for April, 2011

Easter Highlights

egg decorating

huge outdoor egg hunt…almost 300 hidden eggs!

family

(wordpress is being difficult today as far as uploading pics. so if you have access to our other family blog, head on over there to see some really adorable Easter pics)

All in all, the weather could not have been more perfect, the food was fabulous, the company was great, the kids had an awesome time, and of course the best part of all, the resurrection!

Yarn Braids

The beginning…my friend Denise offered not only to teach me how to do yarn braids on Sedaya, but to do them with me.  Sedaya was so excited and counted down the days until the big day when she and I would head over to Denise’s and do her hair.  Here are the first two braids.

Many, many hours later…we were starting to see progress and had figured out a bit of a system that worked.  Thankfully, Sedaya was fabulous and SAT the whole time (she never sits at home – she normally won’t even sit to watch TV or a movie!) and she didn’t complain which made the day so much easier.  Denise and I got to visit a lot and laugh (especially at the end when delirium had kicked in from exhaustion)!

Sedaya decided she wanted to go to sleep, so we lay her on the couch and kept braiding…at that point, we’d invested so much time and effort, we weren’t about to give up!

A very tired princess!  (it was much easier for us to braid once she was sleeping though!)

FINISHED AT LAST!

*** that is a grand total of 85 yarn braids!

Titanic Party

Josiah is obsessed with Titanic (obsession takes on a whole new meaning when you have a child with Asperger’s!).  I have long learned that it is best to just go with his current obsession of choice rather than fight it.  April 14 is the anniversary of the day the Titanic sank and he wrote it on the calendar and wanted to know how we were going to commemorate that day.  I told him that we would do something, but as it got closer, I realized that that day I had a hair appointment and that night was Mark and my date night, so I sat Josiah down and let him know that we would have to do something on Friday instead.  In a very serious voice, he told me that Friday would work because the 15th is the anniversary of the day that Titanic first touched down on the ocean floor!!!

On the night the Titanic sank, they were serving a 7 course dinner in the first class dining room, so I decided to do the same.  It may have been a bit on the ambitious side as I forgot to calculate that a 7 course plate service meal for 11 people would mean 77 dishes, so we were mixing and matching plastic plates with our fancy ones!

Here is the menu I made and cooked up for the evening:

Mark made a playlist that included string quartet music (including the some the orchestra was playing while the ship sank) and songs from the Titanic movie, which we listened to during dinner and danced to.  I taught the kids which fork to use for which course and they sipped ginger ale out of wine glasses and loved that their napkins were folded into fans!  It was a very fun night!!!

(sorry Mandi about the eyes closed thing, but this is the only dinner picture I have of the “grown-ups table”!)

Wordless Wednesday

My Thoughts

I will start off by apologizing for what is to follow as I suspect that it may be a jumbled mess of half-formed thoughts, but writing is therapeutic for me, so I need to write out at least some of how I am feeling.

I was away this weekend and therefore blissfully unaware until this morning of the news that on Friday, founder and former Executive Director of Imagine Adoptions and former General Manager and CFO Rick Hayhow were arrested and charged with fraud.  For those who do not know, in 2009, our adoption agency went bankrupt amid rumours of theft and misappropriation of funds while two of our children were being cared for by Imagine’s Transition Home in Ethiopia.  We heard of the bankruptcy on the same day that we heard that there were only 3 days of food left to feed our children and that none of the caregivers there had been paid for weeks and were only staying to look after the 43 + children out of kindness and compassion.  Our world was turned upside down that day and we fought to bring the kids home many months earlier than expected while grieving for the approximately 400 families awaiting referrals whose dreams of expanding their families appeared to be shattered.

As the saying goes, beauty rises from the ashes and that determined group of waiting parents managed to resurrect the agency and many children in Ethiopia have found their way to loving forever families as a result, but for some, the stress and financial burden was too much and their adoption dreams ended on that very sad day.  There also were children in the Transition Home whose paperwork was not complete who had to be sent back to uncertain fates in their originating orphanages or with birth family.  So much destruction at the hands of a woman who professed faith, who professed a love and compassion for orphans, and who stood on a platform of “our unique total love approach”…

In the days following the bankruptcy, when Mark and I did not know what would become of our precious children, there were moments of anger, outrage, disbelief, and sadness towards this woman.  There did come a time during those first two weeks that I did choose to forgive her so that I could move past the anger and focus on doing what I needed to do to get our children safely home.

Once our children were home though, the anger would rise up at times because we began to learn more information.  For a period of about six weeks, our children and the other children at the Transition Home were fed only one small meal a day (really what they were fed should not even qualify as a meal).  There was no money for gas to drive the kids to appointments, so when our son Elijah got a gash on his forehead that should have required stitches, he did not get medical attention.  There were times when I would drive myself crazy with all the “what ifs”…What if one of the kids had gotten sick and died?  What if the caregivers had not stayed once they stopped being paid?  What if the rations of food had completely run out before other parents began to arrive?  What if…?

To put into perspective what this was like for my children, you need to understand that this was not the first time in their lives that they had gone hungry.  Imagine, if you can, being a child in the developing world and going hungry, seeing others in your village die from lack of food or the effects of unclean water, and then being brought to an orphanage where, though it was scary and unfamiliar, you were being fed.  You began to count on being fed.  You began to let go of the fear of when your next meal would be or whether or not there would be a next meal.  Then, just as you began to settle in, you were brought to a different orphanage, this one was called a Transition Home and you weren’t sure what to expect.  For the first week or two at this new place, you were being fed and you began to relax and then, the meals got less frequent and smaller and then there was only one small meal a day and the hunger returned, and with it, the fear.

Over the months after we first got home with our kids, I struggled with anger and feelings of helplessness and guilt.  I felt like somehow I should have known that something was not right.  I felt stupid for trusting someone else with the care of my children without doing more research or asking more questions.  I felt angry about the amount of money we had spent to ensure they were well cared for only to find out that they hadn’t been.  With each new piece of information, I struggled to have to forgive this woman who had hurt my children.  I struggled about what I would tell them someday about evil in this world and how that evil had been the reason they worried for themselves and for each other during their short months at the Transition Home.

After the bankruptcy when parents were arriving daily to pick up their kids, when there was chaos and confusion, when the babies from the other location of the Transition Home whom they had never met were suddenly brought into their home along with their caregivers and my children worried all the food going to the babies (in many places in Ethiopia, if there isn’t enough food to go around, the youngest is fed first), when a strange white man arrived to meet them and then took them away from there and no one explained what was happening to them, my babies were afraid.  They were terrified.  They were traumatized.  They had already been through so much in their young lives before even coming there.  My heart breaks for that time in their lives and I wish I could have prevented that.  To know that this all happened because of someone’s greed disgusts me.  It sickens me.  It saddens me.

Not only were adoptive families, prospective adoptive families, and children affected by what this woman did, but employees both in Canada and in Ethiopia were also extremely negatively affected.  Not only did they lose their jobs suddenly and not have money coming in, but these employees were people who genuinely cared for these children and they were put in a position of worry.

Another difficulty I have with all of this is that the children, both those in the Transition Home and those who will never get to have a family because of what this woman did, were already in a vulnerable position.  These were children who were orphaned or abandoned or relinquished by family hoping for a better life for them.  They were in a position of needing protection and instead, became victims.  I cannot imagine an evil that allows someone to prey on the most vulnerable, the most needy.

People throw around the word “closure”.  I was expecting that when Sue was arrested, I would feel closure.  I do not.

Today, when I heard about Sue’s arrest, I did not feel happy.  I expected to feel happy.  I hoped for this day.  I wished for this day.  But nothing done to her by our justice system will take the pain away from my children.  No jail time will give the families who could not continue with their adoptions, their long-awaited child.  No restitution she will be made to possibly pay will cover the true expenses of what her actions cost.

Today, I am sad.  I am reminded again of how close we came to never knowing the tremendous two little people we now call son and daughter.

Today, I am hurt.  I want an apology that probably will not come.

Today, I am ashamed.  I want this woman to be fed only what the children entrusted to her care were fed.

Today, I am broken.  I want to hold my babies closer and take away their hurts.

Today, I am humbled.  I am in awe of those who worked with such determination to resurrect the agency and bring more children home.

Today, I am angry.  I know that true justice will not come in this world.

Today, I am empty.  The arrest did not bring the peace I was looking for.

Today, I am struggling to forgive anew.  I need God’s help and strength to do this.

Today, I am helpless.  I am reminded that justice is not mine to administer.

Today, I am reminded.  My children are a miracle and their story a testimony.

Today, I know.  God has spoken about this already:

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.'” – Matthew 25: 45

Another ESL moment

Even though Elijah and Sedaya have been home more than a year and a half and their English has come a LONG way, we still encounter words on at least a weekly basis that they don’t know and sometimes, it makes for some pretty interesting discussions!

Tonight, the kids and I are going to go over to my friend Holly’s and they are going to watch the movie “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” with her kids.  Upon hearing about this, Sedaya looked quite distressed and announced “I don’t wanna see that”.  I asked her why not and she scrunched up her face and said “that’s yucky!  I don’t wanna see a kid’s diarrhea.  That’s gross!!!”

The Second…

Our Ethiopian kids have been home for more than a year and a half and I am noticing something that brings them comfort.  That first year, everything was new and sometimes an event or season or change would send them into a bit of a tailspin as they tried to figure out how to navigate through another “first”.  Many of the firsts even came with their own new vocabulary and for my sweet kids who were new to English, it became frustrating when they would feel like they were getting a grasp on the language and then something would come along and they would have to learn a whole new set of words.

examples:

Christmas vocab: reindeer, Santa, nativity, carolling, manger, ornament, shepherd, yule, Bethlehem, North Pole, elves, candy cane, and on and on…

Olympics vocab: luge, national anthem, medal, champion, torch, broadcaster, etc.

Easter, dental occurrences, winter, fall, spring, summer, vacation, airplane, wedding, funeral, extended family get togethers, sports, classes, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and more are all things that come with their own vocabulary.

These type of things also come with their own traditions or events and the first year we were home, everything was new to Elijah and Sedaya.  New sometimes meant fun, but mostly for them, it meant scary and always having to be on their toes.  This year, I’ve been noticing that they are more relaxed about the changes that come with events or seasons.  Recently, they have enjoyed being included in discussions about last Easter and we have talked about it a fair bit so that I am sure that they know what to expect.  There were things from last Easter that Elijah didn’t remember and quite a bit that Sedaya didn’t remember, but they at least have a reference point now and instead of having that nervous energy leading up to it, I sense in them a true excitement.  I can see that in many ways, experiencing the “seconds”, may actually be more fun for them than experiencing the “firsts”.

Last winter, Elijah loved the snow and playing outside, but he grew tired of it and I could tell that he didn’t actually believe me that the snow would ever go away.  He had never experienced a Canadian spring and really thought that winter would never end!  This year, he knows that it will end and he will get to go bike riding and hiking again.

Sedaya was pretty frightened the first time she lost a tooth even though she had seen her older brothers and sisters lose teeth, but now that she’s lost several, she knows the drill.  She gets the tooth fairy thing too!!!  (though she does know who the tooth fairy really is)

I guess I’m really kind of directing this at those families who have been home for a year or less.  I just wanted to say that during that first year, it would seem like we were getting our footing and then another event or new season would come along and it would feel like we had taken two steps back again.  For the last few months though, it feels like we are moving forward and those painful days in the beginning were so worthwhile.  Stick with it.

This year for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and now upcoming Easter, Elijah and Sedaya remember them from last year and talk about what we did as a family and what we will be doing.  This reassures them that they are part of our family and included in our family traditions.  They also talk about next Christmas, next Easter, next summer, etc. and that is an important piece in creating a sense of permanence.  In this case, the seconds really have been sweeter than the firsts!