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!)


*** 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.


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!


Explaining Racism to a Child

I have been thinking about this post for so long and don’t know if I have the words to do justice to this, but it’s been a few weeks already since this happened, so I have to write what I can before I forget the details.  (better settle in with a tea because I have the feeling this will be a long one!!!)

We were watching Oprah’s Master Class with Condoleezza Rice with some of the kids in the room and the image of the second plane hitting the twin towers came on.  That image is something that most of our kids have grown up with.  September 11th happened three months before Gracelyn was born, five months before Josiah was born, and three years before Eliana was born and yet, it is something they have always known about.  They have seen footage from that day and still images and we have talked about it in passing here and there.  For our older boys, they have memories of the actual day, of seeing it for the first time.

Elijah and Sedaya had never seen or heard of September 11th.  I had never thought about it until Elijah piped up, “what happened Mommy?  Why that plane crash into that building?”  I felt myself hesitate.  How do you explain to a child hatred so intense that it causes the deaths of thousands of people?  I don’t remember exactly what Mark and I explained, but it really struck me as significant that two of our kids were completely unaware of a day that had quite literally changed the world.

Later in the same show, the subject turned to racism and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.  Again, Elijah asked a question.  I paused the show and turned to him and as I tried to explain, I fought back the tears.  How do you explain racism to a nine year old?  Here in my living room were my children, three of them just happen to be black.  How was I to tell them about a time in history when there were lynchings, segregation, slavery, hatred all because of race?

I first became interested in U.S. black history when I was in the seventh or eighth grade and we read Underground to Canada.  Over the years, I did my own research and was especially moved by those who fought so hard for civil rights, even willing to give their lives for the cause.  In the early years of homeschooling my older boys, I taught them units on slavery and on the civil rights movement.  They watched movies such as Selma, Lord Selma and Ruby Bridges.  We used to get quite the stares when we would go for walks and my two caucasian boys would be singing freedom march songs as we went!!!  But I have not done those units with the other kids yet, not because I was putting off teaching them, but because while we were waiting for Elijah and Sedaya to come home, we studied Africa for two years and then when they were first home, we were concentrating on teaching them English and about Canada.

So now here I sat, my black children wanting to know about Martin Luther King Jr., one of my personal heros, and me, at quite a loss as to what to say.  Over the years, I had touched on racism with Josiah here and there, explaining that there were some people that believed that the colour of our skin determined our worth and he quickly agreed how silly that was since God made us all.

As I began to tell Elijah about how things used to be in the United States (and many years before that, even in Canada), about Rosa Parks and the bus (“The only tired I was was tired of giving in”), slavery, separate lines, separate schools, unequal rights, and hatred (I could not bring myself to find the words to explain horrors such as the KKK – even writing those letters makes me feel sick to my stomach and worried to have them on this site).  Then, I told him about a wonderful man who loved God and his family and wanted his children to grow up in a world that would judge them for who they were, not by the colour of their skin, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  I tried to tell him about the “I Have a Dream” speech, but got choked up, as I always do when I try to recite any part of that inspired address.  There is just something about a man who knew what was right and was willing to lay his life down so that his children and the children of others would live in a better world, a world that would someday have equal opportunities for all people that touches me down to my very core.

I told Elijah about this amazing man and how what he fought for made it so that this woman on the TV show, Condoleezza Rice, could do anything and be anything, and that because of him and people like him, the United States now has a black President.  (I did cry when I said that – how could I not, when just 40 years before, there was such injustice and it does show that those who died for the cause did not die in vain.)

I tried to explain what we believe about God making each of us in the way He designed, but that some people still today would judge because of skin colour.  I worded things the best way I knew how and tried to keep it easy for him to understand, knowing that there would be many more talks on this topic in the weeks, months, and years to come.  I think I did okay until this…

“But mommy, why they kill him?”