Monday, December 29, 2008

A look back at 2008

2008 has been the best year of Sara and I's lives.

We owe it all to Lleyton. We are so thankful to have our little man with us, he makes every day better than the last.


Thank you for accepting us into your life.

Thank you for being the sweetest little man we could have ever dreamed of.

Thank you for allowing us to hug and kiss you as much as we do.

Thank you for loving to play basketball in the family room with me.

Thank you for always being so gentle with Max, Bailey, Wendell, and Molly.

Thank you for behaving so well on the those many car trips it seems we have taken.

Thank you for sleeping well at night.

Thank you for laughing at my silly jokes.

Thank you for listening to my often poor singing.

Thank you for dancing with Mommy and me before we eat dinner in the evenings.

Thank you for helping us cope with losing Bailey.

Thank you for making it easy on us (most of the time) to drop you off at daycare.

Thank you for being so darn cute.

Thank you for helping us vacuum (now that you have Dusty the Vacuum).

Thank you for loving to feed the horses.

Thank you for making us laugh.

Thank you for everything that you do.

You have made your Mommy and I the happiest people in the world.

Here's to an even better 2009. I am sure you are going to be the best big brother in the world.














Friday, December 26, 2008


Ethiopia is in Eastern Africa and lies west of Somalia. Sudan is to its North and Kenya to its South.

Land Boundaries:
Djibouti 349 km, Eritrea 912 km, Kenya 861 km, Somalia 1,600 km, and the Sudan 1,606 km.

Size is 1,127,127 sq km, slightly less than twice the size of Texas, US. The terrain consists of a high plateau with a central mountain range divided by the Great Rift Valley. Ethiopia is a landlocked country. The climate can be described as tropical monsoon but it varies greatly depending on the topography. Ethiopia'slowest point is at the Denakil Depression -125 m; its highest point is Ras Dejen standing at 4,620 m. Ethiopia's entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure independence of Eritrea on 24 May 1993. The Blue Nile, the chief headstream of the Nile by water volume, rises in T'ana Hayk (Lake Tana) in northwest Ethiopia. Three major crops are believed to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum, and the castor bean.

Just over 73 million people live in Ethiopia. Life expectancy is around 49 years. Birth rate is on average 5.3 per woman. Literacy rate is just over 42%.

Amharic, Tigrinya, Oromigna, Guaragigna, Somali, and Arabic. Other local languages include English which is the major foreign language taught in schools.

Ethnic Groups:
Oromo 40%, Amhara and Tigre 32%, Sidamo 9%, Shankella 6%, Somali 6%, Afar 4%, Gurage 2%, and other 1%

Muslim 45%-50%, Ethiopian Orthodox 35%-40%, animist 12%, and other 3%-8%.

Political History:
Unique among African countries, the ancient Ethiopian monarchy maintained its freedom from colonial rule, with the exception of the 1936-41 Italian occupation during World War II. In 1974 a military junta, the Derg, deposed Emperor Haile Selaisse (who had ruled since 1930) and established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive refugee problems, the regime was finally toppled in 1991 by a coalition of rebel forces, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). A constitution was adopted in 1994 and Ethiopia's first multiparty elections were held in 1995. A two and a half year border war with Eritrea ended with a peace treaty on 12 December 2000. Final demarcation of the boundary is currently on hold due to Ethiopian objections to an international commission's finding requiring it to surrender sensitive territory.

Economic Overview:
Ethiopia's poverty-stricken economy is based on agriculture, accounting for half of GDP, 60% of exports, and 80% of total employment. The agricultural sector suffers from frequent drought and poor cultivation practices. Coffee is critical to the Ethiopian economy with exports of some $156 million in 2002, but historically low prices have seen many farmers switching to qat to supplement income. The war with Eritrea in 1998-2000 and recurrent drought have buffeted the economy, in particular coffee production. In November 2001, Ethiopia qualified for debt relief from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Under Ethiopia's land tenure system, the government owns all land and provides long-term leases to the tenants; the system continues to hamper growth in the industrial sector as entrepreneurs are unable to use land as collateral for loans. Drought struck again late in 2002, leading to a 2% decline in GDP in 2003. Normal weather patterns late in 2003 helped agricultural and GDP growth recover in 2004.

Source: CIA World Factbook

Friday, December 19, 2008

One year ago today

It was around 10am local time in Samara, Russia. As usual, there had a been a large snowfall the night before and I hadn't slept well. Nothing against the Renaissance Hotel in Samara, it was very nice actually, I was just a bit nervous/excited. We met up the other family that we were traveling with for breakfast. I ate very little (not because the food wasn't great, but b/c I typically wasn't that hungry at breakfast and maybe a bigger factor was that the breakfast buffet was somewhere around $30/person).

After heading back upstairs to our room to change into our Sunday Best, which mine luckily arrived at Sheremetyevo 2 (Moscow airport) the day before after taking an unwanted detour in Toronto without us, we jumped in a car with our fearless driver and were off to become parents (note to those traveling to Moscow, if your luggage is lost and you don't speak the language, find a translator. I think without her, I would have certainly been wearing jeans and a sweater to court and my luggage would have been lost forever amongst the seemingly thousands of other pieces of luggage in the Aeroflot lost and found).

After arriving at the courthouse, the other couple went first, so we were left to sit nervously in a hallway outside of the room until we were called(note to those traveling to Samara and going to this particular courthouse, use the bathroom before you leave the hotel). When our time came, Sara and I entered into the courtroom along with a translator, a judge, a prosecutor, a representative from Lletyon's (then known as Gorsha)orphanage, and the Minister of Education in Samara. For a period of about 30 to 45 minutes we answered questions such as: Why are you adopting?, Why don't you have children the natural way?, Why are you so young?, How much money do you make?, What does your house look like?, How will you discipline this child?, How will you love this boy?, What do you think about other Americans that have abused their adopted Russian children?, etc. If I remember correctly (it was kind of a blur), I answered most of the questions because it is customary in Russia for the man to speak for the family.

After leaving the room to contemplate whether or not to grant us our wish of being parents to the perfect little boy that was waiting to see us again at his orphanage, the judge reentered the courtroom and informed us that our dreams had come true, and Lleyton was officially our child. Not the old fashioned way of becoming parents, but the way that we took, and we wouldn't change it for the world.

Following that declaration, we were driven to the orphanage to finally be able to hold and kiss and love a child that was officially ours (he had been ours in our hearts since the moment we met him). We were allowed a brief tour of the orphanage during this visit, which was very valuable, because it gave us more insight as to what kind of life Lleyton had lived for the first year of his being. After our tour and playing with our son for about an hour, we had to say our goodbyes and leave our newly minted son in the care of the orphanage for one last time. It was very difficult to leave him there, but after visiting the orphanage on four different occasions, we felt that he was in good hands there and they would take wonderful care of him until we were able to come back and bring him home with us and for good. As I sit here and write this, it's very clear why we haven't left him since.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Newest member of the clan

Please help to me welcome the newest member of our family, Wendell. Wendell came to us this past weekend through a foster home. He was rescued from a animal shelter in Kentucky by GRRAND, a golden retriever rescue organization. Sara and I have been pondering bringing another dog into the family since Bailey passed away this summer. Since Bailey's passing, Max just hadn't been the same, so it was only right to try to help another dog, and give Max a new best friend. The adjustment has been going quite well. As Wendell's description said on the GRRAND website, he enjoys life in the slow lane. He is a senior dog, listed at 8 years old, but may be older. He has a very sweet disposition and Max and Lleyton really seem to enjoy having him around (I can't say the same for Molly).

Adoption update: We are submitting our I-600A today and we have applied to have our homestudy done by an agency in KY. Just like during our adoption of Lleyton, we are working very hard to get the paperwork part of this process completed as quickly as possible, b/c once it is all completed we can be added to the list of families waiting to receive a referral.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The paperwork begins

Days one and two of completing our paperwork are almost behind us. The application to Gladney consists of a long application where we reveal everything about ourselves that one might want to know, asking four people to write reference letters for us, getting our physician's seal of approval, and completing a checklist of about 15 other documents. After we submit our application to Gladney we will begin our homestudy. While filling out our application we also have to send in what is called an I600-A form and sending it into the Immigration office. That is our official request to adopt a foreign born child.

Sara worked yesterday evening and this evening finishing up most of the application. Thank goodness she has such good penmanship, because if I were to have to write it, we probably wouldn't get approved.

Quick sidenote on Lleyton, we can't seem to get the boy to like birthday cake, or pizza or other delicious things that other little ones like, but over the last couple of days he has taken and extreme liking to roasted red pepper hummus on bagel chips. He is developing a very sophisticated pallet.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Here we go again!

Sara and I have decided to take on the world of international adoption once again. We have had Lleyton home almost 11 months now and we are yearning to give him a sibling. With that, based on the difficulties we have encountered with fertility, we are jumping right back into the ups and downs, highs and lows, heartache and hopefullness, and in the end, the extreme gratification that is the adoption process...And we couldn't be more excited.

After researching our various options, we have decided that our path this time will lead us to Ethiopia. There are a plethora of reasons for making this decision, and if anyone would like to learn more about our thought process, I would welcome any questions.

The journey to Ethiopia is going to be different than the one we had to Russia. Russia entailed three, one week long, trips, and Ethiopia will just be one trip. We have begun to fill out our application to the Gladney Center for Adoption. They will serve as our adoption agency. As much as we loved using Kids First during Lleyton's adoption, they are unable to help us in Ethiopia so we researched many different agencies and finally concluded on using Gladney. After submitting our application, which will hopefully be within the next couple of weeks, we will begin our homestudy.

I hope to continue to update this blog during our process for a couple of reasons. One would be to allow for those close to us to be informed as to how the process works and where we are in the process at any given time. The other reason would be so that Sara and I will have something to look back on always reminding of how the journey to adopting our second child went.

Wish us luck!