Thursday, December 31, 2009

Introducing the Honorable Parker L. B. Ritzmann

On Monday morning, Sara and I and Parker ventured over to the Boone County Circuit Court and sat in front of a judge to finalize our readoption of Parker. What does that mean? Us readopting our big guy is going to allow him to become a citizen of the United States, and his name has officially been changed to Parker, so gone are the days of doctors offices and schools calling and inquiring about how our daughter Lelesa is doing.

Here is the future politician himself, obviously happy that he is now eligible to run for elected office in a few years. Who wouldn't vote for him with that patented thumbs up move?

Side note: I was geared up for a big week of blogging, as plenty of cool activities were planned for this week, including a Harlem Globetrotters game today, and IU basketball game tomorrow, and a quick weekend getaway to Georgia this weekend, but I have been sidelined indefinitely by strep throat and a sinus infection. I am happy to report that Parker was able to attend the Globetrotters game today with Pop and they had a very good time. I am sure there were plenty of questions asked, as Parker can't seem to shake the phase of asking 1,000's of questions a day.

I am hoping all of these medications that I am on kick in soon, so that we don't have to bail on our plans to head to Georgia.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Santa paid us a visit, and we have proof.

What's the proof, you might ask..

A very strategically placed tray of flour that allowed us to trace Santa's steps through our house.

Last night as we were preparing for Santa's arrival, along with baking cookies for the man himself and his reindeer, we also placed that tray of flour right outside of our front door, as Santa's boots would most definitely be a little wet from the evening rain and the flour would stick perfectly to those size 13's.

The look of disbelief this morning on Parker's face when he saw the footprints was priceless.

Not only did Santa leave quite a few footprints, he also left presents for the boys, and by the looks of the tree, Santa must have decided that both boys were quite good this year.

This picture captured how excited Parker was, as he had been up since 5:45. We decided at 6:30 that we would wake Lleyton up to head downstairs, he is still a bit groggy here, but that wore off pretty quickly.

Here are a few highlights from the morning.

The excitement was building, as it was almost time to unwrap the presents from Santa.

Officer Lleyton

No offense to Max and Wendell, but Lleyton has a new favorite dog.

Wendell wasn't feeling very well today, as he is getting a little older, so the boys elected to take his present from Santa upstairs to him so that he could enjoy it.

We weren't sure if Santa was going to visit Baby Sister in Ethiopia or if he was going to bring her present to America. He elected to bring it here.

After all of the presents had been unwrapped, we were cleaning up a bit when Sara noticed that Santa Claus had left a letter for the boys.

Parker's excitement was palpable as I read the letter from Santa to he and Lleyton. He couldn't believe that Santa had written them.

Heads up on the roadways around Union, KY.

We had a very enjoyable first Christmas together as a family of 4. That's not to say it wasn't a very tiring day, but enjoyable nonetheless. No Christmas would be complete without a trip to Kokomo, so we spent all day on Christmas Eve visiting with Sara's family, and the boys handled themselves quite well.

At Grandma Susie and Poppa Don's house, the boys got to get in the Christmas spirit by giving Winnie the Pig the gift of apples.

Lleyton is a big fan of anything having to do with a kitchen and play food and drinks. Thus, Grandma Susie saw this apron and knew Lleyton had to have it.

And at Grandpa Paul and Grandma Monica's house, the boys got to help Grandma decorate a very festive Rice Crispie Treat.

Grandpa Paul has single handedly helped me accumulate quite the tool collection of the years, so in keeping with the tradition and passing it down a generation, the boys got a nice start on a tool collection of their own.

Hopefully this time next year I will be writing about our first Christmas as a family of 5. Our Christmas this year was great, but there was certainly a feeling that something was missing, as we can't ignore the fact that there is a beautiful baby girl a half a world away and in need of the love, attention, and care that we are so eager to provide.

Merry Christmas to all!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Consumer Reports

I know we are still a day or so from Parker and Lleyton opening presents from Santa, but they both received gifts from their Grammy and Pop this past weekend that I feel compelled to review for you.

What are these gift you may ask? Leapfrog Tag and Tag Jr. reading systems. I knew that the boys would be receiving all sorts of toys for Christmas, so when my mom and dad asked for ideas about what to get the boys, I quickly recommended these products.

Sara and I had seen them in the store, and we thought both boys would love them, and we were correct.

Both boys now read their own books before going to bed. Forever, our bedtime routine has involved Sara and I both reading a book to each boy. Now the boys read books to us using their Tags.

Here's how they work: Parker system includes a pen-like mechanism that he simply touches the pages of the book. Any word he touches is said aloud through the Tag, or he can touch the top of any page and it will read that page to him. Along with that, there are different games he can play throughout the book.

Lleyton's Tag Jr. is similar. His allows him to touch different places on a page and it will say what color something is, or what type of animal, and so on and so forth. He loves it, and it is durable enough for him to really hit the pages of the book hard.

For those parents looking for a last minute gift idea for your little one that they will enjoy and will be very educational, I highly recommend these two products.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Most Enjoyable Time of the Year

That is what is upon us. Having children makes this time of year The Most Enjoyable Time of the Year. With the weekend before Christmas comes the Ritzmann Family Christmas Get-together. This year the event was held in Lawrenceburg at my Mom and Dad's house. The boys had a ball with their cousins. On Saturday morning, the whole crew come over to our house for a brunch, which, in my opinion, was wildly successful. Sara and I brought our Overnight French Toast Casserole recipe out of hibernation to everyone's enjoyment (at least that is what they told us). Diane brought a couple egg casseroles, Mom came through with her blueberry coffee cake, and mix a few mimosas in there, and it was a brunch for the ages. Not to mention there wasn't one spat amongst the cousins (not that I would expect there to be any).

Here are most of the little ones enjoying the food.

Lleyton enjoying a little flight time at the hands of Pop.

After brunch, the rest of the crew retreated back to Grammy and Pop's house, while Sara, Lleyton, Parker and I stayed back to get a little rest before enjoying the evening's festivities.

After a bit of rest, Lleyton and Parker got their first taste of Christmas presents as the opened gifts from our friends Jeff and Maren. If their reaction to these presents is any sign of how excited they are going to get on Christmas morning, we are in for a real treat. Thank you Jeff and Maren, your gifts were very much appreciated.

The festivities at Grammy and Pop's house were great as well. Megan and Jason cooked up their now famous Italian Beef. Throw in some of Diane's corn casserole and Emily and Andy's soon to be famous macaroni and cheese, and we were ready for another meal fit for a king. If you are like us, and always wonder what the best way to try to get a moment or two of peace to have a meal, you may want to try this...

Put a little Dora on the portable DVD and eat until your heart's content.

Following dinner, it was gift exchange time. Will, the oldest of the grandchildren, served as Santa Claus, as he handed out the presents to all of the other kids.

Here are the three Kindergartners anxiously awaiting the gifts. Parker seems to have a little politician in him with that thumbs up move.

Here are Cole and Avery patiently waiting their turn to open a present.

I called my sister Emily this morning in an attempt to get a feel for when she thought she might have a child. Not because I wanted to pry into her personal life, but more importantly I wanted to see how long I am going to have to hold onto the present that she and Andy gave Lleyton before I wrap it back up and give to her child. Can you imagine how much noise Lleyton is going to create with these instruments?

Just kidding Emily, Lleyton loves it, and as we all saw first hand on Saturday night, he is one heckuva musician. The kid is a natural on the harmonica.

Thank yous all around to my family for such a nice day. It is just going to be awesome watching all of these kids grow up together. They don't get to see each other as much as I would like, but when they do, they make the most of it.

As the night winded down, I caught a nice moment between Pop and Lleyton. It looked like something out the movie The Godfather.

After all of the festivities had slowed down, and yes, there was another mini-dance party, we packed up and headed home. This week includes our traditional Christmas Eve trip to Kokomo to spend time with Sara's family, then back on Thursday night for our preparations for Santa's arrival on Friday. Friday should be a day full of fun. Following that, Grandfather Frost is said to be making a visit on New Years Day (Russian tradition). Then we are traveling to a get together in Louisville on January 9th to join about fifty five of our closest Ethiopian adoptive family friends for an Ethiopian Christmas meal. To top it off, we have a Russian Christmas celebration in Indianapolis on the January 16th, in which hopefully we will be able to rendezvous with Lleyton's little buddy from Samara, which is always a great time.

Throw all of these festivities on top of a Bengals playoff run, and we are in for a real treat.

Monday, December 14, 2009


If you are a parent out there and your child refuses to take medicine, even though he or she is in great pain, one way you might consider getting your little one to take the medicine is by saying that Ocho Cinco takes it after every game.

It has not been easy to get Parker to take medicine over the last week, ask Grandma Susie, who has been a huge help to Sara and I during Parker's stay at home. The boy will not take medicine. With that being the case, I had to get creative. I came up the idea of telling Parker that all of the Bengals take this medicine when they get hurt. His first question was: "Even Ocho Cinco?". I knew I was onto something at that point.

I figured that this little white lie we are telling our big man is justified by the fact that once he does take the medicine he feels so much better.

I am happy to report, hopefully not prematurely, that Parker is beginning to feel better. His pain level over the past 7 days has been pretty/very high. But after another sleepless night last night, he seemed to settle down a bit today and was becoming himself again (except for his voice, as Sara very adequately described it today, he sounds like a little girl who just sucked a helium balloon). Needless to say, we are hoping his normal voice comes back soon.

The plan right now is that if he has another good day tomorrow home with Grandma Susie, we will take him back to school on Wednesday. He is very excited about that, as he really misses his friends.

I have to take a second to thank Sara's mom for all of her help over the past week. We didn't envision Parker's recover being so difficult for him and we couldn't have made it though it without her. Thanks Susie! Lleyton and Parker will certainly miss having you around after you head back to Kokomo. There will always be room at the Ritzmann Inn if you need a little getaway.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The gift that keeps on giving

No, it's not the Jelly of the Month Club, it's even better. I wanted to give a small gift to everyone out there reading my blog, and I thought what better gift than letting you in on my baking prowess and sharing my favorite recipe.

This could be considered "re--gifting" in its truest form, as I was given this recipe by a friend a couple of years ago, but I am sure the original giver won't be too offended that I am sharing it with the world (Thanks Lile).

So here is my gift to you:

The All Seasons Pumpkin Roll
(it's too good to just be enjoyed in the fall)



3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup flour


2 tablespoons margarine
8 ounces cream cheese
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

*It should be noted that all of the ingredients do not have to come from Kroger, but due to the fact that approx. half of our income comes from that company, it would be much appreciated.

Mix roll ingredients together. Grease a 10" x 15" cookie sheet. Line the sheet with parchment paper and grease the paper. Spread mixture on the paper.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

This is where I need your full attention: After removing the roll from the oven, turn it over onto a pillow case or towel (preferably not a fuzzy towel, as the fuzz does not really taste good) that has been sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Roll up in the towel and let cool on a wire rack.

Now, mix the ingredients for the filling. When the roll is cool, unroll and spread the filling.

Re-roll and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Feel free to sprinkle some powdered sugar on top.

To borrow a line from my brother-in-law Andy, this is one of those recipes that while you are making it, you wouldn't be surprised to see Bobby Flay show up at your door for a Throwdown. It's that good.

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

An open letter to Phil Mickelson

Please allow me divert from the adoption topic for another moment, as I have something to say to Phil Mickelson and this seems like as good of a medium to use as any other.

Dear Phil,

I am sorry. I have been openly rooting against you since Tiger Woods came on the scene in 1996. In light of everything that has surfaced regarding Tiger over the past week, I have found myself reflecting on what it is about you that I disliked so much. I have come to the conclusion that things that I disliked and considered superficial about you were the very things that I should have respected and admired.

For those that know me, they know that I have been Tiger Woods biggest fan for a long time. I enjoy nothing more than watching Tiger play golf. I was the person at golf tournaments that would stand right on top of one of his errant drives so that he would have to ask me to move out of the way, and then I would report to anyone that would listen that I talked to Tiger Woods. I was the person that vowed never to wash my right hand after Tiger gave a buddy and I a high five after he made an eagle at a tournament in Chicago. I am the guy that was elated by the fact that I think I made Tiger laugh at The Memorial about 10 years ago (ask my sister, he laughed).

I was standing on the driving range during the 1998 Masters, and you, as you always do, walked up to the ropes to sign autographs. I handed you my yardage book hoping that you would sign the back cover, as I had these false hopes if you signed the back, maybe Tiger would walk by and sign the front. Of course, Tiger just walked by all of the adoring fans without so much as a wave. To my chagrin, you turned the book over and signed the front. My brother and I have even had thoughts of wearing "Anyone But Phil" shirts to any one of the many major championships we have attended over the past decade. There was just something about you that was bothersome, not any longer.

I am sorry for amusingly watching as you crumbled down the stretch at a couple different majors. I should not have done that. I should have been rooting for you all along. You, by all accounts, are a good guy. You are a devoted family man. You are many of the things that it turns out that Tiger is not.

Keep up the good work. Keep doing what you do, engaging fans, enjoying the limelight with your family, and you can even continue to give that sheepish grin that you so often do (maybe just not as often).

As a matter of full disclosure, I will continue to root for Tiger, as it is hard to ignore the fact that he is on track to be the greatest golfer ever and I feel fortunate to be able to watch his assult on the record books, but at the same time I will root for you, as you demonstrate the qualities, on and off the course, that I would like to emulate.

Please accept my apology, and best of luck to you during the upcoming year. In case you did not already know, Tiger just announced he is taking a break from golf, so here is your chance to rack up a couple more majors.

Your newest fan,

Monday, December 7, 2009

Another surgery under Parker's belt

Today was a day that Parker had been looking forward to for months. He had been asking when this day would come almost since the day he came home. I am not referring to the day his tonsils and adenoids came out, I am referring to the first snowfall.

I was abruptly awakened this morning by Sara saying, "You need to get up!". Instantly I thought there was an email from our agency with either good or bad news, I couldn't tell which one from the inflection in her voice, so I obliged and jumped up to see what was so pressing. Sara said, "We have to wake Parker up, there is snow on the ground." We did just that, we woke up Parker and introduced him to the snow for the first time. He was very excited. I even let him hit me with a snowball or two, which he seemed to enjoy just a little too much.

As you can see, when I say snow, I mean enough to really tie up traffic throughout Greater Cincinnati, as people tend to wreck their cars after the first snowfall, but not quite enough snow to cover the grass completely. Snow nonetheless, and Parker loved it!

I didn't think there was going to be much fun for the rest of the day, as today was Parker's visit to the Children's Hospital to have his tonsils and adenoids removed. Let me tell you, the kid is a champ when it comes to surgery. He was great during the entire visit to the hospital. He was chatting up every nurse he saw, of course, asking 1,000 questions to each person (how old are you?, Do you have kids?, How old are they?, Where do they live?, Where do you live?, Do you have tonsils?, Why do you work here?, Do you like Bakugan?...Why?, and on and on).

Does this look like a kid who is at all intimidated by the thought of going under the knife?

The procedure itself was very quick, but it did allow us just enough time to run down to the cafeteria to grab some lunch. Sara and I know how fortunate we are to have two wonderful little boys to call our children, but sitting in that cafeteria and looking around at the multitude of moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas really opened up my eyes to how blessed we are that our boys are healthy. Not all of the families in that cafeteria this afternoon were waiting for their child to come out of a routine operation like we were. I am certain many have found themselves in that hospital more days than they could ever have imagined as their beloved children suffer from serious and sometimes life threatening illnesses. I cannot imagine. My heart rate increases and my tear ducts swell just thinking about having to face something like that.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those families.

Back to Parker, he woke up in the recovery room and was back to himself within an hour. The Bakugans he got for being such a trooper certainly helped. He was relatively pain free the rest of the day, he even ate some spaghetti for lunch and a sloppy joe for dinner. As I type this, he is in the room next to me, and I can tell the pain is coming back, but hopefully the codeine will help and he can rest comfortably through the night. He has a full day of ice cream and fun ahead of him tomorrow with Grandma Susie.

UPDATE: Parker's day full of fun and ice cream wasn't to be. Starting last night around 9pm, the pain medicine from the hospital must have worn off, because through the night and for a large part of today, our little champ has been in some serious pain. As we learned yesterday at the hospital, according to research, approximately one third of Ethiopian children will not properly process codeine, thus making it an ineffective pain medication. It turns out that Parker is part of that one third. So after realizing that and after a couple of calls to the hospital, Parker was prescribed a medication that was effective (thank goodness). He has been perservering through the pain, and he has continued to drink, which is the most important thing after this surgery. I hope to be able to update tomorrow saying that he is feeling much better and he and Grandma Susie had a full day of ice cream eating and Bakugan battles.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Parker continues to struggle with pain. The new medicine he was put on on Tuesday seems to help diminish the pain during the day, but at night nothing seems to help very much. He hasn't gotten much sleep any of the past few nights, but hopefully tonight, with addition of a humidifier by his bed, he will be able to rest a little more comfortably. We all could use a decent nights sleep. For parents who might be facing this surgery for your children, be prepared for a few long nights. The hospital explained to me this morning that nighttime is the toughest time after having this operation, b/c most children are breathing through their mouths and not drinking (b/c they should be sleeping). That causes the mouth and throat to dry, which is exactly what you don't want to happen.

Friday, December 4, 2009


How are we going to remember Lleyton's 3rd birthday? It was the year of the garbage truck. When asked what he wanted on his birthday cake, he said a garbage truck. When asked what he wanted for his birthday, he said a garbage truck. Word must have gotten out, b/c there was a garbage truck theme to his presents.

Sara and I got him a bike. Here he is crying because the bike is just a hair too big for him right now. Lucky for us, the helmet also came with knee and elbow pads, b/c the minute he is big enough to ride this bike, he will be flying down the street without a fear in the world, probably blowing right past his older brother.

What's a birthday without a trip to Chuck E. Cheese in Kokomo? We met up with Sara's family there on Saturday afternoon, as it was time to celebrate cousin Tanner's birthday as well.

Parker and Tanner are best friends.

Lleyton and Chuck E. are best friends.

This is what you will find in our car about five minutes after we leave Chuck E. Cheese.

Sara and I joined Lleyton at his daycare on his birthday for lunch. Disappointingly, we both had to work on his birthday, so we wanted to make sure to make do something special during the day, and that meant a cheeseburger and french fries from McDonalds for lunch. The boy loves his burgers and fries from McDonalds, but he always puts others first, as you can see from this picture, as he shares his fries with his friends at school. What a generous little boy we have.

An otherwise ordinary holiday luncheon turns insprirational

Allow me to divert from adoption news and family updates and introduce you to one of the most remarkable individuals I will ever have the good fortune of meeting, Latron Dodd. Latron is an autistic 21 year old young man who can not speak, read, or write, but has the ability to sit behind a piano and captivate an audience.

I was introduced to Latron through a friend Betsey Nuseibeh, who first met Latron about 5 years ago while she was a teacher for the Cincinnati Public Schools. Betsey is a gifted musician and has found a calling through music therapy. At the time they met, Latron was a teenage boy that very few people understood, as he couldn't communicate, that was until Betsey introduced him to music. To her extreme surprise and delight, Latron took to the music without hesitation. Betsey sat with Latron in December of that year and taught him the basics of playing the piano. Christmas break came and went, and upon returning to school in January, Betsey was summoned to the cafeteria to witness the unthinkable, Latron was sitting at the piano playing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. He had gone home over the Christmas break and fallen in love with the ivory keys of a piano.

He is a savant. Not much unlike the character from Rain Man we all are probably familiar with. Latron, without being able to read music, learns the music through listening to it and can sit behind a piano and play in perfect pitch shortly afer being introduced to a song. Sitting at the table with him yesterday during lunch, you could get a sense that he was nervous or uncomfortable, as he was surrounded about about 200 people wearing suits and ties, but once we was behind the piano he couldn't have seemed more comfortable and in control. The transformation was nothing short of remarkable.

I can not do this young man justice through my writing, so please take the time to read the piece I have linked below.

Latron is an inspiration and a gift to those that meet him.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

We're waiting

We had a feeling the decision was going to have to be made one of these days. Due to the uncertainly surrounding Baby Sister's paperwork, our agency director emailed us yesterday inquiring about whether or not we were open to considering a referral for a different infant girl.

The enormity of that decision is mind boggling.

Do we let go of the little girl that we have come to love through her pictures and videos, a little girl that Lleyton shares his bed with every night, as he will not lay his head down unless Baby Sister is there with him? Or do we wait and hold out hope that the issue with her paperwork will be resolved sometime soon and she will join our family shortly thereafter?

This isn't one of those decisions you have to make every day. This isn't one of those decisions that many people will ever have to make.

What did we decide after careful consideration and a couple of phone calls to our agency...

At this point, we just can't imagine giving up on our little girl. We have continually been told that the gathering of the paperwork is not a matter of if, but of when.

So we wait.

We may be faced with this decision again in the future, hopefully not, hopefully during our director's trip to Ethiopia (she is somewhere over the Atlantic right now, en route to Ethiopia) she will be able figure out what is happening to slow this process down and maybe she can even help get it resolved. But if we do have to face it again, we will do so.

P.S. The picture above is of a fortune that Sara opened the other day during a lunch outing to PF Changs. We didn't make our decision solely on this fortune, but we did feel that it may have come as a sign to us to wait for Baby Sister.