Friday, July 30, 2010

Birth family search

Each of our children has their own unique story of how their life in our family came to be. Learning as much as we can about each of their backgrounds and lives before we entered them has become very important to Sara and I. The day may come where they have questions and we are striving to have as many answers as we can.

Parker is unique in our family, as he has memories of his childhood that he will hopefully never let go. Early on during his time with us he would reflect on his life and experiences in Ethiopia and express to us that he missed his brother Abdi. Sadly, those conversations have slowly dissipated and it pains me greatly to think that he may be ever so slowly losing those memories.

When asked what he would like for us to bring him home from our most recent trip to Ethiopia, after pondering for a moment, he responded with “a picture of Abdi.” It was a gut wrenching answer to say the least. He chose the one thing that I would like more than any other to bring to him, but also the one thing that I didn't know how to find.

He used to ask me why Abdi couldn’t come to America. Why couldn’t we adopt Abdi. Once Park began speaking English and we started to learn more about where he came from we yearned to learn more. We wanted to be able to tell him the story behind how he ended up in our home. That’s easier said than done, but we will try. We owe it to him to attempt to find out how this life with us came to be.

Lleyton’s story is something we have always wanted to know as well. Just like Parker and Addy, we want to be able to share with him the details of his life in Russia and, if possible, the story of his mother. After a bit of research and noticing emails on a Yahoo group that we are a member of about birth family searches in Russia we decided to seriously contemplate searching for Lleyton’s mother. Our decision to follow through with the search was not something that we took lightly. As much as we would like to have the information for Lleyton, we knew that there was a woman out there that had to go through the very difficult process of making the decision to relinquish her rights to parent Lleyton and place him in the care of an orphanage. If the search was successful, how would she react? How would the memories of that day affect her? We did not want to cause her any undo pain.

After much thought and discussion, we elected to employ the services of a very nice woman in Russia, who we now consider a friend, and she was successful in her task of locating his mother. Thinking back to the email that I received saying that she had found his mother causes my stomach to feel like it is in knots. I was scared to read it. How had the meeting gone? Had we made the right choice?

We had come up with quite a list of questions for Lleyton’s mother that ranged from details on her family history, what her favorite food is, what the weather was like the day he was born, does she have any other children, any details on his father, to what she would like Lleyton to know about her.

Looking back, all of the stress that went along with making the decision was warranted, because we didn’t know how she would react, but after following through with it, we couldn’t be more pleased. From the very detailed account we have of the meeting, Lleyton’s mother, after coming to terms with seeing his picture and finding out of about him, was grateful that we cared so much about her story and went to such lengths to find her so that we could share her story with him. We now have answers, we have pictures of her and her family, we have pictures of the hospital where he was born, and we have details and a picture of his father.

It’s difficult to articulate the emotions that I feel each time I read the letter detailing the meeting that our friend, Svetlana, had with Lleyton’s mother and grandmother. I feel those same emotions when I look at the number of pictures that we have of her, her family, the apartment building she lives in, the hospital, and the picture of his dad. As I told her in a letter that I wrote back to her after she graciously welcomed our friend into her home and answered our questions, her most difficult decision to not parent Lleyton allowed us into his life and granted us the dream of becoming parents, and we are forever grateful to her for that.

Ultimately, our decision to do this search came down to wanting to provide Lleyton with as much information as we can when, and if, he wants it. These searches may not be for every adoptive family, but we are certainly glad we did it.

Yet another Parker Question of the Day

Our 5 minute drive to daycare usually consists of either singing along to a couple of our favorite songs or Parker asking questions.  Today was the latter. 

As we were driving, Parker came up with the following inquiry:

"Daddy, if you jump out of a plane at nighttime, would you fly to the moon?"

I saw this as a perfect opportunity to give the boys a quick lesson on gravity.  So I began to best explain gravity in the easiest possible terms...what goes up, must come down. 

Parker wasn't buying what I was selling.  Reason being, everything doesn't come down because Wendell was up in Heaven and he wasn't falling from the sky.  He thought about it for another minute  and said, "Daddy, could Wendell fly?"

This is where Lleyton joined in the fun by saying, "My Wendell died!  Why he do that?"

Monday, July 26, 2010

Teacher and pupil face off at checkers.

As previously reported, we made the trip up to Kokomo this past weekend to visit with Sara's family.  We enjoy our trips up there immensely .  It is always nice to see Greatgrandma Rena and Greatgrandpa Bob.  The boys light up as soon as we turn onto their street, as Lleyton loves putting on a show for them and Park knows that if he is on his best behavior we will let him dip into the always plentiful supply of M&M's (and if he is extra well behaved, he may get a 6 ounce can of Sprite). 

The best part of this past visit was watching Grandma Rena teach Parker the finer points of checkers.  It was priceless.  I think the teacher may have let the pupil win, but it was a well contested match nonetheless.

During Parker and Grandma Rena's titanic struggle at the kitchen table, Lleyton found a second to take a break from his endless search for Swiper the Fox to hang with Grandpa Bob. 

I am pretty sure that life in Sara's grandma and grandpa's house is pretty laid back...that is until the tornado called Lleyton and Parker (and now Addy) rolls through.  But based on the smile on Grandma Rena's face (in between grimaces induced by Lleyton's newest gymnastic moves), I think they enjoy the occasional tornado.  

We love you guys.

A visit to Kokomo would not be complete without stopping by to see Grandpa Paul and Grandma Monica.  This was an especially fun visit because we to got to see Addy playing outside a bit.  It has been rather hot here lately and our grass isn't quite a plush as Grandpa Paul's, so the combination of a bit of breeze keeping the temp down and their well manicured lawn equaled a good time for all.  Addy was quite enamored by a couple of the decorations in their yard.

She wasn't quite as interested in the ongoing sword fight that the boys engaged in during our stay.

In between dueling each other, the boys enjoyed attempting to play the guitar they found inside of the house.

One of these days I am going to have to post a video of Lleyton's dance moves.  He is very smooth.  So much so that on some mornings while I am dropping the boys off at daycare, the kids (mostly the little girls) in Parker's room ask Lleyton to dance for them, and he rarely disappoints the ladies.  He is the consummate showman. 

The boys and I ventured over to the pool in our neighborhood yesterday afternoon and Lleyton put on a show there too.  He would climb onto the diving board and before doing his most acrobatic belly flop (not unlike the one shown in the video below) he would do a little dance to the delight of a few adoring girls.  We now have, and will continue to have, our hands full with this little one.

Sidenote:  I didn't lug my big camera with us this weekend for our trip to Kokomo.  Instead I took our smaller camera.  This was the camera that we left with my mom and dad while we were gone to Ethiopia.  I was very amused by the pictures that I found on the camera upon arriving home.  Here is a glimpse of what you might expect to find when Park gets his hands on a camera.

Sidenote #2:  Here is what it looks like when a little boy has to go to the bathroom but is too preoccupied with impressing his cousin Drew by diving into the pool instead.  

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Addy's in-car entertainment.

Our kids have become quite the travelers.  Whether it is Addy traveling for over 30 hours from Ethiopia to Hilton Head or the boys riding in the car for hours on end to and from vacation, each of them has handled the recent long trips very well.

Today was another relatively long trip, as we ventured up to Kokomo, but once again they all handled themselves very well.  During trips like today's we have to ask the boys to entertain Addy because she is rear facing and we can't see her.  

Here is video footage of the boys keeping their little sis amused during our adventure.

We've figured it out...

After over 12 months of answering Parker's unending array of questions, we have come to find out one of the reasons why our big man is constantly using interrogatories. 

This afternoon as we were in the car driving to visit Sara's family, Parker, amidst about 100 other questions, asked Sara and I if it had been raining where we were.  We were perplexed, as it had clearly just finished pouring, as was evident by the large puddles on the road.  We told our inquisitive big man that that particular question was not a good one because he clearly knew the answer.  Sara instructed him that rather than ask that question he could instead say, "Look Mommy, it has been raining here."  He quickly shot back, "No I can't, because then I would be talking to myself."

As it turns out, all of this time he has been asking questions not only because he is a very inquisitive child, but also because he thought that was that if he wasn't asking questions he would be talking to himself.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Addy is working out with a personal trainer.

Addy came home from Ethiopia without any muscle tone in her legs and her development over the last couple of weeks has been remarkable.  She didn't move around much while we were with her in Africa, but once we got to Hilton Head and she met her uberactive older brother she quickly began to crawl.  We have been working with her since being home at developing her lower body a bit and it seems to be paying off. 

After purchasing a new contraption to help her stand up (and have fun while doing it), we implemented a new workout plan this evening.  Here she is working under the watchful eye of her personal trainer.

Lleyton is human and often gets a bit sidetracked from the task at hand, hence the picture above where she is certainly wondering where he ventured off to, but under his tutelage Addy will be roaming the house with ease in no time.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lleyton's adjustment

I would be lying to you if I said that Lleyton seemed to be adjusting as well to having Addy home as Addy has adjusted to being here.  Our little man demands attention and we love giving it to him, but now with a baby in the house our attention has to be divided a bit more than Lleyton may like.  That's by no means saying he doesn't love his sister, because he really does.  He is becoming a great big brother.  We can just tell that he is yearning for more attention.  With that we have implemented a new nighttime plan that gives him the one on one time with Sara and I that he wants, and that we want to give him. 

The deal is if he has a good day at daycare and uses his listening ears all day, after Parker and Addy hit the sack at 8 o'clock, Lleyton gets "special time" with us.  Last night was our first night utilizing the new routine and it went very well.  He loved having our attention without the threat of Addy hooting and hollering for a bottle and Parker asking a multitude of questions.  We laid in his bed with him and read him one of his favorite books and talked about his day before he peacefully fell asleep.

After a good report from his teachers today and a very good evening, he was anxious to know if today was a "special day."  And it was.  Park was in bed early due to a spell of less than acceptable behavior at daycare and Addy went down smoothly as she usually does, which led us to another very enjoyable uninterrupted few minutes with our ever-growing little man.  Tonight we again read him one of his favorite books (Llama Llama Misses Mama) and talked about his day, but he was still a bit restless so Sara, in her infinite wisdom, channeled her inner-Spiderman (or should I say Spiderwoman) and sprayed him with a fictitious web which immobilized the always squirming munchkin just long enough for him to fall asleep. 

We love each of our kids dearly and each one needs his/her own individual time with us, but none more than Lleyton.  The combination of his sensory issues and the fact that he got a bit spoiled by being an only child for a long period of time has led us to our "special time." 

I have to admit that I really liked having all of the kids in bed asleep by 8pm, but after just two nights of our new routine, I am enjoying it even more.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Parker

Parker really enjoyed his birthday yesterday.  Given that he never celebrated a  birthday in Ethiopia and last year he shared his big day with my sister's wedding (happy anniversary to Emily and Andy), this was his first true birthday celebration.  I was lucky enough to already be awake when he got up so it was cool to see his reaction to the balloons in his room.  He was excited to have so many so that he could share them all with Addy and Lleyton.

It was great to have Grandma Susie, Papa Don, and Cousin Tanner along with Grandpa Paul and Grandma Monica here for the festivities.  The kids always love getting to see their grandparents, and we are really looking forward to seeing Great grandma Reena and Great grandpa Bob next weekend.  Parker shares his birthday with his great grandpa, so we want to wish a very happy belated birthday to him.

One of the many nice gifts that our big man received was his very cool slip and slide.  The boys were a bit timid to jump through the shark's mouth at first, but that apprehension clearly waned.

It has become tough to get everyone together for a family pictures and smiling at the same time, so this is as close as we got.

By the look on his face, I think he really likes his new Ochocinco jersey.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Parker's birthday eve.

Birthdays are a big deal in our house, and tomorrow is Parker's big day so Sara and I spent a chunk of the last few nights blowing up balloons and my very artistic bride made a great sign for his bedroom door.  I can already see the huge smile that will be on his face when he wakes up to this tomorrow morning. 

Details of his big day to follow.  He wanted a Transformer theme birthday cake, which was a surprise to us due to the fact we didn't think he was a big fan.  But on his birthday, his wish is his command. 

One thing we weren't surprised by was that he requested his birthday meal to be at the Rio Grande.  He could eat the chips and salsa from there until the cows come home. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Looking back at our trip to ET.

Our trip to pick up Addis was one that I met with great anticipation and a fair bit of apprehension.  Not unlike our other Ethiopian adoption experience, I was concerned about how our little girl would react to her new surroundings, how she would adjust after leaving the only home she has ever known, and what she would think of Sara and I. 

After our well documented and very enjoyable trip to Dubai, we were off to meet Addis.  We were greeted with poor weather in Ethiopia, which was the theme for the week as during the winter months it rains every day.  Not a light shower, a very heavy downpour that doesn't like to let up.

Shortly after arriving and getting settled into our hotel, we were picked up along with two other families who were also off to meet their new children.  Our first stop was at an orphanage we visited last year as well.  For me, there is nothing more enjoyable and at the same time heart wrenching than visiting with the very sweet children living at El Olam.  The kids are incredible.  They are so sweet, so beautiful, so innocent, and so much fun to spend time with.  One little girl and one older boy who we met last year stole our hearts again.  It was bittersweet to see them.  On one hand we were glad to get to know them all over again, and on the other hand it deeply saddened me to know that another year had gone by and they had not been one of the lucky ones that had been adopted.  I just love all of the kids there and had such a fantastic time interacting with each of them.  I miss each of them already.

After that visit, we made one other stop at our agency's transition house, the house that children stay at while waiting for their families to come pick them up, and then we were off to Miskaye.  The drive to meet Addis seemed like it was taking forever, which was only amplified by the fact that we were involved in a minor traffic accident on the way there.  We were warmly greeted by the older children at the orphanage who sang us songs before we made our way in to meet our beautiful baby.  Once in the baby room the workers played a little game with us where we had to pick which one was Addy.  We were searching for the big hair that we had seem from the pictures and neither of us was able to locate it.  Low and behold, they had recently shaved her head because of an illness.  I would be lying if I said that didn't really disappoint me.  But she was beautiful nonetheless. 

The rest of the week was honestly a bit of a blur.  Addy was not a big fan of me.  Presumably, she had never been around many men, so the sight of me, the sound of my voice, the mere fact that I was in the same room as her caused her to cry for the first few days.  It was rough.  She was comfortable with Sara, although she never wanted to be put down.  Sara pretty much had to hold her at all times.  It was taxing on both of us, but we made our way through it. 

In my dreams, I pictured this fantastic moment when we met each of our children.  The moment where Parker jumps into our arms, where Lleyton and Addy smiled and laughed and cooed at the first sight of us.  That didn't really ever happen.  Each meeting was unique.  Lleyton was very sick when we first met him.  Parker seemed very scared when being introduced to us.  And Addy just seemed very apprehensive about me.  With all of that being true, each one of them blossomed into the child that we dreamed of.  Parker is crazy smart and adores his siblings.  Lleyton is the most entertaining kid we could have imagined, and Addy is simply irresistible.

I could write for days about our experiences.  I did my best to keep a journal from our trip, but it is a little long winded for the blog.  So here are some of my observations and memories from our trip to meet little Addy.

  • Ethiopian coffee is very strong.  I am not a coffee drinker but gave it a shot while at dinner at some friends of ours parents house in Addis.  After two teaspoons of sugar and some Coffeemate, I liked the taste.
  • We love Ethiopian food, but ate mostly Italian food while in country.  Out of the fear of getting sick, we stuck to a pretty simple menu of pizza and spaghetti.
  • Ethiopians are incredibly hospitable.
  • The poverty that exists in Ethiopia is gut wrenching.
  • Fly Emirates.  It is the best airline in the world.
  • Dubai's international airport is the nicest we have ever traveled through.
  • Addis is probably confused about what her name is.  At any moment I may call her any of the following names:
    • Addis
    • Lidya
    • Addis Lidya
    • Addy
    • Lidy
    • Addy Lids
    • Liddy Lou
    • Baby Sister 
  • Traffic in Ethiopia is insane.  I consider myself a good driver and would not be willing to get behind the wheel over there.
  • I find it hard to say no to people begging for money in Ethiopia. 
  • Ethiopians can dance.
  • I wish I had a smaller camera at times, because I found myself not wanting to lug around our big camera on this trip.  Hence, we didn't get alot of pictures during our time in Ethiopia. 
  • Having an infant again is rather daunting.  I kind of liked being past the diaper changing and bottle feeding. 
  • I like lentils.
  • I don't enjoy being away from my boys for extended periods of time.  I missed the heck out of them.
  • Riding in the back seat of a late model van through the streets of Ethiopia is not good for one's stomach.  The roads are in dire need of some tender loving care, which accompanied by a very uncomfortable van leads to some touchy moments.  Add in the constant barrage of deisel fumes and it is a lethal combo.
  • The Internet in Ethiopia in pretty much nonexistent, hence no posts while we were there.
  • I love my kiddos to no end.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Home at last.

After a really enjoyable day in Dubai, a long 5 days in Ethiopia, and excruciating 32 hours of travel back to the States, a fantastic 6 days of vacation, and a 12 hour drive home we are here at last. 

Our little girl is changing right before our eyes. 

Here is the girl we met in Ethiopia. 

And here she is this evening enjoying her new room.

We arrived home this evening to a very nice surprise from a few of Lleyton and Parker's teachers, one of which who watched our house and pets while we were gone on vacation (Thanks Miss Katie!).

As I have said before, daycare is a necessary evil for us, as we both work, but it makes us feel so much better to drop our kids off someplace where it is so evident that they are very well cared for.

Our drive home proved to be not nearly as bad as we had been anticipating. We left Hilton Head yesterday afternoon and drove through Atlanta so that we could stay with good friends of ours.  Here is Addy getting to know Sandi.

We stopped for gas not far from Savannah at a unique place.  This cowboy greets you at the front door. 

To you and I this decoration may seem harmless, but to Lleyton it was a scary sight as he thought I may be in harms way when I walked past.  Sara told me that he was yelling, "NO, DADDY, NO!" as I approached the armed man.   

Before leaving our luxurious home away from home, Lleyton enjoyed  flying through the air thanks to the strength of his Pop.

Our new life has begun.  I will hopefully be finding some time over the next few days to write a bit about our trip, but let me tell you that having three kids makes having two seem like a walk in the park.

By the way, Addy loved her bookshelf and the many books that the boys handed down to her.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Beach Bums

Addis and Parker joined a few of their other cousins and Lleyton yesterday for their inaugural trip to the beach.  Parker loved it.  He was fearful at first to venture too far out but after getting the hang of it he joined his cousins and uncle Doug for some wave riding. 

Addy spent most of her time enjoying the feel of the sand while Lleyton made his way back and forth between the water and sand. 

Not surprisingly we took a few pictures from the trip.

Addy and Parker were enamored, as usual, with Lleyton's sense of adventure.

I really like this picture of cousin Avery enjoying her time in the sand while the boys make their way out to the waves.

Our trip to the see the ocean was a fairly brief, as we were pretty excited to get back home and into the pool.  Lleyton has gone from being a bit fearful of going under when the week began to diving off the diving board with a reckless abandon. 



We finished up the day with a family trip over to see Gregg Russell under the live oak tree at Harbour Town.  We got there a little early which gave Addy and I a little time to reflect on that happenings of the last week and a half.  We have come a long way, both distance wise and relationship wise.  I love my little girl more than I could have imagined.

Lleyton was on a bit of roll before the musician took the stage, as he and his cousin Drew entertained the ever growing crowd with their very impressive dance moves.  He lost his way shortly thereafter and forgot how to use his "listening ears" so he had to make an unceremonious early exit from the stage.  He was none-too-happy.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy Birthday America!

Lady Liberty would have been very proud to hear the rousing rendition of Happy Birthday America that was sang yesterday morning at our house.  We were all pretty excited for the 4th, as the fireworks on Calibogie Sound were only a couple hundred yards from our back porch. 

Addis got into the spirit with her festive red, white, and blue dress.

Most of the family made the short jaunt over to the 18th tee at Harbour Town for what proved to be the best seat in the house.  Here is the tee marker to prove it.

And the view down the iconic hole...

The kids passed the time before the fireworks show by kicking a soccer ball and building what they called sandcastles in the bunker adjacent to the 17th green.

The folks that made this trip a reality, my Mom and Dad looking on as their kids and grand kids enjoy the evening. 

Speaking of the kids, here are a few of them looking on in amazement as the fireworks lit up the sky.

And last but not least, fireworks pictures wouldn't be complete without a shot of Lleyton assuming the identical position I used to while looking on during Independence Day festivities.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fun in HHI

What better way for Addis to spend her first night in America than by staying in a phenomenal house on the 17th tee at Harbour Town? 

Addis is doing great.  She started crawling within 5 minutes of meeting Lleyton! She slept relatively well last night after an incredibly long day of travel and enjoyed her first experience with the swimming pool this morning.  Here is our little beauty resting peacefully shortly after laying down for her first night of sleep in the land she now calls home.

Her she is enjoying the company of her very proud brothers this morning.

To anyone following this blog that happens to be playing the famous Harbour Town Golf Links this week, allow me to apologize for the excess noise near this end of the course.  It is pretty difficult to keep this fun loving family quiet.  Especially when their is a pool with a diving board just steps from the house.