Monday, June 30, 2008

A few more medical travel tips from Doc

Almost the same photo, yes, but my dear Doc is next to me, in the white, w/ beard!

(From the comments, but moved here too: additional info from my dear husband, Doc G, a guest writer here this evening, and a personal favorite of mine!):

A couple of additional points to increase the odds of getting to the end of the trip successfully:
It's probably not the obvious thing that gets most people, it's the thing that sneaks under your radar.

Needless to say, only drink bottled water but be sure to check the seal on the bottle.
No seal, don't drink it. Squeeze the bottle before you break the seal; if it hisses or leaks a little, the seal is broken, don't drink it.
Avoid drinks with ice; that bit about bottled water cubes -- right.
No smoothies or slushies."I'll have the fresh squeezed orange juice" gong! pineapple juice, gong!, tomato juice, gong!, lemonade gong!, iced tea gong!!.
Unless you know it comes directly out of a commercial container from which it's poured in front of you (and then it's OK), don't risk the possibility that it's from concentrate or homemade with water you won't like later.
Don't confuse American "healthy eating" with third world foreign country "healthy eating". Not the same -- and it's only a week or two.
Canned or commercially bottled anything will be fine. Only eat food that is thoroughly cooked. Thoroughly washed is not good enough and in fact may be the source of problems -- the contamination may come from the prep area or water itself.
You're hungry and the waiter brings some tasty little appetizers. You nibble while you scrutinize the menu. Doesn't matter, you've already lost.The main course may be very carefully chosen by you, safe and cooked and then you eat the side or garnish of "that looks interesting" and you've possibly just sealed your fate.
"But I like salad, and besides it's good for you." Gong!!!"I'm just going to eat healthy" Gong!
Uncooked thin skinned fruits and fresh vegetables (grapes, tomatoes, apples, pears, zucchini, carrots, lettuce etc., etc,) can harbor bacteria under their skin. Even the "good" restaurants are not going to wash them with bottled water. Spam, Oreos, Twinkies and beer will treat you better.
If something comes that you are suspicious of, don't make a stink or even call attention to it, just leave it alone and congratulate yourself for your vigilance and the fact that you've avoided getting sick for only the cost of that item -- oh how you'll long for that deal if you miss it on the first pass!
Take your pepto capsules before everything you eat or as soon after if you forget no matter where you eat.
Ask your PCP for a Ciprofloxacin or Bactrim DS prescription and get it filled to take with you.
One or two doses at the very first sign or even preventively if you suddenly realize what you ate is much easier and more effective than trying to get rid of the problem once established. (Do not get Bactrim if any of you have sulfa allergy -- get the cipro)and take 8 pepto capsules per person per day with you plus extras to give to the poor fellow travelers who forgot or didn't know to bring them. Two capsules before every meal or non commercial snack without exception. (Five of us for 11 days; 55 times 8 equals 440 capsules. They come in 48 capsule bottles, consolidate and put them in everybody's backpack so you always have them. This is one of the secrets we docs use on medical mission trips.
Do it and you can just be vigilant not paranoid.
It will be an awesome trip, but you will enjoy and experience very little after the moment you get sick -- so, an ounce of prevention.
P.S. Immodium is helpful to decrease the frequency of visits to the bathroom, or if one simply has a sensitive system. However, if you have an intestinal infection you defeat your body's natural attempt to rid you of it partly by decreasing the volume of bacteria in there, and can make yourself less trips but actually sicker longer.
God Bless! TLG, M.D

Travel Tips: Part 2: the Doc

Ok, this is a shortish but important set of tips that I've been meaning to post. And in the ongoing hope that travel for our Gladney families will resume sooner rather than later, I'm gonna post these before I forget again for awhile.

In my opinion, they are critical to the success of traveling to adopt your child. This is a set of suggestions compiled by my dear husband, previously referred to as Prof. To be accurate and in order to provide some creds for this set of tips, from now on he will be called "Doc."

So. Traveling to Addis Ababa to pick up your child is a rigorous trip in many ways: emotionally, sometimes spiritually, and certainly physically (I mean, 17 hours from DC to Addis, right there, it's a toughie!). You are not traveling to a resort or vacation experience. You are traveling halfway around the world to a vastly different country. A gorgeous country, a gorgeous continent, with gorgeous culture and people; but make no mistake, this is a tremendously different world and culture and you are not just hopping a shuttle to Jersey!

In order to travel and really enjoy it fully, you need to keep yourself healthy and strong and feeling your best, of course! In order to do this, I think these tips, provided by me personal favorite doc, to be essential.

Medicine: While you can get over the counter meds in Addis Ababa {and I did, for my husband who had a bronchial cough at the end of our trip and the cough medicine I got worked wonderfully} bring some of your own with you. You know the brands and types you like and need and will have them on hand when you might need them. {Of course, bring any Rx meds w/ you in your carry on}. But Doc points out that these listed below are terrific to have on hand and they can make the difference in how well the trip ends up:

Advil or Tylenol
Pepto Bismol (and NOT really Immodium or that sort. The Bismuth in the Bismol actually kills the bugs that make your stomach cramp up and you don't want your system shut down {which can lead to it's own problems}, you want the different bacteria dead)
An antibiotic, broad spectrum, like Cipro or Bactrim. Head to a doc before you go and tell them you are traveling to Africa and you would like to have some on hand just in case. They will usually get you a Rx for a small amount, which will be all you might need and a generic version is usually really cheap.

The reason for the Cipro or antibiotic is that if you start having an intestinal reaction to whatever you might have ingested that your system is not used to and it is, um, rebelling, the antibiotic and help knock out those bugs fast too. Doc had us take an antibiotic at the first sign of distress, which only happened a few times, and we only had to take one or two.

He also had us each take two Pepto tablets before each meal, no matter where or what we ate. And while that might seem like overkill or paranoid, it worked for us. Only a very few times did any of us think, "uh-oh, did I eat the wrong thing?" Now, we were very discreet with this practice and worked hard to not be popping them in front of waiters and such; we had no wish to offend. But practically speaking, we have wussy American digestive systems and it is simply that new and different items can easily cause rebellion. Stomach's often don't like new things, no matter where those new things are from: fritters from the south or foi gras from France. So, the upshot from the Doc (no pun intended) is do some math and bring plenty of pepto to cover those meals and then maybe some extra, you might end up giving some away and it's a cheap insurance to help make the trip more comfortable and worry free.

All that said, we ate very well in Addis! Though that, the food, is the subject of another post, I'd say. But the Ethiopian cultural food was very good, (I especially liked the lentils) much better than what we've had in the states. And the Beef Tibs are also very good if you go to Dreamland or other places where they have those. So, don't be scared of eating in Addis, enjoy, but it won't hurt you to take those Pepto's and to have those antibiotics and advil as well. A healthy trip and tummy is most certainly a happier trip!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Fun

This one is for you, BuddyBug!

These guys are the coolest guys we know!! We love them! Especially Brother Max!

Hat tip to Roman Catholic Vocations, Mary's Aggies, and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

The Year of St. Paul: Call to Unity

Image from Afernand74, wikipedia commons

Pope Benedict has declared the start of The Year of St. Paul, with a call to unity. Cool huh?!

Read all about it here. You can also check it out here at one of my favorite great mom blogs, Danielle Bean.

And since they do a good job of explaining what this means and providing good links, I will let them do the work. Go. Read. But I will say one thing: I love the layers and layers that living the liturgical year gives us - the richness and beauty and meaning instead of just crossing another hectic day off the calendar. It's a different way of marking time, with an eternal calendar instead of the current Hallmark edition.


Cousins, friends, sibs, shovels, sand, an afternoon of digging. Ahh, Tradition.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Treasure in the Sand

His treasure is finding the shell. Ours is...well just look at two of them!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Old Fogey Alert

Well, it's happened. I am officially an Old Fogey it seems.

Rather, I would like to think I am a mindful Catholic woman....but I can betcha that most will just peg me as an old fogey. I look the part: middle aged, mom, gray hair, sun spots, haggard and harried...yup, old fogey. I have been known to yell, "Hey you kids, turn that down!" and "Put that down, you could poke your eye out!" and the classic, "Because I said so."

But now I have become an Old Beach Fogey. It's the beach bathing suit, skin bare, modesty thing. I have a barely controllable urge to chase after these girls (and women, and young men) and offer them a nice big t-shirt or light cotton tunic. I want to sit them down and say, "Honey, what are you thinking?"

I mean, c'mon. First off, and I know, I am totally dating myself....back in the day (yes, there it is, it's in stone now: Old Fogey-ism 101), when WE wore bikinis {and yes, I'll get to that whole shameful episode in my life in a minute, but you can take it from this that I know of what I rant}, well they had style. Yep, they had a french cut, cute prints, nice fabrics. They flattered the figure. Not like now, where, frankly, I have yet to see a body that is made to look BETTER by the suits this year. I mean, a boy cut leg on most gals cuts RIGHT across our widest part, and for those of us with short legs, oh looks like our growth has been stunted by too much caffiene or something. No, I'm NOT talking about me, whatever do you mean??? And the bareness, well, it's just not a good look. Back in the day (I know, again, just work with me here), well, bodies were, full of super-size me portions...I don't know how to say that tactfully and certainly back in the day, MY portions and proportions were QUITE a bit different from their currently lumpy downward slide, literally....but well, there seemed to be a different overall level of um, fitness. But maybe I was just young then, and I only saw my peers at that time. It could happen.

So, aside from my minor fashion fogey ranting on the sheer design of these suits, I have a few other issues.

The first goes to my mom issue with these suits: I have children, people!

I have TEENS and PRETEENS! The littles and the toddler types, heck they can run around half naked, nobody cares. But, really, I do NOT want my preteen girls looking to these almost naked older girls and women bopping around and thinking, "Oh, that's what I need to do to be liked/popular/noticed." They do not need to see quite so much of bare boy bodies.

And I do NOT want my teen boys having to have that amount of sheer naked female bodies thrown in their line of sight and have to struggle with trying to NOT ogle them. We have had many, MANY discussions about not objectifying girls/women/body parts and this just throws all those talks right out the window and onto the beach towel, slathers it with tanning oil and offers it up for all takers. Gee whiz! Jumpin' Jiminy, if you will, if you want me to sound like a fogey...but as a mom, this is an issue that riles me up. You probably couldn't tell.

Now my other issue is a Catholic one. You knew I had to bring it up. But still. I have a past of being on the beach. A lot. And I have a past of spending WAY too much time in a bikini. An itsy bitsy teeny weeny, but not yellow polka dot, bikini. My father would say, 'you're wearing that??" and I would laugh and wave as I walked by and say "Oh, Dad, it's no big deal." What can I say?? I was young. And stupid. I was a mere skinny girl. A teen, a young adult. But a stupid girl. Little did I know. Truly.

Now I am older, not skinny, but hopefully a little tiny bit wiser and I have learned a few more things. I am no longer young, I am arguably still stupid, but I know better now, on this issue. My daughter can't believe I ever wore a teeny bikini, due to our many discussions on living a more modest life. Not a frumpy, dress-in-sacking life. But a life that is more chaste and modest in the sense of don't call attention just to your looks, don't make them less, present your self nicely (shower please) but not flashy. Your value is INTRINSIC. You are valuable because you are YOU. Not because your hair is a certain color or your shape is a certain shape or your skin is a certain shade. Your value is from God. And other's value of you should be for your character and not your physical-ness or your fashion or your money or cars or whatever surface thing you want to point to.

In our Catholic faith (like many others) we strive to teach our children that they are to walk through this world making their mark through their faith and actions (love) and not through their surface gloss. We are made to know, love and serve God by living in this world and being the best person He calls us and made us to be. Not the glitziest, richest, sexiest, or best dressed, or undressed as the case may be. Not the "hottest" (and since when did THAT term become the standard bearer for all folks of all ages, children to adult - but not fogey's........don't even start me on that word/term, that is for another post, another time). And it is only in doing that very large task of learning to be the best that God himself made us to be, to fulfill THAT...then we will find our true value and thus joy.

And that joy, contrary to what most magazines and movies will promote, doesn't include a swimsuit that is made to reveal us before we are ready or supposed to. I know. Go ahead, point. Very hypocritical you could easily say. You'd probably be right. I wore suits that embarrass me now. Shame on me. But now, I know better. And now, I find the fun on the beach in cute comfy suits that I dont' have to spend my beach time tugging and shifting to cover this bit or that.

Besides, when you're in these sporty coverage suits it's much easier to chase down the beach handing out coverups.

I woke up to this, this morning, after typing this last night. She says it all much better. Go see.

UPDATE: I hate it went people crab and moan with no offered help or solution (me especially!), so here are a few links other than the known big players (lands end, llbean, eddie bauer, etc etc): Aventura swimsuits (I got a few of these and they are well made and cute, ok you can still find some pretty skimpy ones on the site but there are also other sporty cute comfy ones too. I like 'em, even the swim dress though my 12 year old disagrees on this one, but hey, she's 12!). Also you can check out Limeriki, cute fun suits, possibly more to the liking of you younger gals, thanks Sarah P!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Double Double

Travel tips: Prep

There are a few things I've been meaning to mention, so before I forget, I'll put them up now.

For those of you with travel to Addis ahead of you, two things.

The first one: get in shape people! {Thank you Shelly for the reminder!}
Really, no kidding. I had thought that I was in shape. I am pretty strong, I am fit and high energy. So, hey, traveling across the world to pick up a baby? No problem! Ha! My baby is now 26 pounds and despite the slings (NoloWear slings are fantastic) and such, my back is all spazzed out. I know what you are saying, "Hey, you are no spring chicken, of course it's hard." Well, touche', it's true. But I do stay fit, I ran a marathon last December, and one other unofficial one, not to mention oh, training for months and months and months. I bring this up not to brag (and if you saw me run, or run/walk {see Galloway} you'd understand that I never could} but rather to point out that it's easy to presume you are in shape. But oh so different to live it.... So, I THOUGHT I was ready. My back begs to differ.

So, do the work: the crunches, the ab work, the're gonna need it. Even those little bitty babies get heavy after a while and it's a lifting that you are ecstatic to do, but well, it's nice to be able to keep on doing it instead of being on the floor on your back, stuck in a spasm. {NO, that has NOT happened to me, yet....but it could happen}. And really, it's MUCH nicer to coo and grin at your little one as you pick them up, again, than to groan as you lift them, don't ya think? Better form and all?

Now for the picture above of Booboo and Little Man.
Prepping donations.
If you are bringing any new items into Addis, particularly anything that could conceivably be sold, try to get Gladney to give you a letter here that you can have on your person when you face the customs guy there. If not, more than likely they will hold your stuff and you will create a huge hassle for Travis and Belay and their attorney there. Anything new that comes into Addis has to pay 100% tax on it. Yes, I said 100%. So, they try hard to get around that and humanitarian aid fits the bill, but you need proof if it's new stuff.

We brought in a bunch of deflated but new playground balls. We thought, "kids and balls, fun." We didn't realize it actually meant: new balls, crashing halt at customs, three hours wrangling with them, four days of hassle for in country staff. They finally got them out, but it was a problem. Our bad. Also, if I had just said "personal" as they asked what was in the duffels, they might have let it through (and it was "personal" it was ours, so that would have been legit, but I didn't, who knew?). Or they might not have, but it's worth a try.

Customs in Addis is like that, sometimes it's easy and apparently, sometimes it's not. But for a heads up, I suspect a lot of the hassle could have been avoided if we had a letter. The customs guy asked for one and we were clueless. Letter? What do you mean? It's for an orphanage......and we naively presumed it would go through, no problem. Um. No. So, bring the stuff, but try to get a letter on the front end stating the contents and it's purpose and where it's going etc etc etc.

And yeah, let the kids at home play with them as they pack them just adds to the fun!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Toddler adoption; tag along

You know, there are things no one tells you about adoption, about parenting in general, but about some adoption issues in particular. These are the things you can't really guess at because they are in that "who knew" zone.

You read all the books and then some. Or I do. I am a consumate researcher, I can't help it. It's why I stayed in school forever and then went back for more. I LOVE a library. I LOVE a bookstore even more. I love researching, in it's own way. It's the control freak in me, I know.

But this is all to say thay you think you know all the big things and the minor issues and you are as prepped as you can be. Which is important, and good.

But what I didn't read in all those books and memoirs and studies are the passing mentions of the quirky things. Maybe they were there all along and I just glossed over them. But here is where I am thinking, maybe this whole 'net thing, this blog thing, might just have it's own strength and beauty. Because I can throw out to the net, to the whole nine people who read this blog, a question or two. And I can throw out some of the things we've gone through and tell for real, the good bad ugly and weird and wonderful.

So, I'm asking, what about toddler adoption? I know every kid and every circumstance is different....yah yah yah. But still: What are the quirky things that you experienced? Was it a language delay? Was it physical maturing slow, then fast? Was it an odd lag somehow and then a warp speed race to catch up? Was it reversed?

All that is to say....we are in an unexpected spot with Gabriel now. Not a bad one, at all! Good in so many ways, but different than what we had anticipated. In a way it is similar to what I went through with my two boys who were large as babies, physically. It's this: Gabriel is a little like a Baby Huey ( I know, Disney on the brain...sorry, it's this whole So Cal vibe I'm soaking in). So he's a big boy to look at, but he's babyish on the inside...which makes it a bit tricky at times. (more on that, different post).

Gabriel has regressed to a point of a about a year old baby. But he is totally the size of an almost two year old. Now intellectually I understand this and I welcome it. I read about trying to intentionally regress a newly adopted toddler into some of the baby stages/bonding phases that hey might have missed. So I think this is, on that level, fantastic and very welcome: essential.

But on a day to day level, it continues to be odd. Because Gabe feels like he's been here for so long. He feels like he is part of us, period. It's like I missed the first part of the movie somehow and it's blank there and I hate that, but really, he feels like he's been with us from, well, forever, instead of just one month. And there is this unexpected grief that you have missed so much. Physically, the feel and look of him being small and all that brings. And beyond that, the sadness of missing so much, just that bulk of time. And yes, his background and his story makes him exactly who he is, but at the same time it is an odd 'missing' feeling too. It doesn't jive. It's an unexpected quirk of adopting a toddler.

It's super easy to go through a day and just mosey along in your standard kid/toddler mode. And then you forget, kind of, that this boy doesn't understand, or doesn't have words (except for Mama, in distress or real glee, but really even not so much with this anymore). He doesn't have the social skills others had or have at this age. He doesn't really understand toys. He doesn't understand his own strength. He doesn't understand 'gentle' or 'just a minute'...except for the tone and some body language. He is a baby. He doesn't "look" like a baby. But he is. He is a baby. And for who knows how long, not that I'm in a rush to move beyond, but he is. For now.

Now, I knew some of this from reading about adopting a toddler, especially from half a world away. But reading it and living it is different. And adopting a toddler is different from having one who has been with you from very young.

On the other hand, they don't really tell you how electrifying it is to have that first word come out, directed at you. Or to have his face light up when he sees you and makes a beeline to give you his hair-pulling hug. Or how wonderful and melting sweet his head-hugs are. For the whole family, watching him discover the world and us in it for him, is keenly felt and shared with laughs and smiled gazes. It is at least as amazing as when your little baby does it for the first time, perhaps more so because you can really almost 'see' the links click into place in his mind. It's so cool. And when you reaches for you and grins and smears you with a kiss, it is the sweetest kiss ever as it is REAL, it is earned trust and new love.

So, I don't know, I've been thinking about this so much on this trip stuff swirling through my brain, not in any good form or order. As I introduce him to many new relatives and old friends, as we sit having simple easy time on a beach, as our life has slowed to the essentials's easier to see and then ponder some of this. Not that I am making any really good sense of it (I'll blame that on the sun, ahem). But, well, it's different. No less wonderful, or glorious. But it is different this time, of course. Worth every moment, every effort. But for those of you adopting a toddler, it IS different from older child or baby adoption. It is unique. It's better than I dreamed.
For Gabriel Tariku, each day is an adventure, a discovery....and we get the unique privelege of being able to tag along...and in a quirky way, I get to relive some tiny bit of that baby-time with my bigger by the minute little boy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I have a question

Little Man: "Mom, can we live here forever?"

Beach Baby

We are happily settled in to my favorite place on earth, well, at least one of my top two or three, for sure. This is always a sort of coming home. We get to see my family and spend long lazy days on the beach. MUCH better than the bustle of LA! A better fit all around.

The kids are being beach bums. All day, hunting for shells, digging holes, snoozing in the sun, surfing, boogie boarding, jumping waves. We are getting a world class collection of shells, and what we lack in quality we make up for in sheer quantity! Sbird is the shell hunter extraordinaire, such dedication. She is my little naturalist. The divine Miss M has to be puuulllledd in from the beach at night. She would sleep on it if I let her, no such thing as too much time on the beach or in the water for her! Booboo has already begun to teach his little brother to dig the deep holes (which yes, we fill in later, no hazards left). Two are already sunburned, our fairer members. And little Gabriel Tariku....LOVES the beach! Sand is fantastic fun, great to throw, stomp, squish, rub in hair, and best of all: EAT!!!! Yes, he wants to eat it by the handful. Oy. As for the water, he loves to be taken to its edge and point. But freaks out if any attempt to go IN the water is made. Not ready for that yet.

On another note for Gabriel: he has grown two pounds, two inches. He is big and strapping and strong. He is becoming interested in finger foods, you cannot feed him with a spoon except for a bite or two of rice or spagetti. But, he has found his voice. But not in a charming baby words way. No. He has found the POWER of screeching bloodcurdling screams. For glee, for fury, for frustration. It is his omni-comm tool. All purpose, all the time. He has found his very strong will as well. That, combined with this alarming yell....well, it's pretty fun stuff. Watch people around you jump and heads around a restaurant swivel in your direction. Better belt out another round or two real fast.......

So, in addition to Gabriel learning that sand is not for eating, we are trying to swiftly teach him other sounds and hopefully words soon. He is a baby in a big toddler body. So we are in a weird but wonderful spot with him and are relishing it, he keeps the family laughing and reminds us how quick this time goes. And for those screams, that part, really quick we hope.

I'll try to post more if I can get some pics up. It's so beautiful here, and kids and the beach.....such great stuff. We are all inhaling that perfect smell of salt water and sand that you can only get here. It's not fancy, it's better. It's simple. Life is so good. Even with the screeches on beaches.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The land of Pinocchio: Pleasure Island

Disney, of course.

I always remember that scene in Pinocchio when the kids and I visit LA, you know the one: I always remember it as "Donkey Island."

You know, the one where sweet little Pinocchio goes to the fun zone and starts turning into a donkey as he overindulges in all the kind of forbidden things: sugar! whirly rides! no rules!!

That's a little what it's like for my kids visiting my sister in LA. It's a version of pleasure island for my kids: an aunt is crazy about them and doesn't see them enough - who will indulge them utterly. And it IS vacation so we DO relax some things, after all. All the things we normally don't have (or have much) are here for the taking. Sugar! (ok we have it, but not like in quantity or forms like this) No rules! Endless Wii, late nights (ok we have those too, but not like this). FUn fun fun FUN FUN. TOO MUCH FUN swirling around like a tilt a whirl....and you know what happens then...

Then, they start to turn into donkeys. It's more so for the smaller ones, (the big ones have learned over the years how to navigate the funhouse) worst for Little Man. Poor kid. It's just so crazy fun here, that the sassy levels skyrocket because, hey, why not give that a try too? But the problem is, I'M still here, and I am no fun at all. Mean mom. I still enforce a few rules and tell them it's late and almost bedtime, and worst of all, scold for that utter flaunting of rules. Time out for hitting the golf ball at his sister's head. Inside.

LA is a strange place to us in many ways. Oh, the opportunities......the potential for sheer glorious 'donkey island fun." And so, it is time for us to drive down to a simpler life. A better fun: beach, sun, sand, water, simple tired out at night from salt air fun. My sister will join us again down there and it will be different. Because it is not LA. And so it's time we drive.

Last night, I think I might have heard a bray. Today, we hope to restore Little Man back to "real boy" by tonight.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A small nation

Preparing for our visit:
My nephew, dear Matti-mo, told his mom and all others for the past few days,
"We are being invaded by a small nation."

Well...feels like....looks like...sounds like.....hmmmm he's got a point!

California Dreaming

Is it a dream? Nope, we made it!

We are happily ensconsed in my big sister's lovely home, my favorite guest room in the world (kids spread out all over). Our flight was late, Little Man had a hard time, he can't sleep on planes either (like his mom) and got mega fussy. I 'baby wrestled' with a very wired Gabriel for about half the flight, then he threw up on me and felt good enough to fall asleep. The little girls both fell asleep I think before we were off the tarmac and slept until landing. And a 5 hour flight feels like a walk in the park compared to 17. So altogether a successful night, capped by late late night In N Out burgers (to the utter joy of my teen boys).

We are so happy to be here, it is so beautiful. They say it's scorching here, but it's not compared to home so we are delighted! My sister has taken all my girls and Little Man to her office and then shopping, clearly wanting to earn time off purgatory! (that's a Catholic joke, sorry). I will meet her for lunch and earn some MORE time there for me (sorry, again, I can't help it).

Otherwise I am hoping to meet with a dear old friend or two and just relish being here and being surrounded by my sister and nephews and bro in law. Life is good, we just don't see each other nearly enough. In a few days, we hit the beach!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Works for me, Wednesday: Buddy up!

Ok, we are on the road again.
Well, in the air again.

And while in years past, this flight has made me want to commit hari kari, I think that it might be just a hop and skip today. Meaning, compared to 30+ hours of travel, with flight legs of 17+ hours, a mere 4.5 hour flight is a walk in the park! I laugh at a mere 4-5 hours...I hope I hope!

However, in the spirit of it "Works for Me Wednesday", I am posting one of our more successful travel tips for the summer season: Buddy up!

I know, this is Kindergarten teacher 101. But it's easy to forget as you are slogging through the airports, especially with many kidletts in tow. But long ago we learned: get the bigs to be buddies to the littles. And I'm not talking about suddenly having them be actual "best buddies" and getting along with no more squabbles or pettiness (if I had found that secret, I'd be rich, rich I tell you!).

What I'm talking about is assigned duty, like it or not. Each small one has a big one to help them and keep track of them, in every shape and form. From snacks to potty, to general assistance and cheering up and distracting. That leaves me for the littles or most needy one and able to swap as necessary. It also keeps me from turning into a scary Ursula Octopus witch mom. Cartoon character: Disney, of course.
Me, on a bad day.
Last year I got off the plane, beelined to the first airport bar, banged on it and demanded a lemon drop martini, double. Ok, kidding, but a gal can dream. And I did, yes it was that bad. I'll spare you the recounting, just trust me.

So, I will let you know how well we succeed. Our numbers have grown. Gabriel is a touch needy, he got a few shots on Monday. The others are just amped, which means running around like maniacs. I will be hauling er, escorting, seven kids by myself (but with BUDDIES!). Prof is staying home for a bit to work, he will come and go on this vacation/family visit. Yes, we have someone at the house, so that helps with the to do list. So, we are packing and zooming around, California dreaming. I'll do my best to post and check emails.

And I am praying, without ceasing, for all the Gladney families on hold, I promise! If anyone has a mind to throw a few our way for safe peaceful travel, we'll take it!

Top two photos: first is successful buddy effort, looks good eh? Second is another, in Albuquerque airport, looks like it's working don't ya think? Hmmm. You can see how good we are at this, but hey, we keep trying!

Monday, June 16, 2008

"While we are there......"

Those are the words that made me do a double take. Anytime you hear a spouse say "While we are there...." or "While we are at it....." you can pretty much fill in the blank with a dismayed cry inside your (ok, my) head of "are you kidding? really?" We've ripped out all sorts of plumbing and kitchen cabinets with that phrase and found ourselves in various spots around the globe and country. Living with my dear husband is never, ever dull and I am so grateful!

This time, as the fantastic Susan Parr Travel worked feverishly on our travel arrangements my husband said, "while we are in Africa, we could stop in Egypt!"

I don't know why that surprised me, really. That sort of phrase is actually SO typical of my husband. Because what some might know about him, but many do not, is that one of his great passions in life is travel. He is a travel maniac. Anytime he gets a chance, anywhere, anyhow....he's game!

So that is the start of the how and why these teens and my adventurous husband found themselves in the desert sun, on a camel, in front of the Great Pyramids of Giza. (for those of you nudging me about this story, you know who you are goes!)
Anyhow, as I said, we passed court and we were ecstatic and immediately switched into "hair on fire" mode and started making travel plans.

As we were having flying emails and phone calls my husband said, "ask them if we can get to Cairo." What??!

So then we talked. He pointed out that it was so close, we might not get another chance and if so not for a long time, hard to pass up opportunity etc etc. I was a wee bit balky, ok more than a wee bit. Of course, he felt like that was no big deal. Hmmm. We had thought about going on a stopover beforehand and had talked about that, but as it turned out, both BuddyBug's finals and my babysitter's finals got in the way. Those darn college tests! So we couldn't go before we were supposed to be there {and there was NO way either one of us wanted to postpone our arrival date and get that baby in our arms}, and we couldn't go after as Booboo had finals as well. Hmmmmm. That left either cutting it short for all of us or splitting up.

So, not sure how it could possibly work out, surely it was impossible...... but what could it hurt to get more info?
As the travel agent checked into it, we were going 'round and 'round with this crazy idea - should we, could we?
And besides...... we needed one more thing to try to figure out as we prepped to go to Africa in two weeks, right? It's not like we were leaving our kiddos for the longest time ever and going halfway around the world or anything......oh yeah, yes, it was.

My husband made the excellent point that we homeschool and Bananas had been studying ancient Egypt all year long. It was a homeschool mom's field trip opp of a lifetime!

Oh. Score!

But the baby couldn't get a visa to Egypt. We even checked. Not that I was wild about taking a new (to us) baby to Egypt anyhow. Staying and bonding sounded good to me. It is required to present yourselves in person in Addis at the Egyptian embassy and then wait for 6-8 weeks to see if you get a visa for Ethiopian nationals (as opposed to American's getting visa's in a few hours). Oh. Score for staying. And yes, we called the embassy's. In Addis. And Cairo. And D.C. We are thorough.

So we were at a stalemate.
He wouldn't go if I gave it the big VETO. I didn't want to do it but hadn't hit a comfort level.

And no, the issue at this point was not be being in Addis alone w/ baby. At this point the only option was them going for a few days and leaving me in Addis. For my part, I was totally ok with that. I knew I could handle the time. I knew I would have the baby safe and sound. I knew I had helpers in the Gladney staff and if I needed anything it was for the asking. So that wasn't it. At this point it was the money and the security and having my family spread out in three different countries. I didn't like that.
But then we got the call from Kari at Susan Parr agency, "Did you know, I found that we can book your husband and teens with a stopover in Addis and all the way to Cairo, and it doesn't change the fare." Excuse me? We can fly them five hours to Cairo and it is the same cost as DC to Addis and back? Yup. The Addis part is considered layover, albeit a long one.

SCORE for the Egypt leg.
Slam dunk. Final Game.

As a homeschool mom, this was pretty hard to turn down. It WAS that opportunity of a lifetime that he said it was. Dang.
So, I still had security concerns. I didn't want to sit in Addis and worry myself sick over them. I do that sort of thing.
But I really DIDN'T want to play that big veto card. I could have. They would have accepted it with grace. I know it. But I didn't want to.
So, my husband agreed to use the travel agent recommended by Susan Parr, Yalla Tours, someone that they had used with success in Egypt before (and therefore accountable and with a track record instead of the hundreds, literally, who were sending me info on my email after I put in a search. Travel tip: don't do that, use an info search for foreign travel agents website. But I digress).
So, in another flurry of emails and faxes and phone calls, we settled on all the travel arrangements and travel insurance (travel tip: GET THE TRAVEL INSURANCE, things happen) and we had a once in a lifetime trip planned.

My big kids were going on the most amazing homeschool field trip. Ever.
Now we had to get BuddyBug home and BooBoo off crutches. Because we were going to Ethiopia, and Egypt!

Buddybug's last final was the day before we left. His school is eight hours away by car. Bananas and I were going to drive up get him, but it would mean two extra days gone from the littles. Not good. Happily, a dear friend (thanks MA!) was going to pick up her daughter on the campus next door to my son's and she agreed to get my boy home. So she did, she brought helper sons to get them all moved out of their dorms (they had to do that too!) and into the van and home. They got in just before midnight. We had to be leaving for the airport by nine a.m. But luckily, we didn't cut it close or anything.
So, after all this crazyness, we flew to Addis. We met our sweet Gabriel Tariku. We had an amazing week.
You know all this if you've been reading, if not, scroll down.

On Friday, one of the hardest days, we woke up early and met Tariku's extended family. That was amazing and profound and made me/us cry. And that's for another post. Then we went to Enrico's and had a nosh and some coffee. Thank goodness! Also another post. We met up with other traveling families and Travis and Belay at Kolfe. Also another post. Then Kebebetsehay and Kechene. These orphanges were wrenching and wonderful all at the same time.

We had to leave Kechene to bolt back to Wagayu's and throw clothes in bags for them to make their flight. As they packed, I found their tickets. It said "all travelers MUST confirm their return flights within 48 hours of arrival." {That's another, kind of buried but important travel tip...I'm gonna have to make a list, I know.} uh oh. We didn't do that. Who knew?? So now I worried about them being allowed to get on their flight to Egypt, plus us being allowed to leave on our scheduled return home, if our embassy date passed after all. I kissed them all goodbye with tears and then went in to start calling Ethiopian Airlines. Until my cell phone (borrowed from Wagayu) died. And the power was out for the night.

Heartsick. Exhausted. So baby and I decided call it a night and take a much needed early bedtime. I went to sleep praying for a safe flight and trip for my bunch to Cairo.Later that night, I was awakened by Wagayu. My husband was calling him, for me. He couldn't get through on my cell. Because it died. Wagayu woke me and then took me to his house and gave me his land line phone so I could speak to my husband in private. He told me to take it into the house for the weekend. He is a dear man, Wagayu. A bit later, they called. They were boarding! All was a go. They were on their way to Cairo. I didn't think I'd talk with them again until I saw them the following Monday night. But oh, it was so good to know that they were good to go and on their way!Next stop for the adventurers: Luxor!
More to come (don't worry...more pictures less talk).

Note: I know there are a lot of camel pics. I love camels and these pics. Camels are fun to draw and paint and just look at...I mean come on. They are on CAMELS! In Egypt!! How can I not put them up? Crazy!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Away we went

Yes, there is a man on the engine of that plane. And so goes the story of our travel to Addis.

Ok, I know, how tardy am I? Very. Get used to it. We now say we are "seven kids late." We used to say "we are six kids late." Works every time. Try it.

But anyhow, I figured I should give you the rundown of the actual trip, with a few travel tips embedded. That way those of you compulsive types will read the whole thing and the rest of you...well, you probably wouldn't care to be bored but of course read along if you like! But for those of you still in process and eagerly anticipating that long flight - here ya go.
This is us, waiting for something like six hours, waiting for our plane to be either cancelled or fly. In our hometown airport. With no other flights out to D.C. that day, on any airliner. Most of the passengers stood in line forever and got other flights. This was it for us. We passed the time watching the mechanics crawl all over the engines. It was fun. Comforting. ha. So we stress snacked. I know, it's another picture of the same plane. Looks a lot like the first picture doesn't it? Try watching it for six hours as your departure time for your Addis flight looms closer. This is just to get you the feel of it....the 'you were there' factor.

As you know, I ended up posting and begging for prayers to make that flight. And I hate little planes. But I didn't care, if this one was cleared for takeoff, I was gonna be on it! Thanks for the prayers, of course, they worked.

After we got to D.C. we tried to make Mass in the chapel in the airport, knowing we'd be flying all day Sunday. We missed that too. But we sure tried, we went as fast as Booboo's braced leg would walk! So we said a few quick prayers and read the Mass readings and then hoofed it to the other concourse which meant taking multiple escalators up and down and down and up and then waiting for the shuttle to load us up and spit us out again. By this time I was a stressed maniac, wanting to sprint to the gate. We were cutting it super close, and had conflicting info on when you had to check in at the gate. One woman told us an hour, one told us 45 mins.
Travel Tip: Don't do this:
on your way to the Ethiopian Airlines Gate. I know. It's tempting. However, it might cause the mom person to almost stroke and it just causes general discord. Wait until you've checked in. There is another one of these photo ops not far from the Addis gate, really like 30 yards or so.

No kidding. We got there, ok, me first, as I can move in a speed walk and I shamelessly belted it to get there faster than my boy could walk. I know, bad mom, he'll need therapy later, we'll add it to his list. But the desk guy was calling us by name as I approached, being the last white family, and family period, not checked in. That is never a good sign. Then he shuffled our papers a bit as the others caught up behind me and had a bit of discussion with his co-desk buddy. As I caught my breath (I told you, it's a long walk and we were going as fast as possible) he finally handed me our passes and said "you guys are really lucky today." "Huh?" "You almost didn't make it. We are boarding now, he's in a good mood." Yikes!!! So, they are serious about that check in time and don't push it. ONE HOUR BEFORE DEPARTURE, MINIMUM, NO KIDDING. That's the most important travel tip of my entire journey. You can stop reading now if you like, you're good to go.

We boarded immediately. Well, as we got in line to be boarding (and it was moving) my husband was buying sandwiches from the shop across from the gate. Expensive but decent and better than the food you'll have for the next 18 hours. Think about that too. That's travel tip number two.
Next travel tip: Not much room for carry-on or even largish purses/totes on Ethiopian Airlines. Travel light and sparingly. Also, they are serious when you are in an exit row (where we were moved) and you cannot keep your purse and such with you, it has to go up, so get your book and Ipod before you stow it in the hold above you. The stewards and stewardesses (do they still call them that?) were very helpful and very kind, the whole flight. You get two crews so they aren't burnt out and exhausted and they are nothing but helpful and patient with a bunch of sleepy tired travelers.

Next tip, it's a long flight, so settle in and sleep as much as you can. Even though it will be full and cramped, be flexible and patient as there is nothing to do but wait for it to be over. It's a long haul and everyone just waits it out, but really, very patiently and nicely, considering.
Booboo studied for finals. BuddyBug and Bananas played a looong game of squares {yes on a motion sickness bag, you use what you got folks!}.Finally, after two hours on tarmac in Rome for refueling (no you don't get off, you try to sleep some more), and another 6 in the air, we were in Ethiopia. I must say, it was exciting to be flying over Africa and see the desert and then start seeing Addis coming into view. What a thrill for us all!
And then, after landing, you wait again, for what seems like far too long (but I think that is typical of every international flight I've ever been on as everybody is just twitching to get off that plane). And you are there. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I swear my daughter and I were bouncing with excitement. I know, dorky tourists, but it's not like we could pretend we were locals so we threw cool to the wind. We were all excited! We had arrived in Africa!!!
To finally BE there after all the reading and thinking and dreaming of it. After almost NOT making it and making our flights, we were just all SO thankful and grateful to be in Addis Ababa at last! It was a little surreal, our bodies didn't know what time it was but we were ready to GO!

More to come.....

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fresh Hair

As we all know, girls, it's all about the hair!

Well, today both my nine year olds, Sbird and Divine Miss M, got their hair done. SBird got her locks freshened up and Miss M got cornrows for the summer season.

And Miss M did it without tears, which is a major coup for a girl who weeps when she sees a brush and wails at the sight of a comb - yes, now that is what we call MAJOR tenderheaded! Sbird, she's great with hair and tough, always has been. So she's an old pro at this. And no, I did not do this, I have the good sense to Miss Suzan Mattias do it - and she's the best! It's a big undertaking, thank you dear SallyO,
for having the energy and patience to sit there with them! You are a lifesaver! But as you can see, it's worth the effort. Bananas and Sally O even made a cake, rasberry chocolate, YUM!

And this is what the boys do when the girls have a hair day...they hang out, playing guitar hero and the baby version of spoons.

Another Day Older

Today is my birthday. I am 46.
I had always naively entertained the idea that I would age "gracefully"....
Whatever that meant...


Now of course, I have come to realize the truth: I have never done anything gracefully and won't be able to do this so either.
Rather, I will do it like I do most things: clumsily, boring all around me with my vanity and driven controlling ways and opinions and ideas. And at the same time I will go kicking and griping over the cliffs of the inevitable decline and collapse of my body.

I will never be elegant and chic.

I will have very gray hair turning all too quickly to white.
I will have a thickening body being remapped with wrinkles and sags.
I will have spots from too many days in the sun.
I have my mother's hands.

Middle age is no picnic.

Yet, despite my clumsy ways and self, I have a richly woven tapestry of a life - surrounded by so many that I love so dearly. I have the strength in my arms to hold seven children. I have the arms to hug so many others for missing moms and try to let them know that a mom loves them and it feels like this. I have been able to find niches in my heart for many here and others I have even recently met in Africa, ones I won't see again but who will stay with me.
All that is worth every gray hair, every wrinkle, sag, and spot.

I used to be bothered by looking at my hands and seeing my mother's. It was, somehow, shocking. But oddly enough, not anymore. They are mine. They are hers.
They'll do.

I never used to tell folks when it was my birthday, although I've always told my age. Somehow it didn't seem like I should mention it. But, then, I decided that sets a bad example for my kids. As I tell my children, birthdays are for celebrating! And so not to be a hypocrite (at least this time)....I've said it. And tonight I will have a piece of cake or frozen yogurt (hint hint) and kiss all my children and husband. And while the kid's bdays and my husband's are ever so much more fun....I am very grateful for mine.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Month of the Sacred Heart

June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is an old devotion, a private devotion and one that helps any day, every, day be more mindful. Read all about it here. It helps transform our mundane regular daily grind into something bigger than ourselves - and instead offers our mere efforts to Christ as a way of showing we love Him, despite ourselves and our habitual selfish nature. And it's not just this month, it can be done year 'round, of course.

When I make this offering in the morning, somehow it helps my days. It doesn't make them smoother, it doesn't make them all jolly...but it makes even those "terrible horrible no good very bad days" into something more. It's a comfort. Oddly, I am often more out of sorts when I forget this prayer to start the day. It's like resting my head on His chest for a moment before I hop on the whirlwind of the day and try to lasso it.

So, yeah, it's another Catholic post. It's an uber Catholic post, really. Meaning, it's one that might seem strange to those not familiar with it all (though I don't mind explaining or questions either, I can take it!). It's one of those old Catholic devotions, but it's a goody. And if any of you are having days that are way stressed or out of sorts, I'd suggest giving it a go if you wonder... because really, what's the risk? A little comfort? A little extra grace in the day? What's not to like about that?

Crazy eyes

Ok, getting older, um, middle aged, is a drag - especially vision-wise.

It's not so easy on the eyes, in so many ways.

Yup, I'm talking about that whole middle aged myopia thing. I'm talking about trying to stretch your arms muuuchh further than they want to go, just to read the mail. I'm talking about the toddler discovering one of his favorite games is "grab the glasses." I'm talking about loving to read in bed and finding the glasses kind of bent out of shape when reading in bed always makes you fall asleep with your glasses on. Sigh.

So, now I'm talking about trying out contacts, again. They say they are new and gee whiz wow improved. More comfortable, more effective, and even for bifocals or multifocal vision (read: nice way to say those of you in your forties).

Now, in my late twenties I tried contacts. Same problem really, just one of my first babies and my vision issues were different and not as irritating. But at the time I thought contacts would be the answer. And so I made the big effort. Way back when it took a week almost of coal/grit in your eyes (ok, just the contact, but- felt like) to get used to the contacts themselves, forget about figuring out if they helped or not. But I did it. I got used to them and thought they were the bees knees. We spoke like that back then. Really. That is, they were spiffy until I ended up trying the sleep in them versions (what new fangled contraption is this? By jiminy this is a swell idea!). Well, soon enough I ended up really w/ coal and grit in my eye in the form of a nasty corneal ulcer. Not fun. Not pretty. I won't forget that circle of hell anytime soon. I had to put acid drops in my eye (ok, meds) every hour for a few days {yes, waking up to do it: torture} and it left a small scar to be seen to this day. Put me off contacts for life.

Or so I thought.

Now I have a very busy, very fast toddler boy in the house again and my vision has worsened. I really DO need those darn glasses. My memory seems to be going too, however, as I put them down and then lose them. Most days. Sounds like I should give contacts a try again, eh? I thought so too.

So, I called up my trusty gal pal optholmologist and she assured me that contacts are light years beyond what I suffered before.

And she brought me a sample.

I put it in. One eye. Yes, she brought me ONE. Because apparently how they do multifocal contacts is to have one eye do the close stuff and one eye do the far stuff. And somehow your brain scrambles it all together into a coherent image, sharp and clear and comfy.


Well, it's comfy, they've got that right. I mean, wow what a difference! That's cool.

But for the split screen concept? Split eye, split scrip? Not so sure. I've been wearing it all morning. And I am darn near dizzy. I can't tell you how many typos I've even made just typing this. She warned me against driving w/ the ONE contact in. Gee, ya think? Cause my brain isn't melding it together. I look up, it's a blur (my kids are thrilled though because I can't really tell what they've got in the other room; no doubt an entire box of cookies or open popsicles and I'm too lazy to go get up and see, so they are off the hook, for the moment - but I digress). But that's the distance part, and granted she just gave me the reading lens. The computer is no picnic...all blurry in spots and blanking in spots. And really, I've been trying to do heavy reading this morning. And I can't decide - sometimes I think, no my mind is melding, it's melding! Cool I can read! And then I think, no, this is much like when a migraine is coming on and I've got blind spots. Sigh.

So, anyone use contacts for multifocal? How long did it take to scramble it? Meld it? See?

I think I might be calling my gal pal doc. Right after I find my glasses.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Ok, I'm almost never wordless, as you have surely figured out by now. But this picture also cracks me up. It's during that long flight to Addis from DC. I have much more to post on this trip, the actual travel of it. It's just that the overwhelming emotions and tsunami of impressions and feelings have been first, of course. But I will be posting travel tips and experiences only because I know I was greedy for them before I went. So this, this not-at-all-wordless Wednesday picture is to let you know, there is more coming, as soon as I get a few more spare minutes! In the meantime, both for Addis and Egypt, Booboo will hold the promise for more.