Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Call to Action

More from McLane Layton. Please, once again, call, write, visit. Let them know, these kids are our kids.

CALL TO ACTION: FOREIGN ADOPTED CHILDREN EQUALITY ACT

Since this petition was launched on June 30th it has received over 1600 signatures! Please take a moment and continue to support the FACE Act legislation (S.1359 and H.R. 3110) by calling your Senators and Representative on Tuesday (tomorrow), Wednesday and Thursday. It is imperative that they hear that this legislation is important to you, their constituents.

Read below for how to make your voice be heard.
FACE Act - Call to Action
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday call your three Members of Congress (two in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives).
You can find your Representative at http://www.house.gov/
You can find you Senators' at http://www.senate.gov/
Ask to speak with the Legislative Director or Chief of Staff
For maximum effect, we are asking you to make these calls within this 72-hour window!

What should you say or write to your Members of Congress?

This is an issue that is critical to our internationally adopted children, so speak from your heart. Tell them why internationally adopted children of American citizens need automatic U.S. citizenship from the time their adoption is final and why this is so important to you!

Ask your Senators and Representatives to become a Co-Sponsor of the FACE Act.
If you are speaking to a Senate office, provide them with the bill number S.1359.
If you are speaking to a House member, provide them with the bill number H.R. 3110.

Please feel free to use the following text as a guideline when speaking with your Members of Congress:

"As a constituent of we are requesting that you support the Foreign Adopted Children Equality Act (FACE Act) by becoming a Co-Sponsor of the legislation. For information on becoming a Co-Sponsor, please contact Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator James Inhofe, Representative Diane Watson or Representative John Boozman. Thank you for representing your constituents by becoming a Co-Sponsor of the FACE Act."


GET THE WORD OUT!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hurdles

Hurdlers by misspiepie, flkr

Well, today we are at the official, two week home mark. And, oddly, enough, I think we are making some small baby steps of progress. On my part, I have gotten off schedule in my private personal schedule of weepy tension and/or fear meltdowns, missing a day off the every other informal pattern. Hoorah! Odd, you say, perhaps. I know, I didn't expect this myself - but there you have it. I'm marking this as a positive babystep forward however, into a new normal.

We have had to correct a behavior, just like we do with our other kids. What do ya know? Another kid in the house = parenting. What are the odds? Ha. It had created some upset and then we made clear the expected behavior and also got a true apology and forgave. Now, that's pretty SOP for our house: you get in trouble, parent or other kid gets upset, you apologize, are forgiven and the rules are made clear, then we all move on. And just going through that makes it feel a tiny bit more normal, oddly enough.

For now, and surely for some time to come, our biggest hurdle - Marta's biggest hurdle - is language.

And make no mistake, this is like an Olympic event for her and for us all. This is a difference, I think, between adopting a younger child and a much older one. A teen will make this speech swap slower than a much younger kid, especially if they have not had any language learning beforehand. This slower acquisition impacts, well, every bit of the adjustment process.

We have an ESL tutor on tap to come over about three times a week, starting in a week or so. We have Rosetta Stone for English (And let me just give a little quickie review: difficult program in a way if you don't already READ english and a little glitchy and a pain in the backside to get into the meat of the program - have to click through many screens before you start. And if you don't know the language that means someone else has to click for you, grrrr). And we have multiple copies of the best dictionary we've come across, Concise Amharic Dictionary (thanks Cami!). We also have a great site for word by word translating that is fast. We are watching movies together to jump start that language familiarity and I talk with her through the grocery store and as we drive around on errands, describing most of the things we are doing.

But speech, actual speaking, is the biggest hurdle. Marta is uncomfortable trying out her speech and really, wants to listen and then give us an amharic word or two to clarify. We have to push her, with a smile, to repeat the english version of the word: e.g. "desta" = "happy," say "happy," and so on. I think she is just very shy and unsure of herself with this. We understand that. But as I told her this morning on our walk, the more she talks, the easier it will be.

But oh, such a hurdle and I don't know how to help her much. Except to help her stretch out and try. And try again. And again. They say it will come. We all wait in great anticipation for it to start, trying to be patient, but just wanting to be able to really talk with her.

I want to hold conversations, that's my best way to really get to know anyone. One of the hard things about this adoption and the bonding is I can't really get to know her without talking, without this conversation. The silence is deafening in a way. We are both, all, trying to learn and use our other senses to make those connections, but as you probably have gathered by now....I am a ridiculously verbal gal. Yes, I talk a lot. I want the noisy yakking and small teasing and chatting of talking - even simple sentences and words. I know this is the "all about me me me" version; but I think that Marta yearns for talking together too. I think she's just too unsure of these strange new sounds to be confident enough to let fly.

So we are all bruising our shins a bit on the hurdles of language, but trying hard to push and help and clear them so we can run this race together.

Because a family is at the finish line.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's Time to Limbo!

Yeah, I'm not talking about the Catholic "Limbo" here, that's a whole 'nother discussion.

I'm talking about "How low can you go?" And, of course, as usual, I'm talking about me.

You see, everybody keeps asking me "How is it going?" And I can honestly say that it's not what I expected, even as it is in so many ways what I expected. Confusing, no? Yes.
This is the most challenging thing I've ever done, but not actually because of Marta. Marta, so far (and I am fully aware of the whole "honeymoon" concept, no worries), has been nothing but amazingly sweet, nice, helpful, happy kid. Really, no big demands, no major meltdowns, a few small ones from being scared, nothing. She needs and craves love and affection and knowing she is secure in the family, but that is nothing but a time need. The lack of common language is, well, ridiculous, but that can only improve, right? No choice there.

No, this is the most challenging thing I've ever done, all because of me.

You see, this is my own personal limbo contest....just without the cute bikini. (Although I think often about adding the fun libations.....kidding. mostly). The limbo requires strength, balance, coordination, a brave spirit and sense of crazy fun. It also makes most folks fall right down on their fannies.

And, yup, I now get the fun game of seeing just 'how low can I go?' Problem is this "low" is not so fun and its a lot more than a simply pratfall from lack of strength and balance.....That is to say, my struggles are internal and honestly, in many ways they are a spiritual battle of my will versus, oh, anyone's, and my control freak type A nature. It is my falling into the icy grip of fear and a good imagination. To be precise, it is a lack of faith and trust. Period.

I know, I know, I have written on this before. But I want to shout, those posts were fine for then, but this is now. Totally different.
Right....{yes I am, it seems, a hypocrite}.
Those posts talked about this struggle and the grip of fear, love as an action not feeling, and the transformation in the struggle and the suffering. But you know, that's all fine and well AFTER the fact to think those things. It's another thing to embrace them in the midst of it all now isn't it? Because you know, struggle, change, even suffering (on any level, even the most minor)....it HURTS. Hence, the term: suffering. Right? And you know, we wimpy folks out there, by which I mean me, we don't really like to suffer, hurt and so on. I mean, it's one thing to say, I'm tough and I can take it. But really, when you step on that nail or heck, get that unexpected paper cut, you might just cuss and holler and whine, right? Ok, well, I might. Ok, maybe I do.

A good friend has pointed out that it's like a little Rumpelstiltskin tantrum. And she's right. Because it, my struggle these past few weeks, has been all about ME. I just really want things to be ok and normal again; my way, my timing, my ideas of what it should be like, my plan, MY FEELINGS. Me, me, me. My ideas are not playing out in the timing I would like, my body is being knocked back again and again with one variety of illness or migraine or something after another. The order I placed for a smooth transition: good health for all, full of overflowing feelings of bounty and joy, everything clicking into place.....oddly enough hasn't happened yet. Funny that.
And so I have been having a Rumplestiltskin time. {I am Rumpelstiltskin, old middle aged girl version, maybe I should change my screenname....} And it's hard and not a fun place.

But this week, I am also seeing something else. Not only have I seen a glimmer (and I don't even want to THINK about seeing further) about how low I can go....{ Shocking, I tell you. Utterly, heartbreakingly, humbling.}...
But I have seen what can happen when you get there. To your, ok my, lowest point. Because, oddly enough, even there, there is a beauty. And once again, that beauty is in the others. And that makes my heart be able to lift up again.

I have found myself laid flat by illness and fear, simply hitting my break point. And I have seen my husband and sons and friends (near and far) reach out to help lift me up. That's no easy task! But they have all reached out, grabbed me and helped me stand up again - literally and figuratively. And they are still here, helping me, holding on. And they let me see that despite my tantrum of wanting everything just so, on MY time and in MY way, it's not necessarily about that. And it's ok to wait for it to play out. And to try to trust.
Simple huh? Sure. But not so much, not for me.

So, if you ask how it's going I will still say this is one of the hardest things I've ever done.
But the gratitude I have for so many is some of my deepest.
So, I guess it's going just like it's supposed to.
It's hard, it hurts, I'm useless on my own.
It's great, she's sweet, the kids are amazing.
It's a huge change.
But I also have helpers.

And I'm grateful. Even as it's hard, challenging me on so many levels and putting a klieg light on my every failing...for what this brings....I'm grateful.
And I am looking forward to the luau without the limbo.....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Not Very Wordless Wednesday

More new stuff, every day.

This is what we did on Sunday afternoon, thanks to our dear friends Jean and Matt (aka Horsedoc and Horsemom). They have a new sweet pony and she was just the right size to see, then we lucked out and Matt came back from a ride and offered a leg up to us too.
Both Gabriel and Marta are adventurous, up for trying out new things.

Bananas is horse crazy, of course, like most thirteen year old girls....
As for me, it was a blast from the long distant past. Fun!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Bounce

It's a Monday...in all ways. So I thought this pic might help bounce us into a good week! Trampolines are a whole new thing for an Ethiopian teen.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Threads

Threads. Weaving together, pulling apart.
You know, adopting an older child is a completely different deal than adopting an infant or toddler. And its all new to us. (I know, doh!)
This time around is a strange new experience and process. Its surreal and odd and impossible to anticipate and filled with unexpected experiences, feelings, thoughts.
This time around, the entire event is much more complex, on all levels.
Really, it's just harder.

I know, this shouldn't be news. We were prepped, or thought we were (by which I mean, me). But really, some things in life you can "prep" for, you can intellectualize, do the research, do the math, run the numbers, stock the pantry, pray, wonder, imagine, speculate. But you know, just like anything else, you never really know what it's like until you do it. (Again, I hear you, doh.)

All this is to say that so far, already, this adoption has taken me places I didn't expect to go; both good and bad. But, one of the surprises to me are the threads.

There are a few tiny little threads hanging out, that we have been able to follow to the back of this tapestry and see. And it's one cool thing that, especially in these early days, I will hold onto.

You see, our Marta turns out, unknown to us prior to our meeting, to have a deep devotion to Mary. Yes, that's right, the Blessed Mother, Mary. Maram, she calls her, with a sigh and a smile.

Now, as Coffeedoc points out....no matter the new strangeness of this fit....what are the odds? Of all the children, millions of orphans, what are the odds that we would bring home a child who is so devoted to Mary? Good, you say? Maybe. But, honestly, we both think maybe not so much. How many deeply, openly devout teens do you know? How many of them have lived one or two lifetimes in the toughest of conditions already and still have that deep love and devotion? Well, we think the odds get pretty slim there.
But we, in our home, have a deep devotion to Mary (um, remember, Catholic...). Heck, our house is full of Mary icons and pictures and books and paintings and sculptures of Mary and her son - a veritable folk art/high art/kitschy/antique/homemade collectors corner of this. Our home might give someone who didn't have a love of religious art a start {Fair warning, visitors!}. But this part of our home sent her clasping her hand to her chest, saying "Oh! Konjo! Mom! Dad!" All with a mega-watt smile.

So, I write this to remind myself of this thread. It is knotted on the back of our tapestry. And I might need to lift it up and see it from time to time to remember that the odds are against us being brought together. As such, say what you will, I do believe that Mary had a hand in this. She loves with a perfect love and as such I can only hope that her love also rubs off on all of us.
Marta told us she prayed daily in front of an icon of Mary for her to pray for her and bring her a family, a mom and a dad.
Oh.
Visiting her church, Coffeedoc asked her if she wanted anything special from there, to take home with her. She asked to buy a bible and a prayer umbrella to present to the priest in thanksgiving.
Oh.So on those days (Why yes, this afternoon, now that you mention it) when I get a little overwhelmed and am juggling the senses and feelings and questions and hows of weaving all my kids together into a family - I want to be able to look and see this thread, this very important thread, and see the knot on the back. No matter the strangeness or the adjusting and discomfort or tugs, this is a reminder that just maybe, this one too was part of a bigger plan.

Being sewn together isn't always comfortable, perhaps.
But the tapestry, I hope and pray (and pray for trust), someday will be a beauty.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In the meantime......the Meet

Ok, I am jet lagged and recovering from being sicker than I've ever been....Not to mention the re-entry (and other ones now falling sick, but different kind) and reconnecting with my dear, sorely missed boys and the beginning of a whole new weave in our family. So, no real post for a bit.

There is SO much to process and adjust and sort out. It's wonderful surreal and strange all at the same time. Unexpected and indescribable and impossible to have guessed at all the things that come with adopting an older child, good, hard, wrenching, funny, surprising...the works. Either many posts coming or maybe not so many at all, we will feel our way through {calling on friends for tips; you know who you are!}. For now we are keeping close in, finding our way to new normal....

Until then.....{Shelly, here you go}:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Finally!

I don't have a picture yet, can't upload yet, I'm surprised I can even access Blogger.

That said...
We are here, we are here! In Addis Ababa!
And we are all together, finally!!!!

We have our Marta and I can't describe it. This is as best as I can do before my minutes run out, I promise more and better later but right now my muzzy jet lagged emotion whipped brain can only babble:
Tiny, sweet, smiling, shy, sweet, happy, overwhelmed, shy, tiny, nervous me, waiting to meet, leaping bear hugs, tearing up mom, unexpected, surprise, smiling, holding on, exhausted us, jet lag, long flight, good flight, Ayat house, hoorah, lots of rain, no language, pointing, laughing, looking, smiling, shy, eyebrow lifts, breaths intake, hugs, squeezes, hands holding, sitting close, sleepy, smiling, happy, crazy language gap, smiles, shy, sweet, tiny, together.

Sisters, all FOUR, together and smiling!!
Family no longer apart (soon all to be in same place, but for now, together) and smiling.

Whew.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Diving

So. Here we are. It's the day before we leave. And this time, we haven't gotten ANY phone call from the agency and instead of me in the curled up sniffling fetal position in the recliner as I watch my furious husband man the phones to Africa and the CDC in Atlanta....I am surfing back and forth through the house, up and down, packing, sorting, zipping, counting.

Duffel: zip. Laundry: fold. Shoes: find. Toddler: kiss. List: check.

It is a huge undertaking to travel, anytime, really... as a mom. With a trip where the family is split, you have to also plan and sort and prep for the kids left behind. You make the daily surprise bags with little happy nothings in them that will buy the babysitter a few extra minutes of happy busy time and you draw hearts on them from mom. You make these and set them aside, one per day per kid, no matter how old. You prep the babysitter notes and backups and house. You look at the garden and hope, again, that it doesn't die while you're gone. Then you turn to your packing, again, and you sort the clothes and backpacks and meds and books. And, inevitably, something is forgotten. Every time. {Ok, me...not SO organized after all}

And it's so easy, this time, so jumping giddy after so long waiting, to get swallowed up in this busy pack-o-rama. But last night, it hit me. Right about dinnertime, my stomach knew it before I did......we are about to plunge.

We are diving off a cliff.
That's sure what it feels like anyhow.

I've done that before, literally, on a baby cliff in northern California as a teen. It was what? Twenty feet high? Surely nothing. But I remember standing on the edge, trembling, afraid to stand too close, and feeling this same sick in my stomach. It looked so fun and everybody had splashed safely into the river. They didn't bash open their heads, they came up smiling...all good. Way back forever ago, in the dark ages when I stood on that cliff, a cute guy was standing by the edge and finally helped talk me into the jump. So, finally, feeling like a fool and with a great lurch in my stomach as the butterflies flew inside, I jumped. Not dove gracefully, mind you, but jumped feet first with a scream all the way down.
Obviously, I survived, with my dork factor intact, and in fact increased, but I did it. And I was glad.

I tell you all this to say that I have those exact same feelings now. I have looked over the edge, and I have a dear handsome husband standing next to me, encouraging me. But even so, I have those same butterflies swirling inside my stomach with both the excitement and the fear of jumping off this cliff. That may shock some of you, after all our ranting raging pining away to go get our girl.

But there you have it.

Every single time I have a child: by labor and c-section, by racing in planes or automobiles to go get them, near or half a world away, I have to fight off a bit of terror.
Because life changes, the universe shifts.
I know, I know, it already did.
But now, I am really, truly, leaping into the abyss of the new, the shifted.
And it's a little scary.

So I'm almost ready to go. Our bags are packed, almost. Our goddaughter arrives in the early morning to drive us to the airport. My toes are hanging on the edge. My husband is holding my hand to help my courage and I'm looking over the rim of the world, swallowing my fear and knowing I will make a fool of myself as I jump. I don't really know everything that will meet us, except a girl on the other side of the world....who might be just as nervous as me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

TOLO! TOLO! TOLO!

We got the all clear!
Marta's cultures are all clear!
We have an embassy date of next Wednesday, July 8th (my brother's 50th bday!)!

Natalie called this morning, early, right after Belay emailed her to say that the final report is in, it's all clear and the embassy will have the papers for Wednesday and we are good to travel.
I started to cry, because I'm a dork.
I couldn't help it and didn't expect to.
(Stop laughing, I know what you're thinking..but really I didn't expect to.)

And now it begins.
We travel today to go home, to do the final whirlwind of prep to leave for Ethiopia!
We go to bring home our new daughter and become a family of ten.
It's a good thing Coffeedad was right there and heard it all too as I keep having to double check to make sure it's real...it feels almost surreal.

Just. Wow.
Finally.
Thanks be to God!!
And to all of you, every one, for your prayers and support and, everything....and now I'm starting to cry again, so I'd better go pack.

Tolo! That's Amharic for "hurry, go fast!"
We are going, to Addis Ababa.
Gabey says this: "Fast fast fast!"
Marta too, I think, will say, "Tolo, tolo tolo!"