Friday, January 28, 2011

Words Fail Me

One cool thing about being a dad is that you never know what awaits you upon opening the door when arriving home from work. Could it be a fighter mighter? Possibly a fierce Lompster?

I could go on for some time, but this post is really all about the pic. Larisa phoned me on my commute home to ensure that I wasn't running late. The reason: my son had a surprise that he could not wait to show me. It is not uncommon for Yikealo to want to share something with me... but nothing prepared me for this:

  • Construction paper mask: check
  • Mama's red V-neck shirt turned inside out and backwards and pinned: check
  • Construction paper insignia: check
  • Black gloves: check
  • Black compression socks: check
  • Mr. Incredible undies worn on the outside: check
Truly, a picture says a thousand words.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Home Safe

Yikealo was released from Akron Childrens Wedneday evening. Thank you, everyone, for your prayers and support through this emergency.

He is doing well; I told Larisa he was either going to be discharged or expelled, whichever came first :) Seriously, he was goofing off in record time following his operation, and he won over pretty much any of the hospital staff that entered his room!
The parents in this little family are realizing why most of you folks start raising kids in your early 20s. Us oldtimers don't bounce back from the all-nighters like we used to. Praise God we've made it through the week, and Lord willing, we'll catch up on our rest this weekend.

Several people have asked "how did you know it was appendicitis?" so I thought I'd pass along some of the conditions that made us curious. This is not a complete list by any stretch nor am I a medical doctor. This is just one dad's observations (why am I always writing about this kind of stuff anyway?):
  • There was no diarrhea. We learned in the ER that the level of inflammation in the appendix ultimately shut down the peristalsis in the colon (the muscle movement used to push things along).
  • The vomiting was never particularly productive, more just bile. You all know what usually happens on the first trip to the toilet to vomit, but that wasn't the case for Y. Not much came up.
  • Yikealo experienced a high degree of protracted pain in his abdomen. The pain was very cyclical coming and going in fairly regular waves and often not associated with any nausea. The pain worsened when he sat up, stood or walked, and he nearly went into orbit if someone touched his abdomen. He is typically a very tough little kid: he is much more likely to cry over having his feelings hurt than over being physically hurt, so when he was keening and rocking back and forth, we were fairly certain that it was serious.
  • Unlike a flu where the patient is usually happy to lay still, Yikealo couldn't get comfortable and kept writhing around and getting into different - sometimes bizarre - positions.
  • He had no appetite whatsover. In previous bouts with the flu he was constantly begging for something to drink. Not this time.
  • When we took him to the ER, the doctor was at first ready to give him some IV fluids and send him home ("this is the 11th case of a stomach virus that I've seen today") UNTIL...he listened to Y's abdomen and could hear absolutely no bowel sounds.
We also found out from the surgeon that it is nearly impossible to get a child who is under the age of 5 into surgery fast enough to avoid the appendix rupturing. He said that they almost always rupture so quickly that the damage is done almost before you know what's going on. Also, far more boys get appendicitis than girls. Several things made Y's hospital visit go fairly smoothly, however. First of all, his appendix was apparently "tucked away" behind his colon, so when it ruptured, the infection mainly stayed in one area, rather than spilling throughout his abdomen. Also, only the tip of his had ruptured by the time it was removed, so again, the clean-up wasn't nearly as bad as it can often be. Most children with a ruptured appendix end up in the hospital for 5-10 days after surgery, whereas Mr. Y was only there for three days following his operation. He actually quite enjoyed his stay in the hospital - he got to watch movies, play lots of games with an activities volunteer named Dan (who always let Y win), and get lots of toys and games from the hospital. He netted 5 stuffed animals, a Lego set, a puzzle, a fleece blanket, a puppet, two coloring books and some stickers - all from the hospital! Not to mention all of the wonderful cards, gifts and visitors that he has received. He asked us yesterday if it was Christmas again...

He also wanted to know when Larisa was going to "get a belly ouchie like me and Daddy?" When she told him that she hoped she never would, he replied, "Why? I will stay with you in the hospital. You don't need to be afraid, because I will hold your hand and play games with you."  She's still not convinced though.

In other news, Yikealo has taken to typing a bunch of gibberish into any document we have open and leave unattended. When asked, he tells us that he's been blogging.

Sooo... here's the first message from Y to make it off the hard drive: nngfhnggghfhhfdjruthgsdnahgjrnjrghfuryrbfhuyr nghfjhhyrhtjiktkiifdkoppfv,nnd vbdrfkgjuvfnmmmbbvjbgkj,kkgjkhkkjggmjb mj

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Surprise Surgery

Yikealo woke up yesterday morning with what we thought was a stomach virus. By last evening, he was feverish and writhing in pain intermittently, so we ended up in the ER. A CT scan showed some issues, so he was transferred to Akron Children's Hospital early this morning, and a few hours later, had an appendectomy. His appendix had ruptured, although the surgeon said that the infection had not spread much at all, and he was confident that they cleaned out the abdominal cavity sufficiently during surgery. So....we're stuck in the hospital for at least three days and would appreciate your prayers! Mr. Y has been incredible - so brave and strong - and he's pretty excited that he has yet something else in common with his Daddy: a "belly ouchie."  I mean, who would not want matching laparoscopic abdominal scars with their favorite person in the world?

I must say that I am not fond of this particular part of motherhood. I really hate seeing my little guy in pain. I hate worrying about possible infections. Yet, I am also amazed by and thankful for God's provision. If Yikealo had not become part of our family, this appendicitis attack could very likely have been fatal for him.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Numbers, Our FDL, and other Adoption Information

Our waitlist numbers for the month of January are #78 for a girl and #59 for a boy. We've officially moved 12 spaces on the girl's list in the last 2 months and 4 spaces on the boy's list.

In other news, I forgot to mention our wonderful Christmas Eve surprise: we received our FDL in the mail that day - only 9 days after our fingerprints were taken up at the Cleveland USCIS office! To remind those of you who are not in the adoption world, USCIS stands for "United States Citizenship and Immigration Services" and FDL stands for "Favorable Determination Letter." Basically, USCIS takes a look at our homestudy, collects a whopping fee, takes our fingerprints, and forwards a "these people are okay to bring an immigrant into the country" letter to the US Embassy in Ethiopia. We were really excited that we got our clearance so quickly after our prints were taken. Then, on New Year's Eve, we learned that as of January 1st of this year, Ethiopia has started requiring the FDL to be part of the actual dossier. Our dossier hadn't been authenticated yet, so early last week, we had to have a copy of our FDL notarized, (promising that it was a "true and accurate copy" of our original FDL) and then sent of to our agency to become part of our dossier.

This seems like a good time to do another explanation: What is a dossier, anyway?? Well, it's essentially a collection of documents that is sent to the foreign country to explain who we are as a family, and it is used to make sure that we are eligible to meet the adoption requirements of that country. In our case, our dossier includes the following:
  • 2 signed and notarized Power of Attorney forms, giving Almaz (the director at Hannah's Hope) the authority to match us with a child, have all of the medical examinations performed on that child, make any legal arrangements necessary, and bascially facilitate the entire adoption on our behalf. One of these POA forms must also be county and state certified (attached to a sealed document from the Clerk of Common Pleas of the county in with the notary has his/her commission, stating that the notary's signature is genuine, and also a sealed document from the Secretary of State, stating that the Clerk of Court's signature is authentic.)
  • a signed and notarized letter to MOWA (the Ministry of Women's Affairs) in Ethiopia, giving a brief explanation of our family and our reasons for wanting to adopt a child from Ethiopia.
  • signed and notarized copies of our US passports - one for David, one for me.
  • 2 passport-style photos of both David and me.
  • Color photos of our family and home. We had to have one photo of David, one of me, one of the two of us together, 2 of our family, photos of the front and the back of our home, and several photos showing the interior of our home. Due to cultural differences, we had to ensure that there are NO pets in these photos.
  • an official notarized copy of our home study report, with a copy of our agency's license attached.
  • signed and notarized letters from our employers, stating the length of our employment and our annual income.
  • a signed and notarized financial statement for the household, including a list of assets, insurance coverage and income.
  • certified copies of the birth certificates of both of us.
  • certified copy of our marriage license
  • a medical form for each parent, stating that we do not suffer from any infection or "mental inferiority" that would hinder our ability to parent a child. The doctor's signature must be notarized on this.
  • a criminal check for each parent, stating that we are clear from any past criminal history. The person who completes the background check must have his or her signature notarized.
  • 2 signed and notarized letters of recommendation - one from a family member and one from a friend - recommending us as parents of an Ethiopian child.
  • a signed and notarized "Post-Adoption Commitment" letter, promising to meet the country's requirements for post-adoption reports on the child. Ethiopia requires 3 reports during the child's first year home, and then once a year until the child reaches the age of 18. These reports must include a description of the child's physical, mental and emotional development, a description of his/her relationship to the family and community, explanation of major events that have affected the family and/or the child, and recent photographs of the child.
  • and now, a signed and notarized copy of our FDL
Whew! To further complicate things, the powers that be in Ethiopia see the expiration of the notary's commission to be the expiration of the document signed by that notary. That means that we always have to use a notary whose signature doesn't expire for 12-18 months - otherwise, we would have to redo these documents at some later date in order to complete the adoption. Once the dossier has been approved by our agency, they send it off to the US State Department in Washington DC to be "authenticated"  (basically bound together with a cover letter to the government of Ethiopia.) This is then sent back to our agency in Oregon, who then forwards it to the AGCI staff working in Ethiopia. Once we are matched with a child, our entire dossier must be translated into Amharic and matched up with our child's history in order to be used in the court process. If it all sounds long and complicated, that's because it is...but it's so worth it in the end. Because of a little time and effort on our part, a needy child somewhere can have a home and a family!

Speaking of Ethiopia, we celebrated Ganna, or Ethiopian Christmas last Friday evening. We dressed in our Ethiopian garb, listened to some Amharic music and ate injera and shiro. I will say that the onion that I chopped up for the shiro was the MOST powerful onion that I've every encountered. We were all crying for well over an hour, and Yikealo was NOT impressed with the way his eyes were burning. He asked if we could please "go somewhere to eat our injera and shiro next time - like we did that other time? Mom, they make it better than you do!" That's probably true - or at least we don't have tears running down our faces at the restaurant!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Speaking of Coveting...

In my last post, I described my conversation with Yikealo about his post-Christmas attitude, and how we shouldn't always be thinking that we need more stuff or wanting what others have. While I realize that we all struggle with this at times, Yikealo and his cousin Zavier seem to take it to a whole new level when they are together. They love spending time with each other, but they are constantly fighting over the most ridiculous things! I mean, seriously, do these items look like "treasures" to you?

Well, let me assure you that two 4-year-old boys certainly thought that they were treasures. In saying that, let me explain several things: first of all, my parents have raised 5 kids and frequently take care of multiple grandkids. There is NOT a shortage of toys in the house. For crying out loud, my Mom still has toys that SHE had as a little girl, not to mention the thousands (literally) of other toys and games crammed into drawers and boxes and cupboards and closets all over the house. Secondly, Yikealo and Zavier don't actually PLAY with the items in question; instead, they are used solely for the purpose of taunting the other. For example, Yikealo would thrust the "sword" in Zavi's face and say something like, "Zavi, I have the sword. Ha ha!" which would, of course, cause Zavi to start screeching that HE wanted the sword. You get the picture.

So, on Wednesday, the sought-after item was this three-inch plastic sword.
Now, maybe it's just because I'm a girl, but I really don't get the appeal. It's not like you can actually use it for anything, right? (Other than taunting, that is.) Anyway, after we had listened to the bickering for quite some time, David removed the wonderful sword to the top of the refrigerator where neither Y nor Z could reach it.

On Thursday, they both had to have this horrible stuffed snake:
You're kidding, right? Not only is it ugly, but it's about a million years old, the thread is looping out of its right nostril in a disturbing way, and the stuffing is all bunched around inside, leaving certain areas strangely limp. It DOES make a keen whirring noise when you swing it around your head, but come on! Needless to say, the snake was also removed to the top of the refrigerator.

On Friday, it was the yellow plastic pliers (or "tweezers" as Zavi calls them.)
Now, I will grant that toy pliers could serve some purpose, but really, with the HOST of other toys around, are these really fight-worthy? What about them just screams "I HAVE to have that!!" to you? After some ear-splitting yowls from the boys, Casey (Zavi's mom) decided to set the timer for two minutes at a time, so that they could take turns holding the pliers. Once the reason to argue was removed, both boys lost interest fairly rapidly and ran off to play hide and seek. Apparently, however, Mr. Y hadn't completely forgotten the precious bit of yellow plastic, because at some point he managed to sneak them upstairs and "hide" them under his blankets - just so that he could wave them in Zavi's face first thing on Saturday morning. At that point, the pliers were also removed to the top of the fridge.

So, we're up to Saturday morning by now, and my Mom was busy completing last-minute preparations for the entire family to descend upon the house within a few hours. The noisy boys got sent off to the basement to play, with many injunctions to "STAY AWAY FROM THE PRESENTS!!!" A few minutes later, Zavi came back into the family room with an utterly dejected look on his face and asked Casey, "Mom, how old am I?" Casey looked confused and said, "Four. You know that." Zavi looked very relieved and replied, "Well, Yikealo said that I couldn't play with anything because I'm not four." Then he ran excitedly to the steps and called, "Yikealo, my mom said I'm four!" I made Yikealo come upstairs and asked him why he'd told Zavi not to touch any of the toys. Yikealo's response? "Well, I didn't think he was four." I asked what that had to do with anything. Yikealo replied, "I thought that he would make a mess." I gave him a little lecture about the fact that he was NOT the boss, and if he couldn't be nice to his cousin, he was going to be standing in the corner for awhile. The two boys headed back to the basement and peace reigned for a few moments...


...they came back upstairs arguing over whose turn it was to hold a ping-pong ball (or "pinkle" ball, as Yikealo calls it.) Never mind the fact that there were many other "pinkle" balls in the basement - this particular one obviously had special powers. Or something. Anyway, my Dad went to the basement to get balls for Zavi and Lexie too, since Yikealo was refusing to give up his right to "the one." You would think that if each of the kids was holding the same type of ball that they would stop fighting, right? Not so. About a half hour later, Yikealo and Zavi were playing tug-of-war over one of the balls on the staircase to the upper floor. David was heading down from our upstairs bedroom, didn't see Zavi and tripped over him, sending him tumbling down 2 or 3 steps. Zavi started wailing, and David (who had obviously had ENOUGH) put the offending ball down on the hard floor and stomped it to bits. He then calmly picked it up, walked to the kitchen to throw it away and told my Mom, "I owe you a new "pinkle" ball."

And lest you think that Zavi is always the victim, on Friday evening, about 45 minutes after we had put Yikealo to bed, some kids started shrieking from the other room. My brother Seth went to investigate and found a sobbing Zavi, who told him that "Yikealo just pushed me!" Seth informed him that Yikealo was sound asleep upstairs. Oops! Seth returned to the dining room with a little smirk on his face and said, "Hmmm...I wonder if ANY of the things he tries to blame on Yikealo are actually true?"

So, to all of you parents of multiple this what my life is going to be like continually when we bring a second child into the home? If so, how do you keep from going insane? Is it that they're just so cute?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Back to the Routine

The past two weeks have been crazy and fun and full of family, presents and noise. We spent 3 days and nights at David's parents' house with his whole family over Christmas and then last week we were at my Mom and Dad's place for five days and 4 nights. It has been great, but I'm glad to get back to my ordinary, everyday life too! Here's a quick blitz through some of the highlights of the last few weeks:

Lunch at Miss Molly's Tea Room with all of the M family girls - Grandma Alma treated us all and it was such a fun afternoon!

David wanted to start a new tradition of sleeping by the Christmas tree on the night before we opened our presents, so on the Wednesday night before Christmas, we did just that. A certain 4-year-old was just a little too keyed up about the whole experience, and was awake at 1:00 AM begging to open his presents. He stayed awake until sometime around 3:00, when we decided to give him a dose of Benadryl, which made him sleep until around 8 o'clock. At 7:30, while David and I were having our morning devotions by the light of the tree and a dimly lit lamp, he gazed lovingly down at our sleeping son and said, "At 3:00 this morning, I was convinced that we would never do this again, but right now I think it's a fabulous idea!"

After Yikealo opened his presents, we packed up and moved into Mom and Dad M's house for the remainder of the weekend. We had a marvelous time playing games, singing, having great conversations and eating lots and lots of good food. Yikealo had the chance to sleep in the basement with all of his boy cousins, which he thought was just great.
Notice the truly lovely face that Mr. Y is making in this photo. That's pretty much what we get if we tell him that we want to get his picture. Here are some other gems that he insisted on showing us:
There was an absolutely gorgeous snowfall on Christmas Eve, so after dinner on Christmas day, the kids all had a great time playing outside in the snow. When they came in, they were soaking wet, so some of them ended up wearing some interesting combinations to open presents. Here is our annual "grandkids" photo:

On Wednesday of last week, we packed up again and drove to Mom and Dad W's house, where we had several long, relaxing days. On New Year's Eve, Mom had a birthday party for my brother Doug, my sister Erica and her husband Chris, all of whom have birthdays in December.

On New Year's Day David and I celebrated our 16th anniversary, and my family also celebrated Christmas. Everyone came in time for lunch and later that afternoon after naps for the babies, we opened the mountain of presents. There are 14 grandchildren - ages 9 and under (with three of them not even 1 yet) - so things can get fairly chaotic at times, to say the least! Here's a picture of the whole family:

Lots of presents:

Zavier, Ashton and Malia in their new dress-up clothes: (You can tell that these kids belong in our family - we spent HOURS playing dress-up when we were little!)

David and Yikealo enjoying a little quiet time:

We played lots of games: Quirkle, Five Crowns, Settlers of Catan, and Pictionary.

All in all, it was a fantastic Christmas, but like I said earlier, it's good to be back to our version of normal. On Monday morning when he came to wake me up, the first words out of Yikealo's mouth were: "Mom, are we done with Christmas, or do I still get to open more presents?" He pouted briefly when I told him we were all done, which gave me a good chance to talk to him about some imporant things like being thankful, not coveting, and thinking of others. We counted up the presents that he's received from teachers, grandparents, cousins and us this year - somewhere around 15. Then we talked about how his birthmom and his new little brother or sister in Ethiopia probably didn't even have enough to eat while he was opening so many presents. I think that I got through, because when I was done talking, he looked at me and said, "You're right, Mama - I DON'T need anything else. Who should I give my stuff to? Should I give it to Quinn?" I told him that he didn't need to give away his new things, but that he needed to have a thankful attitude and that he should always be ready to share what he has. We'll see how long that lasts...