Thursday, December 31, 2009

This Will make you smile, #4

I have found that one of the annoying things about international travel is having to deal with the metric system. I thought the whole world had given up on using it at about the same time the US did.....sometime after 1976 when I finished 4th grade math.

But no......not so! We had to do lots of conversions, especially when it came to figuring out the temperature and ultimately, at what point our brains were going to cook in the Liberian heat.....but alas, that's another post....

Anyway, as we were leaving Liberia and waiting to check our bags at the Monrovia airport, I noticed that the scales the agents were using displayed kilograms not pounds.

Worried that our bags might weigh too much, I turned to Will and said, "How do we convert pounds to kilograms again?"

"Okay, first divide by the temperature in Hong Kong. Then subtract the number of characters in the Greco-Roman alphabet. And finally, invert that number, reverse the first digit with the second-to-last and multiply by π. Got it, Mom?"

"Errrr........yeah. Got it, Will."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Home again....

Well....Drew, the boys and I are back from Liberia after something like 30 (gosh-awful) hours of traveling. We got in late last night......slept like rocks.....and I'm hoping that after another good night of sleep tonight, we'll all get back to feeling like ourselves.

It was an incredibly bittersweet trip. Bitter because it was so very hard to leave Amos and Kalee behind after spending the week together as a family.....playing on the beach....singing and laughing together....eating together around a big table every night. Both boys cried as we packed up their things and loaded up the car at the house we were renting. And both cried again when we said our goodbyes at the orphanage.

The trip was sweet, though, because we made incredible progress toward finalizing the boys' adoption:

-Just prior to our trip, the State Department announced that the US Embassy in Monrovia was moving ahead in tandem with the Liberian government to process adoption cases like ours that already have valid court decrees.

-On December 22nd we had a very positive meeting with Consul Steven Harper at the US Embassy where he confirmed the few remaining steps to complete our case.

-On December 23rd we met with two key members of the Liberian Ministry of Health who agreed to complete our case history. In fact, while we were there last week, MOH staff tracked down and interviewed the boys' biological father and visited the boys' mother's village to confirm her death and other necessary details.

All this to say.......Drew and I are oh-so-cautiously optimistic that the case history will be written up and complete in another few days. Having the case history will allow our adoption to quickly proceed to the US Consular's office where DNA testing should confirm that our boys' biological father is in fact who he says he is......and then....visas will be issued for Amos and Kalee to come to the United States. If every thing goes smoothly (and I hesitate to even write this) the process could be complete by the end of January.

After my first visit in August, I said goodbye to Amos and Kalee not knowing when I'd see them again. I didn't know what was going to happen with adoptions in Liberia or when things would move forward.

This time....I said goodbye without such a heavy heart. I left being able to say that Drew or I would be back for them very soon. I could tell Amos and Kalee that this long, painful wait is almost over....that it won't be long now until they can come home.

This time when I waved to them and said, "I'll see you soon," I really meant it.

Please continue to pray with me that God will make it all so and that He will see Amos and Kalee safely home to us.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Leaving on a jet plane....

Despite the snow all along the east coast, we are heading up the road (with 500 lbs of luggage) to Washington, DC where we hope to catch our flight to Brussels this evening and then go on to Monrovia, to arrive late Monday.

There are a lot of variables at play and we are not sure whether we'll actually be able to fly out or not. Don't know if Dulles will be open.....whether Lufthansa will cancel our flight.....or whether we'll even be able to make it out of our driveway, much less up the interstate to get to DC.

But......after talking to our travel agent (twice) we don't have many other options other than to try to make it and then see what happens.

I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

That's my girl.

Have I told you about my niece, Sophie?

Blogworthy if ever there was such a girl.

She came home from China to my sister and brother-in-law in 2003.

She is all kinds of cute.

And smart.

She takes ballet. And tap. And Chinese. And all sorts of other stuff that make my head spin.

I love that girl. I could dish her up with a spoon. Except when she cries. And then I don't know what to do with her.

Having her around satisfies my occasional need to buy something pink. Or to do foam crafts. Or to talk paper dolls. Or to try on various headbands just for fun.

The boys love her just a little bit, too.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Make a wish!

sweet, sweet WILL.

Will (aka "Dubya," "Willby," "Someone Thrilling" or our "Spare Heir") turned 14 fabulous years old today.

We are celebrating down at Topsail with steaks and the traditional M & M cake.....what else??
If you look closely at the frosting, you'll see where Will either licked it or swiped his finger through it.
He's not saying which.

("I won't yell at my son on his birthday. I won't yell at my son on his birthday. I won't.....")

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This Will make you smile, #3

Will was sitting next to me at the Orphan Sunday concert the other night. We listened as things got going and the broadcaster in Nashville announced the program for the evening. She rattled off the laundry list of performers and speakers:

"With us tonight, Jim Daly from Focus on the Family.....Dennis Rainey of Family Life....and from the Christian Alliance for Orphans, Jedd Medefind!"

Will leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Jedmedefin?? Isn't that the new cholesterol drug?"

Monday, November 9, 2009

Orphan Sunday, 2009

Yesterday was Orphan Sunday in the United States. Did your church acknowledge it? Did you know there even was such a day?

I got to be part of logistics planning for a local "live-stream" event here in Winston-Salem. Steven Curtis Chapman, Geoff Moore, some guys from Focus on the Family and the Christian Alliance for Orphans all spoke and performed "Live from Nashville" and the event was carried via satellite all across the country.

Attendance here at the local event was dismal. Maybe 25 people showed. All the radio spots and FaceBooking and Twittering and emailing didn't bring people out.

I won't lie to you; I was so, so disappointed.
Drew and I alone invited 139 families. One of them came.

You know....

I've been thinking about it and I'm not sure why people didn't come out. Maybe it was the beautiful, warm weather or because it was a school night. Maybe turnout was low because the Carolina Panthers were on tv.

Or was because people find thinking about the world's orphan problem too difficult......too overwhelming.....too uncomfortable. Maybe people think that they aren't gifted or called to serve that way. Maybe folks think that "someone else" is handling the 140 million orphans that live in our world.

The thing seems to me that the Bible couldn't be more clear about how to walk in God's will. Praising God and serving Him by caring for the orphaned and widowed and poor seem to be exactly what we are ALL called to do.

He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow,
and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. (Deut. 10:18)

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
Is God in His holy habituation.
God sets the solitary in families;
He brings out those who are bound into prosperity. (Ps. 68: 5-6)

Pure and faultless religion is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress. (James 1:27)

"But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?" (I John 3:16-17)

If I'm reading even just those Bible verses right, I get the idea that we can't call ourselves Christians and say we love God if we aren't caring for widows and orphans and showing needy people around the globe the love of Christ.

I don't think we can serve God and be selective about it. His call is so clear. Being the hands and feet of our Saviour must mean doing the tough stuff....the overwhelming stuff.....doing the stuff that challenges us and makes us feel uncomfortable.

And doing it in His name, to His glory.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Baby, we were born to run....

I got to see Bruce tonight.

Our 14th date.
And I have to say, it was just as special as our first time together.

That sweet man sang every song on the Born to Run album from start to "Bobbie Jean," because that's our song.

He laid off the whack political ramblings. He was only mildly jealous that Drew was there (singing every word to every song, loudly in my left ear).

Bruce made it a night to remember and at the end of our time together, we caught eyes and said our secret goodbyes.

Until next time, Boss. Until next time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This Will make you smile, #2

The house got a little too quiet tonight so...... I started looking for the boys.

Drew was watching Game 1 of the World Series, Jay was reading in bed, Brant was practicing guitar......

Will was working out on the tread mill.....with a sleeve of Oreos in one hand.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Adoption update...

The last couple of weeks have been pretty stressful as far as the adoption goes....hence my lack of posting.

On October 2, I contacted Senator Richard Burr's office (again) and while his staffer would not agree to contact any Liberian government officials, she did make an "official" inquiry to the US Embassy in Liberia on Drew's and my behalf. On October 9th, we received a letter from Senator Burr saying that the US Consular in Monrovia indicated that "the Liberian moratorium would not be lifted....until sometime after January, 2010."

Three loooooong, sad months away.

On October 7th.....there was an announcement made on the State Department website saying that, despite the moratorium, cases would be processed for those with "full and complete" adoptions. I immediately confirmed with our agency director that our Liberian court decree does, in fact, make our adoption full and complete.

I felt hopeful for a time.

Until....our agency director cautioned, that, even with our court decree--- even IF the Minister of Health completed a case history (the very LAST piece we need)---and even if, the US Consular issued visas for the boys, there is still the possibility that Amos and Kalee would not be allowed to leave Liberia because of the moratorium!

What circular craziness. It doesn't stop there.

Today, our director emailed to say that another adoption agency was being allowed to move forward with 7 adoption cases. She was thrilled; she suspected the Liberian government was finally feeling some pressure from stateside inquiries. An Addy's Hope employee was on his way to the Minister of Health's office to inquire about getting case histories completed for those of us with court decrees.

I spent the afternoon feeling encouraged---perhaps the State Department announcement was correct after all.

A little while ago.......another emailed arrived from our director. Apparently, no one at the Minister of Health's office knew any thing about case histories being written.....for anybody. She's going to follow up on the rumors and try to get to the bottom of it all tomorrow.

So, I head to bed......I'll pray again that God will keep Amos and Kalee safe and well until Drew and I can bring them home. I'll still seek God's will in this thing.....I'll try to discern what He's trying to teach me....what He has in mind for me and Drew to we might encourage other people to adopt. I'll ask God to show us what He would have us do to help the Liberian people.

I'll thank God, too, for all of you who are keeping us Dixons in your prayers. I'll thank God for those of you who have asked how you could donate to the orphanage because you want the children fed. I'll thank God for the people I've never met who have left voicemails and sent notes of encouragement because they've heard our story or seen our name on our church prayer list. I'll thank God for all of you who ask about the adoption because you are interested. And I'll thank God for all of you who don't ask because you are afraid it might be too hard for me to talk about.

Because, on days like is.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

This Will make you smile.....

Will and I were coming back from his high school a little late rolled down, just catching up and sharing our days. Kit was snoozing in the back seat.

I noticed how clear the skies were above us and the falling leaves swirling on the road. I had forgotten since last year how great a wood-burning fireplace smells.....

I said to Will, "Don't you just LOVE fall? The crisp air, the leaves changing, the smell of....."

He interrupted,


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009

Soccer Balls and Baby Dolls

Jay and his best friend, Josh, partied in their traditional Labor Day style to celebrate their 12th birthdays today. This year, they asked their guests--all buddies from their travel baseball team---to bring toys for the orphans at Addy's Hope.

Their Canes teammates came through in a big way and Jay and Josh collected 11 soccer balls, 2 footballs, 3 Tonka vehicles, a remote-control car, 15 Matchbox cars, 10 baby dolls and 5 Barbie dolls. Yahoooooo!

In between some fierce dodge ball matches and plenty of fast-paced basketball at the old high school gym, the partygoers also put together nearly 50 treat bags for the Addy's Hope kids. Josh's mom and stepdad very generously donated all the loot for the bags and each one included a pack of crayons, a tennis ball, stickers, markers, tissues, a toothbrush, party favors and PLENTY more to show the kids in Liberia that some one here in the US is thinking of them.

Our family will look forward to taking every thing over when we travel next.......but in the meantime, thank you Canes friends for your wonderful generosity and for remembering the children of Addy's Hope in Monrovia.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Our own.......Captain Underpants!!

Thank you to every one who contributed to Brant's "Undies for Orphans" drive. All tolled, he collected 782 pairs of kids underwear for the children at Addy's Hope in Liberia! He and I were able to take about 500 pairs (100 lbs!) over when we traveled in July and will take the rest when we go back to pick up Amos and Kalee.

Who knew there were so many Disney Princess underwear options for girls! Amazing.

You know, collecting "panties and briefs" (as the Liberians say) wasn't a glamorous project, that's for sure. Brant could have collected school supplies, or flip flops or toothbrushes or myriad other things for the kids, but he saw a need and decided to go out on a teenage limb to fill it. Thank you for supporting B as he grows and stretches and learns how to be the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Who can believe.....Jay is 12!

Jay set his alarm for 6am and got us all up early to celebrate his big day before school!
Babe was really, really happy with his new Nokona catcher's mitt, a few other trinkets AND the above-pictured box of taco shells. Will apparently dared him to put those on his birthday list--
just "to see if Mom is paying attention."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I love the smell of pencil shavings, Part 2

Today was Will's first full day of class as a freshman in the high school program at the UNC School of the Arts.    There are only 11 other 9th graders, only about 100 kids in the high school altogether, so Will has very small academic classes.  After two weeks, his music classes will start and he'll study privately with his cello professor and also take part in a studio group with other high school and college students. He can't wait....

Being that UNCSA is an arts school, a wacky mascot is a complete let's hear it for the Fighting Pickles!    

Will and I spent all day Friday and most of the weekend in various orientation meetings with riveting topics like:  "H1N1 and YOU,"  and "Don't get in a Pickle---Be Safe on Campus."  I'll spare you all the pickle puns.....though they sure were CUKE!

Anyway......if you don't know Will, can I just tell you that he is one neat kid?   Most days I'm amazed that he is my child.   He composes music and loves words.  He draws and paints and reads like crazy.  He writes and re-writes story after story.   He thinks and wonders and asks loads of questions.   Will requires very little sleep and when he does sleep, he dreams.  In color. Or in Spanish.   

Will makes me laugh and laugh....especially at the end of the day.

My prayer, and I hope yours too, is that Will will grow and thrive at UNCSA; that he'll perfect his art and play and write beautiful music to the glory of our God who created him.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Liberian "small-small"

One of the things that moved me most during my visits to Addy's Hope was seeing the way the children shared with each other.    Despite living in the most desperate of circumstances with very little to eat and almost nothing to play with, every one of them is willing to give up some of what they're given to any one else who needs or wants it.

I was able to shop at a small, US-style grocery store in Monrovia on my second day there.   I didn't realize then it was going to be my only shot at buying what we needed for the week, so I didn't put much thought in to any sort of meal planning.    I bought a few staples--bread, rice, peanut butter, saltines, pasta, canned tomatoes---and splurged on a package of chicken breasts, a small bag of frozen peas & carrots and some pricey kiwis and apples.     At the last second, I noticed a small freezer case holding some M&Ms and a few chocolate bars.   I tossed a couple of KitKats into my cart, thinking Brant might need a sweet treat during the week.

Our days started following a pattern and at the end of each visit to Addy's Hope, Brant and I would walk out to the car with Amos and Kalee as the other kids clamored around to say goodbye.  They'd hold on to our arms and hands through the car windows until Mark would yell something that would send them scurrying off.    

Amos's friends called to him,  "A-mah!  Bring chocolate!"
Kalee's buddies yelled without fail,   "Ka-deee, bring me a car or a Jeep!"   
The girls would grin and shout,  "Baby doll for meeeeee!"
Charles always asked for a wristwatch.

Early in the week, this didn't worry me---I was careful not to make any promises, but I thought for sure I'd get out again to do some shopping and maybe find some things on their wish lists.   After a few days, I'd seen enough to know that toys were not to be had and the only chocolate anywhere around was back in that freezer case on United Nations Rd in Monrovia.

Brant and I talked about what to do.  My sweet boy offered up all four of his KitKat bars....but I fretted still.    Chocolate is a hard-to-find luxury in Liberia because of the expense.  The kids at Addy's Hope rarely, if ever, get it because the heat and humidity make it hard for parents and visitors to travel with.    There was no way we could give a few kids chocolate without giving all 50 kids some.

I prayed for a loaves and fishes moment.....and on one of our last visits at the home, Brant and I took the candy bars over to share them the best way we could.   I tried to have confidence---I had seen Pedelia, the school teacher, divide up impossibly small things during the week.  She'd broken off bits of her own boiled peanuts and even split Smarties candies into halves (!) so each child could have "small-small" from a parent care package.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about.   My long-distance friend, Carolee and I had chipped in a little money to buy bananas for the kids and Pedelia arrived with those just as I was unwrapping the chocolate.  The children were thrilled with one ripe banana each and danced around excitedly as they ate.    Then Pedelia used a sharp knife to cut the KitKats into tiny, bite-sized pieces and passed them out. 

I've never seen any one, of any age savor a bite of food with complete self control the way those kids at Addy's Hope did that chocolate.   They nibbled on the corners.....licked carefully around the edges.   Some held their little bite in their mouths without chewing while it melted.   They sucked on their fingers afterwards in case a bit lingered.  

There was no bickering, no squabbling.   No complaining about portions.  Nobody took the babies' shares.   There was no expectation for a second piece........or that there'd ever be any more.   

There was nothing but complete contentment and gratitude for what they had been given.     

God's lesson wasn't lost on me and Brant.  We heard him, loud and clear.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Funny...we don't look alike...

One of the very best parts of my trip to Liberia was meeting Mark, the Field Director for Spirit Liberia---an NGO (non-government organization) that works in a variety of ways to spread the gospel and improve the lives of the Liberian people. Among other things, the Spirit Liberia folks minister to inmates in prisons, share the good news on the streets of the Monrovia area and provide support and training for agricultural and other projects so that impoverished families can become self-supporting.

While the founders of Spirit Liberia, Greg and Vanessa, were in the states preparing their family for a permanent move to Liberia, I was blessed to be able to rent their house for a week and make it "home" for Amos, Kalee and Brant.

Mark lives on site and was a huge help to me during the week I was there. I'm not sure how I would have survived the trip without him, in fact. Though Brant and I traveled to Liberia with a team of 8 other volunteers doing construction to complete the new Addy's Hope facility, once we arrived, we were separated by many miles and were actually only together for a short time during the week. Subsequently, I was on my own quite a bit and Mark graciously served as my very patient translator, driver, embassy escort and market negotiator!

I began joking with Mark after a few days that I felt sure, after all the trouble I'd caused him, I'd never be invited back to Spirit Liberia. At the very least, I was starting to feel the need to re-name Amos in his honor! When I came home one afternoon and realized Mark had washed the boys' messy laundry by hand without being asked----I knew I had met a very special person. And that was just my first clue---
  • My hair dryer consistently caused the generator to shut down in the mornings. Mark kindly restarted it for me...every time.
  • When I accidentally pulled the kitchen faucet out of the wall---creating a domino effect of other plumbing emergencies as I frantically tried to shut off the water flow at various junctures--- Mark realized that I had in fact broken a valve and drained both roof-top cisterns leaving us with NO water. He got a plumber out before sunrise the next morning to make sure the boys and I had all the water we needed by the time we got up.
  • Mark dropped every thing to accompany me to and from the US Embassy the day I had an appointment with the consular. I could have hired a cab and navigated it by myself, but he wouldn't hear of it. What we thought would take a couple of hours, ended up taking nearly 8. At the end of that exhausting day, Mark wouldn't even let me buy him dinner or a pizza at one of the few restaurants in Monrovia. But he did accept a cup of ice cream! He deserved 10 gallons of this Liberian luxury--and if we'd had a way to keep it cold, I would have bought it for him on the spot.
  • When neither the security guard nor I could get the belligerent toilet paper saleslady to leave the Spirit Liberia grounds, Mark answered my SOS, leaving his ministry work to come home to deal with her. Even though I didn't hear what he said, I know he defended me; he said later that he "explained a few things to her. " And that's all I needed to hear. I felt vindicated!
  • Following the toilet paper incident, Mark never left me alone. He read while I visited the kids at Addy's Hope, he waited patiently during the chaotic orphanage move, he never complained no matter how long I took or what I was doing. In retrospect, I don't think Mark was afraid I was in danger so much as I might bring about some sort of danger or calamity to myself!
As if being saintly weren't enough, Mark is a full-time student studying sociology at the University of Liberia. He is also a talented singer and musician and serves as worship leader at Bethel Cathedral of Hope near Monrovia. I was honored when Mark invited me and the boys to attend church services with him on Sunday, August 1rst--- our last day in Liberia. Bethel is a HUGE church with a huge congregation. Its sanctuary seats most of its 5000 members---all of them worshipping the same God I do, all of them His children!

As we drove home that day after church, Mark and Brant were in the front seat and the little boys and I were in the back. We were all hungry and tired but I realized as we talked, that Mark was getting up the courage to say good bye to us. He thanked us for worshipping with him. He said many kind things....and he said that he hoped we'd come back to Liberia someday. He assured me that Spirit Liberia would always make a room available---because, he emphasized, he and Brant and I were more than friends---we were family.

We continued the drive home from church and I pointed out spots where Amos and Kalee could get a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean. I tried to explain that when Drew and I come back for them, we'll all board a plane and fly across the water---that very water-- to their new home in the United States. I gestured and tried to be clear that just on the other side of the ocean was where we lived. The only thing separating us, I emphasized, was the Atlantic Ocean.

And at that exact moment, I glanced up into the rear view mirror and I saw that Mark was smiling. Maybe he was smiling at the absurdity of what I was saying......4500 miles is a long way by any standard.

Or maybe he was convinced like I was, at that moment in time, that the ocean wasn't that vast or that wide. Mark knows, like I know, that worshiping the same God makes us part of the same family of believers....and that means we really aren't going to be very far apart...ever.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I love the smell of pencil shavings.

Summer is over for Brant and Babe and our Christian school is back in session.  They humored me for another year and paused for our annual first-day-of-school photo as they headed out the door.   

Babe was only a smidge nervous on this, his first day of Middle School.    Once he got his binder organized Saturday, he was mostly concerned about the logistics of getting dressed out for PE and whether or not he'd need his protractor for Math class every day or not.

Brant was up early to be clean-shaven and looking good for the ladies of the junior class.

(Will continues to....uh......summer.   Today that meant sleeping until 11am and then making a batch of chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.....followed by PopTarts for late lunch.   He'll start high school in the music department at the UNC School of the Arts on September 1.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The good stuff

I don't even know where to start to tell you about my trip and all that I saw and did and the people I met while in Liberia. So while I figure out an angle on that, I'll skip to the good stuff you really want to know about: Amos and Kalee!!!

Kalee is as cute as a kid can possibly be. I spotted him first as I was taken through the orphanage's front gate----he was sitting in a plastic chair, presumably waiting for me, dressed in a red-striped t-shirt I'd sent months ago. I waved and called his name and he gave me a big smile he knew who I was. (Zing. I was goners.)

He was a little shy at first but warmed up fast! Kalee is funny and silly and sings to himself when no one is paying attention. He woke me up most mornings by flipping on the overhead light in my bedroom.

He loves, loooooves Matchbox cars and he calls helicopters "choppers." He carried his new cars in his pockets. Always. I think I scored big when I told him Jay had a wooden train set that he'd be able to play with here at the house.

As cute as Kalee is---he's a tiny, little wisp of a 5-year old boy. I'd say he's probably almost 3 feet tall.....but had on a pair of shorts for a 24-month old the day we met. He is rail thin......way underweight.....way undernourished. And since he couldn't keep up many of the size 4 shorts I took over for him.....he wore navy knit boxers most of the week.

Amos is such a beautiful child. He has high cheekbones and a beautiful smile and sparkly eyes.....and a hoarse voice that made me love him the first time he called me "Mom."

Amos is quick and aggressive on the soccer field and schooled Brant repeatedly! Later in the week, B turned Amos on to basketball and he learned to dribble and shoot in no time.....

And what a complete trooper. At the orphanage Amos is not considered a "big boy" so he's spared some of the harder chores around the house. But because he has a younger brother, he's expected to care for Kalee and make sure he's fed and has what he needs. Amos refills Kalee's water cup....he sweeps up their crumbs into his hands...he shares his portion of fish when he has some. He got up from the table after each meal and washed his and Kalee's plates and cups without being asked. And all it took was one sharp word from Amos for Kalee to fall into line.

Amos is about 4 feet tall but can't weigh more than 40 or 45 lbs. He wore size 4 shorts all week....could keep on 6s if they had a drawstring.....but only if. I learned that Amos broke his left forearm at some point before arriving at the orphanage and the bones were never set, so he has some pain with that that we'll need to get checked out once he gets to the States. I actually worried that Amos might have arthritis or some other joint issues when I first met him. His knees and elbows looked so huge and swollen. What I figured out though, was that his joints were normal sized---his arms and legs were just so painfully thin, they made his knees and elbows look enlarged. (Sad sigh.)

I have no idea really what life will be like once Amos and Kalee come home to us. I'm told there are going to be loads of challenges and hard days as we figure each other out and navigate how to be a new family together. I've read tomes about all the issues we're going to have to work through and deal with.

But during our week together in Liberia....I didn't really let myself worry about all that. I didn't feel cause or need to worry. There weren't a bunch of yellow flags raised. My mom radar did not issue a single warning. Our time together was way more good than sad......and we laughed and smiled way more than not.

Brant played a borrowed guitar many afternoons and as he would show Amos how to hold a pick and strum along, Kalee always sat close with me, humming along, a car in each hand. At those times, it was as if we'd always known each other.....always been together....always been part of a family. A family long in the making.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I have received so many great messages, emails and texts checking on me and asking about the trip.  I appreciate them all.   Brant and I both picked up coughs and colds while in Liberia and have been nursing those, in addition to trying to get over our jet lag, since we got back Monday night.  

I promise to blog about my trip....about the new (super-cute and wonderful) boys....and about my encounter with the belligerent door-to-door toilet paper saleslady..... just as soon as I can see straight.

In the mean time, here is the link to my Snapfish album where you can view most of the photos I took.  Many of them are from Amos's and Kalee's orphanage where Brant and I were swarmed by children each time we visited.   We always took stickers and candy when we went over....but it didn't take me long to figure out, all those kids really wanted or needed was to be held and loved.

That----Brant and I could do.

More soon. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

You can bow now....

The Crown Prince of Dixon is officially 16 years old.   

At the special request of HRH, the castle kitchen prepared his traditional birthday breakfast.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Sunday, August 2, 2009

On the Way Back

Will, Jay and I were able to talk to Amos and Kalee one more time before Kelly and Brant had to go to the airport.  It was great to hear their voices again.  I even got a few more words beyond "Yes" from Kalee....he said that he was singing at church this morning!

Kelly said church was great - 2-1/2 hour service!

Everybody sounds good.  I'm sure it was hard to leave Amos and Kalee there.  Hopefully it will not be long before we go back to get them and bring them home.

Thanks to you all for your thoughts and prayers.

I guess I'll let Kelly have her blog back when she gets home.....


Two goals were reached yesterday in Liberia:

1.)  Amos scored a goal playing at the home.  He was so excited and it was fun to hear about it via telephone.

2.)  The team reached their goal of moving the children into the new orphanage building last night!!!!

Kelly and Brant have their last day of this trip in Liberia today, starting off with worship at Mark's (from Spirit Liberia) church.  Can't wait to hear all about it.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Kelly as a Diplomat

I finally was able to talk to Kelly this evening.  She has had a busy couple of days and had run out of cell phone minutes.

Yesterday was her day to wade through all of the red tape that goes along with international adoption.  Needless to say she had several opportunities to practice her diplomatic skills.....

I won't go into the mind-numbing details, but there was a lot of waiting, a locked embassy door, phone calls to Midland, TX to our adoption agency to make some calls on our behalf to get the consular to open up, lots of paperwork, first the copies Kelly took over with her and then the originals (after the orphanage's teacher rented a motor scooter to get the file over to the embassy), more waiting and finally a submitted Form I-600 and Form I-864.  We still have more paperwork to file (most notably the case history from the Ministry of Health), but nothing more we can file until adoptions in Liberia start moving again.  There's also some form called a DS230 that we need to download and fill out.

Kelly has definitely learned about the "unstructured" way things work in Africa.

Kalee's fever subsided and he has had a good couple of days.  Amos' had a similar bug overnight.  Kelly's quite certain she's next.  So pray for health for all of them.

Brant has had a blast being a big brother to Amos and Kalee.  Lots of basketball, soccer, super balls, frisbee, watercolor paints, drawing, movies, etc.  (Brant was at the Spirit Liberia house with them from 8am to 4pm while Kelly was out being a diplomat.)

During the 2 hour lunch break that the embassy personnel took yesterday, Kelly was able to get out and explore Monrovia.  She shopped and bought Liberian clothing for all 7 of us.  We will have a fashion show with pictures when she gets home.  She also continues to be amazed at the throngs of people everywhere in Monrovia.  She even said that if the buildings were taller, it would remind her of NYC with all of the hustle and bustle.  Instead, all of the buildings are only a couple of stories tall and are all falling down.  She said the destruction from the war is everywhere and that there are young children everywhere on the streets.

Everybody was at the orphanage today.  Highlight was the spaghetti and sausage and fresh fruit feast co-sponsored by the Bolithos and us.  The kids all loved the food and Kelly said she took a bunch more pictures of everybody.

The big news is that it looks like the kids will be moved into the new orphanage building Saturday evening.  Praise God!  Pray for the move and that everything would go smoothly.  Brant was at the new orphanage site painting this afternoon/evening.

Well.....I think those are the highlights.  Thank you all for your prayers, thoughts and notes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

From "Pa in America"

Kelly and I were only able to talk for 2 minutes today because she was running out of minutes on her prepaid card:
  • Kalee has a fever.  Kelly said he's hotter than anybody she's ever felt.  Pumping him full of ibuprofen and keeping an eye on malaria.  She said he sat in a chair at the orphanage and cried a lot.  Please pray for him.
  • The security guard at the house came in and had a long conversation in Liberian English with Amos.  Kelly couldn't understand a word of it.  She said it was like the Vietnamese ladies at the nail salon.  After they finished talking, Kelly asked Amos what the security guard was asking him and he said that the guard wanted to know where Amos' Pa is.  Amos said, "In America!"  More music to my ears....if only I had such great music among the 2,834 songs on my iPod.
  • Tomorrow is Kelly's meeting at the U.S. Embassy with the Consular.  She will be filing some paperwork (I-600 and I-864)....unfortunately nothing that will speed up our cases but at least it is some little bit of something we can get done while we wait.
(We squeezed a lot of news into two minutes of prepaid cellular time.....)

On the homefront, we did receive our renewal from USCIS......we're still "approved" (Form 171H) to adopt 2 males aged 3 to 10 up until January 23, 2011.  Hopefully it won't take that long........

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hello Papa!!!!!!

Music to my ears.   The very best kind of music.  After months and months of wondering what Amos and Kalee sound like, I finally got to speak to them on the phone today.  Amos was on first and sang, "Hello, Papa!!!!!"  Incredible.  Sweet.  Music.

What do you say to your sons that you've never even met?  My mind was racing.  I was finally able to come up with some chit chat, mostly guy stuff about soccer/football and basketball.  Apparently, Brant is already coaching them on the finer points of basketball as the house where they are staying has a hoop.  We are very blessed to have this house for Kelly and Brant and Amos and Kalee to stay is an American missionary's house and they are on furlough, so 4/7 of our family has moved right in for the week.  Amos and Kalee are able to stay there in relative comfort compared to their usual crowded orphanage surroundings.

Amos was more talkative than Kalee.  All I could get Kalee to say was "Yes", even to questions that were not "Yes/No".  It sounds like they have had a great day.....lots of drawing and coloring and playing and soccer and basketball.  Pizza for lunch....two slices apiece.  Chicken stir fry for dinner.

Kelly and Brant promise that they are taking lots of pictures....they are going to hang out at the orphanage again tomorrow.

I'm already looking forward to tomorrow's phone call.......

Monday, July 27, 2009

Trip Update #1

This is Drew.....I've hijacked Kelly's blog because she can't get an internet connection over there.  I just got off the phone with her.  After 27 hours of traveling yesterday, she and Brant finally met Amos and Kalee this morning.  Kalee was waiting at the front gate of the orphanage property for her this morning and Amos wasn't far behind.  Long, busy day at the orphanage with lots of soccer and Captain Underpants (a.k.a. Brant) did his thing and handed out the nearly 800 pairs of undies he had collected.  Thank you to all who supported the undie was very much appreciated by the kids and staff!  It is amazing to me that Kelly and 3 of my sons (2 of whom I haven't met yet) are an ocean away.  I'm looking forward to getting to talk to them over the phone tomorrow.  They have shared their first meal together.....Spaghetti-Os......doesn't sound like Chef Boyardee has quite won them over yet......Kelly says they'd much rather have the fish stew they had for lunch.  Kelly will be hitting the market tomorrow to get the "good food".   Thank you for all of your prayers and support!  Keep the prayers coming!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Out the door---

I'm packed up and heading out with Brant (and all that underwear!) in a little while.  Drew is taking us to the airport in one city and then driving several hours to pick up Will who is returning from VT in another.

I remember now why I don't do a bunch of traveling.   My brain gets overwhelmed with all the little details......and I kinda get in to a tail spin.   But that's a different post for a different day.

Today, I'm feeling caught somewhere between memories of going a first date and delivering my first baby.   You know....lots of wondering what things are going to be like......and if I can do it.....

Will Amos and Kalee like me?  
Can I be witty and entertaining enough to suit them?  
What are their personalities like?   Their voices? 
Will they know who I am when they see me?
Will they hold my hand?

I'll let you know.....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Brant's Orphan Undie Update

 752  pairs........and counting......

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Good times......

Drew is in Minnesota on business. 
Brant is in Florida on fun.
Will is in Vermont doing who knows what, without a lot of supervision BUT with his own debit card. 

That leaves me and Jay to hold down the fort here at the house.  We are almost never home alone together---and certainly not for days at a stretch---so we are making the most of it.

  • One morning we slept in and stayed in our pjs, playing UNO until noon....then ate lunch out at Jimmy John's.   
  • One morning we got up early to eat breakfast at Waffle House (and marveled how much time we had to play UNO afterwards because we hadn't slept in).
  • Today we started with a game of UNO, had a bagel at Panera,  followed by a trip to Dick's for new batting gloves, a hair cut, some mom errands and then, wrapped up the afternoon with an early dinner at Carrabba's.
I definitely saw the pattern emerging early in the week.   With Brant and Will gone, Babe wanted to exert his authority by playing what HE wanted to play and choosing HIS favorite places to eat out.    So, I let him.  Heck, it's hard being the baby of the family.  Trust me.

The result has been surprising.  Who knew Jay could be so talkative?  We've had some great, uninterrupted conversations.   Just me and him.   Freckle to freckle.   Seeing Jay across the table, or across the UNO pile,  is almost like looking back in time at oh....1977.

Nothing, however---- nothing--- Jay and I have done this week, has been more fun than playing old school wiffle ball in the driveway.   In a nod to a simpler time when we'd wile away the early afternoon hours waiting for the big boys to get off the school bus, we pulled out the orange plastic bat and put out the rubber bases.     

Back in the day, we batted off a tee....Jay was 4 or 5.   I'd  get a hit and jog slowly to first base so Babe could make the play.   Sometimes I'd throw in a little indignant arguing when he called me out, just for realistic effect.   When he batted, I'd bobble my catches as he raced around the bases.   We'd laugh and laugh.  Jay loved it and I loved playing it with him---it was our game.

Nowadays,  Jay gives me extra pitches, bats left-handed "to be fair" and......he's the one taking his time going after the ball.   I'm jogging more slowly for real these days.   And I'm not just feigning indignant arguments anymore.   But still, we laugh and laugh.

Though he wouldn't admit it to me,  Jay, an emerging gentleman, let me win our first wiffle ball game.  He oooohed at the "bombs" I was hitting.  He acted impressed with my batting stance.  He coached me to be patient and wait on the ball.    When I pitched, he told me I had a good splitter......even though I didn't mean to throw a splitter.   

When I won, I danced and celebrated and I gloated to the rest of the boys, texting the monumental news: 

Jay let me enjoy the glory and then later, as we said good night, he gave me a squeeze and said,  "You're the one that got me started loving baseball, Mom."  

Wow.   Thanks, Babe.   
Put another W in my win column.