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.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Undies for Orphans

Brant sent out an APB to just about every one he knows asking for donations of new underwear for the children at Addy's Hope.   

His letter is below.   

I can't wait to see what God is going to do through this sweet boy and this project.

Dear friends and family--
My mom and I are traveling to Liberia in two weeks to meet my new brothers and do some work on their new orphanage that's being built outside Monrovia.You probably know that the Liberian president has suspended adoptions several times over the last 18 months and we don't know when we'll get to bring Amos and Kalee home, but we are still going to help out where we can and to spend time with the new guys.

By going without the usual birthday presents, my brother, Jay, and his friend, Josh, collected about 125 pairs of kids underwear at their birthday party last fall.    I would love to collect that many more to deliver to the orphanage when I go and was wondering if you might consider picking up a pack or two of kids underwear to donate the next time you are at the store.    None of these 50 kids have the advantages that I do and it's sad that they don't even have their own pair of underwear.    If they do happen to have a pair, they are sometimes only mere pieces of cloth that are pinned together. Getting new underwear would be a huge help to these kids......I can't even imagine being a little kid and not having any to put on.

The orphans at Addy's Hope are small because they are malnourished, so any boys or girls underwear sizes 2-8 would be great!!   My mom and I would be glad to come by and pick them up, just call us, or you can run them by here if you are in the neighborhood.   I would appreciate the help and I am sure that the kids will appreciate the underwear!   Mom and I depart early on Saturday, July 25th. 

If you'd like to read about the orphanage building project, you can go to www.futurefororphans.comThere's a cool story there about how Will and his Calvary classmates raised a ton of money for the well at the orphanage.   And here is a recent picture of Amos and Kalee---you can see that their condition is not the best.   Please keep praying that Amos and Kalee won't get sick, that Liberia will pass new adoption laws and that we can bring the boys home soon.

Thanks A Lot!

Monday, July 13, 2009

I'm packing my bags....

.........and on Saturday, July 25th  I am flying out to meet Amos and Kalee in Liberia.  

I'm taking Brant this trip......and.....we're just going.   I need to go.   The opportunity came up, the timing worked out.....I couldn't generate any reasons not to go.     

We'll connect on the way with two other adoptive parents and various volunteers making up a crew to finish work on the new Addy's Hope orphanage.   B is going to help out with construction at least part of the time we're there, but the only commitments, the only promises I have made--- are to Amos and Kalee.

I am going to be with them every possible minute I can be.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

So true....

A farmer I read about recently was quoted as saying, "Money can't buy love---or home grown tomatoes."

Standing over the sink just now, eating one of Jay's first beauties still warm with sunshine.....I couldn't imagine any truer words.   Or any better eating.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

No resolution in sight.....

Sadly, the news we've gotten lately about our adoption is not very encouraging.   The Liberian government has yet to pass new legislation regulating the care and adoption of its thousands and thousands of orphans.    There is no recent movement in the Liberian house or senate....and no bills on the floor for passage.   Adoptions remain closed in Liberia as they have been since January.  

Even though a Liberian judge signed a court degree that named me and Drew Amos's and Kalee's legal parents last September, we can't take custody of them and bring them home until those new laws are passed.  

Our adoption agency, unable to process adoptions to generate fees,  is out of money and can not meet payroll for the staff at the orphanage.   I'm not sure what the conditions are like there now or how-- or to what extent--- the 50 children there are being fed.   

I just know that Amos and Kalee need to come home to me and Drew......and to our houseful of boys and our pantry full of clean drinking clothes and beds.....and to the bins of Matchbox cars and soccer balls waiting just for them.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th!

Today is a distinctly American holiday---one of my very favorites.  I practically bleed red, white and blue, so you can bet that the stars and stripes are out in full force at my place. 

Even with a pool party, picnic and fireworks on tap, I can't help but be reminded of my Liberian boys and, an ocean away, the Liberian flag that flies over their orphanage.   

I see the Liberian 
lone star everywhere in decorations I've had 15 years or more.  I could swear Uncle Sam is even holding a Liberian flag.

If you haven't read the "Meant to Be" post in the sidebar on the left, I hope you will.   

The story behind that quilt and what it represents to our family just might give you goose bumps.   

It does me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Diagnosis: OLD

Basically, that's what my new optometrist, who can't be more than.....oh.... 22....told me after my eye exam this morning.   In her most chipper voice, she told me my vision problems were nothing to worry about, just a part of the normal aging process.   (Oh, thanks, doctor.  I feel so much better. )  

It was at this point, I could have sworn I caught her examining my crows feet and sizing up my age spots with the magnifying glass when she was supposed to be evaluating my retinas.

At any rate, as our visit went on, Dr. Chipper explained that I probably could get away with dime store reading glasses and  wouldn't need bi-focals for another few years....until I'm a little closer to 50.  (She had definitely gotten a good look at my age spots.) she waited for my eyes to dilate---and with the sensitivity of a rock---she blathered on and on about my mature eyes, incidental sun exposure and my potential risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts. 

Surely, I thought, my eyesight isn't my only sense that's in decline.   My hearing must be failing me, too.   Was this recent grad of The Doogie Howser School of Optometry actually talking to (forever young and hip)  ME??

My brain fritzed ever-so-briefly and....just for a tiny, little, un-Christ-like nano-second....I saw myself jumping up from the vinyl-clad exam chair, whipping off my disposable sunglasses  and soundly decking her (and her youthful skin and sharp, clear eyes) right then and there.  

Oh......if only I had been able to see her well enough to take good aim.....