We've missed our evening ritual of making entries into the blog. Not much has happened since returning home; most of our time was spent (John) catching up at work and (Jenny) trying to reverse the jetlag and kick the nasty cold. We should be back to normal by tomorrow (that's the plan, at least).
We wanted to share something with everyone. We just found out about it this evening, so we apologize for the short notice. Also, we realize that no one is expecting new posts, so this message might not even make it very far. Still, we thought we'd give it a shot...
November is National Adoption Awareness month. To celebrate and promote this, AAI (Adoption Advocates International, the agency that helps us with EVERY aspect of bringing Courage and Delight home) has challenged each family involved in an international adoption to find a creative way to create awareness for the needs of the kids in the homes AAI works with.
We heard that the Oswald family will be eating PB & J for every meal from now until Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday. They will then take the money they would've spent on those meals and send it to the kids in Ghana. We thought this was such a great idea, so we are joining in the fun. Our purpose for telling this to you is that we hope some of you will join us. Trust me, you can survive on PB & J for 4 days...I know, since I subsisted on protein bars and water for 14 days. Think of all the meal prep you'll save and can then use to research International Adoption and decide whether or not you'd like to be on the next plane to Africa. (Okay, that was a shameless plug. I'm just joking.)
Anyway, if you want to join in the fun, it'd be a great teaching tool during the upcoming Thanksgiving Week. We look forward to what this will teach our kids as well as what we learn from the sacrifice. Just let us know your plans and then we can help everyone get any proceeds from their PB & J week sent securely to AAI, who funds the feeding of Delight and Courage (and all the many other kids at the orphanage).
We look forward to hearing from any of you. We send our love and express gratitude for what you've alerady done and what the future holds for all of us.
Talk to you soon...
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
John: Well, I am sitting at the Airport in Accra waiting to board and leave these wonderful new friends and family we have just met. This morning we woke up and had some good family time at the hotel with the kids. Our plan was to play with them until noon then go get some chicken and fried rice at the corner for lunch. After that, we’d go to the orphanage until 3:00 to say our goodbye’s and then have our new friend Divine the Taxi driver pick us up and take us to the airport. Well at about 9:30 I realized that I hadn’t taken any good-up pictures of Courage. I asked him to come outside with me so I could take some in front of a pretty green bush. Delight followed, and we started taking some pictures. I was surprised at how well both of the kids were handling everything. We were outside for about five minutes and then we went back into the room (to enjoy the wonderful air conditioner). As I was opening the room door I looked down at Courage and I noticed he was quiet but had tears running down both cheeks. I assumed it’d finally hit him that we were leaving. I went over to the bed and put him on my lap and asked what he was feeling. He didn’t answer (what a surprise). I asked him again, “Why are you crying?” He said, “Delight Beat me!” We have been here for over two weeks and we haven’t had a single behavioral issue the entire time. I figured that I had misunderstood him. I looked at Delight and asked, “Did he just say what I think he said? Did you beat him?” She just smiled and looked away like she was embarrassed. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “Are you kidding me? You just beat him?” For the first time ever to her, I said very sharply, “Delight, that makes me very unhappy. Go sit down on the chair in Time Out until I tell you that you can move.” She looked at me to see if I was serious. I pointed to the chair and said, “NOW”! She went over to the chair and buried her head into the cushions and started to cry. I thought to myself, “Why now”? Why do we have to do this right as we are leaving? I comforted him and within a few minutes he was fine and we put on their favorite movie, “Johnny Lingo.” I waited for about five minutes and my soft side came out and wanted to go make up with her. She started pouting and wouldn’t talk to me for about two hours. Jenny was getting annoyed that I kept trying to get her to talk. She said to just let her be. I agree with that but we only had three hours and we were going to have to say goodbye for four months. I didn’t want to leave like that. We decided not to go back to the orphanage at 12:00, but to eat lunch and to take a nap at the hotel. We all four lay on the bed. I had Delight on one side and Courage on the other. He was totally snuggling up to me and Delight was all wrapped up and wouldn’t even hold my hand. It was killing me. Needless to say when she was sound asleep I slid my arm under her so that she would wake up snuggling. I was hoping that she would forget what had happened. I am happy to report that it worked and she was the sweet little Delight that I learned to love this past two weeks.
Before leaving the hotel, we knelt down for one last family prayer before we said goodbye. We all shed many tears and hugged until we figured we better just start walking back to the orphanage. When we got there we all went into the little office area of Emily’s and once again the tears started to flow. For a diversion, I asked Delight to give me a little tour of the home while I recorded it on video. We went up to the bed rooms of the kids and then went into the girl’s room. The only girls in there were Mahti, Elizabeth, and Nestine. They were all so sweet when we walked in. They all had these huge brown eyes, waiting for us to say something. They knew what was going on. Jenny followed me in and immediately Delight started the water works all over again. Mahti was sitting on the floor doing something so I went over to her and put my arm around her and asked her to help Delight when we leave. I reminded her how she felt when Jason and Brandie left. She gave me the biggest, sweetest, smile and told me that she would. My heart melted once again. I just love these kids so much. I gave her a big two-armed hug and said, “Hey Mahti, do you realize that the next time I will see you it will be in America?”
Well, that was a mistake. She immediately buried her head into my chest and started crying harder than Delight. I still don’t know if those were happy or sad tears, but I do know that these kids know exactly what is going on. We cannot ever take anything for granted and assume that they don’t understand. Ever since they were abandoned their only dream is to find a Mommy and Daddy and go have a real family. I think it just tugged at her heart strings, and reminded her at how close she really is to realizing that dream. She went over to Delight and gave her a big hug and said something in Ewe that I obviously couldn’t understand. Then I felt that it was a good time to slip out of the room. Jenny told me that she had a similar experience in the other room with Courage and his little BFF Joshua.
I think they must have injected all the chicken I eat here every day with a double dose of estrogen, because I cried like a girl today. I have no idea how I am going to cope with the next four months, but I do need to get back to work so I can pay for all of this. I am just going to pray that God will take over and give me the strength to focus on what I can control and leave the rest in his hands.
Our flight will take off in forty-five minutes and then I am on a twenty-three hour journey back to Idaho. I am wearing a light weight golf shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. I didn’t even bring a long sleeve shirt. Last I heard it was only like 23 degrees in Idaho. I am probably going to freeze when we get to Boise. I think I will welcome that for at least a few minutes.
I am in JFK airport right now; we landed at 4:16 after and 11 hour, 8 minutes flight. It went well but because of this souvenir I brought home from Ghana (sinus infection, earache and head cold) I wasn’t able to sleep as much as I’d have liked. Hence, it’s gonna be a long day…
I hope you don’t think I’m imbalanced or off my rocker for what I am about to say, but…I WAS THRILLED TO SEE AND HEAR DELIGHT CRY!!! I just kept hugging her and giving her continued permission to “let it all out, have a good cry.” She was very obedient, and finally let herself grieve for what I assume has been 11 years of hard stuff. They are so conditioned to keep their emotions in check. While she lives in Ghana, I suppose that is okay. But when they get home with us, I hope they can learn to cry when they need to. Sometimes it is so therapeutic to just bawl your eyes out. When we turned the corner yesterday to walk away, that’s what she was doing. I’d be interested (if we were better able to communicate) to hear if she felt the cathartic release that surely had to come after all of those tears. Someday when she has the English comprehension and her little heart has healed, maybe I’ll ask her…
We need to hurry and find a “hotspot” to upload this and then get ready to board the flight to Minneapolis. I think we’ll write some more tonight, this time from HOME (and sufficiently medicated and decongested).
I’m having a hard time knowing how to say thanks to all of you, so for now…I’m just going to say, “Thanks.” That was pretty clever, huh? Yah, I spent the whole flight thinking that one up. My quick wit and astounding command of the English language are unparalleled. (Whatever!)
Monday, November 14, 2011
Well, tonight’s entry will likely be the last one we complete while we are here in Teshie. It seems cliché, but I really cannot believe how fast it flew by.
We have had the kids with us uninterrupted since Saturday morning and they’re staying in the hotel with us again tonight. We watched Johnny Lingo for the third time and had a little “going away party” for mommy and daddy. “Party” around here means purple fanta, beef jerky and fruit roll-ups. We run a pretty humble catering operation these days, but it got the job done. We had fun, spent a significant amount of quality time together and made one last day of memories.
By this time tomorrow night, we’ll be at the airport, waiting to board the trans-Atlantic flight from Accra to New York City. Even after being here for so many days, it is still crazy to me that I am on the western coast of the African continent. Leaving here will be bittersweet, but it is something we have to do. If we don’t go home, we can’t file our i-600. Without that, we can’t get passports and visas and everything else we have to get to bring them home.
I think Courage and Delight have seen many of their friends spend time with their new parents and then have to tell them goodbye. I also think that they’ve seen many of those same parents return to pick up their kids and take them home. From that , I hope they’ve learned to trust that we’ll come back. I wonder if anything they have to do once they get home to America will be as hard as watching us walk away. What on earth is that going to feel like for them? For us? John has already informed me that I’ll need to be patient with him tomorrow; he is already becoming tenderhearted and a little misty about what’s coming. I felt like an insensitive dirt clod that he’d think he needed to warn me of where he was venturing emotionally. I guess I have some work to do as the loving, supportive wife I’m supposed to be.
I will never be the same after coming here. I always tried to live my life as a grateful person, but after the last many days, I have a new appreciation for the little things I have always taken for granted. Electricity on demand, running water on demand, edible fruit and vegetables (heck, edible food…period), a comfortable home, the blessing of great schools with first-rate faculties and staff where my kids can learn intellectually and grow socially, family and friends that are practically perfect in every way, and on and on… I’d better make bedtime a little earlier once I get home because my nighttime prayers are going to take a little longer now that I’ve realized how many more things I need to express gratitude for.
So thanks for coming along with us on this ride-of-a-lifetime. Talking back and forth with so many of you (Skype, comments on the blog, email and Facebook) has made the experience all the more memorable. We woke up every morning just craving word from home. You don’t know how happy it made us when messages popped up. Thank you so much for that!
I keep listening to that Michael Buble song called “Home” on my iPod tonight. What a cheeseball I am, huh? Still, it makes me smile and cry and get all mushy about what’s happening tomorrow. So what am I gonna say now? Yep, “JENNY…YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS.” And tomorrow just might top the list…
OK, it’s me… I should be feeling more grateful for all the blessings we have enjoyed the past 2 weeks, but all I can see now is how terribly hard it will be to say good bye tomorrow. I look over onto the floor and see Delight trying to fall asleep on her mattress and she keeps singing that song, “I am blessed, I am blessed, I am blessed…” I wonder if she knows what that means.
As I look back on the first moments and hours here, I learned what unconditional love is all about. To hold a child, and within 30 seconds they hug you tight and say, “I love you daddy”! There are no biases, no preconceived notions, and no hidden agendas. Their love simply comes from knowing there is a warm body there that is kind to them. I have so many emotions going through my head right now but as I try to write them they sound so cheesy, I know I won’t be able to put them to words. I have fallen in love, (true love) with two kids that I have only talked about and saw in pictures until sixteen days ago. It is impossible that the way Courage jumped and hugged me that first moment could be the result of something wonderful I had done for him because I had just gotten there. It was the idea that someone loved them enough to come from America and fill the role of a father and protector. I hope that makes some sort of sense. Starting from that little building block, over the past two weeks we have turned that conceptual love into a forever love. I just hope and pray that over the next ten to twelve years I will be able to reciprocate and live up to that immediate love and trust. I really feel the depth of that responsibility.
As I have had these feelings, I also think of the three children I have in Idaho who I also made the same commitment years ago to my Heavenly Father. He entrusted them to me at birth. I don’t think I will ever look at the role of “Father” the same as I did two weeks ago. That is the greatest title I could ever want to wear. These little children here throw the word “daddy” around to any man who is nice to them, but I have learned the there is a deeper feeling they mean when they say it.
In the past six months I have had the opportunity to rub shoulders with many good Christians from many different denominations, and even different cultures. I have been reminded that we are ALL children of a loving Father in Heaven. Though we may worship differently, play a different type of music, speak differently, and even dress differently, I have found that all Christians are just trying to live their life in a way that is pleasing to God. I have had intimate conversations with my brethren here in Ghana that has led me to know that God is using His Christian servants to accomplish His work.
Pastor John (Black) and our good friend Job, came by our hotel tonight on their way to the Volta Region (a journey that will take several days). It was just going to be a quick visit to make sure we were all in and safe for the night, but when I followed them outside we both realized that we wouldn’t see each other again until our “pick-up” trip. I gave John a big hug, and told him that I am grateful for the ministry he has created here in Teshie. Delight was standing out there with us, and I looked at her and told him. “I sure love that girl, please take care of her while I’m gone.” He put his hand on my shoulder and told me that we will, and that she is getting a father that is a “Man of God”. Those of you that know the whole story from the beginning will know just how much that meant to me. John and I have connected because of our mutual love for God and these wonderful children here at CKO. For that I am very grateful. I do love them with all my heart.
I just wish I had the means to take all forty some kids home with us right now. I would do it in a heartbeat. Ok, with all the confused emotions I am having I don’t know if any of that made any sense, but I’m going to leave it at that. The kids are asleep now, and tomorrow is going to take all the energy I can muster, so I better get some shut-eye.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Is it bad that I’m anxious to be home? I worry about my emotional and mental fortitude and feel like a big fat baby for being so desperate to be home. If I can’t even handle two and a half weeks in Africa, how am I ever going to raise two children from Ghana? I suppose it all comes back to the answers we got to the prayers we offered when this whole thing began. It was clear then that this is the will of the Lord, and if I am going to live what I believe, then I will just have to trust that I’ll be able to do this. Take a deep breath, Jenny…
I catch myself subconsciously becoming detached from the kids, probably as a defense for having to leave them in 2 days (less, actually, since we’ll have to leave at about 6:00 on Monday evening.) But, then they go and do something cute and the distance goes away and all is well again. They don’t seem to be acting too distraught about what will happen in 36 hours, but I know they are cognizant of it. We talk about it pretty frankly and have even been making plans for what they need to do while we wait to bring them home. I wonder what Monday will be like. (We will leave here at about 11 o’clock a.m. Nampa time on Monday. Please say a little prayer that everything is going okay and the tears and goodbyes aren’t more than we can bear. That might be wishful thinking, huh?)
We were able to find some hardbound books that have 96 sheets of blank notebook paper inside. We got 4 for Delight and 2 for Courage. I told them that the books were for them to use to practice writing the words we made on the flash cards. (Mommy said “flash,” he he he). I knew Delight was excited and got to work straight away. She wrote the word once and then copied it 4 more times, saying it as she wrote. Courage was a surprise to me, though. I figured that based on his not being able to read, he’d just use the books to draw pictures. Not so…
John and Delight went to First Junction to get some apples for her to take to the girls in her room before bed. Courage stayed in the hotel with me. I thought he’d play with his car or etch-a-sketch, but he immediately grabbed his book, opened it and put it on my lap. Then he handed me the flash cards and we got to work. He copied 26 words 4-5 times each. He didn’t know how to read/say most of them, but we sounded them out and well, it’s progress. After the words, he wanted to work on his letters. I think he practiced writing each letter at least 10 times; some of the narrower ones were able to fit about 15 letters per line. It was so amazing to me to see him sit there concentrating so intently on his writings. I had mistakenly not spent as much time with him on the letters and words. My bad. He wants to learn and that was clear to me tonight. A few times he’d get up, wiggle around for a bit and then get right back to it. He’s got a tough road ahead to be where he needs to be academically. But from what I saw tonight, he has tenacity and desire. I am NOT going to set a date or give myself unrealistic expectations. But right then, I promised myself that I will not let-up until that boy is fluent at his grade level and has developed a love for the ability to read. Any of my friends in the profession of education who have suggestions or advice on this, please don’t hesitate to pass it along. I need all the help I can get on this one!
We went to the market today for a few last minute items since tomorrow is Sunday. We endured the most unbearable heat yet. I think it was because we were in this dank, cramped enclave of enclosed wooden rooms and there was no hope of getting the vast, sprawling expanse ventilated. We were literally soaked when we were finished (and I know this because after two hours back in the hotel, our shirts were still damp…ick!) Nevertheless, the kids never made a peep. I could tell they were NOT having fun; heck, I was wanting to fork MY own eyes out, I can’t imagine how bored, annoyed and hot THEY were. Plus, we found out that they’d not eaten any breakfast and it was nearly one o’clock before we finished. Why they didn’t eat is a mystery to me. Still, to act like that and do it on an empty stomach? Good kids!
My favorite part of today was praying with them tonight, kneeling by the side of the bed. Courage was a little fidgety, but Delight said something to him in Ewe and he froze with his eyes squeezed tight, head bowed and arms folded. I had to hide my face so they couldn’t see me laugh. Sometimes she is quite the little drill sergeant! It was wonderful to speak to Heavenly Father with them. The only thing that would’ve made it better would have been if Emily, Abby and Colt could have been with us, too. Soon…
Tomorrow is our last full day with them for the next many months. I will hearken back to my “I Can Do Hard Things” mantra many times throughout the day, I am sure. One day in the not-too-distant-future, I’ll look back on the next 90-120 days and they’ll be part of the past. It is hard to be on this end of it looking ahead, though. But I have a gazillion projects to keep me crazy-busy for the next 4 months (7 Ghanaian quilts to be made, housekeeping to-do’s that have been neglected too long, bedrooms to prepare, 2 wardrobes to make/borrow/buy, a 9, 11, and almost 13-year-old to love and dote on, and a future to prepare for that will be even more of an adventure than we’ve already had). I think I have plenty to do to keep me busy and sidetracked.
Plus, we found out today that the orphanage hired a teacher, so school will begin again on Monday for the kids. That is an enormous relief to me because it will be a worthwhile, engaging diversion to them and allow for more academic strides to be made while we are apart. I think that one might just have a Divine Signature stamp on it, since it has been a troubling concern to my mind and heart.
It is very late and although there are people drunk and partying all over this place, I need to at least try to get some sleep. It was a joke last night (the windows don’t close all the way and they don’t try to whisper); they seem to still be going strong tonight, as well. I’m learning some very colorful African terms and expressions. The language is about as good as the food tonight. Yikes! Now I’m hungry AND feeling slightly violated.
Incidentally, John won’t be writing anything tonight. He is exhausted. I think it is because he sacrificed his precious Spanish Novellas (heinous Mexican soap operas) for Barbie Fairytopia, and the excitement was way too much for him to handle. Or, maybe he’s got Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from watching those gnarly flying gnome things on that movie. They were kinda disturbing, if you ask me… Either way, he’s tapped out for tonight. Nighty night, my favorite Father of Five!
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Wow, it looks like John White gets to start this one off. Jenny had found that at 9:00 sharp, CSI is on at the hotel. I will let her indulge herself in the drama of CSI while I start the blog for today.
This morning we went to the orphanage and hung out with the kids there all morning. Nothing spectacular happened but we had a good time. At about 11:30 we took the kids and walked back to the hotel and watched a movie while once again the kids ate some Kankee we bought on the street during our walk. I know that stuff is disgusting but it is so cheap and the kids love it. They watched the movie and just enjoyed the quiet time with Mommy and Daddy while we waited to go back to the Ramada to go swimming at what the kids call “Circle Beach”. (The pool) we got there about 2:00 and the kids and I swam until about 4:00 and then we ordered a wonderful dinner. (It takes over an hour to get it so we ordered it early). They once again had Goat soup and Banku, while Jenny and I split a pizza. Like I said earlier, it was just kind of a nice, quiet day. The four of us spent some alone time together and we are not talking about it but we all know that Monday will be here before we know it. The kids were well behaved but are starting to get quiet again.
We found out that Delight and Courage are from the exact same tribe in the Volta Region. We learned last night that Courage’s mother was very, very sick when the social worker came and picked him up. (One year ago in October). When Delight started to talk about their village, Jenny asked if she knew Courage all her life and she said yes. I asked if she knew Courage’s parents, and she said that she knew his mother. I looked at him and immediately he got very quiet and just lay down on the bed. I’m assuming that his mother died shortly after he was put into the orphanage but I can’t imagine what the past couple years would have been like for him. Maybe someday they will talk about it.
That was the first time Delight has talked about their village. We had a wonderful day, and walked the kids back to the orphanage tucked them in. Tomorrow night we are planning on letting them sleep at the hotel and see how that works out. We are going to go to a church we found that meets at 10:00 and the kids are excited to see what Primary is all about. That is why we will be having them sleep over so we don’t have to go get them Sunday and take them in the middle of their church. I’m sure it will be great.
I did get a glimpse of what goes through the mind of these kids while they wait for things to happen on our part. When I was tucking in the kids, and I went into the room of the little girls, as always they started jumping off the bunk beds into the air and onto me so I can give them a big hug and kiss goodnight. I noticed one of my many favorites (Believe) didn’t do it tonight. She is the sweetest girl. She wasn’t crying but was lying on her bed and looked like she was about to start at any time. I went up to her and kissed her on the cheek and asked what the matter was. She said that she wanted to talk to her mommy. I am Facebook friends with her mommy so I took her down stairs to see if we could Skype with her. I did catch her with a FB message but she was 10 minutes from home. Believe was so tired that I knew she wouldn’t make it 10 more minutes. I just took a quick video with my camera of her saying “Goodnight” to her new mommy and daddy, and told them that she is excited to see them next week. I attached the video to an e-mail and sent it to her mommy. That did the trick; she just wanted some sort of communication to remind herself that this is real, and that she is really coming.
My feelings returned of the first few nights we were here, and I feel deeply the injustice of all this. Why does there have to be so many kids go to bed hungry, and so many kids go to sleep without someone telling them they are loved and making sure they are comfortable and safe? Why does God let this happen? It gives a new meaning to the scriptures when we read, “Feed the hungry”, “Clothe the naked”, “Cry with those that cry”, “mourn with those that mourn”, “Comfort those that stand in need of comfort”. I think Christ tried to teach us about all this need and told us to do our part. It doesn’t mean that everyone needs to go to Africa in order to save the world, but we need to look in our own families and our own neighborhoods, and find a need and fix it. I think that we as Americans need to do a little more, and be a little bit better. We have been blessed with so much, and (I will speak for myself) sometimes don’t take time to look around and ask, “What can I do to make the world a better place”?
I don’t know where I am going with this, but these past two weeks have been such an eye-opener to me, I hope I don’t just go back to my little life, and my job, and daily routine and forget what I have seen and felt. I will try my best not to forget.
Jenny says: Well, I’m getting a good suntan. At least I’ve got that going for me. We did take the kids swimming again, but we were the only people at the pool and that made it a little boring. And that dinner we ate there: I had to close my eyes and find a happy place to eat it.
The fries were terribly undercooked and the pizza had this meat junk on it that left pink stains on the cheese and crust when I picked it off. I was starving, though, so I had to just chew and pretend it was a Wilderness Garlic Extreme from Idaho Pizza. Talk about some serious mind control!
So, John told on me for being a little OCD about making it back to the hotel to watch CSI. I’ve sworn off the show completely when I am home, but here, it is my absolute only option. Since he blabbed about what I watch at night, I wonder how he’ll feel when I tell all of you that he’s become a devoted fan of Spanish soap operas translated into English? Oh, and the African soaps are even more entertaining. The worst acting you can imagine and the story lines are so out there you laugh almost until you cry. Good times!
I caught Delight working on her flash cards more than once today. She still struggles with about 50% of the words, but tonight I found out that little Richard can read very well and can help her with her words when I go home. These kids don’t speak English as a first language (Courage and Delight spoke only Ewe [their tribal language] until about a year ago). So some words are not even in their vocabulary. “Tip,” “fit” and a couple others. We played a little charades to help them understand. I think she’ll be very good with her cards really soon. I wish I’d have bought more paper; I could’ve made more cards with tougher words for when she masters the ones she has. (A note about the word “flash.” When these kids are about to toot, they say, “I have to flash.” It is a hilarious use of the word and every time I say “flash cards,” I get a strange look followed by a shy little giggle. Funny, huh?)
Courage really irked me today. I was laying on a lounge chair at the pool with my eyes closed, but not sleeping (mostly trying to keep the blasting hot sun out of them). Out of nowhere, he ran up to me and went airborne. He landed with his bottom right in my guts. Oh my gosh, it hurt so bad. I grunted and tried not to cry, then looked at him and said, “Courage, SIT DOWN right now!” He tried to do his shuffle-dance-laugh routine that usually makes me laugh. But I was in no mood to laugh right then. Truthfully, I wanted to pick him up and catapult him into the pool. John jumped in and told him he’d better sit down. We’d been having trouble with him being a little over-the-top with his rambunctiousness today, and the butt-to-the-gut was the last straw for me. I didn’t yell at him, but he could tell from my tone and the look on my face that I was not amused.
When we took them back to the orphanage, he could hardly stand up while we looked at some Facebook messages on the computer. I picked him up and snuggled him on my lap; he was three sheets to the wind within no less than 7 seconds, no joke. I was scratching his hair softly to keep him lulled asleep on my lap. Suddenly, his eyes shot wide open and he said, “I’m going to flash you.” He tooted on my leg and then fell right back to sleep. He was genuinely concerned because he knew what was coming and wanted to warn me. I laughed hard on the inside, but didn’t want to wake him, so I did my best to maintain my composure. Crazy antics and all, you’ve just got to love that kid!
We had a couple of questions from yesterday’s entry. Cherie and Amy, they do speak English and understand more than they can verbalize. It works best for us if we speak slowly to them. People here in Ghana tell us that we speak VERY FAST. That’s funny, because I thought the same about them. I have to watch their lips a lot to make sure I understand everything they say. Delight knows more English than Courage. When they speak to each other, it is always in Ewe. John keeps telling them to “speak English. I can’t understand the Boogaly-Boo.” He got that from Jason.
And finally, I told Grandma Zina today that I was so hungry I would eat a plate of mashed potatoes. Anyone who’s ever eaten a Sunday, Thanksgiving or Kentucky Fried Chicken dinner with me knows that I must be at my wits end down here with the food to admit I’d eat mashed potatoes. Yep, I am…
Friday, November 11, 2011
Day 11? I can’t believe we are already done with 11 days. We only have 15 days “in country” and tomorrow will be 12. I worry the next 3 days will go too fast.
I had a plan for this day. Some of my favorite memories with my kids occurred while I was teaching them to read. About 10 years ago, I made some flash cards to help Emily, Abby and Colt learn their sight-words. For the last couple days, I’ve had a nagging feeling that I should make some with Delight. But the impression was very specific: “make them WITH her, not FOR her.” I picked up a 20-sheet pad of rainbow colored cardstock when we were at the Accra Mall on Monday. I had the intention of making them for Delight to use to help catch Courage up on his reading. So we spent the afternoon in the hotel room making sight-word flash cards and sharing my headphones while listening to “mommy’s music” on my iPod. I drew the lines on the cardstock; Delight worked the scissors and fine-tuned her cutting skills. We made 160 cards and wrote either numbers 1-20, or phonetic words on each.
Neither of them had spoken a word of English until a year ago, so their reading levels are “very beginning” (Delight) and “perhaps knows most of the letters” (Courage). I’d been lead to believe that Delight could read very well and Courage was making progress. Not so. I was pretty disappointed when I came to discover that they are way behind where I thought they’d be. I hope that doesn’t sound bad. I had such high hopes for their being able to acclimate right into school when they get to the States. That dream might have to be revised. Nevertheless, John has a pretty sweet experience to tell you about; I’ll call it Flash Cards, Part II. It made my day!
So back to my comment about being disappointed when I found out their reading levels. Does that sound like I am a jerk? I really, sincerely hope not, because I don’t mean it any other way than that now I am a little more nervous about the transition into American life. They are such bright kids, so alert and have good concentration skills. I know we’ll be able to catch them up quickly. But I found out tonight that I will have to leave them here for nearly 4 months. They have no school to attend right now because there is no teacher. The last one was fired for having them copy words and numbers and calling it “Math” and “Reading.” I’d like 5 minutes with that moron right now! Teachers were interviewed this morning, though, so I hope some progress is made toward getting quality instruction for these kids. I’d even pay the dang salary if someone would just step up and do the job!
BUT, all is not lost. Some of you may be familiar with a certain Emily and Abby Seable. These two girls are perfectly suited for the job ahead. Since they were just little, whenever they have free time, they play school. The course of study and curriculum has evolved over the years, but even at 11 and almost 13, they still dabble in it when they have time. And if you ask them what they want to be when they grow up, more times than not, they’ll both say, “a teacher.” Sounds to me like they’ll have the perfect opportunity very soon to have a trial internship as the English/Math/Reading teachers for Courage and Delight. If I know them like I think I do, they’ll have worksheets already printed off and lesson plans already drawn up for their first week of teaching before I even get home from Ghana. Shoot for March, girls. That looks like when we’ll get them home. (I know, big huge bummer, since we were hoping for January) L
Today was good, though. They are getting better each night at believing us when we tell them we’ll be back in the morning. And we are trying very hard to be patient, smile a lot and work as a team. I have stopped trying to “put on a happy face” to John and make him think I love every single part of this. I don’t. There are parts that make me cringe, want to throw up and/or curl up and bawl under the dresser. Today, I opened up a little about those things and he was really good about it. I think he appreciated the honesty (I hope he did, at least). It felt so good to get on the same page with him.
Finally, I had some insight today. I have too much guilt swimming around in my brain right now and I know that is what’s causing some of my anxiety with the kids. I feel guilty for having running water, a shower, a car, and a home of my own. I feel guilty because I have 4 people who can’t go to sleep at night until they tell me they love me. I feel guilty that I can read and write. I feel guilty that it is taking so long to jump through all the hoops of international adoption. And tonight, a biggy…I feel guilty that I get to go back to my wonderful, comfortable, well-fed life and they have to stay here without a family for 4 more months. When we walked them home tonight, their countenances were so crestfallen; I could hardly bear to look them in the eye. What is Monday going to feel like? I don’t even want to know…
Tonight, I will be praying for a quick return of our adoption decree, which will be followed by a speedy filing of our i-600 back in the States. While that is being processed, I’ll be hoping for passports and visas that arrive with lightning speed. Mostly, I’ll be praying these kids will be okay, remember our two weeks together and grow closer as brother and sister while we are gone. Sheesh…this is hard stuff!
Yes, today was good. I got up early (6:00am) because I think my body has finally re-adjusted to the seven hour time difference. I didn’t want to wake up Jenny so I went into the bathroom and did some laundry. I’m getting pretty good at that now. I think I will be able to do my own laundry when we go camping now.
We walked over to the orphanage at about 10:00, went in to check our e-mail, and uploaded our post for the blog. I am starting to get accustomed to this routine.
We made plans last Monday to go to dinner tonight with the three AAI social workers. We knew that meant tonight would be an evening without the kids. So, we rushed through the computer stuff and went outside to play with the kids. They were in very pleasant moods, and I was happy and looking forward to the day. We decided to go back to the hotel early, watch a movie at 10:30. They wanted to watch Thumbelina first thing. That was an hour and a half of my life I’ll never get back. Then we walked to First Junction with the kids to get them some Kankee (I’m sure I misspelled that as well) for lunch. I got some pictures of the lady that makes the Kankee and I will post them for sure.
When we got back to the hotel, I took some video of them eating it. It was quite a delicacy for them. I have to admit that for the first time this trip, I got queasy watching them eat.
Wow, that fish was just salted and dried in the sun. I wouldn’t even use that for bait. It smelled horrid, and I’m sure it didn’t taste any better. Anyway, the two of them loved it and ate it all up. I had to step to the other side of the room while they ate. It was worse than someone drinking out of my glass!
After lunch, instead of watching another movie, Courage and I walked back to the orphanage to check my e-mail and we left Jenny and Delight at the hotel to do their flash card project. Our dinner plans were at 5:30 so we had some time to kill. It was good for Courage and I to be able to be alone and talk a little. (Even though it was mostly me talking and him saying “yes and no.” When we got back to the hotel, I could tell that Jenny and Delight were having a good time together. They had gone in and Delight taught Jenny how to wash some of my remaining laundry, and they had completed those flash cards. When we got back and sat on the bed, Delight wanted to practice what Jenny had taught her with reading the site words from the flashcards. I could tell she was excited about them. We played with them until about 4:00 and then they both wanted to take a bath before they returned to the home. They enjoyed that immensely. When we walked them back, they were pleasant but were dragging their feet terribly. I mentioned to Jenny how, I was pleased that they didn’t complain but I feel for them. We could feel how strongly they didn’t want to go back to the home. They are treated so kindly there, and they are feed well. Two weeks ago I would have said, “They don’t know any differently so they don’t know what they are missing.” Well that isn’t completely true. True, they don’t know any differently, but; hot is still hot, sweaty is still sweaty, and noisy is still noisy. Clean is still clean, and dirty is still dirty. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the kids would rather be anywhere else other than the orphanage. For the first time it dawned on Jenny and me that we will have to leave them in four days. I have grown to love them as my own (well that is good because since Tuesday they are). I would never ever think for a second of leaving Emily, or Colton, or Abby there for even an hour without us. We found out tonight that the wait is realistically more like four months, not the 60 days that we previously thought. It could very well be March before we bring these kids home with us. Driving away from this place will definitely be the most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my lifetime. Ok, I’m not going to think about it yet.
Tonight we went to dinner again at “Next Door”. This time I brought my camera and took pictures of each meal. I once again had “red-red” only this time it was served with fried plantains, and a whole fish.
Jenny had Fried chicken and French fries. Shocker!
Muna, and Catherine had Octopus and Noodles.
We went with Joha, Muna, and Catherine. (All three social workers from AAI) It was very nice to talk to them. They were very professional, were great company, and very informative. We came to the conclusion that we would prefer to file our I-600 stateside (even if we had the option of doing it here). Joha encouraged us to do that. That took some pressure off us to try to force it in by tomorrow. They told us exactly what needs to happen before we will be able to come back and pick up the kids and the 60 days that we were previously told is not really even a possibility. They did say that Jason and Brandie’s stuff was in the final stages so their time could come sooner rather than later. But when I asked Joha if I could tell that to them he back-pedaled and said “I didn’t say that!” He is smart enough to know that Ghana works at its own pace and committing to a date is not only unwise but just can’t be done. I now have a greater appreciation for what they are going through. I noticed on Facebook today that they are 51 days since court for their kids. I’m sure they are living the fears that I just described. I will pray for them tonight that they can hang in there. The time frame they told us is 60-120 days. I hope theirs comes closer to the 60 day mark.
So when we came back to the hotel from dinner, I really wanted to go tuck in the kids. Jenny turned on the TV and saw there was an American TV show on (CSI Las Vegas) so she was going to stay and I would go alone. I went to the home at 8:30 and the kids were already put down for the night. I dropped off my computer and walked up to the their rooms. The boys already had their lights off and I couldn’t hear a sound so I decided to let Courage sleep. I could see that the big girls’ room light was on so I walked in. Mahti and Elizabeth were sitting on the floor playing something, and then I looked up at Delight’s bunk bed and she and another girl were sitting up looking like they were playing a card game. I took a closer look and they were practicing with the flash cards Jenny made with her this morning. She was loving her flash cards so much. When I asked her how she liked it, she started reading them off to me. She had definitely improved since this afternoon. She looked so happy. She asked me how our dinner went with Joha; she knows the part he plays in this whole process and was anxious to find out what he said. She gave me a huge hug and kiss and genuinely said “Good night”. Then she asked, “Where is Mommy?” I told her that she was asleep but I wanted to say good night to her. She told me to tell her good night from Delight.
Those two made a tender connection today. I have been waiting for that since we got here. I think all four of us will sleep well tonight.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Our hotel doesn’t offer wake-up calls, but it isn’t hard to wake up at 6 a.m. in Ghana. Our hotel window is about 20 feet from the busy road and the sun rises really early here. Another free courtesy wake-up call comes from the incessant taxi honking that starts at dawn. So it was a piece of cake to make sure we were awake and ready for our trip into Accra to visit the temple. It was like being right at home and was such a lift to our sagging spirits. We met 3-4 elderly missionary couples from places like Rupert, Burley, Huntsville (Utah), etc. that are serving missions here. They took us under their wing and made us feel so welcome; it renewed our resolve to finish our time in Africa with a positive, optimistic outlook. Such a blessing!
We offered up some pretty fervent prayers last night and this morning. We also got some really helpful pep-talks from Brandie and Grandma Jonie. I may be 37 years old, but Mom still knows how to make me feel better when things get really rotten. And Brandie has “been there, doing that” with adopting kids from Ghana, so who knows better how to respond to the kids than she does? They were so tender, sweet and encouraging; I felt better by bedtime.
Our prayers were answered today in small steps. After we returned from Accra, which turned out to be a 7 hour trip with the 2 hours and 15 minutes of high-traffic travel, we hooked up with the kids. They were still subdued and a little distant. We just did what we could to love ‘em like crazy, and little by little, they began to come around. Courage and I are collecting soda bottle caps (to give to Emily from the orphanage; she is planning a furniture project with them). He and I look everywhere we go for caps. Delight joined us in our search efforts while we were at dinner and that seems to be when she and I turned a corner and started being friends again.
After we ate, we endured a super-stinky, sweaty cab ride through the streets back to the hotel (John, both kids and I were all crammed into the back seat of the smallest car approved for human transport). The kids watched Johnny Lingo (again) with John while I completed our i-600 paperwork to be submitted to the Embassy. By the end of the movie, we were having some good laughs, Courage especially. They got really excited when we gave them some toothpaste, soap and toothbrushes to take back to the orphanage with them. Simple pleasures… Just before we took them home, we knelt by the bed and said family prayer to end the day. It was perfect and at that moment, we were happy and all was well.
One of the Adoption Education DVD series we were asked to watch and study was called “Eyes Wide Open.” We kind of made fun of it, but are rethinking our jokes and eye-rolling. We are committed and determined to go back and watch it again, paying much closer attention now that we have specifics to apply to the things we were being taught. Live and learn, I guess…
Today was a better day. Thank you to all of you who kept us in your prayers and/or sent phone calls or email messages of encouragement and wisdom. We needed it last night/this morning more than any other time so far. We hope to return the favor to each of you someday. We love you all so much!
Juan Blanco has a few things to add:
Ok, I’m not sure where Juan Blanco came from, but I’ll take it. I’m only half way awake right now, so if my words run together and I have more misspelled words than usual, please forgive me.
I can’t remember if I wrote about it yesterday or not, but we took a taxi home from court and became good friends with the driver. His name is “Divine.” He has a 2002 Toyota Corolla, with A/C, and it is very clean, and was a huge blessing after our meeting with “Jabba”.
I got this guy’s cell phone number yesterday and called him. I asked him if it would be possible to come to our hotel at 7:00 to take us to Accra this morning. 15 Cedis in an Air conditioned cab? That is the best 10 US Dollars I have ever spent. We thoroughly enjoyed our morning and like Jenny said, we came back rejuvenated and ready to take on the world. When we walked into the orphanage, Courage was the first one to run up to me and like Jenny said, he was very subdued. I think he had just gotten up from his nap (it was like 2:00pm). I looked out across the courtyard and saw Delight lying on a mattress pad under a tree. I hadn’t ever seen any of the kids do that but I thought it probably was a much better place for a nap than with all those kids in the stuffiness of an upstairs bedroom. I walked over to her and watched her sleep for a while. I just kept thinking about last night and wondering if I should have walked back and tucked her in. I sat down beside her and started to rub her back to wake her up. (Just like I do to wake up the kids at home.) She quickly woke up and was very pleasant and sat up and gave me a huge hug. I told her that I felt bad about leaving the way we did the night before, and she said it was ok. She asked me if Mommy and I enjoyed our trip to Accra. I think that was her way to let me know that she kept track of what we were doing and we had her blessing (almost like getting her permission. Lol) I saw that she was in a very sweet mood and we stood up and walked into Emily’s office where Jenny was booting up the computer so we could post yesterday’s blog entry. We all four sat at the little table and I asked them what they wanted to do with the rest of the day. We voted and decided to go back to “Next Door” the restaurant from the other night. We went with Job, and had a wonderful dinner. I had “Red-Red” (a plate that Jason recommended) and it was wonderful. It was a healthy serving of black eyed beans with a super killer red hot sauce. My mouth is still burning. It was served with a stack of fried plantains, and a chicken leg and thigh. I really loved my meal and wanted to take a picture of it but the SD card was out of my camera so I couldn’t. L
The kids had the usual, (Fried Rice and Fried Chicken.) and Jenny had grilled Chicken and Chips (Fries). Job ate Goat Soup and Foo-foo.
After eating, we all walked down to the beach and climbed around on the rocks and looked at the little sand crabs that were walking around on the rocks. It was quite enjoyable down there and we had a good time talking as we walked. I was just so happy that things were back to how they have been all week. We came back to the hotel and Job went back to the orphanage. While Jenny was filling out our I-600 we watched Delight’s new favorite movie again. (Johnny Lingo) I really enjoyed watching them react to the funny and sad, and serious parts of the movie. They were very comfortable with me. Courage was laying down on the bed and using my back like a pillow, and Delight was holding my hand. It was almost like we have been together for years. I was just eating it up.
While we were eating dinner, we were watching the kids collect the bottle caps for Emily’s table she is making. Job made a comment that I wanted to note. He said, “I have never seen a more noticeable change in the behavior and personality of a child as I have seen in Courage since you arrived here last week.” He reminded us that Courage was always the quietest one at the home and that no one really even got to know him because he always stood off by himself. We talked about this while the kids were searching for bottle caps. We watched how he and Delight were getting so excited whenever they found one, and he would start up with that infectious laugh he has. He is truly a happy kid. As I have mentioned in other posts, I know the Journey for him is just starting, but he has really made some big strides and I am so excited to be able to watch him and Colton play in the back yard and be true brothers. Colton has waited for that his entire life. I am more excited to see that than anything else. After the movie, we walked the kids back to the orphanage and they were very happy, with full bellies, and good spirits. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
Well as I look up at this post I see a sea of red and green squiggly lines from spell and grammar check . I’m going to hand this back to Jenny to correct them while I slip off into Sleepy Land. So tired. J!!!!!!
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Remind me to never break the law in Africa. I endured the Ghanaian judicial system today and will wholeheartedly remain a law-abiding visitor for the duration of our stay because I never want to have to go back to that awful place again…
It was miserably hot. The sweat drip, drip, dripped down my back the entire time. I know most of you back home think I am being a whiner for saying that since it is freezing cold there. But let me reassure you, it is not a comfortable hot. It is a stifling, sticky, sucks-every-ounce-of-energy-out-of-you hot. (I know…Complain, complain, complain…)
We’d waited for what seemed like decades for them to call us in. Then right there in front of everyone some guy walked in and started handing the clerk folded up Cedis and giving secret handshakes or something. The clerk put that guy’s case file before our case file and then started showing them to the judge’s chamber. I was fuming mad! But I knew it would look bad if the lone white chick in the room stood up and started pontificating about the injustice occurring right before our very eyes. So I put my head in my hands, bit my lip and prayed my heart out. I was having such a wild and crazy cocktail of emotions at that moment, I had to just close my eyes and find a happy place.
Anyway, we didn’t enjoy court, but are very happy about the outcome.
I hesitate to tell you about the rest of the day because most of this blog has been so positive. The kids were almost distant and even rebuffed us at one point when we tried to tuck them in. Whoa, we weren’t expecting that kind of reaction to becoming a family. But we talked to Brandie tonight (who is adopting two of Courage and Delight’s friends). She reassured us that all of the hard stuff begins today. We had to have like 75 hours of Adoption Education to be considered suitable adoptive parents (okay, 75 hours may be an exaggeration, but it felt like it some days). Today, we start practicing all of those things we learned. It is not starting out well. I had such visions of sugar plums about our first day as a family. But really, what was I expecting? These kids have known us for 7 days. They want to trust us, and I’d like to think they are starting to. But they have got to be so completely terrified right now. “What is going to happen to me, where in the world am I going, who in the heck are these people?”
I miss Emily, Abby and Colt so much I can’t even stand it anymore. I don’t think that’s helping my heavy heart, either. But, if one of them were having a hard time right now, I’d look ‘em square in the eye and ask, “what am I going to say?” They’d say, “I know Mom, I CAN DO HARD THINGS.” Maybe it’s appropriate tonight to practice what I preach to them all the time. I think I am going to get it in vinyl on the wall when I get home.
I feel a little silly, and perhaps a tad naïve to have thought this would be like a fairy tale. But in fairness to Courage and Delight, I owe it to them to muster up every last drop of physical, emotional and spiritual strength I have and just love them. Period. No matter what, never allow them to wonder if I love them or not. Not even for a second…
I’m grateful for how this process has strengthened my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I have learned how to truly pour my heart out to Him and then be still and listen for the answers. They always come and I’m always glad. Lucky for me, and all of us, tomorrow is a new day. J
And now a word from “John White”
Once again, Jenny pretty much summed up the day. It was a difficult one to say the least. Court was exactly as she described. When we went into the chambers to see the judge (I’m embarrassed to say it, but all I could think of was “Jabba the Hut”). In the end, I felt bad for thinking those thoughts when she very kindly said she approved us for a “Full and Complete” Adoption Decree. The other option is one I don’t completely understand but it’s called a Partial Adoption and is kind of like a trial adoption. It could be reversed if the court doesn’t find you to be good parents. I’m just glad that we won’t have to deal with that down the road.
There was also another American Family there at court the same time as us adopting two children. They are from North Dakota. We didn’t really talk to them much at all, because we were so caught up in what we were doing today. They are staying in the same hotel only in the room above us. I’m sure we will have a chance to talk to them before we leave.
Jenny and I left the orphanage early tonight (7:30) and didn’t even tuck Delight in. She was just ignoring us and we both had a difficult time with it.
Ok, I’m not going to sugar coat any of this because if I do than I won’t have an accurate record of this first visit.
Delight was being kind of a brat and it hurt both of our feelings. I think that subconsciously we both were thinking, “OK, you little SNOT! If you knew the Hell we have gone through today to make this all work, you wouldn’t be acting like this.”
So, that is about it. Those are the words that were going through our minds. Then as we walked home, we stopped by a gas station that was kind of like a convenience store. (nice little desert oasis we discovered tonight.) We got a couple sodas to bring back to the hotel. As I have been pondering this evening’s events, I have huge feelings of guilt for not going up to tuck her in. I really do love her so much, and I know what is happening. When we were studying for our home study in the beginning of all this we had to watch a series of DVD’s by a man named Bryan Post, who talked about Attachment Disorder. He talked about the “FEAR” that exists in the hearts and minds of these children. Brandie reminded me of this when we talked tonight. When they ask for something and we say “NO!!!”, and then they pout, then that is just pouting like any other kid. But when they act like that for no apparent reason, it is truly a way that they are dealing with the incredible fear that has been built up inside of them. Like I have said previously, we don’t know the background of these kids, we only know that for them to be here, it must have been pretty terrible. They have literally been through hell, and are getting a second chance. When we got here, it was easy for them and us. It was so nice to give all the hugs and say the “I love you”s but when all the emotions of that wonderful first meeting subside, we are left with all the bottled up anger and fear. They want to trust us. They want to believe us when we say we will never leave them. But, they have trusted people before who abandoned them. I think that Delight had such a euphoric experience after court finally realizing that she will be part of a forever family she had a huge let down when reality set in and she knew that we will be leaving in one week, and she will once again be alone for at least eight more weeks while we wait for visas, passports, and immigration paperwork. These kids are little time bombs of pain and anger that are just waiting to explode. I almost embrace the idea of that happening because I know that when it does it will begin a great healing process. This is some pretty hard stuff. It makes my head spin just thinking about it. It is now 11:40 at night and I am so tempted to walk back to the orphanage and go up to her room, kneel down on the bottom bunk where she sleeps and wake her up to tell her I love her. I am still contemplating that. Well, it will be another day tomorrow and I think after a good night’s sleep, both of us will be better prepared to love them through this first hiccup.