Monday, December 31, 2007

So long to 2007

It certainly has been a whirlwind of a year! We've run the gamut of emotions, from elated to extremely depressed. We've had things go well and things go not-so-well. Jason's business has been prosperous and there have also been lean times. I've had some students have the wonderful natural births that they hoped for and some students who have had c-sections even though it wasn't what they wanted. The house has been clean and the house has looked like a child and two dogs live here.

OK, the house almost always looks like a child and two dogs live here. The two adults--we get camouflaged by the rest of it.

2007 has been a good year in many respects. We've pursued adoption from Ethiopia and feel OK with where things stand right now. We know that it's the right decision for our family. We've learned a ton about adoption, international adoption, transracial adoption, parenting an adopted child, Ethiopia, Ethiopian culture, even Ethiopian restaurants around the area! We've met a wonderful group of people in those who are adopting or have adopted from Ethiopia, and look forward to many more gatherings. We've made many new friends and spent time with those who were already friends. We got to travel to Maine and Florida and Utah, and visit with many family members--some who we hadn't seen in years!

It's also been a very, very hard year but I don't want to dwell on those aspects. While we certainly won't forget the difficulties we've had this year, we're trying hard to look ahead to 2008 and hope for a good year that sees our next son come home and our family grow and change with him.

May 2008 bring your hopes and dreams to fruition, and may those who love you (us!) get to see you soon!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Furious with Discovery Toys Company!

I paid for expedited shipping on Patrick's MarbleWorks set. It was $20+, but I really wanted him to get it for Christmas. I told him that Santa might not be able to fit it onto his sleigh, but he would get it here soon after Christmas. That way, if it didn't get here in time, he would be OK with that. And he was.

Now it's been a week since I placed the order and it's still not here. I tried their on-line tracking service, and it said there wasn't any for that order. So I called their 800 number and it says they're CLOSED UNTIL JANUARY THIRD! I am absolutely livid. I should have been told that the order wasn't going to ship for a FULL TWO WEEKS after I ordered it, and I damned sure wouldn't have paid so much for shipping. I sent them an e-mail, saying that I expected them to contact me before it ships. I want an explanation as to why they didn't tell a customer who clearly wanted the item quickly that they weren't going to even mail it for several weeks.

Just needed to vent. I hate that my son is disappointed yet again. I feel like the only thing I've done lately is to disappoint him.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The amusement that is Patrick continues

The visit with Santa could have been worse. A few days earlier, Patrick and I were at the grocery store. The cashier asked if Santa would stop at our house and Patrick said yes, he'd been good. She asked what he would leave for Santa and Patrick clammed up. I said "What about cookies?"

He said "Uh huh. And beer."

I started snickering. "Did Daddy tell you that's what Santa wants?"

"Yes," he answered, perfectly seriously.

So it could have been worse--Santa asked if Patrick would be nice enough to leave him some cookies and milk, and thankfully Patrick didn't mention the beer to him.

It's killing me that Patrick keeps saying that Santa is bringing him balls. I know exactly what he wants--it's a huge ball set that they have at the Children's Museum (lifts, pneumatic tubes, tracks, etc), and he knows that Santa can't bring him the same thing because it won't fit down the chimney--but all he keeps saying is that he wants balls.

We've ordered him a MarbleWorks set that will hopefully be here in time. I just hope he doesn't see it and start talking about playing with his balls...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Patrick's visit to Santa

Last night we took Patrick to see Santa. He was very excited, which was a huge change from last year; he spied Santa from the upper balcony of Lenox Mall and flat-out refused to go downstairs. He wouldn't go anywhere near him last year. This year, he said that he would go only if I stood near him. I agreed and, after waiting in line agonizing over what he would ask for, it was finally his turn.

First, he said "Thank you for the presents that you brought me last year," as we'd practiced. Santa said he was welcome and that he wanted to figure out what Patrick wanted this year. Patrick's response?


I have to give Santa credit for being able to keep a straight face, because I couldn't.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Time to catch up

I've been remiss in updating this blog after posting about Manalimo's diagnosis. Part of it has been the end of the semester--between Sunday morning and Tuesday night, I had 3 hours of sleep. But it's more that it's been incredibly painful and I've had as much as I could deal with trying to tell people in person. Writing it down seemed like too much to face.

We had no idea. We thought we had all of the information. I talked to Jan on Friday and she explained that she'd been absolutely stunned as well--she could only remember one other time that something so major had come up during a neurological exam when the preliminary exam came back fine. She said that she'd actually worried that we would accept his referral even having said that CP wasn't something we could handle, and not realize until Manalimo was home that we really couldn't handle it. She felt like it spoke to our abilities as parents to be able to make such a difficult decision, though I told her that it made me feel like a horrible and low person to be able to see a diagnosis and say "no". She reassured us that isn't the case at all.

I'm still very sad, more so since Manalimo's listing appeared on the CHS.FS waiting child list. I just wish we were the right family for him--his face is still in my dreams and I know we'll think of him every day.

It's back in our court now as to when we're ready. We'll let you know when something happens.

To those who've been there for us and expressed your sympathy, brought meals, had us over, thank you. There were times when simply doing day-to-day activities, like preparing meals, were too much to bear and those were the things that got us through.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Patrick is four!

My Patrick. My sweet pea. My munchkin. He supposedly turned 4 yesterday, but it could not possibly have happened. He was just born! And yet, it feels like he's been in our lives forever. I don't really remember what we did before he was here, to love and hug and laugh and cry with us.

To read bedtime stories and rediscover the joy of simple things like Playdoh and race car tracks, and building forts out of pillows and blankets next to the bed.

To say "I love you, Mama" and give Jason big hugs and kisses to wake him up in the mornings.

To snuggle next to him when we say our bedtime prayers and make his hair stand up on end when he's in the bathtub.

To go to to the park and the zoo, and birthday parties at fun places like the children's museum.

To blow raspberries on his stomach and flip him upside down, just to hear him giggle.

To watch him learn to dress himself and figure out the letters of the alphabet.

To hear him tell me all about the Jewish holidays and see how much he loves to go to school.

To hear the joy in his voice when he opens up drums that he's been asking for since his previous birthday.

To play Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders and Hungry, Hungry Hippos.

To hear him tell stories about "little Patrick", who lives with "little Mama, little Daddy, little Caesar, and little Neitzsche", and all of their adventures together.

To hear him plan for the future, like being 5 and being able to chew gum.

To know that we are the luckiest of parents to have such a sweet and wonderful son. I don't remember the days before him, because they paled in comparison to the days since he came into our lives.

Happy birthday, baby.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Emory concert

We're doing better and I'll post about that soon. I have to cover Patrick's birthday and birthday party first--he'll be 4 on Monday, can you believe it? His party was today.

Before I talk about those, I wanted to let everyone know (because Courtney reminded me that I'd forgotten to send out my customary e-mail) that I'll be performing with the Emory University Chorus* for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols this coming weekend. The Friday concert (December 7th) is at 8 p.m. and there are two on Saturday, at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Patrick and Jason will be at the 5 p.m. Saturday show.

Tickets information is here. It's a Christmas concert, and only a Christmas concert, guaranteed to put you into the Christmas spirit. There are readings of New Testament scripture between songs such as Once in Royal David's City, The First Noel, and a version of Silent Night called Still, Still, Still. That last one is sung in almost complete darkness but for the candles that we carry as we ring the congregation. It is a truly amazing concert, one in which I feel very privileged to sing every year but two** since we moved to Atlanta.

I would love it if you'd be able to come. You can buy tickets there, although it does sell out most shows. There are many people who've made it a tradition every year because it is an incredible concert.


*The Emory University Chorus is open to anyone: Emory students of all levels and schools, alumni, and anyone else from the community who would like to sing. I started as a graduate student. We rehearse on Monday nights from 7:30-9:30 p.m. during each semester. I usually only sing in the fall, for Lessons and Carols, for various reasons.

**I was hired at Georgia Perimeter 4 days before the semester started last year and was assigned a Monday night class. The other time was in 2003, when I rehearsed all semester and then, the Wednesday before the concerts, Patrick decided it was time to be born--2 1/2 weeks early (I'd convinced my director that my water wouldn't break on stage, and I was right. It broke an hour and a half after I got home from dress rehearsal on Tuesday night). I felt perfectly fine to sing that weekend, but Jason and my parents wouldn't let me. They're no fun, I tell you. Patrick is known as my Lessons and Carols baby by much of the chorus.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Utter sadness

Manalimo has cerebral palsy. Pretty severe cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy was something that, months ago when Jason and I were filling out the list of special needs that we could accept and not accept, we decided that we weren't prepared to handle.

We're still not prepared to handle it.

We've declined the referral.

I am heartbroken.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Smiles and more smiles

OK, I have his corrected name spelling and pronunciation: Manalimo, which is pronounced MAH-nah-leemo. Patrick can already say it perfectly; Jason and I are still working on it a bit. I find myself saying it throughout the day and picturing his perfect little face. He's got such long eyelashes and big, beautiful eyes. I just want to be able to tell him that we already love him, even though he doesn't know us yet.

We're planning on having the boys share a room and will be getting them bunk beds. Patrick has been wanting a loft bed forever, so we'll probably get that early next year and get him used to it before Manalimo comes home.

The next steps are these: we have to officially accept the referral, and we're waiting on the medical evaluation from the University of Minnesota International Adoption Clinic before we do that. Once that's been done, they'll get a court date for us, probably 4-6 weeks after we accept the referral. We won't be there for that day, but that's when they examine our dossier and approve us as Manalimo's guardians. If we get through court the first time (sometimes there's a delay), they'll work on getting his visa so that we can make travel plans. Travel is usually 4-6 weeks after court. So at the earliest, we probably wouldn't travel before the beginning of February, more likely mid-February. Instead, because I need to keep my job, we'll have to delay travel until spring break. I'm just praying everything comes through in time for that or we'll be faced with making the choice of waiting to bring him home until May or of traveling earlier but not having a job for the next academic year.

I don't know for sure that they wouldn't hire me back. They can't deny the travel because I'm covered under FMLA, but they don't have to give me a new contract for next year. The related issue is that I'm applying for a tenure-track position here and I definitely wouldn't get hired for that if I take off a couple of weeks mid-semester. Anyway, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

For those of you who were asking, this is some information about our agency and the care of the children in Ethiopia: We are so thrilled that Manalimo is being cared for so carefully and that we will have so much information for him. I appreciate that you've all been so respectful about not asking for more information than we're comfortable sharing!

Thank you so much for the excitement and happiness of your responses. We feel truly lucky to be welcoming Manalimo to our family.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

"Who has dreamt about you"

On Wednesday afternoon, I got the call.

Jan had called and left a message for us on Tuesday, simply asking us to call her back. I started shaking as soon as I heard the message, because I suspected that's what it was going to be. I knew that the only family on the list who was waiting for a referral of a boy in the same age range had gotten their referral on Monday. I knew that we were next, and I didn't think it would take very long because referrals have been coming out pretty quickly lately. So I called her back and left a message. We didn't hear from her that day; the next day, her voice mail said that she was gone for Thanksgiving and I started to panic. I called and left messages for both Cara and Alexa, whose voice mail messages said they would be in that day. Nothing all morning, and I even joked to Courtney over lunch (we'd taken Patrick and Micah to the zoo that morning) that if I had to wait until Monday, it was going to be almost anti-climactic.

Not ten minutes later, the phone buzzed in my pocket and I looked at the number. It wasn't even the 651 area code of CHSFS but somehow I knew as soon as I saw it. It was Jan, who said "I have a little boy I'd like to tell you about," and I immediately started shaking and crying. I managed to talk through the conversation, though I probably only took in about half of the information that she gave me. And then I got off the phone and sobbed. Courtney sobbed with me--the people at Fellini's probably thought we were crazy. I drove home very carefully to get the e-mail and see his picture and read all there was.

Manalemo may be 2 1/2 or may be a few months younger--he's not any older than that. He is 22 lbs and 32" tall. He has some medical issues that we can likely accept, though we will have a pediatrician check out the information that we have. We know a ton of information about his family that we will share with him when he's older.

And his name, Manalemo, means "Who has dreamt about you". It was given to him by his mother, with whom he lived until three weeks ago. I couldn't have asked for anything better. All this time, I've prayed that he would be with his family as long as possible, because I wanted him to be with the people who most loved him. We will almost definitely get to meet them when we go to Ethiopia to get him.

(Picture removed for privacy!)

Jason was at work and so I forwarded him everything after calling to tell him he was going to be a daddy again. I showed Manalemo's picture to Patrick and told him that was his little brother. His immediate response was "Why is he that color?" I told him that that was the color of people in Ethiopia, just like some of his friends who are from Ethiopia (which we'd talked about before, but it clearly hadn't stuck). He said "Oh. He's so cute! Look at his cute smile--it's just like this" and imitated the expression on his face. And then I started crying again and hugged him so tightly.

I have another son. Another adorable, perfect son. I am the luckiest of women to have been so blessed. This is the most amazing Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Patrick tales

Patrick amuses me every day, even on the days when he's "challenging". The other night when we were in the car driving home, he was regaling me with a story about a caterpillar that crept across a branch and made himself a cocoon. And he was explaining how he was peering through a window to look at Jason at one point. He also told me that he had noticed his friend on the playground at school. It's really funny when an almost 4-year-old uses words like crept, peering, and noticed in proper context and with his adorable little voice. He's had some other good ones lately that I can't remember, but actually has been a favorite lately as in "Actually Mama, I would like to have some chocolate instead of baby carrots."

Jason's been teaching Patrick to add numbers. He uses his fingers and we're working on how to go higher than 10--he's OK if he's only going to 11 or 12, but gets a little confused beyond that. He's gotten very good at visual number references--he can simply look at a group of objects and no longer has to count them out loud to figure out how many there are. That's one of the things that's helping a lot with adding. When we drive home, he likes to practice adding. The other day, I asked "Patrick, what's 2+3?" and he replied (picture counting on fingers--two on one hand, three on the other) "One, two, three, four, FIVE!" Then I asked "What's 3+4?" and he replied "Achat, shtayim, shalosh, arba, chamesh, shesh, SHEVA!" He did it in Hebrew. I was mightily impressed.

Before this past summer, he would cry nearly every day when we dropped him off at daycare. He was always perfectly happy right after we left, but it was heartbreaking to leave him with tears running down his face. Now, however, we get halfway to school and he's saying "I want to be at school now!" This morning he said it while he was still in jammies. I don't know if it's simply that he's older or if he just loves the JCC as much as we do, but it does my heart good to know that he's so happy there. He's made a lot of friends, which is wonderful to see for a shy boy like Patrick*, and is excited to see them and play with them every day. He is learning so much and we're thrilled that we switched him to a place where they don't focus on academics, but there's a lot of learning incorporated with the playing. We'll be keeping him there for official pre-school next year.

His birthday is on December 3rd and his party is on the 2nd. For those of you who are also Jewish, you can probably see the problem we're going to have. Party on the 2nd = presents. Birthday on the 3rd = presents. Hanukkah on the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th = presents from both sides of the family. Oh wait, then we get two weeks off and then Christmas on the 25th = presents from Jason's side of the family and my dad's side of the family. We do bring at least half of his toys to the basement to be brought out at different times of the year (we trade out toys--if he wants a new one from the basement, he has to bring one of his other toys down there). But still. He's going to be spoiled beyond belief by New Year's.

Especially since we bought him the present he's been asking for since almost his last birthday--drums. Bongoes, really, but he'll be thrilled all the same. And yes, we're insane.

*Don't laugh, he really is shy when it's a new situation and new people. Ask his teachers--he barely spoke the first two months at the JCC. You all just know him well and can't remember that when you first met him, he was probably hiding behind my leg.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Sorry all! I know that I started this blog to keep you updated but, since there's been nothing, I haven't been updating.

We've been waiting for 2 months as of November 6th. That's perfectly normal since our agency told us it would probably be 3-6 months until we get a referral. Time is passing quickly in some aspects, but it still feels like forever. I suppose that's because we've been openly talking about adopting for almost 2 years but didn't start the process until the end of February 2007. It's been just over 8 months since we sent our initial application to CHS.FS, not long at all.

We continue to keep our eye on the waiting child lists, but the only boys on there now are either older than Patrick or less than a year younger than he is--we want our boys at least a year apart so they won't be in the same grade.

It is frustrating because I've got an opportunity to take on a couple of extra classes in the spring during normal hours when Patrick's in daycare anyway, and the moneywould be very helpful when it comes to travel expenses (which will probably be over $5000). They're classes I'm already teaching, so there wouldn't be any extra prep time--just the time I spend in class and grading.

I don't want to do it if we're going to be travelling in the spring for a couple of reasons:

1. My schedule as it currently stands is perfect for bringing home our son. He'd only have to be in daycare two days a week, and probably not full days either day.

2. My schedule as it currently stands is as good as it gets for the possibility of getting permission to travel from my department chair. I can find subs for nearly all of my classes quite easily and can probably videotape the lecture for my pharmacology class (there's no one else who could cover the class, as I'm the only one who teaches it), or even reschedule it if necessary.

I spoke to my agency contact person and she really can't predict when we'll get a referral and so it's a tough decision, because she completely understands the financial pressures of adoption. She did assure me that if we need to, we can travel after the semester ends. And I know that Jason can travel on his own if we were to get a referral early next year and not want to wait until May to bring him home. One of the reasons we chose Ethiopia is because only one parent has to travel and, since I'm a contract employee, I might not be able to travel and still have a job the next semester.

Since I carry the family health insurance, I have to keep my job.

I've already said I will teach the lab. That one is Monday afternoons. I may also agree to teach the lecture, which is Monday and Wednesday mornings. Up until now, I had NO classes on Mondays and my only Wednesday class is an anatomy lab that starts at 7:30 p.m. My other three classes are Tuesday and/or Thursday. So it's a lot of classes but not a bad schedule.

I just hate the idea of potentially getting a referral in December or January and having to wait until May to bring our son home. But we do need the money.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I've been tagged!

Laura tagged me a bit ago and I haven't had a chance to do this until now, so here it is:

Jobs I've held:
Discovery Zone party hostess
Safety shuttle dispatcher
Catering waitress
EMT at a summer camp
7-11 cashier
Pool supervisor
Lab technician
Inorganic chemical analyst
Childbirth instructor
College instructor

Places I've lived:
Poughkeepsie, NY
Richmond, VA
Columbia, SC
Atlanta, GA

Foods I love:
Corn chowder
Steak with sauteed mushrooms and onions
Anything combining pasta and cheese

Places I would rather be:
On a beach
In the mountains

Movies I love (not even close to all of them):
The Princess Bride
Star Wars (the original trilogy)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Legally Blonde
Tristan and Isolde
The Pursuit of Happyness

TV shows I watch:
Law and Order
Any show involving DIY home improvements--my house (and Jason) are suffering because of my love of these shows

Books I love (also not even close to all of them):
The Time Traveller's Wife
There Is No Me Without You
The Good Earth
Calvin and Hobbes
Snow Pea and the Secret Fan

Favorite music artists (tough to pick just a few!):
Rascal Flatts
Eric Clapton
The Chieftains
Brad Paisley
Andrea Bocelli
Chad Kroeger
Panic at the Disco
ZZ Top

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A letter to Caesar and Nietzsche

Dear Caesar and Nietzsche,

Sweet dogs. Happy 8th birthday (on October 2nd)! We love you as much as we did when you were clumsy and pudgy puppies at 7 weeks old.

With that said, we also know that you love us. And therefore, you don't need to give us any more presents. Particularly any more dead squirrels that you bring in during the night and leave on the kitchen floor for us to see first thing in the morning.

I'm just saying.

Erin, Jason, and Patrick

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I want him to come home, too

Patrick, in the car yesterday afternoon:

"Mama, why are we leaving my little brother in Ethiopia for so long?"

Saturday, September 8, 2007

We are officially a Waiting Family!

I am so very, very excited! Our dossier was reviewed and was perfect except for one thing: we accidentally sent Jason's hospital birth certificate instead of the state-issued one. Fortunately, we have a copy of that one also (it's from 1977, but I can't imagine that will matter--Virginia is still Virginia), so I will mail it to them on Monday morning. And our contact person at the adoption agency said that she's added us to their waiting families list!*

So what does this mean? To be honest, not a whole lot. Our dossier will be translated and sent to Ethiopia (or maybe it gets sent and then translated? I forget which comes first). Then we wait. Because we're open to special-needs or healthy males between 0-30 months, it could be fairly soon or it could be several more months. We can request information and adopt a waiting child, or we can wait for a referral. Since our age range is wider than many adoptive parents, who want to adopt babies, we may not wait very long. Or we might. There's really no way of knowing--I've heard stories of people who've gotten referrals of toddlers within days and stories of people who've waited longer than some people wait for infants. Who knows?

But I still can't stop grinning.

*(Yes, this is the point at which some people will say you're "paper pregnant". Please don't use the term with me. The idea of being pregnant with a toddler is just horrifying.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Gee, waiting is sure fun!

We requested information on a waiting child the other day; however, we found out today that his information is already being reviewed by another family. They will only share the information with one family at a time, so we're discussing things. I told the remarkable Amanda that I had the strangest feeling of something being *right* with this profile. She gave me chills with her answer: "That feeling you are having is no accident…something big is just around the corner." Then they told us that the profile was already being reviewed. And yet, that feeling remains.

There were two other boys who we initially thought met with our age range, so we thought we might look at them. But they were less than a year younger than Patrick (one was 9 months younger and one was 10 months). We were OK with that at first, because they'd be far enough apart that they'd be in different grades in school, then we reconsidered. Our agency prefers at least a year apart--I don't think they would mind so much with a toddler adoption, since Patrick will likely be 4 when his little brother comes home and 4 and 3 are very different than if we'd been caring for a 1-year-old and a newborn. But it just doesn't feel quite right.

There is another little boy, though. His birthday is right before Jason's, which would be a lovely addition to our whole family having birthdays between November and January. He'll be 2 in November. If the other family accepts a referral for the first little boy, we may request his information.

For now, we'll just wait a little longer. But it feels much better to be waiting from the point of having all our clearances approved and our dossier done than it did in June.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Just starting out

OK, I've started a blog that's accessible to everyone who is interested. We'll use this to post updates to our adoption process, as well as family posts once in a while.

Here's a quick recap of what we've done so far:
2003: started talking about adoption, gave birth to Patrick after minor infertility testing and treatments
2004: started trying to have another baby
2005: resumed fertility treatments
2006: continued fertility treatments
attended Resolve (national infertility organization) adoption fair
stopped fertility treatments
decided to adopt from either Vietnam or Ethiopia
requested information from adoption agencies who work in Vietnam and Ethiopia
2007: decided to adopt from Ethiopia
decided to adopt a toddler boy
decided that we are open to a special-needs child
February--chose an adoption agency ('s Society and Fam.ily Services)
Filled out initial application
Chose a homestudy agency (Fam.ilies Fi.rst in Atlanta)
Submitted homestudy application
March--accepted to CHS.FS
Completed homestudy visits with social worker
April--completed homestudy paperwork
May--received completed homestudy
Sent in USCIS application I-600A (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition)
June--accepted to CHS.FS Ethiopia program
completed additional CHS.FS requirements for accepted homestudy
fingerprinted by USCIS
July--received USCIS approval form I-797C
CHS.FS accepted completed requirements
given final documents for Ethiopia dossier preparation
August 30--mailed completed dossier to CHS.FS
September 1--requested information on a waiting child

So that's where we stand right now. I'll be updating information as we get it.

Also, just to be clear--we want to protect our son and his privacy. We will not be providing his history or extensive information about his birth family, either here or privately. It's his information to share with people as he chooses. We're not trying to be rude, but it's not fair for others to know that before he does.

I'm happy to answer most questions about our adoption, so ask away!