Friday, February 29, 2008

We've Arrived!

Selam to all,

I can hardly believe that I get to write this blog, but we are in Ethiopia and have spent part of the day with Melkamu! It's currently 6:30 p.m., which is about 10:30 a.m. EST, and we've just finished our dinner. Most everyone else is still down there but Patrick had had enough and so we came upstairs. He's playing with toys and I'm taking the opportunity to jump on the computer and post.

The flights were long but fairly easy. Patrick was more of a handful on the less-than-90-minute flight from Atlanta to Washington than he was on the 16+ hours from Washington to Addis Ababa. We took Ethiopian Air, which was fine but quite crowded. The people we met at the airport and on the flight were extremely friendly, many of them native Ethiopians who now live in the U.S. and were coming to Ethiopia for a visit with family. We had plenty of food, the DVD player held out for about 2 movies, and I watched The Bourne Ultimatum. Matt Damon makes any flight better.

Our flight landed at 8 p.m. Addis time. By the time we'd gotten our visas, luggage, through customs, waited for the other families to do the same, and gotten to the guesthouse, it was about 11 p.m. We were exhausted. Patrick slept well last night, but Jason and I tossed and turned. We were tired but nervous that our alarm wouldn't go off and we would be late for meeting Melkamu.

Finally it was time to get up. We got ready, ate breakfast, and then waited until we could finally go over to the care center. They had us sign a consent to videotape our meeting then finally took us to meet our children. We were the second family called. We went into the room and I knelt down in front of Melkamu to give him a minute to get used to me. They told me that I could pick him up, so I reached for him--and he reached back. I lost it. I pulled him close and sobbed into his soft little shoulder. After I'd calmed down and given him a million kisses, I handed him to Jason. Within a few minutes, he was already dozing off on Jason. We switched him off and I held him while he slept. Then we took him outside and woke him up a bit, and we walked around admiring the children of all the other families, who may very well be the cutest children ever.

Finally, we went back to his room and I fed him lunch until we had to leave. Then we went and toured the housing for the older children, came back to the guest house for lunch, and went back to the care center for orientation. We heard more about the CHSFS work in Ethiopia, the trip to Hossana (where we hope to meet Melkamu's birthmother), and toured the offices. Then they FINALLY let us go back to our kids for a while.

Melkamu has figured me out immediately. He has a preference for Jason already, and Jason got his first smile. But he has already figured out that I pay a lot of attention to him. At one point he was sitting on the floor and I was standing next to him, watching another little girl. He whacked me on the leg to get my attention. I picked him up for a minute and then he squirmed to get down--I think he just wanted to remind me that he's in charge!

Well, I'd better log off for now. More when I get another chance to write, and pictures later on.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

T minus 14...hours

We'll be leaving our house for the last time as a family of three in approximately 14 hours. We will return to it a family of four.

It hardly seems real--we've been thinking about this for so long, and actively pursuing it for a year now. I can hardly believe it's about to happen. But our suitcases are packed, including over 100 pounds of donated items (thank you so very, very much!). We actually had too much to pack all of it and will be passing along the rest to other families who will be traveling in the future. It's all going to make it over--we just didn't have enough room for everything!

I will have the laptop, those posts are likely to be short and infrequent. Pictures will have to wait until we're back.

We love you all. Thank you so much for all of your prayers and wishes on our behalf. Melkamu will soon be home with us, and I am so very happy that you have all joined us on this journey!

Monday, February 25, 2008

My baby's smile

I got to see Melkamu's smile for the very first time today. He has a dimple. I've never had a dimple make me cry before, but this one made me cry. Look at how precious he is.

I got a wonderfully complete social update on my baby. It talked about how he eats (very slowly, so Patrick will have company--I am destined to have the slowest-eating children in the world), how he sleeps (he moves around a lot, also just like Patrick and I), how he interacts with other children, how he plays, how he responds to other people. It says he loves hugs and is easily calmed and distracted when he is upset. It had piles of new pictures, and I am savoring each and every one of them.

My baby. I can't believe I'll get to give him a hug later this week.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Five days...just five little days

And the panic has really started to set in. I think I live in the messiest house in the world right now. The clutter of toys and papers and books doesn't normally bother me because that gets cleaned up fairly quickly when we put our minds to it. It's the little things that get me--the dust on all the windowsills, the residue around the edge of the sink. This is rather odd, because normally I am completely oblivious to anything like that (though I always feel like other people must notice everything that I haven't cleaned in my house).

I have a compulsion to clean anytime I am going away longer than overnight, because I hate to walk into the house and immediately see all the things that need to be done. You can imagine how bad it's getting now, when we will be gone for 10 days (which is, I believe, the longest that Jason and I have ever gone anywhere other than our honeymoon) and will be coming home with another child. It's also combined with the sudden abhorrence of clutter. I need the clutter to go away so that I can start taking out things and organizing them for packing.

Normal compulsion + nesting instinct. It's not a happy thing.

Now, you would expect that this has gotten me to clean and organize. Wouldn't you? Don't bet on it. I'm so bogged down in work work right now that I haven't had a second to even start making my obsessively detailed packing list.

It is being compounded by a child who decided last night that the almost four years of karmic balancing for vomiting should come to an end. Patrick developed a milk allergy when he was 9 months old; it wasn't diagnosed until 10 1/2 months, so he threw up on me extensively every time he nursed. He hadn't thrown up again until last night, when he came downstairs an hour after going to bed and said "My shirt is dirty. I need a new one."

Sweet child that he is, he even brought another one but needed help putting it on. I started to do so and then my nasal passages were assaulted full-force. We went upstairs, where Jason gave him a bath and I removed every item of the bed that had been doused by cheese pizza and black olives. This included both pillows.

Clearly, we kept him "home" today. Home meant that he got to come to work with me. First we went to my normal campus, where I showed up at 8 a.m. specifically to help my students prepare for their midterm on Monday. No one showed, despite them being horrified that I might not be there and promising to show up.

I then dragged poor Patrick to another campus, where he watched a video while I helped set up our event for the Georgia Science Olympiad, which takes place tomorrow.

Later, I took him back to the original campus for a department meeting. It was quite obvious that he didn't feel great, as he curled up on my lap and didn't make a peep until the last 5 minutes, when he whispered several times that he was ready to leave. Then finally, we went home.

I had planned on getting several hours of grading and test-writing done this afternoon; that didn't happen, but my boy is feeling better.

I still have midterms to grade tonight, though. And I have to be back to campus #2 at 8 a.m. tomorrow to help judge the Science Olympiad.

But I did get a cool Science Olympiad shirt.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sharing with Patrick's class

Yesterday I had the chance to have a lot of fun in the midst of all the preparations for our trip. I went to Patrick's school to help them learn about adoption and Ethiopia.

Last week, I asked Patrick's teachers if it would be OK for me to come in and do that, since we wanted Patrick's friends to understand how his little brother is coming into our family. Lots of the children have a younger sibling, but they've all come home "from the hospital", as one little boy told me. I wanted them to learn about adoption, and how it is that Patrick's little brother will be talking and (almost) walking as soon as he comes home.

I brought our globe ball and had Patrick show them how far it is from Atlanta to Ethiopia, and explained that we would be getting on a plane and flying all that way to get to where Melkamu lives. I showed them his picture and said that he lives so far away because some babies grow in the belly of another mama, and that sometimes those mamas can't take care of their baby and the baby needs a new family. I said that we wanted another little boy and Melkamu needed a family, and so we will be each other's family from now on.

I read them three books: E is for Ethiopia, A Mother for Choco, and We're Different, We're the Same. I talked about how they eat food in Ethiopia, and they thought it was cool to eat with fingers instead of forks and knives. We talked about how not all people in all families look the same, but they all love each other and that's what helps make them a family.

I was really glad that we were able to do that, and it was a lot of fun. I think the kids enjoyed it, and I know Patrick loves to be the center of attention ;-) But more than that, it was fun to be able to teach the kids about another way that families are made, and to see their excitement for us.

Patrick amuses me

The other night as we were getting out of the car, Patrick was talking about who was in charge of different jobs. He said "You're in charge of me, and I'm in charge of Little Patrick."

"Oh, and who is Little Patrick in charge of?"

"Daddy. And Little Mama is in charge of Little Daddy."

I almost fell over. This kid cracks me up every day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Happy birthday, baby!

Melkamu is 15 months old today--I can hardly believe we will be meeting him next week! And we got absolutely wonderful news today that we will have the chance to make the trip south to Hosanna and hopefully meet his birthmother.

I should not have opened that e-mail and looked at the PowerPoints at work. I am a sobbing, blubbery mess right now. But a happy sobbing, blubbery mess.

We are still working out the millions of details that need to be done before we leave, but we're working on some new ones right now. We've been looking for a loft bed for Patrick to free up space so the boys can share a room. I think we've found one, finally. It's quite a bit more expensive than what we'd figured, but it comes with a lower bunk that can be put aside for Melkamu when he's ready to be out of the crib. One of the things I like best about it is that it has stairs instead of a ladder, which seems quite a lot safer for little ones. And the stairs have drawers in them, which would be great for storage. So we'll hopefully order it this week. It won't get here until after we get back, but we can deal.

We've decided to change our carseat options as well. Patrick is of a height where he could easily use a belt-positioning booster, as he's just over 41", but he's a stick in weight--just barely 36 lbs. So in Jason's car, Patrick will be in a high-backed booster and Melkamu will be in a new Graco 5-point carseat; in my car, Melkamu will be in a Britax Marathon (that we own) and Patrick will be in the Graco 5-point carseat that can be used as a belt-positioning booster when he outgrows the harness (we already own this one). They will both be spending a lot more time in my car and we felt like these were the best options.

So many details, only EIGHT DAYS UNTIL WE LEAVE!!!

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I may cry while writing this, but hopefully it won't short out my laptop as I still have work to do.

We had our monthly gathering with the Atlanta/GA families who have adopted or are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. It was amazing. Stephanie and Jason opened up their rec center warehouse to everyone who was able to make it--I think it was somewhere around 60+, and everyone had a wonderful time. I slacked and forgot my camera, so I don't have pictures. But we did have pizza and beverages, and an amazing chocolate cake. We met new families and saw pictures of children yet to come home, and met those who have come home since last we saw them.

While I was there, and especially after we left, I was thinking about how lucky we are. There was a long process that led us to adoption, and we went through a lot along the way to get to this point. When faced with the (always inappropriate) question of "Did you choose to adopt or can't you have anymore?", I can honestly say that we chose to adopt. People who persist in asking if it's because we are infertile get a "We CHOSE to adopt." It has taken a lot to get to the point where not only is that true, but that I feel comfortable saying that.

The fact that every person at the gathering tonight has made that same choice simply staggers me. I thought about how lucky we all are to have been able to make this choice, and to be bringing these beautiful children into not only our hearts and our families, but into this community of families.

We are on the verge of bringing home our son, leaving in only 11 days. Two families are in Ethiopia right now, another leaves this week, and then we leave the following week. The next time that this group, which seems to grow exponentially every time it meets, gets together, there will be at least 5 children home in new families. I feel so lucky that both Patrick and Melkamu will grow up knowing many, many families who are just like theirs. And I feel even luckier that we will grow as a family with these other families, sharing experiences and raising our children together.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I am so glad that every one of you is part of our village.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sleep sounds like a lovely idea

Yesterday Superwoman was burned out and took the day off --well, took the day off from doing things other than working for 9 hours. Today she was back:

1. Went in to help students study for their lab midterms next week (normally I work from home on Fridays, as I have no classes).

2. Left much earlier than expected to go deal with a very, very serious academic issue involving students in one of my classes, which I can't discuss here. Suffice it to say, it was VERY serious and it's not over yet...even though I've spent many hours dealing with it this week

3. Picked up donations that Virginia and Ben couldn't fit into their suitcases--they leave TOMORROW to get Malakai! Yay! We'll bring them over when we leave on the 27th.

4. Took out Patrick's carseat, put a sheet over the backseat of my new car (have I mentioned that I bought a Saturn Aura Hybrid that I love?), and brought the dogs to the vet for their annual check-up. I got there only to find that they'd moved locations in November and nobody told us! So I brought them to the new location, where after a traumatic toenail clipping, they were given their vaccinations and pronounced healthy and wonderful dogs (as if we didn't know that already).

5. Came home and cleaned the inside of my car, including vacuuming and spot-cleaning with the Bissell.

6. Took out the trash.

7. Decided it was too beautiful a day to be inside, got changed into a T-shirt and sweatpants, and dug up my entire front garden. I don't know if I'll plant a lot or when I'll do that, or if I'll even be able to water anything I plant, but the initial preparations are done.

8. Came inside and started working on the computer, where I dealt with more of the student issues via e-mail and lots of other things.

Jason and Patrick are having "Daddy and Paddy" night for dinner tonight, so I'm on my own for a bit longer. I'm going to take a hot bath or shower and read for a while, then work on the blanket that I'm making for Melkamu. Mom and Dad M sent us a beautiful blanket that all of their kids used when they were little, and we plan on bringing it to Ethiopia for Melkamu to use as soon as he joins our family.

T minus 12 days until we leave!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Best Valentine's Day gift ever

An update on Melkamu and a fourth picture! We hadn't gotten an update since the beginning of January (though there was a new photo on his birth certificate), and then it was a picture + his measurements. This time we got a full evaluation of him at 14 months, 5 days old! Our baby just gets cuter every time we see him. I just want to nuzzle those cheeks. And his eyes--oh my gosh, his eyes are so beautiful I can hardly believe it! I have two sons with the most beautiful brown eyes and longest eyelashes ever. I can't wait to see him smile, as he's not smiling in any of the pictures that we have.

The update told us that he's up to 21 lbs and 31" tall, so he's been growing a ton since getting to the care center (he started at 17 lbs 5 oz and just under 30" tall) three months ago. He's still not walking on his own, but he is pulling to stand and will walk holding on. Since children in Ethiopia tend to walk later than children in the U.S. anyway, we're not particularly surprised. I would imagine that he'll be running around the house chasing the dogs in no time. I'm not sure what that will do to daycare, though, since the kids need to be walking well to be in the 1-year-old room (it's really more like a 15 month-24 month room). You know what, though? We'll figure it out later. I refuse to stress out about something over which I have absolutely zero control, like when my child walks. And since I plan on carrying him as much as he'll let me--which, as I recall from Patrick, wasn't a whole lot at that age--it may still be a while. I need that snuggle time as much as he does!

He's a chatterbox, though. Even in his one-year evaluation, he was using 2 words together "meaningfully", not just babbling random words. He still is, and he's still described as understanding new words weekly, understanding feelings, combining gestures with words, vocalizing with expression, etc. Somehow, in some realm, I think he knew his family would be big talkers and that he needed to start early in order to get a word in edgewise!

Since his last evaluation at a week past his birthday, he's developed new skills: turning the pages of books, stacking two cubes, scribbling, using a cup, and trying to use a spoon. He was already putting marbles into a bottle and taking them back out, and stacking cups in each other. He sounds so perfect, even with the "yes" written by "occasionally tantrums when displeased" on both evaluations.

I can't believe that I'll be in Ethiopia two weeks from today. I alternate between elation, panic, and being on the verge of tears. This is really happening--in just a couple of weeks, I'll have both of my boys.

Here is the progression of pictures:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Just call me Superwoman

I woke up at 6:15 this morning and couldn't fall back to sleep--unsurprisingly, I had an awful lot of thoughts racing around my head. I finally got up at 7 to shower. Between the end of my shower and 12:30 p.m., I did all of the following:

1. Got Patrick up, dressed, read him a story, made sure he ate breakfast, played ball with him, found his yarn pig, helped him find a show-and-tell object that began with a "U" (The Ugly Duckling), reinstalled his carseat in Jason's car, and got him off to school with Jason.

2. Went up to Gwinnett County Court to file something for Jason.

3. Stopped at the post office and overnighted a payment (almost missed that one--oops!)

4. Stopped at both of our banks separately to deposit/transfer money around.

5. Grocery shopped at the farmer's market and put away all the groceries.

6. Made an appointment for the dogs to have their annual appointment and get vaccinations.

7. Made them a reservation at the kennel for the days we will be gone.

8. Got all my classes rearranged/covered for the time I will be gone.

9. Talked to both of my department chairs about the time I'll be gone.

10. Asked my Bradley teacher if she would cover my class for the Sunday that I will be gone, as a possible option for my students.

11. Made daycare arrangements for Melkamu at Patrick's old daycare--he will have the same teachers that Patrick had in the 1-year-old classroom and they are thrilled that we will be bringing Melkamu to them. They're perfectly willing to work out arrangements for him to only be there a couple of days a week, which is a big relief. I was pretty sure they would (they're wonderful, and it's a family-owned center daycare), but it's nice to know for sure that they have room and that it will work out.

12. Oh yeah, and called the travel agent. Our tickets are currently confirmed and we'll book them officially tomorrow. We'll leave on the 27th and be back on Friday, March 7th.

After that, I slowed down and:

1. Graded papers for my class tonight.

2. Wrote both of the midterms that I'm giving next week.

3. Gathered our library books.

4. Dropped off the things from this morning at Jason's office and signed a bunch of papers (don't ask me, I have no idea what I was signing. You'd think my lawyer wouldn't let me do that, but oh well!)

5. Picked up Patrick at school.

6. Went to the library and got new library books for both of us.

7. Ironed a bunch of clothes.

I still have office hours + a lab to teach tonight. During my office hours, I intend to start writing the test that I'm "giving" on the 28th. Wednesdays are late nights for me, and I don't expect I'll sleep a whole lot better tonight!

Superwoman is exhausted.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008



I can hardly believe it! Jan called us this evening to let us know, and I am still shaking and in shock. I was thinking of going to bed early before she called and now I can only think that in just barely over 2 weeks, I will be meeting my son, my beautiful Melkamu!

Oh my gosh, I have lists upon lists to make and piles of things to do!

We are collecting donations for the CHSFS care center and also for AHOPE, which is an orphanage for HIV+ children. If you'd like to send something along, that would be fabulous. We'd like to bring as much as possible, so small things such as supplies or medicines would be great; clothes are also wonderful, and any paperback books appropriate for children in 5th grade and below. I don't think we'll have room for big and bulky things. If not, we would love your prayers for a safe trip!

Donations lists below (there will be many duplicates):
CHSFS--Baby Wipes
Baby Lotion
Baby Shampoo
Baby Oil
Hand Sanitizer
Soy Formula
Pamper’s (all sizes, especially for newborns)
Latex Gloves
Tip Applicator
Paper for Changing Tables
Shoes (Toddler and Infant)

Amoxicillin Syrup 250mg/5ml
Amoxicillin Syrup 125mg/5ml
Amoxicillin Cups 500mg/Po
Amoxicillin Capsules 250mg/Po
Augmentin 312mg/5ml
Augmentin 156mg/5ml
Augmentin Tablets 312mg/Po
Augmentin Tablets 624mg/Po
Children’s ibuprofen 400mg
Cloxacillan Syrup 250mg/5ml
Cloxacillan Syrup 125mg/5ml
Cloxacillan (cuaul or tablet) 250mg/Po
Anti Acid Tablet
Anti Acid Syrup
Bactrem Syrup 240 mg/5ml
Rocephin with Lidocin injection (IM, IV) 250, 1gm, 500mg
Foban Ointment
Antibiotic Ointment
Metronidazole Syrup
Medenbazole Syrup
Baby Suppository
Children’s Pain Reliever tablets & drops
Plasil Syrup
Vitamin Syrup and Capsules

Coloring Books

AHOPE--Eye drops
Anti fungal for oral thrush
Benadryl for allergic reaction
De-worming agents taken orally
Oral Suspension Ibuprofen
Antiseptic and Pain reliever
Savlon Antiseptic
Benzalkonium Chloride towelette
Antiseptic Instant Hand sanitizer
Burn cream
Poison Ivy Cleanser
Povidone Iodine USP Prep Pad
Plasil drop Infants
Digital thermometer
Bandage (roll)
Sterile dressing gauze (packed)
Cold compress (Hot compress) pack which is reusable
Cough syrups
Gas Relief
Hyopan (Hyosine Syrup)
Hyosine tablets
Cloxacillin 125 mg/5ml syrup
Cloxacillin 250 mg/5ml syrup
Cotton diapers
New/gently used kids shoes
Kids' underwear and pj's (like sizes 6mos. to 12/14)
Antibacterial lotion
Rubber gloves
Simple English books for the new library
Balls, simple games/puzzles (that don't require language knowledge)
Arts and crafts supplies

Monday, February 11, 2008

Maybe we'll know more on Wednesday

And that's about it. Apparently, there are currently 10 families who are tentatively scheduled to travel on the 28th, and we're not one of them. But Jan is (really!) working on trying to figure out a way for us to go that week. I asked about the possibility of going and staying in a hotel if the guest house were full (which we can only afford to do if the Ethiopian Airlines buy-1-get-1-ticket sale applies to our tickets), but CHSFS is only given 10 Embassy times each week, so that won't be an option.

Jan feels fairly confident that something will work out, as she told both me and Jeff (the adoption program director, who's helping improve communications), and hopes to have definite news by Wednesday. I am praying very, very hard that it really does work out.

Tomorrow, I will call a travel agency and have them put a hold on tickets for us leaving on the 27th. That way if we get good news on Wednesday, we will have them available and if not, we're not out anything since we'll use the agency when it is our turn to go. I feel like I'm tempting fate dangerously by making cautiously optimistic plans, but I also feel a desperate need to do something.

Friday, February 8, 2008

It pays to be the squeaky wheel...

BECAUSE WE GOT THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE FOR MELKAMU!!! We just wait to travel and I think we might still (please, dear G-d, let this happen) be able to travel over spring break! That means THREE WEEKS FROM NOW WE MIGHT BE IN ETHIOPIA WITH OUR NEW SON!!!

I can hardly breathe, I can hardly sit still. I don't know if it was just random luck that our birth certificate came faster than any of the others I've seen lately--10 days after getting through court, while others are taking 3 weeks; or if they'd already tried to expedite it knowing that if we didn't travel then that it would be another three months--of which I reminded Jan when she called to let us know we were through court and that we would likely be traveling mid-March, which we couldn't do; or if they did something deliberately to make sure it came right when I was furious with them to diffuse the situation, but I don't care about the reason a single ounce because we have it!

Patrick and I are at my parents' house right now, as my sister is getting married this summer and I wanted to come help her look for a wedding dress, and they refused to let me come without Patrick. I had no intention of checking my e-mail this weekend, but when I called Jason tonight, he said I needed to check it. Thankfully my brother is living with my parents right now and he has a computer with internet access, because my parents (love you both!) have no internet at home normally. Or even a computer. I wouldn't have known this until Sunday otherwise!!! OK, I would have known but I wouldn't have been able to see it!

Heather, we'd pretty much decided that worrying about the cost later was what we were going to do if a miracle happened and we could travel over spring break--and it looks like maybe, possibly it might have! I would much rather stay in the guest house and hopefully we might be able to (another forum person posted yesterday that their 10-year old son would be allowed to stay in the guest house with them), but we'll figure it out if we can't. All I know is that I might have my son in my arms in less than three weeks.

Pardon me, I must go sob now!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Now I'm just angry

Thank you all for the support--it really helps to have that. I am just so furious with CHSFS. I e-mailed Jan, who is our contact person. She's been lousy at communicating with us since the get-go, which should have been a red flag before we even submitted our dossier, but we'd looked so hard at the agencies that we felt confident that it would all even out and it would get better. Ha. Ha ha. Oh, I laugh.

When we received the diagnosis about Manalimo, it was awful. The guilt over being unable to accept the referral, coupled with the anger at CHSFS for sending us a referral prematurely--coupled with more guilt over feeling angry that we fell in love with a little boy who would not be part of our family. Jan didn't contact us for two days; she claimed it was because our social worker (who she'd somehow managed to contact) had said that she would do it (not that she did, but that wasn't surprising considering how awful our social worker was). Then when she did call, what she said sounded good. Maybe I just needed it to sound good because of how awful I felt. Now I'm back to feeling cynical like they sent us a referral for a little boy with a severe neurological problem in the hopes that we'd fall in love and take a chance, even though our initial form said we couldn't, and they wouldn't have the expense of a waiting child with cerebral palsy.

When we received Melkamu's referral, we were excited that we would get to meet his birthmother. After all, we knew that there was always a chance that we wouldn't know anything about our child's birthfamily but Melkamu's referral they did have that information (actually, so did Manalimo's), and we would hopefully get to meet her. And then they changed the policy.

The part that has really started to bother me is this: CHSFS refers a fairly high percentage of children who still have two living parents. I think it's around 25% of the children they refer. That part doesn't bother me--there's no guarantee that two living parents have the ability to care for a child any more than one living parent. But with the US definition of an orphan, I can see why they would feel the need to get policies worked out in order to continue their program. It saddens me and I can see so many problems with this anyway, but that's not my main point. The point is that this means that 75% of the children they refer DO fit the US definition of an orphan. Either they have one living parent who cannot care for them or they have no living parents and/or relatives who can care for them. The US definition also says something about the birth families not being allowed to expect further contact after the child is relinquished for adoption (yes, because closed adoptions have always proven so effective for everyone involved...who, me sarcastic?). But then what about the adoptive families who want and feel that their children DESERVE that contact? Don't those other families deserve to have all the opportunities available to contact the birth family if known? Yet instead of just cutting off meetings for families whose children have two living birthparents, which is bad enough, they've cut it off for everyone. Melkamu meets the defintion of an orphan. Maybe his birthmother can't expect contact according to the definitions, but I see nothing about her having to refuse contact freely offered by us. CHSFS was supposed to be really good about looking after the best interests of the adopted children, yet they've cut off everyone. How exactly is this in the best interests of the majority of the children they refer? Let's say that, of those 75% of children that they refer who meet the US definition of an orphan, half are from a single birth parent who relinquished a child that he or she couldn't care for. I don't know if that's accurate, but we had that information on both of the referrals we received. So of all the children they refer, about 38% come with a known birth family member. Shouldn't those 38% of children be able to meet birth families if they so desire? Why make them all suffer?

(Rant, rant, rant...I won't be offended if no one's reading, but I need to get this out.)

So now all of the fun comes up with the guest house. I e-mailed Jan to say that I was just feeling sick about so many of our hopes for the travel on this trip going away one at a time, and she basically said "Sorry you feel that way." The end. Which angered me further. So I sent back an e-mail saying that I was wondering when they'd planned on telling us that we wouldn't be allowed to stay at the guest house, as she'd known all along that we will be bringing Patrick with us--I'd even e-mailed her questions about getting him a visa and everything, so she can't claim she had no clue. I wanted to know if it would be a case of "Here are your travel dates--and by the way, you can't stay at the guest house so you'd also better get started arranging a place to stay." It wasn't in the nicest of tones, I admit, but I'm so fed up and furious--and Melkamu is legally our son, so I'm not as concerned about what they can do. Delay it, yes. But since we can't travel for 3 more months anyway, I doubt they could delay it that long when we would otherwise travel next month.

She e-mailed back "Sorry you feel you weren't informed. The policy change was started 1/1/08 and was in the travel packet from January, the e-newsletter, and on the hotline. (I've copied the director of CHSFS on this e-mail if you want to talk to him.)" Ah, now we've figured out the problems! Jan, lousy communicator that she is, never sent us an updated travel packet. The one we have is dated November 2007, and we received it at the beginning of December when we accepted Melkamu's referral. Our e-mail addresses have never made it onto the e-newsletter list. Jan knows this and had promised to fix it last fall. It never happened. She received a reminder that we weren't on that list a few weeks ago when I learned about the birth family policy change from the forum, and e-mailed her about it. "Oh, you never received that e-mail? Here's a copy. But I won't bother fixing the problem--I'll just slap a forward on this e-mail and that'll be good enough." And the hotline? I'm guessing people found out about it in the e-newsletter, because I'd never heard of it before.

I e-mailed back to both her and the director of CHSFS that the fact that we'd never heard of it before was a direct result of her poor communication. I ended the e-mail there, before I could call her nasty names.

Every adoptive parent has to take training classes. In all of these training classes, they make the point that you're not paying for a child, you're paying for the services of the agency through the process. I'm still waiting to see those services. I'm glad that Melkamu is getting top-notch care but quite frankly, I'd expect a little more care from CHSFS for his parents who have paid $12,000+ for their services!

Oh, and the fact that the fees that go to the guest house are lost--they do tell you up-front that your fees pay for the guest house and that if you don't stay there, you don't get money back or have a reduction in fees. We knew that. We planned to use the guest house, so it wasn't an issue. But we didn't know that our option for using it by would be taken away from us because we will be bringing Patrick. We DID have the option to use the guest house when it was us and Patrick when we signed that contract. We still had that option even after we accepted Melkamu's referral. Now we don't, and I don't believe there's been a single word of "Sorry about that. We know that this was a selling point for our agency and that this will drastically change the travel plans for certain families. Therefore, we will be refunding those families the X amount that would otherwise have gone to the guest house so that they can make other arrangements." At least I don't think there has been. Jan didn't bother sending me any of the documentation that she claims expressed this new policy, even after I e-mailed to say I hadn't seen a single one. Big surprise.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

One at a time...

First, it was that we won't get to meet Melkamu's birthmother.

Then it was that there's no chance we'll travel over my spring break and will likely have to wait until May so as not to jeopardize my job.

Now it's that we won't be able to stay in the guest house if we bring Patrick.

CHS.FS is really dropping the ball entirely. Meeting our child's birth family and the guest house were two major draws to our agency. Enough so that we were willing to pay much higher fees than other reputable agencies in order to use them. Since part of our fees went to our guest house stay, that helped--the bigger issue, of course, was meeting the birth family and all CHS.FS does to facilitate that.

We're now being told that they had to make a hard and fast rule due to past abuse of the guest house that only the adoptive parents and their new child/ren can stay there. I could understand that there are issues if the family required a second room, but we're talking about a 4-year old who would likely even stay in the same bed as us. I would happily pay a bit more for costs for his meals and all, but that's not an option. Which means now we'll have the cost of a hotel (and lost the money that we've already paid for the guest house, as you don't get it back if you don't stay there), food, and transportation to and from the care center (as well as anywhere else) added onto the trip. We simply don't have another $1000+ to add onto this--travel costs alone are going to be $5000+. We will be maxing out our credit cards just to pay for the airfare. There's no extra money for the rest of it, especially at the beginning of the summer when I won't be working for 3 months.

I am completely disillusioned by this point, heartbroken, and don't know what to do.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Our new son!

We have been holding out on you.

On Patrick's birthday, December 3rd, we received a referral for a 12 1/2 month old little boy named Melkamu Delelegne. We accepted the referral later that week, but have held off on telling until our court date. On January 30th, we found out that we were through court and Melkamu is now officially and legally our son! We waited a few more days so that I could tell my parents and grandmother in person (they're here visiting now), and we had to call Jason's family before anyone else found out also. Here he is, the newest member of our family!
Isn't he beautiful? A month ago, he was about 30.5" and 18 lb 12 oz. We haven't gotten a more recent update but are hoping for one soon. At a year he was already putting together two words but hadn't started walking. We haven't gotten an update on his skills, so I don't know if he's walking yet.
Some of you have known for a while because Patrick spilled the beans in synagogue. Others are just now finding out. We're so excited to be able to share this news with you! We're waiting for his birth certificate to come through and then they will set up travel dates for us, and we cannot wait to bring our son home!