Man Eater

I’m not sure what’s gotten into me, but lately I have had this insatiable appetite for my family. I just can’t get enough of them. To the point that I literally want to eat them up. Well, maybe not literally. I am a stickler for rules, and I’m pretty certain there’s some antiquated law out there that prohibits cannibalism.

But I still want to eat ‘em. And, oh, how tasty they would be. All of them. Keith. Avery. Simon. Yep, even him. I tell Avery a dozen times a day that I wanna eat her up. Of course she giggles and begs me not to, so I refrain. Sometimes she starts the begging before my threats begin so I will lovingly chew on her squishy (and delicious) arm.

I was thinking this hunger could have grown from NOT SEEING MY DAUGHTER FOR 11 DAYS. I mean she’s still telling me how much she missed me while we were gone, and we’ve been home for 2 weeks now! But that theory doesn’t pan out when you consider the relentless craving I have for Keith and Simon. I tell those two how yummy they are as well.

I’ve always loved my family, but for some reason I just don’t want them out of my sight…or my arms. I hate it when Keith leaves for work, when I put Avery down for bed, and when Simon retires to bed earlier than me. My physical and mental well being hinge on how much of them I can consume when they’re near.

It may be strange to you non-dog people that I rock my dog, kiss his snout, whisper sweet nothings in his ear, and love to inhale his scent…which has always resembled syrup. If he's not at my side, I coerce him. My affection for him waned with the birth of my daughter, until a few weeks ago. It’s back stronger than ever.

Have you seen anything more adorable?

I want to take naps with Avery, not for the sleep but just to hold and watch her. I’ve never been like that…one of those moms who lies in the bed as kids fall asleep. Lately I have to pull myself away from her bedside when I stop in for one last check before going to bed.

Not sure how I produced such a goofball, but I love it!

And, my husband. I’ll spare you the details of how I want to devour him. Okay, just one. A friend of mine says she wishes she could glue herself to her husband. Be with him all the time. I’ve never wanted that! How bizarre! This girl needs some quality ME time. But now, I wish I were a leach so I could just attach myself to Keith.

A man who will get a manicure. The best!

If I can’t have an arm, I will at least need some lips, a nose and an ear. Still no? One morsel is all I’m asking for!

Does anyone else find their loved ones as mouth-watering as I do mine?

The boys? Oh, I might even gobble them up before we bring them home. I’ve saved our latest adoption news for the end. While we completed our side in the Ethiopian court…said that we understand becoming parents of the boys is irrevocable and we agree to it, someone else has to permanently give up rights to the boys. It had already happened at other levels, same as us, but had to be done in person in front of a judge at the capitol. We were informed yesterday that this has happened. Yay!

Why didn’t I post this yesterday? I received the information about 10 P.M. last night. Delivered via email from my dear husband, even though we had been together all evening. Umm, communication.

Still can’t post pics yet. Sorry. We’re waiting on a letter to be received by the Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA). They’re supposed to have it by March 11. Until then, you’ll just have to settle for pictures of the 4 of us.


Try as she might to fall in deep…

Although we returned on Tuesday, jetlag hit me on Friday around 4 P.M. I’m still on whatever time zone Ethiopia is in, which is why I’m waking up way too early in the morning for any kind of real productivity. However, my mind won’t shut off even though I’m too tired to move my body. This might contribute to the fact that I am a teensy weensy eensy bit OCD.

A couple of my dear girlfriends threw me a super fun shower Saturday, you know, so the boys won’t be stuck wearing princess PJs and glitter shoes. As usual when I’m getting ready for anything more than a normal day, my wardrobe presents a conundrum. My closet is full, but I can’t piece together anything acceptable. I reached for the cutest top I own and that I haven’t worn for too many other events or photo opportunities. The problem was that this top only worked with a pair of jeans, but I don’t think jeans are very showery. So, I hoped some heels and fancy earrings would help pull it together.

Brooke and Amybeth (the hostesses with the mostesses) and Me

When Keith came upstairs, I asked for his valued opinion. His response, “You look fine.” Now, those of you reading this already see the problem, don’t you.

“Fine or good?” I prodded. He said, “You look good.” Oh, you know it doesn’t end there.

My words to Keith are now to all men. (Do men read this blog?) And they apply regarding your observance of any female.

If I look good, the least you can say is “good.” A better choice is “great,” “amazing” or “fantastic.” If I look fine, you might as well say I should go change. “Fine” basically means I’ve met the bare requirements of the lowest standard. No girl wants to look that wretched!

This need for affirmation from my husband reminded me of the two most recent books I finished: Dobson’s Bringing Up Boys and Bringing Up Girls. Hope I didn’t miss the boat on that last one, as Avery is already 4. But, according to the book, it seems like Keith is one who could have missed it. Of course, he hasn’t. He’s the best. However, these books have made me think HE should be the one staying home with our children. He definitely has the most influence. Definitely is the authority God has placed over the 4 of us. Definitely is the most valued opinion. Do I need to go on? Instead of stressing the value of a mother’s role in the life of her children, it is the father who he mentions most frequently. How his presence, words, actions, etc. are paramount in the lives of these precious little ones…and bigger ones too.

The books expressed the same need for children…affirmation and approval from Daddy. So, it’s not just me who is so needy. My kids are too.

Men, I hope you are prepared for the daunting task before you.

Oh, and if you are the parent of either gender, my advice to you is to get a copy of that respective book.


A View From Ethiopia...Finally, Some Pictures!!!

Finally able to post pics from Ethiopia. Keith crashed the laptop on day 2, so posting even what I did was a challenge.

Coming out of the airport with 4 tubs...18 gallons each...of donations for the orphanage. A big thanks to The Campus and Four Corners Church for helping us with them!

This is just a little shop in a string of shops on the road back from the airport.

Just another little shop along the road. Kinda made me sad.

Ethiopian scaffolding: eucalyptus trees. Stacked and held together with nails. Wanna be the worker to climb that?

A school in town. Not sure if it was independent or run by the government. We heard that most kids had to pay to go to school. And even then, they often lived too far away to walk there. Makes me appreciate my own education. Free.

When I said on Day 1 that I thought our driver was taking us to be killed on the way home from the airport, I was serious. I snapped one last shot as we turned down a gravel alley way. All I saw ahead of us was a giant pile of rocks. Great for hiding dead bodies under. Not sure why I took the picture. I was thinking if I somehow escaped, or someone at least found my camera, it would be evidence to lead them to my killer. I really should have taken a picture of my almost-killer. Needless to say, I was terrified.

The view from our balcony. Surprised we have a balcony from our stay in Ethiopia? So was I. When questioned about his method of selecting a place to stay, Keith said he just picked the most expensive place. Assuming my "needs" would be unmet elsewhere. Wait. I have needs? What needs? I'm not high maintenance.

However, this is the backyard to our left...

And this was the view to our right. Plus, they had a dog that only barked at night. Incessantly. Sweet.

Starbucks, Anyone?

Random animals on the side of the highway. The ones marked with an X have been examined by the government. So, what's stopping an animal owner from just buying a can of spray paint to approve his own animals?

Blue and white vehicles: public transportation. Pictured above, a van.

Ethiopian entertainment? Camel racing. Keith loved it!

A site of construction. More eucalyptus trees. What else should you use?

The orphanage, a view from the street. It really was a great place. Glad to have the boys there if they can't come home yet.

The first lady who performed the coffee ceremony for us. And Keith graciously accepting a cup.

The kids are "trained" to take their shoes off before entering any room where they will be sitting...classroom, bedroom, playroom. This is just outside the "Learning Room" as the sign on the door reads and also serves as their lunchroom.

Typical lunch at the orphanage. Yumm.

A poster in their classroom. I think it has Amharic and English. So, I don't have start at square 1 teaching them English. They've covered some of the basics for me. Thanks!

The fresh water tank outside. They used large cans to haul water inside. But not everyone had these tanks. Many people walked miles with yellow 3-gallon jugs...even little kids...to fetch some water. You'll see in a pic further down.

The boys' room. Probably 12 kids to a room. No clue how the nannies get them to sleep at the same time. I need to learn some tricks from them.

The site of our first meeting. The living room of the orphanage. They just celebrated Christmas. In January for Ethiopia.

The other side of the living room. The play area for the four of us. But no toys.

The front of the Tikuret Orphanage. That's the actual name. Nice place. But...

This is a glance down the street from the it.

A volcano. You probably could guess that. I was a little surprised to see it. Luckily it is dormant.

And this is where we spent a bright shiny Saturday. Those little sprigs are the trees Keith planted. And, that top right-hand window is the room where I slaved away. Acacia Village. The foster home run by our agency. It serves as a home for many kids between their court date and embassy appointment to travel home.

One of those yellow 3-gallon jugs used for carrying water home. We saw lots of little kids toting the water. Always alone.

A village of mud houses. We saw many of these.

The amazing Ethiopian church. We politely waited until after the service to snap away. The choir gathered on stage when we were dismissed.

The people in line on the right are waiting to purchase sermon or worship CDs. We joined them.

A random donkey. I swear Keith took this picture. But he is cute. I kinda wanna bring him home as my pet. Simon would be jealous. Maybe no.

A butcher shop. All you need is a slab o' beef, a knife and a place to hang the slab.

The food at the fancy restaurant. This is what the girl next to me ordered. Do you understand why I chose not to eat?

And, here is Keith's plate. Once the waitress stopped laughing at my reaction to what she brought out, she poured it into the same mix. You can see my boiled egg in the middle. And, I think the chicken leg is somewhere on the right, unless someone snagged it up. Wouldn't want that to go to waste.

Some of the entertainment from the evening. Guys and gals paraded on and off the stage in an assortment of matching costumes. This one was accompanied by the women wearing bee-keeper outfits. And, Keith's favorite were the shorts and midriff tops with fringe and beads.

Keith and Tikabe, the night-time receptionist at our guest house and Keith's best friend for the week. How long can a guy last in a room with no TV? Apparently, not long.

The station for the coffee ceremony, which was performed for us on the final day, a tradition there. The huge bowl of popcorn? Made just for me.

In the middle is Bisrat, the interpreter sent from God. The little blond is Eve, who is adopting a precious little girl. And on the end is Marty, her friend traveling with her in lieu of Eve's husband. These were the crazy gals next door that we spent the week with. I never imagined how much fun I could have in Ethiopia.

I cannot wait to go back. I will not be coming home alone.


Ethiopia: Day 6...The Big Day

Our court appointment today was first changed from 3 P.M. to 11 A.M. Then again to 9 A.M. Like I said, the concept of time is futile here. However, it turns out to be a good thing because we were ushered to the front of the line while about a hundred people gave us the Evil Eye. In groups of 3 couples each, we appeared before the judge in a small room as she asked us a list of questions and glanced at our passports.

The entire process took all of 90 seconds. A bit anticlimactic, as will be this post.

As far as we know, we have been approved on our end as the official parents of our children. But, things still aren’t wrapped up here, and we will likely be waiting even longer than expected for an embassy date and to bring them home. I want to use profanity over this news, but I am choosing to exercise self control. Okay. You know I can’t bring myself to use profanity.

After court, we all made a mad dash to see the kiddos at our respective orphanages or foster homes. The boys were in the yard playing with all their friends when we arrived, and they both immediately ran to Keith. They must not have seen me, right? So sweet seeing our sons love on their daddy.

They wanted to take us inside to play, even after we insisted that we all play outside with their friends. Same story, different day. Cars, coloring, kick ball, coffee ceremony, ditch school, Ivan destroying anything in his path.

We sat with them at lunch again, trying to capture every moment either on video or picture. At naptime, none of us wanted to let go. I know that our absence will be explained, as they receive weekly counseling on the process. Still, they’re children. Avery’s been begging to go pick them up “after her nap” since October when we first showed her their pictures. We will miss them desperately and think of them constantly but know all of this is in God’s hands. Just remind me of that when I start complaining.

Ethiopia: Day 5…One God

Somehow…it’s a long story…we got connected with an awesome interpreter here named Bisrat. He grew up in a monastery, his mom a nun and his dad a monk. Earning no income from this, they had to beg for anything more than their one meal per day. After Jesus saved him, he began sharing the Gospel with the people there (who by the way believe that the line to God is through angels and saints, not Jesus). So, he was thrown in jail for 3 days and, when released, literally strapped to the top of a vehicle (because if he rode inside it the van would be cursed) and dropped off in the capital city. Knowing no one, he went to a leper colony to look for food and live because he had been told it was the cheapest place. Seriously, a leper colony. (He took 2 girls from our guest house there, and one of them gave out tootsie pops.) Anyway, he started a Bible study, which grew to a church, and he served as their pastor for 7 years. Now, while he is praying and studying to plant a local church, he lives in town and works as an interpreter for whities like us, forengies, as we are called. I have no clue how to spell that. And, we affectionately call him Bizzy.

When we asked Bizzy to take us to a church on Sunday, he began telling us about the church he had in mind. What he called a traditional American-style church. Right. Like any of us would want that even in America. We’re in Ethiopia! We want to see how Ethiopians do it! So, he agreed to take us to his church.

Keith said his first impression was how amazing it is that we all serve one God through Jesus. I think it’s amazing that we were able to join them in worship having no clue what anyone was saying. The service was of course in Amharic. But after an hour or so of singing, an usher handed out headsets so we could listen to the interpreter as she paraphrased the sermon the best she could.

After the service, people lined up at a little tin shack to purchase CDs of previous weeks’ worship or sermon. No podcasts.

Accompanied by Bizzy, our group (excluding me of course) wanted to dine at an authentic Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. One where they sing and dance and parade around in different costumes and body paint. It was quite the show, but the dish that sounded the safest turned out to be what looked like a bowl of canned chili with a fatty chicken leg and boiled egg tucked inside. Yep. The chicken and the egg. Inside the bowl of chili. When I questioned the waitress, who I’m sure had no clue what I was saying, she had to dig into the bowl of chili to ensure me that I did in fact receive both the chicken and the egg that the menu promised. And, although there were plenty of forengies, we were quite the spectacle.

In the end, she brought our table one very small upside-down hat full of popcorn, which selfishly I kept all to myself.

Ethiopia: Day 4…Ah, The Weekend

A few people went shopping again. Another group went to some place with monkeys and hot springs. What did my sweet husband sign us up for? Work, of course. Ten years of marriage, so I should expect nothing less. Still, it’s Saturday for crying out loud!

Our labor site: Acacia Village, a foster home/soon-to-be everything else, run by our agency Christian World Adoption. Our labor: planting trees in the Ethiopian sun. Awesome.

When we arrived, I kindly asked if there was any task I could complete indoors so that my delicate skin could escape a scorching burn. So, while Keith planted trees, I sorted and folded at least a couple thousand pieces of children’s clothing in a stuffy room upstairs. I’m not complaining. I’ll take a lungful of dust any day over the pain of a sunburn that would likely hospitalize me. My only regret is that I left my ipod back in the room. We are so spoiled.

By the time our chores were completed, it was lunchtime. I had heard we would be served a traditional Ethiopian cuisine. Gulp. So I told them I wasn’t hungry. Turns out pasta is a staple here, and today it was spaghetti. The sauce looked iffy, so I went the safe route: dry noodles and bread.

Our driver was supposed to pick us up at 3, so Keith called to request he come at 2 since we finished early. Cars are a luxury here. People walk everywhere or take public transportation…blue and white vans, cars or 3-wheeled vehicles. They are the vast majority on the road. On the driving here, people are so friendly. If someone pulls out in front of you, it’s because he needs to cross that particular road, and you politely let him by slowing down or stopping your vehicle. Same for you. A line of traffic a mile long blocking you? That’s okay. Just go. They’ll stop. Pedestrians walk mere centimeters from speeding vehicles and never get hit. Well, I won’t say never, but I didn’t witness any. Also, no traffic lights or signs of any kind, including speed limits. What? But, no one gets road rage. They just go with the flow, literally. They’d never make it in the U.S.

We have drivers hired by our guest home or agency. Either way, communication is always run through a 3rd, 4th or 5th party to make arrangements. And, time is all but meaningless here, so we weren’t really surprised that our van didn’t show up until 4. That’s right, 2 hours late.

Luckily we made it back for a dinner of cabbage and tiny, very chewy beef tip stir-fry plus rolls that should really be saved for a game of golf. I ate 2 and a half granola bars.


Ethiopia: Day 3...A Dose of Reality

I am fully rested and recovered from whatever plagued me yesterday. I hope the delicious smoothies and fresh fruits are helping with my hydration and are NOT what nearly took my life. I’ve decided my illness may have been caused by my using a toothbrush that had been rinsed under the faucet. A huge no no. The faucet, instead of bottled water...that the gals next door are even using to wash their faces. They are fun. A little crazy. But definitely fun.

Today’s agenda: visit #2 with the boys.

I brought with me the remaining toys from my suitcase, but this time I didn’t even bother to show them the books and puzzles. Just cars, balls and bubbles. I learn fast. However, the cars didn’t hold the same fascination as they did on Wednesday, so we were reaching for anything new. First, the laptop, which was nearly mauled to death by tiny, curious fingers. And, then we dug into the tubs of donations for crayons and coloring books.

Based on our time together, this is how I envision a typical day at home with the kids: Avery and Garrison sit quietly and contentedly at the table together coloring and playing with flashcards while I chase down Ivan who has absconded with half of their items and is now tearing through the house chunking things to and fro and overturning anything that could possibly make a bigger mess for me. Then, I spend their naptime magic erasing the walls and rainbowing the carpets. But I still can’t wait. Speaking of wait, we found out our wait time between the court appearance (where we are now) to the embassy appointment (our next and final step) could be 8-12 weeks!!! A few months ago, the span was just 2 weeks. Big Fat Bummer.

The boys are total opposites indeed, but so precious. We had arrived during their morning lesson, but the workers let them ditch to come play. Several of us kicked a few balls around outside until someone came around with a bike, which turned into the moment’s obsession. After lunch, Garrison latched onto Keith while I tucked Ivan in for his nap.

I’m going to HATE saying goodbye.


Ethiopia: Day 2…a.k.a. My Near-Death Experience

Nothing technically on the agenda for the day, so Keith arranged for the two of us to go help out at an orphanage/missions base run by our agency called Acacia Village. However, the rest of our group wanted to go shopping, so we blindly followed them. This group consisted of 8-10 adults with the same court date as us, our driver and our interpreter…and I use that term loosely, as we didn’t always understand him. So, even though we felt blind going into most of our ventures, at least we weren’t alone.

We did some shopping in an area known to the locals as the Post Office…very much like the market in Mexico or China. Same stuff, different store. We bought some gifts for the boys and a dress for Avery. Oh, I picked up some Ethiopian coffee pot earrings…you know, to represent the sacred ceremonial coffee that I so rudely denied.

I had felt sick all morning but chalked it up to the altitude. We’re about 8,300 feet here (fun fact: it’s the 3rd highest capital city in the world). No clue what Atlanta is (1,000 feet +/-100)1, but the change totally kicked my butt. So, I assumed I had altitude sickness, extremely fatigued, parched and generally not feeling well. Later that afternoon something hit me, and I ended up in the bathroom unable to move a muscle. Seriously. I couldn’t open my eyes to see Keith or even open my mouth to convey to him just how near death I knew I was. Literally near death. When my nurse left me in the bathroom, I hoped he either went to call for help or at least was googling my ailment. Nope. When I eventually recovered, I found him checking email, oblivious to my dire condition. Thanks, Honey.

No clue what made me so sick. But, I figure it didn’t kill me, so I may as well eat the food, knowing if I do get sick again I’ll likely recover.

Speaking of the food, it hasn’t been as bad as I imagined. That’s saying a lot considering my standards. Nothing too Ethiopian. Spaghetti (no meat and way spicier than the norm), fried chicken (how much more American can you get?), French toast (which was deep fried in butter…Mmmm), seasoned potatoes and carrots. Not too shabby, especially considering I haven’t had to do any of the cooking.

1 Note from Keith: All altitudes researched by him…and he calls me “scientific accuracy.”

Ethiopia: Day 1

We arrived in Ethiopia about 48 hours ago. After making our way through the chaos of the airport, including getting a visa, passing through immigration and customs, we made it to our guest house, courtesy of our hired driver who I was convinced was really one of the bad guys from the movie Taken and was merely driving us so he could find a deserted gravel road on which to secretly kill us.

As soon as we arrived at the guest house, we had just enough time to glance at our rooms before we were ushered back out to go meet our sons. (We had been told that wouldn’t happen until day 2 of our visit.) I was glad to be ambushed by the news because I didn’t have time to get nervous and lose a 3rd night of sleep in a row.

We were all a little timid as we began exchanging hugs and kisses. Tears streamed down my face until I realized a camera crew was catching all of my ugly crying face on video. We sat on a couch with them for some photos while I pulled out some items I brought for them. Books, a puzzle and a few matchbox vehicles. You know I don’t have boys at home because I ignorantly pulled out the books first, thinking they would entertain them.

We got to spend about 2 hours together, so we were able to follow them through a normal mid-morning day, including their lesson during which Garrison (the oldest) showed off his new tiny truck and gave everyone detailed instructions on all of its parts. After another play session between the four of us, we followed them to lunch of injera (kind of a soggy pita with a bean/corn mixture slopped on it). Their mealtime ritual is to pray in unison in English. Garrison volunteered to lead them on this day. There were probably 30 kids in a tiny room with windows all along one wall. Each sat at his/her place at the table or in the circle on the floor. No one squirmed to get up or fussed that the food wasn’t up to his/her liking. Awesome.

One of their customs is this coffee ceremony where they roast the beans on a flame that they start with basically just rocks and a fan. A woman generously performed this when we arrived…to which I declined thinking it was just regular coffee. Big mistake. She looked at me as if I had just shot her dog, so the photographer stepped in and said he’d love it and Keith took the other. I immediately regretted my decision because it was amazing coffee. Thick like espresso and almost naturally sweet.

We took them outside because they were being typical boys, throwing balls in the living room. Ivan (the little one) had thrown his into the ceremonial coffee station. Another father saved the day by giving me a bottle of bubbles, and the boys acted as if it was their first time to ever see them. It was so much fun! We have a lot of firsts to experience with them when we all get home. I can’t wait!!!