Glamour Shots No More

Every year in the spring, I force my loved ones into the painful experience of the annual family photo shoot. Oh, what fun! In the past, we have gone to one of those torture chambers, also known as a portrait studio, where they pose everyone in a variety of cheesy arrangements. “Okay, Mom, you sit here next to Dad and place your right pinky on his shoulder…and Little One, you curl your legs like this and smile really big while I shake this disgusting feather duster in your face and make noises that are not age appropriate.” And, you FEEL even more uncomfortable than this sounds. Keith calls them our “glamour shots.” For the grandiose one in our living room, he is wearing far too much clothing for the position in which he is awkwardly lying.

So, he is the only one who has to be dragged. Kicking and screaming actually. Avery is a big ham for the camera and often asks me to take pictures as she arrogantly struts her stuff on a make-shift stage or runway. Even so, she is a child, which means if she knows how much we want something, such as the perfect shot for cards, blogs and facebook, she will do anything BUT comply.

We’ve only previously achieved the group of family smiles through blood, sweat and treats.

Since October when we received our referral, I have both looked forward to our new family-of-five pictures as well as dreaded the agony it would likely take to get it.

This year we avoided that pain. Thanks to DHC Photography we had the best and definitely most fun photo shoot ever! Now, I have many friends who take photos as a hobby, a side business or a day job. So, you guys, don’t be jealous that I didn’t call you. Daniel Camp is a super fun, artsy fartsy colleague of mine, who also has a photography business, and has begged me...pleaded with me...to let him take pictures of our gorgeous kids…since before we even got the referral for them. That's why we chose him. And, oh yes, his work is fantastic! You can see for yourself at www.danielhillcamp.com. I’m not putting his info out here because we struck a deal: You take our pics and I'll advertise for you. I just love his work and figure many of you will be asking for the info to schedule your own easy breezy, amazing photo shoot.

We went to a local park after work a few days ago and were in and out in less than 30 minutes. Beat that! The extreme heat may have hurried us along a tad, but Daniel and his assistant just snapped away as the kids played. To get a family shot, we kind of started heading out of the park and stopped along the way. You see us laughing in the picture because we are just trying to get 3 kids to stay and not run to the van…the makeena! How easy was that? And, they are fabulous!

Plus, he placed the disc and photo release in my hands the next morning. Ta da!!! Never knew it could be that simple and effortless.

I would love to tell you more about this day and why I look like I just ran a marathon, but I am tired and must close my eyes before I have to begin tomorrow’s battle. Here are a few favorites. Ahh, I wish I could post more! They are so darn good!

Let's go with birth order:




Boy, Girl, Boy

So, each of my kids has the perfect Zoolander Blue Steel Face

My Favorite Guys


I Can See the Light!

It's time to admit there's a problem when one son has only swim trunks left to wear, even to bed, and the other son is wearing Dora sparkle undies after already going commando once. Until day 7, I was drowning in laundry not to mention the other household chores. Thanks to a few great friends who stopped by during the week, I finally saw the bottom of that pile...only to have a new mound within 24 hours.

For an entire week, our bedroom floor was coated with cashew pieces. There isn’t a good reason why they stayed there for a week…other than the fact that I had a negative amount of time left in my day. But, I can explain how they got there. I used to be that person who unpacked upon walking in the door. Put everything away nice and neat…in its “home.” Now, items will be unpacked as I need to use them, and no sooner. My luggage lay on the floor opened for easy access to not only me but Simon as well. He sniffed out, tore open, scattered and munched on a pound of cashews contained not so securely in a ziplock baggie. At first my concern was Simon getting sick over gorging himself, so I strategically placed clothes and other objects to keep him out. I’m blaming the lack of sleep as to why I thought that would work. After crunching and grinding them beneath our feet day and night, Keith finally gave in and cleaned up the remaining few cups at the end of the week.

One day I needed to sit down and do nothing. Ten minutes was all I wanted. I had to lure and contain them with something for my mini-hiatus. Snack time! Popcorn, cheese crackers, even cookies. I was desperate. I did get to sit down, but my plan backfired. Half the kitchen floor was covered with their edible remnants. Let me say I've given up on being a clean freak; however, I was determined to vacuum. Now I wasn't too ambitious. Just wanted to get downstairs done. I had to find something else (besides food) to occupy them while I vacuumed. I set the kids' table up for watercolors: paper, water, paint and a brush for each. But before I even got out and plugged in the vacuum, they had produced enough masterpieces to plaster the entire frig, and they were over that activity. By the time I finished vacuuming, I'd had to shuffle the kids through 5 different craft stations and now needed to clean up that evidence. This was all because I wanted…needed…to sit down and do NOTHING. For 10 minutes!

I felt better physically and mentally after having Avery than I did upon our return home with the boys. In each situation I had been awake for about 2 days, but a baby is immobile and sleeps much of the day. Three-, four-, and five-year olds, however, have endless energy. Why didn't someone warn me about this?

Not only was I lacking 2+ days of sleep, but add to that jetlag of the 7-hour time difference and 3 kids to entertain. Exhaustion was an understatement. I was so tired our second full day home that I was physically nauseated from it. I knew my brain wasn’t working when I found myself shaking each egg before cracking it. Then I kept noticing misplaced items. And, it was I who misplaced them!!! I hung my hair towel on my hand towel hook. Gasp! I’m not sure I have ever hung a towel in the wrong spot before.

For the first several days I ate burned scrambled cheesy egg whites because I kept forgetting my breakfast cooking unattended behind me while I made pancakes for the kids. I was committed to making breakfast for myself because the next chance to eat would be 3:00.

I have quickly realized that a daily swipe of deodorant isn't going to cut it for me. I've had to reapply in the afternoons just so Keith will sit next to me at dinner, and a few days I even had to change my shirt mid-day. So, I've gone from not exerting enough energy to necessitate deodorant…to this??? I'm going to have to start carrying a back-up stick right along with my lip gloss.

I’ve heard new moms say that their daily goal was a shower. I have officially given up on that. If my goal is consistently unattainable (as a daily shower would be at this point), I’m left disappointed. So, what is my daily goal? Brushing my teeth. Before noon. That’s it.

It sounds like my life is falling apart. Maybe it is for the time being. But, the kids are already falling into some semblance of a routine. And, while it is dim, there is a light at the end of this very long tunnel.

Life in The States: Week 1

How do you properly introduce foreign children to the US?

Chick-fil-A and Target

They, of course, love both! Who doesn’t? There is good reason why both are full of moms with their children in tow. I had realized the boys were lacking a few items that middle sis had and might be envious. Shopping for backpacks and sunglasses was a hit. Keith said no to character bags, so they have “big boy” backpacks. He did give in on the sunglasses though because the boys based their choice on color, not the unknown characters displayed. Spiderman for Ivan and Spongebob for Garris.

They love their room, although getting them upstairs to see it for the first time was difficult because they thought they were being taken straight to bed. Love the playroom, but keeping them from climbing the shelves or from putting their little disastrous hands in the CD player looks like it will be a never-ending battle. Love their clothes so much that Ivan starts undressing every time he catches a glimpse of another outfit in his drawer or closet.

Not everything has gone as well. They acted as if I had just unleashed Cujo on them when I brought Simon into the playroom for introductions. For the first few days, they ran and screamed with terror anytime they saw or even thought he might be near. Relations are improving between them already. Ivan gives him kisses but also tries to pinch him. Deep down I’m pretty sure Simon knows their ingrained distaste for him. He’s taking the changes pretty hard, maybe worse than when Avery was born.

Carseats and seatbelts were also an issue. We actually had to pull over while one of them hyperventilated and had a mental breakdown on the way home from the airport. Now all 3 strap themselves in…once I got them to realize the physical repercussions of not wearing them.

The language barrier makes it hard for things to run smoothly, but not impossible. We model many things for them and often look ridiculous while exaggerating made-up sign language. Usually they get the general idea. However, if they don’t like something, instead of trying to communicate they pout. And, it’s ugly. One is verbal and expressive while the other silent and stoic. I’m pretty sure Garris knows what he’s doing because he mocks me when I ask him questions. And, Ivan shakes his little finger at me when he gets in trouble, as if he’s the one dolling out the reprimand.

They are adapting to our food better than I expected. I’ve coerced them into trying a few veggies. Even coerced WITHOUT dessert bribery. All they want to eat are bread and beans though. Pretty easy but not much variety. Oh, they like M&Ms. A few more items they’ve taken to: peanut butter (at least we’ll survive), pancakes (which they call injera), pasta, bananas, and nearly anything spicy.

Bedtime has been fine. Naptime is the struggle. I gave up and put all three in one room for naps, and I sit with them for the 2-hour duration. Bored to tears. I would sleep if it were possible, but rare is the moment when all 3 are quiet and still simultaneously. To keep me from weeping over the boredom, I take my phone and write most of the blogs. I’m a little behind…because I am using a tiny keypad and often my brain is just too darn tired to work that hard.

Other amazing new things: play dough, slides and swings at the park, bicycles, water sprinklers.

Peculiar things: they love dress-up shoes and other accessories, and while the movie Cars only held their attention for about 3 minutes, they are mesmerized by Tangled (the story of Rapunzel).

They started occasionally calling each other by their American names on our second day home. And, while they’re still working on Jesus Loves Me, they have the Clean Up song down and sing it at any mention of the phrase. That shouldn’t be surprising if you know what kind of ship I run around here.

I would equate the boys’ move here with moving American children to Disney World. Everything is new and exciting…and will likely be that for a while. It is nearly impossible to establish order and enforce discipline. But, eventually, we will find a norm. A new norm.



Creepy Creeperton and the Flight Home

The plane ride was not the debacle I expected. Not so bad actually, just busy. Very busy.

I had noticed a man traveling alone on our way to Ethiopia. Noticed him because he was smiling at us way too big and staring at us way too often…and very tall. He was one of those people whose over-friendliness makes him creepy. Creepy Creeperton, or Creeper for short. I, of course, avoided eye contact with Creeper for the rest of the flight.

What made it even more awkward is that Creeper was among the other adoptive families at the US Embassy. Again, staring and giving us that huge count-my-teeth grin, a smile welcomed from friends but not so much from a tall stranger of the opposite gender.

I started to think Creeper was actually Stalker when he joined us in the back of the waiting-to-board area with his adoptive son, who is Garris’s age. But wait! Not only was he on our return flight, he and his son were seated next to us on the plane.

Well, Creeper SAID he was staring because Keith looks like someone he used to know. Good excuse or a cover? So, maybe not so creepy, but he still earned his name for staring so long before speaking up. Creeper and son in our row ended up being God’s merciful hand on our situation because with 3 adults and 3 kids, we could cover more zones. We all played musical seats, shared toys, sugary treats, crafts, etc. If an adult got up, there were still 2 others to guard the children from escaping.

The boys definitely kept us from being bored on the flight. They loved pounding on the screens (so did the people sitting in front of us) but found no interest in the animated movies. Perhaps it was because I had been selecting the wrong language the entire time. I told you Amharic looks like Chinese or Japanese.

I, however, did get to watch a movie and finally finished Bride Wars. I was so exhausted from my experience while waiting to board that I left Keith to occupy the boys by himself for a while. I was still sitting there, but I zoned out with my earphones, a book and a snack of honey-roasted peanuts. I offered assistance several times, but he told me each time to just enjoy my book and M&Ms. He kept saying M&Ms instead of peanuts…maybe because that’s my usual snack, but also I think he was a tiny bit mad.

So, let me rephrase that. The flight home was busy for me…and VERY busy for Keith.

Just some pics from the flight home:

That's my seat Garris is sleeping in. I walked laps through the plane so the boys could stretch out for a much needed nap.

Perhaps the most fun: a ride on the luggage cart.

Oh, the Insanity

The boys were mesmerized by the planes outside the waiting-to-board area, so I walked to the other side of the room to have what might be my last uninterrupted adult conversation with other adoptive moms.

Who is more insane? The woman who, all by her lonesome, traveled across the ocean to bring home 2 babies (6 months and 14 months)? Or the woman who volunteered to help her?

Not realizing the disaster-waiting-to-happen I willingly stepped into, I offered to hold wet, stinky Toddler while she changed Baby, who was in a sling that neither of us could operate. But somehow I ended up with Baby, who with all the jostling of 4 hands working on his sling justifiably projectile vomited while in my arms. Lucky for me it was projectile though, as most of it shot over my body and just lightly covered my exposed limbs. A nearby woman who obviously saw our train wreck gave me the once over with smell good anti-bacterial wipes and quickly left the scene of said accident.

As soon as I had very wet, very stinky, oh, and very heavy Toddler back in my arms, I wished to have vomiting Baby back. But instead of this insane mother changing the infant in her arms, she decided to take a break and sit. For a long time. Did I mention the child in my arms was wet, stinky AND heavy?

I had to snap this mother back into reality, in which she had all but bound me in shackles. I asked to switch babies once again so that she could change wet, stinky Toddler and I could hold wet, stinky, vomiting Baby (who was much lighter).

Well, Baby was quite possibly worse than big sis. But he was comatose from all the jostling and vomiting and commotion of the clean-up crew and general airport noise. I offered to change him not out of kindness but because I was tired of holding wet, stinky babies. So, she’s got heavy Toddler and I put comatose Baby on a table because she didn’t know where his clothes and such were. Yes, I had to dig through this other mother’s carry-on to find clothes, diapers, wipes, and, oh, a bib, which was my brilliant idea.

Once all babies were in clean and dry attire, I assumed my volunteer work was over. Nope. At this point, everyone was boarding the plane except for us because the airline arbitrarily assigned seats to adoptive families. This mother and her 14-month old Toddler were separated on the plane by about 40 rows. Keith, the boys and I were in the same boat. Thank you, Ethiopian Air.

Keith joined us at the front and somehow ended up with Toddler in his arms. And I STILL have Baby. This mother had decided it was break time. Again. And this time sat with an empty baby sling attached to her. Yes, she sat while we stood with her children and tried to communicate the seating situation with the Ethiopian, therefore, Amharic-speaking employees of Ethiopian Air.

Finally we were able to board the plane…with an escort. Thanks to Keith who basically told an employee to take us not just to the front of the line but through the line and to our seats.

Keith had Ivan and all 4 of our carry-on bags. The insane woman, whose name is Charlene, carried Baby and backpack while I carried Toddler and held Garris's hand. I learned her name not during our exchange but once at home from the business card she had slid into my back pocket after she forced Toddler once again into my arms during the flight when I happened past her on the plane.

The airline employees ended up being useless in the attempts to get parents seated with their little ones. Keith had to literally wheel and deal with another passenger for the 4th seat we needed. Her fee was not cheap but worth it so we could all sit together.


Next Time, I'm Staying With the Luggage

Moments before I even set foot outside the van at the airport, I knew I might be facing defeat. For boys don't wait patiently for adults to exit the vehicle before tearing past them. Perhaps it's the newness of it all, but they have basically gone through our first few days as if they're in the Indi 500, each vying for the #1 spot.

We all know the commercial airline experience moves at turtle speed, save the actual flight time. So these boys were pretty pissed...couldn’t understand why Mom and Dad would be such horrible people to make them wait.

I know what you’re thinking. But we embarked upon this journey well prepared...so we thought. I had a bag full of typical boy toys for each and a bag of various coloring/craft supplies for each. A bag of books, including several fun wipe-off kind and dry erase markers. Plus the emergency bag hidden in my carry-on loaded with sugary bribes, even though, for the record, that is against my parenting philosophy. Oh, and plenty of "night time" meds for their legitimate runny noses and coughs.

I was so naive.

I had to put the boys in Time Out before we even made it to the check-in line. While they had been running from us, T.O. wasn’t so much a form of discipline as a method to keep them in one place, plus keep me from running like the crazy mad woman I was. To clarify, they did know they were supposed to stay with us...not run away. So don't go thinking we're unfit. We're good people, whatever that means.

In the future, if we ever are insane enough to travel by air with more than one child, I am calling dibs on getting to stay with the luggage. Keith can have the privilege of chasing kiddos.

You get the picture. Every step of the way, the boys would attempt an escape, and we'd have to make them sit just to hopefully insure we all made it out of the country together.

The boys were of course sitting next to the wall in Time Out while Keith, who refused to let me help because I don't even know what the forms were and am incompetent with all important documents, filled out all 4 of the forms by himself. Sitting quickly turned to leaning, then sprawling, and finally swimming. All of this on the disgusting airport floor.

Now I am inexperienced with children wallowing in the dirt and grime of thousands of stranger's shoes. It's not just that Avery is merely aware that floors are dirty. She knows the varying degrees of floor dirtiness. While some floors are not clean enough for food, some are not clean enough for feet.

There is an entirely different set of floor cleanliness standards for boys. While I wouldn't have let Avery set a bare toe on that airport floor, I would have served the boys spaghetti directly on it. There wasn't an exposed inch of their bodies that didn't get some good contact time with that floor. And I was A-okay with it.


A United Front

If my stories of bedtime woes have grown old, as they have indeed for me, you may skip this paragraph, an experience I unfortunately do not get to skip. Friday's naptime made me realize that I need to start wearing a stronger deodorant. Or actually, I need to start wearing deodorant on a daily basis. I honestly don't stink, and Keith is always telling me I never do enough physical labor to work up a sweat anyway, which proves my non-stinkiness. Anywho, after taking away various tiny motor vehicles as an attempt at leverage to get Ivan to stay in bed, I just started putting him back in each time his little feet hit the floor, which was about every 3 seconds. I'd place him in bed, and he'd roll till his lower half was hanging off. And repeat steps 1 and 2 at least a hundred times before I gave in and once again became The Barricade. That should be my new nickname. Of course he wailed for 30 minutes before falling asleep mid-cry. The silver lining in what surely has to be my darkest hour? Garris fell asleep in the middle of it all.

What do you do to occupy 2 rowdy boys who have been bathed and put in PJs, i.e. getting sweaty outside is no longer an option, and all bags are packed for checkout but the common area of your guest house is full of people who may not appreciate the volume of said rowdy boys, oh, and dinner is running late, which will be followed by the quiet, sacred coffee ceremony? So basically, before we even left on our 24-hour journey to home, we were plum worn out from keeping the guest house and our waiting luggage from being destroyed. That was another dim couple of hours. But the darkest of the day was yet to come: The Airport! Gasp!

Let me begin by saying it will probably take more than 1 post to get through the horror of our airport experience. Absolute horror. And, I also need to preface it with the fact that it was quite possibly the worst experience of my life. Definitely beats labor. Beats breast feeding. And beats potty training by a smidge.

By the time we boarded the plane, I had chased down the boys a dozen times, broken up fights, been puked on, and was wet with the pee or saliva or sweat of another woman's child. I just had to know which liquid had soaked my clothes. I can stand the sweat and maybe even smelly toddler saliva, but definitely not the pee. So I did what any other normal gal would do: I forced Keith to sniff various places on my body. He was a little hesitant at first. People were boarding the plane all around us, and he is embarrassed by ANYTHING that could draw unnecessary attention to him. But I successfully persuaded him with my tone...and by assuring him all the places I'd sniff on his body in public if he asked. In the end, dry, non-smelly clothes were not needed.

It is times like this in which I wished I knew Amharic, more than the dozen or so words I can use correctly half the time. Being able to tell them exactly what to do, whether they obey or not, would indeed make out time more meaningful. Blah, blah, blah... What I really want to know is what they're saying to each other. I know often it is about us, and there have been several occasions in which they are either plotting against us or telling the other to do something he knows is wrong. Either way it's Us against Them.

I keep telling Keith we must be a united front. If they sense any weakness, that will certainly be the target of the next strike. This is true for all parenting, but our need for it just grew exponentially.

If I don't get the Mother of the Year award after this experience (what seemed like the The Never Ending Story), we will have a serious problem.



On our last day in Ethiopia and with our dear friend Bisrat, we took the boys out for some shopping, sightseeing, and a traditional meal of injera. Of course, the food selection was Keith's grand idea.

That's Bisrat in the middle.

With all of the shouting and commotion from the boys, I assumed they were mesmerized by the city, which they had only seen on occasional trips from the orphanage to the doctor. However, it wasn't the tall buildings or fancy stores that captivated these young men. It was vehicles. Why was I surprised? And why I surprised that vehicles never lost their fascination? Lots of vehicles. Big ones. Long ones. Three-wheeled ones. The word we heard them shout the entire day without getting old...to them anyway...Makeena!

When I type that word, I do so phonetically using the English alphabet. Amharic looks like Chinese...or Japanese...whichever is written horizontally. FYI: Horizontal goes across; vertical is up and down. I explain that because some people get those confused...an adult living in our house. I know you are dying to learn Amharic, so stay tuned for a list of important words and phrases.

Bisrat took us to the local leper colony...a literal gated and guarded community filled with lepers including their own hospital and pharmacy. Doesn't sound too bad. The lepers aren't banished from town. They choose to live there, and a few non-lepers have joined them.

I picked up a few items that I absolutely didn't need in their souvenir shop. Just doing my part to support the lepers. Most of the items in the shop are made by the lepers...starting with piles of cotton the women take and turn into what looks like ratty pieces of yarn. They wind them perfectly around spools. Or is the stick with no yarn called a spindle?

I was mesmerized by their work, so I missed an important step. But then a guy wraps the thread around a loom. I honestly don't know if that's the correct term. Need to freshen up my weaving vernacular apparently. If it is a loom, it's the most primitive form. I mean these tools (looms?) look about as decrepit as the lepers themselves.

Well, you get the picture. The lepers take plain old cotton and turn it into dresses and scarves and such. Many do this with no fingers, or under a blanket to hide a deformed face, or without a leg (which isn't really necessary for weaving, but still!).

They work because they have to. No one says, "Oh, you can't work because you only have nubs (or stubs)? Here's a paycheck every month for the rest of your life." Don't get me wrong: Disability in the US is definitely needed. But perhaps the system is occasionally abused. And, I guess I'm just perplexed over the drastic differences between the two countries' systems.

Lunch was at a place that served both American and Ethiopian cuisine. So I breathed a sigh of relief and was able to eat. Yay! And the boys ate more than I've seem them eat so far combined.

Are their bellies even big enough to hold all that food?

Um, yes.

How? They are boys.


Sweet, Sweet Words

"Full and final." Those are the sweet words we have waited to hear. This morning at the US Embassy after we verified some info about the boys' background, a worker behind a bank teller window said, "Your adoption is full and final." So awesome.

This post from here will cover just the basics: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

The Good

The question you are all dying to know is, "Did she get the French toast?" And I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat anxious for the answer, right? I could be a big tease and make you wait till the end of the post as I sometimes do, but I'll show kindness today. Yes, I did! And it was delicious... Buttery. Crunchy, not soggy. And pure deliciousness.

The entire way back from the Embassy, Ivan stood on his seat of the van with his head pressed against the window in his own little world singing religious Ethiopian songs, in Amharic and with that sweet soft voice of a three-year old. And although I was hungry, hot, sitting next to vomit (oh, keep reading), and clearly miserable, it was a great ride.

With some coercing from Beza (an Ethiopian from our agency), Garris performed a slew of songs and rhymes for the camera. Some Amharic and some English. Most were about Jesus, so despite my lack of talent, he seemed to enjoy my rendition of "Jesus Loves Me" at bedtime.

We've learned some Amharic and have been successful in some communication with the boys. The most important one right now is "Atincow," which means "Do not touch."

My favorite part of dinner: French fries! And really good ones. Better than McDonalds. I think they were cooked in butter with the French toast this morning. Mmm.

We are all bonding over countless games of ball. Any kind of ball. Tossing, throwing, kicking, rolling, bouncing...using any toy to hit it on the ground or in the air. Even though we start out playing together, Ivan and I usually end up to the side. We are those kids who aren't good enough to play with others, even a pretend game, and so they humor us by letting us have a ball and to play within a reasonable proximity. Possibly the best part of this: I've learned to catch a ball, at least the soft ones.

Keith's BFF from our last trip showed up as we were finishing dinner, and just in time for the ball games: Tikabe, the night time receptionist. He even had a bottle of Coke brought over for Keith.

The Bad

We had to separate the bunk beds so that both are at ground level. That's all I'm gonna say about that issue.

This is pre-separation. We also had to remove the ladder, which seemed to turn the entire structure into a make-shift playground.

Garris's shoes don't fit, although they're much bigger than the shoes he had on at the orphanage. After hobbling a few steps outside of the van, we let him go sock-footed to the Embassy and pretty much everywhere else today. Lucky for us the "No Shoes No Service" rule doesn't exist here.

Looks like American food may pose a problem for at least one of the boys. They both turned down the Ethiopian take of American food at lunch, even the yummy PB Cliff bars and honey roasted peanuts I offered them. Now who doesn't like some honey roasted peanuts? They taste like sugar! I'm in trouble. Ivan did try a few items at dinner and agreed with me on the fries. That's my boy!

The US Embassy stands out like a sore thumb. The biggest, the grandest, the greenest grass. It's ridiculous. Plus, after the final approval of this over-2-year process, a giant chunk of money, and enough paperwork to pile to the ceiling, we kind of expected a little more out of it. Not to toot our own horn, but we really deserve a standing ovation. Right? However, most of the people in the room didn't even speak English, and we returned to the other adoptive families and their quiet congratulatory cheering.

The Ugly. The Very Ugly.

Both boys got car sick on the hour-long trip to the Embassy. The ugly part: Garris thew up on himself and the seat next to him. He and I were on the front bench with Keith and Ivan in the second row. The part that nearly made me vomit was that he used his other hand to wipe the vomit off his arm, as if he didn't see the point in cleaning it off. Even now I want to vomit.

Although we all slept at least an hour at naptime, getting to that point was ugly. I ended up using myself as a barricade again, and Ivan fell asleep in his twisted position from playing in order to rebel.

The dire need for clean water here. We first noticed it when the boys would down any amount of water we put in front of them in a matter of seconds. It was like watching a teenager in a beer chugging contest, which I will admit to watching but not taking part in. We get 1 bottle per day per person but usually purchase twice that. This is our water for all day...we carry it everywhere we go: meals, when outside, when traveling, to use in the bathroom. They respond toward water as I assumed they would toward food. But food is plentiful. Water is not. To keep them from hoarding the water, I put all our water bottles in one place and showed them they can come get a drink of it anytime. However, I think it will be a while before they are comfortable letting go of their water.

All three kids have Camelbaks and Sippysleeves. Two items that are absolutely essential for us to function.

Perhaps even uglier were the kids begging for water outside our guest house. A boy and a girl, not much older than Garris, left their chore of gathering branches with their mother to join us for a random ball game. When they noticed my bottle, which basically never leaves my hands either, they asked for a drink. And kept asking. So Keith went inside and purchased a bottle (about a liter) for them to share. When we finished our game, they picked up their branches and dragged them behind their mother.

Garris stands over Keith at the bathroom sink and turns off the faucet after each time Keith uses it to rinse his hands, toothbrush or razor. Finally, someone might teach him not to waste water. I wish it could somehow make a difference in the lives of those little kids standing outside our guest house.