Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Journey Down Memory Lane

In 1985, the hospital where I currently work, opened its doors. I was 14 years old. My best friend Lori and I became candy stripers there. (Yes, I was THAT good.) We had these great and grandiose visions of helping people and getting to hold the new babies. I think I may have even had a vision of me pushing a cart filled to the brim with toys and candies to give to the kids on the pediatric floor. Their little faces would be shining with joy and happiness, perhaps a squeal or two as I approached the floor. I was going to make a difference for someone.

Just like most of my grandiose visions... what we got was totally different.

We were stuck in the tunnel of the hospital in the flower room... sandwiched between the morgue and the autopsy room. Now as an adult, I can't help but wonder what sick, sadistic SOB planned that? The sound of our own hearts beating and our breathless panting would be interupted only by the sound of the saw in the autopsy room. The lights would flicker off and on occasionally. The halls all looked the same, winding aroung in a maze of terror. It was easy to get turned around in there. I was scared to death every single time I had to go down there wearing my red and white striped pinafore uniform. I felt like a candy cane ready to be eaten by the monsters who lurked in the dark corners of the tunnel.

It was during my sentence... er I mean... volunteer time as a candy striper that the movies "Nightmare on Elm Street" came out. The dark halls and exposed pipes in the tunnel along with it's inherent evil were always like scenes straight out of that movie. I expected old Freddy Krueger to jump out and slit my throat every time I walked through the dark halls.

Fast forward... 23 years. I am now a hospital supervisor at this same hospital. I have the keys that open every single door in that place.

I have always had an irrational fear of the tunnel, but as an ICU nurse, I could always con someone into going into the tunnel... to the morgue... with me. We of irrational fears tend to stick together. Now, as a supervisor, I am the one who is supposed to be fearless. Oh crap!

The other night as I worked my shift as supervisor, I got a call from the environmental services staff who works at night. It's hard not to sound mean with this post, but let me tell you a little bit about the EVS staff. These are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. I have become friends with several of them, but before I knew them, I was scared to death of them. From first glance, they are somewhat mutant like.

I got a call from two guys, who I will refer to as Guido and Scarface. They whisper over the phone in a myserious and menacing tone, "We need to show you something in the tunnel."
Oh crap! I'm all alone and I have to be fearless.
As Guido and Scarface lead me through the dark hallway of the tunnel with Freddy Krueger lurking among the exposed pipes, I realize that Guido's zipper is unzipped and I silently pray that's not what they're wanting to show me. (Mind you, these EVS people are so nice, but... so different)
We walk through the halls and I remember back to being 14 and scared to death of this place. My how some things have changed and some things haven't. At times, I am still that 14 year old girl unsure of what the world holds for me, but with great visions and expectations of what I will show the world.

Due to my own personal regulations about blogging about work, I won't be able to divulge what they were so excited to show me in the depths of the tunnel, but it was a nice journey down memory lane, wasn't it?

She's Persistent...

A few months ago, Jameson had to get two cavities filled at the Dentist office. Pretty good for someone who had never been to the dentist before. Evidently, I didn't explain it thoroughly enough, as she proudly told me the other day...
"You know that thing in my tooth? It took me 5 days, but I finally got it out..."

It was her filling!

Christmas at the Farm


Monday, December 29, 2008

Please forgive me...

I know I'm at an all time blogging low... I haven't posted pre Christmas pictures. I haven't posted Christmas pictures. I haven't posted Justine's birthday. I'm hopeless and at an all time blogging low. Check back periodically to see if I find my way out.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

All I Really Want

This Christmas has been one of the most magical times in my life. Jameson and Josh both pulled us aside today and told us thank you for adopting us. While this has been quite a year for us, and we have all grown and changed and our family has evolved, I can honestly say that this is the most important, most beautiful, most wonderful thing I have ever had the privilege to be a part of. Merry Christmas from the Ellerbee Eight.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve Eve update

Jack is still sick. He has a fever, fatigue and a freaky headache. He's been in bed most of the day. But thankfully, no more vomit!
I still am working on Josh and Jameson's stockings... I still have one more day to finish them...
Josh has been great all day. He has helped wrap presents all day. He's been hysterically funny and talkative. He's followed me around the house to just spend time with me. He and Jordan are going through all of her music on itunes and she's making a CD for him. They are sharing and laughing and having fun together.
Even with my extended "to do" list, my sick child, and the fact that I have to work tonight, this has been an excellent Christmas Eve Eve.
I hope things hold out for the next two days.

Happy Holidays...

Remember those peppermint cookies I just had to make to fulfill my new children's Christmas in America list?
Can you guess what color they were?
Can you guess what color of chunky vomit I just had to clean up?
Can you guess how far of a splatter zone Jack made in the bathroom?
Can you guess how many towels I had to use to clean up?
Can you guess who had to stand outside in the sleet shaking out the towels throwing the festive vomit all over the front yard?

Happy Holidays and may you enjoy your peppermint cookies more than Jack did. I've got some left over if you're interested...

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Blast from the Past...

Look what my good friend Jeanie found... Don't we all look so young?

My new obsession...

I'm not a TV watcher by nature. I watch about one to two hours per week... I have a weakness for Grey's Anatomy. Well I saw a commercial for Lost and thought I would like to know what that is all about, so I got a copy of Lost Season 1 from the Library. And my life has never been the same. Jordan and I laid in bed last night and watched like 8 episodes... after each one, we would say, "Well, maybe just one more?" I've got a lot to get caught up with. Oh boy! What a fun Christmas break we're going to have!

The list...

In an attempt to make my children's first Christmas complete with all of the Christmas memories... I've made a list and I'm checking it twice.

1. Drove around and looked at Christmas lights - actually did this in the freezing cold rain for an added Christmas spirit moment.
2. Saw Santa - Josh informed me that he would agree to go but he "wasn't getting on him." Worked out well for all of us.
3. Hid gifts poorly - Justine informed me (loudly) that she wouldn't tell everyone that she found Guitar Hero World Tour hidden in Jordan's closet. Oh Yay!
4. Hid gifts too well - spent over an hour looking for something I had hidden for Jeff that I couldn't remember for the life of me where it was.
5. Wrapped gifts - the girls wrapped up stuff for Justine that we already had around the house. I'm sure she'll be so surprised on Christmas morning.
6. Make Christmas cookies - going to the third store today to look for Peppermint Extract... who knew there would be a run on peppermint extract?
7. Take the kids to Silver Dollar City for Christmas - it is like negative 14 here. There's no way I'm going to purposefully be outside for hours and hours... nope not gonna happen.
8. Do something for someone else to help teach the children the real reason for the season... still working on this one.
9. Go to a candlelight service on Christmas Eve ... I don't think this is going to work out, but I'm going to try to figure something out. Perhaps Christmas morning or Tuesday night.
10. Horse drawn carriage ride in the freezing cold - going today. Going to freeze my sweet nibblets off. Going to love it! Pictures to follow.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tomorrow is a new day...

Where to start with this post? I am all too aware of how difficult older child adoption is. I know how hard it is to expect one thing and get another. But I also know that all of these kids are mine. The ones who arrived after 9 months of puking and the ones who arrived after 9 months of paperwork. They are ours. There are no guarantees with pregnancy. There are no guarantees with adoption. There are no guarantees in life. Just as I stated in my post about my son who we were told would be born with irreversible brain damage, there was not an option for us about what we would do. He is our son.

There is a situation with a family who adopted a DEAF child from Ethiopia. You can read a little about my experience with this child from a post I wrote after returning from Ethiopia. I capitalize the word deaf because they were told this child was deaf. They were told by many people, including me. Now somehow... they feel they weren't given all the information about this child.

I absolutely fell in love with this child while I was in ET. Energetic... Wild... Crazy... Hysterical... I'm sure that life with this child isn't easy. I could have told you that from the little time we spent with him. He locked himself in our car at the orphanage... he was determined to go home with us.

This child is now being given the opportunity to go to a boarding school for the deaf. He will come home once or twice a month and on holidays. Is this an opportunity? Trading one orphanage for another... While I know this couldn't have been an easy decision to make, and I certainly don't know what things were like in that family, I am begging you to reconsider. Reconsider keeping your son home with you. Use that money you would spend on a fancy boarding school to get a special tutor. Do whatever it takes to keep him in a family. Or consider disrupting the adoption. Give him up and allow a family to take him who might be able to handle him. It's not a matter of what it looks like to everyone else. It's not a matter of obligation. It's a matter of making things right for this child.

And to everyone else, please continue to pray for this child. Pray for this family. This decision couldn't have been easy. The dreams and expectations for this child, this adoption, have been squelched. Everything they thought would be is not. Families are continuously evolving. There is no right or wrong. There is no exact science on what to do. There is not a way to plan for the way things will be. We can only evolve and be flexible and continue to grow together. Tomorrow will be a new day.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tag, I'm it...

I got tagged from Julia.

This one is really cool. You're supposed to go into your pictures directory, find the 6th folder and pick the 6th picture and tell the story.

So this is my son Jack. Jack has a unique and wonderful story. Jack was our first child together. He was the first grandson on both sides of the family. He ended up being our miracle child who showed us what it truly meant to rely on God.
We were newlyweds. We had just moved into our first house. I can remember I was slightly pregnant, like there's ever such a thing as slightly pregnant, but I could still tie my shoes and wear some of my clothes. I think I was 16 weeks pregnant? God, I thought I would never forget the details of this ordeal, but with time, the pain has lessened and so has the dream-like vividness of the details.

I had the prenatal alpha feta protein testing done as recommended by my doctor. Because I'm adopted, I have always felt a little weird about what could be lurking in my gene pool, so I decided I might as well have the test. What harm could it do?

I was watching Romeo and Juliet... the Leonardo version. I still can't watch that movie. I never got to finish it. The phone rang. The nurse says something along the lines of "there was something wrong with your test. You need to come in to see a specialist... tomorrow."

Jeff and I went to see a genetic specialist. I think I only heard about a third of what he said. I know that the words Trisomy 18 were mentioned several times. Fatal. Genetic. Irreversible. Devastating. Termination. They did an amniocentesis. I could see my tiny little baby floating around in there. Not moving very much. He was too small for how far along I was supposed to be. To me, he looked kinda like a dinosaur with his little fetal spine developing.

Jeff and I went home in a daze. We broke the news to the grandparents and to Jordan. We hadn't been together long enough to know what to do with all of this grief. We both dealt with it in our own ways... separate but equal pain. And so we waited. And waited.

Finally a phone call. There was a genetic abnormality. There was an extra piece of genetic material on the baby's 8th chromosome. It wasn't definitely Trisomy 18, but it could be a translocation of genes and still be Trisomy 18... They couldn't rule out this devastating diagnosis. They needed our blood to do a complete genetic work up on both of us to find out if either of us had this same 8th chromosome. And so we waited. And waited.

They lost the lab work. And so we waited. And waited.

Although the wait was overwhelming and horrible, I can now see the purpose of it. While sitting in the office of this genetic specialist, we were confronted with the ugly decision that a lot of people probably have to face on a daily basis. If our child was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 and was sure to die at birth, would we want to terminate the pregnancy now? While the answer seems SO cut and dry and obvious now, at the time, it seemed like a question of which death would be less painful and awful? It didn't take long for us to embrace our son's future, whatever that may be, and realize that no matter what the diagnosis was, we would have him as long as God allowed. And if that was hours, that would be better than the alternative.

Finally another phone call. Jeff had the same extra piece of material on his 8th chromosome. While we weren't guaranteed what this would mean for our baby, it was good news. Even with this good news, we were never given the "everything's going to be just fine" speech. It was more like "we'll see what we get..." We were on pins and needles throughout the rest of my pregnancy. I was secretly afraid the whole entire time.

The due date rolled around... and then two weeks rolled around... and then finally I was induced and tortured through a 19 hour labor, when I finally gave birth to an 8 pound 10 ounce baby boy who was absolutely perfect.

He was born with 6 toes on each foot and a thumb on his left hand that has no joint and does not bend. But he is absolutely perfect and wonderful and awe inspiring. And when I think about Romeo and Juliet, I think about the rash decisions that led to their deaths, and I thank God that we were able to see the purpose in my baby's future, whatever God allowed it to be.

"You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples." Psalm 77:14

I am going to tag...... Denise and Mendy.

Monday, December 15, 2008


I'm afraid to send out my handwritten addressed Christmas cards for fear that someone will analyze my handwriting and find out how jacked up I really am...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oh what a day...

Well, today has been a doozy.

First of all, we started family therapy. We started with Jack as he seems to be the one having the most trouble adjusting. He's been having these little melt downs about everything and just in general seems VERY stressed out for a 10 year old. Granted Josh has A LOT of issues, but I think those issues are going to be long term issues that we are going to be dealing with, which we are just now getting into. Right now, we need to figure out what's going on in Jack's little head, and get him feeling better and back to the happy little boy I know he is. I feel a little more hopeful about having more family peace after this first meeting. This has been such a difficult year. As I learned long ago, even good things are stressful. And this has been a year chocked full of good things.

Secondly, I thought perhaps I had an ulcer from above said "good" things. I have always had stomach problems. Type A personality, perfectionist etc. This year, it seems to be a constant blah feeling in my stomach, like a gnawing pain that won't go away... like an alien is ready to rip it's way out? A few weeks ago, I felt like I was going to come unglued when my doctor pushed on my upper abdomen. "Ut Oh," she replied. "Ut Oh," I agreed. Last week, I had a HIDA Scan to evaluate my gallbladder function. I found out today that my gallbladder is functioning at 13%. Evidently 25 to 30% is considered borderline low. And so I picked out my surgeon today. (The perks of working in an SICU is to know which knife wielding hacks to avoid)

Geez, could it get any better at Ellerbeeville?

The kids were supposed to sing at a nursing home today as an optional activity for school. We were getting ready. I had all intentions of getting them there today.... on time. It took me 2 and a half hours just to get Josh and Jameson's hair looking OK. No one would get dressed... no one would get their shoes and socks... no one would brush their hair... Jack was having a melt down about going... so today, I made a decision that I would choose JOY. I didn't freak out. I didn't stress out. I didn't drive 90 miles an hour to get there on time. I choose JOY today, and that means we are staying home, making cookies, getting our school work done, and going swimming this evening.

"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy." Job 8:20-22


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

10 month milestone

Wow, 10 whole months. That's insane. What to say about month 10?

The kids have really made a lot of progress in their school work, especially Jameson. She cracks me up because she loves to beat him at math and reading games. I bet this is the first time in her life she's been better than him at something. He is probably at least a grade ahead of her, but she is much more careful, neat and accurate with her work. The motto of slow and steady gets preached a lot around here.

Josh remains somewhat of an enigma to us. There are days when he can be very animated and engaged. And there are still those days when he is in his own little world. I believe he would still rather be by himself than be with any of us. He is getting more comfortable. He is pushing limits and ignoring me... just like all the other kids do... until they get a little dose of me. I definitely don't put up with his crud anymore. I call him on each and every thing he does, and I am not afraid to make it well known what my expectations are. He can be quite engaging when he wants to be. When he wants something, he will search the house for me. He will kiss me on the cheek. He will participate. And then he doesn't. He doesn't do anything. It is these times that I feel particularly manipulated. And maybe it's not manipulation. There's a part of me that just thinks he doesn't know exactly what to do. He flounders as much as I do. We do best when none of us are trying and we just let it happen.

Jameson wants to be just like Jaiden. And because Jaiden is like the best child in the whole wide world... that has really worked out well for us. She still has her pouting and her behind the back "meanness" spells occasionally, but overall she is trying SO hard.

Last week, two of her spelling words were miss and kiss. The sentences she wrote were: "I miss my mom," and "I kiss my mom." I silently had to wonder which mom she was talking about. How long will I wonder who she's talking about? I get confused. She calls us both mom, but I never know which mom she's talking about. And I don't think it really matters. It is obvious that she loves us. Sometimes she loves us until it hurts. That girl can hug!

But I can't help but wonder how long will we both question each other? Last night I let Justine and Jameson make their own blogs. They just like to decorate their page and listen to their music more than anything. Instead of a thank you, Jameson's response was, "Yeah, I was the last person in the family to get their own blog..." Even though her and Justine's blogs were made at the same time, she inevitably feels slighted and always feels the need to point it out. That gets old after a while.

Overall month 10 has been a month of growth, learning, discovery, and many more firsts.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1


Learning too much...?

As you can imagine, teaching a nearly independent child how to do things in this country, can be... well at the least entertaining, and at the most... well kind of bizarre. The kids have been fascinated with the stove and continually ask why it's hot when there's no fire. Josh even tried to put his hand on it a few times because he kept with his incessant "NO..." when I told him it was hot. (For those of you unfamiliar with his "NO..." it's the kind of "no" that is teaming with undertones that actually mean, "I know more than you do. You are an idiot and I am not listening to you...") If you've never experienced it... you should. It's highly frustrating and infuriating.

This week, Josh learned that it's not a good idea to put food on a KLEENEX and put it in the microwave for 3 minutes. It involves flames, smoke and really nasty food.

And I learned a few things about my son that I didn't know before. While reading about lizards in the rain forest, Josh wrote, "I would like to eat that lizard." OKAY, we have a lizard as a pet. Well, it's actually Jack's lizard, and I'm afraid to touch it, but I don't wish it any harm. Now I'm wondering if he's been waiting for the perfect time to (*gulp*) have Jack's lizard as his "dizzzert."

Do you think that for Christmas I will find Josh's version of the Christmas Story?
Jack's lizard wrapped in swaddling Kleenex and lying in my microwave?

Oh Dear!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Fun with Vowels?

It seems like the short vowel sounds have been a real stumbling block in reading and language for Josh and Jameson. We have been working on sight words and phonics all along, and their reading has improved several grade levels already, but I noticed that because of their accents, it's hard for them to figure out which vowel sounds they are trying to hear and say because they sound so much alike. I hope to give them some strategies to sound out words better. I pulled out a book that I had specifically for reluctant readers, and I've been getting some ideas!
If any of you have older kids coming home... tuck this away, it might come in handy later.

Today we played a game to learn the vowels. It was so much fun!
First round, I showed them a card with a word on it. All the cards have words with 2 consonants and a single vowel in the middle, such as dad, mom, pop, mop, etc. We have cards with about 100 different words.
If the word has an a - they have to put their hands face up "at" their desk.
If the word has an e - they have to put their hands on the "edge" of their desk.
If the word has an i - they have to put their hands "in" front their desk.
If the word has an o - they have to put their fingertips "on" the desk.
If the word has a u - they have to put their hands "up" from their desk.

The next round, I just said the words, and they had to figure it out. It was a little competition and they absolutely loved it!
Josh told Jameson, "You're going down..."
And Jameson replied, "No, I'm going up." HA HA Funny!
BTW - she won!

Elf Horror Trailer

Finding my Christmas spirit... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha....

Bookworm Tag

I was tagged by Jaclyn for this bookworm tag as punishment for introducing her to the Twilight Series, which has caused her to evidently sneak into the bathroom to hide her addiction. I'm sure her laundry is piled up and her house is dirty as well... right Julia? That's what happened to us when we read those books!
So here's what you do:

The rules are to grab the book closest to you, turn to page 56 and type the first sentence of the 5th paragraph.

"God gave you a new life and a new nature when you accepted Christ."

The book sitting next to my bed, which I grabbed first, was The Purpose Drive Life by Rick Warren. I was contemplating reading it again and had set it next to my bed as a reminder. After reading sentence 1 of the 5th paragraph on page 56... I think it might be a sign that I'm supposed to read this again... WOW, what a reminder from God. Thanks!

I am tagging Rachelle because she's so funny and I just feel somehow related to her (soon!), and Rebecca because I bet you anything that girl's got some good reading material around!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Bah Humbug...

Why is it that this time of year always makes some people depressed and overwhelmed? Is it because we have commercialized Christmas so much and it's lost a lot of its true meaning? Is it because most of us are stretched financially by this point in the year, and the thought of spending anymore money makes us want to vomit? Is it because there is no more room for Christmas decorations much less any more toys? Is it because people are so freaked out about getting things on sale that they actually killed someone at WalMart just to get through the door first?
I find it all quite disgusting.

I know I struggle during this time of year. I don't know at what point in my life that I began to dread Christmas, but there's definitely a feeling of "UGH" as I prepare for Christmas. And this year it's no different. Oh I'm going through the motions. The trees are up. The multiple nativities are set up and ready for Jesus to be adored. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care.
Even though I haven't found my Christmas spirit yet, I haven't given up completely.

Evidently, my son shares my affinity for avoiding Christmas as well, but he seems to have taken it a bit farther. In addition to refusing to try Thanksgiving dinner, Josh also refused to help decorate the Christmas trees or partake in any of the preliminary Christmas foreplay I use to get in the Christmas spirit. OK, that sounds a bit... um strange... but we have certain traditions that we do to help us get ready for Christmas. He wouldn't watch our Christmas movies. He wouldn't help decorate. He wouldn't help put out the little village. He sat on the couch and stared.

When asked what he wanted for Christmas, he picked out a 52 inch plasma screen TV for his bedroom.... right! When asked WHAT ELSE he might like for Christmas, he replied "nothing."

This week, he told all the girls that there was NO Santa Claus. Nice huh?

He did help put Christmas lights on my parents house this week and was very, very proud of his work. And I did sing Silent Night at church this morning and kinda teared up a little. Maybe both of us will find our Christmas spirit soon... we're running out of time.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there were two friends. They had met at church and had even sat in the same Sunday School Class for awhile. They had a lot in common; they just didn't know it. Both shared a passion for kids. Both felt their lives would be incomplete without the experience of international adoption. Both were hysterically funny and incredibly good looking. (OK, I just added that part for fun)

Then one day, someone announced that one of them had adopted from Ethiopia. The other one was jealous, intrigued, excited. And inspired.

And so a friendship began, which would see them through the good times and the bad. They would find out that they were very much alike. Their families were very much alike. They shared much more than the fact that they both had children from Ethiopia.

Like most friends, when one hurts, the other hurts. And right now, I hurt.

My friend, who has a heart of gold and a spirit that moves her more than anyone I know, met a boy from Liberia. He was nineteen and here to have hip surgery through a program called Healing the Children. He was living with a host family from a nearby community church. I will not say what that religious affiliation is, but I will say my view of that religion will forever be tainted by this experience.

Initially, they were able to help the host family by taking him to Dr.'s appointments, keeping him over the weekend, and inviting him into their family. They came to a point where they wanted to see about adopting him. Their whole family came to love this boy. The woman's eleven year old nephew, who suffers from Crohn's disease, donated his entire savings of over $200 to the boy. It had taken him the entire summer to accumulate this amount of wealth. They spent a lot of time getting to know him, and he shared much about his life in Liberia. He had fallen in an empty grave while being chased by robbers. This was when his hip was broken and he ended up getting a TB infection in the bone. I say initially... because eventually she wasn't allowed to help with this boy any longer.

As we looked into the options of adoption, we hit a brick wall. He was too old. He was not educated enough to pass the English proficiency exam and be allowed into college here. Everywhere we turned, it seemed inevitable that this boy would indeed be returning to Liberia.

The host family and church sponsor was suspicious of their motivation. They were from different religious background than ours. Evidently the host family couldn't understand why a family would want to adopt a child who was already grown. Why do you want to help? The boy would have to spend more time with the host family to learn more about their church. The boy needed to learn more about their religion and less about the Christianity displayed by my friend.

The boy was "allowed" to work for the host family. He made a lot of money for the family, but was only paid much less than minimum wage. He was not allowed to make outside calls or to know the status of his Visa. He wasn't even sure of when he would be sent back to Liberia. When my friend inquired about the status of his Visa, and what she might do to sponsor him is when the real trouble began. He was sent to another home, farther away. He was not allowed phone calls or visits. He was legally an adult... but treated like a prisoner.

The boy was able to make a few phone calls when no one was looking. He wanted my friend to know that he loves her as his mother. He wanted to let her know that he was ready to go back to Africa... where he could be free. He was ready to go back to a place where he would live in the bush, struggle to make enough money for food, and have virtually no future... just so that he would be free.

My friend received a phone call the other day to let her know the boy, the boy she loved as a son, was on his way back to Liberia. He had not even been allowed a last phone call to say good bye. He also had not been allowed to take his savings of over $1000, including the gifted money my friend's nephew had given him. He had not been allowed to take his laptop, which had been a gift as well.

I'm sure he says good bye to America with a bad taste in his mouth. Good riddance to you American do gooders. Good riddance to you religious nazi's who seek only to help only in exchange for a religious conversion experience. Good Bye America. Land of the free... my foot.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Road Rage

Ok, so maybe it wasn't a speeding ticket, but I did feel like doing this in traffic today though.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Have you ever?

I know, not a first for me, I will be plagarizing someone else's blog today. This was just too good! You know what a list maker I am! The things I've done are in bold.
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelos David
41. Sung karaoke - I'd rather forget this
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone's life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous - David Hasselhoff (does this count?)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

Surprinsingly more things in bold than I thought. Perhaps I'm not as boring as I once thought. Now I just need to join a band and play under a meteor shower in Hawaii. I'll work on that!

My Non-Thanksgiving-eating son...

As you may have guessed, Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. Jeff and I refused to eat breakfast on Thursday... so that we'd be able to enjoy the food at lunch all the more. Even though we're wearing our best stretchy pants and obsessing over food, Thanksgiving is so much more than food for us. We watch movies, football, and take the occasional catnap. We just spend time together. Thanksgiving is one of the best holidays for us because the expectations are pretty low. You don't have to entertain anyone. We all just hang out...and eat. And be grateful.

Josh woke up on Thanksgiving determined to not like it. He was sure he wasn't going to like the food. He wasn't even going to try it. We tried so hard to make all of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes because we wanted them to "really" experience Thanksgiving. This was their first Thanksgiving. As with all of their firsts this year, we wanted to make sure they experienced it in real American style - overindulged!

And Josh wouldn't try it.
When asked what was his favorite dish ... he replied, "nothing."

We had a good Thanksgiving anyway. It was one of the best in recent years. Jordan tortured Josh by making him carry and take care of Justine's baby "Veronica." Everytime he set her down, Jordan would say, "Josh, Veronica's crying. You'd better pick her up." And he would do it. It actually helped to break his icy mood. It helped to make him laugh. It helped to make all of us laugh and forget his being "difficult." It helped me forgive him for not liking my favorite holiday.

I had the time to remember back to last Thanksgiving when I was anticipating our upcoming court date. I would have done anything for them to be here. It wouldn't have mattered if he liked the food or not. It wouldn't have mattered that he came home and ate a bowl of cereal for Thanksgiving dinner. It just wouldn't have mattered.

And so on this Thanksgiving, I was able to just be grateful that we were all together. I thank God for my husband, my kids, my family, my house, my job, good health, and my non-Thanksgiving-eating son from Ethiopia who is such a pain, but who is also so absolutely wonderful and here at last.

P.S. Jameson ate her weight in Thanksgiving Day food ... and pretty much thinks he's crazy for not liking it. She wants Thanksgiving every day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

For Thanksgiving...

Poor Justine will be having an appetizer of Albuterol, with a side of Pulmicort, an entree of Zithromax and lots of liquids to drink.

She has been sick for 4 weeks now and just can't seem to kick this terrible cough. Last night, she spiked a fever and said her chest hurt. So me being the responsible mother and nurse that I am finally took her to the doctor. She has left lower lobe pneumonia, right lower and middle lobe pneumonia. She was wheezing and had crackles in both bases of her lungs. Her oxygen saturations were low in the office and she looks like crap!

We are all loving on her and babying her even more than we usually do.
I hope she feels better by tomorrow, she was really looking forward to some pumpkin pie!

Just to make you laugh


Chapter 5

This chapter in Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child is about resiliency and reactive coping behaviors.

The chapter starts out talking about how the life of an adopted child changes so dramatically. In one day... they are suddenly immersed in an almost dream-like life. And their little lives are never the same again. Wow. My friend Julia wrote about the same subject last week. It really helps to think about it in their perspective. You can read her post here. It's awesome.

People react to stress in two different ways. This book describes this as revving up and shutting down. The revving up stage is the fight or flight where one prepares for battle. The other response is shutting down. This is "playing dead" or appearing to be asleep. Internationally adopted kids can go between both behaviors. The purpose of these behaviors is their own protection and an attempt to gain balance in their physiological and emotional states.

This book describes 5 reactive coping pattern. It's so funny because I can see the kids in all of these roles at one time or another.
The Warm Rock - Quiet, withdrawn, sleeping
The Stunned Rag Doll - Spacy, frozen, limp
The Dizzy Performer - Active: performing and charming, overly friendly to adults
The Royal Boss - Controlling and demanding; may throw tantrums
The Unwilling Guest - Rejecting and sad; waiting, searching, or calling; or hyper-alert

This chapter really helped me to identify which of these behaviors my kids display and to try to figure out what's behind those behaviors. I can remember when we first got home, and Jameson was SO friendly. She was all over everyone all the time. She had no qualms about going with anyone. Everyone kept saying, "Oh, she's doing so well." And she was, and yet... I kept thinking, "that's just not right" It bothered me that she appeared to be attached to me, until I saw that she was JUST as attached to everyone else who crossed her path. I think this is somewhat better, but perhaps there will always be a bit of dizzy performing in her. At least now, she pretends to be shy and hide behind me before she performs for the stranger. Josh defintely takes on more of the more quiet behaviors.

What the behaviors mean:
Warm Rock - Shuts down to manage overstimulation, feels rejected or inadequate.
Stunned Rag Doll - Shuts down to think about the past and be disconnected from the future
Dizzy Performer - Active and revved up, overstimulated, in denial about major life changes
Royal Boss - Controlling, revving, helpless, frightened and out of control
Unwilling Guest - Rejecting, alternately revving and shutting down with grief, loss, sadness, and anger, waiting to be "found," or searching for lost caregiver

"Children with complex backgrounds tend to revert to their old coping behaviors and survival skills."
They are unable to generalize their connection and resilency behaviors from one day to the next. You may have progress on one day and then be right back where you started the next day. I think this is where our frustration comes in. We will finally see progress and then attempt to relax a little. Then the old behaviors are right back again. This book does a good job at telling what to do with your new baby, such as feeding from a bottle. But, as usual, strategies for older children are lacking. I am obviously not going to feed my 9 and 11 year old a bottle or hand feed them like a baby. But they are right on as far as figuring out what's behind the behavior. I know that at times when Josh acts like the warm rock, I tend to pull away from him thinking that he probably needs his space. In looking at it, if he is feeling rejected and then I pull away, it's probably adding to his problem. Perhaps when Josh is a stunned rag doll and stuck in the past, I need to help him to think about his future. I need to help him to see his future... to give him hope. Anyway, we'll give it a shot. If not, I guess I can look for some baby bottles. I'm sure he'd really think I was crazy if I tried to rock him and feed him a bottle wouldn't he?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Chapter 4 and my AHA moment...

I'm probably going to be sued for copyright infringement for plagarizing this chapter of the book I've been reading. Oh well. I give all the credit to the book Parenting your Internationally Adopted Child. Chapter four deals with survival skills vs. family skills. While I was reading this chapter, I had a total aha moment regarding Josh.

Survival skills are the skills a child develops in response to neglect or deprivation. Deprivation is defined as the lack of the physical necessities or life: food, warmth, and shelter. Neglect is defined as the lack of consistent, nurturing attention from, and social interaction with an adult. Children develop survival skills in order to make the best out of their current situation.
It is necessary to recognize that everyone in Josh and Jameson's life did the best they could to care for them. Their parents did the best they could. Their grandmother did the best she could do with what life dealt her. And definitely everyone at Hope did the best for them that was possible. Because Josh is older and was always the leader of all the kids at Hope, I suspect that his survival skills are much more developed than you would expect.

Family skills are those skills a child develops when they are raised in a nurturing environment with a consisent caregiver. Family skills grow gradually whereas survival skills develop quickly. Family skills are based on connections between a child and an adult. There is a sense of interdependency. Children with good family skills have good communication, are able to cooperate and share.

"Children using survival skills are often manipulative."

OK, here was my AHA moment.
"The child who relies on survival skills, (sic)... has the identity or role of the boss who takes care of everything. Yet this boss-like identity is not built on strength, knowledge, and capability, for a child is essentially weak. Instead, it is an identity that forces the child to create a semblance of those traits, a false maturity."
"This pseudomature identity may fool some adults, including parents, into thinking that the child is secure and competent. In fact, such a child feels lost, alone, weak, and afraid, as well as fraudulent."

This book explains that kids who develop survival skills become tough, smart, strong, and persistent kids. It is important to recognize and acknowledge these strengths while at the same time attempting to develop their family skills. I think this is the point where I realized that I need not be irritated at these survival skills, but should relish these traits and be so grateful that the children acquired them because it's what kept them alive.

In order to develop family skills, children need specific instructions as to how to acquire these skills. I think this is where we get frustrated because sometimes we assume that they should know how to live in a family. They should know how to communicate. They should know what to do. And they don't! Acknowledging their good survival skills, while encouraging new family skills is going to be so important. For example, Josh always just walks off like he knows where he's going. This started in the airport in Germany on our way home and has continued to this day. He would just walk off in a different direction, taking the lead, and having absolutely no idea where he was going. He has this sense of uber confidence that makes it SEEM like he knows what he's doing when he really has NO idea. And so it's important for us to say to him, "I love that you are not afraid of getting lost in this big place, but I need you to let me be the leader."
We have to teach them to depend on us. We have to teach them that they don't have to fake being the boss. They don't have to fake being the adult. They now have an adult.

This chapter was really good for me to read. This is one of the things that frustrates me so much about Josh is this uber confidence when he has absolutely no idea what's going on. This has accounted for a lot of his actions in deleting pictures off my camera, breaking my computer, ordering pay per view etc. He just hits buttons and continues to do so until it either works or stops working all together. He has a hard time asking for help. We have to look for opportunities to allow him to depend on us. I think I have been trying so hard to teach him to NOT rely on me and to become responsible and quit forgetting his stuff all the time. Perhaps I was backwards in my thinking. Perhaps I need to allow him to rely on me a little more in order to allow him to rely on family skills instead of survival skills. Definitely something for us to try.

And so that is the very long, very wordy explanation of my AHA moment.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Twilight in the wee morning hours...

In order to have a date night with my husband, we had to get everyone fed and in bed and deep in REM sleep before we snuck out of the house for our midnight showing of Twilight.

Before you all hotline me... Jordan was home with all of them while they slept.

I'm pretty sure we were the oldest ones there. I heard some teenager say, "Look at that woman over there texting..." Like I was too old to know how to text... Oh lord!

The movie was good because I love the story. It was different. It was weird. People were laughing when I'm pretty sure they weren't meant to. Jasper had this really weird look on his face throughout the whole movie. I don't know. I enjoyed it, but I'm not a movie critic. I stayed awake through the whole movie, which is usually how I judge whether they were good or bad.

It definitely made me want to read the book again because the the movie in my head was probably better than the one on the big screen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Countdown to Edward... err, I mean Twilight...

Look over there... do you see the countdown for Twilight?
Guess what?
Yep, I'm going. I'm going to go drink a pot of coffee to stay awake for the midnight show.
Like I'll need it... Edward will be there.

Another Josh Puppet Show

OK, I know it's sideways and really out of focus... but skip ahead to 4:22 and check out Josh and Jordan. (You can watch the rest of the video if you want to... it's really cute, but not as side splitting as Josh and Jordan.)


African Playdoh

Jameson while playing with playdoh... "We have playdoh in Africa... it's called mud."

My personal entertainers...

I've had a somewhat stressful week. As I was struggling to finish the dreaded video and had to run to WalMart to buy DVD's for said dreaded video and miss dinner with my family, I was definitely not in a pleasant mood. Jordan asked me what she could do to make it better. She started listing off ideas: clean up after dinner, watch a movie with me, paint my toenails, draw a hot bath for me... and my was reply was "I want a puppet show."

Her reply, "Uh, Um, OK."

And so this eighteen year old who has so much more to do than produce puppet shows featuring 5 younger siblings, put on the mother of all puppet shows for me. I cried I was laughing so hard. They were all really good, but I think Josh won the prize for biggest surprise actor in a puppet role. He was absolutely hysterical. Comedic timing, funny accent... everything. It's the most we've heard him talk in 9 months. We should have put a puppet on his hand the minute he got here. His first show was the best, but it didn't tape well because I was laughing so hard the camera was shaking all over the place. Here's his second performance.
Make sure you watch it all the way through... the ending is the best. And listen for "sweetey and dizzert." It's hysterical.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You should try this...

We have actually started talking like this when we say each other's names... very entertaining and mentally soothing. You should try this.

A Rant of a Different Kind...

If you are expecting me to be politically correct in this post... STOP READING NOW. We can all sing kumbaya later... right now, I am going to rant.

I must admit that today... I am officially "Ethiopian'd" out.

I received a phone call a few days ago from the father of a friend who has adopted from Ethiopia. I had offered to help him a few weeks ago make a video of his pictures from Ethiopia. Offered to help... Volunteered to help... ie: did the whole entire thing myself. OK. That's fine. I did it. I did it well. I didn't complain (much). We have already discussed my inability to tell people no.

So last week, in the midst of a very busy time in my life... he called to say he needed me to do one more thing for him... make another video with a few days notice... I actually burst into tears on the phone. For a split second, all I could think of was haven't I done enough? Haven't I loved the people of Ethiopia enough for awhile? I have nothing left to give to anyone else. I know. I sound so horrible and selfish and awful. Anything you're thinking couldn't be worse than what I'm feeling about myself.

So now there is an Ethiopian get together this weekend for kids adopted from Ethiopia in the area. We usually go. We usually are involved in it. We usually bend over backwards to get everyone there. We can't make it this time unless we skip Jack's soccer game or I don't go to work, which is not an option. I almost felt guilty for saying we wouldn't be there. I almost felt like a bad adoptive parent for not giving the kids the opportunity to see their Ethiopian friends.

And then something hit me. You know what? My OTHER kids haven't been to an activity that wasn't an Ethiopian event in months. They miss birthday party after birthday party because of Josh's soccer schedule. They rarely get to do anything that is just about them. And the conclusion I came to today... is that what we are lacking is balance.

We are now beginning a quest for balance. Yes, our kids are Ethiopians... but they are also Ellerbees. And while you can seek to fix all that is wrong with the world and make Ethiopia your mission (as well it should be), you can also allow it to take your focus away from the fact that your kids need you now. I wish that I could take on every project and do every charitable thing possible to help, but sometimes there comes a time when your kids just need family time as much as they need Ethiopian time. And that's where we're at right now.

OK, that's it. I'm done with that rant. Whew, I feel better now.
Anyone for a round of kumbaya?

The rest of our family pictures...