Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Buki update #2

It has been about a year since the first Buki update. Buki is our dog who came to us with a lot of fearful aggression. In July of last year we reunited her with Magano, our other dog, after keeping the two of them completely apart for a year following a bad fight.

Buki and Magano are now best buds. They snuggle together every night, take walks together, play together, eat in the same room, even chase the same ball. They have figured out who is in charge (Buki), who licks (Buki) and who gets licked (Magano), who has first dibs on the big, cushy bed (Buki), who gets to catch the ball (surprisingly equal here, with Buki even waiting patiently while Magano gets in a few good chews). The transformation has been pretty amazing. Also in the last few months, Buki has spent time with about six different young children, and she has loved them all. Little kids like to throw balls over and over. Buki likes to chase balls over and over. It's a match made in heaven.

If only I'd written this update last week, that would have been the end of it. Unfortunately this past weekend we took Buki and Magano with us when we went to visit Tabb's parents, who have two dogs. Buki was very anxious the entire time, with continuous panting, whining and barking. Then on Sunday morning she bit Tabb's parents' dog and broke her toe. Poor Bella will be wearing a splint for six to eight weeks.

I guess we had convinced ourselves that Buki was over whatever trauma she had experienced in her early life. She's not. I guess this is a good reminder for us, about trauma in general, and being "over it."

We are now facing the fact that there are certain things Buki will never do again. She will never run off-leash anywhere there may be other dogs. She won't visit any houses where there are other dogs. She won't go for a walk with Magano and me if Tabb is not with us. She loves running off leash and going places in the car, so thinking of her future makes me sad.

Buki has never been aggressive around children. Whether or not we get to keep her when there are children living in our house is still an open question.

Feeling a little sad tonight, thinking of the sweet puppy lying at my feet. Also feeling grateful for everything she's taught me about boundaries and what she needs to feel safe.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The assumption of Mary

Once upon a time, Jesus and Mary went to a party. When they got there, Jesus asked Mary if she brought any wine.
"What?" said Mary. "I thought you were bringing the wine."
"No," said Jesus. "I never said I would bring wine."
"I just thought you'd make some out of water or something," said Mary.
"Oh, you just thought, huh?" said Jesus.
And from then on, that day was known as The Assumption of Mary.

We went to the Ethiopian church today to celebrate the Assumption of Mary. The celebration was on a Saturday so that priests from churches as far away as New York could come for the service. Everyone we talked to at the church was super nice, and after the service we had huge amounts of delicious fasting (vegetarian) food. They even served Ethiopian beer. After church we met with our new Amharic tutor. All in all a great day.

Friday, August 19, 2011

They're not ours

I have found myself in the last few days explaining many times that the boys are not actually "our boys." I am trying to be very clear about that in my own head, and I think it's important that other people are clear on that, too.
The boys are living in an orphanage. The local kebele accepted their placement, our agency sent a social worker out to check the facts of their case, and it was decided that they could be placed for adoption. But. The Ethiopian court system still needs to review the case. The Ministry of Women, Children's and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA) still needs to review the case. Circumstances could change for the boys' surviving family members, and they might be able to reclaim them (and yes, that would be very sad for us, but how awesome would that be for the little guys?!). So until we appear in court in Addis Abeba and are legally declared their parents, they are not our kids. And I think it's very important that we are all very clear on that.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


For most of the two weeks since our referral I have been in a state of shock. We were not expecting a referral in July. We definitely were not expecting siblings. I don't think we were actually even expecting children - after so many months of paperwork it had begun to seem that the paperwork was the whole point, and to see pictures of real, flesh-and-blood little boys was completely astonishing.

I came back from vacation with my brain running at half-speed. For the first few days home I did almost nothing, just shut myself in the house, finished the home repairs I had started before vacation, and generally hid from the world. I couldn't study Amharic. I didn't look at their pictures.

People talk about bursting into tears during their referral call or at the first sight of their future children. I didn't. I got a little teary-eyed when my mom's voice wavered talking about the boys, and when T's mom sent out a fundraising appeal for East Africa with a new, personal urgency. I choked up a little when our friend said that if we ever needed it, she would be available to take Buki, and when people I've never met exploded with joy across the internet. I have been really, really grateful for the love and support of so many people. But I was in too much shock to really feel my emotions.

Until Monday, when we got this email from a family member: I know that you will be required and want to make multiple trips to Africa to complete your adoption efforts. [ ] and I would like to put some smooth air under your wings and pay for all your airline tickets.

That was the tipping point. Everything that had been building up came out at that moment. There's crying, and then there's all the air rushing out of your lungs, leaving you gasping. I sobbed reading the email, and I sobbed again in the bathroom accessories aisle at Lowe's where I was meeting T after work (and suddenly everyone who had planned to buy a bathroom fan remembered that they really needed a lug nut on the other side of the store). These boys will be LOVED. They will be loved so much, and by so many people. We are truly, truly lucky to have the family and friends that we do.

After that I was able to start studying Amharic again. And I'm filling out our visa applications today.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Our Story

For the last week of July this year, we rented a beach house on Chincoteague Island with my brother, T’s sister, and their families. Nice beaches, good bike riding, it was going to be a relaxing and uneventful vacation.
My phone wasn’t receiving email and on Wednesday I wanted to check the Wide Horizons weekly update. There was an ice cream store in town with Wi-Fi so Wednesday afternoon, after a day at the beach, T and I drove over with his iPad.

We checked the weekly update. I commented to T that recent families had waited at least seven months for a child 37 months old and up, so we probably shouldn’t start expecting a referral until October.
The next email was from our case manager. It was very casual: If you have a chance, can you give me a call today? I will be here until 6pm.
Reception was terrible on the island, so we drove out to the middle of the bridge that connects it to the mainland. We pulled into a wide shoulder by a construction sign and called. It was about 5:45pm.
This is the marsh we were looking at when we heard the words, “Possible sibling referral.” 

We started giggling. I told our case manager, “We’re on a bridge!” T said, “Is this going to be our story?” The seagulls screeched.
Two boys, ages 5 and 3. Our case manager told us to call her the next day at 9:30am for our official referral.
Back at the house we told all the adults the news (we’re not telling the kids until later). We agreed that the next morning at 9:30 everyone would go downstairs to watch TV in my brother’s room, while T and I took the upstairs porch, where the cell phone reception was decent.
The next morning was Thursday, July 28. We woke up pretty early. There was no way we were going to sit around waiting until 9:30, so after breakfast we went on a bike ride all around the island. We got back to the house at 9:27, and went out on the porch to call. This is where we were sitting when we first heard their names. 

Our case manager said she would send the referral paperwork by that afternoon. We weren’t really capable of doing much while we waited. I called my sister and my mom. My mom’s voice started breaking on the phone, which made me get a little teary. We watched some TV. I fixed my phone so I could receive emails again. I studied my Amharic verb list. T took a nap.
Finally, finally at 3:15, I checked my phone and there was an email. We raced out of the house back to the ice cream store.
This is the table we were sitting at when we first saw their faces. 

 The pictures took my breath away. The boys are unbelievably beautiful. I’m not just saying this because this is our referral. They are gorgeous children. They should have a modeling contract for Gap Kids waiting for them at the airport when they arrive.
We sat in the ice cream store for about thirty minutes, looking at the pictures, reading the files and exclaiming over and over how beautiful the boys are. Then we went back to the house to get my brother’s laptop so we could organize the files that we needed to send to the pediatrician. Then back to the ice cream shop.
On the way back, I recorded my thoughts for posterity:
Blub. Blub. Glug. Durb. Gurgle.
We sent the files to the pediatrician, then went back to the house. Then we sat around and continued to let our brains implode until it was time to go out to dinner.
After dinner, and after the kids had gone to bed, we shared the photos with the rest of the family. Lots of smiles.
The next day my brother and his family left, and T’s brother and his wife arrived. We’re so glad that the timing allowed us to share this moment with so many family members.
There wasn’t a specific point when we decided to accept the referral. By the time our brains picked themselves up off the floor long enough for us to ask ourselves if we were going to, we already had. It was like when I asked T if we should talk about getting married, and he said he thought we’d already decided to. Decisions that are so right don’t need to get made.
A few days later, back in North Carolina, we got our acceptance paperwork notarized and sent everything to Wide Horizons.
So how does it feel? A whole big mix of emotions. Excitement. Happiness. Sadness. I am surprised by the intensity of the sadness. I have always known that our adopting meant that something very bad had happened to a family on the other side of the world, but I didn’t know I would feel it so personally. On Monday I found a video of the district in Ethiopia where the boys are from. Looking at the people in the video felt like looking at the boys’ family. The sense of loss was pretty overwhelming.
The court in Ethiopia began its annual recess yesterday and won’t reopen again until mid-October. We expect that our case will be called some time in December or January. Our trip to bring the boys to the United States will be some time after that.
Everyone we’ve told has been super excited for us. We really appreciate all the support and good thoughts you are sending our way.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Big News

With great excitement, happiness, sorrow, and every emotion in between, T and I have accepted the adoption referral of two beautiful brothers, ages 5 and 3, from the Burji district in Ethiopia.