Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What to expect

Family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, everyone is soooo thrilled at the thought that we could soon bring our beautiful boys to the U.S. I can't express how much I appreciate the excitement. I LOVE that so many people already love our kids. So it's hard to write this, but I feel that people need to know what to expect when the boys first arrive.

Below are some excerpts of what other parents adopting older children from Ethiopia have experienced. Please read them. Maybe we'll get lucky and won't face these issues, but realistically, we will deal with at least some of them:

"He completely loses control: hitting, biting, kicking, tearing apart his room."

"Our son had shrieking tantrums that lasted up to seven hours."

"He would hit, spit, bit and scream at the top of his lungs."

"The smallest change in schedule sent my kids into a total tailspin for weeks." 

"He screams if I am out of his sight for one second, even to go to the bathroom."

"Violent outbursts when we were first home, manipulation, indiscriminate affection and 'normal' tantrums."

Are we worried? Nope - we're excited! We're excited for ALL of it. We know what we signed up for, and we're looking forward to helping the boys heal from the tremendous losses they have faced.

Thanks for all the love, it means the world.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

learning to read

Not the kids, me!

My advice if you want to learn to read in Amharic is to first have a foundation of oral language. T and I worked with our tutors for about six months before attempting literacy. Once we had a bunch of words whose meanings we knew, we made flashcards with those words until we could read them. Then I bought a few bilingual children's books. I've been practicing the easiest of them, Trouble (Amharic title: Teklei) for a couple of weeks.

Here I am, doing my best to read in Amharic. My head is bobbing up and down because I'm focusing so hard.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Good news!!!!!

We got the email we have been waiting for! All the Burji children have been released. Our agency appealed directly to the Minister of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs, and she stepped in and ordered the regional and local government to stop illegally holding our children. Five weeks after our court date, the children are finally on their way to Addis. "Relief" does not begin to describe what I'm feeling.

In terms of when we can bring the kids to the United States, the estimate is the same as it's been, two to four months. When the boys arrive in Addis, the countdown can finally begin!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Plan

We have a plan. It is a GREAT plan.*
We're getting a helicopter from this company.
And we're going to get the kids ourselves.
Who's in?

*not actual plan

Saturday, February 11, 2012


I appreciate all the support we've been getting as we navigate the latest bump in the road. Here are the answers to some common questions.

Where are your boys?
The boys are still in Burji, in the same orphanage where they have been most of this time.

Why are they still there?
As we understand it, local officials have instructed the orphanage not to release them.

Why don't the local officials want the boys to be released?
There is no way that we can know the motives behind this, but it looks like some local officials are against the idea of international adoption in general. There is no specific problem with our case. Some people believe that it is better for children to grow up in an orphanage in their own country instead of with a family in a new country.

Do they have the right to hold the boys?
No, they do not. What they are doing is illegal.

How is the boys' family involved?
The boys' family has confirmed on at least four separate occasions that they want the boys to be adopted. They are not the ones preventing the boys' release.
 What about the other families adopting from Burji?
The families we are in contact with are facing the same situation.

What is your agency doing to help you?
The agency requested the assistance of regional Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA) officials who have more experience with the adoption process. This week the regional officials summoned the local MOWCYA officials to a meeting and told them very clearly that the children must be released. If the local officials continue to hold the children, our agency will contact the federal court that issued the adoption decree. At this point there would be something like a contempt-of-court decree issued.

Why can't the agency social worker just show up with a police escort and take the children?
This does seem like the simplest solution. But as our case manager pointed out, which police? A local police officer in Burji, whose biggest case up until now probably involved a stolen cow, is unlikely to interpret and act on a federal court order. Our agency believes that the most efficient solution for now is to go through MOWCYA.

What are the children being told?
I hope nothing. Our (very limited) understanding of Ethiopian cultural norms is that adults generally don't discuss adult issues with children. I hope the children are just continuing their lives as before.

Why can't the boys stay in Burji until it is time for them to come to the United States?
Bringing the kids to Addis is one more transition for them, and I wish we didn't have to do it. But to get a visa, they must be seen by a U.S. Embassy physician, and the U.S. Embassy is in Addis. Our case cannot be submitted to the Embassy until the boys come to Addis.

When do you expect the boys to come to the U.S.?
The time frame our agency gives is 2-4 months after our case is submitted to the Embassy, so until they are released from Burji we can't estimate when they'll come to the U.S.

Is there anything you and Tabb can do to fix this?
We will rely on our agency to act on our behalf until we hear the result of the meeting between the regional and local MOWCYA officials. If the local officials continue to defy the law, we will contact the U.S. Embassy for help.

How are you holding up?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

After the court date

I haven't written anything since we passed court because it's taken some time to process new parenthood. The first few days were pure jubilation - "Ask me how many kids I have! I HAVE TWO KIDS! WOO HOO!!!!!" - but after that subsided, some serious cognitive dissonance set in. Legally I have two kids, but I have very little physical evidence to make it feel real. Remember, we only met the kids once, back in November.  We only have a couple of photos taken with them, and we still know almost nothing about them.

My body often deals with stress by getting sleepy. The sleepiness started about a week after our court date and lasted for about two weeks. I feel like I've come out of it now. I've got my energy back and I'm in a good state of mind.

The last few days we have done a lot to get the house ready for the boys. We rearranged the furniture in three rooms so that we now have a sleeping room (for all of us), a play room, and a den/everything else room. We moved a bunch of things to the attic to declutter and toddler-proof. We made posters of our Burji photos to put up in the bedroom, and placed photos of the boys around the house. We've bought or registered for everything we'll need for the first weeks home (except for clothes, since we don't have sizes yet). There are still things left on our to-do list, but we've gotten through more than half of them.

The boys, unfortunately, are still in Burji. Usually orphanages will release the children a few days before the adoptive parents' court date. In our case the orphanage said they wanted to wait until we had passed court, which was within their legal rights. However they have no legal right to hold the boys now. I don't know if they are purposely dragging their feet or if someone is just being lazy, but our agency told us that if this isn't resolved soon, they will call on various ministry officials or even the U.S. Embassy to deal with the orphanage. I hope it doesn't come to that.