Monday, March 31, 2008

Tricksters

The boys have started "hiding" lately. Its really fun...they run upstairs to their room and they "hide" and then I have to find them. This is them "hiding"...in the middle of their room. Apparently if they can't see me, then I can't see them either.


Its a good thing we have this little white dog living with us. Otherwise I might never find them!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Who will?

Thanks to another blogger, I found this video. Its a message I think we all should hear.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

What a difference a year makes...

After posting my last set of photos, Anita left a comment about how different Peanut looks now compared to when she met him a year ago. After thinking about it a little bit, I realized that it has indeed been a year (pretty much exactly) since she was in Ghana working to set up the AAI Ghana program and where she worked to bring the first 6 kids into AAI's care. Jellybean and Peanut were 2 of those first 6 kids. My next impulse was to open up those first photos we received of the boys (their intake photos). Oh my word! They are not the same boys at all!!

When I was with my family for Easter I talked to my mom and my sis-in-law about how I used to stare at photos for what seemed like hours at a time trying to determine any possible tidbits about their personalities from the photos. I looked for smirks, smiles, body language, and twinkles in their eyes in every one of their photos. I wanted so badly to KNOW my sons, to understand what they would be like and who they were so that I could be prepared to be their mom. However, I rarely spent much time gazing at those first photos we received, because they were simply too sad to look at for long. I knew that the little boys in those photos needed parents, they needed love, they needed some extra attention, and (quite frankly) they needed some food.

We were unbelievably blessed with photos of our boys during their time at AAI's Eban House. Volunteers traveled to do some work, Anita traveled, other parents traveled and the staff at Eban House would send photos to Anita (which she would pass on to us). We truly have a ton of photos of our boys (and the other 4 of the first 6 kids), which is a tremendous blessing to us. But to be honest, when I look at those photos now (those photos that I stared at for hours before the boys came home) I barely even recognize them. Sure, I KNOW its Jellybean and Peanut...and I recognize certain looks and expressions....but now I really do know these boys and I know that their personalities are so much bigger than what could ever be captured by those photographs (even with having lots of photos).

Lots of the photos of Peanut we received showed him being pretty sad. I worried about him...I wondered if he was ok, if he was getting the love he needed to come out of his shell a bit. I wondered if he was always going to be sad. These days I look at him and rarely see that sad face. Instead, I see big toothy smiles, funny faces, and mischievous grins. Wow...what a change in one year's time!

Here are those early photos...the photos that are so sad to me...the ones that were taken when they were processed to enter the orphanage.

Poor little boys with big bellies.....

My little Jellybean and Peanut. Neither one of my boys has those big bellies anymore. Medicine and good nutrition have taken care of that. These days Peanut brags about his big belly when he eats a lot of pancakes or fried rice (his two most favorite foods).
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And here is a photo of my Jellybean and Peanut today. Pretty big change, no?

Our two boys are not the only big change that has happened in the last year, though. AAI's Ghana program has evolved over this short time and many other families have been blessed by it. As of today, there are about 20 families in the program and 4 families that have completed adoptions and have their children home. Two more families are traveling (either now or very soon) to bring their children home. Just yesterday I learned of two new referrals in the program. More children who need families are finding families and that is something to be very excited about. The hard work that Anita and the rest of the staff at AAI (here in the U.S. and in Ghana) are doing is paying off in a big way. Z and I joined the program at its infancy and it has been such a joy to watch it grow and grow. Our boys are beneficiaries of a new program starting at the right time in the right place. I am so thankful that AAI took the chance to try something new and worked so hard to get things going. One year....and look where we've come!

Friday, March 28, 2008

This week's photo diary

The boys got a new toy this week (well, they got more than one, but one of them stood out as the most interesting toy). My parents bought this carpenter's work bench (complete with wrenches, saws, screws, nuts, bolts, screwdrivers, etc.) for my nephew when he was younger, but he's since outgrown it. So, Auntie Sarah and Uncle Nathan brought it to us when we got together for Easter. I managed to get it all the way home without the boys seeing it in the back of the van, so Z and I moved it into their room after they had gone to sleep so they would find it when they woke up the next morning. Tuesday morning was a pretty exciting morning, that's for sure! They've had hours of fun already!





For some reason, the boys decided that they wanted to lay down on the stairs. We told them that they could just sleep there all night and they just laughed and laughed.

Before the boys came home, I purchased quite a bit of clothing for them, but I wasn't at all sure what sizes they would be. One of my favorite purchases was this adorable pair of fleece overalls with snowmen on them. The size is listed as 48 months and I hoped and hoped they would fit Peanut. It was one of those outfits that I could picture him wearing in my mind before he came home. They are still just a little bit long when he stands up, but they work just fine. I get all warm and fuzzy every time I put them on him (which hasn't been often enough, now that I realize they are fleece, afterall, and it is Spring now).

Both of my boys in special pants. Jellybean is wearing some fleece overalls that my mom made for my nephew a few years ago. Hand-me-downs...gotta love 'em! From the looks of the length of the legs in this picture, Peanut will be inheriting those overalls soon!


Z has been trying to teach the boys about family connections, so when we talk about people in our family we always explain to the boys how they are related to us. So now when I say "I'm calling Grandma" the boys always say "Your mother, Grandma Peggy?" Too cute!

Someone forgot to tell Mother Nature

That it is Spring!

This is what we woke up to yesterday morning. I was disappointed...I've been longing for nice spring weather and hoping we could get rid of the mud. The boys were disappointed because they want to ride their bicycles (we told them they can't ride them until the snow is all gone....not totally true, of course, but Z still needs to get them ready for the boys so we needed to buy some extra time...I guess the snow did that for us).

Today the snow melted steadily...thankfully. Its still a muddy mess, though.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Jellybean and Peanut - isms (**EDITED**)

We hear lots of interesting things at our house these days. I have been meaning to write them all down, but now that I am sitting in front of the computer, I know I won't be able to think of them all. So, if this post gets edited a few times its because I've been thinking of new ones (or hearing them) and adding them to the list!

Boys: "Mommy have change his dress"
Notes: The boys have a hard time with his/her....right now, they only use 'his' or 'him'....we're working on it.

Boys: "Mommy, I should sit on my bunt?"
Me: "Yes, you should sit on your butt"
Notes: Both boys say 'bunt' instead of butt. "I should wash my bunt?" (said in the bath, while holding the wash cloth) "He beat my bunt!" (said when the other one playfully spanks or walks by and 'accidentally' bumps the other)

Boys: "Mommy, I wantee more chippees"
Translation: Mom, I want more chips. "Wantee" is heard OFTEN around here; I'm not sure why the "ee" is added to the want and the chips, though.

Boys: "I like plenty"
Notes: They say this when I am handing out food they especially like. This means they want a big portion - its often heard when I've cooked something involving rice, or when I'm handing out gummy fruit snacks.

Boys : "Hmm...I not like" (said with a crinkle of the nose)
Notes: This means they don't like what I've just served them to eat - though its almost always said BEFORE they even try it.

Boys: "I don't like carronts"
Notes: For some reason they are putting an "n" in the word carrot. I think its cute.

Boys: "Mommy, I like carronts"
Notes: They say this when I make cooked carrots...go figure....of course, any vegetable with enough butter and brown sugar will taste like candy, I suppose.

Boys: "I wantee play game" (said with hands held out in front of them, playstation style)
Notes: The boys don't watch a lot of TV or play a lot of video games...but I know they would LOVE to!

Boys: "When I wee-wee finish, I go play with my toys?"
Notes: The boys always want to know what is happening next (even though most days are pretty much alike). For some reason during wee-wee I get asked this question a lot - I guess that is a time when they aren't moving and have time to think!

Boys: "It for who?" (while pointing at something)
Notes: They boys always want to know who 'owns' everything in the house. They always seem a little surprised and very happy when I say its for Jellybean and Peanut.

Boys: "Mommy, you are cooking what?" (said as they come running into the kitchen when they hear me banging pots and pans, running water, or when they smell some food cooking)
Notes: I hear this question A LOT! Even when I answer them with what I am actually cooking, they will still come running into the kitchen to ask every few minutes. So, I've started telling them that I am cooking food. The other day Jellybean crinkled up his nose and said "Hmm...I don't like food!"

Boys: "Mommy - something is burning me!"
Notes: Said when something hurts....they will occasionally substitute "paining" or "pinching" for "burning".

Boys: "Mommy, I wantee my glasses"
Notes: The boys are obsessed with wearing sunglasses! They will wear them all day everyday if I let them. Peanut's sunglasses are so smudged up most days that I don't think he can actually see through them, but heaven forbid I should suggest he remove them!

Boys: "I should remove my dress?"
Notes: When we go up to their room at the end of the day to get ready for bed, I tell them its time to take off their clothes. They always ask if they should "remove" something (its never the same item of clothing from one day to the next). And...even though they are boys, they call their clothes their "dress". Yes, we know...we're working on that before school! I have to admit its cute, though.

Boys: "Who's mobile?"
Notes: They love cell phones - and always want to know who's phone they are looking at.

One boy to the other: "I see Spumbob on your supporter!" (said while laughing, usually)
Translation: I see Spongebob on your underwear!"

And lately, thanks to Auntie Jasmine, I have been hearing "The bunny, the bunny, I ate the bunny" over and over and over again. Usually followed by a series of "the rabbit, the rabbit, I ate the rabbit" and "the water, the water, I ate the water" and another round where they subsitute whatever it is they are currently looking at for "bunny". Great.

**EDITED**
Boys: "I can't know"
Translation: I don't know

Boys: "ting" As in "I want to show you some ting" "There is some ting in my room" "that ting"
Translation: thing

Boys: "Are you going to tro dat in da boilah?"
Translation: Are you going to throw that in the boiler (garbage)?

Peanut: "Ah! Every Day!"
Said with great exasperation...as in "Ah! Every Day he get more medicine!" or "Ah! Every Day we go to sleep!" or "Ah! Every Day we eat cereal!" (even though we do not eat cereal everyday)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Big Easter Bash

The boys and I traveled up nort' to MN to spend some time with my family for Easter. Z couldn't come because he was on call for work (boo hoo), but the boys and I had a blast. This visit to MN was the first time the boys crossed state lines since they got here and it was the first time that most of my family had a chance to meet the boys, so all kinds of new things were happening. The boys did great and they are still talking about how much fun they had at Uncle Matt and Auntie Jasmine's house.
After the boys had a chance to see Grandma again and meet everyone else, it was time for some lunch and then time to dye some eggs. This was the first egg-coloring experience for the boys and they certainly enjoyed themselves. Even the adults at the table had some fun!





The boys showing off their beautiful eggs!

Captivated by video games. The boys enjoyed playing with all of Uncle Matt's gadgets and spending time with their cousins.


Jellybean really getting into the game!
We were all totally entertained by the game Rock Star. The boys had a blast and their mom is trying to figure out how to justify buying a new video game - it was totally fun!
Peanut decided that one instrument was simply not enough for him - he had to play the drums AND the guitar!
All the kids playing with K'Nex.


Cleaning up their mess. The boys LOVE the vacuum. I think we'll have to do this at home, too.

All the kids with Grandma and Grandpa on Easter morning.

Despite the 8 or so inches of snow that fell right before we arrived, we all had a great time and ate a lot of great food. We even braved the cold for a walk/snowball fight. Thanks for hosting the party Matt and Jasmine - when can we come back?!?

Getting Caught Up

So, I haven't been so good about posting updates to the bloggy world lately. Sorry about that. We've been busy around here. And when I'm not busy dealing with boy-stuff, or boys, or the hubby, I've been just too darn wiped out to follow through with updating the blog. Nothing crazy is going on around here, really. Just life. The weather is getting warmer, we're spending more time outside, and we're all adjusting to this still new life.

I've been steadily taking pictures and thinking "I should put that on the blog" when interesting things happen around here...so I have lots to catch up on. I am hoping to post some updates during the boys' nap-time later today, so if you see additional posts today, they are my attempt at getting us all caught up.

We had a wonderful Easter weekend - I hope that all of you did as well!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Needles and Such

Not long after our boys came home, we learned that Jellybean (age 5) has a form of Sickle Cell Disease. Before we got the boys in to see our pediatrician I knew there was something going on with him...something just wasn't 'right' with him, but I couldn't put my finger on it. So when the doctor called and asked if we could make an appointment to come in to talk to her about test results, I wasn't terribly surprised. But I wasn't necessarily expecting to hear that his issue was Sickle Cell. I didn't know much of anything about sickle cell. I knew how it is inherited, because I've taken classes in genetics and sickle cell is always used as an example of genetic inheritance in textbooks; I knew that people with sickle cell (or people who are carriers) are less susceptible to malaria...but I had no idea what having sickle cell would be like.

I know that some of you are thinking "Didn't you know before they got home that he had sickle cell? Isn't this something they would have tested him for?" And the answer typically is that yes, children are tested for this before they are referred to a family for adoption....and that means that typically this is something that would be known ahead of time. But, for one reason or another it was missed. Perhaps his blood sample was never actually taken (this poor boy screams at the top of his lungs when a needle is in sight); or perhaps his sample wasn't actually tested; or perhaps his sample was tested incorrectly; or the results were interpreted incorrectly by the doctor who looked at them. It doesn't really matter - it is what it is. And the truth is, I know that if we knew he had sickle cell it wouldn't have made a bit of difference anyway. He still would be our son and we wouldn't have thought twice about it. The only difference would have been that we could have prepared ourselves for it a bit more by reading about sickle cell and contacting doctors in our area who know more about it. In some ways, though, I am glad that I didn't know. If I had known about it earlier, I would have worried MUCH more about him and would have gotten far more impatient than I already was to get him home. And many of my worries would have been warrantless. After all - we were already working as fast as possible to get them home - worrying more wouldn't have made a bit of difference.

Am I upset that our agency didn't catch this? No...without a second thought...no. Adoption in Ghana is still new; our agency is still in the pilot stages and they are doing GREAT things. Our boys were two of the very first children to come into their care. The in-country staff was still learning about what clinic to visit; what doctors to see for the children in their care (they have since switched to a different clinic). No child ever comes with a guarantee (even birth children). Z and I would take the risk again in a heartbeat....and we'd use the same agency all over again to do it. In fact, we hope to start the process again in a couple years or so (but don't tell anyone just yet). ;)

On Friday we had our first specialist visit with a doctor at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital. The PA and the doctor we saw were both great. They explained everything in detail, told us what to watch out for, how to deal with things, and they answered all of our questions. They told us we will have to be pro-active with his health; we'll have to educate our local doctors on how to treat him (and they told us our local doctors will probably not take these "lessons" very well - but that we'll have to be persistant and insist they do certain things). They also gave us some websites to check out as well as some pamphlets and a book to read. They are now going to refer us to a doctor who practices at a children's hospital located closer to our home town, so that future specialist visits will not require a 2 1/2 hour trip.

I am still coming to terms with what this means for my little boy. I'm learning about what this means for his everyday life and for his life in the long-term. Some of what I'm learning is scary...and all of it makes me sad for him. I know this means that his life will be a little bit harder....a little more painful...and perhaps a little shorter than the average person.

One thing that I do know is that he is an incredibly strong and resilient little boy. The fact that he made it to age 5 in less than optimum conditions (and is so healthy) is proof of this. Now that he is here, he has access to emergency rooms at any time of the day/night that he might need them; he has access to antibiotics that he can take daily and immunizations that can help boost his immune system; he has access to specialists who can prepare his parents for what's ahead and how to deal with things; and he has access to pain medication when he needs it. For all of these things I am grateful.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Trying not to take it personally

In January, two little boys walked off an airplane in the snowy midwest and walked right into my life. Granted, they'd been in my life for several months by that time, but just about 2 months ago was the first time they were physically here...really and truly mine.

Z and I tried to prepare ourselves for what life would be like once these two boys were here...and we thought we were prepared for hell. I mean, in all likelihood these two boys were going to be a bit stressed and freaked out (as would the new mom and dad). In all honesty, we've been pleasantly surprised and blessed. Things we thought would be a major hassle were not (riding in car seats, getting along with the dogs and cats, MAJOR tantrums, discipline problems, etc.). I am amazed every single day when I look at these two boys and realize how much they have gone through in their short lives and how resilient they are. They are bright and funny and quirky. They are smart and outgoing and mischievous. They are warm and cuddly and loving.

I really and truly am counting our blessings....they have been showered on us for sure.

The first few weeks that the boys were here, they were definitely on "overload". Everything was new and everything new was exciting. But I've noticed in the past couple of weeks especially that the new-ness and excitement is wearing off. They are both realizing that this is IT. THIS is where their forever family is...THIS is their new life. It comes as no surprise that there might be a bit of grieving that will come along with this realization. This is especially true for little Peanut. In some ways, he must miss his old life...his friends...the "pink house". He misses omotua (ground nut soup - which I HAVE to learn to make) and getting away with stuff because he's "cute". He is struggling to learn that not every adult is a potential mom or dad...and that living with this mom and dad means that he has to adhere to some basic rules. Its a bummer, I know. And it is HARD when you are 4 years old and there's suddenly a big white woman telling you what to do...and you're supposed to listen it, too ('cause she's your mom).

When I watch this amazing little boy, I am so filled with love for him. I know he's been through a lot...and I know that some of his behavior is just his way of working all this change out in his head. But at the same time, it is so hard to watch this little boy walk up to complete strangers in the waiting room at the clinic and act as though he'd be just as happy with them as he is with me. And its hard to watch him reach out and grab the hand of an adult that I (only seconds before) introduced him to and announce "I want to go with you" and proceed to stroll away down the hall. And its hard for me to hear him say that he wants to go live in the "pink house" after he's had a particularly rough day.

I have to honestly admit that it hurts...and sometimes it hurts a lot.

I know that he likes it here. I know that he likes his room and his toys and his daddy and our van and the pets. I even know that most of the time he likes me....but there are days when I definitely feel as though I'm replaceable; like he's got other options waiting in the wings in case this mom doesn't work out. And those are the days that I know I need to keep him a little closer, hug him a little tighter and whisper "I love you" a little more often.