Thursday, February 26, 2009

Geta lost a tooth!

Big news at the Morin household! Geta lost her first tooth while in our care. It happened Tuesday night at dinner. We were feasting on Tacos provided by the Karban family and Geta opted for the hard shell. After a couple of bites, she started fidgeting with her front tooth. She was making it twirl in full circles, so we knew it was hanging on by a thread. Mike pretended to pull his own tooth out and Geta was not impressed. She opted to work on hers by herself. She came and stood by me, just to make sure Daddy didn't pull any fast ones on her. After a few minutes she had the tooth in her hand and all her siblings were rushing to congratulate her. How exactly does one explain the tooth fairy to someone with limited English skills? Well, we put the tooth in a little baggy and marched her up to her room to place it under her pillow. She looked at us funny, but it seemed to be as good a place as any to store a tooth you don't need anymore. So she felt ok with it. The next morning (being Ash Wednesday) was a hectic morning, so we opted to have her check under the pillow Wednesday evening. She was ecstatic to find some money (which we had just learned about on Tuesday afternoon thanks to Josh's center worksheet that came home from school) and a lollipop. I am still not sure she gets the tooth fairy concept, but I guarantee you she will put her next tooth under her pillow to see what happens!

I also introduced Geta and Tamene to the piano. I was playing one morning and Tamene was very intrigued with the music. He played with me for awhile. Then he sat on the floor while Geta explored this instrument. After close to 1/2 hour of playing with her, I opted to break out Emily's keyboard. We have already replaced the batteries and will need to do so again, but they really love the music!

We also took Aunt Aimee's weaving project to a new level. With Courtney's assistance, the kids all weaved placemats for the kitchen table. Geta made placemats for mommy and daddy using a mosaic instead of weaving. Geta, Miss Lisa and Courtney all ventured out today to have them lamentated, so we will use them the first time tonight for dinner. Geta was so proud to realize what we were going to use these for. While they were out, Miss Lisa stopped by the craft store to get Geta a loom so she can weave a pot holder. She is working hard on that now!

We are off to Indy this Saturday to go to an Ethiopian restaurant and meet some other families who have adopted from Ethiopia. It should be lots of fun, but will make for a very long day! We hope to see Aunt Bobbi and Uncle Bob while we are there.

More next week,

Kristen

Monday, February 23, 2009

New Hurdle...

Ok, so I will not get the prize for frequency in posting. I have great intentions, but days just pass so quickly!

We had a great weekend. Friday marked the first "official" day with the new school bus. Ok, it is really only a 12 passenger van, but it sure feels like a school bus. The kids love it because they have lots of room, but I.... Well, let's just suffice to say, I am not nearly as impressed with it. So Mike drives it (and anyone who knows Mike, knows this is a very dangerous prospect!) But I must say I have been quite impressed that he has gotten it in and out of the garage (with very little room to spare) 3 days in a row now. (I am wishing I had pictures of how tight a squeeze it is!)

We spent the better part of the weekend playing Uno and spending quality family time together. We have been so blest to have so many meals provided to us, so I don't have to worry about cooking! I did venture out to the grocery store on Sunday because poor Oscar (our cat) had nothing to eat! But the rest of us are very well fed and can't thank everyone enough for taking such good care of us! We actually had Ethiopian food twice last week and Geta and Tamene were in 7th heaven! They were so happy to know that Injera can be made in the United States, too. They also really enjoyed watching all of us enjoy the food they love so much! It was a really special time. Our friends, the Costellos, enjoyed the second Ethiopian meal with us and brought photos of their newest son's time at he care center. Geta was so interested in the pictures of African huts and the familiar surroundings of the care center. Joshua was thrilled to see his friend Tariku, who was the guard at the guesthouse who played lots of basketball with Josh. We were so happy to have them over and meld some of the past with where we are today. These types of situations lay the ground work that will one day lead to a very emotional discussion with Geta and Tamene about their past and thier birth father's wishes for them. Geta doesn't talk at all about her past, but some day, I will have to find a way to help her deal with her grief.

Uncle Timmy and Aunt Aimee also got to meet Geta and Tamene for the first time this weekend. Geta and Tamene were a little shy in the beginning, but warmed up pretty quickly. (Come on, this is Uncle Timmy! What can you expect!) Aunt Aimee won Geta's heart by teaching her how to weave with paper. Geta has spent the time since then working to redecorate the kitchen! Between the weaving and then learning that tape makes things stick to walls, I am not sure which she liked more. But it has been hours of entertainment which would have otherwise been spent playing Uno. So I am glad for the distraction!

Please let me warn you that if you have a weak stomach, then you should stop reading now! But if you have a stronger stomach, I must share my latest hurdle. I have to get a stool sample from Geta. Tamene's is much easier since it is right in his diaper and he prefers a clean diaper when it is time to produce "Ca Ca". That is Amharic word for excrement of any kind so can apply to trash, poop or even daddy! But I am struggling with how to explain to Geta that she needs to poop in a cup. After my first attempt to explain, she nodded, took the cup, filled it with water and drank out of it. Hmmm... Back to the drawing board. The directions say that no urine can contaminate the sample. Someone suggested I put a trashbag over the toilet to catch the "Ca Ca". But how do I explain that she should not pee in the trash bag. I can't wait to read all your comments! Sorry for the disgusting topic, but you have to admit it is kind of funny! At this point, I have no idea how I will get the sample, but I am sure I will have more stories to tell!
More updates later.
Kristen
PS You might all want to bombard Mike with email asking when he will post next. A little pressure can go a long way!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Please and Thank you

So I ventured out yesterday to take Joshua to the Eye Doctor. Tamene and Geta went with me, but once we reached the doctor's office, Geta was too overwhelmed to stay. So she went home with Miss Lisa and the older kids while Tamene and Joshua and I stayed for the appointment. While we were waiting, Joshua asked me what I did during the day. I told him about all the games of Uno I lost and then all the games of Go Fish that I lost. I also threw in the fact that I had given both Geta and Tamene a bath. His very frank response was, "well you didn't really do much today." It is sad but true! It seems like we make progress everyday, but we don't do much of anything.


Geta loves to play games. Unfortunately, they are the same games over and over. And she is quite competetive, so she always has to win. She is not above cheating to win!


Tamene has learned the word "No" and uses is often and with enthusiasm. I guess this is normal for a 2 year old, but I liked it better before he knew that word! Geta has learned to say Please and realizes this gets her what she wants. We are still working on Thank you. She won't say it, but will smile and bat those beautiful eyelashes at you. For now, that is just as good as a Thank you! She has also learned all the words to Barney's "Clean up" song. We ONLY sing this song when it is time to clean up, so hopefully that will help Geta learn that she has responsibilites around the house also.


I took Geta and Tamene to St. Joe Grade School today. It went pretty well, but Geta was a little shy. Joshua's Kindergarten class was at music, so we got to explore the Kindergarten classroom. I am hoping this will make Geta a little more comfortable in the classroom when she has to attend Kindergarten visitation day on March 20th. Yikes! That will be here soon and I am hoping she is ready.


Anyhow, I have to go play more Go Fish!


Kristen


PS Happy Birthday Cam!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

One week home

I can't believe we have been home a full week already. In some ways, it seems like we never left. Our older kids are all back in school, activities are back in swing and Mike is back to work. But life is far from normal!

Geta and Tamene continue to do as well as can be expected, but it is a challenge to keep Geta entertained and maintain Tamene's schedule. I think they are both a little bored with just me and Lisa here. They, of course, take it in stride, but they are thrilled when other kids arrive home to play with them.

Geta continues to understand more and more English, but doesn't say very much. So far, other than letters and numbers, she says "more", "water", says all of our names, plays peek-a-boo asking "where's (insert name here)?... Peek-a-boo!" and "all done". She continues to expand her diet slightly each day, but she is pretty picky about food. She whines a lot which Mike and I are both hoping will go away when she can communicate better. She is frustrated that Courtney isn't here very much. Courtney is definitely the highlight of her life right now. Geta has really taken to electronic devices. She loves the ipod, washing machine and digital camera. She is not very interested in the TV, but also likes to play Candyland, Bingo and Mancala. Well, she is only happy as long as she wins! She definitely has a competetive streak!


Tamene is learning how to "touch nice" instead of hitting. It was totally adorable yesterday at lunch when he reached out for my hand and laid it on the table. Then he started rubbing it with a very expressive look on his face. I was so proud of him! We continue to have several temper tantrums a day as we try to regulate his sleep and eating schedule. He does better when we get out of the house. (Oh and by the way, he still HATES his bath. He screams just at the mention of it!)

I ventured out to Target with Geta and Tamene on Friday. They were both nervous and totally overwhelmed by the store. We just walked up and down the aisles and looked at different things. By the end of our time there, Geta had found several items she wanted to purchase. I picked one of them and then after we checked out, she announced to the entire line behind us in a very gleeful voice, "All Done!" She was very proud of herself!
More soon,
Kristen

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Progress?

So I have not slept past 4am any day that we have been home. Geta and Tamene are having a hard time adjusting to this new timezone. However, the warm weather (clearly brought back by us when we left the equator... no thanks necessary!) has been wonderful. We took advantage of the beautiful day and walked over to Trinity to collect Courtney from school. Geta and Tamene were a little nervous when 10 of Courtney's classmates spotted us waiting and came to visit. But they handled it beautifully and took it all in stride. Courtney finally showed up (imagine her being the last one out of the locker room...). Then all was better.

Tamene walked the whole way from our house to Trinity and back. He has actually lost 2 pounds since he has been home (and that is not from lack of eating!) I think he needs to get some good exercise!!

So here is a quick synopsis of our time at home: Geta eats NOTHING that she isn't sure she likes. But we have expanded from only liking Life Cereal to adding Peanut Butter and apples (minus the skin) to our diet. We have had several tantrums (which I am very glad to see since it means we are releasing energy and fear). I, as a mother, can't believe I am saying that and putting it in writing! But it is something I worried about. Our youngest kids have been through so much and I was very afraid that they would cope by hiding their emotion. Well, I am here to tell you, they are not coping in this particular way! But thank God for that!!

I will end with a wonderful video of Tamene listening to some Ethiopian kids music. Where did he get his moves? I, as his very proud mother, am convinced it is natural talent!
video

Thank you for your continued love and support. I feel so blest to have so many people praying for us. At this particular moment, that is what we need most!

Please say a prayer for their biological father and siblings also. While we have recieved this wonderful gift of Geta and Tamene, they still struggle back in Ethiopia. Having met their birth father, I can't possibly look in their eyes without thinking of him. They look soooo much alike. He said that we were the answers to his prayers and I can't help but think that if we sent tons of prayers his way that God would bless him by making life just a little easier for him.

More later (after I get used to life with a toddler again....)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Some pictures of the kids...

I know you have all been anxiously awaiting some pictures of Geta and Tamene, so I am going to add some and will post with more details later. Enjoy! They are just precious and I can't wait for everyone to meet them!


We are home!

Sorry we didn't post the last 2 days of our stay in Ethiopia, but the internet wasn't working at the Guest house. But I am happy to say we have arrived home safe and sound. Although VERY LONG, the trip home was uneventful. The kids did great! (all 6 of them!) We left for the airport at 2am in Ethiopia (6pm Thursday here in South Bend). We finally arrived home at 2am Saturday morning (South Bend time). Mom and I both commented several times that Friday, February 6, 2009 will forever be the longest day of our lives! But God was definitely with us and guided us safely and peacefully all the way home!

So, just a few details about the trip... Geta started getting nervous when we were packing. There is no doubt that she knew exactly what this meant. We put all the kids to bed at 7:30, so they could get some sleep before we woke them up at 1:30am. This plan actually worked pretty well. The kids were sleepy enough that they didn't have much energy in the airport while we waited to board our first flight, but they were awake enough to still carry all their own luggage and backpacks! Tamene was thrilled to have a whole new place to explore. Thank goodness he has allowed others to entertain him. Patrick and Josh were awesome big brothers and kept Tamene "relatively close" while we got all the luggage checked in and filled out all the forms for customs. As luck would have it, there were computer problems while we were checking in, so the process took almost an hour. (Nothing goes fast in Africa! You have to just kind of go with the flow.)
Once we made it through customs, dad was kind enough to buy a shot of coffee for me. I mean that literally. What I would have given for a Starbucks coffee, but instead I got about 3 tablespoons of strong, sweet coffee. At 4am, I wasn't complaining. Geta loosened up a little bit when she saw the airplane through the window. She can't say much in English yet, but we still talk to her like she is fluent in English. She just grins and shrugs her shoulders, but I think she takes comfort when we make things "seem" normal. She watches how we are acting and when she sees all the laughter and happiness, she musters up the strength to try all these new things. She was really nervous when she heard the engines of the plane rev up for take off, but in normal Morin fashion, all our kids and daddy had their hands up in the air and were giggling and laughing. Before we even left the ground, Geta was joining in with her beautiful giggle.

We flew 4 hours to Damascus, Syria, were on the ground about an hour to refuel and add some passengers and then we were another almost 5 hours to London. We arrived on-time but realized that we were not checked in to the flight to Chicago. (Gotta love Ethiopia!) Since the plane was scheduled to leave in less than an hour, this made for another long wait while the clerk tried to find us some seats together. We literally got to the gate, walked onto the plane and were ready for take off! Tamene slept the entire 8 hour trip to Chicago, laying in between mom and I. Since he had his shoes on, Mom probably has a few bruises to show for it! Courtney, Emily and Geta slept for 7 of the 8 hours, having eaten (or picked at) dinner first.

Speaking of food, Geta was not impressed with the food on any part of our journey. She ate none of the plane food and didn't like any of the 7 varieties of snacks I brought for her. She survived on rolls, Pistachio nuts and water for the entire trip. We also learned that she hates apple juice! I am not sure I have ever met a kid who doesn't like apple juice!

Tamene, on the other hand, ate everything in site (unless he was playing his favorite game, "throw my food at daddy"). Mike was a wreck with food all over him, but Tamene was having a ball!

In Chicago, we waited again to go through customs and then submit all the paperwork for Geta and Tamene's Green Cards. Then it was off to find the bus and make our final 3 hour long bus ride home. (See picture of Emily watching the back of her eye lids at O'Hare Airport!) The bus ride home, as I am sure you can all guess, was very long! Geta stayed awake for all but the the last 1/2 hour looking out her window and taking in all the sites. I wish I could hear her thoughts. She didn't seem nervous. It was more of a curiosity about what this new place was like. She has no idea what all the white stuff is, but definitely equates it with being cold! Tim, Aimee and Susi had dropped off both our vans at the ND bookstore, so we were able to get everyone (and all the luggage) home. I promptly fed all the kids some oatmeal in the hopes that they would sleep longer and at 3am, it was lights out. All the kids slept upstairs in our room. Geta and Courtney squeezed into Geta's bed and Tamene slept all by himself, with only a few wimpers in his sleep! That is definite progress and I was getting tired of having a fiesty toddler in my bed!

Oh and did I mention that Tamene is TERRIFIED of Oscar (our cat)! He screams bloody murder whenever he sees or hears Oscar. That is not exactly what I needed when trying to get 6 tired kids in bed at 3am!

Tamene (having slept well along the journey) was up and raring to go at 6:45am, so I have not had much sleep in the last 48 hours, but I plan to go to bed very early tonight!

By the way, check out the outfit that Tamene entered the US in! Go Irish!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Things are looking up

Tamene now is a mama’s boy and really finds comfort in daddy too.  He has been expanding his play group to include our various other children at times.  He still shows some shy tendencies as now when the cook’s come to hug him or pick him up, he clings to his mom or dad, which is probably progress.

Geta, on the other hand, is a Courtney’s girl.  She likes Courtney to do everything with her and go everywhere with her.   The one exception was when Kristen, Geta and Tamene and I had to go the Embassy to get their final documents.  Geta didn’t know what to think of the bus ride and I am afraid she thought she would never see the other kids again.  But she made it through it.

Nighttime wasn’t as eventful as Kristen had suspected it would be (thank goodness).  Geta wasn’t up for sleeping until Courtney laid in the bed with her, but once Courtney laid down with her, she fell asleep immediately.  I am not a fan of having our children sleep with us, but all the literature on adoption says it is very reassuring and is something that should be done, so we let it happen for the first night.  Tamene didn’t feel comfortable sleeping without being in our bed.  I was actually downstairs when this happened, but as soon as Kristen put him in our bed, he went right to sleep.  And here is the great news.  They both slept through the night.  At 5:15, Tamene made a quick peep, but I put my hand on his head which didn’t help much, but Kristen looked at him and said something (I was half asleep) and he went right back to sleep.  They both typically rise at 6am, and didn’t get up until shortly after 7 today.  That is my influence of course.  I really think the days are only to get easier and better, but there will, of course, be tough days.

The one thing that I think is tough that Geta can communicate in Amharic, but none of us speak it.  So, she is going through her third language transition in about 9 months.  But she doesn’t seem to concerned about it.  She can already count to 20, which I think is from her former schooling, and she can also say all of our names.  She is picking up other  words and we have a great book at home that some of Courtney’s classmates made for us.  It has a picture of an animal, object or something, the word in English and then on some of them, the word in Amharic.  I wish we had it here, but believe it or not, we will be home in a couple days.

It has been an adventure, but an awesome adventure.  Ethiopia is so rich in culture, so joyful in spirit, but so poor materially.  But it doesn’t seem to bother the local people at all.  We picked a good 2 week stint as the electricity has not gone out at all.  But I was told by an American who works over here, the week before we arrived, electricity went out every night from around 6 to around 8 at night.  Dinners were tough, but it didn’t phase them.  They also recently had a cement shortage, which means no work for those in construction, and again, no one complained, they just went about their lives.  There is incredibly patience over here, and they have many attributes we could certainly emulate.  Oh, that reminds me, let me tell you about the driving.  There are no stop lights at all.  And there are plenty of 6 or 8 lane roads.  My interpretation is the right away goes to the one trying to merge into traffic.  If that person didn’t have the right away, he or she would never get on to the road.  You just kind of pull in and the other drivers move over, slow down or go on the other side of the road (even if it is the wrong side of the road).  But what I find most amazing is, there is no road rage whatsoever.  They just go with the flow.  I don’t think driving over here is for the faint of heart, but they have a system and it works well.

We are very excited about our return home.  We are anxious for our new children to get acclimated to our home, to meet Oscar and to get into life as we will know it.  Bill and I are anxious to maybe read a USA today, and get caught up on what we have missed.  I think Bill also longs for an easily accessible cold beer, and the news.  Don’t tell anyone, but he was reading a book today.  Okay, just the back cover of a book, but still.  I will be happy to have easily accessible internet that can interact with my own personal computer.  But this has been an awesome journey.  Originally, I thought I could never afford to bring my family back, but now I wonder how I can not bring them back.  But that is a ways away and a different topic.  See you all soon.

Mike

 

Monday, February 2, 2009

A note from Courtney

Hi Guys,

 

How are all of you? I’m great! Ethiopia is great too, but it is nothing like the US. So far I’ve done many things and met many people. I even went to the national museum and saw Lucy and pictures of Shelam, the two oldest most complete skeletons in the world that we studied in Ancient History this year!

I also met Geta and Tamene Friday. Tamene was not happy and Geta was scared but she played with us anyway. Both have made drastic improvements. I’ll have to see how it goes tomorrow though when we bring them back to the guest house for a while.

            Ethiopia has many poor beggers on the street. It is really sad. Also many houses are very bare and have holes them. The houses outside of the city are different though. They are really cool.

            I have to go now but I will tell you all about it and bring back pictures when I come home.
 
Courtney

Playing with Geta and Tamene

Today, Geta and Tamene got to come and play with us at the Guesthouse. Tamene, as expected, was not at all happy to see us! He cried most of the bus ride here and then for a ½ hour after we were here. Geta on the other hand was nervous to ride on the bus, but her face lit up when she saw Courtney and the other kids. She laughed and played and practiced English all morning. She is actually pretty good at dribbling a basketball (which made Mike very proud!) We got to eat with the kids and Tamene finally let me feed him. That is a huge milestone! He also played and laughed with us today. His siblings are still a little overwhelming for him, but he sticks close to me and is getting more comfortable. He fell asleep in my lap today as I sang him lullabies. We delivered them back to the care center and to school after lunch time. To be honest, I think both kids are still very relieved to be back in their familiar surroundings. They have bigger smiles when we leave then they do when we arrive, but we make progress with each visit. Tomorrow when we pick them up, they will stay with us the remainder of our time here, so that will be yet another step in the whole process. We will see how much sleep we get tomorrow night!

We have taken lots of pictures, but don't have access to upload them from this shared computer. We will post pictures when we return to the US. Also, we can't see the blog from Africa, so we hope that these posts are working correctly! If you have added comments, please don't think we are ignoring you. We just can't see them!

More later,
Kristen

Trip to Hosanna

Yesterday was a long, emotional day as we travelled down to Hosanna to meet Geta and Tamene's birth father. The bus left the guesthouse promptly at 6am, which Mike was NOT so happy about. It was a long 3 ½ hour bumpy ride and many on the bus had upset stomachs. However, we all faired pretty well, except for sore rear ends from sitting on seats without much cushion for so long. The meeting with Etore was priceless for both Mike and I, but I won't share any detail to maintain his privacy. We were so happy to have the chance to meet him and reassure him that we will raise Geta and Tamene with as much love as we can give them. He was so grateful that we had a big family and even took a picture with all of us!
After the meeting, we had a short prayer service with all the birth families and adoptive families. Each birth parent lit a candle and gave it to their child's adoptive family. There were many tears on both sides of the room. After a prayer by the birth parents and a prayer by the adoptive parents, we said our good-byes and they were escorted back to their village, about a 25 minute ride from Hosanna. I was very glad to hear that the birth parents were well fed while they waited for us to arrive. It was a day that Mike and I will never forget.
The adoptive families then celebrated a traditional coffee ceremony. While this was a nice cultural experience, it was also a good time for us to release all the emotion of the morning and take some time to ourselves to figure out how to deal with what we just experienced. There is a tremendous amount of guilt that I have come to know in this adoption process. The world can be so unfair. In Ethiopia, people work from sun up to sun down and then some. They come home to small, one room huts that they share with their cattle to have a very modest meal and then sleep on mats that lay on a dirt floor. There certainly is an upper class here in the city, but the rural areas are all about the same. One village looks just like the next.
We did get to stop by the Orphanage where Geta and Tamene stayed from May through September. We weren't allowed inside, but there is something about walking the path of your children that helps you understand their fear a little better. We also got to see a small bakery and school that our Agency has funded in the Hosanna area. It allows single women to work and local children to get an education. Finally, we stopped on the roadside to see the inside of one of the huts that our children would have lived in. It is amazing how well they manage space. The hut that we saw housed 5 or 6 children along with the parents and some cattle. It was probably 15 feet in diameter. The dirt floor was freshly swept and there was nothing out of place. There was a small garden behind the house where they grew food for them to eat.
We arrived back at the guesthouse last night around 4:30pm and had dinner. It was an early night for everyone. (Except dad and one other adoptive father who got up at 4 in the morning to watch the second half of the Superbowl!

Kristen