Friday, August 31, 2007

Explaining Santa Claus

Today my Mom sent a box of stuff for the kids for school and in it were a pair of tights. Abegail was going through the box and loving her new stuff and I went out to mow the lawn. Abegail came out in the tights and a shirt. I said, "oh, honey those aren't pants those are to wear under a dress." OK, she kind of got it. Then she opened the drawer of an old chest I had in the kitchen and pulled out a tablecloth. She said, Mommy what is this, a blanket??
I said no, it's a tablecloth. Do you know what that is? She said no. So I started wondering what else has he never seen before?

Mommy: Abegail, Do you know what a Christmas tree is?
Abegail: No.
Mommy: Do you know what a Christmas stocking is?
Abegail: No.
Mommy: Do you know what an Easter basket is?
Abegail: No.
Mommy: Do you know who the Easter bunny is?
Abegail: The Easter bunny??? No.
Mommy: Do you know what Easter is?
Abegail: Yes, that's when Jesus died.
Mommy: Do you know what Christmas is?
Abegail: of course, that's Jesus' birthday.
Mommy: Do you now who Santa Claus is?(they do have a picture of Santa at the AFAA house)
Abegail: No. Who is Santa Claus?
Mommy: Well he wears a red suit and has a beard.
Abegail: A red suit and a beard?
Mommy: Yes, and he comes down the chimney.
Abegail with a look on her face like I've lost my mind: The Chimney? Why would he come down the chimney?
Mommy: Well he comes at night and leaves presents and then leaves. We don't see him.
Abegail: We don't see him???
Mommy: At this point I"m thinking I thought Santa gave presents all over the world to all the good boys and girls, how am I going to explain that one? No he comes leaves presents and then leaves, he has a bowl full of jelly.
Abegail: He eats jelly?
Mommy: No, he has a big tummy.
Abegail: What kind of presents does he leave?
Mommy: Well, you go sit on his lap and tell him what you want.
Abegail: But I don't see him?
Mommy: Oh, you can see him at the mall.
Abegail: The mall?
Mommy: Yea, he's around before Christmas, just not when he delivers the presents.
Abegail: So I have to sit on his lap and he brings me a present?
Mommy: Yes, what do you want him to bring you?
Abegail: I want a pink car and a barbie.
Mommy: Oh, that's a good idea.
Abegail: Will he remember?
Mommy: If you sit on his lap and tell him. He will remember.

Moments later Abegail finds me, Mommy I want one more thing: Wait, no I want four things. I want............. I want.......
Oh, now if we only remember how to wear the tights that easily!

Quotes from Abegail:
I was talking to Abegail about the benefit we are going to tomorrow for the Liberian boy coming to Minnesota for surgery. I said, there will be lots of people from Liberia there. Won't that be fun?
Abegail: No.
Mommy: No??? Why not, don't you want to meet people from Liberia?
Abegail: No, I already know people in Liberia.

E-man's Giardia is definitely getting better. Today was the first day he's gone to the bathroom and I didn't feel like I needed to move out of the house afterward. Now for Abegail.....

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Abegail Meets Her Teacher

We had an open house at Abegail's school tonight. We met her teacher, Mr. Suzuki and she picked out her desk. Mr Suzuki (both kids love to practice saying his name) seems very nice and we've heard rave reviews about him. Abegail loved her school and says she is excited. I on the other hand am petrified. How on earth did I become the mother of an elementary school student? They had sign ups for Room Mother. I'm thinking, Room Mother, that's MY mom not me.We had a nail polish festival Monday (what else is there to do with no power) everyone got into the action includig the concrete on our front step. Thankfully power was restored yesterday at noon.
Abegail will wear my first communion dress for her baptism. Mom found that and a bunch of other dresses she made. I'm thrilled and Abegail loves the dress!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Look Who's Coming to Minnesota

1-year-old Emmanuel Johnson, born in Liberia without an anus is coming to Minneapolis Sept. 7th to have permanent surgery that will save his life. He will have reconstructive surgery on Sept. 19th at Fairview University. The hospital and surgeon are donating most of the cost but 40-thousand still needs to be raies. If you want to help Emmanuel you can donate to any TCF Bank in the name of the Emmanuel Johnson fund.

Health Updates

We finally got a stool sample from Eman and as we suspected he does have Giardia, a parasite common in third world countries. I may be hallucinating but I think for sure it is getting worse. I am 99.9 percent sure Abegail has it too but she doesn't poop enough to get a sample, still working on it! So no more baths together. If they hadn't come to the U.S. A&E would have spent their lives walking around with 9 cavities between them, parasites, low iron, and poor eyesight.
We got a new video of kids at the AFAA house from when Junior's mom visited. The kids loved seeing their friends and Abegail said, "Martu is wearing my skirt and shoes, Jemama has on my blouse." I said they are not yours anymore!

We spent the entire afternoon at the eye doctor yesterday. Every time they wanted to point the light in Eman's eye he'd say, let me do it! They say they did get what they needed and he will probably need glasses in the next few months as he is nearsighted and has stigmatisms in both eyes. They won't fix the ptsosis in the left eye until he is five. I don't know why they want to wait but they say once they fix it, there is a chance it will return to how it is now.
Still no power.

Big Storm, No Power - The Sequel

In 6 years of living in Minneapolis, we've never lost power for more than an hour or so. But for the 2nd time in 2 weeks, we are without power again and have no idea when it will be restored. Last time it was 3 days. We're going on 24 hours we're hoping sometime tomorrow we'll be back in business.

It's funny, because A&E aren't phased one bit. They're used to generators. They say to me, "Daddy, you staht de gen-ah-ray-tah." Yep...we're on generator power again. We're using it to power important, you know...a small air conditioner, tv, lamp (all in our bedroom :-) and WiFi!! And yes, there's just enough power to cool the refrigerator, too. But no phones, no stove, no bedroom lights (making bedtime REEEEALLY interesting!!) and no central air.

We woke up to lots of downed-branches strewn across our lawn...which the children were happy to help collect. They needed my help to lift the huge grill that was toppled!!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Good Day

The Dentist Report: Emmanuel has six cavities, most of his top teeth are decayed, the stain is from some of the food they ate in Liberia. He and Abegail will see a pediatric specialist. Abegail probably has 3 cavities. Annie would barely open her mouth for anybody to see anything, but she does have the correct number of teeth!

We came home and I went for a fabulous one hour run and when I got home, Annie POOPED IN THE POTTY!
We then went to the Minnesota State Fair. The kids were so good we kept checking to see if they were ours. At one point Eman was crying because I was holding Annie and I said you have to wait your turn. Then Annie got off my lap and said its Eman's turn now. Miracles never cease.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Potty Power

The kids were in the bath tonight and Abegail started singing a song from Annie's video, "Potty Power." Here are the words she is singing:
What do you like to do
When you are sitting on the potty?
When you're sitting on the potty for a while?
There's a lot of things to do
That will make you happy too.
Sitting on the potty.

This song is already kind of funny...but it is absolutely hilarious with a Liberian accent!! Also funny with the Liberian accents are Barney songs ("Clean-up, everybody do your share" and "I love you, you love me").

Our Personal VISA Commercial

Adoption Application............................$250
Police Clearance....................................$10
Passport photos....................................$22
Immigration process............................$525
Home Study......................................$2,600
Fingerprints for two adults.....................$140
Fingerprints again at private co..................$50
AFAA Agency Fee for Siblings.............. $6,000
Foster Care fees for 6 months...............$2,100
Shots for 2 adults to travel......................$600
Fingerprints AGAIN............................$140
Liberian travel visas for 2......................$205
Postal fees for mailing paperwork..............$24.05
Flight, Hotel, & Food in Liberia...................$10,000


Mommy You Come Back?

It doesn't matter if we're going to the bathroom or to work, A&E always ask Scott and I, "you will come back?" We always say yes we will come back. One day Scott was trying to be funny, I went upstairs for something and Eman asked 3 or 4 times, "Mommy come back?" And Scott said no. At which point both kids eyes became huge and Scott realized what he had done. They had a Mommy who didn't come back. So now we don't joke, "yes Mommy will come back." "Yes, Daddy will come back."

Mommy: Abegail, why are you so mean to your brother?
Abegail: Because he's mean to me.
Mommy: OK, you have a point, but not the answer I was looking for.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Abegail & Daddy's Day at the Dome

Abegail and I got to spend a day at the ballpark...with HUGE hot dogs, blue snow cones, a new Torii Hunter t-shirt, and a run of the bases after the game...we had an amazing day!! I thought Johan Santana striking out 17 in 8 innings was pretty cool (and a Twins' record)...but needless to say, "TC Bear" was Abegail's #1 highlight.

I'll just leave you this photo essay.

So Sweet When They Sleep

A: Mommy I want some coffee.
M: No, honey little girls can't have coffee.
A: Mommy I want some coffffffeeeee...
M: No honey it will stunt your growth
A: Mommy, I want to be short.

Sadly our neighborhood pool closed today and the temperature has dropped to the low 60's. The kids keep saying, it's cold. I say, yes just wait, it will get colder. Aren't they in for a surprise.
My Dream Come True:
It was a very rainy weekend here so things got a little out of hand.... but the good news is E-man enjoyed being tied up by Abegail...hmmm.. that could come in useful....

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Update on Kids at the AFAA house

Another one of A&E's friends is home. Junior, is home with his new Mommy in Oklahoma! Hey we know some people there. Junior is in Tulsa. We hope to meet up with him Labor Day weekend in South Dakota.
In the meantime, we got some photos of A&E's cousins, Martu and Mackie, (first photo) and a few of Abegail's good friend Tarry. The kids love seeing their friends!

I took Abegail shopping for school supplies last night. She is very excited. We rookies figured out the list together!
We're also getting ready for the kids to be baptized on September 22nd. They have absolutely no idea what that means except Abegail know she will get a new white dress!

Today we were like to start a new series on our blog called, Quotes from Abegail:
Mommy: Were you hungry before you went to the AFAA house?
Abegail: No.
Mommy: No? that's great.
Abegail: I ate before I went.

Happy Birthday Auntie Caroline.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Entitlement Factor

No one has to tell my kids they've had a hard life. One look at the toys Annie had all to herself for three years and they figured out most kids in America do not spend their time braiding and rebraiding the same barbies hair. But living in a culture where most of your time is spent trying to survive leads to a whole new set of issues. As a reporter, I talk to families who have lost loved ones often. Countless times I have heard, "he would have given the shirt off his back." I think that's a little easier to do when you have another one at home. Abegail had good friends at the AFAA house. Friends like you and I have. But if it came down to a plate of rice and one shirt, I'm not so sure she would give those to even her best friend. When you are just trying to survive you are not worried about others, you don't think about how others feel. You think about you and getting to tomorrow.
This mentality is not easy to break. Several times I've sat down to a meal where the food has been taken out of hands, the fork has been taken out of my mouth. Abegail and Eman share chewed gum. They have taken gum out of my mouth. Its easy for me to say no to material things to my kids. But food is hard to deny. After a few of these instances I've thought I don't want them treating others this way. I don't want them going to a friends house and eating five hotdogs. I have learned to say, I will get you what I'm eating after I'm done eating it.
There is also no level of wait a minute. I have been going to the bathroom and attempted to be pushed off because someone has to pee pee oh. If they ask you for milk and you are in the middle of something they will cry and whine until you are pouring their milk. It doesn't matter if you are on the phone or giving CPR. They want it and want it NOW. But how do you impress upon a child they will not have to worry about food or drink or even a hug ever again? Waiting a minute doesn't mean it won't happen.
I've also been asked how I 'feel' about the kids compared to Annie. I felt like they were mine from the minute I met them. I truly loved them as I love Annie. But there are definite differences. It might be their ages, it might be the cultural differences. I find myself more annoyed at my adopted children. I can tolerate Annie's whining way more than Eman's. I am not a touchy feely person and the constant hanging on me gets me in a irritated state much more than when Annie needs some affection. I also have great respect and admiration for them. Their hardiness is so attractive, how they do meet people and handle all the newness is amazing, something I'm not sure Annie would ever survive. But there is also much of the same. On Tuesday I didn't see Eman much because of his daycare schedule and my napping schedule. On Wednesday I missed him terribly and couldn't wait to hug him and spend some time with him. I now can't not imagine my life without any of my children.
We are trying to catch up in a matter of weeks what most people get from birth, whether its love, affection, attention, or food. That is hard on any parent and child. I've tried to impress upon my kids lately, the how would you feel factor. All three of them love to follow me around. One day I came upstairs and Scott said, "it's like a parade." I said either that or the sound of music as they were all lined up behind me from tallest to shortest. Finally when I could not take it any more I said to Abegail, how would you like to be followed around all day? She stopped and didn't follow me the rest of the night.
These are hard issues, I can see Emmanuel is very hurt in his own four year old way, Abegail shows signs of homesickness in her own way. But you also want them to grow up as thoughtful, generous human beings, who talk at an acceptable noise level (very funny I have issues with this since I talk loud myself) and who know and more importantly remember how to say please and thank you. If we don't, how will they ever help their birth family or their country in the future? How will they ever survive here?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Changes to The Adoption Process in Liberia

A few weeks after we got home, the U.S. Embassy in Liberia announced they would be changing the way visa's were given to Liberian children and basically slowing things down for adoptions. The reason: A new woman in charge named Alma. From my understanding Alma thought there were too many adoptions going on and the previous article shows some of the concerns. They now have stricter guidelines. You can only have your visa interview on Thursdays (your out of luck if you miss it, have to wait until the next week) Birth families have to come to the embassy to relinquish rights. The hardship this may cause is amazing, especially if its the rainy season and the family lives in the interior or several hours away. Also, if you are having your child adopted, who has the money to come to Monrovia. Other things like documents will be snail mailed instead of e-mailed is new protocal.

I must admit I don't understand it all but it sounds like more confusion and the inevitable more waiting. Some have said it will push things back three weeks. At one point families worried adoptions would stop. But since then we have seen Alma does have a heart. A few agencies have met with her and she has agreed to make some concessions. In one case she was not happy with documentation of a child but allowed the child to leave with their family because she didn't know what would happen to the child.

Yes, there are a lot of adoptions in Liberia. But there are also some good reasons for that. One, Liberia is one of a handful of countries that actually does international adoptions in Africa. Two, it is one of the poorest countries in the world. As a parent if you have the choice to have your child starve to death or go be with a family that has opportunity written all over it, isn't it a no brainer. It's all sad. Liberia needs a lot of help to allow parents to actually raise their children. I'm afraid that won't be happening for quite some time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Liberian Translations

Liberian / American Translation

Slippers / Flip Flops
Shoes / Sneakers or anything that is not a sandal
Commode / Toilet
Tissue / Toilet Paper
Spoiled / Broken
Flash It / Spray It
Trousers / Pants or Shorts
Briefs / Boys Underwear
Pants / Girls Underwear
Blouse / Shirt
Chicklet / Any kind of Gum
Pee Pee Oh / I have to go to the bathroom
Poo Poo Oh / I really have to go to the bathroom
I want drink / I would like a drink please
Eh?? / What?
Enjoying / Like
Meat / Anything that's not rice, chicken, steak, hamburger
Where Mommy at? / You're a nice enough guy, Daddy, but we would really prefer Mommy right now.
Mommy, you working tomorrow? / How many days until Saturday?
I want milk / I'm really not thirsty but since Annie just asked for some, I must have some, too!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Abegail Lets Her Hair Down

Here is a photo of what I think is a beautiful girl without her braids. But Abegail refuses to wear her hair without any ponies. We are doing a little better. Scott and I are getting used to the chaos, the continuous Mommy, Mommy, Daddy, Daddy. It's been an adjustment but we are getting there, all learning together. Sending them to the neighbors also helps.

The Car Open, The Car Open!!

Power has been restored, let the blog continue. So I picked E-man up from daycare (Annie is no longer welcome until she gets potty power) and all of a sudden he starts screaming, "Mommy the car open, Mommy the car OPEN!!!" I started having images of the first week we were home when he opened the van door, while I was driving. I'm thinking I thought I locked the doors. Meanwhile the screaming continues.
Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, The CAR, THE CAR IS OPEN!!!
I turn and look towards E-man, and next to us at the light is a 75 year old man looking straight ahead not phased at all by the Liberian hysterics next to him, driving what we in America call A CONVERTIBLE!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Big Storm, No Power

We had a big storm here Friday night and lost power. We are not expected to get it back on until Tuesday night. If you need something, call my cell phone, 952-454-4230 or Scott 952-381-4964

Monday, August 6, 2007


E-man got some special time with Daddy tonight at his first Major League Baseball game!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Bridge Collapse

These are photos from a local photographer. The site is very hard to see now because its all blocked off, you have to get up on top of a building which is where most of the networks are. President Bush comes tomorrow. We did not use the bridge daily but Scott took it twice a week to softball games. It is very hard to avoid if you were going anywhere north of the city. The stories are horrific. Rescuers tried to extricate people from their cars a few times and the people died in front of them. One man told a rescuer tell my family I love them and then died. There were warnings this bridge wasn't safe but in MN the construction season is the summer season and its hard to get to all projects before the snow flies. Still they had 17 years to do something about it but weren't planning to until next year. It is amazing to all of us the death toll wasn't higher being it happened at the height of rush hour. But the injuries are significant.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A White Man's Car

E-man told Scott today he drove, "a white man's car." This from the little boy who rides down the driveway in a pink car and wants to wear fingernail polish.
He decided he had to wash his pink car today. So I thought, you can wash your car, you can wash Mommy's car. He did and did a great job. I think we found a new constructive way to keep the E-man occupied.