Sunday, September 30, 2007

Feeling Grateful

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know the adoption process is changing all over the world. The latest news from Guatemala is disheartening. But the situation in Liberia is not much better. When we went to get A&E there were several families who were within weeks of us and preparing to travel in August, then September, and now most of those families are looking at November and beyond. The consular at the U.S. Embassy is going through all paperwork with a fine tooth comb and any mistakes means a denied visa. Our paperwork had tons of mistakes in it but under the old regime it was allowed because reps from the U.S. at the Embassy understood the issues facing Liberia. Now all those documents are being sent to our agency so our director can make sure they are correct.

I don't even know what's involved in the new process. But I know there are families who are seriously worried they won't get their kids at all. The whole reason for this is to crack down on fraud. Which all of us as parents want. Scott and I wrestled and still wrestle with the fact that A&E have immediate family they left. We always thought we'd get orphans. But poverty has not allowed that to happen and that is why eliminating poverty is such an important next step to keep families together in Liberia. The consular wants to make sure those families truly have no other option but to have their kids adopted. Splitting up families is not whats best for a kids unless they will starve to death or die of another disease.

As for us, we have moved into a routine that is becoming slowly more manageable. Scott is totally consumed with E-man. What's the saying, the greater the challenge, the greater the reward? He adores him and it goes both ways. As for me, I can see Abegail thriving! She's gained five pounds, E-man 4. (to give you an idea Annie, has gained 1 in the time they've been home) She loves school and is so excited to learn. We sit down to family dinners and the giggles and jokes fly. Slowly we are becoming a real family. Both Scott and I feel tremendously blessed to have these children and more grateful that God has thought us worthy enough to be able to raise them. But everyday we think of the Davis family. Every minute I think would Alexander be happy with this or that? How are they? Scott and I have made sure they will not have to worry about a place to live with monthly sponsorship, but what difference will that be if they are hungry? And then there is E-man's teeth. 15 out of 20 have cavities and his were not the worse ones at the AFAA house. Scott and I thought about the cost for a second (we'll figure it out) but we thought more about those kids whose teeth haven't been fixed. Abegail told us several of her siblings are missing teeth. So everyday we know how lucky we are. We are being taught more by these new kids and given more from them then they will ever give to us. We just hope other families do not have to wait much longer to experience the joys too.

Our agency director, Cheryl Carter-Shotts' adopted son Mohammed, 34, is in the hospital in Indianapolis. There is something wrong with his heart but doctors don't know what is causing it. He is down to 110 pounds and Cheryl has e-mailed us all saying she is extremely frightened. Please remember them when you talk to God.

Fun Stuff

Quotes From Emmanuel:
"Mommy, can we take the green car to the AFAA house?"

Eman the butcher barber:
Yes, Emmanuel got a hold of the scissors and gave his sister a haircut. Luckily all in the back, but quite shocking to see the strands of Annie's hair on the bed. Here's the damage!

The kids get what Halloween is. We put decorations out yesterday. The problem: All three want to be Cinderella. Yes, this includes Emmanuel. We think we've got Abegail settled on a pink princess, Annie to be Belle, and E-man a bug. But check back with us in an hour, pretty sure it will change.
Happy Birthday Baby Maddie!
We were at the store today and saw some baby clothes and Abegail commented they would fit her cousin baby Maddie who was here last week for the baptism. Then she said, but she's not here anymore. Easy come, easy go I guess. Hope you had a great party Maddie!

Friday, September 28, 2007

9 Cavities? I WISH!

A month ago we went to the dentist and found A&E had 9 cavities between them and were sent to a pediatric specialist. Today we had a visit to the dentist and found Emmanuel has 20 teeth, 15 of them have cavities. So many so that he will be admitted to the hospital and put out to have them fixed. (I would say since during a five minute exam he kept saying, we're done!)
Of course our union health plan at work only provides preventive dental care. So that will be a nice 4-5 thousand dollar Christmas present. I actually had the nerve to ask, what if we don't fix them? As to which, the very nice and patient doctor replied calmly, they will all get infected, fall out, and affect his adult teeth, never mind the extreme pain he'll be in. I said, "so we want to have those fixed ASAP." She said, "uh, yea." OK then.
As for Abegail she has 6 teeth that need work including one that needs to be pulled. The doctor says that should only take an hour. I know that Emmanuel's case is probably pretty common to kids in Liberia with no fluoride in the drinking water. That's probably why you see a lot of people with no teeth.

"Mommy I want to stay in first grade forever and ever!"

Abegail is not only enjoying her school but also her time away from Emmanuel, not having to worry about him. When we suggested that Emmanuel would go to kindergarten at her school next year, she totally flipped out. We were out somewhere and I asked a kid where he went to school and it was different than Abegail's and she said, Mommy E-man can go to that school.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Baptized Without A Hitch

Abegail and Emmanuel are officially part of the catholic church. They were both baptized at the 4 p.m. mass tonight. I was so nervous all day because let me just say E-man can be a challenge at church. You know, pretending to wash my hair, rolling on the floor, crying, asking if church is finished, hitting his sisters, usually this is all before the first hymn is over. But they both did amazing. They were both so good. It did help that E-man fell asleep at the beginning of church and woke up just in time to be baptized. Then got sleepy at the end too. But they were so brave, they didn't go in the water but they did lean over and get it on their heads. E-man liked wearing a tie so much, he wore it to bed. Then we came home and had a little cake for A&E 's cousin, Maddie who turns one Sept. 30th.
This was the first time they met Maddie and they were so excited to have a baby in the house, here is a photo of minutes after hey met.It didn't take long until there were arguments over who got to push Maddie in the swing!
E-man's hair has slowly started to grow back, but "the boys" want to make sure you get a good look at his nice head.

Emmanuel Johnson Surgery A Success!

Emmanuel Johnson's surgery to repair his imperforated anus was a success! He was in pain the day after the surgery, but nurses kept him comfortable. He will be leaving the hospital soon and in six weeks have the colostomy that was done in Liberia removed. He and his mother will be in Minnesota until January. Apparently, this problem happens 1 in 5000 live births
Angela Davis, a reporter at our station, went and did interviews with Mom and Doc yesterday. Not only did Dr. Saltzman do the surgery for free but his daughters went out and bought Emmanuel a whole bunch of things he would need.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

E-man gets a hair cut

Or as some of us would call it, his head shaved. He and Scott are very proud of their work!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Emmanuel Junior Arrival Pictures

I just got these from one of the woman there at the arrival. Took a while because of course I was running late and didn't have my camera. In the group picture from left to right: me; Mrs. Liberia of Minnesota; Georgette; Emmanuel and his Mom; Mrs. Liberia's husband. Emmanuel's surgery is set for Wednesday!

Saturday, September 15, 2007


So it just occurred to us TODAY that Emmanuel's initials are ER. We thankfully have not had to visit the ER yet but I thought we might on Wednesday when Eman was stung by a bee. Apparently he is very allergic. His hand where he got stunk swelled up to an elephant man's hand, he had a rash all over his body, and he was warm. Scott took him to the pharmacy to get Benadryl and the pharmacist says, "you don't need to worry unless he has trouble breathing." He was completely fine the next day. But I have never seen a kid itch so much.
We are in house working mode. We ripped up our carpet in the living room which got more stains and dirt these past eight weeks than it had in 6 years and Scott is as we speak laying down wood floors. Abegail and a friend took on a project of their own today. We found this book shelf on the street and we are going to use it to store toys in A&E's room. Abegail picked out the paint color herself (from the basement) and she and Kathryn painted all themselves. Great job Girls.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Making Pancakes

One of the things Scott and I are asked repeatedly these days is, "Mommy what are you doing?" "Daddy, what are you doing?' When we answer, they repeatedly ask again as if its going to change in the next five seconds. Even when it's very obvious, like using the potty, its "Mommy what are you doing?" So we started to say, "making pancakes." As my aunt says sarcasm is so wasted on children, but not this time, they got it this time and now I can be folding laundry, or cleaning the floor and Emmanuel will say, "Mommy, you making pancakes?"
They also ask repeatedly, even if I'm sitting down, "where you going?" So I started saying, "to the moon." "Mommy, can I come? Can I come with you to the moon?"

From one of our AFAA parents:
I've come to learn that adopting a child doesn't necessarily equate to instant love (and word on the street is that giving birth is the same way, though less so). It means that a family has started a new relationship with a new little person

Great quote from Aunt Nancy:
God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called!!!

We started swimming lessons today. Emmanuel, as energetic as he is, (try and get that kid to walk on a pool deck!) seemed to love it and so did Abegail. Annie cried the entire time. Go figure. There's always next week.

Abegail's First Grade Class
This is the infamous Mr. Suzuki. Abegail is having a great time in school. Today she was the special student of the day meaning she had to bring in three special items to show the class and tell them about herself. She brought in two pictures, one was a group shot at the AFAA house and the other of her and Martu, her cousin coming to Minneapolis. Mr. Suzuki called today and said the class then looked up on the globe where Liberia was. Now there's a first grade class that knows more than most Americans!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Guest Blogger, Here's Aunt Nancy

I didn't write that title - Sue did! I am not doing this of my own free will...nobody around here is doing anything of their own free will these days. I am only kidding of course. I have been here for almost six days, and there is much I would like to write about, but there is one overwhelming first impression that I have and it is this: Sue and Scott have committed themselves to a life full of challenge, sometimes confusion, occasionally chaos, often sleep deprivation, but always they seem to meet these challenges with love, patience and determination to make this work and turn these five people into a truly caring, loving and mutually respecting family. I must admit that I was a bit intimidated by E-man before I even got here because of the stories of his 'melt-downs' at the Cape, that I had already heard about from various family members. E-man is challenging, there is no doubt about it, but let's not forget that each of these children is challenged and challenging in his or her own way, and it is not always easy to know when to comfort, when to punish, when to be consistent, when to forgive and just hug, and when to just laugh. Sue and Scott however seem to be truly and deeply caring and loving to these children, supportive of each other, and they manage to do this, at least until about eight o'clock at night, with a good sense of humor. I have been a tremendous help to them these last few days, she says facetiously, by staying on top of the laundry, babysitting, playing with the kids, hollering at the kids, (this too depends somewhat on the time of day!) and last night I was a really big help when I almost fainted at Scott's feet when he walked in about 9:30, and said "Boy, am I glad to see you!" Previously I had looked down on mothers who said to their kids "Just wait til your father gets home" but I now understand the enormous sense of relief that can provide! And much to my chagrin, within minutes of his arrival. all three were in bed asleep, and we heard not another peep from them.

I have a family of my own, but you can't really compare raising your own biological family which you get used to and learn from one child at a time , or even in the case of multiple births, somewhat gradually, to this kind of "instant family" consisting of children from different races, life experiences, cultures etc. The fact that the parents are never going to know with any kind of real certainty exactly what these children have gone through, makes many things so much more difficult than with your own kids whom you have been with every day of their lives. I have been in awe of Sue and Scott ever since I learned of their decision to adopt African children, just as I am in awe of all of the families who have made similar sacrifices and commitments of compassion. But now that I have seen how Sue and Scott are living their lives on a day to day, hour by hour basis, I admire them even more. Emmanuel and Abegail are to be baptized later this month, and after hearing about a recent appointment with E-man and the eye doctor, I said they might want to rethink that. E-man apparently didn't care much for the doctor, and thought he could do a better job anyway, so snatched the light from the optometrist's hand and shone it in his eyes! Wonder what he will do to the priest??!! But I'm sure they will forge on with determination and humor, just as they meet every challenge. It really has been a joy to be here and I just wish I could stay for that big event!

Hats off to the Richardsons and all other adoptive famiies!

The Same Sun and Moon

I was telling our AFAA agency director that I think Abegail gets homesick and cries for long periods of times every now and then. She told me that when her Ethiopian daughter would get homesick she would take her outside at night and lay under the stars and moon and tell her it was the same moon and stars in Ethiopia.
So Saturday night, Abegail cried for a long time about something very minor. Scott went in and tried to get her to talk to him. Then I went in and said come here, and I took her outside. Unfortunately, there was not a star or a moon in the sky. I said, "look up, see the sky? It's the same sky as in Liberia. See these clouds? There are clouds just like them in Liberia." I said "Do you think it's sunny or raining in Liberia?" She said, "raining." She went back to bed and was asleep in two minutes.
The next day we were driving to church and she said, "Mommy, where's the moon?" I said, "it's daytime, the moon only comes out at night." She said, "Sun shining?" I said, "yes and it's the same sun that is shining in Liberia." She smiled.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Sue on WCCO Radio

Sue was a guest on Esme Murphy's radio show tonight on WCCO. It was an hour-long discussion of our adoption process and the trials and tribulations of our family's journey.

Esme is a co-worker of Sue's at WCCO-TV and a friend. They had a really nice talk about everything from the challenges of a bi-racial family to the cost of the adoption. We all gathered around the kitchen table and listened on an old boom box...while Sue barricaded herself in the attic so as not to be disturbed! :-)

Two things:
  1. I didn't realize how difficult it would be to find a radio in this house!!
  2. It was a good thing Sue was upstairs because Abegail and E-Man dropped Annie on her head half way through the interview!! I'm not sure if Esme's listeners were able to hear the "thud" or not...but I think the neighbors did! (Annie's ok)
I wish you could all hear the interview...but I don't think 'CCO podcasts their interviews.

Nice job Sue!

Emmanuel Johnson Arrives

We've been following the story of Emmanuel Johnson Jr. for the past several months. Here's the update:

He arrived with his mother, Lorpu Vorkpor, yesterday from Liberia for surgery on his imperforated anus. They had a long trip. Mom said Emmanuel did not sleep at all and that neither did she. They had to fly through Kenya, Amsterdam, and then to Minneapolis. Mom is tiny, tiny (maybe 80 pounds) and so is the Emmanuel, but a face that will melt your heart. And they are very grateful for this lifesaving opportunity to get Emmanuel surgery at Fairview. Emmanuel's mom said it was extremely hard to leave her other four children. Ajenia Enterprises is sponsoring this trip and is looking for donations, go to any TCF bank and donate to the Emmanuel Johnson fund.

From Georgette Gray (head of Ajenia) this a.m.:

Emmanuel and his mother slept well. We could not find the colostomy bags over the counter so I called the Dr's office and we went in at 4pm expecting to see a nurse practitioner, but Dr. Saltzman showed up to see Emmanuel. They were very excited and Dr. Saltzman said he's going to pick up some baby stuff for Emmanuel. Anyway they got him checked and installed a new bag. Just wanted to give you heads up. We will be back at the Dr's office on Tuesday for a full check up and some examinations.

Friday, September 7, 2007

More Shots, More Parasites, More Paperwork

Check this out. This is one of our AFAA moms who adopted from Ethiopia. Now she's on a book tour! Her website with an awesome slide show is

These are my three nephews on their first day of school. Are they cute or what???? The oldest is Owen (2nd grade) then Cameron (Kindergarten) and Chase who was extremely upset he could not go to school too. They live in Falls Church, VA.
As for us, we had our 2nd round of shots yesterday. The kids cried and screamed at the top of their lungs!! The entire building heard them. Abegail cried, "you're hurting me, you're hurting me." We get to do it again in two months. UGH. The parasites like their homes and while Eman was getting better, he is now back to where he was before. So we will re-treat him. Abegail of course, tested positive for Giardia and is on the yucky medicine. Eman is pretty good about the medicine. "Mommy I take my medicine, I am a good boy." The medicine is incredibly bitter!

Abegail LOVES school. "Mommy, I get chocolate milk. I love it." She is having a lot of fun, but I think she will look forward to sleeping in this weekend.

Aunt Nancy arrived yesterday. HELP IS HERE! Yahoo. I don't know if she knew she was coming to work, but she quickly found out last night when I said, can you do this, can you do that, can you potty train Annie?
We have started the process to get the kids readopted in Minnesota. MORE PAPERWORK, it never ends. Also have to have a 3 month follow up report from our social worker to Liberia by Oct. 10th. The first year we have to file follow up reports at 3,6,9, and 12 months and then every year until their 18th birthday. Could there be anymore paperwork??? Oh, and six pictures of each kid!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

First Day of School

Today is Abegail's first day of school!!!

And like our parents did for us...we made the kids pose for pictures! Unfortunately I wasn't able to take a picture in focus until the bus arrived. Oh well, Annie was picking her nose anyway.

Abegail got onto the bus like a real pro!! She was soooo excited!

As you can see...Annie and E-Man were skeptical. Frankly, E-Man was quite concerned.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Reunion With Junior

We had a great weekend traveling to South Dakota to see an old friend of A&E's, Junior.

Junior came home just three weeks after A&E and they were together at the AFAA house for almost the entire time they were both there. E-man and Junior had a fabulous time seeing each other again and all the way home E-man told us he wanted to go to Junior's house.

Junior has a fabulous new family, we even met Grandma and Aunt Tammy and nieces and Nephews. It was so nice to meet Valerie and crew, we felt like we had known them for a long time!

Junior is cuter than ever! And such a good boy, we're hoping E-man picked up a thing or two!