All of Us

All of Us

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year 2011!

Dear family and friends,

We hope that 2010 was a good year for all of you. It was a year of changes and excitement for us, so our newsletter update is somewhat longer than normal. As you may recall, we were planning to adopt 2 children from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It turned out that we were not actually eligible to adopt from the DRC because we had too many children in our family already. We ended our relationship with that adoption agency, since they were unaware of that restriction and wasted a lot of our time and some of our money. I began researching other countries and discovered that there was a great need in Uganda.

We contacted various orphanages and settled on Welcome Home, located in Jinja, Uganda, home to 65 children ages 6 and under. One of their requirements was that families adopt 2 children, which was exactly what we wanted to do. Other orphanages only allowed families to adopt one child at a time. The children are lovingly cared for by the women who work there, who are affectionately called “mums.” Each child is assigned to one of the mums as his/her primary caregiver. We were also impressed by WH’s commitment to the community. Only about half the children residing there are eligible for adoption; the others have parents who are not able to care for them at this time. WH provides small business loans to parents to assist them in becoming self supporting and able to care for their children, and gives them livestock when the children return home to help feed the family. They also do daily community outreach to area villages, spreading the word of God and identifying people in urgent need of medical care, for which they provide transportation and pay the medical fees. (There is no health insurance of any kind in Uganda). WH uses the money that adoptive parents are required to donate to do this. They also use the donation to provide adoption services to the parents while they are in country, including paying for the children’s passports and medical exams, providing all transportation to the families (a 2 hour drive each way to the capital, Kampala, where the court and embassy are located) and act as a liaison with the attorneys. See welcomehomeafrica.com to learn more about this wonderful place.

In February 2010 we were matched with our new children. Our United States adoption paperwork was totally complete at this time so we hoped that the process would be quick. We initiated the process of requesting a court date with our Uganda attorney, hoping for a date in early April. Unfortunately, just at this time the United States embassy began to have some concerns about the wording that Ugandan judges were using in the court orders, which grant parents permanent legal guardianship of the children and permission to adopt them abroad. As a result, the embassy stopped granting adopted children visas to come to the United States, which meant that parents now had legal custody of their children but could not bring them home. Due to this, we did not request a court date until the matter was resolved, which wasn’t until late June. Ugandan courts close for a month long summer holiday in mid July, so we ended up with an initial court date of Aug. 28.
The entire story of our trip can be read at www.meetingourkids.blogspot.com, but the abridged version is that D., J. and I headed to Uganda on Aug. 23, arriving Aug. 25. D. was only able to stay a week, during which time we began getting to know our kids and did some sightseeing and adventuring. J. and I remained for another 2 weeks, at which point Daryl joined us. Ugandans don’t conduct business the way we do, so there were numerous delays involving things like the judge deciding that she didn’t have time to see us that day, despite the fact that we had an appointment with her and that we’d risen before dawn, dragging the children with us, and traveled hours for our hearing. We received our verbal rulings granting us guardianship of the children about 2 weeks after we arrived, at which point they began living with us full time. J. left a few days after Daryl arrived, as she had already missed the first two weeks of school and needed to get back. Daryl stayed 2.5 weeks and then returned home, as several of our children were really missing us, despite being lovingly cared for by their grandparents and babysitters, and he had to get back to work. This left me there alone for the remaining few days, and meant that I had to travel home alone with 2 small children, a trip that involved 3 flights, 2 of which were 9 hours long and one that was 2 hours, and an 8 hour layover. To say that I was unraveled by the time we arrived is a huge understatement. I was in Uganda for almost 6 weeks, after we’d hoped and planned for a stay of 3-4 weeks.

Uganda is a beautiful place, and the people are mostly very friendly. It is, however, a lesser developed country where most of the people live in mud huts with straw roofs in villages without electricity or running water. The larger cities still experience frequent power outages which can be quite lengthy. The infrastructure is nonexistent or totally disintegrating in many places. For instance, there are no traffic lights anywhere, including the capital, which leads to massive traffic delays. The roads are full of potholes, which is a generous term, as in many places they more resemble trenches that must be swerved around. The capital has been nicknamed Kampothole instead of Kampala. There is no air conditioning in any building, despite the warm weather, and public restrooms are routinely without warm water, soap or toilet paper. American chains and fast food restaurants have not penetrated Uganda.

While in Uganda we did almost everything with a wonderful couple who were adopting 2 beautiful girls, ages 2 and 4, from the same orphanage as we were, and we soon became close friends.

My extended absence was very hard on the family. I was missed very much. When I returned, exhausted beyond words, becoming ill my second day home, I had to jump right into the normal routine, while helping both my new and old children get adjusted to one another and to our new family life. I had anticipated that it would be difficult having 3 children age 3 and under, but it was even more challenging than I had imagined, especially at my age. M. in particular has been acting out and coming up with naughty pranks, like flooding bathrooms and coloring on walls, which Z. enjoys assisting him with. We’ve never really had a child create so much mischief, so that is new and unexpected, and requires more constant monitoring than I had anticipated. Things are beginning to settle down a tiny bit at this point, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have also hired a wonderful mother’s helper to ease the transition.

D. graduated from high school last year at the top of his class, and much to our delight, chose to attend the University of Michigan to study engineering, despite a generous offer from another school. He has both had a great time and done really well at his studies this semester. He is living in a dormitory suite with 3 roommates. He has been missed by parents and siblings alike, but has been able to come home for several visits.

J. began her junior year of high school this fall with a monumental task ahead of her, which was catching up on all of the schoolwork she missed while in Uganda. It was very difficult, but she did a great job of meeting the challenge. She got her driver’s license in August, and is now able to shuttle herself to and from school and various activities, like cross country. It was a joy to have her with me in Uganda, and a transforming and maturing experience for her.

L. is a freshman in high school this year. He played on the JV soccer team this fall and had a great season. He continues to be an excellent student and a lot of fun to be around, a help to me and very sweet playmate to his younger siblings. He is currently playing basketball but longing for soccer to begin again! He was confirmed in the Catholic church this fall.

I. is in the eighth grade. She earned a position as a Junior Advisor at her school, which is a leadership group similar to student council that plans and carries out many school activities and community service projects. It has been a great experience for her. She also played volleyball and continues to play the clarinet in band, and will be learning to play saxophone this coming semester. Always the social butterfly, she has a very active social life.

T. is in the fifth grade this year. She continues to love to read and is an outstanding student. She is also still involved in horseback trail riding. She is a terrific big sister to all of her younger siblings and is the favorite of several of them.

K., second grader, is easygoing and very smart. He is another bookworm who loves reading and school. He enjoys helping Daryl with projects and has a very analytical “engineering” mind.

A. began kindergarten this year and loves it. She is also a great big sister and roommate to her new sister Zariah. Her first love is art and writing. She is constantly making cards and pictures for all of us.

M. is 3 and in preschool. He still has his blond curls. His big achievement this past year was learning to talk. When I departed for Uganda he did not talk except for a few single words, and when I returned home he could speak in sentences! It was remarkable and somewhat unnerving for me. We think that not having someone around who understood his every need, want and gesture (me) motivated him to begin speaking so he could communicate with grandparents and babysitters. He is currently working on potty training.

Z. will turn 3 and will begin preschool in January. She is a bright spark in our lives, lively and very affectionate. She is astoundingly resilient and adaptable, handling all of the recent changes in her life with amazing ease. She is petite but very coordinated. Her behavior is typical for her age--she hates going to bed, and is doing some testing of us as parents. This is a good sign, however, as it means she trusts us. She is a little bit of a princess--she would prefer to be carried around and babied, but since she is not the youngest that isn’t possible, so she is learning to accept it. She is potty trained, and knew a little English when we met her, but since then she has acquired language skills at warp speed, now speaking in short sentences and making all of her needs and wants known.

Baby M. is a happy little boy of 13 months. When he arrived home at 11 months, he was somewhat delayed physically. He could sit but not crawl or pull himself to standing, nor could he get from laying to sitting or vice versa. He did not feed himself at all and had not developed the pincer grasp with index finger and thumb to pick things up. Since then, he has learned to army crawl, traditional crawl, pull himself up and cruise furniture. He is not walking yet but has begun to let go and take 1-2 steps, so it won’t be long. He developed the pincer grasp and can drink from a sippy cup and feed himself finger foods, although he is often still reluctant to, but we are working on that. He is not talking yet and does not know all of our names, and is just beginning to say mama. He loves music, however, and can clap, sway and “dance” to the beat and will do so to even the briefest melody. He has also begun trying to whistle and occasionally succeeds! He is very attached to me, as most babies are to their mamas, which is amazing to me since he has not known me very long.

Z. and Baby M. were baptized on Dec. 11 with siblings D. and J. as godparents. The family photo in our New Year’s card was taken that evening.

Daryl continues in his positions as Professor and CEO. His current favorite activity, besides building things around the house and property, is mountain biking on the many forest trails in our area.

As for me, my trip to Uganda was the most challenging experience of my life. I have never wanted to travel to Africa, and I faced numerous trials and obstacles, ranging from the hot and humid weather, large insects, “rustic” accomodations, to the Ugandan way of both life and business where nothing is ever seen as urgent or done in a hurry and appointments are not viewed as firm commitments. I am thankful that God gave me the grace to handle all of it and bring home our precious new children. Now I have recovered from my stay in Uganda, and am working harder than ever in my position as mother and household manager. With my rheumatologist’s permission, I attempted to discontinue the monthly IV treamtments for my autoimmune disease, hoping that I was in remission, since I felt excellent and my only symptoms were the lingering rash, (which often takes longer to cure than the muscle weakness). However, since Thanksgiving I have begun to notice myself getting weaker, which seemed to accelerate in the past week, so I called the rheumatologist, who told me to take large doses of steroids again (after taking many months to slowly wean off of them!) and I will see him again next week, at which point I’ll either resume the IV treatments or try something new since I unfortunately am clearly not in remission. I have also developed a hernia, which may have been caused by the muscle weakness, ironically as a result of attempting to lift our Thanksgiving turkey! I am scheduled to have this repaired in February.

Our wishes for all of you are a healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2011!

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SE Michigan, United States
Mother to 10 fabulous kids, ages 4 to 21 years! Married for 26 years to my best friend.

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