Friday, November 30, 2012

The First Year...

As we have determined in the past, I am a slack blogger. I failed to post my one-year report. Who does that? Everybody has their one-year post! So, here it is:


As of October 29th, we have been a family of 5 for a full year!!



Seems like it was days ago when we stepped off of that airplane. We were tired after trying to get home for over 30 hours. We were cold because we had gotten dressed in Africa, and flew home into some freak winter storm in October. We were stinky because I didn't pack enough pull-ups for a 30+ hour trip. I had to hold Serwaa in my lap on the last flight because she was so tired she kept falling & hitting her head on the seat in front of her. She peed on me, but I was too tired to bother changing either one of us into our emergency dresses that I kept in my carry on. The kids were too exhausted to speak to anyone when we got to the airport (and lacked the English to do so anyways).... Yep. Seems like yesterday.



But- it's been a full year! And although it seems to have flown by, it also seems that they've always been part of our family.


General Updates:

Serwaa & Konto are now fluent in English, even to the point of forgetting their first language. (Which is
something we are trying to stop!) They eat most American food, although they still cook Ghana's food quite often. They are working hard in school. (Neither of them could read at all upon coming to the US. I'm not sure why, because most of their friends who have been adopted could read. Serwaa knew all of the letters, but not their sounds. Konto didn't even know all of the letters.) They have melted into our family easily, and really enjoy being around our huge extended family.


Physical Updates:

In this year, both kids have grown an amazing amount.


Oct 30, 2011
Nov 29, 2012

When I traveled to Ghana to pick the kids up, Konto was still so small. All of his clothes were size 4t & 5t. And they fit. He is now in size 10/12. His shoes were size 1 & 2. Now they are 4. Serwaa was in size 7/8. Now she is in 12/14. Her shoes were size 2. She is now fits in my shoes.


Serwaa is still wetting the bed. But- her doctor has verified that it is not the result of any kind of abuse. In the beginning, I was putting pull ups on both of the kids. (Konto had insisted he needed them.) However, he eventually admitted that he just liked how soft they were!


They've both gained a huge amount of weight, lost several teeth, and have grown several inches.


Emotional Updates:

Now the part that other adoptive families (especially of older kids) always ask. Bonding, attachment and
general emotional health.

Overall, the whole emotional part has been 100 times easier than I could've imagined. I know we could never get this lucky again.

I'll start with Serwaa. (11 years old) She has always been easy. Her culture taught her to be loving and affectionate. (To the point of leaving me with no personal space!) She still holds my hand when we go shopping alot. (Sadly, I kinda unintendingly discouraged that. At first, both kids would hold my hand non-stop when we went out. Of course, I couldn't shop with no hands, so I had to pull away alot. Not sure how I could've avoided that, (other than spontaneously growing extra arms) but I wish I could go back & let them be clingy all they wanted before they grew out of it!) Anyways, Serwaa showers me with hugs and kisses all day long. She can make prolonged eye contact easily. (Something I was never good at, so I have to be very careful not to discourage it too!) She somewhat allows herself to be comforted by me when she is hurt. (She doesn't come to me for comfort, I go to her. But- she allows herself to be held and consoled.) She struggles a little to say 'I love you'. She can do it, but sometimes it's a very soft delayed reaction. (For instance, I tell the girls I love them when I'm tucking them in. Serwaa often waits until I shut the door, then responds 'I love you too, mommy'.) Other days though, she will just come and tell me she loves me. (But that isn't as common.) She expresses a great desire to go back to visit her friends and family in Ghana. She doesn't want to go back to stay. She just misses her friends, just like any child would. She talks to her friends in the orphanage every once in awhile. She hasn't really seemed to grieve. (Except when she realized her biological father was dead. She never knew him, but just the fact that he was not alive somewhere made her sad.) She seems to have a sense of belonging here. She has mostly released her motherly role to me. (She doesn't try to be Konto's mom now. Although she will still sometimes stand by when we are disciplining (talking) to Konto.  We have to gently remind her that we can take care of it, and dismiss her.) She is very obedient and respectful. She is a great sister, and very easy to get along with. Of course, I can't read her mind, but her attachment seems pretty great.



Now Konto. Konto has also always been pretty easy to get along with. In fact, if I hadn't read so much dang literature on attachment- I would say it was perfect! He is also semi-affectionate. I think part of that he has just grown out of. He is, after all, a boy. He used to hold my hand everday, hug me every 5 minutes, and tell me he loves me 'soooooo much' at night. Not to mention want to be carried around 24 hours a day. But now, not so much.



He actually reminds me SO much of myself as a child now. I remember my mom telling me that I was like hugging a board! (I loved my mom & dad, just wasn't an affectionate child at all!) I was VERY uncomfortable saying 'I love you'. And I didn't like holding hands in the parking lot.



Konto almost never says I love you anymore. I think it is a very uncomfortable thing for him to say. He usually stands stiff like a board when I hug him. However, he does like to snuggle during movies. He still likes to be carried around- but only if I offer to carry him. He doesn't ask anymore. He is able to make eye contact, but not maintain it. It usually only lasts about a second at a time. Also, he doesn't normally allow me to comfort him. For instance, if he falls in the driveway, I will go to him. When I try to sit him up to look at his cut, he pulls away. He also won't allow me to hug him when he's hurt. Same thing when he is upset. I will try to hold him, but he won't let me. He doesn't want to be consoled. He usually eventually lets me hold him- but only after he's quit fighting (physically & emotionally). Once he finds the courage to say what is really wrong (not the fake reason he finds to cry-like his room is boring), he will relax his body so that I can hold him. (And I'm not talking major meltdowns like most people would picture. Just simple, rare nights where he is fussy and doesn't want to be consoled.) Konto is a very happy boy, but he does grieve more than Serwaa. Mostly- he misses his friends. They were like his brothers. He knew them almost his whole life. He's always had 'brothers'. And now, he is the only boy. He asks almost every night if we can 'get him a brother'. He hates having his own room because he is lonely. He also can't wait to go back and visit Ghana, but at the same time, he doesn't want to have to say goodbye again. He feels like he abandoned them. At first, he didn't want to make friends here. He felt like he was betraying his old friends. That must be so hard on such a young boy- constant feelings of guilt and betrayal. It makes me sad for him. But- he is amazingly strong. You would never know by being around him how much loss he has suffered in his short life.


And last but not least: Malorie. People also often worry about how adoption will affect the children already in their home. I'm no different. I went through the whole 'what have I done' panic attack on the way to Africa the last time. Was it fair to jeopardize the life of  'my' child? Now I realize how silly that was. Yes, it could've been worse. It may get worse. Our new children could've had major trauma and attachment issues. It could've been hard. Very hard. But- making life harder doesn't neccessarily mean making life worse for our first children. After all, an easy life doesn't always breed better children anyways.

We are thankful that we haven't had to deal with some of the really tough stuff that many families do. That's not to say that it hasn't affected Malorie though. Much like giving birth to a 2nd bio kid does. Malorie is jealous sometimes. She misses it just being me & her sometimes. She would miss that no matter how we added another child to our family. So yes, she's lost some. But she's gained alot more. She would never admit it- but Serwaa is her best friend. They do argue alot, but not as much as I did with my brothers. They dress like twins alot. They bathe together. They do secret handshakes....


Malorie's capacity to love has grown. She looks out for her brother and sister. She really does love them. Many nights I hear her voice floating through the air. I just have to smile. She's telling Serwaa bedtime stories again. Whale stories. (Like on Finding Nemo. She speaks whale. It's loud. It's kind of annoying while I'm trying to go to sleep. The girls love it.)


So that about sums it up. It's been one good year. I'm looking forward to the rest of them. We are so thankful for our 3 beautiful children!!!














































Saturday, November 17, 2012

Konto's Birthday...


I know, I know! Slackest blogger EVER!! Sorry! But, last but not least in our string of seemingly back-to-back birthdays was Konto. This poor guy waited FOREVER for his birthday. In fact, I went to Ghana on Oct 20th last year to pick him up. At that time, we hadn't determined a birthday for him. (Between all of the 'birthdates' on his legal paperwork, we had several to choose from!) It wasn't until several months into him being home that we decided on an age & birthday to give him. So, he was pretty much with us a full year before getting a birthday. He waited so patiently.

When it was finally his turn, he was so excited! First, he picked out his invitations. He looked for a good half hour before deciding on an invitation. At last, he said he found the PERFECT invitations. He proudly held
them up for me to read: "You're Invited. 1st Birthday!"

I didn't have the heart to tell him it was for a baby. He was just too happy. He wanted everyone to know that it was his first birthday he had ever had. (I did, however, talk him out of getting the pretty pink '1st
Birthday' invitations to mail to the girls.)

We had his party at a house/party rental place with a basement full of toys and games. It was awesome. He loved the presents, and he loved the attention!



For his birthday, he asked his sisters to cook for him. So, Malorie made his cake. Serwaa made jollaf and
salad. And of course, we ordered pizza.

I can't believe he's already another year older!! When we first fell in love with this guy, he was '5 years old' (according to the paperwork). So hard to believe that he's 9!

So....

9 Things Konto has grown out of this year that I already miss:

1. Chanting whenever he wants something to happen

2. Asking to be held all day, every day

3. Calling Serwaa 'Maame Yaa'

4. Breaking into dance on a daily basis

5. Using the word 'buttocks' for bottom, end, butt, trunk...

6. Speaking Twi

7. Using only red, yellow and green crayons

8. Asking 'Is it true?' about everything (statues, talking veggie cartoons...)

9. Responding 'Thursday' when asked for his birthday


And one random story: A couple weeks ago, someone asked his name. After responding, he turned his back to the lady. I asked why. He said, "I was afraid she will ask me how old am I. And I didn't remember, so I turned around." And he doesn't remember most of the time. Neither does Serwaa. They never had to. I think it's kinda awesome that, in their culture, age really doesn't matter. Something can be learned here...



Monday, September 10, 2012

Malorie's 12th Birthday...



So sad. My baby girl is already 12. She's in MIDDLE school. I'm not even gonna say 'where did the time go?', because that'll just make me sound old. I am a little bummed that she's growing up so quick.


But, I gotta say- she's a good one. On her birthday, I took Malorie, Serwaa, Konto, and 2 friends to get some frozen yogurt. There was a TV in the yogurt place, so the kids could watch while eating. Half-way through our time there, I heard Malorie say, "Hey guys, mom doesn't like this show." (About 2 years ago, I had told Malorie that I didn't want her to watch this particular show.) So, my kids all sat there with their heads down, making sure they didn't look up at the TV! I was so proud. (I know, I know. I can't always be this lucky. It will probably come. I'm just enjoying it while it lasts!)


Malorie had a great birthday. She made her own cake. She had a friend and cousin over to spend the night. Most of the kids stayed up til 3am. I am super lucky to have such a great 12 year old! (Who unfortunately is turning out to be quite gorgeous. This is gonna be trouble eventually....)



 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Serwaa's First (11th) Birthday...



Last Friday was Serwaa's first birthday. She turned 11.



Birthdays are always fun. But most kids have been celebrating them from their very first year. They're a given. You expect cake, icecream and presents- because that's how it's always been.




  But for a child who's never celebrated their own birthday... There's just no accurate way to describe it.





I gotta say, it's the most fun 'first birthday' I've ever experienced!



This year was the first time Serwaa has ever blown out a candle! Ever! It was the first time she's had a birthday cake. To watch an 11 year old girl experience that for the first time was priceless. She loved the presents, and the balloons, and the cake. She was a little overwhelmed with the attention. But- after everyone left, she had a blast! She put on her new dress. And her new makeup. She decorated her new bag, painted on the road, played mermaids and barbies, colored in her new books... And even though I totally beat her at Pretty Pretty Princess, she loved it!





As we were playing with an 'evil balloon' that night, she blurted out, "This is the most fun day I ever had in my life!"


video


Pure joy.

So there it is. The first birthday.  And in honor of her 11th birthday- here are 11 random things she has told me this month:

1. At the church where you go all night, you can eat the dirt.
2. Madaam Moke is a ghost who walks around with one high heel.
3. She used to eat the chalk from school.
4. Some people eat the dogs. But she doesn't.
5. She thinks she remembers eating snake at her grandmother's house.
6. If bitten by a snake, put chewed onion on it to draw out the poison.
7. If a schoolgirl's hair grows, it blocks knowledge from reaching her brain. So they keep it shaved.
8. If someone swings their leg over your head, you will be short when you grow.
9. Don't lean a hand on the ground while eating. Satan will soak up all of your food.
10. The dirt tastes good after it rains a little. Still the smell makes her hungry.
11. If you don't have enough blood, you need to drink tomato paste & water.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Inaction and a Chicken Sandwich...


This has been brewing all day. I gotta vent somewhere. May as well be here. Today I witnessed the christian community be stirred into action. It was the biggest show of support I've seen from the American church body in a LONG time. Was it over the millions of people dying from hunger in our world? No. Orphaned children raising their younger siblings because they have no one? No. Children dying in other countries from totally preventable or treatable sickness? Nope.

It was over same sex marriage and a chicken sandwich.


I understand people's reasoning to show support today. I really do. (I don't, however, approve of 'christians' using the event as a platform to throw stones at people living in a way contrary to their own beliefs. My God says to love. And judge not, lest ye be judged.)


But I do admire people who stand for what they believe. If you cannot stand up for your beliefs, they're not worth having. That was not what angered me.


It was seeing what the church body is capable of. Massive support. Floods of people spending their time and money on something that they passionately believe in.


What if that massive push could've been for a bigger purpose. What if it could've been used to change lives instead of supporting an already-wealthy company?



I'm not saying people shouldn't have shown their support in that way. I'm saying harness that passion for a greater cause.


Didn't God call us to love? Isn't that the greatest commandment? What if that outpouring of support was used to change the lives of people who don't have the promise of a next meal? While you stood in line for 2 hours for your chicken sandwich, over 2,000 people in the world died from hunger. (*Based on a UN report.) I try to picture this many christians gathered in one big place. What could've resulted? Mountains could've been moved!


Did standing in that line make those people bad or wrong? No. Many of my friends were there. I'm guilty of wasting my time & money too. But it should make us think. What's worth our time, money and passion?


If Jesus were on earth today, I wonder where he would've been... In the ChicFilA drive through, or out in the world- healing people, feeding people, loving people. I think I know the answer. And I'd want to be with Him.



* I am not in any way bashing the Chic Fil A support. I'm simply passionate about 'the least of these', and wish the church could be moved with compassion on their behalf in the same capacity that they were moved today.



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Nobody's Children and the Least Comfortable My Bed Has Ever Been...


Tonight I am lying here on my 2 ft thick mattress thinking of a conversation I had with my Ghanaian kids a few nights ago. I have to admit, it's making my nice fluffy bed feel very uncomfortable right about now.

As I was tucking the kids into bed the other night, they started talking about the orphanage in Ghana. We were just talking about why nobody sleeps on the top bunk, why the children sleep outside alot, and how they used to sleep. Serwaa and Konto both starting talking about how they used to sleep curled up into a tiny ball. Because they were both sleeping on a half of a mattress. The dogs had eaten the other halves.

The explaination was sad, but made sense. You see, the mattresses get soiled. During the night, the kids sweat. They get bit by 'small animals that live in mattress and drink your blood' (bedbugs?). They wet the bed sometimes. They slobber.... So, during the day, the mattresses are taken outside to air out until the next night.

I had seen those mattresses outside. I had seen the chickens walking on the mattresses, picking out whatever bugs they found. I had seen the dogs lick and eat the soiled parts of the mattresses. I had even seen the cats shred pieces off just to play with. I assumed they were trash- because all trash is just thrown outside in Ghana. Little did I know that those same mattresses were what my children were sleeping on at night.

I asked Serwaa & Konto why they didn't tell me they needed new beds. I would've gone to market that very day & bought new ones for them. I would've never knowingly let my children sleep like that. No child of mine....

Then it hit me. That sickening realization of how small and self-centered my little world still is.


No child of mine... What about the other orphans there? Who would say the same for them? They are nobody's children. Who will speak up for them? I have since spoken to the lady who runs the orphanage. She confirmed what I already knew. The kids are still sleeping on the same mattresses as they were in October when I was there. The ones that had already been half eaten by dogs.

I will go at the end of this week to send money for new mattresses. But I can't buy them all. The cost is $100 for 3 mattresses. (About $33 each.)  For anybody that would never let their children sleep in these conditions- please consider doing the same for nobody's children. If we don't, who will?

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.
Proverbs 31:8-9


(If you would like to help- please use the '100 Good Wishes' link on the right. Or paypal your donation to carrioke17@yahoo.com. I will include any donations in my Western Union this weekend so you don't have to pay the wiring fee. If you would like to send money directly to the orphanage- please email me. Thanks.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Recipe: Rice and Beans Stew

I am going to (attempt to) start sharing some of Serwaa's recipes here. If you have questions, just ask. (FYI: there are no real measurements. I just guess as she throws things in the pot!) Good luck! If you try any recipe, and it works out- let me know! Hope your kids enjoy it!

-Most recipes require 'squashing'. We use this big rock thing:






Rice & Beans Stew

*Cook 2 cups of rice.

*Cut up 4 tomatoes & remove seeds. Squash it.
*Cut up 1 purple onion & squash it.
*Cut up, deseed & squash 3 habanero peppers.

*Put 2 lbs of black eye peas in large pot & cover with water. Salt heavily & boil, covered, for about an hour.
*When beans are done, pound them so that about half of the beans get squashed.

*Cover the bottom of a big pot with vegetable oil. Add the squashed onion, pepper & tomatoes.
*Cook 1-2 minutes.
*Add 1 can of tomato paste.
*Stir in beans.

Eat with the rice.

Serves about 10 people.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Shopping for African Produce in America...

I spent the first few months after Serwaa & Konto came home wishing I had some African produce to cook for them. They were disappointed to find that South Carolina stores didn't sell Yam, Cocoyam, or Garden Eggs. Only, they did. I just didn't know what I was looking for.

So, for anyone who is a clueless as me: I am making a very short list of things to buy, and where. (Disclaimer: It may not work if you are in another part of the country with different stores.)

Yam
A big brown root.
Also called: BayerE
This is used for: Ampesie
It is sold at Publix under the name of  'Name'. PLU# 3276
It is also sold in many Asian stores (which are much easier to find than African stores around here)!

Cocoyam:
A hairy-looking brown root.
Also called: Mankani
Used for: Ampesie
There are small cocoyams and bigger cocoyams. My kids prefer the bigger ones.
The bigger version is sold at Pulix as 'Malanga'. PLU# 4644
The smaller version is also at Publix as 'Taro Root'.

Cassava:
A waxy-looking brown root.
Also called Yuca, Manioc, Bankye
Used for: Ampesie, Fufuo
Sold at most grocery stores. Publix PLU# is: 4819

Garden Eggs:
Small, round yellowish-white eggplants.
Used for: soups and stews
I have only been able to find these in Asian stores so far.

Ripe Plantain:
Rotten banana-looking fruit.
Also called 'red plaintain'.
Used for: fried plantains
Sold at most grocery stores. They should be yellowish-black.

Green Plantain:
Looks like an overgrown green banana.
Used for: Ampesie
Sold at grocery stores, but harder to find. You pretty much have to find them the day the store puts them out, because they ripen pretty quick.

Habanero:
A small orange pepper
When my kids say they need 'pepper', this is what they are referring to. All other peppers we have found are too mild. These are very hot.
Sold at most grocery stores.


Cocoyam Leaves:
Also called Nkontomire
Used for soups
I haven't found these sold anywhere. But, they are super easy to grow. (If I haven't killed it, it can't be killed!) We bought cocoyams, let them sit in the closet for too long (until they started sprouting). We planted them with the sprout sticking out of the ground. They are almost the exact same as those elephant ear plants.


Hopefully this will help somebody be a little less ignorant when they go out grocery shopping for their Ghanaian kiddos! Good luck!!

....Stay tuned. I hope to start posting some of my kids' favorite recipes soon!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

8am- I returned my rental car after two weeks. (Yes, it took Aamco 2 WEEKS to fix my transmission. Side note- it has only been 6 months since the last time they 'fixed' it.) I paid my $350 for the rental car, then went to Aamco to pick up my minivan. On the way home I noticed it was making the same noise as before they fixed it. Sounds like an airplane taking off. Then- I also notice an awful noise that it wasn't even making before they 'fixed' it. This one sounds like an old washing machine with bad berrings. Then the 'Drive' light starts blinking. (Which usually indicates the transmission is going out.)


9am- I go to Verizon to upgrade to a new phone. It's a touch screen. It's VERY hard to hit the right letters
when I type.


10-2pm: Homeschool


3pm- Go to pick up Malorie's friend from school. My car won't start back. I am blocking the whole school pickup line. Someone comes to jump me off, and informs me whoever put my battery in last (Aamco) didn't bother tightening the connections. They just laid the cables on top of the battery. They slightly tighten it so my car will start.


4pm- Park at home. The battery disconnects again, so the doors can't unlock. Me and 4 kids climb out the
window.


5pm- Fix the battery connections. Call Aamco to tell them I will take the car elsewhere & send them the repair bill. They are VERY rude & say the will refuse to pay it. Take Malorie & a friend to Tae Kwon Do. Come home to clean house.


6pm- Leave to pickup kids from Tae Kwon Do. A girl doesn't see me and runs into the side of my van. (At least she was very nice!) Call the police. He says he has about 10 minutes of paperwork to do. Then the monsoon starts. We wait in the car until almost 7pm for it to clear up enough for him to get back out of his car. (I don't blame him, it was POURING/hailing.)


7pm- Get home. Notice Konto's side has a big lump. Usually wouldn't be concerned, but his spleen kinda sticks out in that same spot. Nobody needs a squashed spleen. Take him to hospital to get looked at just in case.


8:30pm- Konto had to pee. I took him to the bathroom. The doctor came to our room. I told her that he'd be back in 30 seconds. She said she'd just come back in a minute.

10pm- Phone battery dies.

10:30pm- Another doctor FINALLY came into our room. They took x-rays. All looks fine.


11pm- Eat supper. Put kids to bed. Since my computer is dead, type this whole chain of events on facebook with my new (VERY sensitive) phone. With one finger.


12am- As I was trying to post on FB, accidentally deleted THE WHOLE THING. It had taken almost an hour to type.



= LONGEST DAY EVER

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Post MiniVan Depression...



I have a confession to make. I have post-minivan depression. Don't get me wrong- I love the minivan, with it's heated seats, DVD player & seating for 7 people. In fact, usually I wish I had enough kids to drive one of those 15 passenger vans. In general, vans are great.


But.........


It all started on Cinco de Mayo. I was able to go out WITHOUT all of the kids. I didn't take the minivan. I rode with a friend. I gotta be honest, it felt pretty amazing pulling up to the restaurant in a real
car. In fact, the coolness was so overpowering that it had several side effects. There was a little more
swagger in my step. I spoke to the grownups in the restaurant instead of playing with their kids. I even lost
the scrunchie. It was a fine night indeed!


Then came Tuesday. Since my transimission has been acting up again, I indulged in the guilty pleasure of
looking up rental cars online. The thrill could only compare to being on one of those dating sites for the
first time- where you get to shallowly judge a person solely based on a single photo. I knew most of those cars weren't right for me (and my 5 person family), but they just looked so darn good! The longer I lusted over those sleek, sexy cars- the more distant I felt from the minivan. Eventually though, I just decided to go with whatever cheap car they put me in.


In the heat of my disdain for the minivan, I was all too happy to drop it off at the transmission shop. I didn't
even look back as I got in the car with the Hertz man. When we arrived at the car rental center, there was an air of excitement. Like a blind date!


Then it happened- my Jeep pulled up. It wasn't a van. It wasn't family friendly. It was breathtaking. The
seats were cloth, the radio was loud, and the windows rolled down all the way! As we pulled off the lot, it all came back to me. The way I used to be. Before I was a housewife. Before I was a homeschooling mother of 3. Even before I was the fat sister.... I felt so young! So alive!


To tell the truth- I had almost forgotten. There used to be more. I used to wear cute little sundresses (and
fit in them!), I used to hang out with friends at somewhere other than Cici's pizza. I used to buy panties with
ruffles...Yes, I love being the housewife/homeschooling mother of 3. (I'd adopt 10 more kids if I could.) But
is that all I am? I've struggled with it off & on. More off than on lately. I've come to accept that I am almost 30. I now quickly realize that when the church says 'teen/young adult activity' that I'm not invited. I don't even swoon over college football players anymore- because I realize that I'm WAY too old for them. But I still feel like I forfeited a small part of my youth and femininity when I committed to the minivan. A part of me that I was actually quite fond of. A part of me that I have started to remember piece by piece since sitting in the driver seat of my little silver Jeep. In fact, I've been to Goodwill twice- and bought 6 cute little dresses! (Not quite as cute as they'd have been 20 lbs ago- but the important part is that I feel cute.) I've worn makeup more often, scrunchie less, and have shaved consistently. I'm even planning on taking my little jeep on an adult only roadtrip for a day.


Seems strange to say that Cinco de Mayo and a Jeep could be so revitalizing. But it's true.


Life won't always be this thrilling. Soon I'll be back in the gold minivan. But look closely- the real me will
still be there somewhere. Behind the automatic sliding doors & the windows that pop out instead of roll down. Beyond the blaring Disney Channel CD and the laughing kids. Somewhere amidst the ample seating. I'll still be there.




Monday, May 7, 2012

Toothbrushes...

This post is long overdue. But, it's a fun story- so I will share it. (Momma always said, 'Better late than never'.)

Back in the summer of last year, I went to our (wonderful) dentist to get my daughter's teeth cleaned. Everyone there knew we were in the process of adopting our two children from Ghana, West Africa. They graciously OFFERED to give us enough toothbrushes so that all children in the orphanage could have one.


 *Brand new toothbrushes, provided for the orphanaage by Cedar Bluff Dentistry, Simpsonville SC*



In October 2011, I finally set out to Ghana to bring Serwaa & Konto home. We spent a few days at the orphanage. On one of those days, 'Grandmother' (the orphanage directress)  had all of the children line up to receive their new toothbrushes. (They have to be lined up, because there is usually a riot when things are being given away. The children are not bad children. Deprivation will cause anyone to act this way.)

One by one, the kids came up to proudly take their new toothbrush, say a very sincere thank you, then run off. (I wish I could've gotten pictures, but they ran off to hide their new toothbrushes as soon as they got them.)

It was so fun to watch them. Especially the teenagers. You see, most of the toothbrushes were children's
toothbrushes shaped like rocket ships. It was so sweet watch the teenage girls beaming from ear to ear as they accepted their rocket ship toothbrushes. There is a level of appreciation there that is rarely seen in America.

When the line finally ended, there were a few more toothbrushes left. They were given to random children we found in the street. (It's pretty easy to find kids wandering around by themselves. If they have parents, they are usually at work. The older kids care for the younger kids all day.)


Since my children have come home, I've heard lots of stories about their dental hygeine in Ghana:


- When they were very small, they lived in a small hut with their grandmother. At one point they had a
toothbrush. But the kids all had to share it. (Much of the family lived in a little village. Any cousins are considered brothers and sisters. So who knows how many kids were using The Toothbrush!)


- If you don't have a toothbrush, you burn a piece of old cloth until it is very black, then you chew on it. This is what Serwaa & Konto usually did when they didn't have a toothbrush.


- People very often chew sticks or roots, which helps to keep their teeth clean.


- Another way to clean teeth is to chew on burnt charcoal. My children used to do this, too.

- If you get a toothache, cavity, infection, etc.... you just live with it. That's not usually something you go to the hospital for. Even the children lucky enough to have access to medical care probably won't be seen by a doctor until the problem has become very bad.
And just because they are so adorable- here are some of the kids who received the toothbrushes from Cedar Bluff!



Afia Ketewa

Madwo, Ivy, Paul

Maame Kwadu, Ivy, Maame Faith, Emina
 
Owosua & Yaa Rose

 
Eugene
 
Oleman & Askia

Amankwa & Paul




Friday, April 6, 2012

Five Month Update...

It's been five months. Already. My kids have been home for five months! It seems like yesterday that we were still fighting roadblock after roadblock to get them here. But then- it also seems odd to picture a time when they weren't here. Contradictory, I know. But true.

I am happy to give another boring report- The kids are still doing great!


Malorie: This is one tough kid. She's handled alot of change in her young life. For a long time, it was just the two of us. And life was great. It was very hard on her when we brought Al (my husband) into our family. She
had to share me for the first time. Then, we added a brother & sister. She has handled it like a true champion. However, that doesn't mean it is easy on her. Sometimes she feels like she's lost in the crowd, and just wants me to scoop her up & take her away. And sometimes I do. But I must say- she LOVES her sister. Sometimes she gets tired of being 'copied'. But she's a great big sister. I love spying on them when they're in their room playing & giggling & telling stories about Ghana... These two have a very special bond.



Serwaa: Growing up too quick. She has gained 10 lbs and grown two inches! She has shocked me with how quickly she is learning to read. I thought it would never happen, but she has seriously taken off at lightening speed! It's amazing! She is easy to get along with. She is definately the least fussy of all my children! Her bed-wetting is still an issue. But she is trying, and will overcome that too. All in good time. She has only had
one flare up of Malaria so far. She still likes to sleep an obsurd amount, but that may be due to her age. (As
a side note- I can't imagine coming to a new family, in a new country, and entering puberty all at the same
time. What a brave, brave girl!) She is doing great with food. She eats ALOT more now. She also loves to cook. I hope she will always love Ghana's food & cook it often. She misses her country and her friends. As do I. Maybe someday...


Konto: My big baby. The human necklace. He can generally be found hanging from my neck, clinging to my back, or sitting on me. Quite possibly THE most snuggly child in this world. I get at least 100 hugs a day. And not the flimsy obligatory hugs. I mean the good ones. The ones where you eventually have to pry the child off so that you can get something accomplished during the day. Sweetest boy ever. He hasn't need diapers at night for months now. He is still eating like a starving man, but has occassionally been able to realize he is full. (Even if it is after 18 pieces of pizza.) He has gained around 15 lbs & grown 2 inches! He loves to wear a suit & tie. He likes to act like his dad. (Going outside shirtless every Saturday to wash his bicycle...) He still HATES having his own room. It just feels too big and empty still compared to his room at the orphanage. He is still struggling with reading. He forgets which sounds come from which letters. But he loves books. He likes for me to read every library book about 3 times before returning it. He still gets his feelings hurt easy. And he still loves electricity. He is a VERY smart child. Move over Macgyver!


I am so glad to have everything still going so well. There couldn't have possibly been two kids in the whole
world that would've fit better into our family. It's an odd thing to experience (this 'un-natural' kind of bond). People ofter tell me that they're not sure they could love another kid like their own. Honestly, I wasn't always sure either. But it's like welding. Once the welder is finished, you really can't seperate the two pipes. It's just all one piece. That's kinda how I feel about the kids (bio & adopted). We're just all one piece.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ghana-Style...

When my kids were living in an orphanage, there was only one way to handle disputes. Physically. If you want someone else's toy, you beat them and take it. If someone makes you mad, you beat them. If someone takes your things, you beat them.




When Serwaa & Konto first got here, there was a lot of beating. But it didn't take long at all for Malorie to teach them the art of tattle-telling. (She is an expert, after all.) And Serwaa & Konto picked up on it very quickly. Now, they will tell EVERYTHING. And it's never an abbreviated version. They tell the whole story. And many times it's ridiculous. Example:



"Mommy! My leggings get a hole. I say, 'O no, my leggings get a hole. Dis is not good.' And Konto say, 'Ooo, dis is good. Dis is very good.' And then he do me dis: (sticks tongue out). And I say 'Konto, don't do me dat!' And he doesn't mind me."



It's a little commical really. But it gets a little old some days! Sometimes I just wanna tell them to handle it themselves... Ghana-style!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hair...


This post is mostly for my own memory. Serwaa's hair. (Just for the record- that Cowsills' song, Hair, is totally playing in my head right now.) One day I hope to look back and be like, "Man, I sure did get better at hair!". Hopefully. I gotta admit that I REALLY stink at this whole thing right now. I should've been studying and practicing doing black girl hair all along. But, in my defense, I assumed her head would be shaved when she got here. I thought I had lots of time to learn. I was wrong. She has lots of hair. I just gotta figure out what to do with it!


Our 1st picture

Dec 2010, when we met

The picture on the left was taken in the summer of 2011. This is how her hair still was in Oct 2011 when I went to pick them up. Once we got to Accra, we went to a braider & got it re-done (for $3).

Once we got home, it was an adventure. First, my friend came over to wash it for me. I have never seen SO MUCH DIRT come out of someone's hair before. It was amazing! Then my friend braided it. After that, Malorie styled it (and did a great job)! Since Malorie's style only lasted til it dried, I did some bantu knots. 


Then I tried to braid it. Poor child.

 Since that obviously didn't work, I paid someone else to braid it. I always remember my friend Washita saying something about being in the hair place for 6 hours. I almost didn't believe it. Now I do. It took 5!

Luckily, this lasted for about a month! After that, she has just kept it loose alot. (Thank goodness, because this could add up pretty quick!)
Her and Konto even wore a wig for awhile!
Next I tried braiding again. It was really raggedy-looking. But at least better than the first time. (Which isn't saying alot!) And- my crappy braiding took 4 hours! This morning we did some smaller bantu knots again. She likes it braided the best. So I guess I'll try it again tomorrow. Wish me luck!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Names.....

People very often ask about our Ghanaian kid's names. So- here is the complete story of their names. (Or at least all I know of it.)



When the children were very young and living with their grandmother, their only names were Yaa and Yaw. (They may have actually been given other names at the naming ceremony, but nobody remembers them if they were.) Yaa is the day name for a female born on Thursday. Yaw is the name for a male born on Thursday. There were no middle or last names. Just Yaa and Yaw.


Eventually the grandmother and aunt were no longer able to care for the children, so they were brought to the orphanage. At that point they were given the names they currently go by: Serwaa (after the grandmother) and Konto (after the deceased grandfather). From then on, our son went by Konto. Our daughter was called Yaa Serwaa.


When the children started attending school at the orphanage, the school administrator wanted them to also have a more english name. She chose Felicity for Serwaa, and Jackson for Konto. (I believe that Jackson was suggested by his friend, Oleman.)


They have never had last names.

We took forever trying to decide what to actually name them legally. We were originally going to keep Felicity & Jackson. But after I spent a few weeks in Ghana calling them Yaa Serwaa & Konto, I just couldn't picture ever calling them anything else. So, we decided to drop the english names. (The kids may eventually hate us for that!) But, they had never actually gone by those names. In fact, Konto couldn't remember if his name was Jackson or Justice. And he didn't know how to write either one. And Felicity. Ever since that show 'Felicity' with the big-hair girl... I just never liked that name anyways! Plus- I just can't picture her as a Felicity. It just doesn't seem to fit.

So we looked for new middle names.

When I met Serwaa, she reminded me alot of my first born. She was shy, loved looking in the mirror, a drama queen at times, constantly posing & taking pictures of herself.... Like Malorie's long-lost african twin! The main difference was that Serwaa had a much older soul. (Like most of the children in the orphanage.)

In Ghana there are names for everything, including twins. Akwele is the name given to the elder twin. It is believed that in the case of twins, the one who is born first is younger. (The one who is born last is the elder twin, because it is mature enough to stay in the womb and help the younger child out before coming out itself.) So, although Malorie was born first, Serwaa has an older soul. That's why we decided to give her the name Akwele.


We didn't want to lose her day name, so we added it to her new middle name. She became Serwaa Akweleyaa Knight. (Although I still call her Yaa Serwaa occaisionally.)


On my last trip to Ghana, I kept hearing Konto's aunt calling him 'Wofa Yaw'. Wofa actually means 'uncle' in Twi. It's just a nickname that she had started calling him when he was a baby. It had a nice ring, so we decided to keep it!

So he is now Konto Wofayaw Knight.


There you have it. The (very long) story of our children's names!

Friday, January 13, 2012

All the Reasons Why...

During our (extremely long) adoption process, I read alot about 'high-risk, older child adoption'. There's ALOT of information out there on this subject. Most of it isn't very encouraging. Actually- most of it is just plain terrifying.



'Older child adoption' refers to the adoption of any child over the age of 3. I guess ours qualified as a super-duper older child adoption! After reading olderchildadoption.com, we pretty much expected the worst. We were afraid that attachment would come very slow for both us & the kids. (It's kinda different than just having a baby & immediately loving it.)



To make matters worse, ours weren't just 'older kids'. They were 'older, institutionalized kids'. That pretty much guarantees major issues.(Or so we have read.) Institutionalization is estimated to cause one month of delay for every 3 months the child spends in the orphanage. Ours were there for 5 & a half years. They were doomed.



We were encouraged to adopt a much younger child by lots of people. Friends, our social worker, the online adoption community... None of them meant to be discouraging, just trying to look out for us.



These are all the reasons why adopting an older child from an orphanage is too risky, especially if you are adopting two of them.



Now I'll tell you why it's worth the risk.



There are two beautiful children living in my house who are no longer orphans. They love being loved. Quite honestly, the attachment has been SO easy from the first time we met in Ghana. It was funny, because from day one we would always share my water. But I've noticed that I never drink after Malorie's friends. I think it's gross. But I'll drink after Malorie, Serwaa & Konto.



I don't struggle to treat them the same as my biological daughter. I'm not grossed out by their poop or throw-up. (But I will gag if someone else's kid pukes here!) Seriously, loving them is unexplainably easy.



In return, they seem to be doing great with attachment too. Research told us that the first 6 months would be extrememly difficult. But it's almost 3 months home, and it's all good. If I were a kid living with a new family, I would be super awkward! But Serwaa & Konto don't even seem to notice they weren't always ours! They usually wake up early, come get in my bed & snuggle as close to me as they can. They beg me to carry them downstairs (and everywhere else). Konto will move my stuff over & hang his pictures on the fridge. Serwaa stands 2 inches away from me the whole time I cook. They are just as quick to tell on Malorie as she is to tell on them. (That's what I'm most proud of. They aren't timid- they know they are equal!) And nighttime. Konto keeps his arm around me, kisses me and asks me to stay until he goes to sleep. Serwaa gives me a ton of kisses and just stares at me with a huge smile. The past couple of months have been absolutely wonderful.



If you actually got to the end of this post, thanks! I know it is long. But there's too many people out there saying 'older child adoption' isn't worth it. I want to at least be one small voice that says, "Yes. It is."