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Praying like a Pitbull December 19, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — ferberama @ 11:49 pm

I am not sure where to start.  It has been a VERY long time since I’ve written, since I have been busy with two first-graders (How did THAT happen!  They were toddlers when I last wrote!), moving (18 months ago), two new jobs, a new church, surgery, and one last adoption.

Yes, one more.  That’s what this story is about.  Over two years ago, Steve and I decided that there was one more little Ferber out there for us.  We were strongly influenced by the book Radical, by David Platt (strongly recommended), which talks about truly surrendering ALL to Jesus, and not necessarily expecting a comfortable life.  I also had always had three children in my heart, from years back.  And every time I saw or heard about someone adopting a new little one, my heart tugged a bit.  So, we started the process, but we had big problems (moving, new job, being overwhelmed by the daunting needs we saw on the list of waiting (Special Focus) children from China).  So, we moved to domestic adoption, but that never felt quite right for us; plus, we figured no young pregnant birth mom would every pick such geriatric parents.  When China suddenly changed their policies in December of 2014, allowing parents our age opportunity to adopt children with more minor needs, we jumped back in.  Got all our paperwork in, etc., and were LID (logged in with the China Center for Adoption Affairs) on August 7, 2015.  Then, we waited.  We looked at several files, some pretty closely, and struggled with decisions that ultimately brought us to the conclusion that these little ones weren’t OUR little ones.  Since we were already unwilling experts at the adoption waiting game, I was praying that God would make this one a little easier, but we seemed to be traveling down a familiar road, as the six families ahead of us in our agency still waited, with no movement after our LID.  We were approved for a 2 – 4 year-old girl with minor needs, but as soon as I turn 53 in February, we would be eligible for only children three and up.  While more boys are available, I struggled with whether I could muster the energy for a little boy, and I truly longed for one more little girl.

Then, on December 7 (the sixth anniversary of our first flight to China to get Hannah), I was trolling (as usual) through the China Waiting Child Advocacy Facebook page, and I noticed twin girls, three years old.  They piqued my interest, and I showed Steve their pictures.  They looked healthy, with chubby cheeks.  One was standing, solemnly making a V for victory sign with her right hand.  The other was sitting in a green plastic chair, with left hand extended, trying to make a V for victory, or something.  People were raving about them on the page, especially since their only listed need was esotrophia (I may be spelling this wrong), which means one eye (their right) looks inward, while the other eye is looking straight out.  Seems like a pretty minor, correctible need, which was what we were looking for.  (At 52 and 60, we knew we needed a child who could grow to be independent.)

The thing that really got me was Steve.  He had been reluctant and sometimes pretty nervous about the severe, unpredictable, sometimes scary needs we were seeing.  This time, however, he took the lead, and was more enthusiastic than I had ever seen him.  So, I emailed for information.

The girls are with another agency, so adopting them would mean we would have to switch, which would mean money lost, but we didn’t hesitate.  Once we looked over the files, we fell in love with “Natalie” and “Nicole,” as they were named by the agency, Gladney.  After a couple of days of email tag, Steve finally talked with April on Friday, December 11, and we were told that the process was a little different than what we were used to with WACAP:  We would have to write a letter, detailing why we thought we would be a good match for the twins, describing our plans for their medical care, etc.  We also needed to turn in a copy of our home study, several pictures of our family and our house, etc.  One other family had already completed that process and were also interested in the girls; we were told that once our documents were in, Gladney would choose between our two families on Wednesday, December 16.

We worked all day after church Sunday on that letter, determined to get the girls.  We were in such harmony and agreement, and I felt that these girls were ours.  Surely, no one would “out-write” me in our efforts to get them!

We submitted all of our stuff Sunday night, with a bit added Monday morning, and Steve checked to see if all had been received.  I thought the wait until Wednesday would be a mere formality.  These girls were ours; how could they possibly fit into another family?

I hadn’t told anyone any details yet; we had already been burned by a couple of near-misses on the adoption front, and they had felt like a punch in the gut.  I vaguely mentioned to a few people that we had a possibility on the horizon, but I didn’t mention the magic word “twins.”

I emailed Steve during the day Monday, and he told me Gladney had gotten everything, and it was “in God’s hands.”

I got home, and Steve looked sad.  I asked him how he was, and he said, not good, “New York called, and the other family got the girls.”

“What?” I choked in disbelief, then sobbed onto his shoulder.  Although I knew on one level that, of course, the other family was probably a great family, I had felt firmly that these girls would be ours.  Now, that possibility was utterly gone.  That door was closed.

The girls saw me crying, and we told them.  They were sad too, but they didn’t really get the whole situation, which is understandable for first graders.  Then Hannah asked if this other family knew Jesus.  I clutched her to me.

“I hope so,” I cried.  I so wanted these sweet girls to grow up in faith. Now, I didn’t know if that would happen.

The rest of the week was filled with incredible pain, yet I still had to go to work; I couldn’t bear even explaining to anyone what had happened, especially since no one knew anything about the twins in the first place.  I was so afraid of breaking down in front of people.  I posted briefly on the Facebook page where I had found the girls, and those women tried to comfort and encourage, but I felt bereft.  I cried any time I wasn’t in sight, and my heart felt so weighted down.  Steve and I hugged a lot, and he was sad, too, although not as devastated as I.  He did his best to comfort me, and let me vent.  He bought me four roses, which was so sweet, but I thought of the four roses as the four girls that our family was meant to hold.

I prayed to God a lot, and a lot of it was angry, begging, even bitter.  How could this be happening?  This was a mistake.  How could this amazing possibility of twins be presented to us, then be snatched away?  I knew, from all of my searches, that the possibility of another pair of twins like this was incredibly slight, even nonexistent.

Part of me felt like I should let go of this hope, mourn the loss, and move on.  But, every time I thought like that, another part of my heart shouted “NO!”  I couldn’t give up, not yet.

Maybe this other family would change their minds.  But, no, why would they ever change their minds?  They wanted these girls, and they would love them.  I needed to let it go.

But —

NO!  These girls are OURS!  My heart kept shouting.

“This is a mistake, Lord!” I prayed in the car.  “These girls are ours!  They have to be!  And we’re going to swim with them, and play with them, and teach them about Jesus, and show them their first snow, and watch them grow up.  Please, Lord!  You can do anything!  You can make this happen.”

In my anger and sadness, I also realized that God loves me so much, broken, miserable sinner that I am.  He loves me even when I rant and rave and complain.  He was letting me vent and still loving me.

I had to decide whether I was “storming the gates of Heaven” in prayer, or if I was just losing my grip on reality.  I remembered, with a cringe, begging God to bring my ex-boyfriend back (over 20 years ago).  He didn’t, and for that, I was ultimately thankful.  Maybe this was that kind of prayer.

But, maybe it was like the biblical Hannah’s persevering prayers.   Maybe it was like the person in the parable Jesus told, who hassled the neighbor at night for bread for his houseguests.  Jesus said that the neighbor would get up and give the man what he wanted, not necessarily because he was the man’s friend, but because of the man’s persistence.  He was praying like a pit bull, and so was I:  clamping down and not letting go.

As I pulled into the garage last night, I told God I would keep asking for these twins until I heard that the other family’s paperwork had gone through.  That same day Steve was praying, “Is your arm too short, God?”

We went to a Timberwolves game that night, one of Steve’s Christmas gifts.  My first NBA game.  It felt good to get out and go on a date.

During the first quarter, Steve checked his phone, then said to me, “Honey, you’re going to want to read this.”  It was from Gladney:  The other family had decided not to pursue the twins after all, for their own personal reasons.

God is amazing.  God is sovereign. He loves us so, but sometimes He lets us struggle, because He is going to do something even more amazing than we can ask or imagine.  We wept in joy, awe, and disbelief, while a basketball game went on all around us.

We are still awestruck, one day later.  We are heading into paperwork, U of MN adoption clinic reviews, and more money than we currently have.  We believe God will provide, for us, and for these girls, because He has paved the way for us to become a family.

We used to call this prospective adoptive child “Ferber Number 3.”  That doesn’t fit anymore, and “Ferber Numbers Three and Four” seems awkward.  So, we will name this adventure, that looks to fill our table, our van, and our hearts, the name I gave this blog: Ferberama!

Amen.  Alleluia, Sovereign God.









Two Toddlers in DC: The Real “Amazing Race” March 30, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — ferberama @ 7:50 pm

Steve and I took Hannah (age 27 months) and Maggie (almost 23 months) to Washington, DC in February.  My mother’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery (see previous post) was scheduled for Friday, February 18th.  The girls aren’t old enough to be left, and we’d had Maggie for only three months, so we’re still working on intensive attachment and never leave her with anyone.  So, off we went, from Minnesota to Washington with two toddlers.

First, the wonders of transportation through the eyes of a two year old:  We drove our van to Humphrey Terminal (recently glamorously renamed “Terminal 2”) for long-term parking at MSP Airport, then attached the girls to their “puppies” (harnesses that look like stuffed dogs, which the girls love*) and walked them to the Light Rail station, dragging suitcases along the way.

(Two weeks prior to this, we had flown with them to Cincinnati, so they knew what they were in for, to some extent.  However, this trip involved a flight connection, public transportation, and taxis.)

We packed onto the train and held on, coming quickly to the airport.  Then off the train, dragging the suitcases, girls in puppies, trotting along.

Once we got to our plane, I buckled Hannah in beside me, and Steve held Maggie.  Maggie mellowed out and slept, but not Hannah.  She was interested in everything:  the light buttons (over and over), the call button (only pushed that one once, before I could stop her), the air vents, clicking the seatbelt shut (over and over) opening the tray table; she had me “read” her the flight safety card over and over as well, so I tried to make the people with oxygen masks, the ones scrambling down the emergency slides, and the planes landing in water appear as everyday as possible.  She ate plenty of goldfish along the way.  I felt like every flight was a wrestling match.

We got off the plane, fed the girls chicken nuggets, fries, apple juice (to those of you shocked that we would feed fast food to our precious children, our motto for this trip — and for about everything in life right now — is “whatever it takes”) and then took a bus to the other part of the Philadephia terminal.  Hannah and Maggie loved hanging onto the poles on the buses and trains, like mini-commuters.

For the flight from Philadelphia to DC, we were on a smaller plane, in the front row, and Steve had to hold Maggie, who was still pretty mellow.  Hannah got fussy, then, mercifully, fell asleep for about 30 minutes.

Off to the Metro.  I’ve been to DC every month of the year, and I knew the Metro (DC’s subway system) really well; however, negotiating the Metro with toddlers is a bit different.  There is no running to catch a train, for instance.  Also, escalator skills are not inborn and must be taught.  Our trip to Ohio had lots of Hannah stopping at the end of the escalator, almost falling, and Mom pulling her to safety, so this time we told her to “step, step, step!” way before the end, and she obliged, taking a giant step each time she got off the escalator.  In a day or so, they were pros.

They loved the Metro, although Hannah was distraught at first that the seats had no seatbelts, like the “ah-pee” (airplane) had.  Maggie just loved holding onto that pole, a serious little traveler.  Hannah was interested in identifying people as male and female, a skill she has just begun to acquire.  She often pointed and said,”mah” for man.  Unfortunately, many short-haired women were called “mah.”  I’d quietly correct her, and sometimes she’d say, “yady;” other times she looked puzzled and, frankly, so was I, on occasion.

At the reception following my mother’s services at Arlington, many of the guests (most of whom did not have children) looked at us and said, “I don’t know how you do it!” (We don’t either), or, my favorite, “You must have your hands full.”  (Understatement of the year, folks).  Some of this made me think that the reality show “The Amazing Race” is really too simple.  Those contestants should have to go all over the world with a toddler or two.  Now, THAT would be an adventure!  You haven’t had a real travel adventure until you’ve changed a few dirty diapers in airplane restrooms. 

Our girls traveled well, overall.  They really were troopers.  I was really proud of them.  There was very little whining and no meltdowns.  The experience made me feel that they must be attaching pretty well, because no matter where we were (hotel, taxi, restaurant, plane, train), they were fine because Mommy and Daddy were there.

Traveling with two toddlers is NOT recommended, but, since we had to, we are thankful that things went so well.

[*Side note:  I just read in Parents magazine that one of their advice columnists (Ask Judy) spoke out against harnesses for kids.  Well, she must not have two two year olds around.  My kids are NOT my pets, but I have used and will continue to use harnesses.  It keeps them safe, it allows them to walk around and move (which the strollers she recommends do not), and they like wearing them.  They aren’t really good in hot weather, because the little stuffed dogs make their backs sweaty, but I am all for them when traveling with young children.]

On the Mall with Mom and the girls.


Things My Mother Taught Me (eulogy given at Dell Griffith’s funeral, 2/2/11) March 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — ferberama @ 8:46 pm

I’ve thought a lot lately about all I learned from my mom, maybe because I’ve come to appreciate even more all she did as a mother, especially since I’m trying to be a good mother to my daughters too.  I would like to share with you all some of the things my mother taught me and has left with me.

1. Always Look Your Best.  Mom always looked sharp, very classy, and very feminine.  Even in the last few years, she insisted on putting on lipstick before she went out.  She gave me the encouragement to wear high heels and hats and enjoy dressing up, and I hope to pass that trait on to my girls.  Even now, Hannah wants to wear her necklace whenever we go out.

2. Flowers Make the World More Beautiful.  Mom loved plants and flowers and was very talented at making things grow.  Her gardens in every yard we had were spectacular.  At a young age, we learned to appreciate crocuses, daffodils, roses, and gladiolus.  Every Mother’s Day we used to give her flowering plants and a corsage to wear to church, and she loved it.  The world can be a harsh place, but flowers make it more beautiful.  I like to think that Hannah’s love of flowers came from Grandma Dell. 

3. If You Have Children, Make Sure They’re Girls.  When Mom married Dad, she knew she wanted a baby girl, and I was born when she was 40.  She had insisted on having a girl.  Right after I was born, the doctor told her it was a girl; Mom, still pretty foggy, said, “Are you SURE she’s a girl?”  I honestly don’t know what she would have done if I’d been a boy.  Naturally, she insisted on another girl, and Nancy was born when Mom was almost 42.  Like Mom, Steve and I chose to have girls, although Mom’s “choice”  involved more chance than ours.

4. It’s Important to be Politically Aware and Active, but You’d Better Be a Republican!  Mom loved politics.  She wore an Alf Landon button when she was a teenager.  She worked for the Republican National Committee in 1952, and her picture, wearing “I Like Ike” paraphernalia was printed all over the country.  Our family has been Republican since before the Civil War.  Mom liked it that way.  I remember going to a political rally when I was 5, and going to vote with her when I was a little girl, watching inaugurations and political conventions on TV with her — didn’t every 9-year-old do that?  Mom loved her country and, along with Dad, taught me patriotism, political involvement and passion.  She was excited when I recently became a delegate to my county’s Republican convention.  Our girls became citizens when they landed on US soil, which makes me proud.  We hope to instill civic pride and political activism into them, as Mom did for us.

5. Education is Very Important.  From the books and magazines that were always around the house, to her insistence that we attend Forest Hills Schools, to her pride in our academic accomplishments, Mom always valued education.  She would have gone to college if she could have, and she put that desire into our minds at a young age.  There was no question that we would go to college, and she lived vicariously through our experiences when we did go.  She was so proud when I got my first teaching job at New Richmond High School, and showed her my very first classroom.  She insisted on attending my graduation from Xavier University when I received my master’s degree, even though both she and Dad weren’t in the best health at the time.  I hope to instill the value of education into my little girls too.

6. Aim High and You can Go Anywhere.  Mom’s life started small, born at home in Allen County, Kentucky, growing up with her mother and 3 siblings at her grandparents’ house after her father died.  That farmhouse in rural Tennessee had no running water or electricity; she went to a one-room school until 8th grade, and worked her way through business school by sewing pockets onto the backs of overalls in Scottsville, Kentucky.  Yet, she ended up living in Louisville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Chicago, California, and Washington, DC.  She met Olympians, millionaires, celebrities and presidents.  She danced at Eisenhower’s Inaugural Ball wearing the peach silk gown her mother made for her.  She set goals and achieved them, reached out and saw a big, exciting world, and encouraged us to do the same.

7. Good Cooking is Really About Love.  Everyone who’s eaten at our table knows my mom was a fabulous cook.  We almost always had dinner in the dining room, with good dishes, and no TV in sight.  I didn’t realize for a while that not everyone’s mother cooked pepper steak, shrimp Creole, turkey amandine, beef burgundy and Cornish hen.  I have come to realize, even as I have learned great cooking from my mom, that the real satisfaction comes in seeing those you love enjoy your food, and it is a great way to show love to others, as she did to us.

8. Children Are a Blessing.  Mom always loved little children, especially toddlers.  She spoke fondly of the 2-year-old Sunday school class that she taught at Anderson Hills United Methodist Church.  She was excited to have her two grandchildren, and loved meeting Hannah last year.  She knew, as I am learning daily, that small children are a great challenge, but also a precious blessing.

9 & 10.  The Most Important Things in Life and Love and Faith.  I always knew Mom loved me, and she always knew that I loved her, no matter how far away we were, no matter some of the disagreements we had her and there over the years.  She rejoiced in the joys in my life and supported me through my sorrows.  She grew up believing in Jesus, and that faith sustained her through many difficulties in life; she passed that faith on to me.

The last two things she said to me sum up the best things Mom taught me:  I told her that if I didn’t see her again on this earth, that I would see her in Heaven, and she said, “That’s right.”  Then I told her I loved her, and she said, “I love you, too.”

And that was all there was to say.

Grandma Dell, Mom Donna and Baby Hannah, February, 2010


Over 50% January 15, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — ferberama @ 9:13 pm

Hannah at home Dec. 2009

Today is a day no one else will much notice, but Steve and I are marking it.  It is the first day that Hannah has been with us longer than she was in the orphanage in China.  So, from now on, she will have spent the majority of her life with us, not in the orphanage.

I think we, and others, forget what she has gone through.  I was given a little picture of that when I saw our newest little grand-niece being held and passed around at Christmas.  She was never left alone, except while sleeping, and even then, was often held as she slept.

I realized with a pang that this is perfectly natural for almost all babies — but not for Hannah.  No one was holding her, exclaiming over her, passing her from loving embrace to loving embrace, when she was two or three weeks old.  She was brought to the orphanage when she was one day old, and, while I’m sure the Chinese nannies were caring, there is no question that this child spent way too much time in her crib.  Perhaps they are understaffed, or perhaps they didn’t realize the importance of babies being held.  We don’t know exactly what happened or didn’t happen in that orphanage.  We never even got to see it.  We asked, when we were in China, but we were told that, oh, it’s several hours away, it would cost extra money to go, we need to ask permission, etc., in a way that told us we were strongly discouraged from seeing where our little one had lived before we met her.  Maybe we will see it one day.

There are two reasons we know Hannah wasn’t held enough.  One is the shape of her head.  I remember holding her for the first time, in the lobby of the Galactic Peace International Hotel in Nanchang, and taking off her little cap to cradle her head in my hand.  I remember a shock going through my body as I felt the perfectly flat back of her head.  I remember trying not to look upset as I touched her head.  Babies can’t have heads like that unless they are spending hours and days and weeks in their cribs, on their backs.  I tell myself that her head is rounding out, and it is, a little.  But I think she will always have that physical reminder that her first thirteen months and two days were spent in an orphanage in China. 

We met a lot of adoptive families in China, with children from all over:  Inner Mongolia, Hunan, Guangdong, Jiangxi.  Every single child, without exception, had a flat head.  It was pervasive.  It helped us to realize that this phenomenon was happening all over the country, not just in our orphanage, but it was still a sad commentary on the care in Chinese orphanages.

The other reason is more subtle, but equally disturbing.  The first night we had Hannah, she began banging her forehead, over and over, on her crib mattress.  I was horrified, afraid she would hurt herself, and I was also sick with the thought that this is what she did to soothe herself to sleep, because no one was rocking her and holding her as she slept.  I grieved so much that this bright little child, who needs so much attention and stimulation, was driven to banging her head to calm herself, because no one came when she needed to be held at night. 

We did what we could.  We held her until she slept, to try to avoid the banging.  We put soft blankets over her mattress, to make sure she couldn’t hurt her little head.  Gradually, the head-banging subsided, but not entirely.  Still, some nights, I can hear her rhythmically banging when she is trying to sleep.  I keep praying that it will end soon.

I grieve that my beautiful little one was damaged by living in an orphanage, when she should have been with her family.  I know the people in the orphanage cared about her; you could see the emotion on their faces as they handed my bright, funny, affectionate child to me.  But it wasn’t the same as being at home, with mom and dad and family all around.

Adoption is born out of loss.  Damage is done, some of it leaving scars.  It is a beautiful thing in many ways, but the sad parts are always there, too.  I hope my Hannah grows up happy, but with the realization of where she came from, good and bad, and the hope that God can heal her and use her life to bless others too.

(In my next entry, I will write more about Maggie, and our adjustment to each other.)


Christmas Letter via Blog December 15, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — ferberama @ 8:29 pm

Hello friends and family!

This year, we actually got family pictures to send out as Christmas cards (yea!), so I decided not to try to tackle printing and sending the annual Christmas letter; those of you who have received them have probably noticed that they have gradually morphed into Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s and Easter letters (although we have an excuse for last year, arriving with Hannah on Christmas Eve).  For those with no internet access, I will be printing this and sending it, but the rest of you are stuck reading my blog!  Unless you don’t care, and probably have stopped reading by now.

Our life in the past year has been hit by not one but two little but powerful tsunamis.  We’re still rolling around in the surf from the latest (Tsunami Maggie), while the first has subsided into gentle waves (Tsunami Hannah).  It is no exaggeration to say that children have changed our lives more than ANYTHING else.  In some ways it is much harder, but it is also richer in many ways as well.  (Believe me, leaving my job, house, friends, etc., in Cincinnati and packing off to Minnesota was NOTHING compared to this!)

Hannah Joy YiXian has been a joy.  We had a tough couple of months with her sleeping (and eating was really scary at first), but by early spring, she had become completely comfortable with us and had evened out.  She is very affectionate (best hugs EVER), funny, and outgoing.  She is a detail person; she notices the smallest things, and sometimes picks up microscopic items from the floor and hands them to us.  She helped decorate the tree and worked very carefully on placing the ornaments in just the right spot.  She sometimes lays blankets on the floor and works hard straightening them.  We joke that she had “CDO:  like OCD, but the letters are in the right order, like they should be.”  She loves to pray and sing and read books, and throw the ball to Lewey.  She loves swimming and flowers, but those have to wait for a few more months.  Those of you who have met her must agree that she is a great blessing.  She turned two November 10 and is about 28 pounds and 35 inches — both above average!  🙂

While the majority of our year was absorbed with Hannah, most of you know that we were also consumed with our stalled-out wait for Maggie, from Ethiopia (details in older blog posts).  Steve traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia November 14, even though the US Embassy had requested additional documentation at the last moment, so we didn’t know when he and his sister Linda would return, but we were hoping things would be on schedule.  (I contacted Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office, and they were very helpful, and sent an inquiry to the US Embassy.)  He received Maggie on November 16, passed the Embassy appointment Nov. 17, and came home November 20.  So, at last our family is complete.

Maggie (Margaret Grace Deme) has been home for less than a month, so we are all still adjusting.  She is 20 months old.  She is absolutely beautiful (as is her sister, in a completely different way).  She is very smart and figures things out quickly, yet differently than Hannah, which is interesting to see.  She has a great laugh and smile and likes to play with Hannah some of the time and by herself other times, which is normal.  She was scared of Lewey at first, but likes him now, and loves to throw him the ball.  She is smaller than Hannah, and walks a bit less steadily, but she is actually bigger at 20 months than Hannah was at that age.  Her feet are tiny and narrow, though!  (Hannah’s feet are wide — so much for sharing shoes!)

She is still not sleeping through the night, so that means none of us are (except Hannah, thank God; we put Maggie’s crib in a separate room).  She is up at least twice a night, sometimes three times, and it takes sometimes an hour before we can safely put her back in bed.  Honestly, we are having a pretty tough time right now with sleep deprivation (and I have been sick with a cold for three weeks), and would appreciate prayers.  We are not sure why she is not sleeping; she wakes up screaming, so she may be having nightmares.

Maggie has some pretty major anger issues.  She throws herself into a rage over little things pretty often.  Steve was pretty shocked at this in Africa.  She has improved a lot, but still gets set off when she can’t have a toy, or when one of us leaves.  We try our best to hold her and soothe her, but it has been discouraging for us.  We think that if only we could have gotten her on time, that maybe these episodes wouldn’t be happening, but it is what it is, and her case was delayed, and she has suffered for it, as have we.  We pray fervently that she would work her anger out and that our household would be peaceful.  The good news is that she is attaching to us; she wants us to hold her; she comes to us for food and care, so those are encouraging signs, as is the fact that her anger seems lessening the past couple of weeks.  We love her and want her to be happy.

Hannah is happy to have “Maa-Maa” around, and likes to play with her.  Sometimes they hold hands, which is really adorable, and they like sitting in the front closet, trying on hats and scarves, which is a hoot.  But, Hannah also gets jealous, and some shoving and hitting have occurred — also some toy-hoarding, which is sort of funny to watch.  Overall, Hannah is adjusting well.

So, that is about it.  We did no vacation traveling (China and Ethiopia, while fascinating, don’t really count as vacations; see above!).  My job as a part-time AP US History teacher at Cambridge-Isanti High School was snatched from the budget-cutting knife for at least this year; we’ll see about next year, as the not-so-wise citizens of our district decided to vote down last year’s levy.   Steve was called to a church in Mankato, MN, in May, but, after much prayer and thought, we felt God still wants him (and us) at Living Branch Lutheran in North Branch.  The church members have been very supportive of our family (granting him 4 – 5 weeks’ leave for each child’s arrival) and of our church as a whole (financing new windows and siding for our 120+ year-old building). 

We have been blessed with a good life, which will look even better to us once we get a full night’s sleep.  We know that Jesus is with us and has a wonderful plan for our lovely daughters and us.  We rejoice to say that our five-and-one-half year wait for our children is OVER!  Just a few more papers to file, and that’s IT!  Hallelujah!

Have a wonderful Christmas, everyone!

Love, Donna and Steve — and Hannah and Maggie


A Marshmallow, a Hardnose, and 397 Days October 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — ferberama @ 7:33 pm

"Cooking" in the kitchen

I have written so much about Maggie/Deme lately, but I think about and interact with Hannah daily, and I have been thinking about my relationship with her.

It’s a lot different from what I thought it would be.  As a twenty-three-year veteran of the classroom (mostly high school, some middle school; mostly public school, some private), I don’t put up with much.  I always shock the kids a bit the first day when I say, “I don’t take any crap.”  I also tell them I will walk out of the school every day SANE, and they can adapt to the way I do things and be just fine.  (So much for being student-centered!)  So, I am a hard-nose, and things function very well that way.  I enforce the rules consistently and fairly (hopefully 99% of the time), and most students realize that they like structure, and they like me, and I  really like them too.  I just refuse to be a doormat to a bunch of unruly teenagers. 

Then there’s Steve. Pastor Steve who baptizes tiny babies and visits old folks in nursing homes.  This is a man who has stopped his car to move a turtle off the road.  He loves kids, and they love him.  He’s very sensitive, which is mostly a good thing.  He has a kind heart.

So.  We naturally assumed — and discussed — that I would be the hardnose, and he would be the softy with our kids.  “But Daddy said we could!” they would whine to me, the Enforcer, who would shake my head no while wagging my authoritarian finger at them.  Daddy the pushover, Mommy the tough guy.

Then Hannah showed up.  And I fell apart.  When she cries, I melt inside; it breaks my heart.  That may be because one of the first times she truly cried with us was very traumatic.  We were flying from Nanchang to Guangzhou, China, and we had had her only about 5 days.  The air pressure (we think) affected her ears, and she SCREAMED for the last thirty minutes (felt like hours) of the flight, body rigid, just screaming and crying.  I just sat there, helpless, and cried too. That memory is burned in my mind.  So now when she cries, I rush to pick her up and comfort her.  She wants to be held while I’m fixing dinner; Steve says to let her fuss and she’ll get over it.  But when she looks up at me, arms raised, begging me to hold her, I become the marshmallow.  I pick her up.  And dinnertime gets a bit later.  I pretty much hold her whenever she wants me to, which is a lot.  It makes us both happy, even though she weights at least 27 pounds at this point.

Daddy is probably still more fun than Mommy, but he also is tougher on Hannah than I am.  Not overly harsh at all, but he doesn’t become the Marshmallow like I do.  So, I’ll call him the Hardnose.  I’m constantly surprised by this turn of events, by my weakness before this not-quite-two-year-old.  Steve laughs that she’s got me wrapped around her little finger, and she does.

I am completely okay with this.  I don’t intend to raise a spoiled brat, by any means.  What I keep coming back to is 397 days. 

We figured out that Hannah spent 397 days in the orphanage before we got her.  And 397 nights.  That is a long time.  So far, she still has spent over half of her life in an orphanage.  I’m sure they took good care of her.  But she didn’t have a mom to hold her, and a dad to give her pony rides on his back.  A lot of times, she probably cried, and no one rushed to pick her up.  So I do now.  People may think I am spineless, and I’m spoiling her, but too bad.  We have a lot of time to make up.

It’s just funny how children turn your life — and you — upside down in ways you never anticipated. 

Daddy and Hannah at the Como Zoo


“She is yours.” October 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — ferberama @ 7:29 pm

We flew to Ethiopia last week.  So strange to actually write that.  But we did.  And we got what we went for.  Praise God.

That’s the short version.  Read on for details.

We flew Delta/KLM through Amsterdam, which sounded good, since that is halfway, and I planned to sleep the first leg.  Planned is the operative word, but, even after two Dramamine, no dice.  So I was pretty pathetic wandering around Schipol Airport despite a fabulous strawberry French tarte and a decent cup of coffee.

Leg two was better, and we had the most creative refueling stop ever:  Khartoum, Sudan.  No kidding!  We watched out the window and saw reddish desert below, then little boxes that looked like adobe, arranged in neat rows and sections.  The wide Nile River wound around, but not a bridge in sight.  Then we landed at the airport.  No tall buildings, just dust, desert, and heat (over 100 outside).  The main hangar looked like a middle school.  Even though they wouldn’t let us off the plane, I can talk about “my time in Khartoum” when I’m an old lady.

On to Addis.  We landed at 9:05 p.m., and everything went smoothly, which was good, as we were tired and nervous.  Getting a visa was ridiculously easy:  no line, hand the guy your passport and $20:  Voila! Visa!  (The Chinese could learn a lesson from this.)  Luggage was all there, waiting for us, as was our wonderful driver, Solomon.  What a guy!  He loves the Lord, and he loves people; this man has friends all over Addis.  He definitely has the gift of hospitality!  We felt so at ease with him at once, and very taken care of the whole trip.  (He had even already checked with our hotel to make sure everything was okay.)

We stayed at the King’s Hotel, which was decent and livable.  Our room was clean (you never know about dark carpets, though . . .); we had a king-size bed (hard as a China bed, but nice to have space), and the bathroom had NO BUGS, which was crucial for my sanity.  It was more like a Lutheran Island Camp bathroom, but it worked, and that was all that mattered.  A flushing toilet is an amazing blessing in a rough world.  Breakfast at the hotel was decent, and the staff were nice.  All this for $50 US per night —   AND, it was a ten-minute walk to the orphanage. 

The first morning I heard what sounded like a monkey outside our window, reminding me I was in Africa. . . . .  I was glad to discover that it was what looked like a large pigeon, which I named the Monkey Bird.  He whooped it up outside our window every morning, which was kind of fun. 

Solomon walked with us to Layla House (AAI’s orphanage in Addis) so we would know the way.  The sidewalks were full of people, and the streets were full of cars.  It was clear and sunny, but the smell of exhaust was omnipresent.  Driving was a little crazy, but not as fast or aggressive as China, honestly, so I wasn’t as freaked out about it.  Still, a herd of cattle rounding an on-ramp caught my eye, as did the donkey who pulled out in front of our car one day, and trotted ahead of us for a bit.  Some goats were around, too.  The city was hilly, and  somewhat dusty and dirty, but not terrible.  (I was glad I had closed-toe shoes.)  There were little shops on our way; one was called Style Challenge:  a beauty shop.  There were beggars, too.  Not as many as I had feared, but I had to give a Birr (the Ethiopian one dollar bill, worth about 6 cents) to the women with little babies; some people said they were scammers, “renting” the babies to get money, but I couldn’t tell, and I felt that my Maggie and her birth mother could be on those streets, if her birth mother hadn’t made the brave choice to bring her to an orphanage. 

When we got to Layla House, Eleni took us to see Maggie (Deme is her Ethiopian name.)  There she was, in the toddler room, sitting on a little pink potty, with all the other toddlers.  She looked up at us, and my eyes welled with tears.  She really is as beautiful as I had thought.  Those eyes.  I thought this moment would never come, and now, here she was. 

We left the toddlers to finish “popo” time (they put the  toddlers on potties twice a day after meals; sort of potty training, but more like saving on cloth diapers) and toured the complex.  Quite a warren of little rooms with various purposes, all enclosed with walls and a gate, purposely unobtrusive in the urban neighborhood.  No yard; the older kids played on a cement playground.  I wondered how all these sections were built; all at once, or little by little?  There were lots of active, happy kids running around.  Everything was clean, especially compared to what I had seen in the rest of Addis so far.

When we came back, Deme was dressed in a red dress, among other things.  The kids wear layers of whatever fits — or sort of fits.  Once, her little dress had a 6-month tag on it; another time, she was in a 3T shirt.  I am estimating that she wears 18 – 24 month sizes, and about a size 5 shoe, but it was hard to tell.  Deme’s nannies tried to get her to come over to us, but she clung to them, and ran back to them, protesting, when they brought her to us.  She is the absolute shyest toddler in the bunch.  The other kids were literally climbing all over us and charming us to death with their smiles and giggles, but not Deme.  She didn’t even want to look at us.  We did manage to get her to hand us a toy, and then hand it back to her, and she would walk away, and we learned to say “gobez,” which means good in Amharic.  We did this quite a bit, then the nannies gestured (they know hardly any English) for me to pick her up and walk with her out into the courtyard, which I did.  Deme screamed, yelled, and kicked in protest until I just gave up and brought her back.  It was okay, though.  I mean, it would have been wonderful if she had run up and embraced us, but I was very shy as a child (as was Steve), and I woudn’t have liked it if a stranger had picked me up either, so I was okay with the experience, even if it wasn’t in line with the Hollywood scenario of  “Orphan meets Mommy.”   When we came back later in the day, we played the “hand me a toy” game a bit, and I got her to sit on my lap briefly, so things went a little better.

Thursday was probably the best day with Deme.  We were in one of the toddler rooms with her, when the nanny left the room.  Deme ran after her, crying, and I picked her up.  She cried for just a little while after that, then let me hold her.  She didn’t cling to me; more like she tolerated me, but she didn’t start crying again.  Then we went into her room, and the nanny handed me a bottle to feed her.  It was awkward because I am lefthanded, and the nanny had me feed her righthanded, but I held her, fed her, and rocked her until she fell asleep in my arms.  That was sweet.  I would have held her a lot longer, but then it was “popo” time again, so they took my sleepy little girl and put her on the pink potty with the others. 

Unfortunately, while Thursday was a good day with Deme, it was a very bad day for me physically.  The mild diarrhea that I already had got much worse, with a lot of abdominal pain.  I spent most of the rest of the day in bed at the hotel, which is not where I wanted to be.  I had had diverticulitis before I left, and, although I had finished a full course of powerful antibiotics (flagyl and cipro), my system was weakened and compromised, and I was pretty sick the rest of the trip.  No one else got sick; Steve was fine, and we basically ate the same thing (including kitfo! — cooked, of course), but I was just more vulnerable.  I was so bummed, because this was my only trip to Ethiopia, and I didn’t want to spend it in bed.  We did go out to a restaurant for Ethiopian food and dancing (incredible!), but I ate a piece and a half of white bread, and drank a bottle of water, and didn’t even want that.  I love Ethiopian food so much, and I had so looked forward to it, but I was too afraid — and nauseated — to eat much at all.

Friday morning was court, and, after choking down a banana and piece of toast (starting to think I might need to go to a hospital . . .), I headed with Steve to Layla House, where, with six other families, we (after a long delay . . .  African time) headed to an unpretentious court building.  I sat in a chair and tried not to think about how crappy I felt, and Steve opened a window to ease the stuffiness of the room.  When the breeze noisily blew the curtains, a man with a rifle stepped into the room and told Steve to close the window, which he did.  Good rule of thumb:  Always do what the man with the gun says.

A couple of families went into the judge’s chamber (which looked like an office) ahead of us, and each came out thumbs up, except one family who was trying to adopt two special needs children; the judge looked askance at their large family and withheld her decision for them.  Then, it was our turn.  The judge was a relatively young, soft-spoken woman.  She asked us about Hannah, and she asked what we had done to prepare for an Ethiopian child; she seemed impressed that we had taken Amharic lessons (thank you, Destaye!) and that I was learning to cook Ethiopian food.  She asked if we had seen Deme, and if we realized that adoption was irrevocable, and we said yes.  Then she quietly said, “She is yours,” and handed us our passports. 

That’s not a moment you forget; when a child becomes yours.  We left with tears in our eyes, and wept and hugged the other families in the waiting room.  So it finally happened.  She really is ours.  Alleluia.

All the families passed except for the one; it was beautiful to see families created before our eyes, and we had high hopes for the family that was held up.

We went back to see Deme, and Steve got to feed her her lunch.  She sat next to him, saying nothing, and ate every bite.  He got to hold her, too, which was good, since he will be the one bringing her home.  I was feeling pretty bad, so we went back to the hotel.

Saturday, when we came into the toddler room, Deme saw us, and walked out after her nanny.  Same stuff as before:  a little playing with a toy, but no initiating contact from her, and always interested in heading back to the nanny.  We went outside to the courtyard, and I did pick her up and hold her, along with a teddy bear she liked, and Steve gave her his video camera (in its case).  I was able to hold her for quite a while like this, and I kissed her forehead a few times.  She seems healthy, a bit smaller than Hannah, and she was clean, although her skin and hair were very dry, and her hair was much more tightly curled than I had thought (Help).  When I decided to give the camera back to Steve, she cried and cried, angrily.  Eventually, I gave up, put her down, and she ran to the nanny, who tried to get her to go back to me, but I said “Ishi,” (okay) and let it go.  When we left, it was feeding time, so we let her go.  Our last glimpse of her was of her sucking her thumb, in her high chair.

I didn’t feel terrible about leaving her; I was afraid I would, but mostly I wanted to get her home, so we can really start working on attachment.  This introduction wasn’t really attachment.  She still doesn’t know who we really are.  Once we are “the only show in town,” as Steve said, she should warm up to us.  It’s probably better that she doesn’t run up to everyone; she has shown us that she CAN attach, because she loves her nannies (especially a couple of them), so we have hopes that she will open up to us.  Still, I couldn’t help passing the infant rooms and thinking, if only things had gone like we thought they would; she would have been home for months and months now.  Now we have a shy toddler who doesn’t speak or understand English.  I think she will be quite a challenge.  Hannah will help.  Our little extrovert will love having a sister, and showing Maggie the ropes, and I think it will be good for Maggie to have another child around.

Steve hopes to go back in mid-November to get our little one.  Then the real work begins.  Prayers are welcome.  Then, she really will be ours for keeps.

Mommy feeding Deme

Deme with Mom and Dad in Addis

Beautiful Maggie/Deme

A good moment in the courtyard.