Friday, June 10, 2011

A Family Forever!

It's Saturday early morning and I'm up...thinking about everything that's been happening.  Again, I'll write fast with no time for edits, I suspect...bear with me, please!

Yesterday was our ‘gotcha day’ - the day we took custody of our Ethiopian-born children.  In the space of one day, we went from a family of three to a family of five.  It’s hard to comprehend, really.
As I write this, it’s 5:00am, and the other four members of my family are still asleep.  We pushed together our queen-size bed and the two twin beds that the guesthouse put into our room, and we all slept on a gigantic bed.  It didn’t take long for any of the kids to fall asleep last night.
At approximately 11:30am yesterday morning, Geoff, Matthew, my Dad, and I arrived at the transition house.  After playing with the kids for about thirty minutes, the caregivers brought the kids (including Matthew) a plate of lunch to eat - a square of something that looked like spaghetti in sauce.  Hanna, who oversees the transition house, said that it was a meat and tomato sauce with eggs in it.  Lizzie Senait dove into her plate of food, using a fork; she polished off her plate in about 10-12 minutes.  Seth Asrat picked at it, and wanted to keep playing.  He had no objection whatsoever to me feeding him bites as he played, but he only ate about half of his lunch.  We played a little longer, while I also asked Hanna a few remaining questions, and then suddenly it was time.
We saw all of their caregivers (about ten) gathering outside of the little room where we’d been playing with the kids, and so we made our way outside.  They took the two kids into their arms by turn, kissing them and saying little things into their ears.  Then, holding the kids, they gathered together and posed for pictures with them.  A few cried.  Hanna, in particular, was very attached to Seth Asrat - she said that he was special for her and that he was very close to her.  That had been clear from the moment we’d first seen them together.  Hanna said that he has a beautiful personality and that he was very loving, and wanted always to be attached with a hug or being picked up...that whenever she would be near to him, he would call out to her “sister, sister” and run to her for a quick hug and cuddle.  When it was time to get into the van, caregivers waved and blew kisses and wished us God’s blessing.  Hanna lingered long with Seth before putting helping him into the van.  She then climbed into the van up front, to hitch a ride to the Kids Link office.  When, a few minutes later, she left us, she turned to speak to Seth Asrat and both had tears in their eyes when she finished.  He nodded to her, fully understanding what was happening.  After he could no longer see her, he leaned back into Geoff’s chest and his eyes were full of tears.  Poor little lamb.
During our twenty minute ride back to the guest house, the kids sat on our laps, sober and watchful.  It was easy to see that everything around them was brand new - they stared, wide-eyed, at everything - it seemed like they missed nothing.
Upon arrival, we climbed out of the van into the courtyard, and the kids hung on to us with something close to death grips.  One of the staff here asked them if they were frightened, and they both answered yes.  They were such brave little soldiers - I can only imagine what was going through their minds.  I am glad to say, though, that the Transition House staff seemed to have prepared them for this moment.  They fully understood when they left the Transition House that this was a final good-bye and that they were to go with us.  Hanna, in particular, seems to have done a very good job in handing them over to us psychologically, because Seth Asrat seemed to understand that he could trust least so far.  
We all went up to our room, and just sat down for a while and let the kids look around.  Seth Asrat was very concerned that all of his possessions (all of which were gifts from us, mostly from after we passed court) stay together.  We all played with their toys on the beds for a while, and whenever he moved from one bed to another, he carefully and precisely packed up all of his things, then made sure that Lizzie Senait had all of her things, and then he would move to the other place he wanted to play at.  This pattern continued all afternoon - he needed his things together.  I imagine this will continue for a while, until he understands that no one is going to take them away.  He was seriously neat all afternoon, too.  After taking out a marker to use, he would carefully put it away; when copying my printing of letters, he watched me like a hawk before writing down his little replica; when Lizzie Senait hurled some garbage across the bed (she clearly does not have the same concerns about tidyness!), he picked up every piece and marched out of the room and into the hall where the garbage was - every bit went in!
We ordered some pizza up to the room (from Ice Blue - yum) for those of us who hadn’t yet eaten lunch and we offered it to the kids, and Lizzie Senait accepted.  She basically snacked on it all afternoon, and loved it!  She loves to have things in her hand at all times, it seems - she is rarely without something to hold, so far...and she was like this when we saw her in February at the orphanage, too. 
Mid afternoon, we took all three kids down into the courtyard to kick a soccer ball around a little.  It took Seth Asrat a while to want to be put down - he would rather I hold him.  When eventually he wanted to go and try to kick the ball, he did so and then immediately came back to me and wanted me to hold both of his hands while he leaned against me.  An online friend, whom we’ve met here at the Weygoss, came outside to greet us and give me a hug, and comment on how beautiful the children are (and they are!).  After we’d chatted for a few moments, she picked up my camera and snapped some pictures of us all (thank you Shirley!).  Well, Seth Asrat did not like that a lot.  If daggers could be shot with looks, she would have been done for.  He clearly knew whose camera that was, and was highly suspicious of her for presuming to touch it.  It was rather sweet to watch.  Even after she sat down on the steps for a while (minus camera!) he continued to keep an eye on her.  It was so lovely to show the kids off to her, though!!
At one point, while in the courtyard, Seth Asrat beckoned to me and started walking up the stairs into the guesthouse; he started going up the stairs.  I ran back for the key and then followed him upstairs.  That little munchkin, though he’d only gone that route once (when we first arrived from the transition house), went perfectly up four flights of stairs, ignored the wrong ways he could have gone to find our room, and walked exactly and without hesitation right to our room door, then stepped aside so that I could unlock it.  I was floored.  He went into the room, rummaged through his bag for a moment, pulled out his little tape recorder (something I’d left the kids after court, and which we’d recorded onto) and marched back out the door and down into the courtyard.  He needed it with him, and continued to play it.  He had also figured out how to record (it has 99 tracks), and so he would record the sounds of the playing/talking/laughing, and then play it back - he was very pleased with himself and offered little smiles.
I should backtrack for a moment.  We had been getting lots of smiles at the transition house already and, after the initial 20-30 minutes with the kids at the guesthouse, we were getting them again...slowly at first, but then more regularly.  They are both beautiful children with seemingly a good sense of humour already.  And both seem very bright.  I had worried so much about how their severe malnutrition would affect their brains, but I can say with certainty that my fears have been greatly reduced.  They are quick to learn, very quick to observe, and great at imitating.  They are as sharp as little tacks, those two!
At one point in the afternoon, the light in the room was a little dim, so I turned on a light switch (these light switches are placed at a higher height than in Canada, so not very kid friendly). Seth Asrat immediately looked at the light that had gone on, then surveyed the rest of the room for light switches.  He looked to me for permission, then tried to reach up to the switch.  Well, not only are these light switches placed higher than those in Canada, but he is a very tiny five-year-old.  Well, he couldn’t reach - he couldn’t even come close.  So he backed up, staring at the light switch, and then suddenly ran towards the wall and leaped upwards towards the switch.  He slapped his hand against it and, lo and behold, it turned on!  Well, he was thrilled and we all laughed.  Later, when he tried again and it didn’t work, he looked around the room for a second, and then went and grabbed Matthew’s little suitcase-on-wheels; he pulled out the handle, picked up the whole suitcase, and used the handle of it to gently whack against the light switch.  Well the little guy did it worked.
I’ve been talking mostly about Seth Asrat, I think.  But Lizzie Senait is certainly not to be forgotten...or ignored.  What a little character she is!  First of all, she looked adorable when we came to the Transition House yesterday - her hair was all done in tiny ponytails, and she was beautiful.  She has a fiery little personality, it seems, and is fiercely independent.  When I made this observation to Hanna, she smiled and said that yes, it is important for Senait to do things all by herself.  Heaven forbid someone try to help her with something - that helpful person is bound to get ‘the look’ - a lowered head, a huge frown, a steely look, a lower lip stuck out all the way, and likely a short screech to go along with it.  It’s hilarious...for now.
Both kids have also mastered certain Ethiopian mannerisms, too.  If they are asked something and they agree to do it, they imperiously lift their chin for a moment...a sharp little head lift.  The alternative ‘yes’ is a mere lift of the eyebrows, such as when I offered Lizzie Senait a bit of pizza.  If, however, the answer is ‘no’ they raise one shoulder up a bit, so if they don’t need to go “shintabait” (to the bathroom), we get a quick and slight shoulder raise.  If their answer is more akin to “hell no,” the shoulder gets raised up to the chin or cheek and is accompanied by a dirty look.  The extreme ‘no’ seems to be a version of this, combined with a turning of their back to you.  It took almost no time to figure out these signals, simply because they make it pretty clear.
There have been a few very clear ‘winners’ in terms of gifts we brought for them.  The tape recorders were clearly a huge hit; they love those things and carry them around with them (even though there’s something wrong with Seth Asrat’s, he doesn’t like to be parted from it).  The colourful Sigg water bottles I brought for them are also clearly winners; after figuring out how to open and close the bottles (which took over an hour with Lizzie Senait’s, simply because she wouldn’t let anyone help her), they drank...and drank...and drank.  I kept asking Lizzie if she needed to shint/pee, and she kept giving me the shoulder ‘no.’  But of course, a child that size can’t drink that much water without it coming out we had a few accidents over the course of an hour, and she went through most of the clothes I’d brought for her!
Anyway, it’s 5:45 am and the kids have just woken up...with dry diapers!  I must run and get the day started.  I’ll continue with yesterday another time, but you’ve got some of the highlights!!
Blessings, all!!!

P.S.  I know I didn't so much as mention Matthew's name, but he's doing great.  He's LOVED playing with the kids, has been wrapped around Lizzie Senait's little finger already, and is fantastic, as always!!!!  more later.


  1. So great to hear from you, Ruth. I'm so happy you're finally together! I love the posts - keep them coming!

  2. So wonderful to hear Ruth, I can't wait to see pictures!

  3. Amazing Ruth, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us and best wishes for a safe journey home to Canada. Your children sound incredible (all three of them!! how fantastic that you have THREE children!)

  4. Happy to hear things are going so well Ruth! I love reading your posts.

  5. So happy for you all, Ruth!!!!! Looking forward to seeing a family picture!!!!!


  6. Hi Ruth! Reading your posts is the best reading I do all day! It is riveting to hear of each step in your discovery of your two new children. Thank you, as always, for sharing. Katie

  7. Oh, it's wonderful to read this, Ruth! So glad you are all together and I can't wait to read more! It's also eerily familiar - what labour stories must be like for pregnant women!

    If you can, please say hi to Shirley for me.

    Michelle Q

  8. Loved reading this! So lovely :)

  9. Ruth, so happy to read this and to think of all five of you finally together!!

  10. Dear Ruth,
    It has been amazing following your journey to adopt your beautiful children. I am so happy for your family.
    All the best as you continue to get to know one another.
    Blessings to you and your family,

  11. Great posts Ruth!--I love hearing all your thoughts and feelings-it makes me feel like I'm walking right beside you!

  12. Thinking of you...great to read your experiences!!

  13. Lovely! Congrats to all... can't wait to see a whole-family photo.

  14. it's an amazing thing to be at the same time speechless and yet needing to express with words! my happiness for all of you is overflowing! so glad to be a part of the past and the life to come...


    ps... we most definitely need to figure out how to replicate that coffee here!

  15. I'm so happy for you! Your family is together finally! I'm loving the blog, I feel like I'm sitting across from you listening to your story...can't wait to hear more...

    Love Terri

  16. The Weygoss must be a happy and exciting place with the new families :)
    Sister Hana loves the children so much and they love her. A few nights ago Mek was crying calling her name. He misses her and loves her.
    Enjoy this time in Ethiopia as a family.
    Thinking of you all, alicia

  17. We are very happy for you all! Congratulations. To a new beginning.

    Angela and family

  18. Hooray for being HOME! Your own food, your own bed... and two new kiddos. Hope you're settling in okay, I know these first few weeks can be really rough (but not always, obviously - hopefully not for you!)

    Thinking of you!