Tuesday, December 31, 2013

And a Happy New Year! 2014

I love this photo of tiny Lily looking up at my mom... I bet she can see over that partition now...

Days like these, I'm so happy that I have a blog.... because as hard as I tried, I COULD NOT remember what life was like a year ago.  It may as well be 10 years ago. January, 2013 is a long way away in another country (well, apartment)... So, I went back and read what I wrote a year ago. I believe that one of my resolutions was to have more peace and harmony in our home. Ha! That poor woman had no idea what was coming did she? A year ago we had no thought of buying a home or moving. We certainly were not entertaining any ideas of renovating an old house in a neighborhood we'd never heard of! We were mostly concerned with Lily's night terrors and potty training. We still had baby gear.... we still had a stroller! And yesterday I was buying Lily some new clothes... in size 5T! (Daniel is wearing size Medium/10 because apparently he's starting his teen years a bit early. Just judging from the grumpiness.)
fro-luscious Lily

selfie taking post Spring haircut

Ohmygosh, it has been quite a year. The kids have certainly grown up a bunch.  There has been a whole lot LESS peace and harmony... There is a crew pounding and sawing and sanding and painting every day here. We've passed the two months without a kitchen mark. My sanity and patience, and health consciousness were abandoned by the side of the house weeks ago.  We now eat nachos for dinner twice a week. And Chinese food or pizza the other nights.
happily saying goodbye to our old apartment, and its kitchen blackboard...

The good news is, it can really only get better. So, all in all I'm looking forward to 2014.  Because sometime this year, I will have a kitchen again. And sometime this year, the kids will have a playroom. And we can do laundry at home again. And, we'll have a backyard too! Oh, what treasures await us in the coming months.
hello New House!

And I'm pretty sure we aren't moving again.

Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Kitchen tour...

Gloriously new, clean, sparkling white cabinets! 

Can. Not. Wait. To fill them up!

The best Christmas present I ever got was Daniel and Lily. We first saw their little faces on December 14, 2010. 

But having a kitchen to make them pancakes in is a close 2nd. :)

Friday, December 20, 2013

"What the heck happened to my birthday!?"

... is what I think Jesus might say if he were to visit your typical American city or town right now. A town full of blazing lights, lines, exhausted-package-laden-stressed-out folks staying up way too late to hide toy elves. (Why?!)

What the heck happened to his birthday?

I think we can all admit, whether we loathe or love this season that Christmas has gotten out of control.  I've read many smart mommies blog about the exhaustion, and the disconnect, and never ending to-do list of Christmas. Good reads: here, here, and here.

Christmas has become work. Which I'm pretty sure Jesus would not have wanted.

Christmas has become expensive. Which I'm really sure Jesus would not have wanted.

Christmas has become a time of bickering, name calling, sanctimony, hatefulness, ignorance: "WAR ON CHRISTMAS!"  Not really what the Prince of Peace talked about.

What happened!? What are doing all this FOR?  I asked myself this question the other night, as I stayed up late organizing and wrapping presents, checking and doubling checking my lists.  Christmas this year has been very different than our past celebrations. Without a kitchen, I cannot bake.  I used to bake dozens of cookies and package them in beautiful boxes with little recipe cards included for my friends and co-workers. I always made these amazing chocolate gingerbread cookies.  I'd also challenge myself to try new recipes.  I'd comb Martha Stewart Living for inspiration.

This year: no baking. No packaging, no recipe cards. We don't have room in our over-stuffed living space for a tree, and most of our decorations are still in storage.  Without my usual Christmas cheery baking, Christmas became just work.  Find some decorations and struggle to keep them up amidst construction dust and chaos.  Find some corner to hide the presents I bought online, late at night. Address Christmas cards during breaks at work.  One night I realized, I'm doing all this work to make Christmas happen, and my children are not participating at all.  Christmas will happen, but instead of celebration we make together, it is becoming a show I put on for them.

And I'm not sure they bought tickets to this particular show. Because most of what they are seeing is a stressed out mom with too many to-do lists and not enough time or patience.  It's definitely not been the most wonderful time of the year.  They don't even like Christmas music! They are learning that Christmas = Work. Which is not what I want them to learn.  (Nor do I really want to be working so hard.)

What can we do? How can we create a celebration that connects us? Connects us to the story of Jesus, or to the changing of the seasons, or to our loved ones? How can we create a season of wonder and delight that brings us closer to each other, instead of driving us crazily apart? I'm not sure. I'm working on it. We already don't do Santa. (Gasp! Read about it from last year here.) So we avoid the whole Elf thing and the letters to Santa and breakfast with Santa and photo with Santa things.

One thing I hope I learned this year is to pace myself.  I'm happy I did my Christmas shopping early and mostly online, because: Malls? December? NO.  We are also lucky in that our gift list is pretty simple.  I wish I didn't feel in a rush to get decorations and a tree and make the house festive. We really don't need to celebrate Christmas all-month-long.  We could save up some decorating and merriment for the actual holiday. I think next year I may bake cookies again, because I love to bake. But I may just make a couple of special favorites, and I'll be sure to include my kids and make a gigantic mess in the kitchen with them. And I will definitely have them participating more in the gift giving and gift preparation.  And maybe we'll give the Christmas music a rest.

oh, the adorable ghosts of Christmas past...

How do you make Christmas connected instead of frenetic?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Showing or Telling?

"Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words." - St. Francis

This quote was in a recent profile of Pope Francis I read, and it has stuck with me for days now.

Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.  Or: Live it, don't just say it. Show, don't tell.

Am I doing that, as a parent? I sure have been using lots of words lately. Loud ones, angry ones, frustrated, exasperated, had-it-up-to-here- ones.  I've also been trying out teaching words, and "lets all gather around the advent candles" words, and the 'true meaning of Christmas' words.

And I think what my children are hearing is Blah, Blah, Blah.

My son used to ask me why I didn't give to people who ask for money on the street. I didn't have the right words to explain to him then.

This Christmas season we sponsored a family in need. I bought a stranger and her children presents and wrapped them and sent them off.

My son asked me why we would do that. As in, how come you are buying presents for other people's kids!? (and not more for me, is left unsaid but implied.) Words failed me again, because I was so shocked that my normally generous son was talking so selfishly.

Then I remembered his pre-Christmas and pre-birthday stress. How he is convinced that we will not get him the presents that he wanted. That we will fail him. He does not trust us. He does not trust the world. Any why should he? The world failed him once before.

How many more years until he learns to trust again? Maybe only God knows...

It has been a hard Fall. I almost missed the signs of our pre-Christmas stress because of the months of buying-selling-packing-moving-unpacking-renovating stress.

My children have seen me lose my temper, pour too many glasses of wine, throw things in frustration (packing tape!) answer shortly, sigh loudly, cut corners (microwaved nachos for dinner again guys!) and in general, preach a gospel of be-quiet- this-is-all-too-hard-why-don't-you-just-hurry-up-and-go-to-bed-already!

Which is not really what I set out to do as a mother.

Christmas is coming, and the kids will open up a pile of presents and the house will get messier than ever. But then the New Year will arrive to. And with it, some space. Some time. Some blank pages on the calendar and an end to the renovations and the moving.  I will no longer need to spend 3 afternoons a week shopping at Home Depot or picking out tiles. (oh, thank Heaven!)

These days, it seems, that even more than a kitchen back I want myself back.  I want to preach the Gospel of "I love you kiddos".

And if necessary, I'll use words.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

We need a little Christmas...

right this very minute!

This weekend I decided we really, really needed a little Christmas. The children were revolting at my musical selections. (They are not fans of Holiday Hits.)  Advent candle lighting was marred by a lack of matches and also a time out for (yelling? hitting? pushing? I can't remember. Something un-sacred)  I was starting to wish it would just be January already.  Our Christmas boxes are, of course, hidden away behind our construction site/basement. And probably covered with dust and (ohmygod please not!) maybe crushed beneath a pile of debris.


I sat down and cut out a pile of snowflakes. It actually started snowing outside while I worked. Big, fat slow flakes falling out the window.  Just exactly like a Christmas card.

I hung up all the paper flakes in our newly installed, but not quite finished and framed windows (ohmygoodness it is DRAFTY in this house right now!)  A single garland of white lights and viola! Christmas!

It may be drafty. It may be dusty. It may be that we are STILL eating off of paper plates* and eating lots of take out. But, we are trying for hope and peace and light.

Come, Christmas, come.

* Every time I complain about our current renovations I think almost immediately of how lucky and blessed we are to have a safe home and food to eat and money to throw away spend on making our house the way we want it.  It's a vicious little mental hamster wheel I'm running on: "Ugh! renovation is so stressful! Shut up you are luckier than most people silly woman! Ugh! WHEN?! is my new kitchen going to be done! shut up... " and on and on.  Really I need to step off the wheel because it is. going. nowhere.

Come, Christmas. Come.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Madiba. Uncle, Beloved one.

During my Junior year of college I studied abroad in Durban, South Africa. It was 1997. South Africa had been a free country for just three years. The infamous yellow trucks that had mowed people down during the apartheid resistance were decommissioned, but they sat in municipal lots on the outskirts of town. Seeing those big yellow trucks rusting in a yard of weeds is one of my first memories of my four months in the Beloved Country.

South Africa in the 90's was an intense and heady place to be. Here was history, here was revolution. Hope, survival, violence- everything at once a thousand fold.  It was like being at the signing of the Constitution and the Emancipation Proclamation at once. As a 20 year old student I drank it in like water. I loved every minute of my time there, and my time there changed me and influenced the course of my life for the better. 

One day near Easter our group of students was invited to a funeral. A funeral to bury the remains of some missing apartheid resistance fighters whose bodies had recently been found. It is important to know that during Apartheid gatherings of Black South Africans were banned. Funerals were one of the rare exceptions.  So, during the 70's and 80's funerals became political protests. Someone would be killed during a protest, and his or her funeral would become a political protest... Which led to more arrests and violence and deaths and funerals... 

So here we are, a bunch of young Americans at a political funeral. In a soccer stadium. We arrived early. Hundreds of people came, then more hundreds. Thousands of people filled this stadium, stands and field. One thing I had learned from riding the buses in South Africa: there is always more room. I thought the stadium was full; yet still more people came. Surging, squeezing, singing... We stood pressed against each other in the center of the field under the full African sun.

Another thing I had learned about African culture: you do not stand in the presence of someone greater than you. 

The crowd in the stadium sang and grew and waited in the sun.

And Nelson Mandela arrived. 

And the crowd sat.

We sat, because we must sit for him, even if we are pressed together and there is not a inch of room between us.

Which is how I ended up sitting in the center of a soccer stadium under the African sun with an older Zulu woman sitting in my lap. A beautiful, kind woman with whom I spent the afternoon singing and dancing and crying. 
And I had never been happier. Madiba (as he is known in South Africa, by his family honorific), took his place on the stage along with dozens of notable people whose names 15+ years of time have erased from my mind. There were speeches; there was cheering and singing.  There was dancing. Mandela was a terrible dancer! He stood on the stage and danced with his arms akimbo and stiff... The Zulu ladies we sat with laughed and cried with joy. The love that radiated from his people to him... It is indescribable. I was a young white American student in a soccer stadium filled with thousands of Black South Africans and I don't remember a moment of fear. Only love: blinding, pure, exuberant Love.

Later a few hundred of us went to the burial.  The President, Madiba, stood just feet from me, surrounded by armed guards. One of my fellow students took a photo of him, which I kept framed in my room for many years.

My time in South Africa cemented a life-long love of Africa. Which was one of the reasons that we decided to adopt from Ethiopia. Which is how I came to be Daniel and Lily's mommy. An honor that I feel many days I have yet to live up to.

Thank you, Madiba, for your beautiful life. Thank you for inspiring so much love. Thank you for fostering so much hope in Africa. 16 years ago I stood a few feet from you for a few minutes.  I waited in the sun; I sang and danced with strangers and was blessed to be in the presence of greatness.  Somewhere those beautiful kind Zulu ladies are mourning. They are wailing and singing praises to you. Maybe they are also remembering their afternoon in the sun. Perhaps their lives were also changed. You inspired so many. Thank you.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Change is slow and in spurts around our house...

Tile was picked out, then picked out again, then picked out again by our contractor, who after all knows a lot more about tile than I do and probably should have done it in the first place!

I've realized that renovating a house is like having a second job.

We still believe that our home improvements will be finished by Christmas. I've not had a kitchen since October 28.  I have very elaborate fantasies of baking and stocking the pantry and wiping down new, perfect, shiny granite countertops. I dream about making a pot of coffee. 


All the while we are still doing school and ballet lessons and basketball practice and homework and church and Christmas shopping.

Our days are very full, mostly of wonderful things. But I long for the simplicity of making a cup of coffee, washing the mug, and putting it away in a clean cabinet.

Remind me to read this in a year, when I've forgotten.

Here are scenes from our home right now, under construction.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A weekend away

We took a little "escape the dusty no kitchen house" vacation this weekend.

I mean, if I have to eat out every meal anyway, I may as well also sleep in a hotel bed. 

So here we are in non scenic New Jersey, enjoying some family time.

The kids explored the Liberty Science Center, which has great stuff for both little and big kids.

We ate our faces off at Harold's Dinner, and Agave Mexican, and a local Portugese place, and a Dunkin Donuts, because why not? We are on vacation. 

Weeks and weeks of eating my stress and it's really starting to show. A third chin may appear to keep the other two company. I think what I'm going to be cooking when I finally have a kitchen again is Kale.

Lots and lots of kale.

The kids loved the hotel pool, and quickly made friends with the other kids whose moms are cooler and remembered to bring floaties and pool toys.

We made a stop at the Newark Museum, a beautiful little oasis. Oh look, is that Grandma in that photo on the wall? Grandma used to work!? She didn't always spend her days looking for Barbie shoes and making chocolate pudding?!

Today we go back to reality. With maybe a few less donuts. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013


It is raining today, for the first time in weeks, which means that my poor suffering plants are finally getting a good soaking. And, no work was done on the house today. So I got to sit in my quiet, gray house and drink a cup of coffee in solitude.

And maybe it was the solitude, or the massage I had this afternoon (a belated use of a birthday gift, thank you Andrew !)...

Or maybe it is the way the light was slanting into the living room just right. So beautifully that I forgot to worry, for a minute, about how messy and crowded our living space is right now. 

But I thought, just now, that Life is good. And this house is good.

Maybe beautiful even.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Haunted House!


I hope you had a delightfully spooky sweet Halloween!

While we were out doing this:

Workmen were in our house doing this:

Look! A closet! A bathroom!

It's amazing to see rooms of your house being created from the inside out. 

It's also amazing that our house never burned down or exploded given all the wacky wiring and plumbing that's been discovered. (And, thankfully, corrected.)

I realized too late that our semi constructed house would have been the perfect spot for a Halloween Party. I mean, look how spooky the bare kitchen walks like under my phone's "noir" setting:


Actually, I think the bare walls are kind of beautiful in their own way:


Have a beautiful weekend!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Construction Surprises!

It might be fitting that construction on our little old house started this week, the Spookiest Week of the Year. Because there were some nasty surprises waiting in our basement today...

A crew of five men demolished the illegal apartment that had somehow been smooshed into our basement.

Ta da! No walls! That door in the back leads to our storage room, where we have stashed a bunch of junk I wonder why we moved here in the first place. 

The plumber is coming tomorrow to work out some of our pipe issues. Surprise! We have leaks!

Leaks all over the place! Are those wires? Snakes? 

This beautiful handcrafted staircase leads up to the kitchen... And what's that, in the dark under the stair?...

Why it's a sink! With an outdoor drain emptying into it! How clever! 


The ceiling does look like it is going to hold up though. I'm incredibly grateful and relieved that we've started work on our house. I'm actually growing kind of fond of it...

Tomorrow the kitchen gets demolished. Hooray! I will not miss that tiny sink or lopsided stove one bit.

What surprises are in store for us next?!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Surgery Success!

Our Lily was a brave champ this morning ! She had her adenoids melted down, and tubes placed in her ears. Apparently the fluid in her ears had started to solidify so it took a bit of effort to clean out. But other than that, there were no side effects.

She's home now, enjoying Grandma's company and a box of new (to her!) Barbie dolls from my sister and my childhood. (Oh, the 80's sequin outfits!) 

Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes!

Friday, October 18, 2013

My Kids' Bedtime is Ruining My Life

I tried to come up with a less dramatic title, but I'm feeling a bit dramatic these days. There's a lot going on around here. If I could only have a bit more quiet and time to sort it all out... Unfortunately my kids, BOTH of them, have also recently become Bedtime Resistant.

About 18 months ago (in our old house, sigh), we had a few months of beautiful bedtimes. About 7PM I gave Lily a cup of warm milk, rocked her for a while, sang some songs, then placed in her crib. (Crib! Sob.) She would lie back with her doll and wave her little chubby fingers at me. About 20 minutes later, Daniel and I would tiptoe in their room and I would tuck him in. Lily was usually asleep by then, her little diapered butt in the air. He was usually asleep in minutes. 8:00PM: both kids sound asleep.

Those were the days.

Lily has quite a history of sleep struggles. Some of them are her age, some attachment/ adoption trauma related. Some are due to her enlarged adenoids. (The surgery to shrink them is next week.) She stills spends most of the night in our bed. She has yet to sleep through the night.

Daniel has always been our sleep champion. Sigh. But lately...

You know that e-book that made the rounds of the internet last year... " Go the $&@? to Sleep"?

That's our nights now.

Including the cursing.


Andrew and I taking turns (torturing ourselves) doing bedtime. Which means one of us is upstairs responding to requests for water and complaints about which bedtime book is being read while the other one gets to relax. Or: blog, pay bills, read, make phone calls, answer emails and in general, be an adult. But we don't get to be together. By the time both kids are asleep, we are ready to collapse too. Lily has been averaging falling asleep at 9:45 PM. She takes a (required, mandated, non-negotiable) 2 hour nap at day care. She's really not tired until I am. Daniel, I think, doesn't like that his baby sister stays up later then him. So he's sporting some pretty dark circles under his eyes these days.

So what's a mom to do...

At least it's the weekend. No naps! Bedtime kiddos!

Hope your weekend involves some good rest too...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Up the stairs, down the stairs.

this woman has lost her mind

I haven't lived in a house for many, many years. I grew up in a house, a brownstone, with lots of stairs. Andrew grew up in a house too. But as young things in NYC, we lived in apartments.

First: Little, tiny apartments: my first apartment after college was a 4th floor walk up studio with a crack-addict neighbor and a mouse problem. But it had brick walls and a view of the city skyline. I loved it. Ah, liberty and independence!

Then: Spacious pre-war apartment in a far flung neighborhood. Oh, the space. Oh, the closets. Oh the elevator that sometimes broke down and the smelly damn basement laundry room. Oh, the crazy Russian neighbors and the Sabbath siren and the "what could this be?" labeled-in-Hebrew groceries.  I loved it. Andrew and I opened our wedding presents in that apartment.

Lastly: Brand spanking new condos with roof gardens. (This one hurts a little. I really did love that apartment.) Andrew and I brought our children home to that apartment. We recorded their crazy rapid post-adoption growth spurts on the kitchen wall.  We out grew that apartment a little bit too fast for my heart.

And now we live in a house. A house with lots of stairs. When I'm downstairs I remember I need something upstairs, and then I reconsider just how much I need it. When I'm upstairs I realize the dishes really don't need to be done and I'll just send that email from my phone, oh this bed is so lovely and soft.  When I'm downstairs I hear the kids thumping around and I cross my fingers they are happy thumps and not breaking-things thumps. When I'm upstairs and hear screaming from downstairs I do the same thing.

There is a constant little pile of things at the top and the bottom of the stairs. These dirty socks need to go upstairs. These Barbies need to go downstairs. It got so I needed little baskets on the steps. Baskets that everyone else trips over and that only I think to carry up/down the stairs.

Installing a dumb waiter or a pulley system has crossed my mind. Intercoms are not out of the question. Sometimes I text Andrew from upstairs to remind him of something. Sometimes just to say hi.

This may be the silliest First World problem ever. But it is bothering me: how to live happily on two floors. And soon to be three floors...

Soon we'll have a finished basement- another staircase and another place to wonder, What kind of screaming/thumping is that?

I'm going to need another set of cute little baskets.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Meskel Celebration 2013... UU Adoptee Style!

Happy Meskel 2013!

Meskel is an Ethiopian holiday that celebrates the finding of the "True Cross" by Saint Helen thousands of years ago. We've kind of adopted it (ha ha) as our Ethiopian Fall holiday since I always miss Ethiopian New Year (which is on 9/11) in the hectic back-to-school craziness. And also because on September 11 we New Yorkers don't usually feel too celebratory. 

In Ethiopia Meskel is celebrated by lighting bonfires. As the story goes, Saint Helen had a dream in which she learned that the cross upon which Jesus was crucified would be revealed to her in smoke. The next morning she lit a huge bonfire, and sure enough, the smoke trail led her to the spot where the cross was buried.  There is a lovely story about this year's celebration in Addis Ababa, with a bit of Ethiopian history included HERE.

Last year for Meskel we had a little fire on our roof. This year I looked up the date just in time, and we had a lovely time celebrating in a little backyard.

We light a fire in our barbecue. The kids had fun hunting up sticks to add to the coals. We roasted marshmallows and made s'mores. The adults had some wine, the kids ate up lots of sugar.  We watched the fire burn and the sun set. I told them a "Unitarian Universalized-ed*" version of the story of Meskel. (see below) 

Like all holidays (is it just my family?) this one ended with tears and drama. There may have been some storming off and some yelling. But I don't have photos of that part. So I'll just hold on to this:

pile on Daddy! don't drop the wine!

waiting for the fire to catch

* Our family are Unitarians. Huh? Go here

The Story of Meskel (adapted)

Many many years ago, a wise and powerful woman named Helen was searching for something very important to her, something that she believed would bring health, unity and inspiration to her people.  She was looking for the wooden cross upon which Jesus, the great teacher and rabbi, had died. One night she dreamt that if she lit a big fire the smoke would show her where the cross was. So the next day, she had her servants light a bonfire. And sure enough, the smoke made a trail that led her to where the cross was buried.  Her people rejoiced and shared pieces of the cross far and wide.  Those ancient pieces of wood still inspire and bring hope to people all over the world.

Every year in Ethiopia people light bonfires to celebrate Meskel (which means Cross).  Families gather around the fires, coming together in hope and celebration.  Perhaps if we look into the smoke, we will find something we are searching for.  Perhaps we will find something to inspire us...

Friday, October 4, 2013

We are going back to Ethiopia!

Addis Ababa here we come, April, 2014!

Gratuitous Baby Lily in Ethiopia photo. 

This time, however, we will not have any extra return tickets. ;) 

Almost as soon as we adopted Daniel and Lily two years ago we decided that we would be visiting their home country of Ethiopia as often as we could.  I know that is a decision that not all adoptive families are willing or able to make, and that for non- adoptive families it may seem baffling. Why?! would we want to visit Africa every couple of years? They are, after all, very expensive plane tickets. It is 24 exhausting hours of travel.  But, our family lives there.

Not their family.  Our family.

Adopting children is kind of like getting married. It is joining families together that were formerly strangers.  Our children's biological family members in Ethiopia are like our in-laws.  How could we not visit them as often as we can?

Some friends have expressed worry that the children will be confused or upset by the trip. That they will want to return to their birth family.

The truth is that our children always want to return to their birth family.  That is perfectly normal and right. They love their American family and their American life. They miss their Ethiopian family and (parts of) their Ethiopian life. The reasons that they cannot be with their first family(legal reasons, reasons of poverty) won't be changed by visiting Ethiopia.  In fact, those reasons may become even more apparent and real. Daniel remembers that his family has no shoes and wears the same clothes every day. But this time he will notice how thin and small his family is. He will notice how the roads are unpaved and the schools have no toys or books in them. 

Why would we want to subject him to that?!

Because living truthfully is the foundation of our family. Because he will never fully accept that it was not HIS fault that he was relinquished by his family and adopted until he understands the seriousness of their poverty and challenges.  I can tell him a million times that his family has fewer choices that most American families. He will never believe me. I can tell him a million times that his Ethiopian family believed that relinquishment was the best choice. He won't take that into his heart. But he will see for himself the limits that poverty places on Ethiopians each time we visit. He can talk with his first family about their choices. He can take that truth into his heart.  And so can Lily, who is only just beginning to ask the questions that Daniel has been thinking of for two years. 

We are visiting Ethiopia because our family lives there. God willing, we can begin and sustain regular contact with them for years to come. We are legally and morally restricted from giving them money. But, we can give them photos and small gifts and TIME.  Every moment we get to spend with our Ethiopian family is a huge gift. I cannot wait. I know it will be so hard. It will be hard to communicate (we are hiring a translator/driver). It will be hard to say hello after all the sad things that have happened. It will be hard to say goodbye, knowing that we may not see them again for a long while, or ever. But, but... imagine saying goodbye to a loved one, thinking you would never see them again, not knowing if they would be okay.

And then seeing them again, healthy and whole.

Thousands of dollars in tickets and hotel bills and 24 hours of travel. Worth it.

Addis Ababa, here we come!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How's the house?!

I trying not to groan and roll my eyes every time someone asks me how our new house is. I'm not trying all that hard, to be honest.  Sorry well meaning friends and family. It's been a rough few weeks and I'm not hiding that too well...


It is getting better. We are no longer sleeping on the floor.  The hideous carpets have been replaced by beautiful wood floors. There are no longer piles of boxes in every corner. Most of our belongings have been found and put away.  A bit haphazardly, but at least they are no longer in boxes.

So, more to cheer myself up than anything else, here are some "Before" and "After" photos from the last month (has it only been a MONTH!?)

The view of our living/dining rooms the day we moved in.

Is that a kitchen? It's hard to tell.

I wept every time I came downstairs to this sight. 

Ta Da! It IS a kitchen!

ahhhhhhhh..... So much better.
Next up: RENOVATIONS BEGIN. Our contractor is coming by tomorrow. He says we will be done with major jobs by Christmas. If so, that will be the 2nd best Christmas present I've gotten so far. (Our children were matched with us on December 14, 2010)  He says I will have NO kitchen for only 2 weeks. He says he thinks our costs won't balloon TOO much.  This is the list of things that he is going to be doing:

Demolishing the garage
Landscaping the backyard.
Installing a new backyard drain and concrete patio
Installing 24 new windows and 2 doors.
Installing new siding.
Installing a new roof.
Gutting the basement (which is currently a dank, dark illegal apartment)
Finishing the basement
Installing a new bathroom and laundry room in the basement
Repairing the stairs to the basement
Gutting and refinishing the kitchen
Re-tiling the smallest bathroom in the world under our staircase
Rewiring and updating our electrical system.
Replacing the boiler.

I'm going to go breathe into a paper bag for a few minutes while you laugh at the paragraph above.

Folks who have renovated while living in their home... Advice? :)