Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Great Friends

A few weeks ago some very close friends of our family moved away to Atlanta. They've just settled in enough to send us the picture of our last day together. Pray for the Parrys! From all reports they're adjusting well.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

One More

Rhonda tells me I forgot one thing on my list from earlier today about communication with Neti:
  • "Yes" might mean "yes" but can just about as often mean "no" or "I don't understand"
And unrelated...So we're sitting at the table tonight...

Out of the blue Neti says, "Neti and Meke, no boss. Bethany and Kailey, just a little bit boss. Mommy and Daddy, big boss!"

Yet Another New Chapter

You may have noticed I haven't posted in awhile. The past 10 days have been a super-busy time of getting our new life figured out. Things are changing around our home. It goes beyond the adoption but is very related.

If you've been a reader of this blog very long, you know how passionate our family has become about our faith driving us to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than us. My first post sums up our heart pretty well.

It has become evident that God is moving us on to something new. We don't know the specific details yet. We do know that our future has something to do with directly ministering to the forgotten members of society. Wherever that road leads, we're officially on it!

Effective August 31, I've resigned my position as youth pastor at Oregon Nazarene Church after 8 1/2 absolutely wonderful years. This was a heartwrenching decision. There's not an ounce of bad blood between us and anyone in the church. In fact, our tenure with the church has been amazing. The teens in the youth group right now are among the best we've ever had. The youth workers are second to none. And the people of the church have loved us very well.

Which is all what made this decision so difficult.

Oregon Nazarene will be "sending" us (not in a get-out-of-here way, but in a you-have-our-blessing way). They've been very supportive in our decision, largely because they've seen the difference our faith has made in two little girl's lives. They see the connection.

There's one good friend, though, who every time he sees me says, "Have I ever told you I'm not happy with what you're doing?" (then smiles).

The next year is about providing stability for our family and preparing for whatever this is we're doing!

Meanwhile, for the past month or so I've been searching for a way to support my family financially. Nothing seems to fit. (It seems there's a shortage of copier salespeople in Toledo if anyone's interested). On August 4 I decided to go back to my roots. I'm a third-generation carpenter. There's a shortage of handymen in Toledo. I'm starting my own business.

Since that decision we've had day-after-day confirmation that it was the right choice. Last Thursday alone I was able to purchase a new (to me) pickup for half the bluebook value. On the way home I stumbled across a tool sale in a guy's garage. He probably had over $100,000 worth of tools in his shop. Retired and wanting to make space in his shop, I bought $3000 worth of tools for $400.

Nearly every day someone calls and asks me to work for them. Some I know. Some I don't. We haven't even advertised yet. I don't even have business cards printed. The website just went live a few hours ago. Yet I've already got more than a half-dozen jobs lined up and several more to look at.

This Sunday the church has planned something special for us. It's my last Sunday as a member of the paid staff.

2007 has been an adventurous year!

Neti's Teacher

When Mrs. Rollins found out Neti was going to be in her class this year, she went to our blogsite and started reading. When Neti walked into the room during open house she was greeted by an excited teacher who knew her by name without introduction.

Mrs. Rollins has picked up on some of the nuances of communication with Neti from simply reading our blog. For example, she knows that "No" might not mean "No" for Neti. We're happy to have a teacher who is committed to making the transition happen smoothly.

Well, since you're reading, Mrs. Rollins, here are a few other things we've picked up on when communicating with Neti. We believe that several of these are cultural, so other families adopting from Ethiopia may want to take note too.
  • "Come Here" - In America we summon someone to "come here" with our palm up and pulling our arms (or hands) toward ourselves. Neti puts her arm out with palm DOWN and pulls her fingers toward herself.
  • Pointing - Both our girls point with their middle fingers. It's usually a pretty subtle gesture that goes largely unnoticed. This was not the case, however, when Meke stood up on my lap, squealed, and pointed to the ceiling fans on her first week in a church service.
  • Shrugging - Both girls have shrugged with one shoulder when we ask them a yes-no question. We originally interpreted this to mean "I don't care" or "I don't know". But 100% of the time so far we've discovered that it actually means "no". Not sure if it's a cultural thing or a toddler "I-don't-want-to-answer-you" thing.
  • Wave and Frown - Both Neti and Meke shake their heads "no". But about half the time they indicate "no" by a quick wave, sometimes in front of their face, sometimes not. Most of the time the wave is accompanied by a facial gesture that communicates "no" also.
  • "Yes" - Meke is especially good at this one but Neti does it on occasion too. Insead of the nonverbal nod of the head, they'll both raise their eyebrows and lift up their chin. It's kind of an American cool guy wave. Imagine a car driving by while a guy's mowing the lawn. Instead of taking a hand off the lawnmower he just makes eye contact and throws his head back.
  • "I have no idea what you just said" - You may not be connecting when Meke gives a big cheesy smile and then looks away. For Neti, you'll see every one of her teeth and she'll let out one of her infectious giggles that bends her over at the waist. Or maybe you've just said something funny she happens to understand.

In summary:

  • "No" can mean "wait a minute".
  • A wave can mean "hello", "goodbye", or "no".
  • A single shrugged shoulder might mean "no".
  • Getting flipped the bird can mean "look up there".
  • A big smile can mean "I like you" or "What in the world are you talking about?"
  • And laughing can mean "you're a really funny person" or "I don't have a clue what you're saying."

It's all context. See how much fun this is! Wouldn't trade it for the world!

First Day of School

Yesterday was the first day of school for three of our girls. Neti and Kailey are at the same school.

Bethany's now a 7th grader!
And Meke is learning to go without Neti during the day. Lots of tears this morning when Rhonda dropped Neti off but she's doing fine.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Anatomy of a Hairdo

STAGE 1 - Anticipation STAGE 2 - The Fade
STAGE 3 - Reinforcements
STAGE 4 - The Nod
STAGE 5 - In the zone! STAGE 6 - You can do this!
STAGE 7 - Done

STAGE 8 - Time for bed and completely wired!


Neti had her school pictures yesterday. I think Rhonda did a fine job.

Rote Memory

Every now and then we catch Neti and Meke chanting something where our ears would catch a random English word or two. It begins with the counting sequence that caused Meke to exclaim "Sunday Apples!" It wasn't until tonight that we were able to get them to repeat it from beginning to end as I scribbled it down on paper. We still think this was part of their pre-orphanage experience. Here it is:

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eight, ninety, hundred, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, straight, curve, zigzag, diagonal, vertical, horizontal, circle, triangle, rectangle, cylinder, oval, pyramid, square, cube, yellow, orange, black green blue, brown, white, pink, red, green, rose, violet, near, far, narrow, wide, short, tall, high, low, fat, thin, big, small, slow, fast, full, empty (pronounced EMM-puh-tee)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Language Update

It doesn't happen every day, but it happens fairly regularly. Neti and Meke are really beginning to amaze me with how quickly they've picked up the language. It's been just under a month. We've taught them several phrases from day one. It doesn't surprise us when they say, "May I be excused?" at the dinner table (or, in Meke's case, "May I be dis-cused?"). We taught them that phrase.

It is surprising when a collection of independently learned words form a sentence that fits the context of the conversation. We're really beginning to communicate.

Take today, for example. It was Meke's turn to pick out a video. She grabbed a video and brought it over to me and asked, "This one you like?"

"Yes, I like Babe, but Neti likes Chicken Run".

Meke replied, "Babe first, Chicken Run two" (as in "second").

Neti's picking up the language even more quickly. When Meke gets in trouble Neti now tells her what she's doing wrong in English. Today while I was at work Meke got a toy taken away from her for not sharing. When I got home I asked Meke where it was.

Neti jumped in, "Mommy and I put it away. Meke not share."

She starts kindergarten next week.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Becoming Normal

We're just two days away from the one-month mark of bringing our girls home. I think we're hitting our stride. How do I know? We haven't taken a picture of Neti and Meke since last weekend.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Our First Family Outing

Last weekend we traveled down to the big metropolis of Gibsonburg to visit some close friends. The 30-minute drive officially made it the longest post-Ethiopia trip we've taken with our family of six. In addition to a visit to the neighbor's horse farm and the park, Neti found an 84 year old friend named JJ.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Rote Memorization Has Its Drawbacks!

In the long run this is not good...but it's cute as can be right now!

Follow the Leader

Be careful who you allow to have influence over your kids as they may turn out different than you envisioned.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Newest Family Photo

Is Sesame Street This Good?!?!?!

Rhonda brought home two small white dry erase boards yesterday. We gave them to Neti and Meke today expecting random scribbles. To our amazement Neti immediately began writing. She was on "G" before I could get the video camera.

She receieved absolutely no coaching from us and said every character out loud as she wrote it down. I think she's definately kindergarten material!

(Note: today is three weeks to the day we arrived home from Ethiopia!)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Few Steps Back

For the first two full weeks things have gone much better than we ever expected. Neti and Meke's integration into the family felt complete. Still does. However, we've hit a bump in the road as of late.

We first noticed a change in Neti just a few days ago. During the day you wouldn't notice a difference. She still picks up new English words every day. She makes jokes ("Daddy little, Neti BIIIIIGGGG!" - giggle). She tickles her sisters, sings along with Bob and Larry, squeals in amusement at anything new, and regularly flashes a toothless smile while throwing her head back with yet another infectious giggle.

Bedtime introduces a different world. No longer does Neti find rest quickly. Instead, she spends the better part of an hour (or more) laying on her side, eyes glassy, sleep elusive. She's lost in a world only an orphan of her age could understand.

It seems grief has caught up to our little girl after being held at bay by scores of distractions thrown at her by the new world she's found herself in.

What's she grieving? Can't say for sure. The old country with the busy streets? The food? Her friends at the orphanage? The smell? Her bed? Her teachers? Her language? Culture? She's lost all these things in a very short time period.

What about the death of Mom and Dad? When a child of 6 assumes the role of Mom, does she bypass the grief process because of the added weight of responsibility? Who know's what Neti's grieving? And who knows how long she's held it in?

Meke hasn't slept as well either. She tosses and turns. She wakes up crying and sweaty. Last night she fell out of bed. Then she woke up at 5:30 and didn't want to go back to sleep.

But when the sun comes up things renew. Happy Neti and Bouncy Meke attack the day with the intensity of a child on Christmas morning. The video clips of giggling girls that many of you have watched over and over repeat themselves in realtime on a daily basis. During the day you wouldn't know that something heavy is rolling around inside those little heads.

I know this is a normal part of the process. With things going so well I though we had somehow leapfrogged the inevitable. Now here we are, dealing with the grief of two little girls.

Don't interpret this entry as a complaint, disappointment, or a play for sympathy. It's just to keep you informed. This is what we expected. This is what we signed up to do.

We ask for your prayers for our grieving girls.