Friday, October 26, 2007

Our Little Meteorologist

On the way to the football game...

Daddy: "We're going to stop at Wendy's"

Neti: "No windys, Daddy. Go to cloudys."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Neti, Food, and OOPS!

Lately we've noticed that Neti has a little bit more belly on her than when she arrived home 3 months ago (she'll love reading this when she's 16). Rhonda has noticed that Neti's always hungry whenever we arrive home from anywhere. Doesn't seem to matter what time of day or how long ago we've eaten, she wants food. Even if we've had an evening snack a few minutes earlier, Neti will often ask for food as we're going through the bedtime routine.

Yesterday, Rhonda sat Neti down and asked her about it. Neti replied something to the effect of, "If not eat food now, no food later." After some clarifcation, here's what seems to be going on. In Ethiopia, Neti was programmed to eat all of anything and everything placed in front of her, yummy or yucky, because the next meal wasn't always guaranteed. Consequently, she now eats when she's not hungry and often gorges when she's full.

Rhonda explained that "you'll never have to worry about food here. We always have food."


Somehow the crackers for Kindergarten snack time didn't find their way into Neti's backpack today. She came home crying. Oops.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Three Months

Yesterday was three months since the first day Neti and Meke came home. I cracked out the camera and made a little video.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Genesis of Our Adoption

One person who responded to our "Let's Make This Fair!" post asked how we decided to adopt. Were we united from the beginning or did one of us press the other? I've never told the genesis story of our adoption.

Long story short, after several months of very challenging and trying circumstances (I may tell that at another time) God dumped an extra dose of compassion for widows and orphans into my heart. I began going online and reading stories of orphans and my heart broke.

At the same time in my life I had this nagging realization that the American Dream I'd accomplished wasn't very significant or lasting. I felt like adoption was something I needed to do.

Rhonda had no idea.

I confided in a close friend who began praying with me that if this was supposed to happen that Rhonda would come to the same conclusion independent of my influence. I decided not to bring it up unless she initiated it in some way.

A few weeks later I had the teens (I was a youth pastor at the time) over to our house for a "Save Darfur" meeting. We talked about what we could do to help raise awareness about the genocide going on in Sudan. To get a feel for the kinds of things happening in Darfur we watched Hotel Rwanda together. At the end of the movie I said something like, "This kind of genocide is happening in Darfur. What can we do about it?"

Rhonda aswered with a question.

"What would it take for our group to adopt a family and bring them to live with us?"

I knew that was my cue. When the teens all left I took her over to the computer and said, "I've been looking at orphan children online. I feel like God want's us to adopt."

After a brief period of stunned silence, she answered, "I've had this feeling like there's something more I should be doing with my life. This is it!"

I started telling her about the kids in Ethiopia.

Within a few minutes Bethany (then age 11), who should have been sleeping, popped her nose into the room.

"I can't sleep, Mom. What are you doing?"

Rhonda and I looked at each other. She nodded. I asked, "What would you think about bringing some kids from Africa to live with us?"

She just stood there and smiled.

The next morning we told Kailey (age 9). Her biggest concern was how long the adoption would take. Both girls immediately started talking about who would sleep where. Both offered to sacrifice their rooms for their new brothers or sisters.

Although it wasn't yet official, we prayed and talked about it as a family for just under two weeks. In our hearts, though, I think we all four knew it was a done deal. We applied with America World Adoption Agency.

Somewhere along the line we decided to change our request from age-4-and-under siblings to age-6-and-under siblings.

All these decisions, hasty as they may seem, brought the perfect completion of our family. Any hesitation and the outcome would have been different. From the initial decision to the day we brought Neti and Meke home was only 9 months - an almost unheard-of lightning speed adoption.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Potty (part 2)

Today at the soccer match we got to choose. After last night's adventure it was two votes for the gray potty. Bigger is better.

Evidently, we're not the only ones of that opinion. With Daddy holding Meke in the proper position (I'm becoming a much more consistent aim) we were briefly visited midstream by a little furry rodent who scurried across my feet.Call it a shuffle. Call it a dance. Call it being surprised out of my wits, I held my ground! My feet moved - several times in short succession. Meke's bottom didn't. Everything ended up where it was supposed to!

Meke just squealed and laughed. "Again, Daddy!"

What Happened to Fall?

Sunday, October 6, 2007
91 degrees. Sunny skies.

Saturday, October 13
41 degrees. Overcast. Slight breeze.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Night of Significance

Tonight was significant.

After a 12-week selah, Rhonda went back to work tonight. She's working a 12 -hour shift on October 12. As I'm writing it's approaching 12-midnight. What's the common thread?

It's not the number 12. (Had pizza boy cut tonight's 10-piece carry-out pizza one more you may have had an argument). Tonight's significant because Daddy's all alone with four girls for the entire night.

So we all loaded up the van and went to a high school football game with one of my buddies.

Before you pass judgment, read on.

The temps are beginning to plunge into the 40s in the evenings. Meke donned a pair of pink knit Scooby Doo gloves. It was obvious by her reaction that they were the first gloves she's ever worn.

It's fun taking our family into new settings to simply see their reaction. Football isn't played in Ethiopia. At least not the kind with pads.

We happend to choose a night when the local D.A.R.E. group was giving out free food and drinks in the parking lot. Despite a stomach full of pizza, Neti and Meke don't ever pass on something to eat. A bottled water in one hand and a bag of Lays in the other, we approached the small community stadium just as the opposing team was taking the field. The costumes they were wearing triggered a flurry of 4-year-old questions.

"What eeze theese, Daddy?" (What is this?)

" football."

For Neti, it was the beginning of the oooohs and giggles.

First item of business...potty. Unfortunately, the only option was our choice of a lineup of four little blue buildings (something Neti once mistook for vending machines). Not wanting Meke's bottom to touch anything with germs we began a bathroom ritual completely foreign to both of us. I noticed immediately that these weren't built for two. There was no way we could both stand from in the launching area.

"OK, Meke. Stand on the potty."

I saw her confusion immediately. I lifted her up thinking she'd straddle the seat with one foot on each side so I could take her pants down and get her ready to go. When I went to set her down she said, "No Daddy". In retrospect, the big dark smelly hole Daddy was trying to drop her in was probably pretty scary. She kept lifting her knees to her chin as I tried to lower her to a standing position.

I quickly realized we weren't on the same page so offered my best explanation. "You have to stand on the potty so I can take your pants down. Then I'm going to hold you over top of the potty without your bottom touching the seat. You can potty without sitting down on the potty. You'll be above the potty while Daddy holds you."

It's at this point that I'm reminded of a Gary Larson cartoon of a man talking to his dog. I realize that Meke may not have picked that all up, so I just took charge and started the blue- building-potty-procedure on my own, hoping she'd trust me enough to go along with it.

She did.

I grabbed her by each leg. She assumed the sitting position. I positioned her over the big dark smelly hole and gave her the go ahead, praying that everything was aimed correctly (I've gotten it wrong in the past). The hollow splashing sound was a relief.


"Pyew, Daddy!"

"Yes. Stinky. Hurry!"

We finished just in time for me to let out my breath, release Meke to her sisters, and step back in to add my contribution to the dark smelly hole.

I think the bonding is going well.

Back to football.

Neti and Meke sat mezmerized as old girls in short dresses shook blue and yellow clown wigs in their hands and shouted playground chants to the audience. When the smallest of these girls were lifted above the heads and thrown into the waiting arms of those below, Meke shouted "Again!" When the home team took the field, she laughed. "Daddy, yellow panties!" The loudspeaker mounted on the side of the press box held her interest for most of the second quarter. "Daddy, look!" (pointing and smiling with eyebrows raised)

While our two older girls were impatiently counting down the minutes before we could leave, Neti was trying to order popcorn but didn't know exactly how (or who) to ask. By halftime Neti was clapping in rhythm with the clown wig girls and doing her best to join in the chant. "Deefenz Holdumm"

But halftime it was bedtime, the end of the fun. We started the trek back to the familiar, passing by the D.A.R.E. booth again, to be handed free anti-drug toys for all the kids.

The voice of a 4-year-old summed it up:

"I like football."

Not a bad choice for such a significant night, Dad.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Who You Are

I've just spent the last hour sifting through the information you regular blog readers sent me at my request (see previous post). Over 40 of you responded. Thank you. I've printed them off. We're going to keep them in a safe place until Neti and Meke are old enough to read them.

This has been fun and humbling. Let's do FUN first.
  • There are three families in Michigan who live within 10 miles of each other who are currently in process of adopting from Ethiopia. So Michiganders, if this describes you and you'd like to meet each other, email me. If you're one of the families I'll connect whoever gives me permission to do so.
  • Someone found our blog by Googling "Mekdelawit" (Meke's full name)
  • "We found you in the AWAA Yahoo Group. The Waals are kinda rock stars in that circle." HA! First time Waal and Rock Star have never been used in the same sentence!
  • One reader's child (now living in Europe) was in the same orphanage and knows Neti and Meke!
The vast majority of you have a connection with Ethiopian adoption. Almost half of you are in the process of adopting while one-fourth of you have already adopted from Ethiopia.

Now, the HUMBLING part. I received a lengthy email from an adult who was adopted. This person shared how reading Neti and Meke's story has been "the catalyst that has allowed God to bring healing of memories stubbornly buried for almost a lifetime."

Then there's this. Seven readers indicated that they read about Neti and Meke as part of the process of deciding whether to adopt from Ethiopia. Here's a sample:

"I...was doing some internet surfing about Ethiopian adoption and Wham! there you were. I...have biological children [and have] been looking into adoption - why? I don't know for sure, but for some reason my heart is being tugged like crazy to the beautiful children of Ethiopia! After many prayers and a lot of time on the computer, I am still searching and praying about it."

How humbling to realize our simple words and experiences could have such power. We never thought of it that way. We were just keeping family informed.

Long ago Rhonda and I vowed to do whatever we can to promote adoption - especially from Ethiopia. Looks like I'll be blogging for awhile longer as a way of honoring that vow.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Let's Make This Fair!

I started blogging simply to keep close friends and family in the loop about our adoption. Somewhere along the way we were discovered by you and people like you from all around the world!

This past Saturday we were one of the featured families at an adoption informational seminar sponsored by our agency. When I gave out our blog address one of the couples interested in adopting from Ethiopia didn't write it down. Come to find out, they're already readers of our blog. Then the agency rep who was leading the seminar told us that she's aware of others.


Some of you have left very nice comments but when we go to your profile there's nothing there but a screen name.

I hardly think it's fair that you know us and we don't know you!

So here's the deal. We've successfully jumped through every hoop known to man in order to adopt Neti and Meke (those who have adopted internationally know what I'm talking about). We're safe people. We've been fingerprinted, FBIed, background checked, and health-screened. We're convinced we're not child molesters or internet stalkers.

So if you'd be so kind, I'd like to know just five things:
  1. Who are you?
  2. Where are you from?
  3. How did you find this blog?
  4. Why do you read this blog?
  5. What's your Master Card number and Social Security number?

If you're not comfortable answering the first two questions, I'd be interested in #3 or #4.

Don't leave a comment! (Unless you're OK with the entire world seeing your info). Just send an email with your answers to this address.

By the way, if you answer question #5 you probably should get your mother's permission before going online.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Just Before Bed...

Each night Rhonda and I take turns putting Neti and Meke to bed. We alternate days of laying down between them just to talk for a few minutes in the dark. Despite the darkness, I was distinctly aware of the constant smile I just could not wipe off my face.

To the best of my memory I'll reconstruct our conversation. If nothing else you'll get the feel for the girl's conquest of the English language (next week will be three months since we brought them home).

Neti: Oops. I forgot a drink of water.

Daddy: OK. Hurry up and get a drink and come back to bed. (Neti leaves) How was school today Meke?

Meke: Meke says no eent [eat]

Daddy: No snack at school today?

Meke: (getting excited) Meke says...Meke...Meke...Me... Meke says house... House... Eat house.

Daddy: (confused pause) Oh. But no snack?

Meke: Yes.

Daddy: Yes snack?

Meke: No snack.

Daddy: What did you do, then?

Meke: House.

Daddy: House?

Meke: Eat house.

Daddy: OH! Eat house. (no clue)

Meke: Yes, eat house.

Neti: (returning to bed) I forgot potty.

Daddy: Did you go potty too?

Neti: I went potty.

Daddy: And get a drink?

Neti: I got a drink.

Meke: (excited, now half sitting up) Mommy....Mommy says....Mommy...Momm...Mommy says fiiiirst (pause for effect) go potty...

Neti: (trying to interrupt) Shhh, Meke, be quiet.

Meke: (doesn't notice) ...Two...two...two...first go potty....two, brush teeth...

Neti: (ignored) Quiet Meke, sleep!

Meke: (not stopping)...Brush teeth. Mommy says...Mommy says three, drink...

Neti: Close eyes, Meke. Sleep. SHHHHH!

Meke: Ma...Ma...Mommy says...Drink, mommy says drink. And bed.

Daddy: Drink before bed?

Meke: Drink before bed...and potty.

Neti: SHHHH! (long pause...everyone settles into their sleeping positions) Mommy's mommy and Daddy's mommy.

Daddy: You mean Mommy's mommy and Mommy's daddy?

Neti: Yeah, Mommy's mommy and Mommy's daddy. We see them.

Daddy: Yeah, they're coming here next week.

Meke: They're coming here next week.

Neti: I know Grandma Waal and Grandpa Waal.

Meke: I know Grandma Waal and Grandpa Waal.

Daddy: But this is a different Grandma and Grandpa. You haven't met them yet.

Neti: We drive there.

Meke: We drive there.

Daddy: No, they're coming here.

Meke: No, they're coming here, Neti. No, they're coming here.

Neti: Where are they sleep?

Daddy: I don't know. Maybe they'll sleep in Kailey's bed.

Neti: No, Kailey's bed too little. Too little. This bed biiiig. This BIIIIGGER bed for Kailey's. Mommy's mommy and Mommy's daddy sleep here, in this bed.

Meke: Sleep here, in this bed (pause) Meke says.

Daddy: OK, but where does Neti and Meke sleep?

Neti: Neti sleeps with Bethany, Meke sleeps with Kailey.

Meke: Mommy's mommy and daddy sleep here. Neeeetttti, sleep woof Bettany. Meeeekkeee, sleep woof Kailey.

Daddy: OK. Goodnight Neti, I love you!

Neti: I love you Daddy.

Daddy: Goodnight Meke, I love you!

Meke: Meke loves Daddy.

Daddy: And Daddy loves Meke.

Meke: Meke loves Daddy and Daddy loves Meke.

Daddy: Goodnight

(5 minutes of pretend sleep, both girls with arms around Daddy's neck)

Neti: (whispering) Daddy, it's Tuesday or Thursday?

Daddy: You mean today? Today is Monday.

Neti: (counting on her fingers in a whisper) MonDAY, TuesDAY, WednesDAY, ThursDAY, FriDAY...

Meke: SHHHH! Neti. Close eyes.

Neti: Meke! I'm trying...[to count] (whispering again) MonDAY, TuesDAY, WednesDAY, ThursDAY...

Meke: Meke says SHHHHH!

Neti: ...FriDAY, SaturDAY, SunDAY, MonDAY. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Eight, Daddy.

Daddy: Eight days.

Meke: Eight days.

Neti: Eight days Mommy's mommy and Mommy's daddy come.

Daddy: Yeah. Goodnight girls.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Pre-Adoption Video

Just before we met our girls a group called Visiting Orphans visited our girls in the orphanage. They produced a video to be shown to high school students. Neti and Meke happen to be the last images on this video. This is the only video we have of them pre-adoption. Even though this was only taken a few months ago, Neti and Meke look different to us for some reason.

If the link above doesn't work, try typing into your browser. GIVE IT SOME TIME! You'll likely only see a white screen for quite awhile before it downloads.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Concert Photo

Here's a link to Steven Curtis Chapman's site that happens to have a picture of our girls collecting money for orphans at the Toledo concert.