Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Report

One of the best things for me about being a parent is the rediscovery of books I grew up reading and the new discovery of more recent children's books out there now. Our average number of items checked out from the library is around 50. Excessive probably, but I figure, why not? So as a way to pass the time while we wait to hear about our court date, I thought I'd start a regular "Book Report" post every week, or few days, or whatever. I'm not good at these regular posts according to the day of the week, so I'll just post when I think of it.

The first book I want to mention is Orville: A Dog Story by Haven Kimmel, one of my favorite writers of memoirs. To be honest, Abe got bored with it, but I adored it. I called Ted in so I could read the last couple of pages to him. It took me a while to get through those two pages because of fighting back the chokes in my throat and bubbling tears in my eyes. My favorite kind of story is one of redemption, and this one is a perfect redemption story. The line that got me most is, "And Orville wished he could say to people, 'There are ways to slip free of a chain'." I love this book. I love Haven Kimmel.

The next book is part of a series that I also found at our library in the staff picks section for kids. It's called The Adventures of Meno by Tony and Angela Diterlizzi. It's a little "out there," so be warned. Abe will sit and listen to books being read for hours, but few actually make him laugh out loud. This one did. I won't give away the secret of what makes him laugh but you'll figure it out quickly when you read it. The "Big Fun" in Book One is soooo fun, for a three-year-old boy at least (and his mid-30s mother).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Post-Thanksgiving Inspiration



"We slept two years on one bed...What will happen to me will happen to him. As long as a child is quite near to their mother, nothing can happen for (sic: to) the child." --Alice Herz Sommer

Cowboy gear.


This was part of a package from our relatives in Klamath Falls, Oregon. They sent the cowboy clothes, as well as still-unwrapped gifts for "B," chocolate for me and Ted.

(After re-watching yesterday's video announcing the winner, we wish we had made a bigger fanfare of it or at least done something mildly creative. We both feel like dorks now. Ah well, such is the Rooney household on a late Friday afternoon at the end of a long week with a subdued and still-sleepy little boy)

Friday, November 26, 2010


Congratulations, Emma!

Send me an email so I can get you in touch with Autumn.

Also to our runners-up: send me an email so I can get your addresses and tell you what you've won.

THANK YOU to everyone who participated in this contest. By the end of it, you all contributed $1,120 towards our plane tickets. This makes a big difference in getting us to Ethiopia, and we so appreciate your involvement.

Stay tuned: we may be having more contests coming up...

Almost Winner Time!

I was at work all morning and into the afternoon. Abe is now asleep. As soon as he wakes up, he's going to reach his little hand into this bowl and choose the winner of the doll...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


This afternoon at about 2:30 something happened that made me think to myself, "Today has been a really good day, and now it's even better."

It started this way: We have freezing temperatures in Portland right now with a little snow and a lot of ice on the roads yesterday. When I got in to work, I quickly noticed that a few of our elderly clients were nowhere close to having warm enough coats for this kind of weather. When I asked one of the men about it, he smiled, did a little jig and said that he keeps moving to make sure he stays warm.

You know, you have to love this optimistic attitude, but a warm coat and gloves sure would be nice. So I put a plea out there to friends and acquaintances in the local adoption community to help me keep our African elders warm in this weather. I went through my own closets and found a couple of coats and some scarves, gloves, hats.

When I got to work today, I set up the winter gear in a side room next to the classroom. Then in walked a fellow adoptive parent (who is also a volunteer with our program) with his two kids and bags of clothes. I wanted to cry. We added his family's things to the piles, and I was able to bring the clients in two-by-two to find some things to keep them warm.

One lady was excited to find a red hat to go with the bright red coat she put on. My favorite moment happened when our jig-dancing elder found a pair of thick leather gloves that fit him perfectly. He told me, again with a huge smile, that he had been planning on buying gloves that very afternoon, and gloves just like the kind he just found. He added a bright red scarf to his outfit, asked how he looked, and I said with a lump in my throat, "Fantastic."

I was so distressed yesterday to see these precious people without proper clothes. I am always worried that in this weather, they will get sick, and I just don't know what I would do if anything bad happened to any of them. Seeing these folks so dear to me walk out this afternoon with gloves on their hands, hats on their heads, scarves on their necks, and warm coats on their backs filled me with such joy, such gratitude that I have the privilege of knowing these people.

I got home feeling full. I brought Thanksgiving groceries inside, sat down at the computer, and saw three new emails from a friend from L.A. who met our little girl while she was in Addis bringing home her little one. She had sent me about a dozen new photos, all of them beautiful, the most beautiful ones I've seen. My heart was overflowing at this point. It was 2:30 and my good day suddenly got even gooder.

In these photos, we got to see that our girl has dimples when she smiles really big. She's standing amid her friends at the care center, wearing a white t-shirt with a short, bright pink dress over it. She is wearing bright green pants. She looks like a flower, her legs the stem, her top the tulip. She is beaming. In one photo, all the kids are holding their hands straight up over their heads, and she is the only one looking at the camera. This is my favorite photo. She reminds me of Rich Mullins in the photo from the cover of his biography, An Arrow Pointing to Heaven (one of my favorite books of all time about one of my favorite human beings of all time). Her stance is one of joy, of optimism. She is a bright flower growing towards heaven.

In another, she is looking down, and the sweep of her neck and shape of her lovely head is so statuesque, so queenly, so simply lovely. She seems so petite, and her face is all eyes, beaming smiles, and dimples.

Just last night, I was telling Ted how this time round, this child doesn't seem as real to me as Abe did after we found out about him. That seemed to end with these new photographs. I can't stop staring at them, the way I used to sit and stare at Abe's pictures before we met him in person. I want to know who this little girl is. I want to hold her hand, to comb her hair, to see her smile at me, to sneak in her room at night and watch her sleep, to hold her close. I feel that through these photographs, I know her a little better. I just can't believe how beautiful she is.

I am gushing. I should stop. I think it's safe to say I'm falling a little in love with a picture again.

The first child whose photo stole my heart, overseeing the production of our contribution to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Contest Ending and Etsy Shop

We decided to avoid all "Black Friday" events by choosing the winner of the doll on this day. That means you have about two more days to enter your name (multiple times if you wish!) in the drawing. We're officially at around $780 (amazing), and I'm hoping hoping hoping we reach $1000 by Friday! Thank you for everyone who entered the drawing so far. For a mere $5, you can enter again.

Click on the "donate" tab on the right side of this blog to do so.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Go here to find out.

Lastly, I just added 16 new items to the etsy shop of our African Seniors. Their art class continues to be my favorite day of the week. These prints would make a beautiful holiday gift for someone :) Go here to check them out.

This is probably my favorite new listing to the etsy shop. Beautiful colors.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"The Call" part 2

We heard the story Little B at 10:15 until 11:00 am while I was in Jackson, Mississippi and Ted in Portland, Oregon on a conference call with our caseworker in Ft. Worth, Texas. As I wrote before, both my mom and dad were in the room for those 45 minutes. We didn't plan it this way, but I'm glad it happened this way. I printed some of the referral papers and a lot of the pictures on my mom's black-and-white printer. We got some photos of me between my parents, each one holding a photo of the little girl with sparkly eyes. My dad's eyes are half-closed in the photo. My mom has her standard photo-face (nothing wrong with this face). I'm sitting on my mom's desk between them with a huge smile. I love this photo.

What did we do the rest of this day? We went fishing and ate Chick-fil-A.

Abe had been asking to go fishing the whole week, and this being our last day in town, this was the day. My dad had taken off work, so we drove to my sister's house to pick Abe up. I took my sister into her bedroom, shut the door, and showed her the photos. When my sister saw the meaning of B's name, she burst into tears. Maybe my favorite photo from this day is of my sister holding up B's photo, her red face covered in tears all the way to her chin. I love my sister.

I wasn't on the phone on this day as much as when we got Abe's referral since most of the people I would have called, I was actually with. I did send a few texts to friends in Oregon, California, and a few other places. But mostly? I hung out with my family. I hovered around my son when he got too close to the water at the lake. Abe got his first fire ant bites. My dad cooked breakfast for dinner while I did laundry and packed up to leave. We went to bed early. It was a strange yet good day.

By the next morning, I was very anxious to get back home. I wanted to see Ted. I wanted to process this news with him. I wanted to get back online. I wanted to sleep in my own bed, clean the house, print and frame photos of this little girl. My dad drove us to the airport and my sister met us there. We had a long coffee and almost missed our flight. I was reprimanded by a flight attendant for missing family boarding and then spent the next twelve hours on an airplane or biding time in long layovers. Abe made friends with the two college girls sitting behind us on our last flight and talked at them for a couple of hours. By the time we got home, I was exhausted.

I slept a few hours, got up and went to work. It had been a week, and I needed to check on my dear clients. When people expressed surprise that I got up and went to work the next morning, I just thought, "Well, in a lot of ways, this isn't work. I get hugs by Ethiopian grandmothers every time I go. Who wouldn't get up early for this?" About an hour after I got home that day, Ted had to leave for a class he was teaching, so it was even more time before we got the chance to sit down and talk.

This is one of the biggest ways that this referral call was different from Abe's. This time round, we were both so busy. Last time, we were sitting at home doing nothing when we got the call. We could spend the whole day processing, talking, calling friends, falling in love with a photo. This time, it was four or five days before we had time to slow down and talk.

Also adding to this weirdness is that we decided not to tell Abe until we could sit down together. This wasn't until Friday evening, two days after we got the call. Abe's reaction was sort of what we expected. Ted told him that we now knew who his sister would be (he's been talking about his sister for months now), and he asked where she was and when she was coming. Then, "Hey Dad, can we wrestle again now?" In case you haven't seen it, here is his reaction to seeing her photo for the first time.

So we're now settling in to this new reality for our family. We're reading books like The Connected Child and Twenty Things Adopted Kids With Their Adoptive Parents Knew and Older Child Adoption. It's a lot to take in. Sometimes I get scared that I won't know how to give this little girl what she needs, that I won't know how to read the signs she's giving me, that the language barrier is going to be too huge of a barrier towards our bonding, that Abe is going to turn possessive and clingy. I suppose these are normal fears. At least I hope they are. I want to be prepared as best I can but I also know that we really have no way of knowing where Little B is in her stages of grief. We don't know if she's ready for a brother, for a mother and father, for family. We just don't know.

Abe is now three. Every morning when he wakes up, he wants me to pick him up. I grab him below his arms and he does a little jump as I bring him up to me. He wraps his ever-growing legs around my waist, rests his head on my left shoulder so he can suck his thumb, puts his other arm around my left shoulder and pats my back. I stand this way with him in my arms, chest to chest, our hearts lined up and very close. As he grows bigger, it seems that he fits even closer to us. I know at some point, this need of his to be close, to snuggle, to let me be his safe place, is going to fade. This is as it should be. But in the meantime, as long as he has this need, I do too.

The other morning as we were in this chest-to-chest snuggle, I thought about the little girl on the other side of the globe who is going to be in this house with us in a few months, and I couldn't help wondering when and if we'll be this close. How much was she held when she was three? What was her morning ritual when she was Abe's age? Did she suck her thumb and rest her head on someone's left shoulder? She is now five. How is she grieving the loss of this closeness? When and how will she let us in? Will she stare into my eyes with her almond-shaped sparkly ones the way Abe does with his puppy-dog sparkly eyes?

I'm ready, and I feel that the trick is going to be waiting for her to be ready. I'll wait the best I can. Patience has never been my strong suit. I'm thankful for the example of all the moms who've done this already. Moms like this one and this one. Thank you. I'm watching. And waiting.

Do I know how
How will I know
Cast the ropes that bind you
Get in that boat and row

Forsake not what's around you
For simple is close at hand
You might get tossed on water
But keep your heart peeled for land

Blue hearts blue tears
Blue 'n' bruised 'n' sore
Blue skies and blossoms
On the other shore

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gift from Anonymous

Autumn called today to ask if she could pop by the house since "Abe forgot his doll this morning and I have something for you." Someone named "Anonymous" ordered this doll for our little girl. Whoever you are: thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Amazing timing really. This world is full of beautiful, generous people. Wow.

To read more details about how to win one of these sweet dolls, go here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Ode to My Friend and a Chance for You to Win Something

Way back before we'd come home with Abe, I started reading this cool blog by a lady who was in the early stages of adopting from Ethiopia, and we discovered that we lived in the same part of town. So just a week or so after we got Abe home to Portland, we met in person for the first time. After over two years (!), I can say that Autumn is one of my best friends in Portland and one of my favorite people ever. I call her sometimes the "real deal" because that's exactly what she is. More on that later. For now, a story in pictures:

After just a week or so settled in at home, we go visit our new blogging friends at their house. Abe immediately felt comfortable with this lady, who would become a regular babysitter. As soon as he could talk, he christened her "Aw-aw" in lieu of "Autumn." It was a sad day when Abe starting saying her name 'right'.

For Abe, it was love at first sight upon meeting the then 3-year-old Rhett. Abe's face in this photo shows exactly how he has always felt about his friend.

Rhett was always so very patient with little Abe, two years his junior. Abe always wanted to lean in to wherever Rhett was sitting.

This is maybe my favorite photo of these two. Rhett is eternally patient with his groupie, and Abe is so incredibly proud to be getting this hug from his hero.

Abe turns two and still often is found leaning into Rhett.

Another year passes, and Abe still wants to do whatever Rhett is doing.

That is when he's not too busy trying to make out with Rhett's little sister.

Now to the "real deal" part. Back in the spring when all the waiting families in the Ethiopia program found out about the new "two trips" rule for adoptions, we were thrown for a loop much like everyone else. We had calculated our finances as best we could, but we knew at that point that we would have to do some fund-raising for these extra travel expenses. Neither of us are good at asking for donations. I might go so far as to say it is torturous for us. While discussing all this with Autumn one night (there is very little I don't discuss with Aw-aw), she generously offered one of her dolls for us to use for raising funds for our travel expenses.

Like I said, she's the kind of friend you want in this life. The. Real. Deal.

So on to details. In case you aren't familiar with her work, you can check it out at her etsy shop here.

She makes things like this banner, which she gave Abe for his 3rd birthday.

She also spent hours helping me make this Max costume last Halloween. It was so adorable that I felt a little sorry for the other kids who didn't get all the 'oohs and aahs' that Abe got that year.

She also whips up these nifty birthday caps as party favors for all the guests at her daughter's birthday party.

Autumn has donated one of her custom dolls towards our fund-raising. The winner of the doll gets to order the doll according to requested skin tone, hair, and initial. These custom dolls are incredible.

As you can see, Abe loves his Abe doll.

You can click on the PayPal donation button in the right hand column of this page under "Fundraising" and contribute $5 for a chance to win one of these custom dolls valued at $52. If you donate $5 and post a link to this on your blog, you will get your name in the drawing another time for free.

With the holidays coming up, along with knowing you're giving someone a great gift, you can feel good knowing that you're helping our family get a step closer to bringing our daughter and sister home. Thank you.

(After finishing this post, I realized the lack of photos of me and Autumn. I should try to fix that

Also, more on "The Call" soon)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"The Call" part 1

One of my grandmothers turned 90 this summer. I missed that celebration since we've been trying to save up all our moolah for travel expenses. My other grandmother had her 80th this month, so last Tuesday night we decided that it wasn't worth it to miss both big family events. So since Ted had a long weekend of teaching ahead of him, Abe and I flew out early last Friday morning to visit my family. It was a fun week. I got chaufered around by my 17-year-old niece for the first time. Abe's cousin demonstrated wonderful burping skills. We ate a lot of red velvet cake, catfish, fried okra, and pimento cheese sandwiches. Abe got spoiled by relatives (and friends that may as well be family). We all sat through a Presbyterian church service together, taking up three pews. It was a good time.

We made this trip for moments like this one. Granny reacts to battery-operated, noise-activated chickens. It's blurry, but this photo somehow sums up everything I love about my Granny.

I was not online for most of this trip but on Tuesday night right before going to dinner with my grandmother and dad, I checked my email and saw that our caseworker had written, asking to "visit with" us at 10am the next morning. She ended the whole thing with two exclamation marks and a smiley face. Oh boy. I was stunned. I immediately called Ted who picked up by saying, "I just got the email too."

After dinner, I went to visit a high school friend to see her and her new house and then my sister met me at our dad's with a big bottle of wine. I am so glad she came. I was jittery and not sure if I'd be able to sleep. We sat up talking with the soothing sound of a Southpark episode on the tv in the background. I somehow fell asleep.

My dad had taken Wednesday off, so he'd said I could use his office for the big phone call. On our way there, we stopped by a drive-thru coffee place where the lady working greeted us with a loud "howdy!" My dad is a regular. I got an overly-sweet pumpkin latte and an overly-sweet bran muffin, both of which I attempted to
eat. I got settled in at my dad's office and couldn't get online. Their intranet kept kicking me offline when I attempted to access my email. I think I may have yelled once or twice. Maybe. Probably.

We hopped back into Daddy's truck and drove to my mom's office across town. On the way, our caseworker called, and we put the call off for ten minutes. I got
all settled in this time at my mom's desk, and our caseworker conferenced our call with Ted in Oregon. Let me tell you: I don't recommend getting your referral phone call while not in the same location. We didn't really have another option besides waiting two days until I got home on Friday. That wasn't an option, obviously.

There is nothi
ng like that moment when you hear your caseworker say, "Okay, I'm pressing "send" and then waiting waiting waiting, refreshing, refreshing, refreshing your inbox until BAM: there it is.

You see the subject line "Introducing...." and your heart starts pounding. The reality hits you that you are about to see your child's face for the first time. There is nothing like it.
I was hunkered over the computer screen, unaware of what my mom and dad were doing. I knew they were in the room but that's about it. I had my phone on speaker so they could hear the initial part of the conversation. I opened the email and saw ten tiny photos of a little girl. I couldn't decide which to click on first, so I just chose the one that showed her face in close-up.

Scanning for viruses... seemed to take forever. Then.

Waiting for the photos to open...

Her face. Huge perfectly almond shaped eyes. A slight smile. Chapped bottom lip. Head cocked a little to one side. Ears that stick out (so do Ted's, may be the one way she looks like us). I opened the other photos. In one she is sitting on the floor playing with a doll. In another she is standing in a yard in a pink plaid shirt with her neck all stretched out, as if she was in mid jump. In my favorite photo, her chin is tucked in and she's looking up at the camera, a little ruffly hat on her head. In every photo, she looks angelic. I'm sure she's not. I mean, I'm sure she's a real little girl who has tantrums and fits and bouts of sadness. But in these photos, she is pure sweetness.

I wasn't sure how I would react upon first seeing her face. With Abe, I immediately burst into tears. The same was true with her. There is nothing like this moment (have I said that before?). You are looking at a face belonging to a stranger on the other side of the globe, a stranger who will become your daughter, your son's sister. It hits you right in the gut. Well, in the heart, I suppose. There is no way around it.

We listened to her story and read through all her documents and at the end, we both said with no hesitation, "Yes." And that was that.

(more later on the rest of this day and what it was like to tell Abe)

Saturday, November 13, 2010


It's been an off-the-charts busy and eventful week with long plane rides to the South and important conference calls. Here is a quick sneak-peak into what's been going on:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Blue Africa Pumpkin

I seem to have lost my blogging "mojo" lately. All I have right now is: look at the pumpkin Abe painted last week at his school. Can you pick his out?

His is the one with a blue Africa painted on it. Okay, so he just threw some paint on it in about three seconds and then went to play with cars and dinosaurs, but still. I thought it was pretty cool.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Abe has always been pretty verbal. His first words started coming at about 10 months. There's been an explosion of late though. Just tonight, he was using the phrasing "to be similar to," as in "Abe is similar like Caillou." While age 3 has been the most challenging so far when it comes to discipline, it has also been the most fun with conversations. I'm left every day at some point shaking my head in wonder at what comes out of our son's mouth. It makes me wish I could spend a day, or just an hour, inside his head (and really: how cool would it be to know what your kid's dreams look like?).

Some of the most interesting things Abe says happen when he's first woken up from a nap or when we're taking him out of the bathtub. One night this week when he was getting out of the bath, he used the word "imagination." I wasn't sure if he knew what it meant or not, so I asked him to explain to me what it was. This is what he said, verbatim:

"Imagination is just a drawer in your heart where you have pictures... and beavers."

We seem to be living with a linguistic genius.

My favorite picture from Halloween 2010