Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Why did we choose Ethiopia??

We get asked that question so often now that I want to post a response here. Be forewarned. This could get lengthy and philosophical.

Truthfully, we entered the adoption arena with the intention of adopting a little Asian girl - with a focus on China, Korea, and Phillipines. We did not even know there was an Ethiopia program. But as we learned more about the requirements of different countries, and as we become more convinced we should take a sibling pair, we began to think in different ways.

For example:
  • We scratched China because we cannot get siblings there.
  • Phillipines scratched us because Colleen is not Catholic
  • We scratched Russia because we think its unreasonable to be required to travel to meet your children, then not be able to take them home.
  • India scratched us because we had never been to a fertility clinic.

We finally narrowed our countries down to Ethiopia and Guatemala. Then we considered the behavior of officials in the host country, our future life stories, and our friends.

We thought about how we would answer our children when they ask inevitable questions around "Why my country? Why me?" We have a good story for Ethiopia. We have travelled to Africa three times already and we sponsor an orphanage in Tanzania ( We demonstrated that we cared for Africa before contemplating adoption there. We believe we have a great answer to our childrens question when it is asked.

While living in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, we befriended many blacks. They welcomed us, invited us to their churches, their community events, their family gatherings, their celebrations, and their grievings. Some of them are still among our very best friends and we believe they always will be. On the other hand, we have little exposure to the Hispanic community.

We considered the behavior of officials in the host countries. For example, we saw two beautiful Guatemalan twins, about 3 years old, come available. We immediately called to inquire. We were told to 'get in line' and the cost was about $47,000. I asked why so much, when an Ethiopian sibling pair costs about $16,000. The explanation I was given is there are more layers of lawyers and bureacrats to be satisfied in Guatemala. I interpret this as corruption and feather bedding.

We are obligated to take a stand against such obviously self serving behavior. It is even more outrageous when I consider the fact that Hanley Denning, a woman who graduated from the same college as me, is breaking her neck in Guatemala to save the kids that live off pickings in the Guatemala City municipal dump ( . Meanwhile, the educated class, who ought to know better, is treating a humanitarian crisis as its personal Fort Knox. I have no tolerance for such injustice, and will take opportunities to put a spotlight on it when I see it.

This incident convinced us that the Ethiopians are in the game to save their children. They do not view adoption as a currency generator. They do not impose unreasonable demands on adoptive families. They are making a very painful decision to do the right thing for the right reason. Our values are fully aligned with the Ethiopian way of thinking.

As we got more serious about Ethiopia, we became even more pleased with warmth and closenes of the program. For example, the families all adopt from the same orphanage. So it is a really close knit group back in the US. People who traveled before us sent photos. And we will take photos for families traveling behind us. Our kids will get to see the kids they grew up with in the orphanage. That is pretty unusual in international adoptions.

So, as you can see, I can get on a rant when I believe the priveleged are taking outrageous advantage of the misfortune of others.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Members of Travel Group 33

I think Colleen and I are going to be called Grams and Gramps with this crew. I can tell because some of them use their date or year of birth in their email addresses. You know, like or Puhleeeez.

Helen and Jeff live in Ohio. They are adopting sibling brothers ages 1 and 2.

Scott and Michele live in Long Island, NY. They are adopting a son who will celebrate his first birthday while we all are in Addis. Hmmm. Remind me to get him a Red Sox cap as a gift to ward off any predisposition to the Yankees.

Tim and Alicia live in Colorado. They are adopting siblings (I think brothers because they already have daughters).

Jeff and Meg live in the Red Sox Nation of New Hampshire. They are adopting sibling sisters ages 3 and 5. Hey, they'll be in the big kids house with us, and they only live an hour away! This could be the start of something lasting.

Bringing up the rear in our wheelchairs, yup, me and Colleen. Now don't you be mouthing off there sonny or I'll whap you in the head with me cane.

Unfortunately, it seems none of these families are on the same outbound flight as we are. Bummer. So what's cool about this group is 4 of the 5 families are adopting sibling pairs. Think about that. That is so kind hearted and, I am told, unusual. I have a good feeling about this group.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to heart
The Waiting is the Hardest Part
- Tom Petty

Friday, January 19, 2007

Visit to Wide Horizons Waltham

We contacted Wide Horizons to tell them we have some unused luggage allowance and offered to use it to carry donations to Addis. WH was psyched because they have lots of donated stuff and it is prohibitively expensive to ship.

I met Marianne and Erica in the basement of the Waltham office. The donations store room is about the size of a one car garage. All the walls and a row down the middle are lined with floor to ceiling storage shelves. And all the shelves are chock a block full with clothing, shoes, games, first aid stuff, vitamins, diapers, toys, etc. etc.

What's interesting is how parochial the donors are about their donations. A lot of the boxes are labeled in the donors handwriting with labels like "Only for the Phillipines" "Send to China Only" "For use in Addis only" and stuff like that. I interpret this as a sign of how loyal and grateful the families are to the facility that cared for their adopted child before the adoptive parent could gain custody. It is uplifting to witness the depth of stewardship obligation the families feel toward their childs homeland or specific orphanage.

So for you who labeled your goods "Addis only", we are fulfilling your wishes. We will carry several packages of diapers; a huge box full of kids shoes; two shopping bags full of chewable vitamins, pedialite, and topical antibacterial; several childrens games, toys, and puzzles; and a box full of kids clothes.

Fourth Live Report

Colleen asked Mary Anne to bring children's fleece blankets to M and E. Here is her email back to us.

Hi! Just wanted to send you a quick note to let you know that we gave your daughters their blankets today. They are beautiful! And were very happy to get their blankets. The nannies wrapped them around them and they looked so cute! We told them you are coming soon!!! I will send the pictures when we get home.

It was so great to receive this email. We can't wait to see Mary Anne's photos. And we can't wait to meet M and E.

Chat Rooms Ablaze

We depart for Addis in only two weeks, and the chat rooms are afire with activity. Who is going? when? what flights?

Are you going to your childrens birth village, when, what village, who is your driver?

What are you bringing for your children? clothes? prescripts? papers?

What are you bringing for gifts for the Nannies?

Are you staying at the guest house? Hilton? Sheraton?

Advice from people who have already been and requests from people who have not yet gone (will you take a picture of my child? will you deliver a toy from me? or a blanket?)

I swear, it could consume all 24 hours a day monitoring this traffic if we allow it to.

Nobody has asked the most important question, which is, how are we going to watch the SuperBowl? And how are we going to get pizza delivered? Especially when kickoff is 4AM Monday East Africa Time?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Baby Shower

Leo's Dad and partner Joan, brother Mark, and fiancee Erin all collaborated to host a shower for the girls today. We posed a large framed photo of the girls labeled with date of their American debut, February 10, on the dining room table for all to enjoy.

Our guests were mostly Aunts, Uncles, and cousins, with a few close friends sprinkled in. Everybody is so supportive. It is really great. We are a little old to be starting a new family, but having so many other people willing to pitch in when needed is going to make it much easier for us to succeed.

Our gifts were amazing. Several new outfits and outdoor winter clothing for the girls. Books, games, and educational tools to help them learn English, our alphabet, and our numbering system. A basket full of art supplies. A basket full of kid medical supplies. A personal DVD player and some educational DVDs. A couple of boxes and bags chock full of lightly used kids clothes. Some cuddly stuffed animals. And several gift cards to various kids stores and department stores. The only critical things we are missing are shoes and boots and underwear, for which we can use the gift cards.

We are really lucky to have such a supportive group of friends and family.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Notice of Travel Dates

We are group #33. 5 families adopting 9 children. We leave the US not later than Feb 2 and arrive back in the US not earlier than Feb 10. We're kind of comatose, but a happy comatose. It's really happening and fast.

Leo was in Tennessee when we learned. So he began showing pictures of the girls to all his work colleagues. One evening the workgroup toasted our adoption with a round of Rolling Rocks (33 on the label). Turns out several colleagues have adopted children, so we got some good pointers from those conversations. Perhaps the most poignant advice was carefully watching the children at meal time to prevent them from eating chicken bones, pork bones, and eggshells. Food is so scarce in some parts of Ethiopia that children are raised to eat everything that is remotely edible. It will take some time for them to adjust their mindset to one of plentifulness.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Third Live Report

Today the K family from Connecticut sent us about a dozen photos and spoke with us on the phone. Mrs. K explained that her adopted daughter has the same name as our E, and the kids in the orphanage tried to trick her into thinking that our E was actually her E. Mrs. K said "Not that I would have minded taking both. Your daughter E has a smile that lights up a room. And your daughter M is so lovable. She spent a lot of time sitting on my lap."

We bought little fleece blankets for M & E that we are sending ahead with a family in travel group departure Jan 12. We are also sending a photo of ourselves holding an 8x10 photo of M& E. We hope that M&E are as excited about seeing photos of us as we are seeing photos of them.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Shots and Scripts and Travel Partners

Today we had our final round of immunizations - meningitis and Hep B. Most everything else was covered for our Tanzania trip a few months ago (see And we picked up another course of Cipro and anti-malarials.

Now we're just waiting on a travel date. Good news is cousin Pete is 100% confirmed to join our journey to Addis to adopt M and E. Pete received his passport today and has scheduled his immunizations for later this week.

We badly wanted a family member to travel with us to share the experience, to bond with the girls, and to help us interpret their history and explain it to the rest of our family. Our previous journeys to Africa taught us that we are incapable of thoroughly explaining what we see and feel to someone who has never been there. Quite frankly, we are surprised it is Pete who is joining us. We had envisioned it being an Aunt or adult female cousin.

Pete and Leo grew closer these past few months from working out together at the gym, and Pete initiated the idea of traveling with us. His enthusiasm and genuine interest, and our observations of how positively he Fathers his own two daughters, won us over. We are also very excited about introducing Pete to an experience unlike any other he has ever had. To our knowledge, Pete has never traveled outside North America and has never been to an orphanage. This will be an unforgettable journey for all of us, but especially for Pete.

Important Dates

While she thinks of it, proud Mama wants to record all the milestones leading up to where we are today.
--October 24, 2004 attended our first information meeting on Gram and Grampa's 48th wedding anniversary.
--July 23, 2005 mailed in our application on Dad's 44th birthday.
--December 2005 completed our home study
--July 3, 2006 Dad moved to Maine, followed by Mom on September 3, 2006
--July 23, 2006 dossier accepted on Dad's 45th birthday
--September 2006, Maine home study completed.
--November 27, 2006, saw our first pictures of M and E.
--December 3, 2006, accepted offer to adopt M and E.