Thursday, December 8, 2011

Adoption final, citizenship next

 Today we finalized our adoption of Amiya & Malakai! What does that mean? Well, several things:

  1. We are now legally their parents as opposed to guardians 
  2.  Name change
  3. They can now obtain US birth certificates
  4. We can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship (COC)
Last week I began preparing for this court date. I wanted to have as much paperwork ready as I could so we could fix names on their Social Security card, look into US passports and apply for this Certificate of Citizenship thing that I'd heard about a few times. The more I looked into it, and asked very dear friends questions, the more I realized that finalizing this adoption was just the beginning of more paperwork and fees. We thought that once we finalized and they had a US birth certificate, that also meant that they would be US citizens. SURPRISE- Not so easy! US Birth Certificate does not = US citizenship. In order to obtain citizenship, we will still have to fill out the N-600 (6 page form) for each child, submit another $550 per child to USCIS and wait for the certificate which will declare them legal US citizens.

It seems odd but we also found out that even children who are adopted and come to the states on a US passport also have to re-adopt in the states in order to get a US birth certificate.  That may vary by state but was still very interesting to find out that information!

Regardless of what the process continues to be, we're thrilled to be able to finalize today and thankful for all the amazing people who have encouraged us and helped us get to this point.
 We had a very kind judge today, Malakai gave him a big hug it was precious!

 Little flashback to court in UG and kids running around (thankfully this time it was BEFORE the judge came in)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Africa to America: Christmas Part 2

As many families, we like to put our Christmas tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving. We wanted to take the kids to Old Baker Farm to do the hayride, cut down a tree, haul it back etc but time ran out so, we settled on heading down to Home Depot to pick up our tree again this year!

As we walked around the tent with trees, the kids wanted up and down, walk around, touch every tree etc. There weren't many people there when we went, it seemed the people who were there were just like us in that they were doing the last minute Thanksgiving weekend tree pick up! I didn't think about how "busy" the kids were until another man shopping said "That's why I leave the kids at home, too much of a hassle." I tried to ignore him but his comment just kept irking me. I wanted get defensive and explain how new this was for us and for the kids. Hassle, are you kidding me? You clearly haven't worked with Citizenship & Immigration or the Embassy in another country, not to mention trying to interpret all the forms you have to fill out etc! We have done "hassle." The other part of me was just sad, it was always a fun (although I'm sure I griped many times) family tradition to go pick out the Christmas tree whether we went to the tree farm or supported the local boy scouts. I hope we can establish some meaningful & memorable Christmas traditions with our new family!

While we were there, Amiya picks up a branch from the floor and begins sweeping

They swept pine needles all the way out to the parking lot

Several rounds to make sure they have cleaned the floor

Again, all the way out to the parking lot

Malakai sweeping
They were not very happy about giving up their branches, well Amiya wasn't anyway. We had to take hers home and then she swept the kitchen floor (or swept it all under the oven and fridge)

I just watched in amazement for about 20 minutes, this was likely a chore they helped their grandmother with. We also watched in amazement in Uganda as we watched so many hunched over sweeping with either branches or a small collection of grass.

We finally got the Christmas tree up in our house, it's a small pathetic little tree so don't laugh if you come to our house! We had been working on saying Christmas Tree but when dad filled up the bottom with water, it became "Water Tree."  They'd also like to wish you the sweetest little Merry Christmas you've ever heard!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Africa to America: Christmas Part 1

Hard to believe a year ago, we were in the "process" of adopting 2 children and curious about what Christmas would be like for them. Hard to conceptualize how different this Christmas will be for them and what they must be thinking.  We have such an awesome opportunity to begin new traditions, to decide how our family will celebrate, how this crazy guy with a red suit & long beard that everyone keeps asking them about and they have no idea what you're talking about will work into our celebration of what we really are celebrating- birth of Jesus Christ.

Here's some of the questions we've been asked.
Q: Are the kids ready for Santa Clause?/ What is Santa bringing the kids?
A: They have no idea what that/he is. We're still trying to understand why there are trees with lights on them inside our house but we REALLY like looking and touching the lights

Q: Are you going to do "Santa" with the kids?
A: I think it's difficult in our culture to not at least talk about/tell them about "Father Christmas"/Santa Clause. We'll likely do the cute picture of them sitting on Santa's lap but we haven't decided if we're going to do presents from "Santa" under the tree and pretend like he's this real guy who lands on our roof top and comes down our non-existent chimney. I'm honestly split right now, it's fun, imaginative and all that but at the same time, I don't want them to look forward to Santa and not look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus. I know this forces us to be intentional and I've been reading several opinions but would love to hear more ideas/traditions that you've done or started with your family.

Q: You mean they didn't have Santa Clause in Uganda?
A: well, I've heard that some guys do dress up in Santa/Father Christmas outfits but it's not quite the marketing /commercialized holiday that it is here. For most Ugandans (I hear), it's most important for them to come together as a family, celebrate with a big meal and spend time together (not inserting batteries into the newest noise making toy!) I definitely think they've been doing this holiday the right way!

We obviously still have a lot to decide on and a lot to discuss as a new family!

Stay tuned for pics & more on Christmas!

Africa to America: language

We are often asked how their English is doing, how many words do they know, has it been difficult for them to learn etc. When we first started caring for them in UG, the reality of them not speaking many words became VERY real, as in we had 8 "words" to work with! In English, they would say: momma, daddy. Luganda words: Boda boda/Motorcycle. Words they occasionally would interchange between Luganda & English: Pia/Ball, Fuca/potty. Words they spoke in baby talk that we figured out: Biem was Car, "Kai-eat-a" was water or bath.

They understood a lot more in both Luganda & English than they could speak. In some ways that was good for us but hard for them, they had trouble responding in a way that we could understand. There was a lot of hitting & biting and some of it (not all of it) was likely a result of this communication gap. Despite our attempts to teach them some English, they really only picked up on Car & Ball and we eventually got them to say "cup pease." I remembered baby sitting for a family who used sign language with their baby. I vaguely remembered a couple of the signs: all done, more, eat  (not sure if they're the correct signs but it was at least a start to help with communication!)

I've said this many times but once we got home, it was almost like a switch flipped for them and they both began showing an interest in learning the language. We seemed to spend a LOT of time in the bathroom, if one was going, the other wanted to sit in there too. They would say "Momma mmmm" and point to something so I would tell them what it was. They quickly picked up Monkey, sink, bathtub, potty, picture, rug and towel. At the table we would go through the same routine and they picked up: table, chair, plate, cup, fork, spoon, curtain and window. They obviously wouldn't remember everything so there was a lot of repetition and we kept things in very broad categories at first. For example, any kind of bird -owl, penguin, flamingo, peacock etc. was just "bird" that says "tweet tweet." And any type of vehicle was a car -truck, van, bus, tractors etc. and they all say "beep beep."

Now they know how to say "what zat" and we occasionally have discussions over what something really is (perhaps our fault for putting things in such broad categories). For instance we drove down the road and saw 4 school busses. Amiya counted them and said "4 bus" and Malakai insists it's "school bus." They're both correct but don't quite get how 2 different things are indeed the same thing. Often even though I tell them they are both correct, Malakai gets his feelings hurt and starts to cry.

All in all, I think the kids are learning the language very quickly! I begin to realize when we're around other people that sometimes... most times it's hard for them to understand what they're saying but we've somehow learned to understand most of what they are trying to say, even if they're missing a syllable or a letter in the word.

Here's a video of Amiya getting onto me for taking her peanuts

It's been hard to get a video of Malakai saying very much. He's very much all BOY and will insert explosions or random sounds so I settled for this precious video where he's pretending to be a cat, sees himself on the camera & decides to give himself a Hi-5

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


We may not have experienced a lot of the traditional firsts that parents often catch on camera or record in their baby books. Nor will we ever know what those first moments were like. However, the awesome thing with adoption is we do get to experience a ton of firsts with them. It just looks a little different. For one, they can talk (or try to talk) about what's going on!

There were a lot of firsts for our new family that we had in Uganda-first bath (didn't go so well 2nd bath and on have gone much better), first time eating out, first time going to the playground, first time trying on & buying shoes, etc.

Here's some firsts once we got back to the states:

Meeting Miles (cat)=successful! meeting the dog, not so successful and no pictures of them together for about 2 months to prove it! (July 18)

 First wagon ride (July 21)

Painting toenails (July 23, 2011)

first dining out & waiting for a table at PF Changs (the kids went through a bowl of rice by themselves!) July 24

Trying on Mommy's shoes (August 25)

 Playing in the sprinkler=HUGE hit! Anytime they see running water like this they yell "Arms Up" code for take these clothes off, I want to go play in the water (July 30)

Eating Krispy Kreme donuts=insanely hyper for about 30 minutes and then crashed on the drive home (August 25)

First craft project if you can call it that. Definitely won't have anything on Etsy anytime soon! (August 27)

First time to use shaving creme or pretend to use daddy's (Sept. 8)

 First winter coats (September 8)

First time at the beach...going to have to watch these digging pros and help exhort that energy towards some sand castles (Oct. 11)

First Halloween costumes & Trick-r-treating.
Learning to trick-r-treat was fun and interesting! the first house we went to when the door was opened, Amiya just walked right in and Malakai was close behind. I don't think they understood why we were all laughing so much. Thankfully the family who opened the door was very friendly! Once we finally got them out of the house, we headed to the next house. When the door wasn't opened immediately, Amiya decided she would open the door! We only had 1 fit where a bag of candy was thrown on the ground, the rest of the night went pretty smoothly!

There's still a lot of firsts to come. I can't wait to see what Thanksgiving and Christmas will be like!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Monkey's & Giraffe's

 Our first halloween was fun and interesting! I found some cute costumes at TJ Maxx. The giraffe was the first costume I found. Malakai screamed and said "Noooo" when I showed it to him. Amiya liked it and put the "hat" on~perfect! I started looking for a second costume and Malakai kept giving the same response as he did for the giraffe until I found the Monkey costume. 

We brought them home & tried them on and they loved them! loved that they had tails and they did NOT want to take them off! For the next few weeks they asked every day about the monkey & giraffe!

When we started getting closer to wearing the costume time, we realized both Amiya & Malakai were making monkey sounds.  Well, a Giraffe clearly can't walk around sounding like a Monkey so Wes & I looked at each other trying to figure out what sound a Giraffe makes & he finally yells "looka-looka-looka." Amiya looked at us like we were crazy and she still refuses to make the sound, on rare occasions, you can get Malakai to make the sound. I have a feeling they know the truth about Giraffe sounds!

 My office had a little parade for all the kids, we had to practice saying "Trick-r-treat" and holding a bag at the same time. This was our best attempt at a family picture.

Halloween night was hilarious. We have always gone to a friends' house for halloween so we continued that tradition and went trick-r-treating with their 4 year old son.

The first house we stopped at, when the door opened Amiya walked straight in the door and Malakai followed. It was hilarious the families who's home they just walked into laughed (thankfully) and had several small children who looked all ready to head out the door. Amiya seemed very confused why she wasn't being welcomed into the home & why mom & dad weren't following!

We finally got them out of the house & headed to the next. The door wasn't opening quick enough so Amiya decided she was going to open it for them! By the third house we were figuring it out & they were pros with all the other kids by the end of the night.

I can't help while enjoying this time with our children, also thinking about the many families in the world who would love to just have a piece of bread to fill their bellies and here we are collecting about 10 pounds CANDY. You can help in a multitude of ways. I've added a tab to our blog with a variety of organizations out there who help families & children around the world in a variety of ways.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Africa to America: Food

I won't lie, right now I want to pull my hair out during meal times! Malakai will eat just about anything we put in front of him so when he cried after trying a Mushroom soup this weekend I thought, ok, it really IS gross. Amiya on the other hand has inherited her mother's picky eater taste-buds. This must be what my parents felt like trying to feed me (I was always that kid at school or the baby sitter's house who was STILL in the kitchen because I wouldn't eat something off my plate).

As illustrated below, on the Left is Malakai eating a tortilla filled with rice, corn and chicken --all things they have loved eating wrapped up together. On the Right is Amiya, she has taken a couple bites out of the tortilla shell, unwrapped it to eat some rice, picked out a couple kernels of corn and I might have crammed a piece of chicken in her mouth  as I bribed encouraged her with a cookie to follow. Recently I caught her giving some of her food to our dog while I was turned helping Malakai!

 Let's back up to those wonderful days in Uganda...They have the most delicious Pineapples, Bananas and fresh fruits and vegetables. I have never liked Pineapple but when the kids' grandmother gave us some, I knew I had to try it-wow it was so sweet and juicy! Forget about trying to remember what you should & shouldn't eat in a different country-I was NOT going to pass it up!

While we were there, we had a couple opportunities to eat a local meal and despite my picky eater taste-buds, I don't mind embracing a new culture which includes eating their cuisine. Besides, this wasn't about me, if I was going to have any understanding of the birthplace of our children in the short amount of time we were there, I needed to do this and honestly the food was pretty good!

Both meals we had, looked exactly like the food in the picture below (which was cooked at the grandmothers). If I remember correctly, it includes Matoke (boiled & mashed bananas or plantains), Ugali (flour & water), cabbage, sweet potatos, rice and a stew like of ground nuts (the purple stuff on top).

 The kids LOVED it and I mean went to town cleaning their plates. As you can see, no silverware was used, she had 2 forks which she allowed Wes & I to use.  

 Malakai enjoying some Matoke

Sugar Cane, Tea, Sweet rolls and Passion Fruit that the Grandmother gave us. I haven't been able to find Passion Fruit here yet but apparently there were 2 kinds and the kids LOVED it

The most delicious bananas we have ever eaten. And let's be honest, this lady must have an extremely strong neck!

 Roasted Bananas (they eat a LOT of bananas)!

When we first got home we were GREATLY blessed with a multitude of people who brought us some meals. This was amazing not only from a convenience standpoint but mainly because people also  things that I would never think to cook that early on, especially as we were learning and trying to figure out what they like. They ate everything except for the peas and Mac N Cheese.

One evening, someone brought us a roasted chicken and sweet potatoes. I started to cut the meat off the bone and cut up the sweet potato because that's what moms do, right? Then it hit me, these kids don't have knives and butter and brown sugar to fill their sweet potatoes. We pulled a leg off the chicken for each child and placed the sweet potato on their plate and just wanted to see what happened next (yes, I cringed with fear of them choking on a bone).

Malakai immediately took a chunk out of the end of his sweet potato and lit up once he realized what it was. He ate every piece of meat off of the leg (including that chewy grizzle part) leaving only the bone! Amiya split her sweet potato in half and sucked the inside out of the skin/shelling. She also went to town on the chicken leg and ate all the meat off of it leaving only the bone (and no choking!). They seemed so excited to be eating this meal, there was something so familiar about it to them and ate every bit of it with their hands.

I took the kids to Krispy Kreme about 2 weeks after we got home.  My car needed some work done so while we waited we ran over for some donuts.  It was interesting trying to teach them to stand in line and not eat all the crumbs off the floor. They loved the donuts and added a new word to their English vocabulary! Once we were done eating Malakai looked at me and said "momma mo" while doing his sign for "more." It was so sweet and I told him we were all done to which he responded with his bottom lip stuck out big and a little whimper. I set him on the ground to clean him up then got Amiya out of her high chair to clean her up.  When I was all done cleaning Amiya up I looked over to find Malakai standing in line holding the hand of a teenage girl, obviously trying to get another donut! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Top left: first picture we received. Top Right: 2nd picture we received. Bottom Left: First Sunday at church. Bottom Right: pictured on Sept. 21

With Grandma

 Holding hands in the backseat after Small Group one night

 Too cool for School!

Everyone including the animals are adjusting & resting during Nap time!

Grandma teaching colors from our favorite cupcake book

Malakai deep in thought