When Words Will Not Come


July 22nd, 2011

Drought in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and other parts of Eastern Africa

Famine declared in Somalia.

Read this post. I could not say it better then Rebekah does.

Sign the petition being sent out by ONE.

Support Doctors Without Borders.

Support Our Families.

(via Cindy Burt)

An Open Letter to Our Family and Friends (Round 2)


July 22nd, 2010

An Open Letter to our Family and Friends,

We announced earlier this spring that we were pursing the adoption of an older child. We never imagined that a few short months later we’d be welcoming an 11-year-old girl into our home. But that’s what will happen the last week of July.

Just like we did with Milo, we want to share with you some of our expectations and rules. Because of the nature of this adoption, it’s a lot different and we’re going to be sharing more. This is more than we’ve shared online, for reasons that will become obvious, and we’re trusting that you will keep this information offline. It will eventually come out, but for privacy and safety reasons we need it to be kept confidential.

On July 22 Abby and our good friend Nicole will be traveling to Alaska to meet Yeshumnesh (pronounced Ye-shem-nesh). They’ll return on July 27. She’s a bright, out-going and active Ethiopian girl who will turn 11 in August. She originally came to the United States on Christmas Day 2009, but that original adoption is being disrupted (that’s adoption lingo for what happens when a child is placed with a family and it doesn’t work out). The reasons behind that disruption will remain private, but we can say that in general it’s due to a clash of personalities and parenting styles. This family was not the right fit for Yeshumnesh.

Yeshumesh is now enrolled in 6th grade at Heritage Middle School, which is only a few blocks from our house. She’s very athletic and enjoys soccer, biking, cross-country skiing and ice skating (hockey!). She likes to color and do crafty things, and she enjoys listening to stories. She’s quickly catching up on her English as well. She’ll have her own bedroom across from Lexi & Milo’s and we hope we can decorate it together.

Adopting an older child is always a lot more complicated than adopting an infant, and in this case the disruption further complicates the whole thing. Because of these issues there are few things you should be aware of:

Parenting
First and foremost, you can throw standard parenting rules out the window. We’ve talked with other parents who have adopted older children, and all the standard parenting tactics simply don’t work. So if you thought we were weird parents before, we’re going to get especially weird now.

Tantrums & Extreme Behavior
Secondly, it’s common for older adopted children to exhibit extreme behavior. There can often be a sizable difference between their actual physical age and their emotional or psychological age. It’s common for older kids to regress, to be stuck in earlier developmental stages and to bounce around between stages.

This is where some creative parenting will come in to play as we help Yeshumnesh deal with the loss in her life and find appropriate ways to express her feelings. She’s been through a lot and will need to throw a lot at us to make sure she can trust us. Tantrums and extreme behavior like running away are not uncommon. As intense as this may be, it’s important to remember that it’s not reflective of Yeshumnesh as a person, it’s because of everything she’s been through. Think scary circumstances, not scary child.

Food Issues
Experiencing any type of malnourishment can be hardwired into kid’s brains and results in a lot of food issues. It’s common in older adopted kids and we’ve even seen this with Milo. The best approach is to not get into battles over food. This means letting the kids have access to food whenever they need it. Building the trust with them and letting them know their needs are always provided for is more important than spoiling supper. This will mean things like having healthy snacks available all the time, giving the kids water bottles, having a stash of sealed, healthy food in their rooms, etc.

Yeshumnesh’s Story
We’ve been told that Yeshumnesh readily talks about her birth family in Ethiopia, so don’t be surprised if this comes up. However, keep in mind that this is a volatile and emotional topic for her. Validate her feelings, but don’t question or deny her statements. It’s possible she’ll tell you something that contradicts with the story we’ve been told. In general it’s best to let Yeshumnesh lead these discussions and not try to pry information out of her. Let her share what she’s comfortable with. If you have questions about what she told you, please talk to us.

Materialism
Possessions can be a common source of strife for kids, but especially for older adopted children. They may have had few possessions in their birth family and even less in the care center. Combine that with an impression of the United States as a land where everyone is rich and you can have whatever you want, and these kids are set up for intense issues with materialism. We’ll be teaching Yeshumnesh proper attitudes about stuff (just like we teach Lexi & Milo), though it may mean some unique approaches for a while. In general we try to share most things in our family and we’ll need to continue to emphasize that. One common tactic we’ve heard is that everything needs to come from us as parents. This is more about knowing that we are the ones providing everything. We may need to remove tags from gifts and let Yeshumnesh assume everything comes from us. Later on we can let her know who gave her what.

Coming Home
We don’t know what the first weeks home will look like. It may mean having a strict routine and few visitors. Yeshumnesh is also out going and visitors may help her settle in. We don’t know how it will go. We want friends and family to be in touch with phone calls and e-mail, but don’t be offended if you’re not invited over and we’re not hanging out with anyone. We’ll need to get used to Yeshumnesh and she’ll need to get used to us. Milo and Lexi will also have their own adjustment periods and we’ll really need some normal routine so everyone can settle in. It’s common for these types of adjustments to take twice as long as the child’s previous adjustment took, so it’s possible it will take a year for things to really become normal. We don’t really know. So some of this may need to last for a while and we may be spending Thanksgiving and Christmas at home. If we are visiting someone else we’ll likely need to implement our routine there. At this point it’s all unknown but we just want to prepare you for what it might look like.

Language
We talked about this with Milo, but it’s always helpful to have a reminder. Phrases like “real mom” or “natural family” can have some really negative implications. We like to stick with neutral terms, like “biological mom” and “birth family.” We also don’t talk about children being “given up”/”put up” for adoption, but instead say “parents created an adoption plan.” We also need to be careful when we talk about how “lucky” or “blessed” someone is to be adopted. This can be a difficult because it’s confusing your feelings with Yeshumnesh’s. Remember that Yeshumnesh is not lucky to have had all this stuff happen to her. Instead of telling Yeshumnesh how to feel (whether explicitly or implicitly) by saying “You must be so happy to be with your new family,” tell her how you feel by saying “I’m so happy you’re a part of Kevin & Abby’s family.” She may or may not reciprocate those feelings—she may not be happy to be a part of our family for a while—and that’s fine. Don’t tell her how she should feel.

It’s also likely that Yeshumnesh will call us Kevin and Abby instead of Mom and Dad for a while. Family members should be prepared for something similar.

Pre-Teen Girl
On top of all of this, keep in mind that Yeshumnesh is a pre-teen girl. Everything is emotional and dramatic and drowning in hormones already.

What Do We Need?
We’re really excited to welcome Yeshumnesh into our family. We’ve been thinking about our next adoption for a while and we started preparing for an older child adoption early this year. Lexi is pretty excited and just asked Abby to make a princess dress for Yeshumnesh.

But the process itself is hard. It’s been a lightning fast rollercoaster. We got the initial call about Yeshumnesh on June 8. By way of comparison, Milo’s process took 19 months. Summer trips have been cancelled and we’ve been living in limbo, going from extremes of frantic preparation to deep lows at news of each delay. Due to the sensitive nature of this process, we’ve been pretty quiet about it online, which means we haven’t shared much, been able to commiserate, or fundraised at all. Also, the issues involved are heavy and it’s been physically exhausting trying to process everything. In a nutshell, this is brutal.

We’re preparing for a difficult transition with Yeshumnesh as well, so things may be tough for a while. We’re trying to be realistic about what to expect, which can sound intimidating, but we’re also excited about winter ice skating and family activities and all the positives.

In the end we need a lot of support. We just need general sanity and will be turning to friends to provide babysitting and date nights and sleepovers and whatever might work to share responsibilities and maintain sanity. If you’re the praying type, we could use plenty of prayer: Legal issues (we’re making travel plans in good faith that legal issues will be sorted out), travel, transitions, family bonding, logistics and even financial considerations could all use prayer.

Our friends and family have been incredibly supportive of Milo’s adoption and we’re hoping to find the same love and support this time around. We need and crave that and we appreciate everything people do for us. This is going to be hard and we will screw up and need help and grace.

Please let us know if you have any questions and thank you for being understanding and accepting in this turbulent and exciting time for our family.

Thanks,
Kevin & Abby Hendricks

Meeting Milo – Day 6


March 23rd, 2010

Monday, March 23

After Sunday’s emotionally exhausting trip, Monday was a calmer day. After breakfast we went to the Care Center and got to bring the kids back to the guest house with us. It was nice to have him “home” and to take pictures. And yeah, we took a couple hundred that day.

Riding back on the bus.
Monday 1

Hangin’ with Dad. (yeah, he was wearing size 18 months shorts. Right now, he wears size 18 month pants.)
Monday 2

First family picture
Monday 3

Hangin’ with Mom (we changed his clothes…he’s now wearing size newborn)
Monday 4

True to form – he’s asleep.
Monday 5

After lunch we had to bring the kids back to the Care Center. This was probably the hardest drop off. It was one thing to play with him in the living room of the care center and then walk him back upstairs but to take him out and back “home” and then have to bring him back….that was hard.

Later that day we visited a few different places. We went to the National Museum. It was interesting but as one mom said while we were there, “this stuff is nice to look at but really, I just want my baby.” Yeah. Me too.

We visited a hospital. It’s actually the hospital that takes care of any of the sick children from the Care Center.

We visited a school. That part of the day I enjoyed. We got the general tour. The arena. The court yard. The classrooms. And then I started talking to the finance director and he was showing me their storage room, asking me about curriculum, telling me about class sizes…it was a very interesting conversation. Remember how I talked about wanting to teach for a year in Ethiopia.

This is where I picture myself working – Children’s Home Academy
school 1

The arena.
school 2

The court yard surrounded by classrooms.
school 3

A kindergarten classroom. (It’s about a 1/3 of the size of my current classroom but has about 25 kids.)
school 4

Going to check out the supply room.
school 5

The supply room. This was the supply room for the entire school.
school 6

After that we headed home for dinner and to relax.

Meeting Milo – Day 1 & 2


March 19th, 2010

March 20th is the day we met our son for the first time and March 27th marks 1 year home as a family of four. I don’t think I really blogged about our trip – in detail. So here it is. Day by day.

March 18th and 19th were spent on a plane. We left our house around 10:30 in the moring to catch a flight from Minneapolis to Washington, D.C. I actually thought leaving Lexi would be tough (and it was a little sad to say good-bye) but I think because at that point she had zero concept of time and we had given her a present she was pretty much “Bye. See you later.” And off we went.

We landed in DC around dinner time and waited for our flight to Ethiopia. We took a “direct” flight. We flew from DC to Ethiopia with one stop in Rome to refuel the plane. They don’t let anyone off the plane because it’s only about 45 minutes or so before you’re back in the air.

We landed in Ethiopia Thursday night around 8ish. Honestly, I have no idea what time it was. It was dark. And we got back to the guest house around 11? That’s about all I remember.

The airport was probably the worst part of the trip. There are guys who work at the airport and will offer to carry luggage for a tip. Not a big deal. Except the guy who tried to help us was completely trying to rip us off. I had gone through customs before Kevin (he was exchanging money) and while I waited for him, I was gathering up our luggage. Between the two of us, we had four huge suitcases, two backpacks and a small carryon suitcase. Anyway, the guy saw me waiting with the luggage and started loading it on a cart. I told him no because my husband was coming and he basically pretended not to hear/understand me. I finally found Kevin and the guy tried to tell us the tip was $5 (american) per bag. Um. No. Luckily we found our guide who works for CHSFS and he told us how much to tip the guy and then told the guy to go away. But it wasn’t a very fun way to start the trip.

Things got much better after that. We headed out to the bus with the rest of our group. Most of us were exhausted from the flight but everyone was still pretty excited because tomorrow morning we were meeting our kids. When we got back to the guest house they had packets of information for us. Itineraries for the week, name tags for at the care center, and updates on our kids.

It was a really good thing that I was completely exhausted because otherwise I would not have been able to sleep. At all.

A Long-term Dream


January 9th, 2010

When I was in college I wanted to travel. And I did, a little.

I spent a few weeks one summer in El Salvador and I spent a month in London, doing part of my student teaching.

I seriously considered joining the Peace Corps. I called them, requested the information, even sort of settled on going to Papua New Guinea or El Salvador (I really enjoyed my time in El Salvador and at the time I knew enough spanish to survive.)

I would go to Perkins and sit for hours with a friend who would listen to me talk about wanting to travel, to see the world, to join the Peace Corps, to just do something with my life. And he would tell me to make sure I sent him a postcard from wherever I was. At the time, I was 99% sure it was what I wanted to do when I graduated. I wasn’t in a relationship, I had no desire to go to grad school and I knew that come graduation day, all my friends would be scattering all over the  country so, why not?

But plans changed in an unexpectedly good way. That same friend is now my husband. We’ve got 2 kids, a house, a couple dogs. I’m a teacher and I love my job.

And 11 years later I still  can’t shake that need to travel, to experience living somewhere that is nothing like here. So I’ve come up with a plan. An exciting plan with a very real possibility of working out.

A couple weeks ago I noticed that AHOPE, an organization in Ethiopia that cares for children with HIV, is always looking for voluteers. They specifically request people who are social workers, nurses, doctors, occupational therapists, and teachers. A volutneer needs to there for a minimum of 6 weeks but can stay longer if they wish.

Guess which teacher wants to move her family to Ethiopia for a summer?

I don’t want to go this summer or even next summer. I want to wait until Milo and Lexi are older. If we are going to move them half way around the world for a summer, I want them to experience it, to remember it, to fully participate in the experience.

I’ve already contacted AHOPE to see if this is even a possibility and got a resounding “yes” so now, we just need to make things happen on our end. It will be a lot of work to make this happen, another reason why I’m not trying to plan the trip for anytime soon, but I really think this will happen.

I’ve also got a second plan that involves staying in Ethiopia for a year but we’ll just stick to the plan of going for a summer to see how that works out for us. Then I’ll start plotting a longer stay.

It’s exciting to think about. It’s scary to think about. It makes me happy that we will be able to take Milo back his birth country and Lexi will see probably the most important piece of her brother’s life. I want this to happen.

NaBloPoMo Post #4: Children Just Like Me


November 4th, 2009

Finding children’s books with pictures that represent a wide variety of children is a challenge to say the least.

When we first started our adoption process this book, Children Just Like Me, was recommended to us by several people. And I totally lucked out, I found it for $5 at a used book store.

It’s a great book. It has a wide variety of countries covering major parts of the world. It is pictures of real children and their families and their homes or schools, a few of their toys and descriptions of all the pictures. Except for Ethiopia. Every child in the book is shown with their family. Except the Ethiopian children. For the section on Ethiopia, the children featured are orphans.

Did the authors/photographers really have that difficult of a time finding one family in all of Ethiopia to interview and photograph?

I had one person say “Well, it really is kids just like Milo.” And true, Milo was an orphan in Ethiopia but this simply perpetuates the stereotype of Ethiopia that it is a country unable to care for their children. That’s not how I want my son to view his birth land. That’s not how I want anyone to view Ethiopia.

Am I calling for a boycott of the book? Do I want it removed from libraries? Not used in schools?

No. The rest of the book is extremely valuable and beautifully done.

I think what I am asking for is two things.

1. For people to realize that how they represent a country or people group may be the only small information some people may read on that particular topic. And, personally, I don’t want the world just assuming that Ethiopia is a country full of orphans because it’s not. It’s much, much, more than that.

2. For parents, teachers, grandparents, baby-sitters, anyone who reads books to kids to look carefully at the books they are reading to children and the message the book is sending.

Just to clarify, we do own this book. But for now, it will be put away until I can find enough other books that show real kids in Ethiopia with their families to balance out the picture.

Barefoot on April 16th


April 15th, 2009

On April 16th go barefoot.

Go barefoot to help people understand how important shoes are.

Go barefoot so people know that some kids can’t go to school simply because they don’t have shoes.

Go barefoot so people know that one million people in Ethiopia have a disfiguring and debilitating disease from walking barefoot in volcanic soil.

Go barefoot to remind people that in many countries children walk miles for food, clean water, and medical care.

Go barefoot so you can remind yourself how lucky you are to go home and pick which pair of shoes you’ll wear tomorrow.

A lot to say but not sure where to start.


April 1st, 2009

Now that we are back home and not sick and not jetlaged I’ve been wanting to write about our trip and having Milo home but there is so much to say, so much to share, I’m not quite sure where to start.

First of all, thank you. Thank you to the people who brought us stuff for our rummage sale. Thank you to the people who bought stuff from the rummage sale. Thank you to the people who sent donations towards Kevin shaving his head. Thank you to the people who prayed for us. Thank you to the people who asked us about updates and listened when we were excited about updates and when we complained about wait times. There is no way we could have done this alone. So thank you.

About Ethiopia.

Ethiopia was amazing. It’s how I pictured it to be and completely different than I thought it would be. I can’t really explain it but even though I’d never been there before, everything felt very familiar. When we go back (and we will go back at some point) I want to see more of the country. Our trip was obviously focused on Milo so there wasn’t much sight-seeing or touring. What we saw was mostly out the bus window.

We went shopping at a small mercado. It was obviously designed for tourists. Then we drove through the real mercado. The small mercado was one or two streets of shops, all containing similar jewelry and wall hangings and clothes. The real mercado was huge. Single streets devoted entirely to textiles or shoes or cleaning products or clothes or electronics.

Hosanna

We drove down to Hosanna and saw where Milo lived when he was first brought into the care center. Up until recently, children were relinquished to a care center in their local area and then after a few weeks (sometimes months) transferred to the care center in Addis where they waited for a family. While we were in Hosanna we met one of the nannies who cared for Milo. We showed her a recent picture and she was very excited to see how happy and healthy he looked.

Hosanna is “the country”. It’s about 3-4 hours south of the city and looks like the pictures you see of Ethiopia. There are wide open spaces and traditional round mud and straw huts. There are donkeys carrying yellow jerry cans to fill with water and young kids driving cattle down the road.

The CHSFS bus makes the Hosanna trip every Sunday so I think we were an event for the kids along the way. They ran to the edge of the road, waved and wanted us to take pictures.

The Plane Ride

Let’s face it 20+ hours on a plane just sucks. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It was typical plane seats with minimal room and food that was pretty bland. The ride home however was great. We lucked out and got the bulkhead seats and a bassinet which meant we had leg room and Milo could sleep in a bed. And jet lag wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Milo

Milo seems to be adjusting to life in Minnesota pretty well. He sort of naps in the morning, takes a decent nap in the afternoon and only half wakes up at night for a couple of bottles. And by half wake up, I mean he wakes up, cries and then can barely keep his eyes open to eat.

It’s been fun getting to know him. He’s smiley and happy and for five months old is pretty good at letting us know what he wants.

He likes to be held but is content to hang out on the floor and play with toys.

He thinks Lexi and the dogs are fascinating.

He sucks both thumbs at the same time.

He thinks being naked is really funny. And bath time is a blast.

Along with being naked and bath time he also thinks that spit bubbles, burping, blowing raspberries and chewing on his burp rag are also amusing ways of passing the time.

He took to a bottle right away and gets MAD if he not being fed as soon as he starts to fuss for food.

He likes to be bundled up in blankets and is a total sweat bomb when he sleeps.

He likes riding in his sling. He seems to prefer the ring-sling over the others but I think it’s because he’s a little too short for the other ones.

More updates will come. Like I said – lots to say but not sure where to start.

Leaving Ethiopia


March 26th, 2009

Today is our last day in Ethiopia. We head to the airport in about 8 hours. It’ll be sad to leave but I’ll be glad to be back home in a familiar place with both my kids.

I’ll be posting much more later but for now here’s some highlights:

· Going to Hosanna to meet people who are an important part of Milo’s life.

· Watching the nannies take care of the kids

· Hanging out at the guest house (with candles because of zero power)

· Watching School of Rock

· Going to Metro Pizza (it’s almost as good as Punch Pizza)

· Playing with Lily, the dog that lives at the Guest House

· Finally taking Milo home on Tuesday. No more saying goodbye at the care center.

· Beautiful weather. In the morning it’s a little cloudy and breezy and about 70 degrees. It gets hot around lunch time and then the evenings are cool again.

A couple of things I won’t miss:

· Flies.

· The cats. Seriously, two cats somewhere in our neighborhood would sound like it was a fight to the death every morning around 2ish.

If everything goes as scheduled we should be home by about 4:30 pm on Friday. (We’re leaving Ethiopia at 10:30pm Thursday). See you then.

hi from ethiopia


March 20th, 2009

we’re here. i don’t have much time because we’re sharing a computer with others so grammar and spelling are out the window at the moment.

after a very long flight, we got in thursday night. our travel group is great. it’s been fun finally meeting people that i’ve been “computer friends” with for so long.

today we met milo. he’s tiny. very tiny. but he’s beautiful. he’s got a great smile and is completely content to just snuggle in and sleep in our arms the entire time. although this afternoon he was a little more active – laughing and trying to roll over. he also showed us how he is capable of sucking both thumbs at once.

it’s amazing to see how loved he and the rest of the kids are. the nannies take such good care of them and you can tell they will miss our kids.

we’ve been to the care center twice. do to a power outage we got a very brief orientation before meeting our kids and then got to go back in the afternoon because they couldn’t do another presentation.

we see him again all morning tomorrow.

jet lag is killing me. it’s about 11:30 here and my body is wondering why i am trying to sleep at 3:30 in the afternoon.

internet has been spotty so i’ll try and update wehn/if i can.