Sunday, October 31, 2010

Disneyland Is Magical

It has been years since we have been to Disneyland and all these years later it is still magical.  Lili has regularly talked about the trip and she tells me, "The fireworks were awesome."  We were fortunate to be staying across the street from Disneyland and although we had an obstructed view, we could see the majority of the fireworks from the hotel.  We stood outside Friday and Saturday night watching them in anticipation of seeing them from Disneyland on Sunday.  Unfortunately, the sunshine we had Sunday morning had disappeared by afternoon and by Sunday night we were ending our day at Disneyland in the rain.  It was a light, misty rain which didn't cancel the fireworks display, but the rain created a lot of smoke from the fireworks which obstructed the view.  Regardless, they were, as Lili says, "Awesome."

Not too bad for an obstructed view!

We also had a good view of Disneyland from our hotel room.

Technically, we had a decent view of Disney California Adventure, but the Monorail track was right across the street.  Seeing the Monorail go by built the excitement considerably.
 After watching fireworks, seeing the rides and the Monorail for a few days, we made our way to Disneyland. It was one of the few sunny days we had during our trip which meant the park was very crowded. While a smaller crowd would have been nice, we still had a great time and Monday we got our wish for a smaller crowd which gave us ample time to jump on several rides throughout the day.

We spent Sunday and Monday visiting both Disneyland and California Adventure.  At the time it seemed like two days was enough, but now that we're home it doesn't seem like we spent nearly enough time there.  Guess we'll have to go back!!!

Here are some photos from our Disney adventure.

Fun times on the Dumbo ride.

Naomi happy to pose with Cars.  California Adventure is in the process of building an entire Cars section at that park.  Should be ready in 2012 and looks like it's going to be a fun attraction.

We went to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show.  Lili and Naomi were thrilled, but Naomi wasn't happy about being in the audience.  She wanted to be up on stage visiting the characters. 

What a cute addition to the Toy Story Cast. 

Naomi was loving the rides.

Mommy and Naomi on the Ferris wheel, better known as Mickey's Fun Wheel.  We could clearly see this from our hotel room and Lili talked about going on it for days.  Can you tell I was scared?  I hate Ferris wheels and this one has stationery cars on the outside of the wheel and cars that slide on a track from the inside to the outside of the Ferris wheel.  We were in one of the stationery cars, which was really a good thing for me.

Lili, was not scared on the Mickey's Fun Wheel.  She loved it.

One of 3 tea cup rides for Lili.  I believe this was ride #2.

Lili and Woody!!!!!

Waiting for the fireworks to start.

Managed to get a smile out of Naomi for this picture.  We were waiting for the fireworks to begin and she wanted to get down and go.  If you look closely, you'll see the tears on her face.  Poor baby!

We stood in line to see Mickey and shortly after this picture, he had to leave.  Lili and I were thrilled, but Naomi wasn't quite sure about the big mouse.   He isn't that big on t.v.

After the picture with Mickey we ran over to get a shot with Pluto.  Apparently Naomi was a bit too close for comfort.

Tried to get over to Donald, but were too late.  At least we managed to get a profile shot.

Stay tuned for "Celebrate: A Street Party." I feel it deserves it's very own post.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Our new U.S. Citizen Naomi Aster Weeks.

The judge looks so thrilled :-)  Of course Lili looks equally as thrilled.  LOL!

Then you try to get a wonderful picture of mommy with her loving little girls.

And where else do you go to celebrate, but McDonald's.  (Better known as Uncle Donald's to Lili)

Naomi either being silly or getting ready to River Dance.

Lili loves going to McDonald's playland.

Naomi's first time at McDonald's playland as a US citizen.  Also her first time there legally as Naomi Aster Weeks :-)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Don't Get Excited

There are no pictures or more info on our trip to California. Pictures and a California trip post will be coming soon.

In the meantime, we head to court tomorrow morning for Naomi's readoption and legal name change. Another step will be completed, then we apply for her Certificate of Citizenship, social security card, and US passport. Don't think I've forgotten anything :-)

Anyway, a few posts and pictures will be coming soon.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunny California

Is not so sunny right now.

The girls and I arrived to cloudy weather and yesterday afternoon the sun made an appearance. Actually, it was very nice to see the sun since our main reason for making the trip to California was to attend my niece's wedding. The wedding was in a canyon in Laguna Beach, so some sunshine was a nice touch to a nice ceremony. Still, I would like to see more of the sun and have found myself singing one song often . . . .

Sun, sun, Mr. Golden Sun, please shine down on me . . . .

Tonight we introduced my sister, her husband, their oldest daughter and her husband to Ethiopian food. We went to a restaurant in Anaheim called Tana. The food was great, service was good and the staff lovely. We will certainly make our way back there next time we come out for a visit.

Before heading to dinner, we went to Downtown Disney and made our first visit to Build a Bear. Lili was only partially into Build a Bear, but Naomi seemed to love the experience. Lili is now the proud owner of a black bear we call Carly. Carly includes a little device in her paw that plays the theme song to ICarly. Thus the name, Carly. Naomi is the proud owner of a cute little, cream, brown and black dog we call Dog Dog. There are no additions to Dog Dog and Naomi has smothered Dog Dog with kisses and hugs which began before he had any stuffing.

Tomorrow and Monday we will make a visit to the happiest place on earth - Disneyland. We are staying in a hotel right across the street and Lili is very excited about going. Last night we were able to see the fireworks and are currently waiting for them to start again tonight. Lili says they are "awesome."

Sorry, no photos this time, but I promise to post pictures from our trip once we get back home.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Big Weekend, Big Week

We had some special visitors over the weekend.  Our niece, her husband, and their little guy made the drive up from Texas arriving Thursday afternoon.  That's right folks, Tsegaw came to visit!!!!!

It was a jammed packed weekend of visiting, being entertained by our children, and getting together with some other adoptive families for a visit to an orchard and pizza place.  The most special part of the weekend though, was giving our kids the opportunity to spend time together. 

Lili enjoyed giving Tsegaw a lot of attention and Tsegaw ate up the attention.  Naomi thought is was great fun having someone closer to her age to hang out with and Tsegaw was more than happy to follow Naomi around.

Unfortunately, the visit is now over, but the week ahead is going to be busy, busy, busy. 

Dave left early this morning for a business trip to Seattle.  On Wednesday, the girls and I leave early for our trip toOrange County, California.  Daddy will join us on Friday morning and late Friday afternoon we will head up to Laguna Beach to attend my niece's wedding.  On Sunday and Monday we will make a visit to Mickey's House - better known as Disneyland - before heading home Tuesday.  In between we plan to make a trip to the beach, do some shopping and enjoy some of Southern California's fine cuisine.  We are very much looking forward to our trip and I am especially looking forward to watching the girls as they play on the beach and the look on their faces when they enter Disneyland for the first time.

I will try to post a little while we are gone, but until then I hope you'll enjoy some pictures from our weekend. 

Wonder what yummy things we can find in here?

Hey Naomi, this yellow bottle of stuff looks good!
Yeah Tsegaw, that does look good. 
Okay, Naomi it's my turn to hold the yellow bottle!
No Tsegaw, it's my turn to hold the yellow bottle!
Okay Tsegaw, you can have it.
Thanks Noami (Ha, ha, ha - I got the yellow bottle!)
I'm adorable!!!!!
Look, I'm riding all by myself!!! 
Princess Naomi riding in on her pretty pony.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Small Town, Small World

I don't think I've talked a lot about the small town we live in.  Actually, our little town is referred to as a village.  I pulled some excerpts from Wikipedia which best describes our village.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousands (sometimes tens of thousands).  Often located in rural areas villages are normally permanent, with fixed dwellings.   The dwellings of a village are fairly close to one another, not scattered broadly over the landscape, as a dispersed settlement.

Historically, villages were the usual form of community for societies that practise subsistence agriculture, and also for some non-agricultural societies.

With a population of about 1300, surrounded by corn and soybeans, I would have say this description fits.  Within 5-8 miles north, south, east and west of us are other little towns with populations varying from about 500 - 2500.  Our local grain elevator employees the most people.  We have a grocery store, library, two banks, 1 restaurant, a bowling alley, a tavern, variety store, 3 gas stations, an auto body shop, 2 mechanic shops, a tanning salon, real estate and insurance offices, 5 churches, a consignment shop, post office, a John Deere dealership (one of the largest in Illinois), an elementary school for our little town as well as 2 other small towns nearby, hair salons, a nail salon, barber, 2 parks and an ice cream shop.   It's Mayberry, minus Andy and Barney :-) 

It's a nice little village where most people commute to work in Bloomington or Peoria, Illinois.  State Farm and Caterpillar are the largest employers in this part of the state and the largest of those two nearby towns is Peoria, with a populations of about 113,000.  However, Bloomington co-exists with Normal, IL and the combined population there is somewhere around 130,000.  Bloomington-Normal is primarily a white collar town with a fair amount of diversity.  Nothing like the diversity one would find just 2 hours north of us in Chicago, but a good amount of diversity none-the-less.

Dave and I go to Bloomington-Normal to do the majority of our shopping and Lili attends pre-school there.  Bloomington is about a 20 mile drive one-way for us either taking a small county road or state highway.  Every Tuesday and Thursday morning I make the drive in, drop Lili off at pre-school while Naomi and I spend some quality time together.  This typically includes a stop at Starbucks, errands and if time permits, a trip to the park. 

By now, I'm sure everyone is wondering why I'm spending so much time talking about our little village and where we do our shopping?  To share this story so you understand the impact it had on me, requires that you understand a little bit about our small communities. 

Today was a typical Tuesday for me - Lili was at pre-school, Naomi and I ran to Starbucks, went to the park and then headed to the grocery store.  When we're out and about it's very usual to come in contact with African Americans, people who moved to the area from Mexico, India, China, Thailand as well as other countries in Asia, Central and South America.  Again, it was turning out to be a typical day of running errands and we were making our way through the grocery store when I noticed a woman coming toward us.  I smiled at her as I turned the corner, but noticed that she seemed to have an interest in Naomi and I.  I continued down the aisle when I heard someone say something and glanced over my shoulder to see this same woman walking toward us and realized that she was saying something to me.  I turned around and heard her say, "Is she from Ethiopia?"  But this woman wasn't originally from Bloomington-Normal and I quickly recognized the woman's accent and responded, "Yes.  Are you from Ethiopia?"  She told me she was as she ran up to Naomi and began kissing her hands, cheeks, and forehead.  Naomi has been home almost 7 months and never once had I come across any adult from Ethiopia outside the Chicago area.  We stood in the aisle talking for about 20 minutes as she smothered Naomi with the attention that we experienced daily in Ethiopia.  She told me that she lived in Normal with her husband, her 2 year old and 3 month old.  She told me that there were about 5 families from Ethiopia living in the Bloomington-Normal area.  I shared a little about Naomi with her, told her about all the other families in our area who had children from Ethiopia and before we parted ways we had exchanged names, phone numbers and agreed that we would stay in contact and one day my family would go to her home so she could teach me how to make injera, Ethiopian food and have dinner with her family. 

What started as a typical Tuesday became much more. 

I live in a small town and was reminded once again that I also live in a small world.  What a great day!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

I Promised Photos

And should have had them posted days ago.  Better late than never.

Lili has been watching Handy Manny lately and asking for tools like Handy Manny. We don't have talking tools in our house, but she didn't seem to mind as she helped her brother on our home remodel project.

Many faces of Naomi.

We've had unseasonably warm weather here in Central Illinois which makes it nice for some relaxing time in the sand.
Decorating the deck with sidewalk chalk is also a lot of fun, although it appears decorating each other with sidewalk chalk is equally as fun.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Enjoying Life and Guilty Feelings

I realize that there has to be a balance in life, but honestly I struggle with finding it, especially on an emotional level.

In January, 2007 we boarded a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and went on one of the most memorable trips I have ever taken in my life.  I've had the cruise bug ever since, but our priorities changed and instead of cruises and extravagant vacations, we brought home two beautiful little girls. 

One thing Dave and I talked about during our adoption processes, was the importance of providing our girls opportunity and positive life experiences.  The opportunity of a family;  attending good schools; getting great medical care; living with a roof over their heads, food in their tummies, and clothes on their backs; getting a chance to see the U.S. and other parts of the world, etc.  These are just not opportunities they would have had in their countries of birth and while some are obviously more important than others, they are all things we really wanted to give them.

We are fulfilling all of these goals.  Lili is attending a wonderful pre-school; the girls get regular and very good medical care; we live in a nice house, with good food and they have clothes on their backs; they have seen some of the U.S. and Lili went with us to Ethiopia; and today I took a step toward fulfilling our goal of them seeing other parts of the world and my desire to cruise again when I booked our next CRUISE!!!!! 

Honestly, this is more than just a cruise, this is a celebration of our life together.  Specifically, celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary!  25 years together is truly something to celebrate, don't you think? 

Here is where I tend to struggle with balance and guilty feelings.

To me, balancing life is about fulfilling responsibilites and also making time to enjoy life.  Fulfilling responsibilities seems to be more than a full-time job for me.  They say a woman's work is never done and that is especially true when the woman is also a mom.  I'm never at a loss of things to do because my house never seems to be completely clean, there are meals to prepare, laundry to do, children to bathe and the list goes on and on.  However, I do enjoy escaping from those responsibilities, especially when that escape includes visiting a place I've never seen before. 

So, where is the emotional struggle in that balance for me?  It's the feeling of responsibility I have to help others.  It's the feeling of responsibility I have, especially to orphans. 

Dave continues to remind me that we are not adopting a 3rd time.  He seems to know his limits and apparently two little girls after raising 3 boys is his limit.  I, on the other hand, still struggle with the desire to adopt again versus being done versus finding another avenue to help.  There is balance in that part of life as well and that is an emotional struggle for me.  Is it okay to spend money on a cruise, enjoy moments of our life together, provide our girls opportunity to have positive experiences while seeing other parts of the world when there are millions of children without a home and family?  How do I find the balance that says it's okay to enjoy some of the luxuries of life without feeling guilt?  Am I the only one who feels this way?  Have others found the perfect balance in their lives?   Will I find the perfect balance for me?  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The U.S. Withdraws

This is from the DOS

Guatemala Pilot Program

October 5, 2010

On October 5, 2010, the United States withdrew its letter of interest in participating in a pilot program to resume processing of intercountry adoption placements for a limited number of older children, groups of siblings, and children with special needs. The letter of interest had been previously submitted to the Guatemalan Central Authority for Adoptions, Consejo Nacional de Adopciones (CNA), in response to its November 2009 announcement of this limited pilot program.

The U.S. decision to withdraw its letter of interest is based on concerns that adoptions under the pilot program would not meet the requirements of the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention. Specifically, the United States believes that more safeguards for children should be in place before the CNA could start processing new intercountry adoptions. In addition, the Guatemalan Government has not yet provided specific details for how adoption cases under the pilot program would be processed under Guatemala’s new adoption law.

The United States remains open to resumption of intercountry adoption placements from Guatemala, but will consider such a resumption only when it is confident that a Hague-compliant system is in place, including strong safeguards against abuses and resolution of the issues that led to corrupt and fraudulent practices prior to the 2007 halt in new adoptions.

It is our hope that the U.S. withdrawal from consideration for the pilot adoption program will allow CNA to focus its attention on resolving all pending transition cases.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lack of Posts

I've had a lot of ideas blog post ideas rolling around in my head, but haven't put any of them on my blog.  Since I need to start somewhere, I'll start with some updates.

We have a remodel project going on in our house right now.  We're putting down new flooring in our kitchen and dining room, pulling out the slider in the dining room and putting in a window, then painting both the dining room and kitchen.  Dave has about 1/3 of the flooring down in the kitchen and it really looks nice.  It's a laminate flooring that looks like ceramic.  Less expensive than ceramic and shouldn't be easily damaged by dogs and kids. 

We also had to replace our refrigerator.  Our old one hadn't worked well for several years.  It was freezing things in the refrigerator, the seal around the freeze door was going bad and it was leaking water.  It was about 16 years old and not worth putting 100's of dollars into it.  We are now the proud owners of a Samsung side-by-side refrigerator with all kinds of electronic controls for ice, water, energy saving, etc., etc.  It's a nice refrigerator, but may be smarter than I am :-) 

I'm in planning mode.  Dave and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in November and decided that we wanted to take a cruise.  We won't be cruising in November though as it was kind of a last minute decision and because we wanted to invite some people to come along and help us celebrate the milestone.  I haven't decided on the exact cruise yet, but we'll most likely set sail the end of January or beginning of February.  We've cruised one other time and absolutely loved it.  Of course that cruise was B.L.A.N. (before Lili and Naomi) so it will have a different dynamic, but we absolutely loved cruising and can't wait to go again.

I'm also working on the next TAFRU, which is being held in Chicago.  Not a lot of planning to do right now, other than finding a hotel with decent rates (somewhat challenging in Chicago), but am excited about the event next summer.

The other planning I've done recently is our trip to Southern California.  My niece is getting married on the 22nd of this month.  Unfortunately, Dave has to go on a business trip that same week, so the girls and I will be flying into Orange County a couple days before the wedding and then daddy will join us the morning of the 22nd so at least we'll be able to attend the wedding together.  We couldn't very well make this trip without also visiting Disneyland, so we'll spend a couple days with Mickey and the gang before heading back home.  I also hope to meet up with some fellow Toukoul adoptive families for dinner one evening.  It will be a jam packed trip, but one I'm very much looking forward to.

Now, onto the girls.

Lili started pre-school last month and absolutely loves it.  Her teacher told me this morning that she is the only one in the class that consistently tries to write their name.  I taught her to write her name over the summer and fortunately L-i-l-i is a pretty easy name for a 3 year old.  However, being the independent child that she is, she doesn't want me to help her with her name and now spells it L-i-i-l.  At least she has the right letters even if they aren't in the correct order :-)

I'm also told that Lili makes her teachers laugh every day she's at school.  She is a funny little girl with a good sense of humor, so it doesn't surprise me.  My concern is that we may have a budding class clown on our hands and that could spell trouble down the road, but for now it sure is cute!

Lili still loves books, play-doh, coloring, and painting.  She also loves being outside and especially loves playing in the sandbox and swinging.  She can swing high on her glider and is trying to figure out how to pump her legs to keep herself going on the swing, but hasn't quite accomplished it yet.  I'm sure she'll be swinging high before we know it.  Her other loves are music and dancing.  I asked her last night if she wanted me to sign her up for a dance class and got an enthusiastic "YEAH."  Guess I should be looking for a dance instructor who is ready for Lili :-)

Lili's language is awesome.  Granted, she's almost 3 1/2 years old and should have good language skills at this point, but it is still amazing to know how much her language has developed over the last year and even over the last six months. 

Lili is mommy's helper.  She loves to help me bake, dust, wash windows and do laundry.  For a matter-of-fact, I can't dust or wash windows without her help.  She also likes to wash dishes, although her definition of washing dishes is quite different from mine.  Hers looks a lot like playing in the water, but she assures me that she's washing dishes.

Our challenge with Ms. Lili right now is her melt-downs.  I was concerned that she may have some attachments sensitivities, but after discussing it with our social worker and doing further research I think the true cause is that she is simply a strong-willed child.  My research also strongly indicates that her melt-downs are very normal for 3 year olds, even though they seem pretty over-the-top to us.  They occur when she is not allowed to 'get her way,' and not every time she doesn't get her way.  Primarily they happen when she's tired (mornings before she's completely woken up, prior to nap or after an incomplete nap and prior to bedtime).  Again, not necessarily everyday during those times, but when they happen, those are the times they tend to happen.  Fun times with a 3 year old.

Naomi is really blossoming lately.  She is almost 16 months old now and has been walking for a couple months.  She has also discovered a love of climbing.  She regularly climbs up on Lili's step stools in the bathrooms and last night managed to climb onto the couch using daddy's legs to get herself up there.  I regularly catch her hiking her leg up onto a piece of furniture as she tries to figure out how to get up onto it.  She has taken a few tumbles in her attempts, but that hasn't stopped her from trying again.

Naomi's speech is starting to take off as well.  I've been trying to keep a list of words, but it seems that everyday she's saying a new word that doesn't get added to the list.  Granted, most wouldn't be understood by anyone other than mommy and daddy (sometimes not understood by daddy), but she's really interested in talking and turning into quite a chatterbox.  Here is a list of words I regularly hear.

ni-ni = night night
yi-yi = Lili
ayah = Jada
dada = daddy
mama = mommy
wa = water
e-i-e-i = singing Old McDonald Had a Farm
yigh = light

Her respective language is what truly has been amazing to me lately.  It was the same for Lili, but just knowing that English was not the language she heard for the first 9 months of her life and having her appropriately responded to questions and requests boggles my mind. 

Naomi has started showing her independent side recently.  She would rather climb up the stairs then be carried.  I gave her a fork and her plate a  couple weeks ago so she could start working on her feeding skills.  As a result, she now hates to be fed and will actually throw a mini tantrum if I try to feed her.  It's okay at home, but a bit more challenging in a restaurant.  Oh well!  She also weaned herself from the bottle.  She just wanted to drink out of a cup like Lili, which made it pretty easy on mommy. 

Naomi loves books and will consistently bring books for us to read to her.  She also thinks it is great fun to color, but only for very short periods of time.  Apparently she enjoys the crayons more in her mouth than on the paper, so I'm finding other avenues that will allow her to express her artistic side.  Travel size Magna Doodles have worked well so far. 

Unlike Lili, Naomi is showing an interest in dolls and stuffed animals.  Lili is just starting to play with dolls a little bit and I think that is only because the girls at school play with the dolls in the classroom.  Naomi, on the other hand, will pick up dolls or stuffed animals and shows them love by giving them kisses and hugs.  Naomi also loves to hug and kiss Jada and Lexie, which is really cute.  If only I would have the camera ready, maybe I could get a good picture of her showing love to her doggies.

Naomi continues to be a good sleeper.  If our schedule would permit, she would still take a morning nap and many times does get in a short nap while we're out and about in the mornings.  By afternoon she is really tired and typically takes at least a 2 hour nap and still sleeping 10-12 hours at night. 

I think that pretty much covers the updates for now and I'll do my best to post some new pictures in the next few days.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Another Drawing

Happy Girl Hair is having another drawing for a silk lined winter hat.  If interested, go here and enter to win.