Friday, November 30, 2007

Luigi Plumbs...Liz solders (sort of)

What an interesting day.

Luigi the Plumber came by around 12:30 to re-route some copper pipes that come out of our water heater in the garage and were in the way of the door to be cut into the baby's room from our bathroom. Now, Luigi is quite a character. He's about 4' 8", 60 years old, and has these crazy blue eyes that you feel like you should be able to see right through. He has a heavy Italian accent, but speaks very good English. He's also seemingly become quite fond of some English expletives, specifically "Son of a b*%^&."

I was telling my mom that I'm not even sure he realizes what he's saying. Sort of like, if you went to Italy and worked in construction and each time there was a snafu another construction guy said, "Holy Pasta," you might start saying "Holy Pasta" each time YOU had a snafu, just assuming that it was as benign as saying, "Oh shoot" (and I suppose that "Holy Pasta" IS more benign than "Oh shoot," so bad example, but...).

Each time something went awry, which seemed to be about every seven seconds, Luigi would either mutter or shout "Son of a B*^&$!" Thankfully, George was asleep upstairs!

I told him of my love of construction and assured him that my presence in the garage had nothing to do with my supervising his work, but instead my desire to see how this was going to come together. He handed me a hammer and told me to start pulling nails out of the 2x6s. First, I had to change my shoes. I made the mistake of wearing brand new Crocs during construction once before. That mistake shall not be made again.

Then, as I start pulling nails, I realize that Luigi is a bit of a "whistle while you work" guy. He's over there humming and whistling Italian songs. So, I start humming Christmas songs because that's all that's in my head right now, despite the fact that it's 70 degrees out. But it is raining today, so it feels a little East coast-ish.

He mentions that my humming is interfering with his. I thought he was joking, but then he turns on this godawful loud mini jackhammer. So I sang louder. But trust me, NO ONE could hear me. That thing was VERY loud.

Then, he turned it off. He returned to humming and swearing, and it occurred to me that perhaps this was some sort of cultural experience and, when in doubt, one should just do as the locals do. This was the justification I gave myself for, whenever a nail was slow to be removed, simply muttering, "Son of a B*^&%!" to myself! It was most cathartic.

But the best was yet to come. It was time to solder the copper piping. I saw the blow torch. I said, with great awe, "Oh, are you going to use that?"

"Yep! Wanna do it?"

"Yes, I do. I really do," I replied.

So, he did a demo on one piece of pipe and then handed me the torch and the soldering "stuff." I never know the technical term for anything. Most things in the world are "thinga-ma-hooches" or "thingys" or "stuff."

I'm there, blow torch in hand, trying to do just what he did, and he's yelling.

"Liz! No! Higher! Lower! On top!"

Now, I think he's screaming, "Try her!" because, as I said, he has a strong accent and the blow torch was loud.

So, I counter with, "I AM trying!"

"No!" he yells. "Higher!"

"What?" I screamed.

At this point, he grabs the blow torch out of my hand and says, "Liz, you make me nervous. You have blow torch right by drywall."

Do you honestly think I didn't know that, Luigi?

He took over at that point, but for 17 seconds, I was soldering my baby's room's copper pipe.

It was at that moment that I vowed that I will have my hands in each of the subcontractor's work to some degree so that I can say I truly worked on each facet of this project.

The concrete guy comes next Friday. Not sure what he'll let me do. But if nothing else, I will draw a little something on the concrete before it dries!

In other, equally magnanimous news, our home study was officially approved today by our agency. That was a big one. Many changes were required from the Guatemalan home study to be in accordance with Ethiopian regulations. One more signature and we can mail our dossier and be on the waiting list for our sweet Ethiopian Princess!

Luigi and his mini jackhammer

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Moving...And Building...

Well, things are progressing! We're only waiting on three documents, two of which are in the mail to us and one should be finalized in the next few days. Then we can, hopefully, get on the wait list!

So, we need to get going on the baby's room. We're making another bedroom out of a quarter of our garage and it will be off of our master bathroom. The drywall guy wasn't moving quickly enough for me, so I decided to take matters into my own hands, literally. I began removing drywall on Tuesday and finished this evening. I cannot move at all.

Jack and Henry wanted in on the action

After Day Two
The finished product!The plumber should be here in the next day or two and then the concrete guy. From there, a whole slew of folks come in and do their thing.

My neighbors think I'm completely insane for taking this drywall removal thing on myself, but anyone who knows me well knows how much I love construction!

But I realized something as I was thinking about my insanity. With my first four children, my body worked to grow them and nourish them until they were ready to come into the world. Now, those who know me know how much I did not like being pregnant. I always had vivid fantasies of a pregnancy wherein I wore fabulously cute clothing (in which I looked fabulously cute) and loved every minute. This never occurred.

I found cute clothes, but they didn't look nearly as cute on me as they did on the mannequin in the store window. I grew seemingly in every direction, and I felt like a blimp. It was worth every bloated, painful second obviously, but it was a means to an end.

With this baby, I can't provide my uterus. I can't let my body do the work by nourishing her in utero. But what I can do is use my core muscles to hammer out drywall! Building her room is truly a labor of love for me. Every drop of sweat, every hammered finger (of which there were ten), every tweak of my back muscles as I strained the wrong way to get another piece of stubborn drywall out, was an act of me giving of myself for her in a way no one else can (or will).

In each of my pregnancies, I do the physical labor (whether carrying a baby in my belly or hammering for hours on end) and David makes sure I'm well fed. He doesn't do home renovations, so interestingly during this "pregnancy" he cooks while I work. He made me many a wonderful (and large) sundae when I was pregnant with the other four kids, and, lo and behold, he's off to make me a HUGE one right now! Come to think of it, perhaps the ingestion of those sundaes is what made it impossible for me to fit into those cute maternity clothes. But this time around, I don't have to fit into any of those clothes. So I say, bring on the sundae - and make it large!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I found this image after my very crazy last few days, and I found it most calming. I think I need something like this that's very big to hang in my office!

Let's go back a few days to Wednesday. I spent 5 1/2 hours in the morning cleaning the house for Thanksgiving. Just as I was finishing, I realized that the kids were upstairs pretty much undoing all of my work. Then, the doorbell rang.

It was a FedEx package I've been waiting on of a product my dad and I are developing. The product had a few "issues" in my opinion, but while I was discussing those concerns with my dad over the phone, I had to cut the call short because my contractors pulled up.

The contractors had come over to discuss the process for demolishing 1/4 of the garage and making it into the baby's room. Now, I could have made this demolition process easier (and more expensive) had I put someone in charge of general contracting. But because easy isn't fun (and it's too expensive) I decided to be that general contractor myself. So, I'm coordinating a general build-the-walls-and-drywall-them-all guy, a plumber, an AC guy, an electrician, a guy to pour cement, and a stucco guy. So 2 of those folks were here and they were trying to figure out when each of the OTHER guys needed to come. It was all going so well. Until the build-the-walls-and-drywall-them guy commented that he wanted to tear out drywall this Sunday. As in tomorrow.

As my eyes widened (I wasn't prepared to start until after Dec. 5th), the UPS truck pulls up. Now, this was, I knew, a very important package from our agency with our Guatemalan dossier in it and our new Ethiopian dossier packet. We planned to transfer a large number of the Guatemala documents to the Ethiopian dossier.

I had a call 20 minutes later with our case manager. But then I heard the phone ring and something told me to answer it.

I told the guys to hold on with their can-I-demolish-in-4-days discussion, and ran inside to get the phone. It was our case manager wanting to hold our call a few minutes early since she was leaving early for the holiday.

I told the guys in the garage to figure it out and just let me know when the drywall would start coming down. (I still don't know if anyone's coming tomorrow!)

I took my call with our case manager, during which I emptied the contents of the package they'd sent. I found myself a bit confused because while all of the copies of our Guatemalan dossier were there, none of the originals were. I asked her about this, she asked me to hold, and she came back commenting that she thought it was possible that they had been sent, you guessed it, to Guatemala.

Now, we're hoping that they are in Guatemala but have not been authenticated yet. If they've been authenticated, we must start all over. But hopefully that's not the case and they can simply be mailed back.

Okay, that was exhausting. To live it AND to write it! But we'll know more on Monday.

We got a bunch of forms notarized today, dropped our new medical forms off with our doctor, and got some pictures developed for our package.

We're getting there!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

First of all, this is what I want to live in: a world of thanks. I'm trying lately to be much more conscious of being thankful for what I DO have instead of wishing for what I DON'T have. For the amount of blessings that we have been granted is quite large.

As I continue to research Ethiopia, one thing that's struck me so profoundly about their culture is the level of thanks they offer for what, in our world, would be considered the smallest of things. They have a square on the sidewalk to sleep on at night, and they give thanks. They have an opportunity to eat one meal a day, and they give thanks. They have the ability to raise their children instead of offering them life through an adoptive family, and they are forever grateful. It's very humbling. I read about an orphanage where the kids made tether ball sets out of socks filled with dirt, and then I looked into my backyard to see the tether ball set our kids have which had been taken apart and was waiting to be put back together again. These things are, in our world, taken quite for granted. We want a tether ball set, we buy one. (Or, in this case, are given one as a gift from Grammy and Poppy!) But nevertheless, the children in Ethiopia are given a pencil and they feel as though they've been given the world. The sense of gratitude they possess has truly inspired me.

Many know that George seems to favor David lately. And by "lately," I mean for the last several YEARS! It's hard for me to get a hug or a kiss from him. It's impossible for me to get him to sit on my lap. So today, when I was handed his thanksgiving box made at preschool with a slip of paper inside noting for what he is thankful, I was fully prepared to see "Papa" written on that paper. Imagine how my heart melted when, instead, I saw, "My Mommy." And then, he had dictated four things for which he is thankful and his teacher wrote them down. They were, "My Mommy," "cookies for lunch," something I can't remember, and "My new baby sister from North America...I mean Africa." I do just love that kid. But I didn't give him cookies for lunch nor do I know where he came up with that idea!

I'm off to get the other kids from school, and I think that this afternoon we will take a bike ride and spend the day outside. All of us. Not them outside while I'm working. I will give thanks for the gift of these children and the weather and our wonderful neighbors and the cool breeze and just spend time with all of it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

I am very much looking forward to this in a few days. Pumpkin pie, my favorite.

We're also looking forward to receiving our dossier packet from our agency. It will have all of the revised documents we need to get filled out, which I hope to do in five days or less.

Also, most of our friends know that we are completely addicted to The Amazing Race. This season, there is a brother/sister team that, from the very start, I was convinced was from Ethiopia. They didn't say anything at first, and I checked CBS's website to see if it was in their bio, but nothing.

Then, last night, the teams had to venture to a little-known town in west Africa. The sister said, "We love Africa because we're from Ethiopia." David and I were like, "Yes! We knew it!" There is just something about their eyes that is very distinctive. Ethiopians have very distinct and beautiful eyes and I was just sure that they were from Ethiopia. And I was right! So now I'm rooting for this team 100%. They're good people, too, not taking other teams' taxis or stealing their camels!

One more day of school for the kids and then it's Thanksgiving break. Looking forward to a few days of food and family.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It Was a Day!

This is how many people turned out for my book signing today at Borders in Tucson. Well, better than zero! Many of the employees approached me as I sat at my little table by the parenting/kids section and said, "We're sorry there wasn't a better turnout. We feel terrible that you came all the way from Phoenix!"

"Are you kidding?" I responded. "Four quiet hours (round trip) in the car and 90 quiet minutes sitting here. AND I'm learning all about how to cut dados with my router thanks to this handy Fine Woodworkers magazine. This is a great day!"

But then when I left, I thought, "Maybe I SHOULD be depressed that I only had one visitor. And if I WERE depressed, what would I do? I'd go shopping." So I headed across the street to a great import furniture store and bought myself a candlestick. A very good day indeed.

Our fantastic social worker here has already modified our home study so that it now meets the guidelines for Ethiopia. Hopefully our agency will get it approved this week. And hopefully our revised contracts will arrive on Tuesday and we'll really get this ball rolling! Can't wait.

Plus, the high tomorrow is, I believe, 79. It was so cold in our house this morning with the windows open that we thought it might snow (okay, it wasn't that cold, but compared to what we've been experiencing, it was very, VERY chilly).

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Moving Right Along (Again)...

This isn't me. I think this person is under the age of 10. But this is what I feel like! I don't think I realized how much the decisions we were making were weighing on me. I feel free!

We had our official orientation into the Ethiopian program this morning. Not too much is different between the Ethiopian program and the Guatemalan program. The biggest difference lies in how the children come to be at Hannah's Hope. In Guatemala, Hannah's Hope truly is an orphanage, where many children who are not available for adoption live until such a time when they can leave for one reason or another. In contrast, HH Ethiopia is more of a transition house than an orphanage. They hope to not have any child living there for more than one year. The children come to HH from government run orphanages, and they come based on the fact that our agency believes they can be placed with a forever family.

When we go to pick up our daughter, we will have the opportunity to not only spend time at HH, but also at the government-run orphanage where she initially was taken. That will certainly be an amazing experience!

Another interesting fact is that, in Ethiopian culture, a child is given her father's name. So when our daughter gets her documents to come into the U.S., her name will be David _____ Lyons. The "blank" will be whatever her given Ethiopian name is. So, if her Ethiopian name is Amaya, her passport will say David Amaya Lyons. David's not sure about this, but I've assured him that I'll get the readoption done here in the U.S. as soon as possible so we can get "David" out of first place in her name! For insurance purposes, until that happens, she will be known as David. Hilarious. That ought to be real fun for the insurance company to deal with!

For now, we need to update some portions of our dossier. Thankfully, the Ethiopian dossier is a breeze compared to the Guatemalan dossier. A few updated documents and we will, hopefully, find ourselves back on a wait list. I hope our number will be nowhere near as high as it was on the Guatemalan list (or, should I say, as low).

We simply cannot wait. I was in Old Navy today and found a onesie that was pink and said, "I was worth the wait." I wanted to buy it so badly, but I had no idea what size to buy AND I fear that by the time she comes home, it may be hotter than blazes here again and no place for a child to wear a long-sleeved anything!

Stay tuned!

Monday, November 5, 2007

I'm Back!

I've been MIA from this blog for several months, which I think is probably okay because, truthfully, I think I'm the only one who reads it.

The fact of the matter is, our adoption journey has taken more than a few unforeseen turns, and each time I thought to document one of them another emerged. I couldn't keep up. The maze above pretty accurately illustrates what I went through in my mind to get myself to the place we are today.

As many of you know, the process for adoptions from Guatemala is changing. People have dedicated entire chapters of their blogs to the details and since they, in their totality, give me a headache (the details, not the bloggers) and I already have a headache, I won't delve into them. Suffice it to say it's a bit of a mess.

When we began the process of adopting from Guatemala, we knew that these issues may arise. However, we didn't think for a moment that they'd arise so soon. We were only paying attention to the U.S. side of things, which wasn't smart. It didn't occur to us (or to many others) that Guatemala would take steps that, in the end, will hopefully ensure the long-term safety of the children and integrity of the adoption process, but in the short-term will cause a lot of confusion and delay.

When the latest information on the process in Guatemala, the expected delays, and the unknowns (of which there are many many many) were presented, I had a long chat with our case manager at our agency. We were still way down at the bottom of the list for a referral. In fact, our case manager mentioned that based on past trends, by the time we were placed with a baby we may set a record for the longest time on the wait list they'd seen. Not a record I was thrilled to achieve.

So, after much discussion, thought, research, soul-searching, research, reading, and did I mention research, we have chosen to switch countries.

Many months ago (okay, two months ago, but it feels like many months ago), when this all started looking not-so-good, our case manager asked us if we'd ever thought about Ethiopia. The truth? We had not. Not for any reason in particular; we'd simply been drawn to Guatemala and our search stopped there.

But once I started researching Ethiopia, I could not stop. I was drawn in from every side and every angle. We had to ask ourselves some questions that were different from those we asked ourselves when we were considering Guatemala but, all in all, the answers didn't change. At least not the important ones.

So, the bottom line is that we will now wait for our daughter to be born in Ethiopia!!!! We are over the moon, truly. We're waiting for an official call with our new case manager to see what paperwork needs to be altered. Then we'll wait. However, the wait list for Ethiopia isn't nearly as long as it is for Guatemala and none of the issues currently present with adoptions in Guatemala exist in Ethiopia. No international adoption is without risk, but we feel very good about this change.

We don't know how long we'll wait. Grace asked this morning, "Exactly WHEN is my sister coming home? And exactly WHERE is she coming from?" The latter we know; the former, not so much. But we should have a better idea very soon.

So I'm thrilled to be up and running and documenting this amazing experience once again. I've met some incredible people already, and experienced some strange "coincidences," and each day I am more and more excited at the prospect of meeting this new little person and welcoming her into our family.

Stay tuned. There's more to come!