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Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday


Each morning we get up and head to the hotel restaurant and Niki and I cross our fingers and hope it is a buffet.  Some mornings it is and some it is not, and every time we see it’s a buffet we look at each other and say, “Yes! Buffet!”  The reason is that ordering is not easy here and the buffet just offers so many more options for the kids.  This morning was a buffet so our day got off to a good start. 

The morning was spent coloring, jumping on the trampoline, and watching a movie.  This afternoon I told Niki (as the kids where watching their second movie of the day with an expected third sometime tonight before bed) are we bad parents because they watch multiple movies a day right now?  Nik smartly responded, “No, there is only so much we can do each day at the hotel and these movies are saving our sanity and the kids, its not like we will be doing this when we are back in the states.”  So that made me feel better, but don’t judge us to harshly for watching two or three movies a day!

After the movie and some more play time it became time for lunch.  They make the best soup here!  The other food is good, but not special.  Their soup is special!  Nik and I just love it.  Today was cream of mushroom with vegetables and other times we have had a really good tomato soup and an amazing coconut and carrot soup (sounds not so great, but it was the best!).  So the next time you are in Kampala make sure to hop over to the Esella Country Hotel and order some soup J 

This afternoon we found out that the court ruling that we received made it to Kampala today, but apparently the register doesn’t think it can be typed and prepared until the end of next week. This is very frustrating as we cannot go to the Embassy until we get this document.  I think both of us wish they would get it to us so we could type it for them and then return it for the stamp and signature, but it doesn’t work that way.  Our lawyer is trying to do what we can to hurry things, but he told us to be prepared to not go to the Embassy until Friday of next week or the following Monday. 

We went swimming again this afternoon and the kids had fun, but Moses is still not sure about swimming.  He likes being in the water, but when we try to get him to kick and such that can help him start learning to swim he gets very anxious.  It is very understandable, but we are working on it. 
We introduced the kids to Legos, today! They had a blast and Claire is still playing with them, right now. As we were playing altogether this afternoon Claire got us started in a lovely family rendition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. It was something special!

Morning Thunderstorm



Playing with Legos for the first time!



Travis made this football stadium. Someone is REALLY ready for college football to get started! 
Boomer Sooner!! 


Claire made this while we were blogging. 

Tonight we had dinner in our room of Easy Mac, granola bars, and goldfish, not healthy but very cheap.  Wish we had a kitchen and didn’t have to pay so much to eat out for EVERY meal. After dinner we promised the kids milk shakes as it was listed on the desert menu and we told them Ice Cream as a milk shake is Ice cream in the US….. well that is not true in Uganda, it was more like strawberry milk and was not thick at all.  It was very disappointing!  We haven’t had really any desert while we have been here so we have been aching for it!

Tomorrow is a big day!  We are going to the Entebbe Zoo!  It’s  supposed to be pretty good, and then Little Donkey again for dinner.  Will hopefully be a great day!  Please keep praying for the embassy process!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

We Survived the 1st Week of Parenthood!

On Monday, when we took the kids to the IOM to get their TB tests done, they got the injection and we were told to come back on Thursday morning to have them checked. So, of course, that's what we did. When we got there we were told that no one was working today or tomorrow because they were all at a seminar and for us to come back Monday. REALLY?!?! Didn't you know on Monday that you'd be at a seminar on Thursday & Friday? Come on! As Travis and I have said so many times on this trip "It is what it is", there's nothing we could except come back Monday. Although, if they make the kids get the injections again b/c it's been more than 3 days, I'll be furious! Today's incident I've been able to let go pretty easily, though.

Our plan was to go to the IOM, figuring we'd have to wait for quite a while to be seen, then go to lunch, since we had a driver for the morning. So, we still wanted to go out to lunch, so we needed something to fill the time. Our driver suggested that we go to the Kings' Tombs. It was a great suggestions. The last 4 Bugandan kings have been buried there and we learned all about them. It's 64 acres, that the decedents of the widows live on and farm. There are several people in these decent lines because 2 of those 4 kings had over 112 children! There is also a family cemetery and a drum room. The drums were for announcing to the kingdom that someone important was coming. As, Prince Joseph, our tour guide, called it "1800s Wifi". In the 1800s a 20 meter tall hut (the largest in the world) was built for the burial of the first of these kings. In the 1930s the hut was rebuilt, but was only 9 meters tall. In 2010 a group of arsonists burnt the hut down. The kings' tombs were safe because they are underground, but the hut is in shambles. They have hired historians and engineers to rebuild it to its original 20 meter tall 1800s structure.

Three of the four kinds buried in the hut. Also, paintings on tree bark.


Where the royal hut once stood and is now being reconstructed.

This is what the hut looked like before it was burned down in 2010 (www.images.google.com)

Widows' huts

Inside the model hut the engineers are using. There will be one ring per clan, made by each clan, plus the top three rings made by the current king, for the reconstruction.


Royal decedents burial grounds. 

Drum Room

Moses loved the drums!


From there, it was lunch time and we headed to a Mexican restaurant called The Little Donkey. It was recommended to us by some friends in Austin, who've also adopted from here. It was SOOOOOO good! I told Travis I was surprised that we didn't see a Mexican chef/owner. It was so good and authentic! Our driver, Francis, told us that the owner was white. We figured he was trained in Mexico or the US and opened this place. It was quite the westerner's hot spot. Francis also said that on days that it's not raining there is a live donkey our front wearing a sombrero! We'll have to go back on a nicer day!




We came back to the hotel and we thought Claire and Moses would want to play outside since it stopped raining, but they wanted to chill in the room. They colored and had a snack and we all relaxed. We got to Skype with Pop, then later on with Dani during her conference time while she was at school. The kids got to say HI to all the 3rd grade team where she teaches. Later on we Skyped with Ellen (I miss her!!) and Tag (our dog). Ellen is watching him while we are gone. We had a great time seeing and talking with Ellen and the kid really enjoyed seeing Tag. They sing songs about Jordan and Tag and have little stuffed versions of them that they play and sing with. We hope this makes the transition of bring 2 giant dogs into their lives easier. 

The four of us are really figuring one another out and how to get along with each other. The kids get along splendidly! We're wondering when they will get sick of each other's company and start arguing like brother and sister, but we can wait a long long time for that to happen! Moses hasn't really pushed any boundaries, he minds really well. Claire has improved a great deal in the last week and I'm impressed with how much progress we've made with her an such a very short time! She's been testing us to see how much she can get away with and she's learned that she needs to listen and follow directions, so things are getting MUCH easier with her.

Today Francis asked me how old I was, he said I look so young. Thanks! I told him I'll be 28 next week and his jaw dropped. He said I look 18. Oh my, they wouldn't let an 18 year old adopt! I told him that all I want for my birthday are two visas. He said he'd pray for that. So, won't you all join him in his prayer!

We had a good "waiting" day. There will be many more of those to come! We got the last signature that we need to get for their passports and paperwork that needs to be filed with the Embassy is coming along. We are still hoping to bring all the documents to the Embassy on Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Another day of waiting

This morning Claire realized that Mama's hair is soft and fun to play with!  After about ten minutes of playing, it was a tangled mess!  Yet, it sure was fun.  The kids also love to play with my (Travis) arm hair, they think it is fascinating as men here generally don't have arm hair.  After breakfast during which Claire refused to eat and then at the end decided to eat (we have been having some trouble with a picky eater who likes to throw fits) we went outside a played for a while.  The trampoline is of unending entertainment to the kids.  Each day they ask to do jump jump.  Today I tried to teach them Break the Egg a game of fun for my friend Matt Dawson and I, but they where unsure about it until they finally figured it out and LOVED it!

After trampoline time we watched Finding Nemo for the 4th time.  Its hard to get them to try new movies right now they only want to watch three: Nemo, Lion King, Ice Age.  Since they don't really remember the names of the movies they ask for them each a different way:  For Nemo they say Nemo!  For Ice Age they say Baby!  For Lion King they sing the first few bars of the opening song in made up words.  But it all works in the end.  Maybe tomorrow we will try to show them something new and fun.

After this we went out to lunch at the Simba Cafe.  The kids love chicken and rice, and they get it at about every meal right now.  Claire actually likes to chew on the bones and suck out the marrow I think.  Clearly not safe, but its hard to tell them to stop something they have probably been doing for years.  So instead of chicken fingers like the in US its chicken and rice on the bone.  I have been wondering if when we get back they will think chicken tenders are weird because of no bones?  We will see.

After this we dropped by the ATM and it is still funny withdrawing a million of anything even if it is a million schillings!  We then took a drive north to visit a friend of our Austin pastor, Eric Vogt.  Eric lived in Uganda for a couple months a few years ago and taught divinity to Gonzaga and others.  Gonzaga is about to go to University and needed a laptop, thankfully Eric found one in the US for super cheap and he saved on shipping by packing it in our bag!  Gonzaga was really excited to see us and show us around the church that he lives near and serves with.  We met the Sister (nun) who runs the clinic there and it was amazing to hear of all the work they do with the poor and needy.  They provide services to anyone who comes whether Catholic or not and they do a lot of work on the HIV prevention side.  We then met Gonzaga's family who were very excited to see us.  I think he had about a thousand siblings.

By the time I got back to the hotel our lawyer George called and we got to talk about some of the issues going on with the case.  One of the struggles (an understandable one) is that with custody cases everything on the government side is a little harder because each official you speak with gets very serious as they are all very concerned with child trafficking so everything you do takes extra time and work.  So it looks like their passports now have all the need government signatures, but some other government documents are being slow.  We have to wait for these before we can fully submit our VISA request to the Embassy.  We are hopeful we can submit all our paperwork to the Embassy by next Wednesday, but we will see.  One problem with the Embassy is that you can only visit them on MWF before 10 am so you only have so many chances to work with it.  Please keep praying that everything sorts itself out and we will keep you updated.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Day at "Home"

The kids call our hotel home. We always say "for now" to them. They talked at one point that we were going to get on a "airo-plane" and go to America. They seemed very excited! They haven't talked about it since. I wonder what they think about us being in a hotel for a few weeks, or if they even understand that this is a hotel and not a house. Our room is bigger than their former home and they are plenty of kids to play with in our little hotel "village", so who knows what they think.

We had a pretty restful day. As restful as it can be with a 4 and a 5 year old. We introduced them to the coloring books we brought for them and Claire colored 74 pages, today! She counted them up while waiting for dinner. They colored all day long!!


We Skyped with Dani and Pop before Dani had to go work. The kids showed them several of their colored pages and named things in English. We colored outside in the courtyard for a while, kicked the ball around and jumped on the trampoline. We really didn't do a whole lot, today, just a day of waiting. There will be several of those. Right now we are waiting on one more signature to get their passports, waiting to get medically cleared by the IOM (when their TB tests are checked on Thursday) and waiting to get the court order from the judge. Once we have everything listed in yesterday's post gathered we'll submit it and wait for processing. We are hoping to get everything submitted on Monday. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Starting the Visa Process

We got up early, today to get to the embassy during the allowable times. Moses didn't want to get up that early and was like a sack of potatoes. He likes his sleep, like his Baba. Breakfast was a buffet, so there were no ordering issues, today. Yay! We haven't figured out the "pattern" to when they do and don't have a buffet.

We hired a driver, Francis, today, to drive us to the places we needed to go. We first went to the embassy where they gave us a list of documents and items to come back with:

I-600
DS-230
DS01981
I-864
3 most recent tax returns
The children's birth certificates, passports, release from previous custody, 2x2 photos
Court Ruling
Guardianship Orders
Our Passports
Death certificates of biological parents
Visa Fee
Medical exam from IOM (International Organization of Migration)

Wow! Some of that stuff is quite easy, or we already have it and others will take time. We were able to call the IOM just after the embassy and get an appointment an hour and a half later. That was good because it gave us time to get passport sized photos that they IOM needed. They both got a TB test - a saline type liquid injected into their forearm. We are to come back on Thursday to have the injection checked and get paperwork signed that they are medically cleared. We'll have them check Moses out, too, then. He has a bit of a cold, sniffley nose. We had to wait for about an hour when we got there, the kids are really good at entertaining themselves! Luckily the weather is always so nice that they could play outside with other waiting kids. Moses was playing Fruit Ninja on my phone and a gaggle of kids surrounded him to watch. They made paper airplanes and flew them around. They can make some great planes that fly really well! They called us back and Moses did really well at getting his injection, but Miss Claire had to be held down by the both of us. She cried for about 2 minutes, got a sucker and was just fine.

We then went to Caffe Roma for lunch. It was SO great! They had really good "authentic" pizza, like we had in Rome! Moses enjoyed his spaghetti. Neither wanted pizza. Claire refused to eat anything; the appetizer, her spaghetti, our pizza, a granola bar, nothing. We took her's to go and got in the car. Once she realized that she was really hungry and those were her only options she scarfed down her spaghetti in the car. She's used to eating with her hands so it didn't bother her to eat spaghetti with her hand. Ick!

She is really tidy and likes things clean, like her momma! She helps make the beds each morning and folds her clothes neatly in her bag each day. She's very helpful.

We headed back to the hotel and they insisted on watching the Lion King again. Then they went swimming, while Travis and I enjoyed coffee and coke by the pool. After a lot of swimming, they went and played in the courtyard where they kicked the ball around, jumped on the trampoline, and blew bubbles. They were outside the entire afternoon. It was nice. I sat in the shade and filled out most of the paperwork list above. The immigrants (Claire and Moses) had to sign two of the documents and it was really cute. They liked that they got to write on the forms. We came in, had dinner, and now they are watching Finding Nemo (again!). They really like the movies, luckily because it's so hard to entertain them in a hotel day after day. There will be FAR less movie watching when we get home, but for right now it's keeping everyone sane.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A good day!


The day started with a good breakfast, but for some reason the restaurant can never seem to get our order straight.  Every day I order black tea and Niki orders AfriCafe (like a latte), but every day it is just a little bit off!  We try to explain (we all speak the same language), but it never seems to work and it is customary here for children to drink hot black tea with breakfast.  Our kiddos have a ton of energy already and the last thing they need is caffeine, but the waitress always looks at us like we are crazy when we say no tea for kids and we often have to tell them 3 to 4 times before they believe us. 

Anyway, we still had a tasty breakfast and then Emma picked us up for worship.  Emma goes to a small Pentecostal church in one of the poorer parts of town.  I haven’t attended a Pentecostal church in years, but WOW do they have energy!  The speakers were up so loud and everyone was singing with such passion I might not hear correctly before next Sunday!  It was still so awesome worshiping with fellow Christians half way around the world.  Most of the songs we didn’t know, but they did sing My Redeemer Lives, which we did know so that was exciting.  There was so much dancing (coordinated dancing too!) and singing and just joyous celebration.  The service had a ton of fun and the kids loved it.  Claire was dancing and singing a lot.  The sermon was good, but very different than what we are used to.  It was much more in a rhythmic and repetitive style that really gets the point home, but it was being translated at the same time to Luganda so that was interesting too.  It is a blessing to see the gospel in such a difficult context still flourishing so much!  After the sermon the minister had Emma come up on stage to talk about what he has been doing with us this week and then brought Nik and I up on stage (yes I was intimidated!).  But it was great and when they gave me the mike to talk I figured you can’t go wrong talking about how good God is, complimenting the church, and complimenting the preacher so it worked out and I even got some passionate applause!  It was really great and when it came to offering time Claire walked up to me with her hand out!  So I made sure to give her some money to give to the church, good habits already.

After church we went to a fast food place to get something quick and easy as many restaurants have anywhere between a 40 min and hour wait to get food once  you order.  We ate at a place that was similar to a KFC and got some chicken and fries…. Very health J  Then we went into a store to get shoes and socks as Claire is just too big for most of the things we brought.  We let her pick out the shoes and she picked some of the most boring blue shoes, but she loves them! They were a size 1! Can you believe that! Niki said her 4th graders aren’t usually in women’s sized shoes, yet.  Then we picked up some water and checked out.  It was funny while standing in line there was a display with dolls and all of them were white with blond hair and blue eyes.  We asked Emma why that was and he said almost all dolls in Uganda where that way.  That explains a lot as when we are outside playing with the kids and the baby dolls my mom bought for them at Ikea (they are black dolls) Ugandans will pick them up and stare at them! 

After the store we came back to the hotel and played outside for a while.  Then we went swimming again and it was tons of fun.   A lot of families came to the hotel today and the kids played with them for a long time.  It was nice to sit back and do nothing for a while.  Eventually Claire asked me to go swimming as she saw other adults swimming and she likes to watch me swim (since I actually swim).  I jumped in and did a few laps and Nik told me that while I was swimming Moses pointed at me and said “Baba is a fish!” (he calls me Baba).  We had a lot of fun and stayed out there a long time with the other kids until it started raining. 
 Then we returned to the room and the kids picked out Finding Nemo to watch.  The love fish!  We can’t wait to show them their bathroom at home as it is covered in fish!  They really enjoyed the movie and talked in Luo through it, it would be so interesting to hear what they are saying.  After the movie (which Nik and I loved as we rested ) we ate dinner in our room.  It was a fancy dinner of Easy Mac, raisins, goldfish, a protein bar, and lemonade.  The kids enjoyed it mostly!  After that it was more play time outside, at the store we bought a small ball too, and the Moses played soccer with the other kids for about an hour!  He seems to be pretty good at it, so I can’t wait to bring him home to play with other kids.  Claire bounced around.  Overall it has been a really nice and relaxing day. 

Tomorrow we go to the Embassy, then go to a local pizza place (can’t wait!), and will also go to a friend of Eric Vogts and hang out with him.  Hopefully at the Embassy we can get the process started and find out a general idea of all that we need to get this finished up, keep praying!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Jinja!


This morning Emma came and picked us up and we, along with his wife, Sarah, 15 month old daughter, Katrina and sister Kathy drove east to Jinja. We knew we wanted to visit Jinja while in UG and luckily that’s where Emma was born and his mother lives there, so we all took a little road trip.
Claire and Moses are SO GREAT in the car! They just sit and look around.They even did that on our 6.5 hour drive from Gulu to Kampala two days ago. It’s great to know that trips from Austin to Wylie and Yukon will be pretty smooth.
Jinja was the first settlement in Uganda. It’s at the mouth of the Nile at Lake Victoria. We arrived there and there is a tourist area with craft shops (gift shops) all along the path to get into the boat to get in the river. There was an group from an orphanage playing the marimba and dancing for shillings. We contributed and they did a special Thank You Dance for us. We walked down to the big Nile River to get into the boat. I just stared at it flowing North and took in how amazing that is. Claire was afraid that we were going to get into the river so she wouldn’t get near it. Once she saw us all putting on life jackets and getting in the boat she was really excited! Katrina was adorable in her life jacket b/c it was as tall as her. They didn’t have children’s sized jackets. We took a boat ride down stream to an island where we got out and the tour guide told us about the river and the lake.   He told us about 70% of the water in the Nile is from Lake Victoria, the rest is from springs under the river.  He showed where the springs are and its neat as they are little whirl pools that the waves just go around.   We then went a little bit further downstream into Lake Victoria, where we could see some far off hills across the lake that are in Kenya.
We went back to shore and there was a statue of Ghandi. He’d wanted his ashes spread in the Nile River. Then, after getting back to shore of course a girl had to shop! I knew I wanted a purse while I was here and I found a handmade one. We also found a beautiful painting of silhouettes of elephants against a blue sunset. There were many things in the market area that I expected: paper bead necklaces and earrings, purses both fabric and woven, dresses, paintings and wooden carved animals. We saw a carved alligator and we got excited because we’d already bought the exact same one (knowing it was from UG) in Austin at a Fair Trade Art Fair last year and named him Albert. Ironically, that’s Moses’s uncle’s name, I just realized.
We hopped in the car and headed to Emma’s mother’s house. We had to stop for a few things on the way and I saw a hot pink chicken! I asked why that chicken was pink and was told that they paint small chickens and such so that the hawks don’t know what they are and don’t swoop down and eat them. We went to the house and it was a small 6 room mud brick house that the walls were later plastered. We met his family and I played with the kitten. It purred and rubbed on me and I just loved it. Apparently the way my mother taught me to call a cat is universal. It responded quickly. While we were there they slaughtered a goat just for us! Just because we were coming for lunch! I’m sure this is very normal, but we think it was a great sacrifice from them. While they were cooking Kathy took us on a tour of their garden. We saw sweet banana trees, non-sweet banana trees (I can’t remember the name, Emma told me several times, we even ate them at lunch), mango trees, COFFEE TREES!!, avocado trees, peanuts, corn, another one I can’t remember the name of but looked like horse apples on steroids, and pineapple plants.  We ate lunch customarily on the floor. We were brought a bucket, soap and a cup of water to wash our hands. Someone else pours the water while you wash. It reminded me of foot washings that we do at church and how humbling it is to be the one doing the pouring. We has rice with tomatoes in it, kind of like a Spanish rice, unsweet bananas cooked in banana leaves with soup-like gravy over it, greens (which southern Mr. Travis loved!!), fried potatoes and really, really tasty goat! It was all so delicious! Although, I don’t like greens in TX or UG! That was the first time either of us had had goat. I could eat that more often! They kids ate and ate and ate! They love to eat!!
We then went to the big water falls, but when we got there found out that a dam had been built just a few kilometers upstream and the falls weren’t there anymore. Sad day.
We drove a few hours back to the hotel and since the kids had been cooped up all day, either in the house because it was raining, or in the car, they wanted to jump on the trampoline! After about 20 minutes, they were done and asked to bathe, brush their teeth, read and sleep. EXCELLENT!! Moses even reminded us to put his eye drops in. He has pink eye. They fell asleep quickly about 9:00. Claire keeps falling off the bed. She doesn’t wake up though, even when we put her back into bed. We’ll have to get one of the mesh barriers for her bed at home.
Photos will be uploaded later. Our internet is weird and I think we need to buy more airtime or something. Skype is taking up a lot of bandwidth and eating up our gigs, so we need to get more. Purchasing airtime for phone and internet is different here. So, photos will come later. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Parenthood Day 1

Boy, are we exhausted! Of course, we expected this, but still, so tired. I heard the kids stirring this morning, they both went to the bathroom and got back into bed and slept for about 30 minutes. Yay! We ended up all getting up at 8:00, which I was SO exited that they slept that late. After breakfast we called the embassy to make an appointment, turned out that we don't need an appointment, we just need to come in between 7:30-10am MW or F. It was 9:32, eh! There was no way we were getting across the city in time. So, we'll go on Monday, first thing. Therefore, today, we found 101 ways to entertain the kiddos at the hotel. We jumped on the trampoline (one that neither of our mothers would approve of!), we ran around the courtyard, went swimming, danced (A LOT!!), played with stuff dogs, sang songs about the dogs (Jordan & Tag), blew bubbles 3 different times, read books, watched Lion King, ate EasyMac, played with the dry-erase board (Thanks Dave & Jessie!!) played with the toy motorcycles the hotel has...gee, what else?!?! Oh, yes, we Skyped with Gramma Schuermann and sang and danced for her.

We've had a few difficult moments with Claire, today. She runs off and thinks it's funny. After this happening twice, I think she's figured out that we're serious. (Hopefully!) She also expects things as soon as she wants them, i.e. food, restroom, or she'll throw a temper tantrum. We can tell that she's not really upset about not eating or being able to use the restroom right then, it's more that she's very used to getting her way, right away. We have some kinks to work out, but we'll get there. She's a VERY happy kiddo 95% of the time. Beautiful, sweet and smiling :) 


There are about 6 giraffes in this picture!! I have some much better pictures that I was able to take with the video camera, but I haven't uploaded any of those yet. They are AMAZING!! 

Looking for animals in the national park. We didn't get to go all the way in b/c it was raining and we could get stuck on the dirt roads.

First family photo!!!!!

Listening to music and playing Fruit Ninja

Story Time - They love pointing out the animals in English



Moses on the other hand is really chill and easy going. He could listen to the iPod 24/7 if we let him. He likes playing around with Travis and being silly. He thinks he's super cool with his iPod and shades. I don't think I've gotten to wear by sunglasses since he and I met, they basically became his...same with Travis' iPod.

The kiddos aren't used to air conditioning or being cold at all. They wear their jackets ALL the time, even now as they are sleeping. We've made it warmer in the room. They'll adjust very soon and soon be complaining when a place isn't air conditioned. What a luxury we take for granted!!

The two of them get along splendidly!! They play and share and take care of one another. It's nice that they have someone with them who speaks their language. They speak Luo, but here in Kampala everyone is bilingual, speaking English and Luganda. 

They kids in UG start school at 3 and that includes English. In English Claire can count to 100 (at least), they can both say their alphabet and write all their numbers and letters. They have great handwriting! Today we were eating some pretzels and they began biting them into letter shapes and saying the letters. It was very creative!

Since Uganda was formerly an English colony they are a tea drinking country and a girl needs her coffee! I've found that I love their instant coffee dissolved in hot milk. Mmm! That calms me, ahhhhh. It's much like a latte and I'll take what I can get! We've made coffee in our french press a few times, it's just so great! (It's the little things...) 

Travis and I are doing well. We were a little frustrated that we couldn't go do the embassy, today, but, whatcha gonna do? 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Yes!!!!!

Thank God for answered prayers!  At our court appointment today the judge approved our application for guardianship for Moses (Moses is his real name, but we will be adding Ezra as his first name at some point but haven't had that discussion with him yet) and Claire!!!!  We are beyond excited, and we cannot thank all of our family and friends enough for their prayers.  The process isn't over yet, but I am already thankful.  I will get into the ongoing process later.

We went to court and waited again about another hour.  We then went in his chamber and he was smiling so that gave us hope, but as he read his decision we weren't sure which way it was going until about halfway through.  I was holding Niks hand and I probably about crushed it when we found out it was a yes!  We then went outside and took photos and went to a place called the Gulu Coffee Hut to celebrate, which was nice as they had an adequate approximation of a hamburger. While we waited for our food the kids were fascinated with my arm hair because, well, they don't have any!

We then jumped in the car and started the long car ride back to Kampala (thus the late post).  We left at 3 and didn't get to our hotel in Kampala until 9:45!  The kids did pretty good in the car.  They started listening to certain selections of my iPod today and they really enjoy Michael Jackson and The David Crowder Band.  Now that we are back in Kampala we can get the rest of our luggage back (had been storing all but one bag at our lawyers house).  So tomorrow we can get our the crayons and play dough. I know many of you are itching for pictures of the kiddos and we promise we will put some up on Facebook and the blog tomorrow.  Its too late and we're too tired to upload the photos from the camera, right now.  

As for the rest of the process PLEASE keep praying!  Tomorrow we call the US Embassy to set up an appointment to apply for the children to get visas.  This can be a fairly easy process or a really hard process it really depends on which official we get.  So we are praying we get an easy one!  We also need to finalize the kids passports as we need signatures from some Ugandan officials from their respective villages.  Which isn't hard, but some of them are hard to reach.  So please keep praying and hopefully we will get to go back to Texas before too long.  Look forward to some pictures tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

One more day to wait

Today we really hoped to get the adoption ruling, but after waiting 3 hours in a  waiting room (with two kids) we finally got to go into the judges chamber. It was fairly intimidating, but we survived.  He  heard evidence and spoke with the current guardians.  Then he announced he would make his ruling on Friday (oh no!), but our lawyer convinced him to do it on Thursday instead.  So we go to court again tomorrow (I only brought one suit, but George says it is fine) at noon for the ruling.  That will be at 4 am central time.  We are praying things go smoothly and any questions the judge has is answered in our favor.  Please keep praying with us.

So after the court session we came back to the hotel and spent the afternoon with the kids and it was awesome!  First we went outside and played bubbles for a long time.  It just fascinated them!  Then we came upstairs and we played on the internet, they learned about the camera (which they loved also and took a thousand pictures).  We ended up going outside a few more times to play and dance and sing and do cartwheels which they both can pull off!  It was also great because we were able to skype tonight with both our families.  So they got to see and talk with the kids and that was so much fun.  It is clear that they have both already had some pretty decent education in that both can count and do their ABC's.  Claire has a pretty good handle on English and Moses might as well, but its hard to tell as he doesn't talk much.  Yet, he loves to smile and run and play.  His personality really came out today!  We hung out and played all day and then had dinner tonight together.  They are both pretty awesome.  Please be in prayer for them and us for our big day tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Day Has Finally Come!

We met our kiddos, today!!! (Sorry, but photos will have to wait until we gain legal guardianship of them after court, tomorrow.)

The day began with us both waking up from the most restful sleep we've gotten since we'd left the states. It was so great! I was a bit ill again this morning, but that's to be expected, I guess. We set off for Ezra's village and met him, his uncle and two of his uncle's eight children. Ezra was wearing a torn up shirt that had been tied back together, it was heartbreaking. George had us go grab some of his clothes that we'd brought for him (Thanks, Aunt Tamie!!) and we changed him. He looked cute at a button! He's very shy and quiet. Even when spoken to in Luo he was quite shy. After talking with his uncle a bit, we took Ezra with us to Lamwo, Claire's village.

Ezra's village. The brick structure was his home. 

Walking into Claire's village. That's her grandmother in the blue.

This picture I took for Dana. Baby Chicks!! You can't see them all, but there are about 14 of them.

Sorghum drying out to be sold.

Huts in Claire's village


This is a small ant hill, compared to the others we've seen!



When we arrived we met her grandmother and Miriam, her cousin, and they sent someone to find Claire. She was off playing around. (We learned later on that she was actually buying food at the market for her grandmother.) Once she arrived we were all sitting in a circle talking. Claire came to each of us and shook our hand and knelt for each one of us. It was so special to be greeted by her in her village customarily. Claire was quiet, but we can already tell that she's very outgoing, assertive, and maybe a handful. :) A few documents had to be taken care of so, she and her Grandmother went with Emma to get stuff taken care of. We stayed back and visited with Miriam, other women of the village and her uncle from another village who'd come into town to meet Travis and I. He was SO tall, and Claire is SO tall! People are going to wonder why I'm treating a 7-year-old like a 4-year-old...b/c she's 4! (She was actually 6, almost 7, but we didn't know it at the time.) I can't wait to find out her height. I don't think many of the clothes we brought for her will fit. I digress...I thoroughly enjoyed getting to talk with Miriam while all the children came to gawk at the white people in their village. She wanted to know if Claire's hair would be like mine. I asked her what she meant by that and she meant straight like mine. I had to explain that mine was naturally straight and for Claire's hair to be straight it would have to have a chemical treatment called relaxers. She and the other woman really, really want Claire to have straight hair. They love the look of it! Not happening...maybe when she's older.

So, then 8 of us (Emma, George, Grandmother Mary, Claire, Ezra, the welfare officer, Travis and I) all piled into a 7 seat car. Travis and I were in the "third" seat, that we all know really isn't a seat at all. Oh, well. We'll do whatever we've got to do. We went to have lunch and Ezra ate SO much! As Dana would say, he must have a hollow leg. And what did Claire have? 2 sodas and a lollipop. She refused to eat. Mind you she was under her grandmother's care, not mine. We'll have to break her of her sugar addiction, apparently. Then, Ezra's uncle joined us and the 9 of us, in the same vehicle, headed to Gulu where we are all staying tonight. Both kids are staying with their respective guardians for one last night, then after court, they will take a bus back to their villages.

Both children really came out of their shells when I started blowing bubbles in the hotel courtyard. They ran around chasing them and they just had a great time laughing and running around! It was a great ice breaker for our new little family.

We have court in the morning, pray that all goes well and that we have an easy going judge.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Upcountry

For the last two days we have been in Kampala which is a major city with shopping malls, highways, diversity, and all the things that major cities have.  We left Kampala today with our lawyer George and Dr Emma to head for up country where we will meet the kiddos (tomorrow) and have our Ugandan court date (Wednesday).  It was simply amazing and a little crazy driving through the countryside.

The roads aren't that great so pretty short distances (50 miles) can take 2 hours or more to travel.  On the way there we got to cross the Nile river and it was so big and so beautiful!  It was fast moving and just looked like the definition of power.  It was awe inspiring.  It was also amazing to see baboons in the roadway just sitting there waiting for humans to throw them food.  George told us to roll up our windows because if they smell food in the car they may try to jump in the car!  The rest of the trip was just filled with beautiful countryside that was so green.  Along the way we saw numerous mud and thatch huts, small villages, large central African cattle, and so much more.  





Today was surreal because I can see myself traveling to a large city in Uganda or Africa for a trip and many people do, but where we went today you can tell that people do not travel up here.  People do not go up into this countryside much so what we are seeing is so rare.  It just shows me how big God is, how powerful God is, and how unexpected His plans can be.  I would never have dreamed of coming to this place or seeing these sites, but here we are.  God has brought us a long way.  We drove 9 hours today to get to the village of Kitigum where we will get Ezra tomorrow.  Then we drive another hour to get Claire and her village is up very near the border of South Sudan.  We will then travel to Gulu to await the court date.  God takes you the most amazing places when you are willing to offer your full heart to his will.  

It was also crazy to see so much that was affected by the recent civil war in Uganda that involved Joseph Kony.  I saw burned buildings, newly planted groves of trees (because he attempted to burn a lot of the country side) and our friends George and Emma told us how dangerous and scary it was in this region just three years ago.  They said three years ago to get up here we would need a full military escort and convoy and even then there were no guarantees.  So much has changed and the countryside and north Uganda is coming back to life.  Today was an amazing day to see results of Gods work in our lives, but of course there is so much more to happen on this trip.

If you are the praying type please pray for us tomorrow all day.  We will meet both Ezra, Claire and their families.  We will take pictures and begin the bonding process.  It is an important time, and a time when we really need God's help.  Please be in prayer for all four of us tomorrow.

Hot Pot!!!

Sometimes it's the little things that can bring so much comfort. We bought a hot pot two nights ago to be able to make coffee, oatmeal and EasyMac in our hotel room to save on eating out expenses. Unfortunately, when we bought it the plug was the wrong plug for the outlets here. And, it wouldn't work with the converter! What?!? We were so frustrated. The next day we were trying to charge our go phone we bought here and it had the same kind of plug. We were SO confused and frustrated. We came down to talk with the receptionist and apparently you have to stick something in the top of the three holes in order to get the two bottoms ones to go in. Really? I've been taught my entire life to never put stuff in electrical outlets. But, alas, it worked! What a relief. We made coffee this morning in our room and it was the BEST THING EVER!

We are currently waiting in the lobby of our hotel waiting for Emma and George and should be on the road to Gulu, soon.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Be Careful of What You Eat

Day two in UG has had it ups and is downs. This morning we got up and got ready to go to church with Dr. Emma. Travis was told to wear a suit and I was to be in a long dress with shoulders and toes covered. We looked great! Better dressed than going to work or church in Austin, that's for sure! We went to breakfast and half way through breakfast I had to run back to the room (barely making it) and was physically ill for the next hour. We couldn't get a hold of Emma to tell him not to come get us, but he showed up with his beautiful wife, who we were meeting for the first time, while I was laying in bed flushed face and miserable looking. I hope I can see her again on better terms. I slept for about an hour or more, had a 7 Up and felt back to myself again.

While I was resting George (our attorney) showed up to talk with us, so he and Travis went to the lobby to talk. George talked to the hotel receptionist about what had happened to me. After some investigating they figured out that they got their watermelon from a new vendor, today, and that that was probably the problem. So, only cooked things for me, now!! But their fruit is soooo delicious!! At lunch 3 different hotel staff asked me if I was feeling better. News spreads fast, apparently. 

George and Travis discussed the week ahead of us. Monday (tomorrow) we (George, Emma, Travis and I) will drive 4-6 hours upcountry, where Gulu is. We'll get to meet Ezra and his uncle that day. We'll stay in a hotel in Gulu near the High Courts. Tuesdays we will drive another 4 hours to Claire's village to get her and her grandmother and drive them back to Gulu. Wednesday we will all, including their relatives, appear before the judge. We hope to get a ruling that day or the next. Thursday or Friday we will head back to Kampala and check back in to our current hotel. 

The day we drive back to Kampala we're going to take a detour through a national park! I told Travis I wanted to go on a safari for my birthday (9/6), but as we researched them we realized they were hundreds of dollars per person. So, taking the detour through the national park we'll get to see a lot of animals, like giraffes, elephants and crocodiles! I'm SUPER excited! These are probably animals our kiddos haven't seen either. It will be our first family experience!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

We've Arrived in Uganda!

After 27 hours of travel we are safe and sound in our hotel in Kampala! After staying the night in Wylie with Travis's parents (and not sleeping a wink) we flew out of  DFW Thursday morning. We flew to Newark, to Brussels, to Rwanda (didn't get off the plane), then a 34 minute flight to Entebbe, Uganda where Emma picked us up. Getting our visas and picking up luggage was very quick! We drove an hour to Kampala to our hotel. It's so lush and pretty here.

There is currently a wedding going on in courtyard of the hotel. It's absolutely beautiful! Looks very much like an American wedding. Although, it started at about noon today and we were told that it will go until about 2am. Wow! Some of the music that's been playing has been quite unexpected: How Do I Live by LeAnn Rimes, It's Your Love by Tim McGraw, I Swear by Boys to Men, and Because You Loved Me by Celine Dion. We told Emma that all these songs are about 15-20 years old, he couldn't believe it. He said they were current hits here in UG. It's been entertaining.

The jet lag as been terrible. We told ourselves we'd get up in time to eat breakfast, but that didn't happen. We slept pretty late, but forced our way out of bed to try to get on UG time. We are 8 hours ahead of CST. We just hung out at our hotel for most of the day. We went to the hotel restaurant and had a delicious lunch. Later in the afternoon we sat in the cafe and had African Coffee (I'm pretty sure it was just a latte) and read. It was the best part of the day. That was when I began to feel SO MUCH better and not like a sleepy ball of goo. We went back to our room and were so board that we busted out one of the games we'd brought for our kiddos (Thanks, Dave & Jessie!!).

Emma arrived as we were playing (embarrassing!) and took us out to get a case of bottled water, a hot pot and an internet stick. Apparently our hotel advertises free internet, but has little to no connection. It never worked. Eh! 184,000 shillings later we have Internet! Yay! We've felt too disconnected and couldn't reach our parents to tell them we were safe. We Skyped with my family, and by family, I mean my WHOLE family. I knew there was a baby shower for my sister, today, but didn't realize it was when we were Skyping. We got to say hi to everyone and talk with my parents and sister. We then Skyped with Travis' parents, sister and Jordan. It was so great to see and talk with everyone. Jordan was so sad, she looked at us on the computer, then went behind it to see if we were back there. Poor, baby.

So we got water (yay!), and Internet stick (yay!) and a hot pot to warm up water to make EasyMac and Oatmeal to save on expenses. When we got  back to the hotel we found that the plug for the hot pot isn't the same as the ones here in Kampala. Really?!?! We have a worldwide power converter, but can't get it to work with that, either. Very frustrating.

Up next: Tomorrow we're going to worship at the church Emma attends and his wife is making us lunch. Monday we drive 6 hours to Gulu. Tuesday we drive another hour to our kids' villages to get Claire, her grandmother, Ezra and his uncle and head back to Gulu. Wednesday we will all go to the High Courts together. We'll hopefully have a ruling that day or the next and head back to Kampala with our kiddos.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bedrooms!






I'm sure you've notice by now that Jordan somehow made it into EVERY single photo! I knew about all but the first bathroom picture. What a mess she is! I'm going to miss her so much! She is staying with Travis' parents and Tag is staying with Ellen, while we're gone. We're going to bring our kiddos back to Austin and not introduce the dogs to them for a week or two. Tag gets to come back first because he's much calmer and they can get used to a ginormous animal being around, then we'll introduce crazy Jordan to them later.

Ezra's bedroom is completely furnished, just nothing on the walls, yet. Claire's room is missing her lamp table and bookshelf. We found some at a garage sale that desparatly needed to be painted. Travis's mom, Dana, took them and has painted them. They are BEAUTIFUL!! She added a pitched roof to the top of the bookshelf and is making it into a doll house. I can't wait to post pictures of that!

I've make a To-Do list of what things we need to accomplish each day until we leave. Today's fun thing is making a photo book of family, pets, bedrooms and house and posting room pictures on the blog! There are other un-fun things like turning in insurance forms and FMLA documentations, that will get done, today, too.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Where We've Been So Far

Welcome, Friends & Family! We wanted to create this blog to keep everyone informed of what's going on while we are in Uganda. To start, here's how we got to the point we are at right now:

Summer 2010, Travis and I moved to Austin and had decided that we'd find jobs, then buy a house, then start a family. We did the first two by Thanksgiving, but then when it came to the third item on the list we weren't sure if we wanted to have children biologically or if we wanted to adopt. I've known since I was in middle school that I wanted to adopt at least one child. Whether is was before or after biological children, I didn't know. Travis and I had discussed adoption while dating, so it was always an option. After months of praying and talking, we decided to adopt!

April 2011, after months of researching domestic & international adoption, we decided to apply for adoption with a local international adoption agency. We met with them and they helped us figure out what country we were going to adopt from. "How did you decided on Uganda?" is a question we get more than anything. It's a great question, but basically, it comes down to logistic. Many countries we both had to be over 30 (one of us is and one of is isn't, I won't disclose who is who...), some countries we had to be married more than 5 years, some countries were far more expensive than others, etc. So, it was narrowed down to two countries and we felt led to choose Uganda.

May 2011, we were informed by my friend, Michelle, that she'd recently seen our friend Julie at the OU Wesley Foundation Alumni Vespers and that Julie and her husband Matt (henceforth known at the Porters), had just recently adopted two boys from Uganda. Great! We were so excited! We got into contact with them to learn about their journey. They informed us that they adopted independently, meaning with no adoption agency and that they wouldn't have it any other way. After much prayer and research, we decided that we weren't invested in the agency and that we should go the independent route. Now to start the paperwork...

July 2011, we had our home study completed. We'd apparently watched too many TV shows and movies and thought we needed to clean the house like the Queen of England was coming over, we bought baby gates for the stairs, we put outlet covers on ALL the sockets. All to be ready to show our social worker that we have a safe, clean house. What did she do? Sat on our couch with us, interviewed us, and left. Did she inspect our house? Did she care if it was dust free? Did she even ask to see the kid's room? No, no, no. But, did I have a SUPER clean house when it was all said and done? Yes!

August 2011, we received our approved home study in the mail and applied for an Orphan Petition from the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). We had to get a background check completed at the Department of Homeland Security. And, I'm sure a lot of other paperwork that I can't think of right now.

November 2011, we had ALL of the US side of all our paper work completed and were now starting on the UG side of everything. We contacted the attorney that Julie had told us about, and contacted him again, and again...

December 2011, and we contacted that attorney, AGAIN! After several failed attempts (and one brief phone call with him that lead us no where...) we were very frustrated. Come to find out that he's such a good adoption attorney and he had so many cases on his load, he just couldn't add another at the time.

January 2012, after much, much prayer and tears we found an amazing attorney. Dana's (Travis' mom) co-worker, supports a young man from Uganda, named Yuseph, who knows Dr. Emma, who knows a lawyer, George, who just completed an adoption for a family. Come to find out that the family he completed the adoption for lives in Plano!

February 2012, we got a referral! There was an 18 month old little boy, Sadiq, that needed a home. We were so excited and we were waiting to hear about when our court date would be! So exciting!!

March 2012, we found out that we weren't getting Sadiq. It was heartbreaking. We were so ready to go get him and love him, but that wasn't going to happen. A big, ugly, cry commenced. We prayed and asked God, why? He told us that that little boy wasn't meant to be our son, He had other plans.

April 2012, praying and waiting.

May 31, 2012, was the last day of school. Travis called me while I was at school and I didn't answer. He called again, that means it's an emergency, so I got my kids to be silent (which isn't easy on the last day of school) and Travis told me to read my e-mail. I read it and sobbed. I read about TWO children that needed a home and someone to take care of them. We were SO excited! I got off the phone and turned around to my class and one girl pipped up "Are those happy tears? Are you getting a child?!?!" Yes, yes we are. My class CHEERED and ran and hugged me! They've been waiting and asking about this moment the whole school year and I was so excited that I got to tell them before school was out. We had an hour and a half left in the school day and it was all a blur, I don't remember any of it. After school the teachers had a dance party in the hallway (that's how we do it at Windermere!) and after the dance party I got to tearfully share my exciting news with my work family. Now to wait on a court date to get 4 year old Claire (10/17/07) and 5 year old Moses (3/5/07). We decided on the names Ezra Moses and Claire Adeline. :)

June 2012, school was out and I had work to do! We picked out room themes, paint colors, bed spreads, everything! My sweet friend, Katie, came over and helped me paint Ezra's room, then April came over and helped me paint Claire's room. I couldn't have done it without them! June was a month of prepping for kiddos! Still waiting on a court date...

July 11, 2012, we got word that our court date will be August 22! We would need to be in UG about 5 days prior to the court date, so we booked a flight! Whoa, that made is really real! We're flying out on the 16th. We made a To Do list of everything we needed to do and pack for our trip. We'll be there for 4-6 weeks to complete the adoption.

And now we are to today. We leave in 12 days and have a lot to pack!

Pictures of their rooms coming next!