Monday, June 30, 2008

Coming home!

Well, it's offical- well, 95% official. We should be able to leave to come home tomorrow night. Woohoo! I am not going to totally get my hopes up until I have a printed itinerary in my hands, but our travel agent says we should be able to leave tomorrow night. I just hope that the seats are still available by the time she goes to book it today! We won't know anything for a few hours because of the time difference, for all I know she's still asleep back home. But it is LOOKING GOOD! WOOOOOOHOOOOOO! Never thought I'd be so glad to finish a vacation. Just to get home, hopefully before strawberry season is over ( I will be a BITTER WOMAN if I miss out on ALL the strawberries)- I didn't get to make jam last year because we lived in the trailer, and I was really looking forward to many batches this year. To work in my yard, swim in my pool, and play with my dog (who in all likelihood, will terrify K for the first few days- should be interesting) But it will be home sweet home, and before long, she'll feel like it's home too.

I can hardly wait for you all to meet her- she's a great kid- the perfect daughter for us.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Back in action

Haven't blogged all week, but there's been nothing really noteworthy to blog about. The morning after the safari (Thursday), E woke up with a stomach flu and was in bed all day. I refuse to drive on the wrong side of the road, so didn't get put on the rental insurance, so the kids and I were stuck at the inn all day. That afternoon, the flu hit me, and it hit W in the evening. Sleepless night number one. Next day was my turn in bed all day. That night K got it (very mildly, thank goodness) followed by J for sleepless night number two. Everyone except J was back to normal yesterday, but when that boy gets sick, he does it in style. So he made for sleepless night number 3 last night, and I am a TIRED puppy today. Fortunately he is feeling better today and I had a 2 hour nap. So tomorrow we get to go back to enjoying life a little.

We are free to go home any time- we have all the paperwork we need, so now we are just trying to change our plane tickets. I sure hope we can- not that I am not enjoying my time here, but I miss home. Being sick is bad enough, but when you're sick, you want to be home.

K continues to settle in well- it's all been very natural. I shouldn't be surprised, considering how many people are praying - on both sides of the world. Hopefully she'll be as laid back with the airplane as she has been with everything else (we have lots of gravol in case that isn't true).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hluhluwe. And I even know how to pronounce it.

Africa- I finally saw it today. I hadn't felt like I was here until I saw the Africa I've always seen in books. Hluhluwe (pronounced shlushlooie) is a huge game reserve- the second oldest one in Africa and the one that saved the white rhino from extinction. At one time there were 7 left in the world- today there are a few thousand in Hluhluwe alone. We saw zebras, rhinos, impala, nyala, waterbucks, buffalo, vultures, baboons, and kudu. I think that's all. We saw evidence of lions (fresh tracks) and elephants (tracks, and... other evidence....) but didn't have any luck with sightings. But the trip was worth it for the scenery alone. I think I could fall in love with this place if it weren't for the giant bugs. I've only seen a few examples ( a cockroach 1 1/2 inches long that my new friend said was teeny) and a grasshopper that hitched a ride on our safari truck today that was three inches long, easily. The bugs make me long for home.

But the rest of the safari was amazing. I've seen all of these animals before, but there's somthing different when they're not in captivity. I never realized how sullen they look in places like Busch Gardens or the Animal Kingdom. It's great to see them up close there, but seeing them up close in the wild is so much better. There's a certain energy about it that I can't describe. We had white rhinos 5 feet from our vehicle today. The guide said no one ever sees a wild white rhino closer than that. Actually, most of the animals we saw, besides the buffalo came up nearly that close. And from a distance, we saw wilderness that has never been touched by humans. Planes aren't even allowed to fly over it- it's the private hunting ground of the zulu king.

And the kids were great- they had fun spotting the wildlife and thought it very cool that we ate a picnic lunch with zebras and warthogs nearby with a herd of buffalo off in the distance. And no fences in between.

K is really coming along. E is tucking her in bed, and she's saying prayers with him. No crying- this is the first night for that. The boys both get along really well with her- she's very laid back, and a real character. I think she will be the only one of my children who doesn't mind getting up on stage and performing. She's really very funny when she gets going. She had W in stitches in the car on the way home from the park, and was singing songs for everyone on request. Hard to tell what they are in Xhosa other than some melodies we recognized, but it was fun.

Not sure what tomorrow will hold. We may go to the beach in the morning, but it will be a low-key day after our long day today.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The first night

Last night was our first night with K. It was... interesting. Actually, the night was fine, but it was bedtime that was interesting. She was fine up until she knew she had to go to bed. Then the tears started. Strange for her, she rarely cries, as I suppose in the home she has learned that there's really no point. But last night I know she was confused and scared. She cried in the bed for 45 minutes. She seemed to want me there so I just sat with her. Sometimes I sang to her, sometimes I just sat with her, and the whole time she sobbed. She never would look at me, except for the occasional glance, but she just held my hand. After that, she sat up and held her hands out to me. I picked her up and rocked her, and she stopped crying. After about 10 minutes of that, she got down, climbed up in the bed and laid down again. I asked if she wanted me to go and she said yes, and then for the next 1/2 hour she sang and talked happily to herself, and then she went to sleep. It was almost as if she realized that it wasn't going to change, so she was OK with it. Or maybe she was seeing how long I'd stay with her. I don't know. I do know she must have been terrified- not understanding what's happening, and wondering where her other mom is.

But then she slept all night. Wish I had. I think every time she stirred, I woke up. But I didn't have to worry, she slept very well, and this morning woke up in a very cheerful mood. It's been a great day so far. We're just hanging around the B&B today. E is going to take the boys out for a bit when she is having her nap this afternoon.

Tomorrow is her birthday party, which will be fun. We picked her up some presents yesterday.

The best news I've heard is that we may indeed get to go home early. Our social worker says that our papers may be in order as early as next Friday. I would love to be able to do that. Now that she is ours, I just want to get home and back into our routine. Not that I'm not having a good time, but there's no place like home. Plus I may be just a bit anxious to start showing her off :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mom of three

I'm a day behind on my blogging. Not too much of interest happened yesterday- not even court was that exciting. I was nervous beforehand as I didn't know what to expect, but all that happened was that we signed some papers to make it finally final, and the magistrate met with us and told us everything looked good, and best of luck with our new little girl. Didn't even have to into the courtroom. A little anticlimactic, if you ask me! But she is now legally ours, once everything is couriered up to Pretoria where it's officially put on record that we have adopted K.

Now we wait around for her to get a visa, and then we can take her back home. I would actually love it if it came through quickly and we could go home early. Now that court's over I feel like we're just killing time- three weeks is a long time to be away from home. (And a long time to eat out). But we are making the most of it- spending lots of time with K's host family. Yesterday it was a quick visit there in the morning, and today we picked K up before lunch, took her for the afternoon and then went back and had supper with the family. They are such a great bunch, and we are getting to be good friends. The dad already has W playing on his drum set (he's in their church's band) and is impressed with how quickly W is picking it up. Maybe soundproofing the garage is in the future so W can get himself some drums. Unfortunately SA is a bit far to go every week for drum lessons.

Our day with K was spent having lunch at the mall, buying her a few more things- her own backpack for the plane, etc. It was comical- she gravitated to everything pink. Then we came back to the B&B for a nap (just K, not us). When she woke up, you could tell she wasn't sure where she was, but she warmed up after a while and was her old self. She brightened right up when we got to the host family's home for supper- on familiar turf again and was the evening's entertainment dancing to Phil Collins videos.

Tomorrow we take her for good. She'll be sleeping here on the pull out couch, and I think it will go fine. She has grown up very independent because of the schedule at the home. I'm told if you don't send her to go brush her teeth at bedtime early enough, she'll do it herself. When I put her down for her nap, there was no fussing at all even in the strange place. At the home there was no point in crying if you didn't want to go to bed, and no one was going to have time to cuddle with you. Hopefully she'll learn to enjoy a bit of a cuddle, for my sake if not hers.

This weekend is K's birthday party- a bit late, but this way we were able to participate. We're going to pick her up a present tomorrow morning before we get her. Next week we plan to go on a safari- there is one nearby where we can stay overnight and visit a zulu village, which would be very cool. And then there's the marine park- supposed to be fabulous, and it's half price on weekends, so we'll probably go the next weekend. A day at gateway, the largest mall in the southern hemisphere is in the mix- we'll have to see how it compares to the mall of America- I know it's got a water park, so there's one point for it already.

Time for bed- I'd forgotten how busy life with a three year old is.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Day at the Braai

Well, we are enjoying a quiet evening at the B&B after our Braai (BBQ) with the Devine’s, K’s host family. They had some friends over, so the boys had lots of other boys to play with, and we all had a wonderful time. K has gotten very familiar with us already- more than I could have hoped for. She calls me Mama and E Dada, and can say both of the boys’ names. I couldn’t be happier with the way things went. Within minutes of arriving, E was sitting at the picnic table with her having “tea”, and she was playing and laughing with him for quite a while. They coloured, played on the trampoline and just had a lot of fun bonding. Later, all the boys went to the soccer field with E and Mr. Devine, and the moms and K stayed at the house.
This was my time with K- I took pictures of her bouncing on the trampoline, and then she let me jump with her. Then she sat on the trampoline while I jumped and bounced her, and then I sat while she jumped and bounced me. After that, she sat on my lap on the trampoline and we had a great time. She knows more English than I thought and we were able to communicate beautifully. I started singing “Jesus Loves Me” to her, and she joined in. Very shortly after that, she put her hands on my lips and told me “too loud” (ie be quiet) and sang it to me in Xhosa (her native language) several times. It brought tears to my eyes!
So needless to say, she is very comfortable with us now, and we are already in love with her! We are going to pay another visit tomorrow morning, and then in the afternoon we go to court to make her legally ours. Our social worker here feels that we will be able to have her with us all the time as soon as Thursday. She is a busy little girl, full of mischief as any good three year old is, but she is good and from what I’ve seen so far, quite obedient.
It’s still hard to believe she will be ours. I’m sure it will sink eventually, but for now I’ll just keep enjoying the ride- it’s been a wild one so far!

Our daughter

Well, we've seen her. And she's more beautiful than her pictures! I was not sure how she'd react to us, but we got lots of smles out of her, and E even made her giggle. We had a stuffed dog for her, which she loved immediately- drove it around on her bike for the whole time we were visiting. I almost cried when I saw our daughter. Today we have been invited to a BBQ at their house with lots of their friends- they call it a Briaa (or something like that) here. I am overwhelmed- in a very good way. I cannot believe the blessings that God has given us. South Africa is beautiful. We have seen a different side of his creation here, and I can hardly wait to spend the next three weeks exploring it!

The boys are having a great time too. W is so excited that he is actually not letting J get a word in edgewise- the opposite of usual!

Our B&B is beautiful too. We have a great suite, and the owner is an excellent cook. We had a full English Breakfast too, complete with cereal, eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, fresh fruit (a lot of which I couldn't identify) and ...mmmmmm....guava juice. It's like grapefruit juice, only it's not sour. It's incredible. I've never seen it at home, but I'm going to look for it when I'm there.

Later this week we will have S's birthday party- probably on Saturday when the lady who runs the orphanage is in town. We'll have to pick her up a present before then. I am going to have so much fun shopping for this little girl.

She is just so precious! Her big brown eyes already have E as putty in her hands. She is a tiny little thing- wears a size 2-3, and will have a few clothes of her own (we're actually going to get some handmedowns from the host family), but BOY am I going to have fun shopping for her!

I will post again tomorrow- I am SO looking forward to spending some more time with her. Our social worker told us she thinks that we will be able to take her on Thursday- until then, there will be lots of visits and playtime. Our court date is tomorrow, and it should just be formalities and paperwork- nothing to worry about, she tells me.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pussycat, Pussycat, where have you been?

Yes, I have been to London, and I have seen the queen. We flew out of Ottawa on Friday night and all got an hour or two of sleep on the plane overnight. When we arrived at Heathrow in the morning, it was an express train to Paddington Station (no bear sightings) and then the "tube" to Picadilly Circus. J was quite disappointed that it wasn't actually a circus. We took a bus tour that was great- they had about 5 or 6 different routes, and you could ride it all day, hop on and off wherever you wanted, and see things along the way. This took up our entire day, as we added a stop at Buckingham Palace (I was very surprised at how unimpressive it was from the road!) and a tour of the Tower of London. There was a Thames River Cruise thrown in there for good measure, and a good time was had by all. The boys were great and found everything very fun and interesting. We had lunch at the Sherlock Holmes pub (those English really know how to do fish and chips!), and we were in luck, because the day we were there was the Queen's Official Birthday. Apparently her birthday is April 21, but she celebrates it the second Saturday in June. Don't ask me why. So instead of the changing of the guard, we got to see the trouping of the colours and saw the queen herself driving down the road. With Phil, of course, and Camilla was there too. Didn't see Chuck though.

We went from there back to the Airport, only to find out our plane left an hour and a half before we thought it did. Not sure how I got that confused, but we had to run (and as always when you're late, it was the last gate down the last hall) and got on while they held the plane for us. Thus began the 10 1/2 hour flight to Johannesburg, where we all tried to sleep for many hours and some of us succeeded better than others. The smaller ones found it much easier to get comfy in those plane chairs than us adults. Then it was to a tight connection to Durban for a short one hour flight, and when we got there, three of our four bags had arrived safely. The one that didn't arrive, however, had all of mine and E's clothing in it, of course. But it has now arrived safely, so I don't have to go out and buy all sorts of new clothes. Oh well.

We are hoping to go and see K this afternoon, but we can't get a rental car until tomorrow. Maybe our social worker will have room in her car for all of us. We'll see. First priority is to get some lunch. I'm starving. More updates to follow.