Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Home For the Holidays!

We have now been home for the holidays a total of 11 days. Will it never end?!?!?! It's terrible that my first "holiday" post is so negative, but I've had enough! Not of Christmas, Christ's birth, good stuff, etc., but enough of all the togetherness with my children. Sorry, but it's true.

I have been shopping every day before Christmas and, in a quest to spend Grandma's Christmas money and various gift cards, every day since Christmas. I have had ENOUGH shopping. In a frenzied huff, I headed out to Michael's tonight at 8:30, in a frigid, 30 mph wind for the second wooden human skeleton thingy because the first one couldn't have his or her ribcage finished since it broke and had to be hot glued.

Today we went to Limited 2, Claire's, Barnes and Noble to use a 4 year old gift card, Children's Place, and Michael's, all with 4 kids in tow. Yesterday we went to Walmart, Michael's, Target, TJ Maxx, Penney's, and Icing to have ears re-pierced from a bad job done the day after Christmas. The list continues similarly every other day. Yes, I know that this can't happen unless I let it, but that's beside the point...isn't it?

The shopping continued here at home. Hannah set up a "store" in the hall outside all of the bedrooms. It is directly, and I do mean directly, at the top of the stairs. She had gathered a bunch of junk, I mean stuff, she didn't want anymore and was offering great deals to her brothers and sister. With no takers, she swiftly cut her prices, drastically, and got some interest. Now, I was allowing this as a good exercise in free trade and entrepreneurship. Adam actually got a great deal because he wanted to return his Spore Creatures DS game (from one of those previous trips to Walmart) because it keeps freezing. He was going to buy Diddy Kong Racing instead. Fortunately for him, Hannah was selling her Diddy Kong for $5 so he bought it. He saved $25!

With business being slow, Hannah set up a rental deal. She offered rental of toys and stuffed animals for 25 cents. I thought this wasn't too bad until I realized that that was the same as the cost for some of the stuff. I guess if someone takes you up on a deal like that, you can't really argue that it's a bad idea. I bought a spool of lavender thread for 50 cents and Williams bought a headless person on a horse for a quarter.

She told me tonight that she made $8 something from her sale. I think I'll need to check with the rest of the siblings to make sure no one got "taken" by their merchant sister. I explained to her that it was all a good idea with lots of chances for "learning" something, but emphasized that taking advantage of younger brothers, who shall remain nameless, was not a skill she needed to cultivate. She vigorously denies any wrongdoing.

Never underestimate the drive of a 10 year old on a mission to buy an I-Pod Touch.

School starts again in ONLY 6 days.

P.S. I spelled entrepreneurship correctly, on my own. Just wanted everyone to know.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


We took the whole family on a 5 day cruise over Thanksgiving week. Everyone was excited except Williams who said that he just wanted to stay home. I kept telling him he'd be happy that he'd gone, knowing that he had no idea what he was in for. I'm pretty sure he was imagining the fishing boats in Accra which make up such a big part of the local economy.

Eating, of course, was one of the highlights of our trip. I refused to let anyone order off the kid's menu in the dining room. Grilled cheese sandwiches or chicken nuggets seemed just wrong when there were so many wonderful foods to choose from. Amazingly, one night, every kid (except Williams) tried an escargot. No one gagged or anything! The last 4 months of Williams life has been spent tasting one weird food after another. I didn't push it with him. Our favorite was dessert when almost every night we all had the Chocolate Melting Cake.

The girls both made lots of friends in their respective "kids clubs". They enjoyed the chance to have a little freedom roaming around the ship with friends and without mom and dad. There were days that we really didn't see much of them during the day. (We did usually know where they were!) The boys enjoyed the water. They would have been happy to spend from sun up to sun down in the pool and hot tub.

I have to recommend a cruise as an excellent family vacation option. I think I can honestly say that the kids enjoyed it even more than mom and dad, if that's possible. We didn't have to worry about food costs, which is usually large with a family of 6. There were activities tailored to their age groups which allowed mom and dad to have some time off. There were tons of kids on our ship since it was the Thanksgiving holiday, so we didn't have to worry about making them toe the line with their behavior. Adam and Williams playing catch with the football in the hall didn't receive too many dirty looks. I'm also proud to say that only one golf ball went overboard from the putt-putt course. It could have been so much worse!

Williams and Hannah in "the tub".

You can never have too many pillows!

Scott in the ping pong tournament.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Famiy Update

Time has come for me to recommence, is that a word?, with this blog. The main purpose is to have a record of so many of the experiences we have had and are having. Life has gotten in the way lately, broken feet, broken computers, new MACS that I can't maneuver around in quickly, and, of course, kids.

We had our first snowfall of the winter on the day we returned from a cruise from the Western Caribbean. Williams enjoyed the experience up until about half a second after this picture was snapped. What's Adam doing behind Williams? Well, putting snow down the back of Williams shirt, of course. That's just what any self-respecting big brother would do, right? And Williams, just like any typical little brother, recently arrived from Ghana, near the equator, never having seen snow, reacted with the proper behavior of screaming and crying.

The kids continue to adjust to their new relationships and roles in the family. Williams is adjusting at what seems to me a rapid pace. His English is excellent and it's a rare occasion that he doesn't understand something that's been said. Sadly, his adorable accent seems to already have faded some, and he gains new American slang and jargon daily. He has grown 1 1/4 inches in three months and gained 5 pounds! He's eating more and more foods and becoming more willing to try new things.

Thanksgiving was spent on the cruise ship so we kind of missed the traditional ringing in of the holiday season. Holly and I had fish for thanksgiving dinner, Adam had chicken, and Scott, Hannah, and Williams had turkey. We decided that one of Williams interesting trivial facts about himself when he's an adult can be that he had his first Thanksgiving turkey dinner in Mexico and he was not even an American citizen.

By the way, "recommence" is a word. I just did spellcheck.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Among the Living

I am among the living but just barely. I can't think straight and shouldn't be sitting here thinking about myself and posting, but I am. Scott has been home from China now for 1 week, but I still haven't recovered from him being gone for 2 weeks.

About an hour after he left for the airport my doctor called with the results from the MRI I'd had done on my foot the day before. "You've got multiple fractures in your foot. I need you to come over so I can put you in a boot and you need to get back on your crutches. I'll set you up with an appointment with orthopedics next week." You've got to be kidding! This kind of set the tone for the whole 2 weeks. I drove and drove and drove and drove and then drove some more getting everyone where they had to be in the evenings. Kids got sick. We had 2 softball tournaments in KC. I've pretty much put everything else out of my mind. I don't remember anymore of those 2 weeks.

Supposedly things are winding down a little bit now. Baseball's over. Hannah's softball tournaments are over. Holly's got her last tournament this weekend. BUT, basketball's starting! This evening's Halloween party is over, but Halloween is next week and it's HUGE in our neighborhood.

Now I've relieved some guilt by breaking the blog fast. However unintelligible it is, it's done. I promise better next time!

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Friend's Blog Post

Jennine is a mom who has adopted recently from Ghana. She spent 4 weeks in Ghana while she prepared to bring her daughter home. She spent a lot of her time doing great things. Check out her post about Christ Outreach Orphanage. This is where Williams was prior to coming to AAI's Eban House.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Kid Sayings

Williams had been playing a lot with the Billy Blazes action hero from Rescue Heroes and also watching the movie. Billy will pass along a fire safety tip whenever his button is pushed. One of them was, "If your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop, and roll!" I wondered if Williams was picking up any of Billy's words of wisdom. I asked, "Williams, what would you do if your shirt caught on fire?" He looked at me like I was crazy for thinking such a thing, thought for a minute, and said, "Take it off." I love a kid with some common sense!

The last week has been challenging, at best. Scott left last week for 2 weeks in China. I had an MRI, found out I had multiple fractures in my injured foot, and am in a moon boot and on crutches for another 4 weeks. We've had crazy schedules all week. A couple of evenings ago I was leaning on the kitchen counter, crutches in arm pits. and was complaining about being tired after driving 4 kids around to everywhere. Hannah said, "I can see why! I'd HATE to be you!" Honesty is obviously one of Hannah's virtues. She's kind of cute too!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fun House

A few weeks ago my best friend Cindy invited us over to her house for an evening of fun. This is just not any kind of fun, this is the best kind of fun. The kids compare this experience to Disneyland. There's not a whole lot that rivals the excitement of going to Cindy and Eddie's house.

One of the big draws is the "chat mountains". I can't tell you exactly what they are but they're really fun to climb on. That is, for everyone but mom. I'm just waiting for someone to one day plunge into one of the deep crevices never to be seen again.

I can't remember if Adam was going up or coming down.

Next we have the pond and fishing.

And for the first time, we rode the quads.

Cindy had dibs on giving Williams his first ride.

We have so much fun playing at their house, but really the best part is having great friends. Although Cindy is only one year older than me, their 2 kids are both in college. Amazingly, they still enjoy hanging out with us. That's true friendship!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Overdue Update

Oh, the days of wanting his picture taken and yelling "Snap me! Snap me!" seem to be lost already. I was lucky here to get a picture without hands covering the face. I sneaked up on him and got him.

Days have been oh so busy with little time to ponder the days activities or milestones. I'm going to take the time now as I wait for two different daughters to return from two different softball tournaments in Kansas City and as two tired little boys are already in bed.

Yesterday Williams received his vaccinations. I put it off as long as I could after the horrific scene when he got his blood drawn. He had to get four shots and kept up his reputation of not holding back his displeasure for anything involving needles. I know this is no new thing. He's certainly not the only kid to share this emotion at shot time, but he is very vocal in his displeasure. He walked out of the doctor's office with an armful of treats, stuffed animals, and stickers, so I guess it proves that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, or in this case, the screaming boy gets the goodies.

My mother-in-law left last week after spending a week and a half here from Ohio to help while I had my foot banged up and was on crutches. I'm pretty sure we done wore her out. I tried to give her bonus trips to Panera to give her incentive to keep going. I think it worked. She got her fill of baseball and softball games. She was still smiling when she left. God bless Grandmas.

Here's one of the attempts to block out the camera.

I guess he felt well hidden behind the hat and shades so he blessed us with a shot. Oops, that's a bad word around here right now!

Things have really been going well. Williams loves school, although he will tell you he doesn't. I loves playing soccer, although he will tell you he doesn't. He loves Sunday school, although he will tell you he doesn't. Are you detecting a pattern here? He's going through a phase of saying no to everything. The good news is that he doesn't act negative like all his responses. He's very outgoing, happy (usually), and cooperative. We still have consistent limit testing, but I always win. Go Mom! I'm getting some kisses on the lips which is a new and welcome thing.
All in all we have nothing to complain about, well the adults anyway. Four kids with no complaints would be just wrong, not to mention creepy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Injured Dork

This I did not need! I do not have time for it! All I can say is, at least the small child in front of the school bus is ok. As I picked up the kids from school I saw a toddler, separated from it's mother, wander into the path of a speeding school bus. Of course I had to make a mad dash into traffic and rescue the child from certain death just in the nick of time. How could I live with myself if I hadn't?
And how could I live with myself if I didn't tell you I was lying through my teeth? Really, I accidentally stepped halfway off the curb in the front circle of the school and toppled into the line of traffic waiting to pick up their kids. There could not have been a more visible, busy place to stage one of my epic falls. The dork meter is off the charts on this one. Oh, why, oh, why couldn't it at least be a better story behind it?
The good news is that I was carrying Williams at the time of the tumble and he was perfectly fine. He's also too young to be embarrassed by me yet. Give him time, give him time.

Friday, September 12, 2008


One of the things that families traveling back home from Eban House in Ghana would tell me about Williams was that he was quiet. I thought it would be great to have one quiet kid because the other 3 not only talk A LOT, but they also talk very loud. Especially 7 year old Adam. Remember the Loud Talkers on Saturday Night Live? That's my kids.

Well, I spent plenty of time worrying how a quiet child would get lost in the noise of our house. Would he become frustrated at never getting to be heard? Will his sisters and brother scare him?

Let me tell you something. Williams will never be at risk for not being heard. He is loud just like everyone else here. He can yell "Mom" at decibels to rival is siblings. He can talk incessantly when he has the notion to. He can screech out the "girl" scream just like Adam's "girl" scream.

There are 2 intensive talk times in our house when everyone has the most important information that Mom must know immediately. The first one is right after everyone gets up in the morning. Everyone has had a dream that needs to be told. Everyone has the piece of information for this day of school that they forgot to tell me yesterday. Everyone has an issue with their clothes. Everyone needs help with something.

The next time is when everyone gets in the car right after school. We literally have to take turns to let each person speak and tell their story of the day, what they need to get for school IMMEDIATELY, who's mad at who in their class, what they drew a picture of today, what they want to eat when they get home, and can "so and so" come over and play. There are days when we are one of the last ones out of the parking lot because I have to sit there and referee the talk times.

Tonight as the boys were going to bed in their bunk beds, I was reading to Adam on the top bunk with a book light as Williams laid (I use this word loosely) on his bottom bunk going to sleep, having already had his book and prayer. Understand, Adam is notoriously loud and can speak for what seems like many minutes without taking a breath. As I was reading, Williams started whispering, "Mom, Mom, Mom" each a little louder than the last. When I finally said, "What?" he told me his pillow had fallen on the floor. I told him to pick it up. (duh!) Adam was flabbergasted saying, "He has to tell you EVERYTHING!" This is the child who almost turns blue trying to give every detail of an imagined battle.

I now sleep well at night, secure in my belief that all is well in the lives of the 4 Johnston children. I know almost every detail that they can remember and it has all been relayed at a volume level that will inform Grandma and Grandpa across town also.

Monday, September 8, 2008

NonGhana-like Weather

Unfortunately, this sight is going to be a thing of the past. Fall has arrived in Missouri, and way to early I must say. Typically, we will maintain the pool until the end of September and even into October with the help of the heater. Instead of swimming, I have been scavenging stores looking for 4 slim jeans.
Williams is in great shape for warm weather. I had all his drawers ready for the nice warm days of late summer and early fall. The problem is, we aren't having that. I don't have a single pair of long pants that fits him! I had bought 2 pairs of 4T's at Old Navy on their $7 sale day and they're both too short. I have now been to Penney's and Kohl's in search of loner 4 slims for 2 days in a row, and tomorrow will make it 3. I wonder if there's a limit on how many returns you can make? I keep explaining to them that as big of a hassle as it is to return and exchange, it's a LOT worse bringing 2 boys in to try them on. Adam's outgrown all of his since last spring too.
So the goggle-eyes are going to go bye-bye until next spring, and Williams will be experiencing his first autumn just a little sooner than expected

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I'm Learning

Tomorrow Williams will have been home 3 weeks. How is that possible? At this rate, he'll be graduating from high school in 6 months! After 3 weeks I'm starting to feel the "baby" fog start to lift, and I'm constantly amazed at how the emotions and uncertainties are so similar to birthing a baby.

For instance, you don't have enough history and experience with this child to know what to expect from him. If he gets mad will he cry, sulk, or run out of the house and down the street? I don't know! How LONG will he cry, sulk, and how FAR will he run down the street? I don't know! Will he stay in his classroom at school or will he think it's ok to wander around the halls? I don't know! Will anyone see him if he leaves? I don't know! Will he be polite to a stranger at the store or will he make an embarrassing face at them? I don't know!

Another example is that I can't really enjoy time away from home by myself when he's home with my husband. Will Scott feed him the right foods? Will he undo all the hard work I've done in "training" Williams with one unfortunate decision? Will he watch him closely enough to make sure he doesn't run out of the house and down the street (see above)? I really do think we're on the same page, but sometimes I just can't help wonder what happens when mom's gone.

I have definitely learned that there are a few more things you CAN'T force a child to do, or not to do, for that matter.

  1. You cannot make them not spit.
  2. You cannot make them yell at you in English instead of Twi.
  3. You cannot make them not run from you if you've already lost your grip on them.
  4. You can't force them to smile.

Although this list makes it sound like all our times are bad, that certainly is not the case. Most of our times are good and the bad times are getting fewer every day. (Pretty much non-existent today :-) I just really have to keep a sense of humor about the tough times and situations. We already think about how we'll enjoy telling Williams when he's 15 some of the things he did when he first came home. I'm sure he'll be proud of his resourcefulness.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Williams is home!

I've put this off for long enough! The thought of trying to condense all that has happened and is happening into words has been too overwhelming for me, I just avoided it. So here I am, starting anywhere just to get started.

Williams is home, and boy is he home. Talk about life-changing! I try to imagine what it's like to be him experiencing everything that he is and missing everything that he is. I'm having a little trouble dealing with the massive changes taking place in my life and they don't even begin to compare with his changes.

I didn't realize this picture was so blurry and I don't know how to take it out so it's stuck there for now.
Tomorrow will be 2 weeks since Williams homecoming. The traveling home was hardly a piece of cake for either Williams or Scott. Williams was obviously overwhelmed and scared. He had a few temper tantrums on the plane that earned Scott the gold medal you see in the above picture around his neck. On top of that, he (Scott) became sick on their second day of travel. Apparently he wasn't as careful as he should have been in watching what he ate.
A long story short, they made it home and we are now in the process of figuring out how to live, us with a new son, him with a new family, in a new country, state, city, house, room, etc.
I know this is not a well composed post, but I wanted to force myself back into the blogosphere. It can only get better from here!

Monday, August 11, 2008


I am officially obssessed with Williams and Scott getting home. In 17 hours they will be in New York, on American soil. (They have to spend the night there.) In 30 hours their flight will leave from JFK. In 34 1/2 hours they will be here. I constantly count ahead 5 hours to figure out what they might be doing. I wake up several times a night and I can think of nothing else.

This is where they'll be in 3 hours:

This is the bathroom they may use in 4 hours:

Kind of creepy, isn't it?!

This is the sweet pea Scott will have in tow:

And, hopefully, sweet pea will be doing a lot of this on the plane:

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mealtime Etiquette

While Scott is somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean on his way to Ghana, I will look to other urgent matters that need to be addressed in our household.

Recently my 13 year old niece was eating dinner with us. When I asked her to pass the salt she passed me the salt AND pepper. She said she'd recently taken an etiquette quiz and learned that if someone asks for the salt, it is proper to pass the pepper with it. I did not know that. Interestingly enough, I wasn't familiar with the other couple of things she could remember from the quiz. This probably illustrates why there are some issues that take place at our table that need to be addressed. These are some etiquette tips that need to be followed in my home.

  1. Do not hit another diner in the face with your plate. This actually happened shortly after the salt and pepper discussion. The perpetrator...my niece, the etiquette expert.
  2. Do not gesture with your knife when there is a glob of soft butter on it. It WILL fly across the table...and no, it is not funny.
  3. Do not throw peas or any other food objects.
  4. URGENT! Do not change your underwear at the table, standing on your chair, with your butt at face level with another diner. (To be fair, Adam is the only one who breaks this rule.)
  5. Do not walk up to the table at dinnertime and use any of the following expressions: Eeeewww! Yuck! Gross! I hate that!
  6. If you have to throw up, do not do it on your mother's plate.
  7. Do not purposely scratch your fork on your plate creating a "fingernails on a chalkboard" screech.

These are all actual incidents that have happened or do happen on a regular basis in our family. And they, the children, actually had the nerve to comment while watching video of Williams, "He chews with his mouth open!"

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Scott's Ghana Bound

I guess I wont do a day-by-day version of my trip to Ghana. (You all are lucky!) I can't believe it's already time for Scott to head off to Africa. I'm hoping that I can get him to blog from there. I am anxious to get his perspective. I have so much information in my head from our AAI Yahoo group, blog reading, and research, that I can't quite bring myself "down to his level" :-) on Ghana knowledge. I'm sure there are things I should tell him to help him, but I'm not sure where to start. And, to be honest, he probably wouldn't listen much after the first couple of minutes.

A mom who's there right now had a really, really bad experience with the chop house where I ate almost every meal, so he's going to have to blaze his own trail when it comes to eating. (I can't bear to tell the gross story!) I'm sending him with protein bars and a jar of peanut butter. I could live a long time on just that.

He's going to be paranoid about getting ringworm since I have it all over my left arm. I feel pretty good that that's all I came home with...completely treatable and no big deal. He's started on his anti-malarial medication, and, as I suspected, he never went back to get the Hep. A and B shot that I told him to get.

I packed all of Williams things today and it was one of the most rewarding activities I think I've ever experienced. Why isn't packing Scott's stuff as much fun? Preparing for this trip is a piece of cake compared to the last one where I had to take all the paperwork to file our I600 and possibly the I864. I hope I'm not being too laid back about the packing process. I feel like I should be experiencing a lot more stress than I am. Maybe this is just called "being organized" which doesn't happen to me often.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The End is Near!

Our final piece of paperwork has been approved! I guess the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has ruled that it poses no threat to national security to allow Sweet Williams to immigrate to the United States. We have been deemed financially stable, emotionally stable (yeah, right!), parentally(sp?) stable by the U.S. and the Ghanaian governments and will now be allowed to move this little peanut of a kid into our home. I never thought this day would come. Well, yes, I did, but it just seemed like it might take forever, literally.

As far as I know, Williams' visa was applied for today by our POA in Ghana and that is absolutely the final piece of paperwork required. Everyone keeps asking, "How long do you have to stay in country to pick Williams up?" The response is, "Not at all. We're done!" Unbelievable! Scott has even joked about having someone just drop Williams off at the airport so that he doesn't have to leave the airport. As you can see, he's not nearly as excited as I was to experience Africa.

The ticket will be purchased tomorrow, but at this moment Scott is scheduled to leave for Ghana on Thursday, Aug. 7 and return home, WITH WILLIAMS, on Wednesday, Aug. 13 at 10:35am, but who's keeping track?

I can't wait to smell his head! Just a little quirk I have. God has blessed me with 4 children with the best smelling heads in the world!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bathroom Central

After meeting Williams on my first night in Ghana, I returned to the guest house where I had a wonderful American, AAI (my adoption agency) family waiting for me. We sat in their room and chatted until much too late, but it was so nice to have them there. I can't quite imagine what it would have been like to be there all by myself.

Edward, my driver from the airport and the guy who booked my room, told me on the way there that a family that was supposed to have checked out, didn't. What that meant to me was that I couldn't get a room with it's own bathroom. Edmund at the guest house (a whole lot of "E" names, there was also and Emmanuel) showed me the bathroom right next door to my room and said that I would just have to share it with another AAI mom who would be arriving in a few days. I thought that sounded great, especially because it had a regular toilet and toilet paper.

As we were shutting down for the night, Heather, the other mom, was in my room and I heard the shower running in "my" bathroom. I said as much and she agreed. We waited for the door to open and she backed into the hall to see who it was, as if we'd know them. She came back and said it was some guy in his underwear. Alrighty, then! A little surprising but I could deal with that.

Heather said goodnight and went to her room. As I was getting my things together to go take a long awaited shower, I was just sure I heard the shower again! I went into the hall and the door to the bathroom wasn't quite shut. I knocked and heard some kind of an answer. I went back to my room and sat on the bed waiting to take a shower in "my" bathroom. When I heard the door scratch open I went into the hall and out came a woman in jeans without a top...I mean nothing. I said "hi". I hope that was the appropriate greeting for when you pass a topless woman in the hall.

Right then and there I thought I was going to sit down in the hall and cry. What a big baby I was! This all was just not clicking with this American's expectations of normal. If it hadn't been for the Americans in close proximity at that moment. I would have found some way to move somewhere else, ANYWHERE else, regardless of the fact that it was probably 11:30pm or midnight.

I managed to make it into the bathroom, LOCK THE DOOR, and take my cold shower. There was no hot water at this guest house. At least I DID expect that. Looking back, I just laugh at myself, because this quickly became the norm and didn't bother me at all. I still have no idea who all the other people who used the bathroom were, but they were there the whole time I was because it was a very busy place. Just to let you know, I did jump at the chance to switch rooms later in the week when my American friends left to go home. I would have continued to share my bathroom with the rest of Ghana though, to have had my friends there for the rest of my trip!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Our First Meeting

Preparing for my trip was probably one of the most stressful things I have experienced in a long time, probably ever. I think it was the idea that I was traveling so far away, forgotten items wouldn't be easy to get, and there were folder after folder of paperwork that needed to come along with me. The main purpose of this trip was to file our I600 form at the US embassy in Accra. The bonus was that I was going to meet and spend a week with Williams! It took me several hours on the plane to kind of decompress from all the getting ready.
The flights were long but fairly uneventful. The biggest problem was that I realized I'd forgotten all of my lipstick and I didn't know if I could survive that. I even called my adoption coordinator, way too late in the evening, to find out if I could get lipstick in Ghana. Her answer was, "Not anything you'd want to put on your lips." That was a kind of scary answer so I found the duty free lipstick store, (yes, there is one) and searched, with no luck, for just the right "Amy in Africa" color. I was just going to have to go to Africa lipstickless. Little did I know that this would be the biggest non-issue I could possibly imagine.
For 11 hours I did the "countdown to Williams". I watched the little map on the screen in front of me showing me inch closer and closer to Ghana and it just didn't seem real. My flight was about 1 1/2 hours late arriving. The airport was nothing like I was expecting. I was picturing the Puerta Vallarta airport which was just chaos, but Accra's was orderly, clean, and quite nice. There were no men grabbing at my bags to "help" me as I imagined. Edward, the poor driver who had arrived at the airport at 5:45pm to pick me up, sat wearily just where I was told he would be waiting. It was about 8:00pm. Besides the "wild airport" fear, I also had the "no one there to pick me up" fear. So far, so good!
On the drive to Teshie, the area where Eban House and my guest house is located, I asked about going to Eban House. Edward said it was too late and all the kids would be asleep. I was devastated! I thought that I was going to be able to go, no matter what time it was, and they would wake him up to meet me. I tried not to act like he had just punched me in the gut, but that's what I felt like. Once again, in rode my adoption coordinator, on her white horse. She called Edward on his cell phone, from Tulsa, to see if I'd made it. We talked and she said of course I could go to Eban House to meet Williams tonight!
When I arrived at Eban House, Auntie Esther was there to greet me. It seemed so appropriate since that is my mom's name. She went and got Williams and there he was, standing in front of me. After all the pictures and dreams , he was right there. I asked him if it was ok for me to hug him and he did his little "Ghana nod" which is one, small nod, and it's easy to miss. He smelled so good!!!! He was a little shy at first, but he warmed up quickly. I only sat with him for 5 minutes or so. It was hard to not just want to sit there and stare at him without talking, like I'd done with his pictures for the last 3 months, but I didn't want him to know yet how weird I am, so I kept it short. It's hard to carry on much of a conversation with a 5 year old boy, who speaks limited English, has just been woken up from a dead sleep, and told his new obruni (white) mother is waiting to to meet him in the other room. The fact that he came out at all seemed like a good deal to me. I'm not sure I would have, had I been him!
I decided to keep him. Oh, yeah, I had to! He was already my son. It's funny how similar it was to meeting your biological baby right after delivery. He didn't talk, he let me look at his fingers and toes (they were all there!), and I got to kiss him repeatedly on the head. He didn't run away from me, so I deemed the whole experience a success.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

While I've Been Away...

My posting has ground to a halt since returning from Ghana. Part of it is lack of time. Part of it is being so tired. Part of it is so much to say I don't know where to start.

I think I will steal the format that my friend Heather is using and just go through my trip day by day. But, before I go into that, I have to tell of a sad, sad incident that took place at Eban House 5 nights after I left.

Sunday night, four armed men broke into Eban House wanting to know where the valuables were kept. There were 3 house moms (Aunties) on duty. Esther is the one who the men came upon. Esther, in an attempt to keep the men from getting the items and to keep the children safe, would not tell them. The men repeatedly assaulted her. They then proceeded to break into the office, steal the money they found there, laptop computers, and what other valuables they could find. Took make a bad situation worse, 4 of the older girls woke up and witnessed part of the violence, but, thankfully, not the part involving Esther. The girls then prayed during the rest of the ordeal. Can you believe that these girls, the oldest being probably 8, had the spiritual and emotional maturity to instantly begin praying? Not only praying, but praying for the men to leave, praying FOR the attackers, and praying for forgiveness for the men.

This has left me feeling as if it were my own home that was invaded. I am sickened that such an act would happen in a small home full of 30 sleeping children and the 3 women caring for them. The only bright side of the story is that the girls recognized the men as hired men who had been at Eban House the previous week painting. The girls went to the police station and, hopefully, will be able to help with these men being caught.

This whole episode just further erodes my already fragile sense of trust that I have of people in general. On one hand, a part of me wants so badly to believe that most people have good intentions. On the other hand, it just seems a rare occasion that I don't have a part of me that cannot completely trust anyone except for a small handful. It makes you really evaluate how you should function in this world. Unfortunately, it seems that a healthy dose of distrust is the only way to keep yourself, and your family, safe.

My knee-jerk response when I first was told of this horrible crime was to think, "Why Eban House? They have nothing!" Then I started thinking of it from a different perspective. On a regular basis, "rich" Americans walk to and from Eban House. Often times they are carrying large bags of donations, the actual content of which is probably much more valuable in a bystanders imagination. But in reality, there are many things donated, or purchased through donated funds, that are quite valuable, especially in a society so stricken by poverty. It is amazing to me that these children have gone from being mainly the most needy of a society, to now being a worthy target for scumbags of the world.

I can do nothing on this end but pray for God to heal all that needs healed at Eban House. Thankfully, Williams was in no way hurt, nor did he even wake up, as far as anyone knows. I would ask everyone who reads this to please pray for this also, especially for Esther, and the 4 daughters of my 3 different friends who now have yet more trauma in their short little lives to deal with.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I'm Going Home Already!?

Oops, I didn't mean to send that last post. I'm leaving for home tomorrow night at 9:20pm. I can't believe it's already here. I must say, I am ready to go home. The time has been just right. The time I've spent with Williams has been good. He still wants to be with me constantly. I'd like to see him play with the other kids, but it's me he wants. He'll play catch or football forever. A couple of days ago he was playing catch with his little nerf football and he accidentally launched it over the wall of the compound. The boys came tell me they needed to look for the ball so we went out searching. We ended up with about 20 kids looking for the ball and who found it...Heather Sears the other mom visiting at the time. As we tried to herd all the kids back through the gate there were 4 or 5 breakaway little boys who were high-tailing it up the path. I was yelling and yelling for them to stop and they would not! I looked back toward the gate and no one else saw the situation. I was on my own with a few errant little boys. I decided I couldn't handle it on my own and yelled "Heather, help!" She thought my terror was funny! I was afraid I was going to lose half the population of Eban House single-handedly. They finally stopped and slowly headed back in my direction. I challenged them to a race back to the gate which facilitated a faster return to Eban House. They are safe and sound back within the walls of the compound.

Williams continues to eat a ton. I think I might have misread his intentions earlier about sharing food because now he will not give me a bite of food until he's done. Today for lunch I ordered an adult meal of chicken skewers and rice thinking that we could share it. I'll be darned if he didn't eat 2 1/4 of the 3 skewers, most of the rice and 1 of the 3 little tomatoe wedges! I snarfed down the leftovers while he stood there and said, "Let's go, Mommy!" because he wanted to get in the pool. (We went to La Palm again today. Heather, aren't you jealous!)

Today was a little more challenging with Williams. He get's into this mopey funk and sticks with it for a loooooonnnnnnggggg time... like an hour! Our taxi driver kept telling him, "Little boy, stop crying!" Ghanaians don't like it when kids cry. It wasn't real crying, more of a whine. Very pleasant! It will be something to deal with right away when we get him home. It's usually brought on by not getting something he wants. I thought only American kids had this down to an art!

I have a few hours tomorrow and I haven't told Williams yet that I go home tomorrow. He's not going to like it. I hope the time flies until he comes home!

I'm Going Home Already?!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Finally...time to post from Ghana!

Wow! I feel like I'm a world away. Oh, I am! I don't know where to start. I guess Williams would be a good place. He is an angel. We left Eban House yesterday to spend a day at the swimming pool at La Palm Resort or Mini America as someone has nicknamed it. It is beautiful. After quite the ordeal trying to leave we went to Frankies for lunch. I ordered chicken and rice for Williams. It was huge and he ate every bite. All that was left was a bare chicken leg bone. I don't even think I knew what one looked like before this. I meant to take a picture of his plate to show my kids at home, but I forgot.

Next, we went to La Palm. It is wonderful by any standards. We were with the Sears family who are adopting 4 children and brought 3 of their children from Virginia, so we were quite a big group. All the kids loved swimming. Williams was very tentative and didn't realize that he could walk in the water. He didn't want to move. Then when he did, he walked off a step and scared himself. It took him a little while to recover from that, but he did get back in. His favorite was just riding around on my back and going under the waterfalls. We'd go back to the shallow and he'd take my hand and say, "Let's go, mommy!" and wanted to head back out for more pool tours.

Williams is quite attached to me. He always wants to be touching me or me touching him. He's always holding my hand when we're on the move and will let me carry him if I wish. This is quite easy because he's so light. He slept on my lap on the way to Frankies and again on the way home from La Palm. On the way home we took a bush road since the traffic was so bad. I've heard people tell of these, but like so many other things, you can't fully appreciate them until you experience them. Amazingly, at least 4 kids were sleeping as we bounced around. I had such a tight hold on Williams that we were a sweaty mess by the time we got home. That's not so unusual though. It was very HOT yesterday.

Back at Maa Oye, Grace was expecting us for dinner, but not the extra 5 kids. As usual, she was gracious and able to feed our whole herd. After seeing how much Williams ate for lunch I was afraid he would not be full so I ate very little and offered him my plate when his was empty. He said, "No Mommy, I ok!" I could tell he just didn't want to take my food from me so I ate a few bites and said how full I was. I asked then if he would like to have the rest and he ate somemore. Again then he gave me my fork back and said, "I ok, Mommy."

In my room before we ate I really didn't have anything for Williams to do so we laid on the bed and looked through a Family Circle magazine with a flashlight. The light in my room is so dim I can't read without my flashlight. I'm thinking little light is a good thing in this situation. The saying "ignorance is bliss" has served me well on this trip. I had a bag of cookies I had gotten for Williams so I told him we would all have them after dinner. He held them close constantly for about 45 minutes until it was time to eat them. He took one and when I went to pass them around the table he looked at me like I was a traitor but I told him we had to share. He then passed them around. He did take a second when it got back to him. When he went for a third I told him no and he said, "Take the rest back to Daddy". What a sweet pea!

I carried him back up to Eban House and I think he might have thought he was staying with me because he wasn't happy. He does a very good mopey face. I held him until everyone was ready to leave, kissed him, told him I'd be back in the morning, and high-tailed it out of there. I'm afraid this evening part is going to get worse each day.

Another mom, Robin, is coming this evening and the Sears' are leaving early tomorrow morning. I'm really going to miss them. I've loved having their kids here too. They are 13, 11, and 10 and have really helped me not miss mine so bad. The Sears have 2 more little one's at home so with their 4 more they will have 9 kids. If anyone can handle it Steve and Heather can. I'm really looking forward to meeting Robin tonight.

To my babies, all 4 of them, at home. I miss you!!!!! Be glad you live where you live!!!!! I hope you had fun at camp Holly and Hannah. I hope you've had fun at all your friends, Adam. Play good this weekend, Hannah. Keep your swing speed up! Tell everyone hi and there's a lot of cute kids here who could use good families. Dad, I hope your recuperating. Mom, thanks for the help with the kids. Hi, Patti. I love you all!!!!!!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Goodbye USA

I'm leaving....finally. I'm going to Ghana to file my I600 and spend a week with Williams. I don't think I've quite experienced anything so stressful as preparing to leave. I took my girls to camp at 1:00 and I'm leaving for the airport at 2:00. I will meet Williams tomorrow evening and I haven't really had a lot of time to think about that. I guess I will have time on the plane.

I can't be clever right now so I'll talk to you all from Ghana!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I have so much going on that I think I could post here several times a day. However, I'm fighting with my computer over pictures. I hate to post without pictures! I've been fighting with camera's, since mine broke and I'm waiting for a new one, and I've been fighting my Kodak software which wont let me get my pictures out of the computer and onto my blog. I've also been fighting 'too much stuff that needs to get done' and fighting the 'it's 1am and I need to go to bed'. If this one doesn't make sense it's because it's now 1:35am and I really do HAVE to go to be.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I wish everything could be as efficient as the Ghanaian Embassy in DC. Maybe I'm giving them too much credit, but I was floored by how fast I got my visa. The application said that processing time was 5 business days. I fed-ex'd it, paid for expedited service and boy was it expedited. The best $30 I've ever spent. I mailed it Tuesday afternoon and received it on my doorstep this morning (Thursday)! I enjoy gazing at the sticker because it helps it feel more real.

I spent several hours going through kids clothes at our church today. We have piles and piles of clothes left over from our 2 yard sales we've had and I shopped for the Eban House kids today. One of their needs right now is clothes. They have just had a huge number of kids join the home so there are lots of little bodies to clothe.

I'm hearing the clock ticking down the minutes until I leave for Ghana. Not so much because I'm excited, which I am, but because I feel like there's too much to do with to little time to do it. So what's new, right? I only have until next Thursday to prepare because we'll be leaving for the Lake of the Ozarks on July 3 and wont return until July 6. I leave July 7, ready or not.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Destination: Ghana

YES! I knew my new plan was a keeper. My ticket is purchased and I'm leaving for Accra, Ghana at 4:15pm on July 7. This is the sweet little face waiting for me on the other end. He finds out tomorrow that I'm coming.
I'm not really FEELING like I'm going because it's just too weird. I really only have 9 days to get ready because we'll be leaving to go to the lake on July 3 and wont get back until the evening of the 6th. The girls will at that time need to be ready to go for a week at Camp Wyatt Park and I'll need to be ready for my week at "Camp Eban House".
I'm glad I have stuff to keep me busy! The times going to fly!

Friday, June 20, 2008

New and Improved Travel Plan

My brain is in a continuous loop that it can't get off. How can my husband fall asleep while I'm talking to him when I can't stop THINKING?!!! Today I got the great news that Williams passport has been received which is one of the highly variable time frames when it comes to documentation. All we need now is the adoption decree and it's time to go file the I600 in Ghana.

This is where my brain is stuck. I think I've come up with a new and improved travel plan. Up until now Scott was planning on taking the first trip to Ghana to file the I600 and spend the week with Williams while I would be the one to return shortly after that to whisk Williams home to the US. The hitch in the plan is that the adoption decree should be to us around July 4. Well, Mr. Scott has a softball tournament with Hannah's team on the weekend of July 11. He's thinking that going the 14th would be great and I find that TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE!!!! :-) (I give it a smiley face, but it's still UNACCEPTABLE.)

So, anyway, here's the new plan which, by the way, is highly acceptable. :-) (That's a real smiley face.) I will travel to Ghana on July 7 to file the I600. It is perfect because I do not have to be back in the event that I get held up by paperwork. It's also perfect because Holly and Hannah are going to church camp that whole week so I would only have to arrange a schedule for Adam. Oh yeah, and Scott can be at the darned tournament, sheesh!

In early to mid August, when there is no softball, no soccer, no baseball, no basketball, no bobsledding etc, Scott can go to Ghana and bring the Wills home. Another bonus is that this way every dish in the whole house wont be dirty when Williams arrives since I'm the only one who can load a dishwasher or wash a dish, you know.

Excellent plan, I think! If Scott could stay awake when I'm talking to him, I'm sure he would agree!

Monday, June 16, 2008


No, I am certainly not speaking of myself. I am talking about Williams birth mother Martha. I have never felt such a mixture of emotions about a woman I know nothing about and have never met. I have trouble even thinking of the words to describe my thoughts.

Martha has made the most selfless, motherly decision a mother could ever make for her child. She has given him up to another mother in order to give him hope, safety, and a life that could not even begin to match anything he could have in Ghana. This is a decision that I don't even think most of us can even begin to fathom. It's like trying to contemplate "infinity". I feel like I start to get a concrete notion of it, and then my mind gets overcome by the vastness of it. My mind is not capable of grasping it.

I can not comprehend being in such a hopeless situation that the only answer is to give up your child. I can not comprehend no other way out. It is not something that my brain has any experience with.

I feel fiercely protective of this woman who has made this decision. When I feel that someone may be thinking she must not be much of a mom if she could give up her child after 5 years. I must turn the tables and suggest that she is like no other mother that I know because she HAS made the decision to give up her child. I fear that in my selfishness I would decide that even if my path was leading no where, or worse, at least we'll be together. I hope and am quite sure I'll never have to find out.

I find myself often struggling with guilt for bringing Williams into our family. I think, "why can't someone just give a little help to Martha so that she can keep her only remaining child?" It really wouldn't take much at all by our standards. One of the problems, I guess, is that there are a million other similar cases like hers. I know also that there may be more to the story than I know, but since I don't know it, I will continue to think of Martha as a hero.

You don't hear stories of mother's like this very often in America. Thank you God that we live in a country where mother's do not have to let their children go in order to give them a future. Thank you God that if Williams can not be with Martha, he can be with me. Thank you God for Martha. I pray that He will give me words to speak to her when we meet this summer.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Williams Johnston

This is Williams Kofi Nketia Ankomah JOHNSTON, our new son!!!! Our case went to court this morning in Ghana and our adoption was granted. We are now the proud parents of FOUR chillins. I have to keep repeating that to myself because it is so hard to wrap my brain around.

Our adoption coordinator called at 6:40 am to tell me the wonderful news and I've been on cloud nine ever since. Williams was able to celebrate with a couple that is visiting their daughter at Eban House. They took him out for pizza! I'm sure this was a very special trip for him.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Believe

Awesome song!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Clearer Picture

Something happened to my other one. This one is a little clearer.

Court Happenin"!?

Things are looking pretty good for our case going to court this Friday. Williams mother filed the new form she needed to file at Social Welfare so there is nothing in our case that should hold us up. I'm sure there are a meriad of ohter things that can hold us up though. I'm holding out hope this time.

It looks like 4 families with our agency will go to court at the same time. That gives 10 children new families in America. That's a big deal. It also gives us a good chance of traveling with some fellow AAI families when we get to go see Williams

We have a time scheduled on June 24 that we get to make a telephone call to Williams. The idea of getting to hear his sweet little voice is enough to give me an ache in my chest. I'm not sure that it might not make the waiting even harder, but I certainly wouldn't dream of turning down the opportunity.
I found out it's ok to post a picture of Williams as long as he is not identifiable. I think this picture fits that description.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Court Ain't Happenin'

Our court date is our next hurdle to bringing Williams home. In Ghana, court is only held on Fridays. What happens in court? This is when the adoption is actually granted. We do not have to be there because the AAI staff will handle it.

Unfortunately, it is very common for court dates to be delayed. It is actually our case that is preventing this from happening Friday. Williams mother has changed her story about Williams father being dead. She now says he is not dead, but she does not know where he is. The problem with this is that all the paperwork now needs to be changed from a deceased father to a whereabouts unknown father.

The paperwork itself probably would have been completed, but DHS in Ghana has been without electricity for some time and has been unable to process things. It shows me how I take even having power for granted. Such a thing would never happen here. Thank you God for my never ending supply of electricity!

The good news is that there should be no paperwork delays for next week. Now other delays....who knows. Either way, eventually we WILL have our court date and Williams will legally be Williams Kofi Nketia Ankomah Johnston, our son.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Summer aka Birthday Season

Let the festivities begin. As the school year ends Adam's birthday is the 1st in a long string of birthdays to be celebrated through the summer. 5 birthdays between May 27 and August 31. We are so excited that Williams will celebrate his on February 15.

For the 2nd year, Adam decided he wanted to have his party at Build-A-Bear. I encouraged him to have a home party this year, but he insisted Build-A-Bear was what he wanted to do. There are 2 great things about this. One, no mess at home. Two, we only let him invite 3 friends, so the number of presents is greatly reduced.

This is a boys only party so Holly and Hannah stay at home and Scott and I head to KC with our Suburban full of testosterone. I laid the ground rules before entering the car, potty talk (ie poop, butts, toilets) must be kept to a minimum and no spitting. These were loosely observed on the ride there, but we're 100% ignored on the return trip.

Our plan had been Build-A-Bear first, then dinner at T-Rex. Scott was told by someone at work that T-Rex has a "stuff a dino" at the restaurant that is actually run by Build-A-Bear, so we decided on route that the entire party would be held at T-Rex.

The most fun was had on the way out of the restaurant on a grassy area where they ran around and wrestled while Scott paid the bill.

The drive home was one big dinosaur fight the whole way. Well, it also turned into a box fight, you know those big boxes that come from Build-A-Bear. None of them made it home alive, the boxes that is.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Ups & Downs


Our I-600a has been approved and we have received the official letter! I guess they accepted my sworn statement of having no criminal history so we're good to go. We have received our travel packet which is tons of great reading. It has so much information in it from how money works, to meeting birth families, to local cultural norms. We await our court date which will not be until at least a week from next Friday. After court we should get our Adoption Decree in about 3 weeks. With that in hand, Scott will be ready to travel to Ghana to file the I-600 at the embassy.

Williams received the bag of goodies from us last Wednesday. This bag, called the Welcome Bag, is a gallon-sized Ziploc bag that announces to the child that they have been matched to a family for adoption. Included in it was a TY monkey, a soccer t-shirt, a photo album of our family and life, a letter, a bag full of Hot Wheels cars, stickers, glasses with big googly eyeballs, and a little notebook. What a strange sensation it is to imagine him looking at pictures of us and reading the letter that I wrote him! We received a picture of him holding all his loot and it makes my heart do flip flops.


I got a call from our Adoption Coordinator this evening to let me know of a unforeseen situation that has arisen with our case. I can tell when she calls, just by her voice, whether it is a happy call or a not so happy call. Flip flops from the stomach again, but not in a good way. Best case scenario, this new situation will not effect us at all or slow down our process. Worst case scenario (very unlikely) everything falls apart. I have to let myself consider each option in order to prepare for anything, but I will not get myself worked up. Now, if I can just get Scott to stop saying, "This sounds really bad!" then maybe I can really not obsess over it. I think a good synonym for "adoption" would be "obsession". God can handle how he chooses.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Don't Try This At Home

Hannah who is 9, almost 10, is into food coloring right now. She keeps begging me to add food coloring to all kinds of different foods. Every time my "knee jerk" response is to say no but then I think - What harm can come from a little color?

Well, let me tell you, trying to make yellow hominy purple does not work! She added the appropriate amounts of purple and red, but, as you see, there is a definate mixture problem. We ended up having a lovely lavender cole slaw.
Adam and Hannah thoroughly enjoyed their dinner. My husband Scott and other daughter Holly joined us a little bit later. You should have seen the looks on their faces.
Not a lot of the hominy got eaten.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


The FBI gave up on trying to see my fingerprints after 2 trips to the Dept. of Homeland Security to the the offices of US Citizenship and Immigration Services. This is where one of the many applications must be filed in order to bring your internationally adopted child home to the US. Today I returned with a 3rd trip to give a sworn statement that "I'm not a crook", as my daughter Hannah puts it. And I'm not, although my lack of fingerprints might suggest that it would have been a nice fit for me.

The good news is that Sharon, my new best friend at USCIS, said that with the statement everything is done and she'll put our approval in the mail. Yah hoo! This step needs to happen in order to get our letter from the US embassy in Ghana giving us the go-ahead to come to the embassy. Scott will go to Ghana when all is in place, to file another immigration application.

By the way, everyone will be happy to know that I found my missing Croc's. They were in my daughter's room next to the bird cage. We also found Hannah's missing single shoe next to the pond at my sister's house. Now why didn't we check there!
(Actually, I didn't even notice she came home with only one shoe!)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jumping In

Ok, I've put it off for long enough. The pressure of writing just the right thing for my first post has just gotten too much for me! So here it is...low impact, non-entertaining, non-controversial, and caffeine/fat-free. I will mention each of my kids, in alphabetical order, so as not to give them room to claim any superiority over the other, Adam, Hannah, Holly and Williams (on his way from Ghana).

The 3 items in my blog title tend to consume our lives. They are the 4 words that can be heard most often coming out of my mouth, but I certainly had to entertain many other words such as "ball game", "no", "Africa", and "adoption". In the end the winners just sounded good together.

Thanks for dropping in. I have to pick up everyone early from school today for an orthodontist appointment. I'm bummed out because I have to wear my black Croc's because I can't find my cute pink and green ones. I'm eager to get back home to check out my friend's blog for a post. She's in Ghana. (See what I mean by my title!)