Saturday, August 31, 2013

Water Babies

As we discovered during our time at Sunny Days (our Congolese guesthouse), Kina and Benjamin Godson are bigtime water babies. Here are some pictures from some of our latest adventures with mayi (Lingala for water). 

At the Memphis Zoo, there is a wonderful fountain called "Old Faithful". We enjoy putting on our bathing suits and cooling off in it on hot summer days. The biggest fan is BG, by far. He giggles and screams with delight when the water suddenly cuts off and then shoots upward. 

Little lamb

With cousin Brittain after swimming at Aunt Cindy's and Uncle Britt's pool. 

With her cousin Coleman, exhausted after cartwheeling into the pool too many times and having her first swim lesson. 

Sweet cousins 

Not Much News to Report, But...

There isn't much news to report here at the High Point Terrace branch location of the Bolton Family. We have been to look at many wonderful schools and daycares for Shekina and Benjamin Godson, and Shekina even tried out a school day today at one (as they also tried her out). She came home saying she didn't like school--"No, no, no," she corrected me, "I love school!" While she truly enjoyed the school she visited today, I'm confident she'll like school in general no matter where she ends up. She's a smart girl, and school will be much-needed stimulation for that sharp little brain she has! 

In other news:

*We have watched Madagascar 3 approximately 100 times. A Congolese movie channel got us hooked by showing it daily while we were in Kinshasa, and now watching at least part of it happens every other day. Hey, Shekina could have picked a much worse movie or show. We could be watching creepy Yo Gabba Gabba. 

•Thanks to recipes from a few Congolese adoption friends I made through Facebook, I have now attempted (and I think succeeded, though Kina would argue) two Congolese dishes. One was easy--plantains sliced and fried in oil in the same way you'd make French fries. Kina was in HOG HEAVEN the first night I made them, so they made a repeat appearance less than 24 hours later. Benjamin Godson also loved him, but it doesn't take much to get him to eat. Kina's picky (understandably so, with all these brand-new foods) and BG's open to trying all sorts of things. Looks like fried plantains will become a staple at this house. They were pretty delicious! The other recipe I made was a chicken tagine that consisted of sautéed chicken, a variety of spices, diced onion, and rice. Kina wasn't too much of a fan, but I thought it was absolutely delicious. Again, Benjamin Godson is the Mikey of the new millennium. He'll eat anything. 

There's really not much else to report, so here are a few new photos. Hope everyone is well! 


I couldn't cook the plantains fast enough. This girl was so happy with a comfort food. 

Asleep at the table, and not for the first time either!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Miss Kina

In no way do I think Kina is a lucky girl to be with us. A very unlucky and sad string of circumstances led her to this family. That being said, is she living the life today, or what?! All I could think about when I saw her like this was the contrast between her life now and her life 51 days ago. 

Prior to 7-4-13, the day we met her

She's not smiling because she's concentrating so intently on the iPad, which she gets for an hour a day if she is good. 

Simply amazing. Truth be told, I am the lucky one. These kids have changed my life in monumental ways, all for the better! We love you, Kina!  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Annie and Olivia

After watching the movie Annie both yesterday and today, Shekina is singing "Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Olivia, Tomorrow, you're only a day away." Shekina has two cousins named Olivia, so it's an easy mistake to make! A funny one too! 

In other news, Kina has learned how to ride a tricycle. It took two days, which I have to say was a little surprising for a kid who can handwash her own clothes, shower, wash dishes, clear the table, and help her brother to a pretty amazing extent. There was a lot of whining and crying yesterday, but today I was extremely encouraged! We turned a page in our trike-riding. Shekina is determined to pedal up every hill and around every garbage can. She picks that heavy trike up and crosses the street when told it is safe. I am so proud! Yesterday, I was so frustrated, because she wouldn't even try, but today, WOW! It's amazing what a difference a night of sleep and a nap can make. We will be taking more walks/tricycle rides every day, maybe even twice a day. 

We have been on six school tours in the last two weeks for Shekina. We are sure she will be in pre-K, but we still aren't sure where she will go. There are so many good things about each place! Unfortunately, my absolute favorite doesn't have any spots. Our fault for having to apply so late. Maybe a spot will open up! 

Well, both kids are suddenly slapping the heck out of each other on the couch, as siblings will do. I'd better attend to them instead of writing more. Hope everyone is well. Thank you for all the well wishes re: my grandmother. Below are some pictures from the last few days. 


Saturday, August 17, 2013


Just as we added these two precious lives to our family, we lost another. The day after we returned from Africa, my 95-year-old grandmother, Dorothy, took a fall and pressed her "I've fallen and I can't get up" button. When the paramedics arrived, they discovered that in addition to her extremely fragile skin being torn in multiple places (from falling on carpet!), she was also having breathing problems. Diagnosed with pneumonia that continued to spread despite treatment, Dorothy ended up in hospice and passed away peacefully in her sleep this week. We remembered her yesterday with a beautiful memorial service. It was so wonderful to see all the people who turned out, including some very close friends who drove all the way from Knoxville and back in one day just to attend. Dorothy would have been so proud and so pleased! We will miss our matriarch terribly, of course, but after suffering for several years with macular degeneration AND failing ears, she is now at rest. Here are a few old pictures from yesterday's memorial service that I really enjoyed seeing. 

I think this must have been when I was in high school. Dorothy (she never wanted to be called grandmother or grandma--God forbid!) lived in the apartments across the street from White Station, my hs, for many years. (This picture is quite an inspiration for me to get back on my diet. Sheesh!!!) 

I think this one was taken some time between 1990-1992 at my aunt's house. HOLY HAIR, especially my dad's! Dad, too bad you didn't save some of that at one of your hair cuts. You could have had something made to wear in the future when your hair became a little more sparse!!!

After the service and after a wonderful family lunch, I headed to pick up the kids from my cousin St. Brittain, who offered to watch them for the day. The kids were just the cheery balm we needed after such a sad day. We ate the most delicious red beans and rice ever (Thanks, Gaiennie family!) and watched Madagascar once again. The kids pretty much piled on top of Papa during the entire movie. 

Warning: If you have been around us during the last few days, Lysol everything. I woke up with bad pink eye in both eyes this morning. I'm off to buy some chamomile tea, which is supposed to be a miracle cure. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. 


Monday, August 12, 2013

Green Day

If you know me well, you know I love musicals. There was a time when I lived in NYC that I had seen pretty much every single one that was running on Broadway! My iPhone is loaded with the likes of Rent, The Lion King, Phantom, Chicago, Oliver... I think you get it now. My favorite awards show of the year is the Tonys, and a few years back, they highlighted American Idiot, which was a musical made up of all Green Day songs. I really have never cared for Green Day's music other than a few songs, but I really liked it in musical form during the Tonys, so I started searching iTunes for it. In attempt to find that musical version, I accidentally bought a few of the band's normal, non-musical songs. I personally find the ones I bought to be dark and depressing and whiny... 

How in the world does this relate to my current life and my adoption? Don't judge: As a single parent, it is hard for me to get a quiet moment or any time for myself. Accepting this has been a lot harder than I expected. Things quiet down when Benjamin Godson naps, but Shekina still wants (and needs) a lot of attention, and refuses to nap. I started allowing her to use the iPad during quiet time (nap time) mostly for learning apps...except that turned into her using the iPad to play my music. She has latched onto one song in particular: 21 Guns. Why, oh why? She plays it over and over and over, and for me, listening to it is hell. Here it is for your listening pleasure. Learn it and Kina will be your new best friend. 

A few days ago, I spotted a pair of Hello Kitty headphones in Walgreens. I threw them into the cart as fast as I could, and they are now Shekina's (and my) most valuable belonging. For an hour during nap time, she can play Dora the Explorer learning games and listen to all the music she wants. If she wants to listen to Green Day whine about 21 Guns as many as 21 times (and I wouldn't put it past her!), she can go right ahead! The best part about it is that she loves iPad time so much that I can use it as a bargaining chip/punishment. For instance: "You don't want to get into the car when it is time to leave the park? Oh, well, if you don't get into the car, no iPad later. Is that what you want?" (No!) When she does get to use the iPad, I have an hour of silence. Golden silence. I owe Green Day, Dora, and Hello Kitty big time for keeping her occupied. 

My little Green Day lover playing Old Maid in the chapeau she picked out at Target. She does get some quality time!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

An Eerie Orange Glow

This morning upon waking, I noticed something orange between two of my fingers--no, wait--three of my--no, wait--all of my fingers. I starting retracing my steps from the day before, trying to remember what I had been touching that made my fingers look like they had been traced with orange permanent marker. Koolaid powder? No. Had I made jello? No. And then I realized I recognized that ugly orange tone. Self tanner. What?! I hadn't used self tanner since I was in seventh grade and sat regularly under my mom's 1960s sun lamp. Then I remembered frantically trying to find lotion in the middle of the night the night before because Kina was itchy. In the dark. In my parents' bathroom. (We sometimes still sleep out there on occasion). I had accidentally grabbed an old self tanner of my mom's and had slathered it all over my itchy African daughter. Lord help me. There's no telling what else done. 

In other news, Benjamin Godson and Kina both tried popsicles for the first time today. Sadly, they weren't fans! Benny G promptly dumped his on the floor after three licks. Kina are about a fourth of her freezer pop. I thought they would be thrilled! Kina also isn't a fan of ice cream. (BG ate my whole adult portion of chocolate-peanut butter from Baskin Robbins!) 

Not so thrilled. 

This is what BG does to anything he doesn't like--i.e. throws it on the floor. 

You expect me to eat this?! 

Sprinkler Time

Is there any childhood past time more American than running through sprinklers on a hot summer day? Too lazy to venture out to a pool and nervous that the kids had not burned off enough energy before bedtime, I turned on the sprinkler system and let the kids out into the front yard. Kina is a big fan. It's growing on Benjamin Godson. Here are a few videos!

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Help! I'm buried under my two children and I can't get up! (And I thought my dogs were bad...) 

The kids are still sleeping through the night in their own beds. This is a picture of them watching Dora and snoozing in my bed after waking up. Don't worry, behavioral therapist (and saint) Brittain Coleman. We haven't reverted! 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Kindness on a Stick

I continue to be amazed by unexpected generosity. Today, the kids and I hadn't had much of an outing, so we headed over to my new house (have I told you I closed on a new East Memphis house right after we got back in country?!) with my dad while he did some work. The kids ran around like maniacs in the house (there are LOTS of awesome hiding places), rode their little push toys, and tackled me repeatedly. Then--and this is where the generosity comes in--we decided to cool off at a wonderful Mexican ice cream shop down the street. La Michoacana is famous for its homemade paletas (Mexican popsicles), so we ordered Kina a pineapple one (she LOVES pineapple) and Benjamin Godson a mini vanilla one (which melted all over him, me, and the floor). The guy at the counter was questioning me about their background, and I have to admit that even though we have only been back in the US for two weeks, all the questions are starting to wear me out. Anyway, I assumed the worst and kind of brushed him the end of our visit, he really surprised me by filling up a brown sack with a variety of fruit paletas for the kids...for free. Man, did I read him wrong. He turned out to be such a sweet guy! This wasn't our first visit to LM, and now
I can tell you it was far from our last. You never know whose heart will be genuinely touched by adoption. Today, that was the case. Here are some pictures from our visit. 

YUM. I am soooooo about to fall off the diet wagon. The watermelon paletas in the fridge are calling my name. Hope everyone is well!


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Dog Lessons with Koko Vickie and Derby

One of our greatest concerns regarding bringing Benjamin Godson and Shekina home was our dogs. I have three and my parents have three, and four of those six are 50+ pounds. None of our six dogs are accustomed to children, and two of them are downright nervous around children. Congolese generally don't keep dogs as pets (in a country where many cannot afford to feed themselves, a pet is just another mouth to feed), so many Congolese children are fearful of them...Benjamin Godson and Shekina are no exception. I thought fearful dogs and fearful children were a recipe for disaster, and if you know anything about our dog rescuing habits, you know this would be particularly terrible for us. Thanks to my mother, however, who once again I will refer to as St. Koko Vickie (because she truly has been a saint with the kids), the kids and the dogs are learning to like each other. She has conducted dog lessons four or five times now in which all they do is basically pet and hand-feed the dogs. The kids are still somewhat fearful, but they are totally enthralled with dogs now, and their fear decreases with each lesson. Now, every single time we see a dog, Benjamin Godson squeals, "Derby!!!" (the name of my mom's beagle). Here are some videos of today's dog lessons: 

Part one:

Part two:

Part three:

After our dog lessons, we watched a phonics cartoon and ate popcorn while laying on a comforter on my parents' floor. Benjamin Godson absolutely LOVED laying on the down comforter. In his previous life, he spent a lot of time crawling around on concrete (his poor knees and legs are so rough as a result). Maybe he appreciates squishy, comfy things because of that. 

Can you believe how smiley and happy he is this days? After almost a year of receiving somber, sad pictures of him, we can hardly believe our eyes. 

Hope everyone is well. I'm off to watch more Phonics Land! 


Friday, August 2, 2013

A Few Random Pictures from Kinshasa

My dad sent me these Kinshasa pictures and I thought I would share them. 

Both kids fell asleep on me while we waited several hours at the Turkish Embassy for our travel visas. 

Outside the doctor's office while Goddy was being tested and treated for malaria. 

At the orphanage, July 4, the first day we met each other 

Shekina LOVES to carry Benjamin Godson around, and it scares me to death. Here she is at our guesthouse, Sunny Days, with the book "Count to Sleep Maine". 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

First Dill Pickle

The pictures speak for themselves. Papa Skip will be sad. After she rejected it, she gave it to Bing, who made a face but still ate it. 

New Pictures

Meeting cousin Coleman for the first time 

First ice cream cone (Baskin Robbins--she chose the only ice cream that had pink and purple)

Got these fantastic Elton John-ish glasses at Diagnostic Imaging when we went to get Shekina's bone-age scans done today. (They say she is 5, by the way.) 

Our Baby Bird

Have I ever told you about our baby bird?  When we first picked up Benjamin Godson, he wanted nothing to do with us. In fact, until we got back to Memphis and he started spending time solely with me, he always wanted Koko Vickie, Papa Skip, or Kina, and never me. I was his last resort. It felt great, having waited for a year and a half for him and having him totally reject me upon meeting us, let me tell you. 

In addition to having a hard time adjusting to his new family at first, Godson also refused to eat and drink for the most part. All the sensitive stomach formula we brought? No thanks. (It was later donated to the orphanage.) At first, he would touch nothing except for the medicine syringe, so we took advantage and started squirting him full of Pedialyte with that. Later, he added those baby food fruit pouches to his repertoire. (If you are an adoptive parent who is getting ready to travel, I highly recommend these  because they will lay down flat in your checked luggage--i.e. they pack well. I have been told that those fruit purées also count as a liquid, so while they're a little higher in sugar than I prefer, they're good stuff for travel! 

Anyway, here is my absolute favorite picture of our baby bird--nicknamed after the baby birds we used to hand feed. It turns out he was actually sick as a dog when we picked him up. Now that he is much healthier, he is a little piggy who will try almost anything. And me? Twenty-nine days have passed since we first held him in our arms, and he now PREFERS me. Hallelujah!