Friday, November 27, 2009

More pics

While the internet is still working well, here are a few more photos from our week in Ghana thus far.


Lydia eating some candy we brought as a treat to the foster home. Notice, she also is clutching two rocket balloons and a plastic slinky. These kids don't understand what it means to have something that is "theirs" and theirs alone. At first she just didn't trust anything about us, let alone that we would provide for her.

Edward's face is priceless -- I have just given him is first pair of closed-toe shoes and socks. Size 9 on a 5 year old boy. Too small, but the kid doesn't care -- he is going to wear them, and wear them with PRIDE. I just want to eat him up!

Can you imagine what America could be like if more of our children were this excited, truly excited over a pair of shoes???


While Chris went to the USCIS appointment without me (more on that later), I stayed at the hotel with the kids and played in the courtyard. Edward grabbed my sunglasses and thought he was a funny man. Personally, I think he looks pretty handsome. What do you think?

This play time was after lunch and a rest, and Lydia opened up to me for the first time, laughing and yelling at the TV (football was on -- think she's gonna be like her Momma!). Once we got outside she thought the courtyard wall was a good place to check out the flowers and watch her brother and I kick around the ball.

Edward showing me some of his football moves/skills. I think Mommy can learn a lot just from watching his natural interaction with the ball. Those older boys at the foster home were AMAZING with the soccer ball!


This is Lydia when she is upset about something. Chris says she starts to "turtle". She really does start to withdraw into herself when upset. What upsets her can be that food is not provided fast enough to fill her hungry stomach, waiting for water (or not knowing how to ask for it), Edward playing with her toy, Mommy playing with Edward, Daddy trying to play with her (though that is getting better and better), to not wanting to do what it is we are doing. Thankfully I am learning some of the language, and she is starting to learn ours, plus I am learning her cues, so the withdrawal periods are getting less and less. However, the crying is getting more and more, as both she and Edward are learning that if they cry someone will care for their needs. When we first picked them up on Sunday there were silent teardrops the size of Niagra Falls running down their faces. Now we have sobs. I'll take the sobs for now.

Edward playing football with Daddy in the hotel courtyard. This boy adores his Daddy. He mimicks Chris in word and deed, learning more and more English every day. He is starting to teach Chris and I some of his language, but mostly laughs when we repeat him -- he even told one of the staff this morning (Friday) that Chris "doesn't know how to speak" when asked why he was laughing. Sounds like he'll get along with our nephew, Andrew, who told Chris years ago "You speak funny Russian" :)


More pictures from the pool. The other family with us here at the hotel is from the LA area and I am so glad to have them on this voyage with us. Their 3 year old son C is one of the coolest kids around. Tonight we realized that C has taught Edward and Lydia the Umpa Lumpa song from Willy Wonka as they sat at the dinner table repeating the refrain over and over and over again :) Plus, Lydia loves the S family's son HC who was in the same foster family. Having friends nearby to share these memories and forever family celebrations is priceless -- as my Guatemalan blog and FB friends can attest!

Edward and Chris in the hotel pool. One look at that little boy's face and there is no doubt how he feels about his Daddy (he's still trying to figure me out).

I-600 Approval and PICS!

First, I have to say that the internet is working much better today than yesterday when we got a new converter for our power plug (Chris blew our first converter the first night and I ran on battery juice until I was out on Tuesday just after I posted). One of the first things we found when we checked email today is that our I-600 immigration paperwork was approved! This means that the US gov't has cleared Edward and Lydia as orphans that are eligible for visas to enter the United States. Now we wait for their Ghanaian passports (they are Ghanaian citizens until they have lived in the US for 6 months since we didn't meet them prior to the adoption decree by the Ghanaian government) and then apply for their visa to enter the US. If all continues to go as it has, Percy, our coordinator, thinks we might be able to pick up our visas in TWO WEEKS (one less than originally thought and planned!!!!). So, we are asking all our friends and extended family for continued prayers that paperwork progresses smoothly and in perfect time.

Now, what you have been waiting for: some pics of the kiddos. I just grabbed four from yesterday, a pretty perfect Ghanaian Thanksgiving. More to come later and soon.

Edward watching the short video of Elena and Garrett welcoming them to the family

Lydia thinks Garrett is hysterical already -- she has even started mimicking him "Hi Ed-dy."

My water girl

My handsome boy

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Warm ups and cool downs

Today has been another great day. We visited the market in town that specializes in African goods made by Africans. So many amazing handy crafts -- it was sensory overload for Mommy. We walked away with a couple of drums (big and small), a couple of flutes, some kish-kash, a mask, some beads, and new waist beads for L when she is bigger.

The sites here are searing. I can't get out of my mind the state of some of the houses here, and then to compare that to the demeanor of the people who are so thankful for all the good they have in their lives. We as consumers in America could learn a lot. I have a feeling after a month here I will be a changed woman.

L is having a hard time. She is growing more attached to me, but she does not want anything at all to do with Chris. This has been very hard for him, for his little girl to press against the wall to get away from him is not something he is used to with any child, let alone his. Yet, when L and I are alone together for any space of time, she starts to smile and giggle and is quite comfortable snuggling into me. Please pray that we find a good balance for helping her to adjust to us while she still misses her first family (that she has finally admitted to me).

E on the other hand is really coming alive in front of us. He is a smile from ear to ear. It makes me smile just remembering all of his -- kind of like our other little boy who has an infectious laugh and smile. As I type right now, E is drumming a wonderful beat on the drum. Amazing. Chris says that he is talking and using English words with him when they are alone. Such a different experience the boy with the Daddy and the girl with the Mommy.

We have also been blessed to have developed strong bonds with another family who is here to adopt a little precious boy, H. Hannah and Steven are like long lost family and I am amazed (have I used that word enough in this post?) at all we share outside of adoption as well. We are very fortunate to have good friends here at the hotel for the next month while we complete our adoption, and then to have them just north of us in Hollywood. I think it will be good for the kiddos that they have a community in the area of children who have been adopted from Ghana to play with on occasion.

Well, I think we need to go play some in the courtyard before getting some more dinner (have I written yet about the incredible food here at the hotel?? More on that later). Please pray for deepening bonds of attachment and for the children as they mourn their first family and the life they are losing here in Ghana. Also, please pray for Chris's mom as she watches over Garrett and Elena while we are here -- there are times we miss those two it hurts, but we know that it is better to be forming these first bonds without competition. Much love to all!

Monday, November 23, 2009


We are here and life is GOOD!

We landed yesterday morning and after a brief stop at the hotel we headed to the foster home to see the kids. Oh my goodness, were they all sooooo beautiful. One little one walked straight into Chris's arms and just wanted to stay. Thankfully J does have a family going through the process to bring him home, or Chris and I might have been finding a way to bring home another :)

E and L are doing very well. We have had some periods of sadness -- but both Chris and I think that it is good they are mourning in front of us. Of course, those periods of sadness are often over come by laughter -- especially E's laughter. And most of his sadness is a result of not being able to communicate with us. For example, at lunch today big tears started rolling down his face. After I found a staff member who could help me translate, it was simply that he wanted some water in addition to his pineapple juice and didn't know how to ask. Mommy is slowly starting to catch on to their cues. I have even been treated to L giggles and smiles, and she shared her straw with me at lunch. I have pictures to upload, but the computer is running out of battery and we fried the converter last night so they will have to wait.

Immigration went well today. Our coordinator in Accra, Percy, says that we "should not lose hope" that we will be home by Christmas. I am confident that immigration will go smoothly, the kids Ghanaian passports will be issued shortly, and the visa appointment will be icing on the cake. Any prayers to that end will be greatly appreciated, as are prayers for the children in this beautiful country who are hurt, sad, or hungry this holiday season. There is so much that we can do here, Chris and I are planning already!

Much love!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Packing List and Final Details

So you might be wondering just what I might need to pack for a month plus in Ghana. Well, thanks to some wonderful friends that I have yet to meet in person that have traveled this road before our family, I was able to draft a packing list. Hopefully my version of the packing list will help other families who are preparing to adopt from Africa, if not Ghana specifically.

Packing List for Ghana:

Medication/Hygiene Needs for Adults

First Aid Kit (Betadine or similar, band-aids, moleskin for blisters, small scissors, tape, gauze, gloves, Benadryl, alcohol wipes, tweezers)

Surface Disinfectant (wipes) (travel size Lysol or Clorox wipes)

Medications: Prescriptions, Hydocortisone, Lotrimin, Clotrimazole

Cipro & Immodium, Pepto, Anti-Malaria, decongestant, Tums

Pain relievers: Tylenol, Motrin, aspirin

Electrolyte powder (crystal light, lipton iced tea packets, or Kelloggs Fiber water packets)

Mosquito repellant w/DEET (75% or higher)

mosquito net for sleeping


Hand sanitizer (pocket size and larger size)

Airborne, Vitamin C

Qtips, cotton balls

Feminine products

toilet paper

Heat pads/biofreeze (for sore muscles)

Travel Needs

Travel Kleenex

Travel Alarm clock

Small Flashlight (w/o batteries?)

Sink stopper, stain stick, laundry soap, clothes line

Small bottle of dish soap

Money Belt

Passport holder (neck – for airport only)

Ziploc bags (airport and other asst’d sizes)


Downy Wrinkle Releaser

Small Travel Pillows

Converter, plug adapter (w/ 220 wattage option)

Swiss army knife

hand held electric fan

Extra duffle or two (for gifts on return trip)

steel water bottles

sterilizing pen for water bottles or sterilizing bottle

books to read



Instant Oatmeal, trail mix, protein bars. granola bars, ramen noodles, tuna packs, crackers, PB, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, MREs

favorite teas

bowls, spoons

Documents & Office Supplies

Passports (and copies x2)

Copy of Dossier (x3)

(X3 copies of all documents is recommended)

Referral information

driver's licenses

copy of insurance information

emergency contact numbers

Vaccination records (our travel vaccination record)

Journal, black pens in baggies. Pencils, calculator, paper

clips, mini-stapler & staples

Photos of family to share


digital camera, camcorder (extra battery, memory cards)

iPod -- chargers, connectors

blank cds to burn pics

Gifts, hand-outs, gift bags/tissue paper (kids: pencils, pencil sharpeners, crayons, erasers, wrapped candy, stickers, post cards. in-country coordinator: foster mother: orphanage director: orphanage caregivers: card w/ note and $20 each Guest house employees: )

Adult Clothes


4 pairs lightweight pants/capris

3 skirts

8-10 shirts/blouses

1 sweater, black long sleeve top (for travel)

clothes for hotel lounging

bathing suit


Shoes (clogs, flip flops, mules), Socks, Footies


Packable hat


rain coat

slippers for in guest house


3-4 prs lightweight pants 3-4 shirts

1 dress shirt

1 pr shorts (for hotel)

5-6 shirts

Bathing suit

Sleep shirt

1 sweater/sweatshirt

Shoes (tennis shoes, tevas)




Travel outfit

rain coat

slippers for in guest house




Shave Lotion/razor

Cosmetics & face wash/lotion

Body Lotion


Tooth paste, brush

Bobby pins

Lip balm

wash cloths

travel hairdryer w/ dual wattage

Kiddo Clothes


4-5 comfy outfits

1-2 dressy outfits



2 warm outfits for trip home


bathing suit



4-5 comfy outfits

1-2 dressy outfits



2 warm outfits for trip home


bathing suit


Kiddo Medication/Hygiene Needs


Gas drops

Children’s Tylenol, Motrin


Ear ache drops (anesthetic)

1% Hydrocortizone

Children’s repellent with DEET (up to 50%)


Kiddo Needs

2 yd cloth

Plastic bags for trash (hotel and airplane)

bowl, spoon

Few toys

Kiddo Toiletries

kiddo Wash and shampoo

baby wipes

Today has been spent getting the final preparations ready for travel. I have found the last items from the packing list that I still needed and am making the third copy of my paperwork. Tonight I need to prepare our presents for our coordinator and foster family. The big gift for both is a framed print of Oceanside Pier that I have taken in the past month. Hopefully they will enjoy it, and we are also giving the foster family a jar of shells and our coordinator an Obama t-shirt (he's a BIG fan). Part of me thinks that I am still forgetting something important, but I have time still to check and triple-check our lists again. Oh, plus I need to prep the photo albums for Eddie and Lydia so they can start learning the faces that already love them. Gonna be a fun, short night before we hit the highway at 3 AM to catch our flight!

Next time I post I'll be overseas!!!! Please leave any comments you want me to actually read and respond to on here directly. Otherwise, I'll be able to read all the FB comments when I return next month. God bless, Happy Thanksgiving, and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Leaving on a jet plane ...

So the week has finally come when I am getting on a jet plane and flying into the sunrise to pick up our children. Needless to say, there is a mixture of excitement, stress, and concern in the Merrill household. Mostly Daddy and Frick and Frack are concerned (Chris for my safety, G and E because I'll be "far, far away"). However all the stress and concern is well-tempered with the hopes and prayers that by Christmas we will be united as a family of SIX!!! So, as you can see above, I'm gathering all my goodies into one area and getting ready to pack. Of course, the rest of the house is looking like a tornado blew threw, but hey, something has to give. Tomorrow I pick up my mother-in-law from the airport. Dear Sherri is staying at the house to help Chris out with Garrett and Elena while I'm away and, I found out today, she's going to stay through Christmas to celebrate with us and Mick (my FIL) will fly in for or just after Christmas to meet his new grandkids! Hooray!!!

This blog will be the best way to track my progress in Ghana. I'll try to record my travels and upload photos as I can. Most likely I will not be able to get on FB. Please keep sending prayers for a smooth and expedited process. With all the American and Ghanaian holidays between now and the new year, we are going to need them to be home on the 20th of December.

Alright, guess I need to get back to my TO DO list (and yes, TO DO is in capitals because I have so much to do before leaving for a foreign country for a month!). Laters!