Posts filed under adoption

Two Years (!!!) and an Announcement

One of my favorite family photos. Who knew all you had to do to get a smile from your kid was tickle him?

One of my favorite family photos. Who knew all you had to do to get a smile from your kid was tickle him?

We've been a family of three for two whole years. Can you believe it? In a way, it feels like it's flown by and in other ways, we've felt each day fully. We've slipped into a sweet rhythm of family. We get up, go about our daily schedules, come home, do homework, eat dinner, and go to bed, only to start all over again the next day.

This past year has seen huge leaps in attachment. We've had more hugs, more glances for reassurance, and more moments when things felt natural and not rehearsed. Along with this growth comes challenges. We have push back to our authority, which is to be expected. We all are doing our best to keep loving and encouraging each other. (Some days that feels more natural than others!)

Future big brother! (He's wearing the birthday crown as it was his birthday when we told him.)

Future big brother! (He's wearing the birthday crown as it was his birthday when we told him.)

One big, exciting thing that's happening in our family is that we are adopting from South Africa again. We don't know anything about our future kid (known around our house as M4 [Malcolm #4]) or where they are in South Africa. We are open to either gender, but have asked the age range to be 4-8. We are excited and hopeful that the process will go smoothly and quickly. For those of you wondering, you have to re-do everything, even though you've done it all before. The biggest advantage is that you know where you're headed and what to expect (the unexpected). We are almost done with the dossier (here's what that looked like for us last time around), then we will officially begin our waiting. 

Thank you to everyone who is loving on our family and sending love and encouragement as we are taking this next big step. We love our family and are excited to see who else God has to join this crazy bunch.

Posted on February 20, 2018 and filed under family anniversary, dossier, adoption.

A Hummingbird and a Call (One Year Later)

One year ago today, I was sitting in our backyard holding a hummingbird that had flown into our window. I was simultaneously hoping it would stay forever and be my animal friend and hoping it would fly away. I was hoping it would stay for obvious reasons. Hello! Who wouldn't love an adorable bird who drinks sugar water being your friend?! At the same time, I was hoping it would get better enough to fly away. I had an important call I was waiting for and really wanted to give all of my attention to this call.

Our social worker had emailed us the day before (Thursday) asking if she could call as she had a file of a child she wanted us to consider. I was hopeful, but cautious in my hope. After about 20 minutes of holding this fragile bird and feeding it, it flew off. As I was standing up, my phone rang.

She said he was a six year old boy. She said she thought he would be perfect for us.

I knew. I knew he was our son. 

I called Brian to tell him the two simple things we had—his age and gender. Then I went on a walk. I've had strong feelings before, but this was intense. My husband and my family can testify that strong feelings are sometimes the only way I feel things, but this was different. It was confidence and hope and tentative love. All for a six year old boy on the other side of the world. I prayed that God would help me discern my feelings.

We prayed together over the weekend and called Monday morning asking for the file. What followed was 43 days of waiting to see his face. Those 43 days were painful. They were heartbreaking. I didn't know what my son looked like, but I knew he was the child we had been waiting for.

Oh, how much can change in one year! Now we're in a new season of life, filled with fighting for attachment, building love, and growing in trust. One year can hold so much. This past year has seen our family of two turn into a family of three. 

I am thankful God brought Tisetso into our family. Adoption isn't rainbows and unicorns, so when you have sweet moments (like this anniversary), you hold on tight. I am excited and hopeful for what the next year will hold.

Posted on May 29, 2016 and filed under adoption, anniversary, season of waiting.

Links for All of the Days We Were in South Africa

If for some crazy reason you find yourself wanting to read all of the days in order (bless you), here are all of the days, linked up for your convenience. Thanks for reading our story!

Day 1: Pretoria

Day 2: Pretoria

Day 3: Pretoria

Day 4: Pretoria

Day 5: Pretoria

Day 6: Pretoria

Day 7: Pretoria

Day 8: Pretoria

Day 9: Centurion

Day 10: Centurion

Day 11: Centurion

Day 12: Centurion

Day 13: Centurion

Day 14: Centurion

Day 15: Centurion

Day 16: Centurion and Atteridgeville

Day 17: Centurion

Day 18: Centurion and Strand

Day 19: Strand

Day 20: Strand

Day 21: Strand

Day 22: Strand and Cape Town

Day 23: Strand and Simon's Town

Day 24: Strand

Day 25: Strand

Day 26: Strand

Day 27: Strand

Day 28: Strand and Cape Town

Day 29: Strand and Khayelitsha

Day 30: Strand

Day 31: Strand and Cape Town

Day 32: Strand and Cape Town

Day 33: Strand and Cape Town

Day 34: Strand and Simon's Town

Day 35: Strand and Cape Town

Day 36: Strand and Cape Town

Day 37: Strand

Day 38: Strand and Khayelitsha

Day 39: Strand and Stellenbosch

Day 40: Strand, Cape Town, and Somerset West

Day 41: Strand, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Sandton

Day 42: Sandton

Day 43: Sandton, Pretoria, and Centurion

Day 44: Sandton

Day 45: Sandton

Day 46: Sandton

Day 47: Sandton and Johannesburg

Day 48: Sandton, Pretoria, and Johannesburg

Day 49: London, Chicago, and Home

Summary of our Time in South Africa found here.

Mother's Day

This photo is a perfect summation of my family. I'm pretty sure my sister is pinching my butt, I'm trying to smack her, my sister and I are losing it, and my mom and dad can do nothing but laugh at their amazingly beautiful and wonderful daughters. (Am I laying it on a little thick??)

This photo is a perfect summation of my family. I'm pretty sure my sister is pinching my butt, I'm trying to smack her, my sister and I are losing it, and my mom and dad can do nothing but laugh at their amazingly beautiful and wonderful daughters. (Am I laying it on a little thick??)

It's my first official Mother's Day. Although, to be honest, I've felt like a mother for a couple of years now (since we started the adoption process in December 2013). Some people would argue that you're not a mom unless you've got a kid in your house, but humanity also used to burn people at the stake for teaching the world was round. This post has taken a dark turn, but all of that to say, people are wrong sometimes. Being a mom has many different facets, some of which do not involve children at all!

Mother's Day is complicated when you've adopted. It's not lost on me that my son has had two women he called mother in his life before me. The title of mother is something I fight for daily. But the fight makes the victories so much sweeter—when he sits in my lap or lets me hug him longer than a second. I am thankful to be Tisetso's mother. It is a gift I do not deserve.

Becoming a mother further solidified in my heart how wonderful my mom is. I am over and over again thankful she managed to find ways to love and support the crazy, hot mess that I was growing up. (Let's be honest, I can still be that way!) She had to put up with my sister and I and still make dinner and keep our house from falling apart. There have been times since we've gotten back that I've wondered how she did it all! She's a saint.

Whether you've got a child in your home calling you mom, or your heart is given to a child you are waiting for or are mourning the loss of, I hope and pray today would be a sweet blessing to you.

Posted on May 8, 2016 and filed under adoption, Mother's Day.

South Africa: Day 49, London, Chicago, and Home

Tuesday, February 23 (continued from Day 48)

Even with the lights off at 2:00 AM, it was hard to get to sleep. The plane was unnaturally warm and people seemed to have been revived by their ridiculously late dinner. Tisetso was definitely ready for sleep, so we, for the first time ever, had to figure out how to get this kid to sleep within the 2.5 square feet we all resided in. He didn’t want to stretch out, so he tried sitting up for a few hours. He kept waking up, which was no good. After some convincing, I suggested he lay across our laps. It took a little maneuvering, but he ended up with his head in my lap and his feet in Brian’s. 

With that settled, I was able to actually doze off for a little bit. My sleep was interrupted by crazy turbulence over Zambia which, if you remember our flight from London to Johannesburg, I do NOT like. I got super upset at myself for being unable to fend off a panic attack. I was trying to breathe and not freak out, with a kid in my lap. I was preaching Truth to myself, but was having a hard time holding onto it when the next massive bump hit. At one point, Tisetso woke up freaking out in his sleepy stupor and with Brian sleeping, I was left to comfort a kid while freaking out myself. It went well. (Was that convincing?)

After a night of off and on sleep, we woke up at 5:30 to the breakfast carts getting pulled out. These flight attendants were going to serve us dinner and breakfast if we wanted it or not, regardless of the hour! I couldn’t believe each of us had gotten any sleep, let alone more than 10 minutes. Brian and I forewent the breakfast as we would be landing at Heathrow and wanted a proper meal. Tisetso was only interested in candy, and because it was a special occasion of traveling for 29 hours, we obliged. 

When we landed at 7:00 AM, we were ushered to another security checkpoint. Unfortunately for us, we were not on our game as far as liquids were concerned, since rules were far less stringent at our departure point. We had some medication we had to bring with us, so we were concerned about getting that through security. Our concern for that getting through caused our brains to not remember any other liquids in our luggage. Out of our three backpacks, two rolling suitcases, and one purse, only my backpack made it through without being checked. It ended up being a 45-minute delay. The poor security officer who got us was flustered, the woman in charge of the team was downright rude, and we were embarrassed and tired. It made for a lovely combination.

After the frustrating ordeal of the security checkpoint, we headed to an area with bathrooms and restaurants. We each took a turn going and changing or freshening up before grabbing breakfast. Tisetso changed out of his Ninja Turtles pajamas into warmer clothes (we were now in winter weather). Tisetso requested lunch for breakfast. I honestly didn’t care what we ate at that point, as long as it was real food! We found a spot and had instant sticker shock. After spending 6 weeks with the exchange rate insanely in our favor (17 to 1), it was painful to be on the opposite end of it all (1 to 1.5). After paying $50 for breakfast equivalent to what we would have pay $10 for in South Africa, we headed to some benches to rest. Our next flight to Chicago didn’t leave until 12:15 PM, so we had some time to rest.

At the benches, Brian laid down for a nap. Out of the three of us, he had gotten the least amount of sleep. I was tired, but occupied myself with writing. Tisetso, who was beyond tired at this point, was needing a nap. I told him if he kept his eyes closed for 10 minutes, he could play with his iPad. He was excited to prove me wrong and not fall asleep—until he did. I definitely patted myself on the back for being so awesome at this whole parenting thing.

After short naps, we checked the departures board and found (not surprisingly enough) that our gate was far, far away. We hauled our stuff onto a train and headed to an extension of the terminal. Then we trekked to the farthest reaches of the terminal to our gate. When we arrived, there was a massive sea of people. I couldn’t believe how many people were on the flight! In a moment of realization, I remembered the last time we sat at that same gate, we were headed to meet our son. It felt like things had come full circle as we sat there with our son.

Once again, our amazing kid got us priority boarding (thanks, again). We got on our last flight to home. I felt the fullness of that truth as I buckled my seat belt. My moment of zen and tranquility was abruptly interrupted by a family with three young girls getting into the two rows in front of us. The girls (and probably their parents), as we would discover over the next 7 hours, were absolute terrors. 

Our plane was on the runway, ready to take off, when the flight attendant had to come over and reprimand two of the girls in front of us. They had unbuckled and were standing and jumping on their seats. The flight attendant told them they had to buckle up and she wasn’t telling them again. I wasn’t sure who to root for. If they did buckle up, we could take off. If they didn’t, they would probably have to get off the plane. It was a tough call in my brain (even only having sat by them for 30 minutes), but they ended up sitting down and buckling. 

When we took off, I felt sad to leave England. I loved our time there before our adventure in South Africa (more to come on that later) and have always loved Great Britain. I was also super excited to get home and sleep in my bed and drive on the right side of the road and be able to buy more than two days worth of groceries at a time.

Our flight home was turbulent for about an hour and a half (ugh) and filled with those crazy girls jumping over the seats, staring at us (like staring), and screaming/yelling. It almost felt longer than the flight over the whole continent of Africa! We watched our shows, read some books and magazines, and tried to take little naps. I wasn’t too concerned with sleeping as my plan was to arrive home as tired as possible.

When we landed, I couldn’t believe it! The last time we were at O’Hare, Brian and I were just the two of us, (somewhat) ready to take on an adventure that would change our lives. We landed looking rough, with bad breath, and needing a shower. What a change!

We departed the plane and headed for the massively long immigration line. Because we had Tisetso with us, we couldn’t just hop into the fast-moving line for returning citizens. We waited for about 45 minutes in line before we were seen by a friendly border control agent. That part of it all was actually quite easy. We then had to figure out where to go to get Tisetso’s visa reviewed and approved.

After finding the right spot, we put our paperwork on a pile and sat in some seats by a desk. It seemed a little too informal to be where people were welcomed to the US. At this point, we were so tired that sitting this long was a danger to turn into nap time. While waiting, there was a woman from another country who was getting her visa reviewed. One of the guys in charge yelled at her to get her kids under control and that if she wanted to come to this country, she’d have to keep them under control. He then proceeded to swear up a storm and then went to the bathroom. It was a little nuts because her kids were really not terribly out of control, but were running around in an empty open area as kids do. I’m presuming they had been on the plane for a while and had energy to burn. I really wanted to go up to her and apologize for the idiot, but was too tired to move.

When our name was called, we went up to the counter, answered a few questions, got Tisetso's visa signed, and then were told we could go. We pushed our carts out of the arrivals gate. Because we weren’t allowed to have our cell phones on in that area, we were able to sneak up on my parents who had come to pick us up. They were so sweet and greeted Tisetso with a Batman balloon anchored by a puzzle. He loved it! 

I was so good to see them! It was really exciting to introduce my son to my parents. He was excited to finally meet them, too, as he had looked at their pictures in his family book and talked to them briefly on Skype from South Africa.

We exchanged hugs, put on winter coats because we now needed them, and headed out. With our luggage loaded, we headed into the Chicago rush hour traffic. Brian was a trooper being the designated driver while I fought to stay awake. Tisetso crashed immediately in his new carseat. 

Our only stop on our way home was to grab dinner at Portillo's. Tisetso loves hot dogs, so I knew it would be a hit. We got there around 6:30, ate our food, talked a little, but mostly stared into space. My mom and dad were staying in a hotel, so we said good night there and headed back out into the night to introduce Tisetso to his new home. Brian had been especially nervous about how he would like being in the home we love so much (scared, overwhelmed, generally opposed), but Tisetso ended up being so tired that he wasn't able to be any of those things, so that was a relief.

Posted on May 4, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 48, Sandton, Pretoria, and Johannesburg

Monday, February 22

We all woke up with a sense of heaviness and excitement. Well, to be fair, I woke up with Tisetso pinching my nose, so I technically woke up unable to breathe. But other than that, heaviness and excitement. Our flight wasn’t to leave until 9:20 p.m., so we had one final, full day in South Africa. Today was going to be the hardest day yet—saying goodbye to Mommy Tahiyya. 

After my abrupt and suffocating awakening, I set to finishing packing. I wanted to be done early in the day so we didn’t have to worry about it closer to the time of our departure. Tisetso watched Ben 10 while I finished his suitcase. With a quick breakfast, we were off to say goodbye. Brian needed coffee, so we stopped at a place called Vintage Coffee

With coffee in hand, we headed to the care home one last time. Pulling up felt final. We parked, rang the bell, and waited to be let in one last time. Tisetso was excited to be back. We sat in the living room with Mommy Tahiyya as she gave Tisetso a gift she had made. She also gave us a book she had put together of all of the baby pictures she could find of Tisetso, along with memories she wanted him to remember. We felt like we had been given a gift of gold as it was a treasure we hadn’t known to even hope for. We talked for a little bit. Mommy Tahiyya commented about Tisetso’s accent (which apparently sounded more like ours already) and how long his hair had gotten. After a bit, we all needed to get going with our days, so we said our goodbyes.

Tisetso and Mommy Tahiyya

Tisetso and Mommy Tahiyya

I cannot express to you how hard it was to say goodbye to this amazing woman. She had fought hard for Tisetso for seven years and loved him as a son for seven years. She was there for his first steps, she wiped his tears when he was sad, she cheered him on when he had a race. What do you say to a woman like her? She had loved Tisetso longer and fought harder for him than I had! "Thank you" didn’t seem enough. I lost it saying goodbye to her. I wanted to bring her with! Getting in the car and driving away was hard. 

Tisetso's primary school

Tisetso's primary school

We had one more goodbye for the day. We had set up a time to say goodbye to Tisetso’s grade R (kindergarten) teacher. Before we went to the school, we grabbed lunch in Laudium one last time. After lunch, we had enough time to take Brian back to Vintage Coffee to work while Tisetso and I said goodbye to Teacher Emmy. When we got to the school, the kids were just getting let out. There were lots of kids and parents everywhere!

We found Teacher Emmy’s classroom and walked in. Tisetso ran to the dress up corner (his favorite when he was in Kindergarten). Teacher Emmy gave me two discs with all of the pictures she had taken of her class the previous year. I couldn’t believe the blessing I was holding in my hands! More pictures of my son before he became a Malcolm! I thanked her profusely and had Tisetso come over to say goodbye. During her goodbye, she presented him with a couple of farewell cards from his friends and a wallet. Apparently, one of his friends bought him a wallet to match his and wrote a note on the back. It was so sweet.

His wallet from his friend.

His wallet from his friend.

Tisetso and Teacher Emmy

Tisetso and Teacher Emmy

The goodbye was short as we could tell Tisetso was feeling overwhelmed with the events of the day. At the car, I hugged Teacher Emmy, who had fought fiercely for my son’s trust and taught him the importance of learning. It was almost too much for me. Two hard goodbyes in one day. I was ready for a nap!

We picked Brian up from the coffee shop, driving past familiar homes and fields for the last time, and made our way back to the flat. We had little to pack up as the packing had been happening over the past two days. We went through our food and picked out what needed to be thrown out, what we could leave for the gal who cleaned our flat, and what we were taking with us (mostly candy for the 29 hours of travel ahead of us).

A delicious beverage with a cool can. I really wanted a photo, but apparently kids ruin everything. 

A delicious beverage with a cool can. I really wanted a photo, but apparently kids ruin everything. 

Got it!

Got it!

We headed down to the car with our luggage, which was no small feat! We had four large suitcases, one carry on suitcase, four backpacks, and one purse (packed full). Along with that, we had a ton of legal documents that we had to keep a close eye on. And a kid. We had to keep a close eye on him too. We stuffed the luggage and the kid and ourselves in the car and headed off to America. The only things between us were a massive traffic jam, thousands of miles, and airport security (basically the equivalent to adding a thousand miles to our trip). The traffic jam was insane, including cars making the shoulder a seventh lane and people walking and biking on the highway. To complete the picture, people were also selling things between the lanes as we weren't moving.

Holy traffic jam, Batman!

Holy traffic jam, Batman!

When we got to the airport, we turned in our car (thankfully with no hassles) and headed to the terminal. We navigated our way towards the international flights section of the airport and found our way hampered by a cricket team. You read that correctly: A cricket team. Apparently the Waitrose cricket team had finished spending the winter months in South Africa and were heading home—back to England. We were behind the team chiropractor / masseuse, so I struck up a conversation with him. He said they had been in South Africa for three months and were going back for the spring / summer season in England. They had the luggage to prove it! Each person had at least four to five massive team bags (assumedly also containing their gear). The people checking everything in looked stressed. Apparently their presence had created a huge disruption in the checking in process, which was causing some people to be close to missing their flights. Thankfully, we were there two hours ahead of time, so we weren’t panicked. 

Another traffic jam...

Another traffic jam...

After taking forever to get to the front, we were frustrated to find one of our suitcases was about 2 pounds overweight, leaving us with a $100 penalty. Interestingly enough, they had to run our American card, charge Rand, and convert to Pounds (we were flying British Airways). After all of that we went through security. Once again, I’d like to commend the South African airport security for not being annoying and even treating people like human beings rather than cattle. We passed through and headed to our gate. In true travel fashion, our gate was the farthest one away. 

After rushing past all of the restaurants, I was praying we’d find something close to our gate for dinner. As it happened, there was a sandwich bar right next to our gate! We each grabbed sandwiches and a sausage roll and a drink (I couldn’t eat mine because of nerves). Our plane was at the gate, but 9:20 came and went. They made an announcement that the plane was too hot and would have to be cooled down before we could board. Apparently, the function that cools the plane while it’s landed had broken, leaving the plane 79° inside. 

We were eating our sandwiches when a flight attendant came over to us and asked if we were flying to London. Assuring her we were, she told us we could board early “because of the boy.” This was an unforeseen perk to having a kid. Thanks, Tisetso! We cleared the first checkpoint and entered a waiting lobby. Here, a tourism lady snagged Brian for a super long and complicated survey (of course it wasn’t advertised as such up front). Thankfully for Brian and the lady, we didn’t board until close to 10:30, so they had a little bit to finish up.

When the plane was cooled to someone’s standards (it was still ridiculously warm), we were allowed to board. We crammed our stuff and bodies into the allotted space and waited for take off. 

I definitely felt a sense of loss as the plane lifted off the ground. I felt loss for Tisetso who was too young to understand what he was leaving behind. I felt a sense of loss for a culture and country I had grown to love. We knew we wouldn’t be back for several years, so it felt final. 

Once in the air, we were told the flight attendants would be walking through the cabin to decontaminate it. It was weird. They basically went through the cabin with Lysol cans, walking up and down the aisle spraying mist. Then flight attendants decided they wanted to serve dinner at 12:30 AM. I was ready to pretend to get some sleep (I don’t sleep on planes), or at least force my kid to sleep, but no. Dinner must be served. With the lights on. People (who chose to eat at that ungodly hour) finished up around 1:30 AM, so lights went out around 2:00 AM. (Insert major eye roll here.)

With that, our last full day (and it was a full day) in South Africa came to a close.

Posted on May 3, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 47, Sandton and Johannesburg

Sunday, February 21

We had big plans for today. We had been in South Africa for 46 days and not gone on a safari. We were going to change that today! Right outside of Johannesburg is a place called the Lion Park. We had heard really good things about the park and wanted to see some animals! 

We stopped at a McDonald’s on our way out of town. It was a Rock ’n Roll McDonald’s, which was fun. They had these massive leather chairs that you got sucked into, unable to get out of, let alone eat from. After we maneuvered into a slightly convenient position, we ate our breakfast quickly. The park opened at 9:00, but we were aiming to get there around 9:30. 

After a rock ’n roll breakfast, we headed out. It was a great drive as it was a direction we had not driven yet. The scenery was, as our experience had proven, beautiful! We loved getting to see Johannesburg in the backdrop as we drove out of the city. Our adventure began at the gate as we entered the lion park.

The Aslan Gate!

The Aslan Gate!

Getting there early Sunday morning was the ticket! We were one car of maybe 10 in the parking lot and were able to get a spot under a shade tree. When we went up to the ticket counter, we decided to chance it and buy tickets to pet the lion cubs. We had bought tickets for Tisetso to pet the meerkats, but he wasn’t such a big fan. With our tickets in hand, we found our way to the safari van. It was a big truck with a cage top, probably to keep the tourists in more than the animals out, if I had to guess.

Our safari guide hopped into the truck, introduced herself, then crawled up front to start the truck. She had left the door open when she got behind the wheel, but I thought she had a switch up front to shut and lock the door. I was wrong. We started driving and some of her co-workers started shouting that she had left the door wide open! Thankfully, she stopped, shut it, and we got on our way. Safely.

Zebra! (rhymes with "Deborah" over here)

Zebra! (rhymes with "Deborah" over here)

The first enclosure we drove through were the tame animals. We saw antelope, springbok, ostriches, zebra, giraffes, etc. My favorite was watching a springbok leap around and run. We hadn’t gotten to see one in action, so it was great to see South Africa’s national animal playing around. The tame animals were in large part laying around or grazing—not terribly exciting, but still fun to see.

What's on the menu? Apparently we are!

What's on the menu? Apparently we are!

The next enclosures were a little more thrilling as they were the lions, cheetahs, and wild dogs. Our tour guide told us we were there at a good point in the week as the lions are fed at noon on Sunday. All of the lions were still awake, which was unusual. They were typically already asleep. Not only were they awake, they were alert and waiting for the food truck to bring the meat! Fortunately for us, while in the white lion enclosure, the lions decided to investigate our truck to see if we were supplying lunch. Technically, we were a bunch of meat in a truck, but the wrong meat. The lions did circle the truck when we entered. It made for entertainment and good pictures. 

Wild dogs

Wild dogs

Cheetahs

Cheetahs

The lions and cheetahs were beautiful! It was neat to see the family dynamics to the prides. They had regular lions, white lions, and mixed lions (a family comprised of regular and white). Apparently white lions are rare in the wild, so seeing that many in the park was a treat (not that I was planning to go look for any lions in the wild). Along with the lions and cheetahs, we got to see wild dogs. Of all of the animals, I felt this pack of dogs could make short work of any meat that entered the enclosure. Not to say the lions wouldn’t jump at the chance for lunch, but these dogs seemed so wild. It was a little unnerving to see an animal I would pet in everyday life (based on its appearance) ripping apart flesh and circling the truck to get more.

When we were done with the safari, we got off the truck and headed to the cub petting area. The whole way, I was reassuring Tisetso that the cubs would be very small, very cute, and used to being pet by humans. We got to the area and found the fence around the enclosure covered in cloth material, so I wasn’t able to see what we were actually headed into. I kept reassuring Tisetso that the cubs would be very small (no more than my knees) and that I could hold him, if he wanted, so the cubs couldn’t get him. Boy was I wrong!

NATURE!

NATURE!

Seconds before the lion decided to try and make Brian's face its chew toy.

Seconds before the lion decided to try and make Brian's face its chew toy.

We were finally admitted into the enclosure and ushered over to a low wall with two giant cubs laying on it. They were about twice as big as I had imagined. The first one was awake and chewing on a stick. I got into position and got a picture. The “cub” kept moving around and was making me nervous. Brian was next and walked up to pet the cub. I took his picture, then the cub turned its head, looked at Brian and lunged and nipped at his face. Needless to say, I had a heart attack and ushered everyone to the sleeping lion.

One finger pet...

One finger pet...

...done in a flash!

...done in a flash!

Tisetso was refusing to pet the lion. I really wanted him to, so I told him he could get a patch for his adventure vest (something we had bought at the pier in Cape Town) if he was adventurous and pet the lion. It happened—with one finger. Tisetso approached slowly, making sure the lion was asleep, then stuck out a finger and touched the lion’s paw and jumped back. Patch earned!

All the while this was happening, there was a woman trying to pet the lion who had just tried to eat Brian’s face. It was not going well. She had to abandon the idea of getting a photo with the cub that was awake. It kept swatting at her with its paws and nipping at her. I was honestly impressed with her determination to keep trying. Apparently she was not as afraid of losing her face as I would have been!

After our adventure petting the lions, we headed into the area with some other animals and an observation area where you could feed a giraffe. Unfortunately for me, the giraffe had had its fill of lettuce for the morning and was napping in the shade. We watched the giraffe for a few minutes and checked out the ostriches who had come over the check us out. One of the ostriches pooped in front of us and it was disgusting. (Why do I bring this up on the blog? Because now, even two months later, Tisetso still brings it up! Usually randomly and in front of people who wonder why he is talking about “that bird who pooped!”)

With that image burned into our minds, we headed to the mall! We were going to start packing up and wanted to grab the last of our souvenirs before heading home. When we got back to the flat, our lunch consisted of eating whatever was left in the fridge or pantry! It made for fun eating.

Our afternoon consisted of packing, Brian and Tisetso playing Ben 10, and resting a bit. We attended the 4:00 pm service at Bryanston Bible Church for our last time. It was surreal to realize we would be back with our friends at Redeemer in one week. When church was done, we headed to Nando’s for dinner.

It took so long to get here, but it was worth it!

It took so long to get here, but it was worth it!

Nando’s is a South African restaurant that happens to have a location in Chicago, with a new one opening in Naperville (very close to us)! We had wanted to go to Nando’s while we were in South Africa and, in true form, we made it the last day we were there! It was everything we had hoped for—the place we ended up going to was delicious and the service was impeccable. We loved it and couldn’t wait to have it back in the States.

Next to Nando's? A place called Pizza Chicken Perfect. How can you go wrong?!

Next to Nando's? A place called Pizza Chicken Perfect. How can you go wrong?!

We headed back to the flat for our last night in South Africa. We wrapped up the evening with an episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates and some packing. We were excited and anxious for the next day and the travels ahead.

Posted on April 22, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 46, Sandton

Saturday, February 20 (Our 6th anniversary!)

We woke up excited for today! We had fun plans arranged with our friends, the Saarela family. We got ready quickly and headed to one of our favorite restaurants—Tasha’s! We had a delicious meal with our friends. The fancy juice drinks were my favorite. I had an iced tea/juice combo drink which made me feel like I was on a beach in the Bahamas. It was fun to hang with the our friends again, as the last time we had seen them was one week ago in Somerset West.

Tisetso wanted his picture taking with this Mini Cooper.

Tisetso wanted his picture taking with this Mini Cooper.

After a delicious breakfast, we headed to the Montecasino Bird Gardens. We had been there the last time we were in the area (about a month ago) and loved it! We made our way there including a scenic detour of sorts. After finally finding the place again, we parked and walked through the indoor city to the bird gardens. 

Tisetso was NOT excited to see his old friend, the friendly goose.

Tisetso was NOT excited to see his old friend, the friendly goose.

It was quite a hot day, so a lot of the birds were hiding in the shade.

It was quite a hot day, so a lot of the birds were hiding in the shade.

My new friend!

My new friend!

We had such a good time! The girls and Tisetso loved feeding the ducks, I enjoyed feeding some of the birds nectar, and we all enjoyed not going into the enclosure with the screaming lemur that sounded like its fondest ambition was to rip someone’s face off. We saw a lot of birds, (thankfully) didn’t see as many rats, and had a great time on the playground! It was definitely more crowded than when we came, so we had to work on our sharing skills. 

Look at these beautiful girls and their smiles! Love them! Tisetso (not smiling) was spinning them around and around, prompting the smiles.

Look at these beautiful girls and their smiles! Love them! Tisetso (not smiling) was spinning them around and around, prompting the smiles.

One hilarious time during the visit was watching two birds trying to break into the water feature that was in their enclosure. They would grab a rock, hop on top of the plastic box covering the mechanics, then start beating the top of the box. One was even using its beak to push the nozzle to the "off" position. They were very, very smart birds. And very big.

The last time we were here, these two were fighting each other. This time they were working together to break into the water feature.

The last time we were here, these two were fighting each other. This time they were working together to break into the water feature.

Getting to hang out with Lexi, Pete, and the girls was so nice. We knew we wouldn’t see them again for a while and that the next time we hung out, it would be back in the United States! We said our goodbyes and headed back to the flat. 

Because of our big, hot morning, we decided it would be good to get some rest. After lunch, we got real naps! It was magical. To add to the afternoon fun, we also played Ben 10, Tisetso played with his Legos, and I wrote. 

Playing with his Legos and new Transformer.

Playing with his Legos and new Transformer.

We have been taking turns choosing restaurants and, seemingly unfortunately, it was Tisetso’s turn to pick out the place we would celebrate our 6th anniversary. His choice? Pizza. Due to quick thinking on Brian’s part, he offered to research restaurants and find a good place that served pizza. Tisetso chose a place called Walnut Grove, so we got ready and set off.

The restaurant was in the Sandton City mall. We got seated at a good table—right next to the dessert cases. To show solidarity in his choice, Brian and I both ordered pizza, too. I ended up with the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life! It was a really thin crust with shredded cheeses (mozzarella and parmesan), garlic, rosemary, and sea salt. The only downside was that their salt grinder seemed to be on the fritz and I kept finding massive pieces of salt the hard way—chewing into them. After a few times, I got smart and scanned the pizza and picked out big pieces. It was so good. Brian even agreed, which was a big deal. He typically has better luck than I do when ordering delicious food.

With his customary cheese pizza.

With his customary cheese pizza.

Ferrero Rocher cake—so, so good!

Ferrero Rocher cake—so, so good!

With pizzas consumed, we ordered celebratory dessert. I got a piece of Ferrero Rocher cake (bits of the candies in the cake and a full one on top). It was perfect. Too rich for me to finish, but perfect. While we ate, we told Tisetso about our wedding day. It was pretty great to share with him. He seemed to fixate on the fact that my sister started crying while I was walking down the aisle, which caused me to cry. Brian was able to film Tisetso shouting, “You had one job!” to send to Auntie Erin to celebrate the anniversary of crying and leaving my brother-in-law to sing by himself. 

Malcolm, party of three!

Malcolm, party of three!

I loved having dinner with my two favorite guys. It was a little surreal to be sharing our wedding story with our son. After dreaming of such things for two years, it was such a moment of grace to have that time. 

Our evening concluded with watching Robin Hood, reading our Bible story, then heading to bed.

Posted on April 11, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 45, Sandton

Friday, February 19

Today was intentionally a low-key day. Brian was able to get away to a coffee shop to take care of some work while Tisetso and I hung back at the flat. Our morning consisted of Tisetso playing with Legos then Tisetso and I playing Ben 10. After getting a cardio workout from Ben 10, I sat down to write while Tisetso played with his Legos again (can you tell it’s his favorite??). After a while, I let him watch a show (Spongebob). It was my meal to choose where we went and I knew I wanted to get to Mandela Square (one of the recommended spots in Sandton). I looked at the website and saw a place called Trump’s as a restaurant option. I prayed it wasn’t a restaurant owned by Donald Trump. Thankfully it wasn’t, so when Brian got home we went. 

This gem was in the parking garage. Our car was basically a piece of junk compared to all of the super nice cars we saw!

This gem was in the parking garage. Our car was basically a piece of junk compared to all of the super nice cars we saw!

Before we could get to the restaurant, we got stuck in an elevator. We got in and Tisetso pressed the correct button (up), then we proceeded to go a few floors down, doors opened, then wouldn't shut, then we went back to the floor we came from and the doors wouldn't open. After a few minutes (and panic setting in), the elevator began moving of its own volition and went to the correct floor. We quickly got off and decided we would use the stairs on the way back to our car.

These are the elevators we got stuck on. Note the broken indicators on the top!

These are the elevators we got stuck on. Note the broken indicators on the top!

Nelson Mandela Square

Nelson Mandela Square

As it turns out, I know how to pick good restaurants. The spot was a SUPER nice steak place and it was delicious. I ordered a steak and mushroom truffle butter. It was so good. And so cheap! Total I think we spent about $25 for two good steaks, two sides, a kids meal, dessert, and drinks. We also had a great view of the Square and the massive Nelson Mandela statue. 

My delicious, tasty steak.

My delicious, tasty steak.

Tisetso couldn't get over how big the statue was.

Tisetso couldn't get over how big the statue was.

When we finished our amazing lunch, we decided to talk around the Square and the mall that was right there (of course there was a mall!). We found a massive toy store called Hamley’s. We had seen one advertised in Cape Town at the pier and knew of it from London, but never managed to find it. We had had such a nice day, Brian and I decided it would be safe to venture into the toy store with Tisetso. It was a lot of fun. The whole store was filled with things to play with and toys galore. We let Tisetso pick out three Disney figurines. He ended up picking Woody, Peter Pan, and Captain Hook. Brian found the Transformers section and told Tisetso all about them and helped him pick one out. 

Making the big purchase.

Making the big purchase.

It was a pretty sweet moment. Being in South Africa has not allowed Brian and I many times of nostalgia while introducing our kid to something we loved as kids, so these moments are great. I had my fluffer nutter moment yesterday and Brian had his Transformers moment today.

I bought a smaller version of this guard as a souvenir.

I bought a smaller version of this guard as a souvenir.

With figurines and Transformer in his cart, we headed to the till to pay. While we were walking up, Tisetso began singing and dancing while pushing the kid sized cart. It was pretty sweet.

Walking with his purchases.

Walking with his purchases.

We're working hard on his writing!

We're working hard on his writing!

With our purchase made, we headed back to the flat. We played during the afternoon and did some school. To spice things up, I had Tisetso make a graph by sorting and counting his Legos. Fun! We rested and got ready for dinner. During dinner, Tisetso asked to send Auntie Ginger videos, which we obliged. He loved that. After dinner, we watched Robin Hood, had popcorn, then called it a night. 

Posted on April 5, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 44, Sandton

Thursday, February 18

Today was a pretty low key one. After yesterday being such a heavy day, we wanted to keep today light and fun. To keep that goal in check, we started with school. I let Tisetso decide on more fun words to write, which produced some fun results. About half way through, we really needed a break. I set the timer for 15 minutes and we played Ben 10 during that time. He was sufficiently worn out at the end of the 15 minutes, which means I was barely able to breathe. 

We managed to finish school and headed to the mall to buy another(!!!) suitcase. We are each allotted two, so it won’t cost any extra to bring home (thankfully). We found one quickly and decided to get lunch while we were out. It was Brian’s turn to choose and he picked a Chinese inspired place. It seemed like a good fit. They even had something Tisetso was interested in eating (no small feat for a place that’s not KFC or a burger place). All of my interest in the food turned sour when I noticed a smooshed cockroach on one of the steam baskets Brian’s dumplings came in (of course after I had eaten). I was barely able to stomach anything else after that. I kept thinking, “This is what our typhoid shot was for. This is what our typhoid shot was for.” To be honest, I didn’t anticipate utilizing my typhoid shot in a mall in Sandton.

We had an interesting thing on our receipt...see if you find it.

We had an interesting thing on our receipt...see if you find it.

After gagging a little and trying not to hurl, I was ready to go. Brian wanted to grab a coffee on our way out. At the coffee stand, they had containers of marshmallow fluff (exactly where I would think of looking). We had peanut butter at home and I really wanted a fluffer nutter (a sandwich with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff). I really wanted to make one for Tisetso. I impulsively tossed one of the containers on the counter right before Brian paid. 

With the fluff and luggage in tow, we headed back to the flat. I painstakingly made a fluffer nutter for Tisetso. Then had to practically shove it down his throat because he didn’t believe me that he would love it. Thankfully, he finally took the plunge and took a bite. Then one more. Then finished the sandwich. Then requested another one. Success!

He liked it!

He liked it!

We laid low for the afternoon. We played Legos together and, when I was invited to not play, I decided to do some writing. Tisetso was curious about my typing a blog post and I realized he’s probably not had much interaction with a computer, so I pulled up a blank document and had him work on typing his name. It took a while, but he did it. I wanted a picture, but he was less than willing.

The house I made for Tisetso's ninja.

The house I made for Tisetso's ninja.

The backyard.

The backyard.

He's so wonderful!

He's so wonderful!

Our dinner was a take and bake lasagna from Woolworth’s. It looked so good and I had high hopes. Tisetso complained about me dishing his veggies, so I let him dish mine. He kept piling them on (how kind), but I ate them all. Sadly, the veggies were (in my opinion) the best part of the meal. The lasagna was so horrendous, I tossed the whole thing in the trash after we were done. Tisetso needed encouragement to eat his veggies, so he and I had races to eat each bite until he was finished. 

Veggie races

Veggie races

We finished our day off by watching Robin Hood and eating popcorn (a snack Tisetso seems to love as much as I do—which is a lot). I could have done with less cockroaches, but it was a good, restful day.

Posted on March 25, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 43, Sandton, Pretoria, and Centurion

Wednesday, February 17

Because Brian had been unable to get much work done yesterday, he needed to be able to get a lot accomplished today. To help with that, I planned to take Tisetso to the mall to give Brian some quiet time. I was also hoping it would be good for Tisetso and I to spend quality time together. The past week has been super hard with him and I. He has been acting out towards me and being unkind, so I wanted to have time with just us.

We saw an i8 while driving to the mall! 

We saw an i8 while driving to the mall! 

We headed to the mall and got a killer spot, which was nice. I grabbed a trolley (shopping cart) from a nearby spot and put Tisetso in. He loves riding in ("driving") the trolleys, so it’s bonus points to get one without him asking. Our first stop was to get him a baked treat of his choice from the Doppio Zero bakery. He chose a gingerbread man cookie. He didn’t want to eat the cookie because he wanted to show daddy. I asked if it would work for me to just take a picture and send it to him. It worked and he got to work on the cookie.

Our mall stop included Woolworths to pick up sweeties for the kids at the care home and a stationery store to get letters printed up for the US visa and border control officers. While at the stationery store, we waited quite a while. The employees seemed to be frantically working on a huge project and our four sheet print job fell low on the priority list. Tisetso was feeling antsy and, truth be told, so was I. We had had a good morning up to this point and I certainly didn’t want this to be the thing to turn the tide. Thankfully, after 30 minutes of hang ups, they managed to figure everything out and we were able to leave with our documents in hand. 

After walking around the mall and grabbing an Americano for Brian, we headed home. After an easy lunch of sandwiches, Tisetso and I played Batman and Joker. With our kid significantly more tired than before, we sat down to do a quick session of school. Tisetso wasn’t really wanting to write, so I had him pick the words he would write. He decided on: Batman, Hulk Smash, Harry Potter, hero, and, for good measure, I added Tisetso to the list.

With school out of the way for the day, we got ready to head to the care home for Tisetso to say goodbye. We had sweeties in tow and Tisetso had his bow tie on. Pulling up to the Haven felt a little like a dream. We hadn’t been there in a while and so much had happened since our last visit. Tisetso was so excited he practically jumped out of the car before we had fully stopped. He ran up to the door and waited to be let in. 

Tisetso was so glad to see his friends. Most of his friends (the older kids) had recently come home from school and were in the process of doing homework and were glad for Tisetso to be their distraction. He sat at the table and at lunch with them and talked to them as they did their work. It was as if he had never been gone. My momma heart loved seeing him surrounded by his family. It was hard, too, because this was what he was leaving behind. These wonderful aunties and sweet children had made up his life for seven years. We would soon be leaving it. I was overwhelmed for Tisetso.

Brian and I, not wishing to be hanging over him as he hung out with his friends, excused ourselves and went to the living room. We talked with some of the aunties and gave them updates about the past month. They all commented on how he had grown and how his accent was beginning to mirror ours. We would occasionally check on Tisetso to see how he was doing. At one point, he was off playing with one of the older girls who had been there for a long time, like he had. It was such a sweet moment, Brian and I both snuck pictures.

After a while, we wondered where Tisetso was. We hadn’t seen him in a while, so I went looking for him. I checked outside, in the TV room downstairs, and in the classroom. Still not finding him, I went upstairs. Tisetso was sitting alone in the TV room watching a show by himself. My heart broke for him in that moment. He was clearly overwhelmed at saying goodbye. He needed to retreat and that’s where I found him.

This is the hard, painful side of adoption. No matter the situation where your child comes from, they are leaving something behind. We are massively blessed that Tisetso came from such a wonderful, loving home, but in that moment, I could tell Tisetso was done saying goodbye to his brothers and sisters. I sat with him a few minutes and then let him know it was time to go, but we needed to take a picture with his brothers and sisters first. He was not excited about the prospect, but I knew he will appreciate the picture later.

Wrangling the kids and Tisetso proved to be fun. Auntie Yolanda was up for the challenge. After getting them all on a couch, chaos ensued. We never actually got a picture with all of the kids looking at the camera, but that perfectly summed up life there. I love the pictures we got. I can’t post it because it shows the faces of children who are not mine, but rest assured, these kids would steal your heart with their smiles.

Love <3

Love <3

During the photo, it began to storm in a major way. As we walked out of the Haven, there we got drenched. To add to the rain water coming from the sky, Tisetso decided to walk under a downspout, which was fun for him… I had been texting with Auntie Alma because she was unable to make it to the Haven for our goodbyes. We asked Tisetso if he felt up to one more goodbye. Tisetso was good to go, as he hadn't ever been to Auntie Alma's house.

We headed to Auntie Alma’s house to say goodbye to her. She and her three daughters have known Tisetso for the last five or six years. At their home, the girls occupied Tisetso (seeing pets in the back yard, playing drums and a guitar in the basement, etc.) while Alma shared stories and wisdom she had gleaned from knowing Tisetso for so long. It was great. There’s one story in particular that I look forward to reminding Tisetso of when he’s older. 

After enjoying their company for a little while, we made our exit to take Tisetso to his favorite restaurant—KFC. I hoped and prayed it would be the last time we went to that restaurant for a good long time! With our bellies filled with greasy fried chicken, we made our way back to the flat (through more of that wonderful traffic).

Our evening was as low key as we could make it. We got home with only a short while before Tisetso went to bed, which was good for all of us.

Posted on March 25, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 42, Sandton

Tuesday, February 16

Tisetso playing with his reusable stickers. I loved how he had stuck a shirt on the Lego man and put a pink flower hat on his pirate.

Tisetso playing with his reusable stickers. I loved how he had stuck a shirt on the Lego man and put a pink flower hat on his pirate.

Today was a long, good day. We started by going to the mall for breakfast at a place called Doppio Zero. It was a good spot with decent food. The mall (Sandton City) is super nice and offered a lot. We decided to get our groceries at Woolworth’s while we were there. Brian was on a tight schedule and we had to hustle. We found what we needed and headed back to the car. Brian needed cash, so we decided to stop by an ATM. Unfortunately, it ended up being a 15 minute detour. We followed the signs, which took us the long way round. (Of course!)

Back at home, we didn’t have long before we needed to head to the US Embassy. Our appointment for Tisetso’s visa was at 1:00, but we had been advised by Wandisa to arrive by noon and wait in line. We pulled up to the Embassy, but were directed by a guard to park at the mall (Sandton City) across the street and walk. 

We pulled out and did a U-turn to get back to the parking garage. In true South African fashion, this was apparently the only place in the country where this was not allowed and, rather inconveniently, there was a police check point right there with cops to witness it. We were pulled over and Brian was instructed to get his paperwork out. I had to grab our international driving permits from my purse, which was inconveniently located in the trunk. Then the cop demanded to see Brian’s passport, which is not legally required to drive. When Brian pointed out that the cop had everything he needed, the cop began getting angry and telling Brian he was "an officer and could ask for anything he wanted" and Brian had to comply because he was a cop. We were all on edge from that point. Brian got his passport out and handed it over to the visibly angry cop. With drivers license, international driving permit, and passport in hand, the cop reviewed it and handed it back to Brian, then just walked away. We sat there for a couple of minutes wondering if that was it. Apparently it was. We quickly pulled away and found a parking spot. While walking to the Embassy, we talked with Tisetso about corrupt cops (“I’m a cop so you had to do what I say!” is a big red flag), which was a fun conversation.

When we arrived to the doors of the Embassy, we were told we were there too early and to leave and come back. I told them we would like to wait and joined the line (only two deep at this point). We were behind two guys. One guy was getting his fiancee visa and was getting married to a woman in Chicago! Small world. We also met another family just behind us in line in which the husband was a pastor and they were interviewing for visas to join her family in California. It was great to talk to them while we waited.

After waiting outside (in the heat), we were told to get in line. We were now first in line as the other two guys had left in frustration (welcome to America!). We were ushered into a room and had to hand over our phones. We didn’t know it, but our phones were supposed to be turned off (there, of course, were no signs or announcements to this effect) and Brian was ushered back outside to turn his phone off. I quickly turned mine off so I wouldn’t have to go back into the heat. With his phone turned off, we handed over everything remotely electronic (including headphones) and walked into the Embassy.

The first portion of our interview was basically handing over paperwork. It was at this point we found out we didn’t have our updated tax information in the dossier paperwork we had been given by Wandisa/Wybrow Oliver. The gal collecting the paperwork seemed skeptical that we didn’t have it and said she would talk to her supervisor, then sent us back to our seats. Brian and I sat in almost complete silence for the next 40 minutes freaking out that we were going to be sent out and would need to get another appointment, re-book our return flight, etc. After waiting for what seemed like forever, we were called up to the window again. This woman interviewing asked a couple of questions, including asking Tisetso what his name was. He answered "Batman." She (thankfully) found that amusing. After finding out our tax forms were not needed (thank you, Jesus), she said we could wait 45 minutes and they would print up the visa right there. We waited and had such a good time waiting. Tisetso opened up and Brian and I were relieved we weren’t being kicked out.

They called our name and we picked up his visa, which ended up being a sticker added to his South African passport. It wasn’t until 30 minutes later, after we had gone back through security, paid for parking and were driving past the embassy, that it hit me! We had his visa! We could legally leave the country with our son! Nothing was holding us back from getting on a plane and leaving and going home. I have to tell you, it was a freeing thought.

Brian and Tisetso paying for our parking. It cracked me up seeing Brian walk around with my Sherlock bag.

Brian and Tisetso paying for our parking. It cracked me up seeing Brian walk around with my Sherlock bag.

With visa in hand, we had to head back to the airport to drop off the manual Honda and get our new car. We, once again, found ourselves in terrible rush hour traffic.

Brian had signed up to get an Audi each time we rented a car. So far, we had ended up with a crappy Mercedes A100 hatchback that was supposed to be "comparable" to an A3, a super nice Lexus (after being given lots of free upgrades from an A4), and the manual Honda. JoBurg, take two, was the fourth time charm. Brian finally got his A4! Along with that, we got a trunk that fit our luggage perfectly. It was quite the success. The only way this car could have been more perfect is if the first gear pickup had been a bit stronger.

I drove us home to give Brian some rest. With the busy day we had had and the lack of time for Brian to work, he was going to be up late. Tisetso wanted to do a pajama party, so when we got home, we changed into our PJs, had supper, and watched Monsters Inc., complete with popcorn. It was a good night. We had a huge weight off our shoulders with visa in hand.

Posted on March 5, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 41, Strand, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Sandton (Big day!)

Monday, February 15

Today was a full day! We were able to get out of the flat in a timely manner and get our luggage into the car (a true feat as we have three huge duffel bags, three backpacks, one carry on, one booster seat, and the three of us). We had to swing by the flat rental place as we weren't able to pay for the additional days on Saturday. After paying, we headed to the office of Wybrow Oliver/Wandisa. 

This was a hard goodbye. Brad and Rose had walked with us through so much. They are the ones who believed Tisetso would be a perfect match for our family (and they were right!). The staff at Wybrow Oliver/Wandisa were like a family away from home. Saying goodbye was harder than I thought it would be. We gave hugs, exchanged social media info, then headed to the airport. 

Once there, we returned our car quickly. With that taken care of, we got our luggage wrapped (recommended for in-country flights to prevent luggage damage and theft), and checked in. We stopped at Mugg & Bean for lunch. We were all hungry and made short work of our meal. My only regret is that I didn’t get the chocolate chip cookie dough hot chocolate. I fear this decision will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Until next time, Cape Town!

Until next time, Cape Town!

After lunch, we boarded our plane. One thing that has been really different from America is prevalence of Islam. I counted five women wearing hijab and two women wearing full burkas in the line for our flight. I couldn’t help but think if this happened in America, there would be a lot of (unnecessary) hullabaloo. 

Getting acquainted with the emergency procedures.

Getting acquainted with the emergency procedures.

Our plane had a camera attached to the tail. We got to watch the flight from outside the plane. It was amazing. Brian and I want to know why this isn't on EVERY plane.

Our plane had a camera attached to the tail. We got to watch the flight from outside the plane. It was amazing. Brian and I want to know why this isn't on EVERY plane.

While flying, I took some time to meditate and draw out some verses my sister had send me the previous day. I have been having a difficult time with Tisetso for the past few days, and she had sent me Scripture to encourage me. It was the perfect activity for the plane. Our flight landed quickly and we didn’t hit any turbulence (my least favorite anxiety causing activity).

Tisetso excited to see home.

Tisetso excited to see home.

JoBurg.

JoBurg.

When we landed in JoBurg, we had a surprise waiting. Our plane was parked (do planes park??) far from the terminal. We disembarked via staircase and had to take one of many buses to the main terminal. Of course the bus didn’t have air-conditioning. We were far from the sea/bay, so the temperature was a good 20° hotter. Add too many people crammed into a stifling bus and we were wilted by the time we collected our luggage. We were thankful to find all four pieces had arrived safely.

Right before our sticky bus ride.

Right before our sticky bus ride.

One entertaining aspect to our picking up the car was we made the same exact wrong detour in trying to find the car rental place as when we landed January 6. We followed the signs and arrows and ended up in the wrong place on the wrong floor. Signage is not very clear here (arrows point in vague directions, there are sometimes misspellings, or just plain wrong). We’ve experienced that time and time again and are still surprised when it fails.

After getting to the car rental place, we had to figure out renting a car for one day. Brian had accidentally rented the car starting Tuesday. The calendars here start Monday, contrary to ours which start Sunday. Brian had clicked the second day of the week (Tuesday) and went on his merry way. Thankfully, we were able to secure a manual transmission Honda. Brian had been wanting to rent a manual while we were in South Africa (significantly cheaper and a bit more fun), but I suggested it might be a bit much trying to do right hand drive on the left side of the road, in a foreign country, with a kid. Thankfully, I am married to a reasonable guy and he obliged. After one day with this car, he was happy to get the automatic transmission for all but that day!

The drive from the airport to our new flat was ... interesting. We hadn’t fully experienced JoBurg rush hour traffic until this point. It was rough. We were amazed at the number of cars and the number of people on the highway. The shoulder (apparently) turns into a 7th lane when desired. It was a cultural experience, for sure. Along with that, our GPS decided to take us the scenic (read: scary and possibly a bit unsafe) route. 

When we arrived at our new flat, we were thankful to have made it in one piece. It is a beautiful, modern, furnished two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and super fast internet. Like even faster than at home, which is refreshing and kind of amazing. With our bags unloaded from the car, we made a quick drive to an awesome restaurant Tisetso had picked out when we were in Pretoria called Tasha’s. There was a location super close to our new flat. We tried to eat and leave quickly as it became apparent very quickly that Tisetso had had enough of the day. It had been a long one and he needed sleep.

We got back to the flat, got him changed into pajamas, and into bed. One surprise of our new flat was the 10,000,000 channels it has! One of them shows House Hunters International every single night from 8:00pm-10:00pm. Needless to say, I have a feeling Tisetso will be in bed, lights out every night before 8:00pm...

Posted on March 5, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 39, Strand and Stellenbosch

Saturday, February 13

We woke up anxious to see how Tisetso was feeling after the scare we had last night with his leg pain. Thankfully, he said he was doing ok and only woke up once with some pain. With Tisetso feeling ok, we decided to go to Stellbosch for the Slow Market, which came recommended by our agency.

On our way to Stellenbosch, Brian made a pit stop at the rental place so we could pay for the extra days in our flat. While Brian was in the office, Tisetso and I stayed in the car and had a heart to heart. The topic? If you were any animal, which animal would you be? I told him I’d be a dolphin so I could swim around and explore shipwrecks. Tisetso said he would be Ben 10. This kid. What superhero would you be? “Batman!” (At least he got that one right.) Unfortunately, Brian was unable to pay for the apartment as our realtor wasn’t there and the employee who was there didn’t know how to use a credit card machine. ( . . . ) We would have to go back on Monday before leaving to pay.

We headed to Stellenbosch, which was a beautiful drive! We were on the other side of the mountains we had been taking pictures of for the past few weeks. There were lots of wineries along the way. Stellenbosch is basically the Napa Valley of Africa. We passed at least 20 along our route. It was a fun drive with a lot to look at. 

You know you're doing something right when the hashtag is Foodie Heaven.

You know you're doing something right when the hashtag is Foodie Heaven.

We got to the Slow Market without any hitch. Our plan was to get a late breakfast / early lunch while there. It was really nice. There was a good mixture of art vendors, food stands, and entertainment. One of the best forms of entertainment we found was an oriental rug auction. The auctioneer was sitting up front with what appeared to be a karaoke machine and had the microphone turned to the echo setting, so everything he said was really echo-y. He was also the worst auctioneer ever. He was saying how people could purchase the rug for R5000 (about $250) today and sell it for R10,000 tomorrow. He then moved from speaking into the microphone to yelling at the audience at how dumb they were for not buying the rug. Then (back into the microphone), he announced that the rug was worth at least $16,000 and this was the best deal they were going to find in their lifetime. It was very entertaining.

With the entertainment finished, we got about to the task of lunch. We found a samosas place and grabbed a few of those. After insisting he didn’t want any, Tisetso proceeded to steal my chicken samosa. *sigh* After that, we found a place with a fun sampler platter with chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and cheese and steak croquettes. It was a good way to try a few things. We got Tisetso to try one of the beignets with jam, which he surprisingly liked. 

We walked around the rest of the market and found a gift we needed. That was a win. Tisetso’s mood seemed to be deteriorating rapidly, so we decided to call it a day. Once again, the ride back was gorgeous. It was a perfect day with sunshine and white, fluffy clouds floating around. Come to think of it, we’ve not had any bad days here. We’ve had some hot one or windy ones, but not bad.

This old Merc pulled in and I had to get a shot!

This old Merc pulled in and I had to get a shot!

After we got back, I really needed a break. Tisetso’s mood had been pretty flatlined for most of the morning and, after several days of it directed towards me, I decided to go to the tidal pools by myself. It was a good break. If you know me at all, you know I love nature. This had my nature meter pegged. It was nice to get outside and to explore without my kid wanting to go back and play Lego. It was the best of both worlds. I got to be in nature and he got to play Legos. 

The Krusty Krab.

The Krusty Krab.

I got pretty far out!

I got pretty far out!

Tisetso had found one of my headbands. While I was at the tidal pools, Tisetso worked on using up his stickers.

Tisetso had found one of my headbands. While I was at the tidal pools, Tisetso worked on using up his stickers.

After my break and a resting time for Tisetso, we headed to the mall. Because the exchange rate is bonkers right now, I really wanted to get some clothes shopping in. I was able to get two organic cotton shirts for the price of Gap Outlet shirts. It was pretty great. Brian and Tisetso went to the stationery store to purchase some pens (for Brian’s work). When we were all done, Tisetso requested pizza for supper. We obliged and headed to Romans Pizza again. With two pizzas in hand, we finished our day out by wrapping up Robin Hood. It was a low key way to end a slightly frustrating day.

Posted on February 24, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 38, Strand and Khayelitsha

Friday, February 12

We were excited to get up and at ‘em early for the sake of getting Tisetso’s passport and doing the noting of the adoption. We met the Sareela family and three social workers at the Wandisa / Wybrow Oliver offices. Once again, we were headed to the Home Affairs office in Khayelitsha. It helped knowing what to expect this time around. When we arrived, we walked through the security section and headed upstairs (we hadn’t been on the second floor before). Upstairs we met with an official who looked over our paperwork and noted the adoption. This was when we also officially noted Tisetso’s name change.

A lot of the shipping crates have been turned into shops with colorful murals painted on them advertising what's inside.

A lot of the shipping crates have been turned into shops with colorful murals painted on them advertising what's inside.

Paperwork to pick up Tisetso's passport.

Paperwork to pick up Tisetso's passport.

As to his name, we had always been open to keeping our child’s name. We did pick out an English name as we’ve heard of older kids wanting to push everything from their life from before the adoption out of the picture, including their name. Tisetso is the exception to this way of thinking. It worked out well because I was going to have a hard time shifting to another name! 

The name we had picked out for Tisetso was "Knox." We actually considered it about two years ago and have loved it ever since. The name is after one of my favorite theologians, John Knox. He was an amazing man who lived during the 1500s in Scotland. He loved God and did great things for the Gospel. We knew we’d keep "Knox" and "Tisetso" in his name. If he wanted a new name, his name would be Knox Tisetso Malcolm. Because he wanted to keep his name, we’ve changed his name to Tisetso Knox Malcolm. We hope and pray he grows up to be an amazing man, just like his namesake.

After noting the adoption, we headed back downstairs to pick up his passport. After about 15 minutes of waiting for our number to be called, everyone who was waiting (about 20 people) except for the adoptive families got up and rushed the counter. It was slightly alarming. We didn’t know what was happening. One of the social workers got up and checked out what was going on. Apparently the workers had decided to speed everything along. They took everyone’s number, went in the back, then grabbed the passports.

We got his passport quickly! And he has his bowtie in the photo!! And his scuba diving skulls t-shirt. It was a banner day for his stylist.

The South African passport cover

The South African passport cover

They said "Don't smile." Nailed it.

They said "Don't smile." Nailed it.

We had to get fingerprinted upstairs after we got his passport. Our fingers covered in ink, we mashed them down on paper, sealing our adoption paperwork. It was neat because we got to meet a French family that Wandisa and Wybrow Oliver are working with while doing our fingerprints.

It was while we were being fingerprinted that we heard the most gut-wrenching sound. It was, hands down, the worst sound I’ve ever heard. It was a woman in another part of the building wailing because she found out (from the officials in the building) that her daughter had been killed in a hit and run that morning. Even now, my heart aches to think of the sound and that poor woman. It was overwhelming how the pain of this woman filled the building. I’ve never heard grief like this, but it was such a powerful sound, I could not help but grieve with that woman. I will never forget her pain.

When it was time to go, we prepared Tisetso for the sound to get louder as we went down the stairs to the ground level. He nodded that he understood and walked quickly to get out of the building. While walking out to our car, the social worker told us that in the African culture, grief is expressed through wailing and trembling. She said that it’s actually a healthier way to process the pain of grief than how the Western culture deals with it—by holding it in and stretching it out.

After a sober drive home, we made sandwiches and prayed for the woman. We didn’t know her name or face, but she needed comfort. 

In front of our apartment there are some awesome tidal pools that form every day. I figured it was about time to check them out. I basically had to drag Tisetso outside with me. I am sure my nature ADD had him apprehensive about being at tidal pools with me. It ended up being a great time for me, when I didn’t hear the pleas of my son to go back inside and play with his Legos. He did not enjoy it. Tisetso’s apprehension of nature extended to tiny hermit crabs, star fish, and fish. He did not like the tidal pools. After heading back at the brisk pace he was setting, I decided I’d go tomorrow by myself.

Tiny star fish and baby hermit. &lt;3

Tiny star fish and baby hermit. <3

Biggest hermit we found—about 2 inches.

Biggest hermit we found—about 2 inches.

Cautious as ever, Tisetso asked to hold one of the hermit crabs. I got so excited! A breakthrough in his dislike of nature! NOPE! He proceeded to chuck the poor thing far away back into the water. *sigh*

Cautious as ever, Tisetso asked to hold one of the hermit crabs. I got so excited! A breakthrough in his dislike of nature! NOPE! He proceeded to chuck the poor thing far away back into the water. *sigh*

We did a little school after the tidal pools. Tisetso enjoyed writing letters using an app and, when school was done, played with his Legos. Brian and I worked on where we would stay for the next few days. We decided to fly to Johannesburg on Monday and booked our tickets. The two big things we wanted to do were Stellenbosch (a town largely filled with wineries and shops) and Robben Island (were Mandela was imprisoned). We planned to do Stellenbosch on Saturday and Robben Island on Sunday. While working on plans, we found out we could stay in our current apartment until Monday, which is a huge blessing. We won’t have to pack up to go to a hotel just to unpack and pack again before flying out. 

Two paragliders that flew past our flat.

Two paragliders that flew past our flat.

At least 19 parasurfers on the beach that evening!

At least 19 parasurfers on the beach that evening!

After a slow afternoon, we headed to supper with Rose (our social worker) and Ronel (the assistant to the lawyers at Wybrow Oliver). We had extended the invitation for dinner to everyone, but because of the short notice, most people were unable to make it. It ended up being a wonderful time with Rose and Ronal. We enjoyed getting to know them better and hearing about how they ended up at the agency. Brian got snails on bone marrow for an appetizer and I got pasta (my love language), which is surprisingly hard to get around here (because my son only wants KFC or burgers).

After we had said goodbye and gotten home, Tisetso told us how his leg was really hurting. The way he described it, we thought it might be a pulled muscle from playing, but we didn’t want to take any chances. Thankfully, we have a contact at Comer Medical in Chicago who was on call to field any medical questions we may have while here. After a few emails back and forth, we decided to monitor it over the next few days and go from there. 

It was a big day! With passport in hand, we only have to do our visa interview on Tuesday (February 16) in Johannesburg. I can feel home getting closer!

Posted on February 19, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 37, Strand

Thursday, February 11

Today was a day of rest. We finished off Tisetso’s cough and spit series with success. What a huge relief! It was tiring not letting him eat or drink anything (except water) before the doctor’s appointments. Tisetso found them relaxing as he would get a 30- to 60-minute massage then do his thing. We decided to celebrate and Tisetso asked to do a picnic on our balcony.

Our traditional McDonald's pancakes after the doctor's office.

Our traditional McDonald's pancakes after the doctor's office.

After the cough and spit, we went to the mall to pick out picnic supplies. Brian and Tisetso went ahead to the grocery store to start getting the supplies, while I went to the stationary store to get pens and paper. I loved having a few minutes to myself in a stationary store. HEAVEN! When I was done blowing through all of my spending money, I met up with Brian and Tisetso in the grocery store. We were able to get some fun stuff. It was funny because Tisetso chose pretty much everything you can get in America. When he told Brian he wanted biscuits (cookies), Brian thought we’d get to try some unique South African delights. Nope! Oreos for this kid!

Picnic supplies!

Picnic supplies!

Our picnic was simple, but a huge deal to our kid. It was a special treat for celebrating being done with his medical. It also ended up being inside (though on the floor around our coffee table) after he decided he wanted to watch Ben10 while eating lunch. After the mall, we did little else today. It was much needed, as we’ve been going full steam ahead. It was hard for me not to go do things because we know our time here is even more limited than we originally thought, but we all needed a break from being tourists.

Getting ready for our picnic.

Getting ready for our picnic.

My son stalling at bedtime by being Roy's hairdresser.

My son stalling at bedtime by being Roy's hairdresser.

Today made me excited to be home—to be in the mundane for a little bit. We’ve been out of the USA for 7 weeks (1.5 in London and 5.5 in South Africa). I cannot wait to be home and to be in our house. We’ve been gone just as long as we lived in our new house. When I think of home, I really have to press myself to remember what it’s even like. I am glad to have had two summers this year. What a life! 

Posted on February 19, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 36, Strand and Cape Town

Wednesday, February 10

Beautiful view from our bedroom this morning.

Beautiful view from our bedroom this morning.

Today started as the last two have: a sauna in the bathroom and coughing and spitting in a doctor’s office. We were successful for the second day in a row! Because we wanted to encourage Tisetso for his hard work (the coughing and spitting is a pretty tiring process), we decided to have a picnic as a celebration and an incentive to finish well tomorrow. We grabbed breakfast at McDonald’s (more hotcakes). We’re not ones to break tradition and there is very little by way of faster dining that we could find.

We stopped by our lawyer's office to get a few questions answered about the paperwork we had filled out the previous night. While we were talking, Tisetso made himself comfortable in Mr. Brad’s chair and proceeded to draw Jack and the Beanstalk. He also ordered some coffee and told us our work was subpar and we needed to step it up. It was pretty adorable with him sitting in the chair that, for now, is a bit too big for him.

Every professional needs a balloon from McDonald's adorning their desk.

Every professional needs a balloon from McDonald's adorning their desk.

Our plans for the day were to head to Cape Town and go to the rugby museum. Since arriving in South Africa, Brian and I actually watched rugby. It’s pretty great. We also really like the Springboks jerseys and had a hard time finding them in America. Where can one get a Springboks jersey? At the South Africa rugby museum, of course! 

Checking how they measure up to rugby players.

Checking how they measure up to rugby players.

Because we got there right after they opened, we were able to have the whole place to ourselves for most of our time there. We bought some jerseys and Tisetso also got a cap (which he has worn once). The museum was interesting. A lot of the country’s history is very intertwined into the team’s history, specifically concerning the Apartheid. With our sport meter pegged for quite some time, we left the museum and walked around the Waterfront.

We walked to the market because Brian had a couple of gifts to purchase. While there, things seemed to melt down. Tisetso was upset with me for reasons unknown, which was hard because there’s no way to address the issue. After Brian had found the gifts, we went to the next big building over where they have a whole slew of food vendors. We ended up with delicious samosas (in several varieties), a vegetarian Scotch egg (oops), and a somewhat gross lamb philo wrap. Brian went back to get more samosas and Tisetso got upset with me for something (it escapes my mind now). When Brian got back, I gladly hopped up to get drinks. I found a new root beer we had never tried for Brian, a creme soda for Tisetso, and a Coke Light (Diet Coke) for me.

It’s been hard for me because, right now, Tisetso favors Brian. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, of which I can think of many, but it becomes difficult because I’m the one working with him most days and doing the unexciting things—getting ready, school, trying to get him to clean up his Lego bricks because I don’t want to step on them, etc. Today reached a breaking point for me. 

I was glad to have stepped away from the table for a minute because I got to see Brian and Tisetso having a conversation. I don’t know what it was about, but I had a moment where I saw our family forming; father and son talking over samosas. It helped me press on for the rest of the day. 

Sneaky photo during their conversation.

Sneaky photo during their conversation.

Tisetso had been complaining that his legs hurt for most of the morning. While we were eating lunch, he saw the ferris wheel and said that riding it would help make him feel better. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to make him feel better, we tossed our trash and headed to the ferris wheel. It ended up being a good thing. His mood lifted a little and we were able to enjoy the time on the ferris wheel.

The rest of the day we just laid low. We felt Tisetso had had too much during the day and didn’t want to add anything else to the agenda. While we were resting in the afternoon, we got word that Tisetso’s passport was ready. It came in only five days! We were told it would be 13-15 business days, so we were surprised. The plan is to go pick up the passport on Friday and do the noting of the adoption (officially submitting his name change and starting the process of finalizing the paperwork for the adoption in South Africa). 

It took us so off guard we freaked out a little. We have a list of things we want to do in the Cape Town area still. We thought we had so much time left and now, we’ve got a few days. Gah!

I loved getting to see the moon and the fading sunset.

I loved getting to see the moon and the fading sunset.

Posted on February 18, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 35, Strand and Cape Town

Tuesday, February 9

Today started with Tisetso and I sitting in the bathroom with the shower spewing out hot water. We were trying to get his lungs ready for a good cough and spit session at the doctors. Thankfully, our hard work paid off! We were able to get a good cough and spit and got day one of three out of the way!

As a celebration, we grabbed breakfast at McDonald’s. Once again, Tisetso got the hotcakes. This time, I followed suit and enjoyed tasty pancakes. We were glad to get a good breakfast as it ended up being a super hot day. On the docket: pet some awesome animals.

We headed to the Cheetah Outreach. Brian and I bought tickets to pet cheetah cubs and bought tickets for Tisetso to join us in the meerkat-petting experience. We headed to the cheetah enclosure first. Brian and I headed in while Tisetso, grandma, and grandpa watched through the fence. We got to pet two cheetah cubs, but truth be told, they weren’t tiny. They were both around 9 months old and already quite big. I was still in heaven. After being so many places where I could pet wildlife, but shouldn’t (zoo and bird gardens), it was wonderful! The cheetahs were just sleeping, but we were able to pet them and ask the handlers some questions. 

Cheetah #1

Cheetah #1

Cheetah #2

Cheetah #2

It was super cute!!

It was super cute!!

After getting our fill of petting cheetahs (is there such a thing?!), we headed back into the building to take the tour. The tour was just ok. The coolest thing we learned was they’ve started a conservation program using dogs. Apparently, many farmers resort to animal traps or poison to keep their livestock safe from predators (often cheetahs). The dogs the Cheetah Outreach gives farmers will bark and protect the livestock. Cheetahs are classified as "lazy predators" in that they will not pursue difficult food (dogs disqualify the animals by their presence). The farmers sign a contract not to use traps or poison. Apparently the farmers see their loss go from 30%-40% (usually while using traps) down to 3% after using a dog to guard the flocks.

Tisetso was getting antsy during the tour, which was understandable as most of it was in the boiling sun. I flagged down a staff member and let them know we were ready to do the meerkat experience (they had to get a person to the enclosure to let us in). Tisetso, who was super excited to pet a meerkat when we bought a ticket for him, no longer wanted to pet anything. We convinced him to enter the first enclosure area that has two doors leading to the two meerkat cages. He sat with one of the volunteers while Brian and I met, pet, and held "Sebastian" the meerkat. We were told up front that it was too hot to hold Sebastian, so all we’d be able to do was pet him on the ground. 

Sebastian the meerkat

Sebastian the meerkat

After sitting on a bench to pet him, he hopped up and laid down in my lap and held my arm. It was like he was giving it a hug! I was even more excited than when we had pet the cheetahs. Sebastian was purring and chattering. It was delightful. Tisetso, not one to miss out on fun, tried to pet the other, wild meerkat by sticking his finger into the cage. The volunteer quickly retrieved his finger and told him that one bites. (This kid.)

Look at the smile!

Look at the smile!

With photos and petting Sebastian over, we were told it was time to say goodbye. After (jokingly…) threatening to put Sebastian in my purse, we headed back to the car. I’m pretty sure all of us were sweating through our clothes and had gotten our fill of sun exposure. We went to the mall to get another suitcase to send back with Roger and Merry Ann and to do a little shopping. 

So in love.

So in love.

We stopped by Game (a store that has no rhyme or reason to its layout and feels a bit like Walmart) to pick out a suitcase. We landed on a cheap one that Roger and Merry Ann could donate back in the States or keep in their condo in Florida (where they were flying back). We also went to Woolworth’s (a bit like Nordstrom, but with cheaper prices and a grocery store sort of like Trader Joe’s attached). There we bought another dress shirt for Tisetso, along with more bow and neck ties. We also found some great clothes that will hopefully fit a little while longer (we bought one size up). Unfortunately, during this time we (Tisetso) hit a bit of a rough patch. I’m sure it’s because we hadn’t had lunch yet and we had been in the sun for a while.

With arms full of luggage and goods, we went back to the car. On our way back, the rough patch hit a boiling point. I had asked Tisetso to hold my hand as we were in a parking garage. He typically holds Brian’s hand as is his preference, but Brian was up one level checking the cart we had rented for Tisetso’s “treasure” (bottle caps) that he said he had accidentally left behind. After Tisetso saying he wanted to hold Grandpa’s hand and me kindly insisting he hold mine because I was his mom (hello, attachment), he pulled his hand away and told me I wasn’t his mom. Thankfully, at this moment, the Lord was protecting my heart and it didn’t hurt me. I was able to see he was not dealing well with the circumstances and that we needed to get home. I told him I was sorry he felt that way and I hoped some day he would feel differently. 

We got back to the flat and quickly made sandwiches. We then started packing up the suitcase to send with Roger and Merry Ann. We had Tisetso rest during this time as he really did need a break. With bags packed and everyone buckled, we headed to the airport.

It was hard to say goodbye to Roger and Merry Ann. They were here for such a short amount of time! We only got to see them for six days. They flew for a third of that time just to see us! It was a huge blessing to have them there, as they offered a break in company and allowed for Tisetso to meet some of the people in his family picture book. 

Tisetso with Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm

Tisetso with Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm

Before they went, we bribed Tisetso to take a picture with them. It only took R1.50 (about 10¢) to get him to agree. Even though he was bribed, his smile said it all! He really did enjoy getting to know Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm. We were very glad they made the trip to South Africa.

Tisetso playing with his new phone (the phone Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm used while visiting us).

Tisetso playing with his new phone (the phone Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm used while visiting us).

After getting our little guy in bed and to sleep, Brian and I stayed up well past midnight getting some forms filled out for our embassy interview. It was rough staying up so late, but it seems like this may be the end of the line for paperwork in South Africa, so we did it with a happy heart.

Posted on February 18, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 34, Strand and Simon's Town

Monday, February 8

Today we got an early start. We wanted to make the hour-long drive around False bay back to Simon’s Town to see the penguins, grab lunch, and then head back before it got too late. Before we could do any of that, Tisetso had his first sputum test. This is required for him for entry to the US by the CDC for his immigration medical. It’s basically you cough, clear your throat, then spit into a cup. We had taken a long, warm shower that morning to get Tisetso ready.

When we got to the doctor, he got to lay on the table and get a back massage for an hour. Sadly, he wasn’t able to produce a good cough. We needed three consecutive days of samples for the CDC, so instead of being done Wednesday, we now had to continue going each morning through Thursday. Because Tisetso couldn’t eat or drink anything (except water), we were ready for a quick breakfast at McDonald’s. Tisetso ordered hot cakes, I got my usual Sausage Egg McMuffin, and Brian tested one of the sandwiches that is only found in South Africa (Boerie Breakfast Bun—which he said it was “just alright”).

After our quick breakfast, we packed everyone into the car and headed out. The ride down the coast was beautiful. The crazy wind had continued through the night and into the day. The high winds were creating fun looking waves and white caps and making the driving fun for Brian. We were able to get to Simon’s Town with no issues.

We parked and Tisetso and I ran down to the public beach to see if the penguins were still there or if we would need to go to the state park beach. Thankfully, they were there! We all lumbered across the sand and over rocks. Most of the penguins were behind some rocks, so we had to climb across. 

Two penguins were dancing around together. It was adorable.

Two penguins were dancing around together. It was adorable.

As with all nature, Tisetso kept a respectful distance.

As with all nature, Tisetso kept a respectful distance.

Roger was surprised at how close the penguins were coming. Apparently I hadn’t conveyed well in my other blog post about our excursion to see the penguins how close we were when we went to the beach the last time. They come very close! At one point, I had one waddle by my leg within six inches. It was magical! Roger and Tisetso were able to crawl over the rocks together. I stayed back with Brian and Merry Ann for a little bit, but really wanted to get closer, so I journeyed over the rocks, too. I really wanted to pet a penguin (self-diagnosed nature ADD here), but I have to be an example now. Parenthood can be a real drag sometimes!

Don't mind me. Just swimmin' by!

Don't mind me. Just swimmin' by!

A penguin took us by surprise as it was under some rocks Tisetso was climbing.

A penguin took us by surprise as it was under some rocks Tisetso was climbing.

After getting our fill of the penguins, the beach, and the wind, we braced ourselves and walked to the restaurant. We went to the same place we had gone before (Seaforth). It was good last time and this visit did not disappoint. We hesitantly sat outside (remembering how cold and windy yesterday’s lunch was). Thankfully, it ended up being perfect. The covered porch offered enough protection from the wind, but allowed us to enjoy the sights of the beach. I ended up getting one of their traditional African pot entrees, the chicken curry. It was delicious! I’m pretty sure they cooked it overnight as the meat just fell apart and was infused with the spices.

Chicken Curry Pot. So delicious.

Chicken Curry Pot. So delicious.

Tisetso entertaining himself before the food came with his new pirate sticker book.

Tisetso entertaining himself before the food came with his new pirate sticker book.

When we had stuffed ourselves, we walked up the path to check out the little market. I had been wanting to get Tisetso one of the beaded lions I had seen at our previous trip to the market. It will go perfectly in his Harry Potter themed room. After he had picked out a lion and Roger and Merry Ann had gotten their fill of the market, we headed home. One great thing about the ride to Simon’s Town is going there is beautiful and driving home is beautiful. It’s as if you’re taking two different trips as you see so much from only one angle.

When we got back to the flat, Brian headed out to an appointment with the rental company to check out another flat. (Our time in the current flat ends Saturday.) While he was out, I got a text from Rose (social worker) telling me that Tisetso’s passport should be done soon and we could have our embassy visa interview as early as next Tuesday! This was incredible news because we anticipated being in Cape Town for at least another week and a half. I texted Brian to let him know we may not need another flat!

The rest of our day was pretty good. The news about Tisetso’s passport was swirling in my mind. If we leave for Johannesburg on Saturday (when we’re done in this flat), we’re not going to have much time to finish everything we wanted to do! BUT I would be happy to get home sooner rather than later.

I asked for a photo and these are two of the gems that came from the request.

I asked for a photo and these are two of the gems that came from the request.

For supper, Tisetso and I made chocolate pancakes (his request), followed by watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Tisetso wanted to introduce Jake and friends to Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm. After story and a hug for Brian, we tucked our little guy in. It was a good day filled with fun and good news.

I got a little carried away taking photos of the sunset tonight. It was beautiful. I loved how the pink of the clouds was reflected in the water.

I got a little carried away taking photos of the sunset tonight. It was beautiful. I loved how the pink of the clouds was reflected in the water.

Posted on February 18, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 33, Strand and Cape Town

Sunday, February 7

One month! Mr. Owl (AKA Hedwig) and Roy made it into the photo.

One month! Mr. Owl (AKA Hedwig) and Roy made it into the photo.

Before beginning the regularly scheduled blog post (HA!), I wanted to note that today marked one month of us knowing Tisetso. It has been a crazy, fun, hard, and good month. We are thankful to God that we have such a wonderful son.

Today we decided to go to the waterfront. We wanted to spend a little more time exploring and checking out all the area has to offer. We left early to make sure we could get a good parking space and get to the sights first. The ride in really tested my ability to process road sickness as the wind kept knocking our car about. Upon our arrival, we found a fantastic parking space and headed towards the fun. 

Really cool mural of Nelson Mandela we see each time on our way into Cape Town.

Really cool mural of Nelson Mandela we see each time on our way into Cape Town.

Son and Father

Son and Father

First on the docket was buying tickets to ride on the "Jolly Roger," a pirate ship that gives tours of the harbor and surrounding areas. Unfortunately, the Jolly Roger had been hired out for the day for a child’s birthday party. We decided to head towards the ferris wheel instead. Merry Ann decided to sit the ferris wheel out as the cars were swaying ominously in the strong wind. By the end of the four times around (about 12 minutes) I was wishing I had maybe stayed on the ground with her. It was fun to see the waterfront from a different perspective and I enjoyed when Tisetso allowed me to take pictures with him and Brian. It was really special.

Father and Son

Father and Son

The blustery ride over, we went our separate ways. The boys went on a harbor cruise and Merry Ann and I went to the market space to buy souvenirs and gifts for our family. I wanted to go on the cruise, but the car ride coupled with the ferris wheel had left me feeling unready to face choppy water. While we were shopping Brian kept me updated that they had seen many seals and even dolphins! COME ON! Thankfully I was able to get several gifts purchased while we were out and about. My shopping even included waking Erin up super early to get her opinion on her birthday gift.

A cloud stayed over Table Mountain the whole time we were in Cape Town. Yesterday was definitely the right day to go!

A cloud stayed over Table Mountain the whole time we were in Cape Town. Yesterday was definitely the right day to go!

We had decided to meet up at a grill (the one we had been to previously) around noon, which is when the harbor cruise was slated to be over. Merry Ann and I beat the boys there and I thought it would be nice to sit outside. I was wrong. Within 20 minutes, Merry Ann, Tisetso, and I were ensconced under blankets the restaurant had provided. The wind was blowing everything around. Thankfully the food was delicious. Tisetso veered from tradition and got a hot dog (he usually gets cheeseburgers). Brian and I ordered two entrees (kingklip fish and boerwoers platter) and switched halfway. The kingklip was a recommendation from our immigration doctor we had seen a couple of days earlier. Merry Ann got an ostrich steak and Roger indulged in the massive assorted meat skewer Brian had ordered when we visited before. Aside from being cold and the wind being out of control, it was a delightful lunch.

Our son shooting at people with the sculpture titled "Non-Violence"

Our son shooting at people with the sculpture titled "Non-Violence"

We headed home after lunch. While we were walking back to the car park, we saw seals playing in the harbor. We got to get pretty close to one of them that was sunbathing. It was awesome!

NATURE!

NATURE!

He wanted his picture with the seals, then proceeded to pretend he was fighting them.

He wanted his picture with the seals, then proceeded to pretend he was fighting them.

Brian got to navigate the blustery roadways again. It was rough because there have been several fires in the area (they are experiencing a drought this summer). I felt badly for those out fighting the fires on such a windy day.

One of several areas along the highway we've seen fires crop up at over the last few days.

One of several areas along the highway we've seen fires crop up at over the last few days.

When we got back, we had just a few minutes to rest and recover from our busy day. We headed back out shortly after our arrival to the flat for church. We found a great church (Christ Church Waterkloof) here in Somerset West (10 minutes from our flat). It was nice to be able to introduce Rose (our social worker) and Brad and Debbie (our lawyers) to Roger and Merry Ann. They even got to meet our friends who are in-country at the same time as us, the Saarela family. 

Church was good and, thankfully, not hot like last week. We were thankful for less protest from Tisetso. He was, however, ready to leave right away when it was done. If anything this will be an area he will have to work on because we never leave right after church. It may have been that he was extra eager because we had (out of love) agreed to go to Spur again.

I think Roger and Merry Ann enjoyed their time at the ever-exciting Spur. Tisetso was only seen when there was food. I had to pick something up from the pharmacy, so I arrived after they had been seated. Tisetso and Brian were already in the game room. After deciding on a burger for myself, I asked if Tisetso had left his order. Apparently he wanted chicken nuggets and a cheese pizza. Because we could take left overs home, Brian said that was ok. Unfortunately, I ordered the grilled BBQ chicken nuggets, so that half of the order went unappreciated and uneaten. Thankfully, the rest of the meal was fine. Once again, nothing to write home about (although apparently worth writing on my blog about). 

We got home and got Tisetso tucked into bed with no issues. I apparently had a long day, too, because I fell asleep on his bed while waiting for him to go to sleep. Brian woke me up about two hours later and I just headed straight to sleep. It was a long day for all of us!

Posted on February 12, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.