Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Adoption Update

I guess you could say we have some unexpected news. We received notice yesterday that Solomon’s family backed out of the adoption while they were being investigated by the officials of the Department of Social Welfare of Accra, Ghana. It was during this time that they were asked to confirm and finalize their decision of giving Solomon out for adoption and they decided not to continue on in the process. The assumption is that during the Social Welfare interview the family was provided w/information on how to keep their family together as one unit rather than separation via adoption, and they essentially changed their minds on the adoption route.

So, this was pretty hard to take. I am still processing my emotions….I guess right now I feel like I can explain it as grieving the loss of a child I have never met, but yet had internalized as being my own. And, even though this really hurts, I do not regret entering in to this emotionally and visualizing Solomon as our son. Had I not done this I think I would have cheated myself out of a beautiful experience. As you know, last fall God specifically formed a spot in our hearts for a 3rd child for our family, and for that child to come to us by way of adoption. This situation doesn’t change anything, and we will still be pursuing an adoption in Ghana. If anything, Solomon has deepened the feelings of us wanting to adopt, and I am thankful to have loved him in my heart, prayed for him, and let myself envision him as part of our family. With all that said, I also can’t help but be extremely relieved for Solomon’s parents that they will be able to keep him.

It’s going to be quite hard to invest emotionally into this experience all over again with our new child, whenever we find out who he is, and I think it will be tempting to put up my guard, ‘just in case’. But, the reality of any adoption is that nothing is said and done until the child is home with the new family. I think our situation was not very common in that both of Solomon’s parents were still living, and that he was still living with them. Perhaps we should have reminded ourselves more often of the possibility of something like this happening. I think my assumption was that they had already ‘officially’ finalized their decision to make him available for adoption, but for their sake, I am glad they were able to really work through their options to find how they would be able to keep their family together. I know we would have done the same had we been in their shoes.

So, now the spot in our hearts goes yet again without a face and without a name, but that spot of adopting our 3rd child is still there. It was there before we knew of Solomon, and is still there now. We know God has a plan. And, I think it is safe to say that Jake and I have now specified to our agency that we would like to pursue the adoption of an actual orphan, who’s parents are not living or have completely abandoned the child in an orphanage. We don’t want to exclude any child that is in need, but we also want to be realistic and not go through something like this again.

What a story we will have for our adoptive son some day….of all the other children it could have been, and yet wasn’t…..

Monday, March 30, 2009

Jake's Thought for the Week

Each Monday I will be posting Jake's Thought for the Week, which he sends out to all the parents of the players in his All-Iowa Attack program.

Over the next five weeks we are going to look at a section in the book 'WHEN THE GAME IS OVER IT ALL GOES BACK IN THE BOX' by John Ortberg. I hope everyone enjoys these next five weeks and just maybe it will challenge all of us to look at what God is asking us to do, and just maybe we will be ready to roll the dice.

Roll The Dice-“Here is the irrefutable truth about games that my grandmother would try to teach me as she risked everything for Boardwalk while I tried to hang on to my little cache: When you start the game, you never know what the outcome will be. If you play the game, you may lose. But if you never play the game, you definitely will never win. And if you play the game, you have to roll the dice.”

Initial Call-God summons someone to serve him. You may have noticed that very rarely in the Bible does God bother to interrupt someone’s life and ask him or her to do an easy task. He doesn’t call Moses over to a burning bush and ask him if he could take a few more sheep. One entire chapter in the Bible, Hebrews 11, is devoted to a series of encounters where God asks people to embrace high-risk assignments. God asks Noah to build an ark in the face of ridicule, Abraham to leave everything familiar and then to become a father at the age of ninety-nine, Joseph to be faithful in the face of slavery and imprisonment, and Moses to defy Pharaoh.

Listen to how the writer of Hebrews describes people who say yes to God:I do not have time to tell about..{those} who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword, whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and rooted foreign armies… Others were tortured and refused to be released… Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword… the world was not worthy of them.

How high a value would you say God places on making sure people who follow him lead comfortable lives? It seems that God wants to use us, wants to grow us up, wants us to be strong and wise and courageous. He doesn’t appear to be terribly interested in making sure we’re comfortable.

Go Attack!
Jake Sullivan

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Recent Videos

JJ has started to take an interest in his little tikes hoop again. He got it out the other day, and we noticed that he has started to jump while shooting now. Jake did not teach him this, but he must have learned it by watching the other players at the gym. You'll also notice in the video that JJ is left-handed, just like Grandpa Sullivan. He was a natural-born left hander...we did not try to 'form' this...he has always done everything with his left-hand...even as an infant.

Video: Doing what big brothers do...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Funnies

These pictures make me laugh everytime I see them.
Jayla's first ever photo shoot.

This was one of the first times that JJ ever held Jayla. I was trying to get a good Christmas photo. The look on his face is priceless!

Mr. Vegas then.....

Mr. Vegas now!

Help, mom!

March 2007 snow storm.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Common Cold of the Soul

The Common Cold of the Soul
By: Gregg Levoy
To sinful patterns of behavior that never get confronted and changed.
Abilities and gifts that never get cultivated and deployed
Until weeks become months
And months turn into years,
And one day you're looking back on a life of
Deep intimate gut-wrenchingly honest conversations you never had;
Great bold prayers you never prayed,
Exhilarating risks you never took,
Sacrificial gifts you never offered
Lives you never touched,
And you're sitting in a recliner with a shriveled soul,
And forgotten dreams,
And you realize there was a world of desperate need,
And a great God calling you to be part of something bigger than yourself-
You see the person you could have become but did not;
You never followed your calling,
You never got out of the boat!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's Never Easy to Say Goodbye

Well, tomorrow we say goodbye to Esi and I am finding myself teary-eyed thinking about it. I’ve grown quite attached to having her company each day. Having her here has really caused me to stop and slow down, and appreciate many things about my own life.

The first thing I’ve learned from Esi is the appreciation and satisfaction there is in working hard. One day I asked Esi about her typical work day. Basically she wakes up at 4:30AM each morning, gets herself ready, makes breakfast, gets the younger kids started on their baths, and is out the door by 6:15AM. She then drives 2 hours to work, goes through a full work day, then drives 2 hours home. Esi does all of her cooking for the week on the weekends – makes the meals for each day of the week and then freezes them. This way she can have dinner already made each evening for her kids – and they are able to warm it and eat it before she gets home at 7PM. Other than her full-time job at the customs headquarters and side-job of managing the grocery store, I also found out that Esi has created one more side-job for herself…decorating for weddings and doing rentals for wedding decor items such as chair covers and candles! I came across some pictures of the weddings that she has decorated in her pile of photos that she brought. I couldn’t get an actual picture of one of them, but here is something similar from one of my friend's weddings. She takes fabric like this and sways it all over into beautiful masterpieces.
The pictures she had of some of her work were so neat. Esi told me that it is very hard for a woman to make a living in Ghana, so she said she has kind of become a jack of all trades…making money here and there.

Another thing I learned from Esi is to not be afraid to try new things….whether it was food, or going places with me, Esi was very adventurous and up for anything. It was so fun having Esi along with us in going to church, bible study, the grocery store, Target, and even to my Mom’s a few nights ago. She was always ready to meet new people and to strike up a conversation with anyone. Esi claimed that she had a ‘wide appetite’ and was really up for tasting new foods. Some of her favorites that she had while staying with us were pickle/corn beef dip, club house chicken squares, roast, pillsbury cinnamon rolls, smore bars, and my Grandma’s apple pie. In fact, she was sad that she forgot to ask to take a piece of the pie home with us the other night!

And, the thing I appreciated most about Esi was how she really took the time to get to know us. She loved to ask us questions, and we loved to ask her questions. The mutual openness allowed us all to learn a lot about each other. She also was a great observer, and really had a good read on our personalities. She told Jake one night ‘I really love how you take the time to play with JJ…you do so good.’ And, 'You really know how to get things done and the right people to call.' One day she told me ‘You are very organized. You will have to help Nana Yaw learn this.’ Of JJ she said ‘He really knows what he wants. This is good.’ And ‘JJ is a fun guy. I like how he talks.’ Of Jayla she said ‘Everywhere we go she draws attention.’ And ‘I will always remember her smile.’ Yes, I think she got a good read on each of us.

Esi and I have already been making plans for the Sullivan's own trip to Ghana in a few months. Esi asked us to stay with her and her family when we come to pick Solomon up. She’s got all kinds of meals she wants me to try, and even has a list of spices that she plans on sending me home from Ghana with. And, she told Jake she would let him borrow her car! I can’t wait!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My New Favorites

The Barker Beauties are back, showcasing some of my new favorite discoveries!
First up, Breyers Fried Ice Cream. Jake actually found this one....he LOVES ice cream and is always coming home with new, exotic flavors. This one tops my list because it tastes just like the fried ice cream that you can order at Mexican restaurants. Y U M! Also, take note of JJ's hat, we'll come back to it below.

Here we have the Vick's Soothing Vapors Plug-in. It plugs into the wall just like an air freshner, but instead of lavender vanilla or apple cinnamon scents, you get the lovely aroma of Vicks! We used it when Jayla had a repiratory cold a few weeks ago....it is a bit better than doing my Grandma & Grandpa's method of putting slimey Vick's all over the chest, throat, and yes, they even put it up their nose! We also don't have a humidifier, and I thought it did really well at opening up the air ways so Jayla could have a good nights sleep while she was so stuffed up. Also, take note of Jayla's dress here, we'll talk about it again below.

Have you ever wanted to make the PERFECT egg, cooked sunny side up/overeasy? Then you have to get this skillet. My mom bought this one for me. It is kind of hard to see in this picture, but it is a tiny, tiny non-stick skillet that cooks one egg perfectly. No more eggs running all over the place when you slap em on the skillet!

My newfound delight...the Panera yogurt parfait. This is the best parfait I have found....it even beats the McDonald's one (but not in price). I have tried making these at home, but they just don't compare to the tastiness of the real thing. JJ and Jayla love these too.
And, lastly we have good old TJ Maxx. I had people telling me that I should shop at TJ Maxx for YEARS, but I never tried it. Once Jake's gym moved to Ankeny I was driving by the Ankeny TJ Maxx every single day....and one day I decided to stop because JJ needed some new shorts. And, I found the BEST DEALS! Especially for JJ's type of clothing which is mostly Nike, Adidas, and ISU things. I was able to get him a bunch of Nike outfits that in a normal department store would run around $40...but at TJ Maxx they were anywhere from $6 to $15...and this was for a set of shorts & a shirt combined. That ISU hat above cost me only $4....and Jayla's puma dress had a MSRP price of $35 but TJ Maxx had it for $12. I could go on and on about this store...not only do they have clothes for the kids, but they have women's & men's clothes, an entire section of ISU & Hawkeye clothes/items, shoes, luggage, purses, kids toys & books, home decor, etc. In fact, I even found a red, twin sized Ralph Lauren comforter for Solomon's bed....normally $65 and I got it for $25.

Let me know some of your new favorites!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jake's Thought for the Week

Each Monday I will be posting Jake's Thought for the Week which he sends out with his weekly annoucements to all the parents of the players in his All Iowa Attack program.

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed- Proverbs 16:3

As many of you already know my family has a new member living with us now. He stands about 6’5 weighing around 160lbs and is 18 years old. If that is not quite enough he is from Ghana, Africa and his name is Nana Yaw Sapponamoah and JJ (our youngest son) may be the only one who can pronounce his name properly. :) I know I have pretty much given up on pronouncing it correctly and have shortened it to just Yaw (like Yao Ming)!

It has been an incredible experience since he arrived with his Mother on Tuesday. His Mother will be here until Thursday when she will head back to Ghana while Yaw will stay with us for at least 6 months and probably for the next year and half as we work on attaining him a student visa.

The best part of the story is how God has had his hand in all of it. Many times it is difficult to always trust that if we give our plans to the Lord that they will truly succeed. Often we believe that we have the best ideas and must have all of the control in every situation, but as God demonstrated in this situation he knows what is best for all of us and will ultimately work everything out in his time.

The story of how God led Yaw to the Sullivan family: On the third day of my trip to Ghana, Africa in February the Right to Dream Academy had set up a 17U basketball game in Accra with the hope of giving me an idea where these young men were in regards to athletic ability and basketball skills. As I watched the game you could see the extreme athletic ability each player possessed, but all of them were very raw in regards to their basketball skill.

However, one young man really stood out from the rest and I began asking questions of the local people about who this kid was and most informed me this individual was one of the better players in Ghana. They also told me he had just received a 5 year multiple visa to the United States a few months back with the hope of coming to the United States to grow as a basketball player and to receive a better education.

It is important to understand that five year multiple visas are very rare especially from a third world country. He was fortunate enough that the US Embassy in Ghana provided him one since his Mom was a foreign exchange student in the United States in 1979.

Following the 17U game in Ghana I approached Yaw and gave him my card and told him that if there was anything I could do to help to let me know, and that my wife and I would love to host him in the United States during the spring and summer and we could see what doors would be opened at that point in time.

When I gave him my card I realistically never thought I would hear back from him. As we were traveling back to the United States from Ghana I had noticed that I had two missed phone calls from an African number. In my mind I thought that it was kind of strange and I just ignored it. When we arrived in Chicago I had yet another missed call from Africa and my curiousity got the best of me and I decided to call the number back. I imagine that call probably cost me a lot of money but my curiousity just took over. To my surprise when the person on the other end picked up it was Yaw and he proceeded to tell me he would be here by the middle of March. You can say I was a little surprised but I knew God was up to something so I told him that when I arrived back in Iowa I would write him an acceptance letter into the Attack Academy so he could be accepted into the United States, and from there the rest is history and we now have a 6’5 Ghanaian living at our house.

We excitedly greeted him and his mother at the airport last Tuesday and have found out many wonderful things about them, but none more exciting than the story of how God had worked to provide Yaw this opportunity.

The short version of his story is that the previous August prior to me coming to Ghana he had the opportunity to come to the United States and visit the foreign exchange family his mother stayed with in 1979 in Goldsboro, North Carolina. He arrived in North Carolina with the hope that he would be able to come to the United States like his Mother did in 1979. However, upon his arrival he found out that the school his Mother had the opportunity to attend in 1979 had become run down with crime and poverty and it would not be a positive opportunity for him. So, they decided to try option B which was to get accepted into a private school in the Goldsboro area, but the school board decided to not admit him, so he was left to return to the Ghana, Africa very discouraged and disappointed.

His Mom continuously told him just to pray and God would open up the door of opportunity. He and his Mom did just that for the next five months and that door was opened. It was not opened without a little push from his Mom though. On the morning of the 17U game that I attended in Ghana he did not want to attend thinking it would not be productive and instead wanted to go to a different location and play with some friends of his. His Mom convinced him to attend the game scheduled by the Right to Dream Academy as this might just be the door that God has opened.

From that point on the rest is history and now he is here in Iowa and we are working hard to get his student visa in order to open up some academic opportunities. God has used a game such as basketball to open up the door for this young man and it just goes to remind us that when we commit our plans to the Lord they will surely succeed.

Go Attack!
Jake Sullivan

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My First Ghanaian Cooking Lesson

Today I realized how blessed we are to be having this experience with Nana Yaw & Esi being here. I am just learning SO MUCH, that I almost feel like I don’t even do it all justice when I try to write about it here on the blog. I can’t possibly write about everything, even though I really want to!

So, today was my first Ghanaian cooking lesson from Esi. It was so much FUN! We made chicken light soup, jollof rice, shito pepper sauce (which goes over the rice), and tomato beef sauce. The main ingredients in almost every Ghanaian dish are tomatoes, onions, and LOTS OF RICE! In fact, rice is typically served with every meal. The main spices they use for almost everything are ginger, garlic salt, onion powder, all spice, salt, and LOTS of ground red pepper.

I wish you could have smelled the flavors in these dishes...my house was filled with a savory aroma all afternoon!!! And, of course, everything was so good! I love anything tomato-based, so I knew I would like it. My fav was the chicken soup. Esi had so much fun teaching me how to make these main meals. She thoroughly enjoys sharing her culture and details of her life with us. She is so open and willing to answer any of our questions. I couldn’t have hand picked a better house guest!

This has been the neatest day by far, because today I saw how God brought our family together with Nana Yaw & Esi. This afternoon Esi was telling me about the day that Nana Yaw went to the game that Jake attended in Ghana. Originally Nana Yaw did not want to play in that game, because there was a different, more competitive game going on somewhere else, and he would have much preferred to play in the more competitive game. However, Esi told him that he should go and play in the game that Jake was attending, because she thought that maybe it would open up some opportunities for him. You see, a few years ago they had started lining up Nana Yaw to take part in a foreign exchange program here in the U.S. They had started working out the details, but then the host family decided not to go through with it, so he was not able to come. Once things fell through, Esi told me that Nana Yaw was very discouraged and very sad because he had wanted to come to the U.S. for his education so badly. Esi said that she never stopped praying that somehow Nana Yaw would still have the opportunity to come to the U.S. Now, back to the day of the game….Esi said that she told Nana Yaw he could drive his Dad’s car to the game if he went….this was the clincher for him, and he decided to go and play in the game Jake was attending. And, you know the rest of the story. Jake saw him play and out of all the other players, picked him out of the mix and told him he wanted to help him out…to come and play bball in the U.S. and get an education. It was so neat to hear that story this afternoon, and to see how God answered Esi’s prayers….prayers that I didn’t even know about until today!

Esi and I also talked a lot about Solomon today. She knows a lot about his village and told me a list of foods that he would typically eat. We also talked about what an advantage it will be for Solomon to have Nana Yaw around…..a comforting face of someone from his own country. I thought about this for a long time today, and again realized God’s control over our lives. It is so neat how He planned out all the timing of this….because of Esi’s visit I will now have some traditional Ghanaian foods to cook for Solomon, and I feel like I have a much better idea of what Solomon’s culture is like….and I didn’t have to read it all from a book, but I got to learn it first hand. This afternoon Esi said that she had been observing JJ for a few days, and she thinks that JJ is going to do just fine once Solomon is here. She said she can just tell by JJ’s personality. Jake and I have felt this way from the beginning, and to hear her say this as well was so comforting.

I also wanted to post some pictures of JJ & Jayla from the NCAA party yesterday!

JJ's accomplishment was teaching Nyla how to jump off the couch!
These two followed eachother around all day.

Jayla hung out with Dad while Mommy cooked appetizers!

Somehow JJ didn't notice that they were playing peek-a-boo with his blankey.

Coach Julian cooked a huge dinner for everyone: fried chicken, homemade mac n cheese, cornbread, greens, rice, spaghetti & pound cake. As you can imagine, everyone loved it, and I made him tell me all his recipes, one by one.
By the end of the night, Nyla & JJ decided to gang up on Jake.
Poor Daddy.
Double trouble.
Fun Fun! And, my brackets are still lookin good!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Nana Yaw's First Practice

Last night was Nana Yaw's first practice. Jake had him practice with his 8th grade boys team so that he could get a feel for what the drills would be like. Jake had one of his other 17U players named Dow come and practice along with Nana Yaw so that Dow could help to explain the drills and help Nana Yaw to keep a good pace throughout practice. Coach Julian introduced them and they were friends right away.
As I mentioned above, Dow plays on Jake's 17U team, so he will be Nana Yaw's teammate. Dow and his younger brother 'Big Pete' came to Iowa 5 years ago from Sudan. When they came they spoke no English, but learned the language in school and from peers. Now both Dow & Big Pete speak perfect English. Big Pete plays on Jake's 8th boys team. Dow & Big Pete go to DM Roosevelt. Last night Dow & Big Pete stayed at our house to hang out with Nana Yaw. This morning it was so much fun to listen to Esi & Dow talk about their home countries and the differences and similarities. Esi had a lot of questions for Dow about school & education here in the U.S.
Nana Yaw & Dow took some warm-up shots before practice and rebounded for one another.
Here is Nana Yaw dunking.....of course I missed the actual dunk, but got a picture of him on the way back down. I am going to have to get better at taking these action shots.

Esi has done such a wonderful job of letting JJ and Jayla warm up to her. JJ and Jayla are both quite reserved/shy and they take awhile to warm up to people they don't know. Every morning Esi says hi to JJ and gives him a 'high 5'. He always smiles really big! Last night I went and got Esi a chair so she wouldn't have to sit on the bleachers....and then right after I set her chair down, JJ wanted me to go and get him a chair so that he could sit by her. :)

Here we are watching practice.

Yesterday was the first day that Esi held Jayla. Esi has been talking to her for a couple days and sitting next to her when she plays, so Jayla has really warmed up to her, and she let Esi hold her for a long time last night at practice.

Esi loves Jayla's outfits, especially her dresses. Jayla has started scooting BACKWARDS on the floor when she is on her tummy (still not crawling). Esi said that in Ghana there is a saying that when a baby crawls or scoots backwards instead of forwards it means that they are going to be walking really soon! :)
I learned a neat thing about Ghanaian names yesterday. Esi said if she hears an African name, she can immediately tell whether or not the person is from Ghana or not. This is because in Ghana, children are either given a Christian name (like a biblical name, or some form of a name with God in it...such as Godwin) or they are named regarding the day they were born. Nana Yaw was born on a Sunday I believe she said, and Yaw is the word for Sunday. They also have a 'girl version' of the word Sunday....so if you are a girl born on Sunday then you are named the feminine Sunday word (which I can't remember what it was). So, they have girl and boy versions for each day of the week. Then, the children are also given a sur name. Nana's Dad also has the sur name Nana and he is the chief of his home village in Ghana. The sur name Nana was passed down to Nana Yaw and to Nana Yaw's younger brother.

Today is our big NCAA party at the house! I am so excited! Time to go cook food!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tidbits From Today

Having Nana Yaw & his mother here has been such a great experience already....it is actually kind of hard to put into words. They are both so kind and welcoming....I know that sounds weird since we actually welcomed them into our home, but their personalities are very considerate, appreciative, and comforting. I feel like I have known Esi for years!

This morning Esi went with me to my women’s bible study at church, and she said it was ‘very enjoyable’ for her. She said that in Ghana our type of church is termed ‘charismatic’. She mentioned that the youth of Ghana are very drawn to the style of the church we attend (Cornerstone Church of Ames). She said Nana Yaw is going to love it, especially the music. In Ghana they attend a church about 10 minutes from their home which gathers around 200 people each Sunday.

After church we met back up with the boys for lunch at the house, and then Esi, Jayla & I made a trip to the grocery store. We decided that Esi will cook us a traditional African meal on Saturday night, so we picked up the ingredients for that….beef, tomato paste, potatoes, rice, and a LOAD of spices…especially cayenne pepper. She is going to show me how to make everything, in particular the sauce that they put with almost every meal. I am so excited to have a traditional dish to make for Solomon when he comes! I think it is going to be quite spicy! We also picked up 2 items specifically for Nana Yaw at the store…..grape juice, and cocoa puffs! Esi said they are some of his favorites!

Last night over dinner Jake and I received a crash course on the Ghana way of life….everything from how the government works, to loans from banks, to the education system, to shopping, even to flavors of ice cream! I wish I could have written it all down because everything was SO interesting. Esi is very well-educated, and was able to firmly and in-depthly answer every one of Jake’s questions….and he asked a lot of questions! I asked him to do a little write-up for the blog regarding what he learned from Esi about the government and economic situation of the country….so hopefully I can post that sometime this week.

We learned last night, that not only does Esi work full-time at the customs area of the airport, but she also owns and manages a small grocery store in Accra. She and her husband are also working on setting up a foundation to help the uneducated & impoverished children in their area, especially what she calls the ‘girl child’ or young women. This project is all in the beginning stages, but the goal is to teach the young women a ‘trade’ such as basket weaving, or how to dye and weave cloth so that they can provide for themselves. She said there are not many opportunities like this in Ghana for the uneducated. As you can tell, we have learned so much over the past few days...I am really trying to soak it all in!

Lastly, in the spirit of the NCAA Men’s tournament starting today, I just have to post our Final Four picks! Here we go:

National Champs: Pittsburgh

National Champs: UNC

Wake Forest
National Champs: Villanova

Nana Yaw
National Champs: Connecticut

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Day 2 Fun with Nana Yaw & Esi

I wanted to share some pictures I took of the gifts that Nana Yaw & Esi brought us from Ghana! It was so exciting to open these.....here is a picture of our new African place mats for the table.

They also brought us this hand carved table stand. I actually needed an end table for this chair, and it fits perfectly! Can you believe that Esi stuffed this in her suitcase?!

They brought jewelry for Jayla & JJ.

And, traditional African shirts for Jake. Shirts like these are called a Bu Bu.

I LOVE my scarf. This is hand woven and uses the traditional Ghanaian colors and patterns.

And, they also brought me a beaded necklace & earring set! They did such a great job of picking out our gifts!
Yesterday afternoon we all went to the gym so that Nana Yaw & Esi could watch some practices. Jake & Nana talked over what a typical practice with the highschool boys will be like.
Nana Yaw will have his first individual workout with Coach Julian tomorrow, and then he will practice with the 8th grade boys tomorrow evening so that he can get an idea of what the drills & plays will be like. Saturday is the kick off for all of Jake's highschool teams coming back, and that will be Nana Yaw's first day of practice with the team he will be playing with (17U boys team).
Of course, Jake had all of us fill out our NCAA bracket picks this morning, even Nana Yaw! Jake is already talking smack to all of us, but the funny thing is, I have beat him in the brackets each year since we started our little family competition! :)

This morning Jake took Esi & Nana Yaw to the Iowa State campus so that they could see what a typical University looks like. He took them to Hilton Colisseum so they could see the court! Here they are by the trophy case in the lobby of the basketball offices.

And, here is Nana on the ISU floor.
After the trip to Hilton we all met up for lunch at Hickory Park, and then Jake took Nana Yaw & Esi out to our church to give them a tour and to show them the expansion being built.
And, lastly, in a matter of 4 hours, the framing was up this morning in what will be Nana Yaw's room and our future guest bedroom in our basement. YAY!

It's been a busy day already! Tonight we are headed to the Jordan Creek mall to look around. Lucky for us, Nana Yaw & Esi LOVE chinese food, so we will be going to P.F. Changs for dinner! Y U M!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

They're here!

Nana Yaw and his mom arrived in Iowa this morning around 11:30am! We couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day of weather for the first time that they set foot in the Midwest!

First order of business….Nana’s name is pronounced similar to the nana in banana if you say it fast and quick. And, Yaw is pronounced ‘yow’ like the professional bball player Yao Ming (from China). Got it? His mom says that she always calls him by his full name….Nana Yaw. His mom’s full name is Mercy, but her friends and family call her Esi (pronounced Eh-see) which is how she introduced herself to us. Nana Yaw has one younger brother (who will be 14 in April) and one younger sister (8 years old). They live in Accra, Ghana. Here is a beautiful picture
of them:
Nana’s dad who they all call ‘daddy’ works at a cocoa plant in Ghana. Esi works at Ghana customs in the airport. Esi was a foreign exchange student in North Carolina in 1979 and lived with a family there for one year. Her first observation at our house was that we had a ‘very large cat’! She also liked how we let the kids play on their own and wander into the other rooms. She said that it seems American children grow up learning to be much more independent from a young age, and she liked that.
I also believe that Esi loves pictures! She commented on our family picture on our fireplace right away, and also said that while she is here she wants to develop her photos she has been saving on her camera because it is very expensive to develop photos in Ghana. I asked Esi if she was anxious about leaving Nana Yaw with us for so long, and she said that now that she is here and has met us, she is very comforted and can ‘relax’ about it. :)

Nana Yaw is the typical teenager…he has a facebook account, his own laptop, loves Gatorade, and likes to watch ESPN (which they do get on TV in Accra). He is VERY well-mannered, soft spoken, and smiles a lot! It will be so much fun to get to know him as his personality is revealed.

I am very nervous to cook for Nana Yaw and his mother! For lunch we had chicken salad sandwiches, Doritos, fruit, and banana bread. Esi loved the sandwiches. We talked a lot about food and I asked her what her favorite American dish is…..and she said she loves the chicken here. I remember Jake saying from his trip that the chicken in Ghana was not as good as it is here, so I will have to remember to make lots of chicken. We are having a big NCAA tournament party here on Friday, and our friend Julian (he is also a coach for All Iowa Attack) offered to cook dinner for everyone. He and Esi planned the menu this morning while he was here and it sounds like he is going to make fried chicken, spaghetti, and something called ‘greens’ which I have never heard of. After they finished planning it out Esi clapped her hands and said she was so excited! I will have to watch Julian make fried chicken so I can learn how to make it!

JJ is on cloud nine right now, strutting around the house and grinning from ear to ear. He LOVES having company over. Last night we were reminding him that Nana Yaw was going to come and stay with us, and he put his hands up in the air and said “Solomon?” (which he actually says ‘som sum’). He was asking when Solomon was coming! It seems like we have been talking about Solomon forever, and now to be having a different person coming before Solomon was probably quite confusing to him! We reminded JJ that we would all be going to Africa to being Solomon home around summer time….we always say it on his terms, 'once it gets warmer out and when we can go swimming'. He just nodded his head and said ‘clock’ and pointed up to the clock. Yep, that day will be here pretty soon! :)

More later!

Monday, March 16, 2009


Just wanted to post a few recent pictures!

I made a trade with Daddy - my rattle for his blackberry!

Capture my good side, Grandma.

JJ shares his chair....what a nice guy.

Saturday night we had some friends over to cheer the Ames High boys' team on to their state title!
Daddy day care was in full swing!

The mom's didn't get a night off either. From the left it is Stacy & baby JJ, Nyla, baby Halle, Kayley being held by Kris, and Jayla crying for her mommy!

Jayla (9.5 months) and baby JJ (7 months). Baby JJ is crawling!

JJ (2.5 years), Kayley (2 years) & Nyla (4 years) played great together. Jake went into JJ's room to check on them and they were sitting on the floor playing the Fishing Game. They had gotten it out and started playing it all on their own.
JJ's room by the end of the night (this picture doesn't really do it justice).