Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ghana Trip 3

I wanted to share a few pictures of our quick trip to Ghana last week. Now that I just typed that sentence it sounds kind of comical! Who gets to just run to Africa real quick and bring home a new son? Well, I guess WE DO! Anyways, our two-day stay in Accra was my 3rd and Jake’s 4th trip to Ghana. We purposely planned this trip very short because the main focus was to get Justice home and that was it! Jake is currently planning his next trip to Ghana in which he will be taking a few coaches from his staff as well as any Kingdom Hoops players who are interested in going and are able to raise the money to cover their expenses. The trip is tentatively planned for this December, right after Christmas time.

During our short stay in Ghana, Prince ended up hanging with us the entire time.


One afternoon Prince really wanted to take us to meet his futbol (soccer) team and coaches, so he took us to his practice that was scheduled for the afternoon. Here are some sights from on the way there:




We parked in the main market area and then walked to his practice ‘field’...

And this is his practice field….off to the right of this picture:
All of that mud and water is where they normally play. Since it had rained and there are drainage problems with a creek next to the field, practice had to be canceled.

Here is one of the goal posts:

Train tracks and housing are on the other side of the field:

Even though practice was canceled all of Prince's teammates had still come to the field so Jake got to chat with them:


One afternoon we also went to Esi’s dad’s house to meet some more of her family and have a homecooked meal!

Esi also took us to meet some of her and Nana’s friends who are going to be helping us with an upcoming project that I will be blogging about later. The wife is a fashion designer in Ghana and she has a little design school in which she trains young women to sew and create beautiful clothing. Here are some of her students:

And a few other random pictures that survived the deletion episode…

Justice writing out his new name:

And Justice and Prince the night that we were getting ready to leave Ghana.
It was hard to say goodbye to Prince this time around. Just plain sad. Jake and I had been praying about what could be done for him since his student visa had been denied again. Esi had offered Prince the opportunity to come and live with her when his visa was denied, but at the time he had turned her down. The night we were getting ready to leave, we talked to Prince about the opportunity with Esi again, and this time he opened up and said that he was scared and that was why he had turned her down. One of the main problems with Prince’s current situation is that the school he goes to does not teach English. He can speak very little English, and if he is ever going to try and apply for the visa again, he is really going to need to be able to communicate. By the time we left, Esi had made plans to take Prince in and help him get into a good school, so I will have to keep you updated on him.

Kofi had also gotten in touch with Justice’s birthmother to let her know that Justice had gotten his visa and would soon be leaving for America. Kofi said that if she would like to say goodbye that she could come down and see Justice before we left on Friday. Friday morning Justice’s birthmother traveled down from their village up in the mountains with a few of the ‘uncles’ that we had met previously. Justice’s little brother, Kwasi, came too and we all had breakfast at our hotel. Our time with Justice’s birthmother was perfect. She was so happy and excited for Justice. His birthmother doesn’t speak English so it’s hard to communicate (Kofi wasn’t there to interpret) but she recognized a few words like ‘airplane’ and ‘Samuel (Justice) is so excited’. We took about 30 pictures with Justice’s birthmother and little brother. And, I am sad to say that every single one of them were part of the bunch that got accidently deleted when Justice was using my camera. If you press the delete button on my camera there is an option that says ‘delete all in date range’ and then if you select it they are all wiped out in an instant. You can imagine that I was pretty disappointed. However, if there is a bright side it is that I do have a bunch of pictures of Justice’s birthmother from our first meeting back in December, so at least we still have those. Going into this international adoption I never dreamed that I would ever get the opportunity to meet our child’s birthparents. In my amateur knowledge I honestly thought we would adopt a child who had been abandoned to an orphanage and have no idea who his/her parents were. Getting to meet Justice’s birthmother has been one of my cherished memories of this entire journey. It’s like discovering a piece of your child’s being that you otherwise would never have record of. To end our time with Justice’s birthmother we all stood in the hotel parking lot holding hands while Jake prayed for us and thanked God for intersecting all of our lives. Then the last memory I have of that morning was Justice taking a picture of me and his birthmother…..and then I remember her and I hugging and her walking to the car waving and saying ‘Bye!’ which is the only English word she is able to say. I know we will see her again. I can clearly picture us taking Justice back to Ghana in a few years for a visit. What a joyous day that will be for them to be reunited sometime in the future. I’ve said it before, but as far as I am concerned, this is an open adoption, and we will keep in touch with Justice’s birthmother through photos and eventually visits. For now we are oceans away….
But we will see her again.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

And He's Off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am going to save our Ghana pictures for tomorrow because something really exciting has happened today! Check it out....

video

Sorry Daddy, but Mommy definitely gets to take credit for coaching this one! :) Justice has endlessly been practicing and practicing on his new bike for the past 3 days. He was so determined to figure it out. We didn't get close until last night when he finally was able to pedal on his own about two times around before falling. I had a feeling he would get the hang of it this afternoon, and when we tried after lunch he figured it out just in time for Sam to seem him as he came off the school bus! He still needs help getting started, but he can at least balance and pedal now. Obviously we still need to perfect the stopping/brakes as well. :) I didn't get to be there when Justice took his first steps, but God gave me the opportunity to watch him reach this milestone, and it feels just as exciting!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Days Home

Just wanted to post a few more pictures of our first days home with Justice. I mentioned yesterday that once we got home from the airport Justice was practically glued to his bike! After awhile he began a full investigation of all our numerous and random toys! He found these animal figurines and set them all up and wanted me to take his picture.
However, the biggest hit by far was the NERF GUNS! Once he found those he went crazy the rest of the night shooting everyone and running around the house. After the first few days with Justice we have learned that he loves the 'rough and tumble' boy stuff like toy guns (water & nerf), wrestling, playing with the toys that make the loudest noise, wrestling, any sort of electronic games, and oh, did I mention wrestling? :) He isn't much into sports yet, but I think JJ may rub off on him a little bit! By bedtime on the first night home JJ and Justice picked up right where they had left off in June.


JJ and Justice have such different personalities, yet they get along SO WELL.....I am sure you can see it from the pictures. Jayla has also let Justice into her little world.....slowly.....but she is really warming up to him being around. Justice likes to pick Jayla up and hold her hand and tries to help her with things, but Jayla is just not a touch person so she is usually pushing him away or getting mad at him for trying to help her. She just likes to do things herself, but Justice is SUCH A HELPER so he sweetly keeps trying to win her over by looking out for her and doing big brother things. :)

Since Justice loved his bike so much, we took a quick trip to Walmart to get him a bike that fits his tallness a little better. No training wheels on this one though.....so this will be Daddy's first big task....teaching Justice how to ride a bike. So far they've only had 1 practice session and Justice was very scared.


I think it will just take a few more practice sessions and hopefully he will get the hang of it. For now he says "I want to drive my little bike because I can go very fast!" So far, the past few days all he has wanted to do is ride his bike. We are out in the driveway by 8:30am each morning so he can roll along his little sidewalk path. Whenever we go anywhere in the car he asks if he can put his bike in the 'boot' (trunk). He wants to take it with us in case he gets the opportunity to ride it! He even wanted to bring it to the gym yesterday!

Justice's English has been so impressive. Back in December when we first met him he knew hardly any English words and answered every question with 'yes'. Now he speaks in full sentences and can communicate easily. This undoubtedly is because of his time living with Nana and Esi as they speak English in their home. The transition of changing his name from Samuel to Justice has also been very easy. While we were in Ghana, we still were calling him Samuel because everyone else there knew him as that. But I kept telling him on the plane that once we got to the U.S. airport in Atlanta we were going to start calling him Justice, and we did. It seemed so awkward at first, but once we got home and all of our family and friends were also calling him Justice it went pretty smooth. After one day he was answering to his new name, and now a few days later when I look at him my mind says Justice instead of Samuel. :)

The transition of bringing Justice home has really followed exactly what I pictured. For the past few months when we would go places I would always picture the day that Justice would be home with us, and now that he is, it just seems normal and how I thought it would be. :)



I hope that through these pictures you can see the fullness of JOY that lives in this little boy. After all the change that he has gone through over the past 10 months, to have a spirit that is this light-hearted, fun-loving, and resilient is just amazing! I think our entire family can learn something from Justice. :)


And now, with Justice home we all can finally figure out the 'new normal'.


Tomorrow I will post some pictures of our time in Ghana.

Monday, September 27, 2010

More Pictures Of Justice's Homecoming!!!!

Alright, here are the airport pictures!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you to my friend Stacy, and to my mom, for taking all of these awesome snapshots.......

Jayla, lil J.J., big JJ, and Nyla wait for us in excitement!


At the DM airport you have to wait at the bottom of the escalator for the passengers to come off the planes! I can't imagine the anticipation of them waiting to see us pop over the escalator! I had dreamed about and pictured this moment over and over and over in my mind since June. Here we come!


WELCOME HOME!!!!!!!!!!!

You can't see him in the picture but Justice and Jake were greeted by JJ first!

Justice gets a big hug from Grandpa Tim.


Coach Julian teaches Justice a new American handshake!

Me and my loves. :)

Love this smile!

They finally get to see eachother again!!!!!!!!

Brothers!

Jayla liked Justice's balloons. :) Justice had never had a sweatshirt with a hood on it before, so you will see in lots of pictures that he always has his hood up! Jayla also likes her hood up!



Justice with Grandma Lori, Uncle Eli, and Grandpa Tim.

HEADED HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When we pulled onto our road Justice saw our house and pointed it out in the distance saying "That's home!" He remembered from the picture book we had made him and given to him when we first met. :) Once we pulled in the driveway we took him inside and showed him his room and his clothes and toys. Then he immediately wanted to go outside. So we showed him his bike and he LOVED IT! He had never been on a bike before, and he rode and rode up and down the side walk for at least an hour. This bike turned out to be a little small for this tall boy, but it didn't stop him one bit!


More pictures tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Sunday, September 26, 2010

WE ARE HOME!

I have SO MUCH to blog about and share with you all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Right now I have about 25 minutes to crank out a quick post and give a victory shout that we are home and all accounted for! All together AT LAST! We had a beautiful and teary-eyed welcoming at the airport when we arrived yesterday, and by 6pm we had rolled into our driveway, ready to have some food and fellowship with family and friends. Justice did awesome on the airplanes, and has adjusted perfectly and easily to coming home. It’s quite apparent that he has been used to so much change, and the transition for him at home has been extremely easy so far because of that. I HAVE SO MANY DETAILS TO SHARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! Right now I just wanted to post a few pictures of our reunion in Ghana, and the excitement of getting to go to the airport with our son!

When we arrived in Ghana we were greeted by Yaw’s family and of course by a little boy with a great big smile who was full of excitement!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Our flight got into Ghana at 7:30am, but Esi told us Justice had been up since 4am because he couldn’t sleep! She said she had heard him rustling around in the house, so she got up, sensed his excitement and said, “Let’s start packing!” So they packed up his stuff at 4am! Justice even arrived at the airport with his bags, all ready to go (and we still had almost 2 days before our flight left for home). :)

Unfortunately, my pictures from Day 1 and some from Day 2 accidently got deleted by a sweet and curious little boy who likes to press buttons on the camera (we learned our lesson the hard way) but lots of good pictures survived. The one I am really missing is the picture I took of Jake and Justice right when we got into the Ghana airport. The smile on Justice’s face just took my breath away! Here is that same smile, going strong on Day 2 of us in Ghana….

I have a few more posts of our time in Ghana that I will do later, for now here are just a few pictures of the night that we got to head to the airport! Oh, it was so exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You can’t even imagine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Here we are with Kofi, right before we hopped in the car to head to the airport. Thank you for all your hard work Kofi!

And here is Justice pictured with Yaw's family at the airport right before we checked in. Esi and Nana have a little spot carved out in their hearts for Justice now too. They were so excited for him to start his new life here, but I could tell they were going to miss him a lot! The best thing about them caring for Justice for us the past few months is that they got to experience and understand the beauty of international adoption and Esi now says, "Adoption is SO good!"

And the moment we waited 2 years for.....boarding the flight to head to the United States of America!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In Ghana you get to board the plane outside, so it is such a cool feeling to walk up to the big, huge, plane.

Right before take-off....

Our flight from Ghana to Atlanta was just over 11 hours. Justice did wonderful....we slept for about 7 1/2 hours. In the morning we switched spots so he could look out the window. He was glued to the window for about an hour straight. He kept asking me if we were moving and he kept saying 'the plane is going slow'.


When we got to Atlanta we had to go through customs & immigrations and it took almost 1 hour and 20 minutes. We ended up missing our flight because we didn't give ourselves enough time in between arrival and departure to get through everything.....I have more to post about all that, but it all ended up working out. Here is Justice eating his first American meal (he chose chicken and rice).

And that is all you get for today! I am hoping to post our homecoming pictures sometime tomorrow once I get a chance to sort through them all. For now we are all doing well, and just so excited to finally have our family ALL TOGETHER!