Thursday, June 7, 2012


Having just celebrated mother's day and looking forward to father's day brings the gracious gift of our daughter more sharply before me. In thinking about the gifts adoption brings, there is an odd sentiment some people express when they talk to me about Lucy's path into our family...kind, well-meaning folks remark on how "good" and "generous" Peter and I are to have "saved" Lucy from her life in Ethiopia. I understand what the complimentary intentions behind such words are, but they are so far from our reality. When we adopted Lucy, our dreams were fulfilled, and aside from the normal loss of freedom all first-time parents experience, we gave up nothing to become her parents. We received all the gifts from Lucy, from Ethiopia, from God. With Lucy, our cup continually runneth over, and we feel blessed by every kiss, every laugh, every tear she bestows on us. Yet, Lucy lost everything to become our daughter. She lost her first family, her birth country, her language, her home, her history, and her culture. We work to restore some of these losses, however imperfectly, but we know the gains she has experienced from becoming our daughter are deeply tempered by the primal losses she has experienced. Yes, I am Lucy's real mother. But in loving her, and watching her grow, I can get tears in my eyes wondering if her smile looks like her first mother's smile, or if her laugh sounds like her first father's laugh. She and i will never know. The thought of losing her fills me with terror. And I see clearly the deep loss experienced by a woman I will never know or meet. I grieve for her first mother, and for Lucy. The sad reality is that, from the child's perspective, loss is the foundation of adoption. For me, as her mother, it is all gains. I am no great gift or savior to my child. I am just as she deserves. I am what life owes her. But she is the greatest gift of my life. I didn't save Lucy, she saved me.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Really? 5.5 months since my last post?

I adore Lucy. Adore. Guess many moms would say the same. But my adoration is so precious, late coming in her life, and in mine (relatively speaking). I adore how she wakes up and smiles so broadly at mom or dad, who ever is first into the nursery to greet her and sing the good morning song. I love how she clings to me, while waving good morning at her friends in daycare. I love how she hurls her toys and abandons her buddies when I return to pick her up. I love how she whines during the drive home, feeling so secure with me she doesn't have to be charming and winsome after our day apart, but can be her toddler self, secure in mom's love to be bratty for the 30 minutes it takes to get home. I love how she shouts "Hi, Jane!" to our dog when we get home, how she watches the dogs in the yard and lets me know when they want to come in, how she hugs me and wants in-my-lap story time when we get home, and dinner soon after. I love her gleeful laughs if we get time in the wading pool, or at least make tsunami splashes in the bathtub in the late afternoon. I love how she holds me back, drinks her nighttime bottle staring into my eyes, and climbs on my shoulder for goodnight rocking before bed.

I love her, I do. I love her more, more, more than I thought my heart capable of loving. I cry at hallmark ads. I refuse to watch the movie "rabbit hole" w/ Nicole Kidman about losing a toddler, I can't stomach sad movies at all anymore. I feel more productive during my hours at work, knowing my hours with Lucy will be totally, completely, LUCY!

I love my husband more, watching care for and love our daughter.

I love God more, praying for Lucy at night.

I love myself more, observing me becoming the more expanded Michelle, with a heart brimming over for her, that I always hoped to be.

So, in all, Lucy has brought greater love to my life. A life I thought was fairly great before she arrived in the picture. A life I now know, was incomplete without her.

Thank god for my little girl...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Embassy date confirmed: Jan 3rd, 2011

In exactly 12 hours, our plane will lift off from Bradley International Airport and we will begin the long journey to finally, finally, bring our daughter home! The house is spotless, the nursery is ready, Lucy's closet is filled with freshly laundered clothes, there's homemade baby food in the freezer, and mom is sleepless with anticipation.

We will be staying at the care center where Lucy presently lives, and taking full-time custody of her after our embassy hearing on Monday. We will be taking a day trip to Woliso to see where she is from, including St. Mary's church. We will be learning her food, sleep, and play habits, and trying to learn how to properly change her diaper, bathe her, and soothe her.

We will be shedding many tears of joy and repeatedly thanking all of you who have cared for us, helped us, and waited with us for this glorious time.

Next time you see us, you'll be awestruck by our stunning girl. We certainly are!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Court date confirmed!

December 3, 2010.... that's our day in the Ethiopian court and when we'll become the legal parents of Louise Mariam Landstrom!

We are in the process of buying plane tickets and celebrating. We will meet Lucy for the first time on December 1st or 2nd. We'll be traveling home on Dec. 4th and then waiting another 3 to 7 weeks to bring her home to Williamsburg.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Travel information

Our adoption agency contacted us today to say we are likely in the next travel group and will likely travel for our court date in early December. We will know for sure in a few more days. Thought it would happen earlier, and Lucy is unlikely to be home for
Christmas, but at least there is news! Most kids are being approved by the American embassy to come home about one month after the Ethiopian court date. So now we hope to bring Lucy home in January.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Paperwork Chase, part 17

After congratulating us on accepting our referral, our adoption agency announced, "Back to the paperwork!" We mailed our passports and visa applications for entry into Ethiopia to the Ethiopian Embassy in DC yesterday. Hopefully they'll come back to us later this month! We also found out that the American Embassy in Ethiopia actually has all of our current paperwork and government approvals for adopting, hooray! We were told it is very common for the American Embassy to *not* have the right paperwork, necessitating rounds of petitions, sometimes with the assistance of one's congressperson, to get it all worked out. But it looks like we're going to be spared that particular paper chase.

We also found out that Lucy's Ethiopian birth certificate and Ethiopian passport will have the first name the orphanage workers gave her, Bikiltu, plus Peter's name as her legal name (thus, "Bikiltu Peter Landstrom") We'll rename her legally (Louise Mariam Landstrom) when we re-adopt her in the U.S. While she'll be legally our child after the court hearing in Ethiopia, and an American citizen upon entry to the U.S., in order for her to have an American birth certificate we have to go through the American adoption court process again after we get home. Ah yes, the paper chase, part 24 awaits....But now I have this picture of our beautiful daughter before me, and her big eyes make all the additional paperwork less tedious.

In other news, the Ethiopian courts are closed for annual holidays until the end of September. So we won't know until early/mid-October, at the earliest, when our court date will be and when we'll make the first trip to Addis Ababa. Luckily (?) the school year is kicking into high gear and September will disappear for me before I know it.

Love to all,

Friday, August 20, 2010

More information about baby Lucy

Okay, now that I'm descending from the heavens, here's some more detail about Lucy. The doctors estimate she was born around February 3rd, 2010, and she was admitted to the orphanage on March 8th, 2010. Woliso, the town where she currently resides and very likely the town of her birth, is about 45,000 people, and located 115 km southwest from the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. Woliso is in the Oromo region, thus, Lucy's ethnicity is very likely Oromo. With 30 million members, they constitute the single largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and approximately 34.49% of the population according to the 2007 census. Their native language is Oromo (also called Afaan Oromoo and Oromiffa), which is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. The Oromo people are the largest ethnic grouping in Ethiopia, which has a total of 74 ethnically diverse language groups. About 95% are settled agriculturalists and nomadic pastoralists, practicing traditional farming methods and living at subsistence level. A few live in the urban centres.

Lucy's family brought her to the Bethesaida Kidist Mariam -- the St. Mary of Bethesda's Church, which is an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian church located in Woliso. Thus, we've used "Mariam" as her middle name. Woliso (sometimes spelled Waliso, or Walisso, or formerly known as Ghion) is known for its fresh water springs, and St. Mary's church reports that over 9 million people have made the pilgramage to Woliso to partake of the curative waters. During one of our two trips to Ethiopia this fall, we plan to take a trip to Waliso to see Bethesaida Kidist Mariam and the orphanage where Lucy spent her early months. By the time we travel to Ethiopia, she will have been transferred to Horizon House in Addis Ababa, the orphanage run by our adoption agency, Wide Horizons for Children.

So those are the details we have, and we are so delighted to be able to explore Lucy's cultural and ethnic background in advance. What a wonder the internet is!

Baby Lucy!

The stars have aligned! Today we accepted our referral of a 6 month old baby girl! We hope to travel for the court date to adopt Louise (Lucy) Mariam Landstrom in late October/early November, and hopefully bring her home by the end of the year!

Such a wonderful day and so long awaited!

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Wishin' and hopin'
And thinkin' and prayin'
Plannin' and dreamin' ......

of you....

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Still Waiting....

We haven't disappeared anywhere, we are still waiting for a referral. This spring we got to revisit the entire home study process, including fingerprinting, medical check-ups, financial updates, and re-applying to USCIS for our authorization to adopt...because our original documents were set to expire. Hopefully all of this paperwork will be sent by our adoption agency to the government again this week.

We are very hopeful of a referral this summer. It is increasingly hard to wait, but we did finally pick names (and thanks to everyone who gave us their opinion)! Sorry, no spoiler here, you'll have to wait to see what our little darling's name will be (everyone should get some practice waiting, no?).

Keep your fingers crossed for us on this terrifically long journey. Thank you for your support! Hopefully my next entry will have good news to report, and not take six more months....

Keeping the faith, M

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

For Thanksgiving

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I share a child's prayer of thanks said at meals in the orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It's humbling to understand their thankfulness for what we westerners might find to be so very little. I hope your Thanksgiving tables are bountiful, your circle of friends and family is full of love, and that you work for ways to share that bounty and widen that circle in the coming year.


Besima ab wold bmenfes-kidus ahadn amlak Amen.

Ig-ze-hab-ehair hoi yehenin megib latu letr-rabu kema-yalkou berakaten ende-miti-seta-chawn-na ber-legha be-Yesus Christos sem Amen.

Yeseru yesetu ejoch yebaracu belegha be-Yesus Christos sem Amen.


In the name of the father, the son, and the holy ghost amen.
Oh God, for those who don't have food, for the starved ones, for the everlasting gift of your son Jesus Christ. Amen.
Bless those who worked and gave their hands to the hungry and starving. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Update on Waiting

Ah... still waiting after 10.5 months on the referral waiting list...after 15 months since our initial contact with the adopting agency...waiting....good things come to those who wait?

Talked to our case manager today who said we are likely to receive a referral in March/April (please not as late as May!). And if all goes well, should travel to Ethiopia to finally become parents sometime during May/June/July 2010.

So keep your fingers crossed for us as we hope these timelines don't continue to stretch into the great and endless future...

We are thankful that a big chunk of the wait is behind us, and for our supportive friends and family this Thanksgiving.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

-- Emily Dickinson

Here's to hope.... we're off to DC Sunday for the inauguration and celebrating our finally being on the referral wait list, as of 1/12/09.

Monday, January 12, 2009


After a little mix-up last week where it seemed the Department of Homeland Security had "lost" my fingerprints (they actually filed them under "Buding" rather than "Budig," no idea how that one came about...), we had good news today. The Boston DHS branch faxed our adoption agency the news that we had passed our fingerprint clearance and that our I600A (advanced petition to adopt an orphan) had been approved! Yea! So we are officially a "waiting family" and on the wait list for a referral. I think our "log-in" date is today, or 01/12/09.

As of last week, the "next family" on the wait list who is waiting for a child referral in our age bracket had a log in date of 3/13/08. So we are hopeful that we will be referred a child before the end of this year. Keep your fingers crossed!

In other news, we have taken in a stray kitten who had come to live under our front porch. She's a beautiful black kitten with yellow eyes. We've named her Zhana and are entranced with her. She's still vacillating between being a snuggler and an under-the-bed-hider.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Another update

Peter and I had a phone meeting with the program coordinator of the Ethiopia program at Wide Horizons for Children (WHFC) yesterday. She confirmed that once we get on the waiting list for a referral (please send us our document Dept. of Homeland Security!) our wait time for a referral should be within 12 months. And we hope to get on that list by January 8th.

She said we would likely be referred a child aged 13 to 24 months old. And that most of the referrals are coming from three regions in Ethiopia: the capital of Addis Ababa, a southern region called Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region (SNNPR) (primarily the Sidama ethnic group), and a northern region of Tigray. Addis Ababa is in the center of the country, SNNPR borders Kenya to the south and Sudan to the west, and Tigray borders Eritrea to the north and Sudan to the west. In case you're curious, here's a map of the regions of Ethiopia:

While Amharic is the official language of all of Ethiopia, different languages are spoken in this various regions -- Amharic in Addis Ababa, Tigrinya in Tigray, and primarily Sidamigna in SNNRP, though there are at least 10 different languages spoken in the SNNRP alone. Once the children are referred to WHFC, however, they all travel to Addis Ababa to live in the WHFC orphanage until adoptive parents travel to pick them up. There, the language is predominantly Amharic. So, we hope to learn basic Amharic in the coming year to be able to speak with our toddler when he/she arrives.

In that spirit, Melikam yelidet beale Melikam Addis Amet! (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Totally Unrelated Funny Story

Let me tell you a story about a car, a smelly heater that died, and the dog food...

Two weeks ago Peter's car heater quit working. But of course he is so busy, he didn't have time to get it fixed and simply started wearing lots of long underwear to make his 45 minute commute, each way, to Westfield every day. Then his car started smelling really bad.

Peter kept telling me, "My car smells like dog food!" I kept saying, "Get the heater fixed!" Then I rode in his car one day to a place we go running (we didn't want to stink up my really nice car with our post-running scents). His car stunk! It smelled like a rotten banana. Peter said, "My car smells like dog food!!" I responded, "No it doesn't, it smells like something died, or rotted! It smells like a rotten banana! You have a rotten banana somewhere in your car! Clean your car! Get the heater fixed!!" And so forth. I can really get on a soap box and yell. Peter says he likes that about me. Most of the time...

So this week, since my classes had ended and I could work from home for a couple days, I loaned Peter my car and we took his to the shop to get the heater fixed. The car guys said, "It'll be around 40 bucks for the part and 50 bucks for the labor to put in the new 'switch' for the burned out heater." Whatever that meant. We left it Tuesday morning at 6am, hoping to retrieve it that afternoon.

Around 3pm I called the car guys and asked when it would be ready. They said something about the part not coming in, but it should be in, and they would rush and have it done at 5:30. I walked down the hill for the car at 5pm. I said "Hi, I'm here for the Echo." The car guys looked at each other and started laughing. They said "Come out here, you gotta see this." I was reluctant, thinking they were going to show me a nest of dead mice in the engine. They reassured me saying, "No, this is cute. This is funny."

The car guys walk me up to the car and open the passenger door. THE ENTIRE FLOOR OF THE CAR IS FLOODED WITH DOG CHOW! I say, "You've gotta be kidding me! Did my husband call and put you up to this? This is nuts!" They say, "No, it's dog food! When we pulled out the dash to get at the heater, about 8 pounds of dog food cascaded into the car from the heater box." (ok, they probably didn't say 'cascaded').

So the heater box, and every nook and cranny of the car engine was filled with dog food. ??? Obviously, the car isn't ready. I trudge back up the hill, walk over to the 40 pound bag of dog food we had stored in the garage, and pick it up. It's light as a feather. There is a hole in the bottom and the bag is 2/3rds empty.

All the previous week I had called my dog Belle away from that bag as she (blindly) wandered through the garage to her doggy door that leads to an outdoor run. I couldn't figure why she kept going off her well worn path around the cars to that little door to investigate the dog food bag. Our dogs are not enamored with dog food. They are free fed Purina dog chow 24-hours a day, and it's just not something that excites them. Turns out my blind dog was scenting on the rodents pillaging her dog food.

Well, the next day and $240 smackers later, Peter's car had a new heater and was free from dog food. We've moved the dog food into the house and have bought dryer sheet softeners. We've been told to pack those into the nooks and crannies of the car to keep the rodents out. Apparently they like the smell of rotten bananas over fresh laundry.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dossier Accepted!

Yea! We just heard from Katie Landry at Wide Horizons for Children that our error-free dossier has been accepted by the Ethiopia program. She said she was impressed by the careful way we prepared it and we don't need to fix anything!

What happens now is our adoption agency sends it to various government agencies (American and Ethiopian) for seals of verification (called apostilles). The one last thing we are waiting for is the official approval from USCIS/Dept. of Homeland Security regarding our advance petition to adopt an orphan (the I600A form for which we were fingerprinted on Dec. 6th). The prediction is we will have that in hand by the first or second week of January 2009, and at that point we will be "logged in" on the official waiting list for a referral of a child.

So everything is on track and moving along as we had hoped. Woo-Hoo!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Medical Missions to Ethiopia

Still waiting to hear from the adoption agency on our dossier. Still waiting to hear from Homeland Security about our application. But in the meantime, have been following our adoption agency's latest initiatives in Ethiopia...

I'm reading an excellent book, "There Is No Me Without You," and wrapping presents for our Christmas in the midwest. Hoping for snow and skiing soon!

Monday, December 8, 2008

We Need Africa

We need Africa more than Africa needs us.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered!

Happy Thanksgiving Eve to you! Peter and I sent ALL of our final documents to our adoption agency (aka, the dossier), completely notarized, certified, and bonafied today. We also received our fingerprint appointment from the Department of Homeland Security and will be doing that on December 6th in Hartford, Conn. Now, unless they find any errors in our paperwork, we ARE DONE with everything that can be done. And we will begin the waiting period for a referral. Yea!! We celebrated by going out to some hoity-toity French restaurant this evening.

Tomorrow I'm making apple pie for friends, but otherwise hanging out quietly. Peter is working the holiday and this coming weekend, though he is off on Friday. We picked out our tree on Sunday and it is awaiting my careful adornment, so perhaps I'll conquer that tomorrow. Last year Peter put the tree up by himself because I was in Germany, so I'm looking forward to it this year.

One exciting bit of news is that our congressman gave us tickets to Barack Obama's inauguration in January! We are really excited to go, and have booked a trip from Jan 17-21. We'll be in DC for Martin Luther King Day and the next day for the inauguration. We couldn't believe we got tickets, although I did write our congressman for them on election night.

We have many things and many people to be thankful for this year. We are especially thankful to our very caring friends who have written us endless letters of evaluation for our adoption (that'd be you Sanjiv, Jen, Eric, and Suzi, thanks!!!!) We're also thankful for the support from other friends and family. I don't imagine we'll have our child home yet next Thanksgiving, but hopefully not too long after that.

Love and blessings to you all.....