So, this year is the beginning of the end of a very long journey. I am speaking in regards to the final adoption process for my five new Ugandan sisters. They are such a blessing to my life and so I have decided to include in this entry the original email about how this journey began in 2006 in Africa so that everyone can be up to speed about what is happening.
Entry from this month's newsletter:
"For almost 6 years now we have had 5 children under KIK's care. Three are siblings, one came from the ghetto and one was abandoned as a baby. We have taken in many more children over the years and some have been with us for years and some were under our care for only a short time. These 5 have remained and I feel that I am supposed to adopt them and make a permanent family with them. Not only that but if something were to ever happen in the country which made it impossible for me to stay I would want to be able to take them with me. Currently I am considered their foster Mother and am working on the papers to go to the Ugandan Courts to become their permanent Mother. Once this process is done we then apply for visas to the USA and the kids will get health check-ups to enter the States. Once in the states we then will go before a judge to make the process final. We expect to be in the States by the end of November. Please stand and agree with us that everything goes quickly, smoothly and everything we need to accomplish this is provided.-Tomi"
THE KIDS TODAY
Six years ago (it is long but worth the read):
March 19th 2006: Saturday (yesterday), my mom went to pick up the two little orphans. I went to town with Moses to check the post office and go to the bank. When I returned I waited at Molly’s to see the girls. Mom and Molly arrived without them. The story that follows is absolutely heart wrenching.
My mom and Molly went to pick up the girls from the older woman who has been housing them. Eventually, the real story came out that they weren’t true orphans. The girls themselves told the story to Molly and Margaret as they sat kneeling in their worn dresses who then translated it to my mom. Their father and mother had decided to split for whatever reasons and their mother told the father to, “throw them in the street and maybe someone would take them”. The girls over heard this conversation between their parents while hiding around the corner. They were abandoned on the side of the road. There were four sisters in total. The father decided to keep the youngest of the four Eron, but when when he remarried life was worse than ever for Eron because the new mother hated her. Once her step-mom because pregnant with a child of her own the beatings because more frequent as her dislike of Eron intensified. The oldest sister went to a woman who still cares for her and the two middle sisters, Proscovia and Esther, went to this older woman. They quietly begged my mom to please take them. By the time they had finished their story Molly and Margaret were crying so hard they had difficulty translating to my mom. They all went to look for the biological father to see if he would be willing to sign over parental rights. They found where he lived, but he was out working and the step-mom was yelling at Eron, as was her routine. They told my mom and Molly to return Sunday at 8am and he would sign them over. Leaving the three girls in their situation tore my mom apart. When she returned that night and told me the story herself we were both in tears and knew that this situation was special. There are a lot of children in Africa and a lot of orphans, but sometimes someone comes along and you just know it was meant to be. Whether friendship, love, or a child. These children without having even met them tug at my heart in such a way that I knew my life would never be the same. I could see behind my mom’s eyes that she too felt the same thing.
I went with them the next morning. After a chilly and rainy bus ride we arrived in a village where they gave us wooden benches to sit on. The ground was turned to hard mud and the sky had no blue in it. The mist around us only added to the thick tension in the air. We waited for the father and we were able to meet the woman who had been “caring” for the two middle sisters, Esther and Proscovia. Suddenly, from behind one of the houses a very tiny figure emerged in a bright blue dress. It was Prossy, short for Proscovia. Her hair shaved nearly bald and sparse and her dress, while freshly washed, had holes and stains. It was also entirely too big as one shoulder hung off to the side. She meekly walked over with her tiny bare and dirty feet and kneeled in front of my mother. Kneeling is a sign of respect and a cultural way for women to greet elders and men. We were told she was five years old only to find out from the doctor later that she was not even four. A few minutes later an even smaller girl appeared, Esther. She shuffled over to me and kneeled in her mismatched, tattered dress and skirt in front of me. I could see that she was shivering. Instinctively and immediately I picked her up, plopped her on my lap; unzipped my jacket and wrapped her inside it. She was not quite three years old even though they told us she was at least four. As the two girls sat on me and my mother’s laps, silently shivering under our coats I freely let the tears come. I was genuinely shocked at how small they were. They had been forced into hard labor since being abandoned and things like carrying water on their heads had severely stunted their growth. The villagers then brought the youngest, Eron who was not even two years old, but we were told she was two and a half. Esther and Prossy were practically the same size as Eron. They also talked to each other in hushed voices that rival the most beautiful birds that sing. They spoke no English, only Luganda. By the time the biological father finally arrived they had stopped shivering and were sitting comfortably in our laps. Molly interpreted that he had to sign over all parental and visitation rights for all three girls. He initially agreed to sign over the two oldest, but almost recanted about Eron. Finally, he signed the paperwork. We took pictures and left.
They were most adorable things you have ever seen. The first time Esther smiled I laughed because I realized she had no front teeth. She had apparently fallen and broken her four top teeth so someone in the village just pulled the rest of them out. Almost immediately they called my mom, “mamma”. Prossy and Esther wore a size 2-3 toddler and the Eron wore about 18mon old clothes. They are very smart girls. When we arrived home we gave them each a stuffed animal that they call their babies and they carried with them everywhere. After a few days they started to relax and talk more. Prossy was smart as a whip. I also think she is slightly OCD. For example she lines the crayons up according to color and size before she puts them away. Esther likes to bug Eron because they are the same size and she has quite the little personality. Eron just kind of goes with the flow and will most likely adjust the easiest because she is the youngest. This was the first time they didn’t have to do hard manual labor and are able to just play. We taught them how to brush their teeth and I bathed each of them. I noticed a multitude of scars on their backs, stomachs, and legs from vicious beatings and I tried to be as gentle as I could. I had to force a smile as I carefully washed their broken but tough skin. They told our house girl that it was the first warm bath they have ever had and when I washed them it wasn’t rough so it didn’t hurt. Previously, when it would rain they would be taken out, stripped down and scrubbed harshly for their baths. They actually want to take baths now for the first time in their lives. They know where the outside toilets are and use them on their own, even the Eron. They can all stand over the hole and do their thing. Wearing underwear is a new thing for them as well. Showing them how to play with coloring books was incredibly fun for them. They played with toy cars thought that was just the silliest thing. I wish there was someplace I could go get finger-paints and fun kid stuff for them. Tuesday we are taking them for medical checkups. We know the youngest is anemic and since we’ve had her has been coughing and having trouble sleeping. Prosy has ringworm, which is causing her hair to grow sparsely and randomly and is developing cavities from chewing sugar cane. Esther seems ok so far other than her missing teeth. They do all have malnourished, bloated, distended bellies.
Even though we got them bunk beds they are so small all three can sleep in one bed, but the baby has trouble sleeping so she sleeps with my mom. The other two sleep on the bottom bunk side by side because they are too small to even begin to reach the top. Even though mom is officially their mother raising them is a joint effort. It is slightly odd to be raising kids full time before I am married or a mother. All my other jobs with kids I got to go home at the end of the night to an empty house. The language gap makes it an even bigger adventure! Bottom line is they are my new sisters. They know I am their big sister as well. At least Kelli isn’t the only black child in the family any more. (For those who understand the joke you can laugh, for those who don’t…don’t worry about it).Today we are going to Owino, which is a HUGE outdoor market to get clothes for the girls. We left them with the housekeeper because Owino is dangerous even for adults. They didn’t want us to leave and cried. They don’t realize that we come home every night. When we asked them what they wanted us to bring them back, they asked for bread. That made my mom and I smile. Bread is one of those things people take for granted and yet seems so simple. Eventually, it will get easier for them. Molly came over today and said they looked so different and happy. Eron, the oldest even though she’s small still acts like an adult and takes care of the other two. She hasn’t realized she is still just a kid.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. -Robert Frost