Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Travel Journal: Day 7 (Wednesday)

Since we were had a different appointment day than everyone else in our group, today was our appointment at the Embassy. It’s nice to have a reason to go out and see more of the city!  We got the kids up, dressed and looking cute, then went down for breakfast and played out in the courtyard until our driver arrived to take us to the Embassy.  We played with rocket balloons and a couple of balls until he arrived. We loaded into the van and we were on our way! The kids seemed really nervous in the van and Baby Boy started sweating to the point that his clothes were getting damp. I felt really sad for him. What was he remembering? What was making him so nervous? I know they had he long ride from the first care center to the transition home in Addis... was he remembering that big change? It's so hard not to know what will trigger memories that cause such sadness.

We arrived at the embassy and it started to rain. Several young men were waiting for the van with umbrellas and asking to escort us. Since we didn’t have any single birr notes with us, we declined.  We declined several times to several people, but they still insisted on “helping” us. Our driver said something in Amharic and they finally left. I felt very nervous being "out" with the kids in public. I had Baby Boy attached to me in the sling and Paul carried the girls quickly into the security check-in area at the Embassy.

We went through a metal detector and walked into a large outdoor waiting area where we sat for 20 seconds before being motioned inside.  Inside the building was chaotic. We handed over our passports and went through another metal detector where our bags were searched and scanned before passing through another door and back outside to walk over to the visa processing area. The rain slowed to a drizzle and we waited under a small overhang outside the main visa building to hear our names called. We met several other adoptive families from other agencies who were there for their appointments as well. Many, many people asked us if our children were triplets, or if the girls were twins!

Finally our names were called and we made our way up the stairs to the small interview area. There were 8 or so people behind plexiglass booths like at a racetrack. We made our way over to one of the men who waved at us.  He was a nice man and asked us several pleasant questions about Tennessee and our lives back home. You could tell it was nice for him to speak with some Americans for a few moments. We raised our right hands and swore that there was no fraud in our adoption and he stamped our paperwork and said our visa packets would be ready the following day! We were done and it was painless! We left the embassy that day knowing we were homeward bound for sure!

On the way back to the hotel we stopped by the Hilton and the Sheraton hotels to try to get our flights changed to something leaving Thursday or Friday. We were unsuccessful.  Once we were back at the hotel we ate and played in the room until bedtime.

After the kids are all in bed Paul and I watch the WORST American movies ever made! They only show horrible movies on the channels we get… ones we have never heard of, with Amharic sub titles. It’s really fun for us to watch them and make fun of the acting, the graphics and the plot. It’s even more fun to see the advertisements for the upcoming movies and know we will be home by the time they are on TV!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thankful Thuesday

Yeah, I know it's TUEsday... but that doesn't "go" with Thankful.
I could have waited till Thursday...
so get over it! :)

Today I am listing some things I am thankful for, in no particular order!

I am thankful for the Barney VHS I bought at a garage sale for .25! So far, we are up to $.016 per minute of peace and quiet! Well worth that investment.

I am thankful for the cooler fall weather! While I may have frozen most of my children through the night, the cooler air brought an additional 45 minutes of sleep to two of my babies last night! YAY fall!

I am thankful for my hubby. When he isn't here, I think of all the things I could have had help doing, thinking, saying or dealing with... and I realize how much he is a part of me. He loves me even when I am at my worst... 5 days into a sugar-free/chocolate-free existence, and listens to my heart on all the things that I wonder about our future (without freaking out or making me feel like I'm insane).

I am thankful for my children. All 7 of them. I am thankful that the Lord thought enough of me to allow me to parent His babies and that He allows me to continue to do so. The days are long, but the years are short and I realize this more and more the older they (and I) get.

I am thankful for my family and friends.

  • My sister blogs over at The Boltons. She is VERY funny and such a great mom to her new baby girl, my first niece, who is now 6 months old! She takes great photos and always makes me laugh about something! Where as my blog tends to be adoption/orphan/borderline-depressing ... hers is adorable, funny and happiness-inducing! Go say Hi! 
  • I am thankful for my friend Jamey who encourages me and reminds me to be thankful in little things! She is a great mom also and quite an inspiration with the courage she has shown in the face of adversity over the past 4 1/2 months since arriving home with Little Miss from Ethiopia. She always admits when she fails and falls, but always gets back up... and that's the best any of us can do! 
  • We met wonderful people in our travel group when we went to Ethiopia, and while we all live far away from one another, a quick email back and forth helps immensely! To just hear from folks who have been home the same number of days and weeks... and to know you are not alone... it's a huge blessing! 
  • I am thankful for my new friend Katie who just returned home with our kids care center buddy, Yishak! They came over yesterday so he could see that our three aren't afraid of our giant Wooshah, and hopefully he would adjust better to their dog! It was so sweet to see these four kiddos playing together yesterday for the first time since July when they were all still waiting for their families! 
I am thankful for friends who drop off bags of hand-me-down's for my newest babies! This has helped SO much!

I am thankful for those shopping carts at T@rget that will mostly happily seat 3 littles... one in the cart and two in the 5 point harness molded plastic bucket seats! Aaahhhh!

I am thankful for my big comfy couch, which will cradle me this afternoon during nap time while I nurse my stupid headache!

I am thankful for leftover chicken made into chicken salad. I love chicken salad.

I am thankful for our swing set and trampoline. Never underestimate the power of outside play things.

I am thankful for sippy cups and baby gates. They keep my sanity more intact.

I am thankful for Sam's club and their .33/lb bananas. We do not currently have any, which reminds me ow much I miss having bulk bananas in the house.

I am thankful that my Grandpa made it through surgery last night. Life is short and sometimes it takes those harsh reminders to make you appreciate each day a little more.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

One Year

One year ago this weekend someone dropped a pebble into the middle of a pond.

This was the weekend when my husband surprised me for my birthday!
He had been out of town and when he came home, he arrived bearing gifts!
He and the kids gave me the silver heart necklace you normally see me wearing, and
a new vacuum cleaner (don't gasp... it was a request!).
It was late in the evening, so I went and put the kids in the bed and came back down to have some time with my newly-home hubby!
It was then that he presented me with another gift!
I opened the gift and found a new Bible cover/carrying case.
I take a lot of notes and stick all kinds of things into my Bible and my old one was not working out well. The new one has a flap that folds out with a notepad and several pen holder loops! I hear it... "oooohhh! Aaaahhh!!"
After telling him how good of a job he had done, he said to open the Bible cover!
(I'm thinking... okaaaay... I can see on the tag what it does... what's the big deal?)
But I figured he was proud of his choice, so I opened it.
Inside one of the pockets was a check.
Not just any check...
but a check written out to the agency for the application fee!
I instantly burst into tears.
Not pretty little "single glistening tear down the cheek" crying...
sobbing-can't-catch-my-breath crying.
We hugged and laughed about my hysterics and began dreaming about the day sometime in the future when we would bring a baby home!
Little did we know what the Lord had planned!

On the other side of the world, on this same day...
A family in Ethiopia was in trouble.
Faced with two horrible choices...
Stay together and watch three small children starve to death
relinquish them with heavy hearts and hope for their future.
On the other side of the world, our children's birth family made the impossible decision and our three babies entered the Holt care center.

Later in December, when we saw their faces and read their paperwork,
we would see this date and know.
We would know that our first step in obedience had not gone unnoticed.

Today I sit here and look back on this past year...
the decisions we made along the way...
the difficulty in waiting...
the slow updates...
the lack of photo updates...
the money...
the fundraising...
the sleepless nights...
the emotional highs and lows...

Nothing compares to that September day in Ethiopia...
when a family was broken, and another was formed.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Then and NOW

May 2010

And now...
September 2010

Yes, he's still being tortured into photos...
but I think they may be growing already!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ewedeshaloh, baby girl.

Things are happening around here.

Of the things I have loved most since the day we met our babies,
I have loved hearing them speak together in their native language.

I have loved hearing their songs - sung in Wolaytinga and Amharic
(but I won't pretend that I know which is which.).

I have loved trying to use the Amharic words from the
list we received in Addis Ababa from Holt.

I have enjoyed teasing them by intentionally mixing up words... like
Wahtet - milk or Wooshah - dog.
Sometimes I hand LB a cup of milk and say "Wooshah?"
and smile when she gives me that look like
 "Mom, you are so crazy!"

These things are coming to an end.

I can't stop it, no matter how hard I try to use the Amharic I learned.
I can't stop it by demanding they use Amharic, or the blended tongue they use.

But more and more I hear things like this:
"Mommy, no all-done tegna." as she yawns - telling me she wasn't ready to get up from her late nap.
"Mommy, E dat wooshah's bela?"  (Is that the dog's food?)
"Look, Mommy - Wooshah tegna sofa!" (Look Mom, the dog is sleeping on the couch!)

Now I hear Barney songs instead of many of the songs we loved hearing them sing for the past several weeks.

And while it may not seem like full-on English...
I know it's coming.
Like most things in raising children... the time goes by too fast!
We have only been home something like 7 weeks!

I'm not ready to let go of the Ethiopia in my babies just yet.

I wish they could keep their language forever.

I wish they could grow up bi-lingual in a tongue that is rarely heard in America.
I wish they could go back to Ethiopia some day as adults and be able to communicate and feel comfortable in their home land.

So for now, I will tuck you in with "Ewedeshaloh, baby girl! I love you!"

Ewedeshaloh babies!

Mommy loves you so much!
Reading a book while in Ethiopia.

Baby Boy and his kissy lips!

Sweet baby girl!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Travel Journal: Day 6 (Tuesday)

Since it seems most people are uninterested in reading about my Swirly Twirly thoughts...
back to the Travel Journal!
If you forgot where you were in our journey... here is a link to Day 4: Monday

Once we got all three babies up and into our bed for morning hugs and cuddles, we decided they were probably hungry and that we should go to breakfast. 

We got them dressed and went to the potty and walked downstairs to eat. Several of our other travel group friends were there also feeding their children breakfast. They had their embassy appointments today, so they needed to be dressed, fed and ready to go by 8:30. We all talked about our first night together with our new children and joked about the “honeymoon” phase we must be in right now. 

Breakfast was not very exciting for our three. They had some porridge and the juice I gave them in the room. Once we returned upstairs, they polished off a bag of crackers and more juice.  We had a fun morning playing together, painting the girls' fingernails, playing with punch balloons, and running around the hotel room. 
Daddy's phone was the best toy for the baby boy!

Baby Boy has given me a crash refresher course in diapering babies as he has been through 6 already before lunch time! I was not prepared for the diaper thing for sure! He acts much younger than a child about to turn 3 years old, but that’s okay because I really had thought we were planning for a young baby in the beginning anyway! Now I get the best of both worlds!

We ate in the hotel lobby again at lunch and ordered potato soup and spaghetti with meat sauce for the kids. The potato soup looked like clear gravy with diced potatoes inside. The kids didn’t love it. The spaghetti was a huge mess, but a total success! They all loved it and ate almost two adult sized bowls between the three of them!
The problem with eating in the lobby is that they are not set up for children. No high chairs, no booster seats, and the girls can’t reach the table to be able to feed themselves like they did at the care center. Baby Boy is way too small to sit in a chair by himself and eat, so he sits in my lap so I can feed him. This means Paul and I are not eating meals at this point in time. We didn’t eat dinner last night, no breakfast or lunch today.  Thankfully, I have lots of food and snacks in the room, but I think Paul needs a good meal.  He said this morning that he really misses his giant cups of Folgers coffee in the mornings. (edited to say - he actually missed his giant Gas Station cups of coffee. You know it has to be bad if he is sitting in Ethiopia - land of the coffee bean - missing Shell Station coffee.)
The Ethiopian coffee is good, but inconsistent. At one location we have really wonderful coffee with steamed milk, while somewhere else we have gritty, super-strong coffee with no milk available. Don't get me wrong, it is GOOD coffee - just you never quite know what to expect!

After lunch we returned to our room and decided it was potty time, then nap time. Baby Boy went through another two diapers. At this point I am starting to get concerned about our flight home and his poop-situation. Nap time was less difficult than bedtime, but we still had to divide and conquer. Baby Boy and I laid in the girls’ room; Paul had the girls in our bed. We were able to get them to sleep fairly quickly this time and as I type this, they have been sleeping about 90 minutes.  

Their sleeping arrangements are making me a nervous wreck. All three are restless sleepers. Both girls fell off the bed last night and I jolted awake during my mini-nap with Baby Boy when I felt him starting to fall off of the bed. I moved him and made him a cocoon of pillows, but it scared me half to death! 

Later tonight we will just kill more time playing before and after dinner, then try out the bathtub. This should be interesting! 
(Later that day...)Bath time was funny! They really enjoyed being sprayed with the hand-held shower sprayer. We washed everyone well, conditioned all the hair, lotioned them all up and got them all in pajamas for bed!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Still under the sea.

Yes, friends...
I am still there.

Here's the thing.
I have these faces that haunt my thoughts. 
     Faces we saw in Durame. 
     Faces we saw in Addis Ababa.
     Children begging at the windows of our van.
     Crippled men dragging their bodies along the side of the road at the market.
     Women nursing infants under tarps in the mud, breathing exhaust fumes.
     Children alone in fields, herding goats or cattle, 
     and some just sitting there in their tattered clothing. 
          They haunt my thoughts and dreams with their soulful eyes.
They cry "DO SOMETHING!" 

I see them looking at us - riding in our vans with our layers of clothing, bags full of valuables, expensive cameras, iPods, iPads and iPhones... snacking on trail mix, sipping bottled water, and I wonder - do they detest our existence? Do they judge us for not doing more? Does God judge us for not doing more? Does God ask us to DO more?

I have these days of looking at my children through the eyes of their past.
Do they remember sleeping on the ground in a hut? Do they remember the sickness, disease and death? Do they remember laughing and singing with their first family? 

I have these nights where I lay in bed and think about the hundreds of millions of children going to bed tonight with no family. No mother or father help them brush their teeth, get into snuggly pajamas, and tuck them in 17 times. No one to call to in the middle of the night. No Mommy. No Daddy.

I sit here in my air conditioned house with two refrigerators and a freezer, a full pantry and closets full of clothes. We are very blessed. But to whom much is given, much is required. What do we DO?

What do we do with this?

What do I do with this sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach that cries out
  "DO something!"?

What do we do in a home with too few bedrooms to accommodate more children?

I've been broken for the orphaned.

Logistically... what does this calling on my heart and in my head look like?

We could throw caution to the wind and downsize our mortgage for a home outside of our current (and beloved) school district - which would give us a larger home for the same (or less) monthly money... but has anyone noticed the current housing situation in the US? I doubt we could sell our home for what we owe on it at this point. (and yes, I know the Lord could work that all out if it were His plan.)

We could continue to adjust to our new lives and just wait on whatever should come in the future... whenever that may be.

We could pray for opportunities to do more.

But my heart?

My heart wants to buy a home with more bedrooms and fill them up to capacity.

And yes, I know that puts us in a whole new category of crazy.

That's okay.

It's a crazy life, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The sea of swirly twirly gumdrops...

We interrupt your regularly scheduled travel journal posting to bring you this random thought process poured out into cyberspace by Chrissy.

Things in my brain (the sea of swirly twirly gumdrops) today:

When I take my kids out by myself 
and someone stares at them 
and then at me and then back at them...
I want to stick my tongue out and give them that 4-year-old glare.
I also have this line I am working on perfecting...
(in my best DEEP south southern accent...)
"I know... you think you know me, right? 
I get that ALL the time since we were on Maury!"

Paul and I have this on-going banter.
It goes like this:
(Dinner table time)
Me: "Who are we missing?"
Him: "um...4,5,6,7... no one."
This is precisely what happened when 
God put adoption on our hearts the first time.

Seven isn't that many kids.
I know because I have seven kids.
I do their laundry (well, except for the biggies.)
and I make their food,
and I drive them places,
and I clean up their toys.

No, I don't know what God has in store for us next.
He may be happy with us where we are, 
how we are, 
and the way we look...
but if I know Him like I think I know Him...
He will take us up on our offer of "use me".

There are old-fashioned 
compounding pharmacists out there still.
We have one near our house.
I did not know this until today!
They can make Flagyl into gummy bears.
That's just awesome!
I mean, come on... that's magical!

Sometimes other AP's (adoptive parents)
are real joy-sucking, cotton-headed ninny muggins.
Sometimes I think they want to see everyone else
miserable or make it seem like they 
are the only success story out there.
Yeah, we have ONLY been home 6 weeks.
Things are going well for us so far!
Be happy for us!

Sometimes I want to get a giant trash bag and dump everything from 
every flat surface in the house into it and take it to 
the trash and never look back! 
Then I realize that most of those items in the trash bag 
would be homework, permission slips, 
and greatly treasured Silly Bandz... 
and I rethink my de-cluttering plan.

I am SO ready for fall.
I want to drink chai tea on the deck in the morning 
when its chilly enough to see my breath.
I want to see orange and red sugar maples.
I want crunchy leaves in the yard.
I want to take pictures at the pumpkin patch
and make pumpkin pie
    and pumpkin muffins
          and pumpkin bread
                and pumpkin lattes!
Wait... Starbucks makes pumpkin lattes. Not me.

Some of the best things I have heard this week:
"Your son has the sweetest heart!"
    "I love having your daughter in my class!"
       "Mom... you are so WEIRD!"
          "I lub you too!"
"twinkuh, twinkuh, weedah tah...
ow I bunduh ut ooh ahh."
       "Can we adopt more kids?"
            "Mommy konjo!"

Playing at the school's park on Saturday
It was like a billion degrees in the shade... but my gorgeous daughter still wanted to pose for pictures!
And then her brother showed up.

Formerly known as "the youngest"!
So sweet... this kid makes you just melt.

The oldest - funny, witty, kind and compassionate...
and very, very 14!

My baby boy! He was so cute at the park! 

"Big-Little", the oldest of our new three... beautiful inside and out!

"Middle-Little" - our middle baby girl. She is VERY much a Daddy's girl! 
She is so sweet and precious and just adores her siblings!

And, no... I didn't miscount... I know that's only 6 kids.
I have a pre-teen daughter who refuses to be photographed.
I managed to sneak some photos on this trip to the park,
but she was equally sneaky and deleted them from my camera 
before they made it onto the computer.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Travel Journal: Day 5 (Monday)


We woke up around 5:45 to the sounds of other families leaving their rooms and heading downstairs for breakfast. We got dressed, packed up our things, and went down for coffee. Unfortunately, they informed me there was no milk, so I chose to go without my normal morning coffee. I was served eggs with peppers for breakfast. I guess that’s their interpretation of Scrambled Eggs. They were also white.

After taking 2 bites of eggs and faking an upset stomach and inability to eat due to sleep deprivation, they finally took my eggs away. The rest of our group got their food in shifts. All the scrambled eggs came out first, then 10 minutes later all the porridge, then 10-15 minutes later all the French toast arrived. French toast in Ethiopia is bread dipped in egg and deep fried in oil. It does not look lovely. It is also served with jams and jellies instead of syrup at this hotel.

Soon, we were on our way back out to the van. We were surrounded by many beggars – mostly children and old women. Several in our group handed them some birr, but they kept coming. We got into the vans and the security for the hotel asked them to back up. There was one older man who was arguing with the guard and our driver in Amharic. We asked our driver what was being said and he informed us that the older man was upset because he didn’t get his “share” –meaning no one had given him any birr.

I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared for the poverty you see here. No photo, no video, no words can do it justice. I have seen babies – no more than 3 years old – sitting on the side of the road with no adults to be seen. I have seen young children no more than 5 years old herding goats and cattle down the street –with no adult around. I have seen men, women and children bathing in gutters and filling bottles with water that washes off from the road.

Our trip back was about the same as the trip to Durame. It was sunny part of the drive today, so we were able to see more of the beautiful countryside. I am amazed at how lovely it all is! There were several parts that would make you think you were on a scenic drive in Colorado, except for the occasional circular mud/straw hut, the donkeys and goats in the road, and the people carrying their goods up and down the road. Everyone seems to be going somewhere. They are walking along the road in between cities like they are on a mission. Several will hold out their hand, palm side up and make an upwards motion. This is the Ethiopian hitchhiking sign.

We stopped at the Shinshinco Clinic on the way back to look at the medical services and buildings provided by Holt’s Mother and Child program. The doctor there looks to be 25-30 years old, but very kind and knowledgeable. The buildings remind me of a 1960’s motel with a courtyard in the center. They have several exam rooms, patient teaching areas, in and out-patient services rooms as well as the birthing rooms.  

The Doctor explaining the hospital and telling us about patients who come here.

Let's play ... count the code violations! ;)

There were some men demolishing a building to make way for the new hospital. It was interesting to watch them taking it apart by hand. We would expect to see a bulldozer working to fill up a dump truck. Here they knock walls down by hand, carry the demolished parts away on a stretcher made from two sticks and some corrugated metal.  There was a man standing on a beam that was at the roof line. He was banging on another beam to knock down the section that made part of the roof. Paul said that the beam he was standing on was nailed into the support, not resting upon it. It looked like an accident waiting to happen for sure.

We reloaded the vans and drove another hour or two to the same hotel/restaurant where we had stopped on the trip down. We again had coffee and several ordered Dabo – bread. The bread was described to taste like a hybrid between French, Italian, and San Francisco sourdough. Everyone enjoyed that particular dish as it was a somewhat familiar taste and texture. I think the culture differences are really getting to a lot of people at this point.
The hotel/restaurant where we stopped.

After coffee, we were back in the vans on our trip back to Addis Ababa. This segment of the trip seemed to take forever. More farms, more beautiful countryside, more poverty, more children alone in a field, more people bathing in road wash-off. 

I LOVED these trees!

Eventually, we were back in Addis. It was a VERY busy day on the streets as we made our way back to our hotel. We saw a fight on the street which was very interesting as there are very few police officers around to break up such a thing.

We arrived back at the Union and we were SO happy to be there! Our room felt like the Ritz Carlton after what we had endured in Durame! As we were on our way up to our rooms, Emma and Mike found out their bags had (FINALLY!) arrived to the Addis airport! I am so happy for them! They have been very gracious about it up to this point, but taking custody of their daughter tonight would have been difficult with no supplies other than what was in their carry-on bags. We went up stairs and took showers. Even though our water heater had not been plugged in, and the water wasn’t very warm even after waiting 20 minutes for it to heat up, that was the best shower I have had in a long time! It felt so good to finally get cleaned off from the Durame trip.

Feeling human again, we met some of the travel group down in the lobby to walk down to a grocery store nearby. I was surprised at how little begging we encountered along the way. I assumed we would see people running up to us with their hands out as we did in Durame, but we only saw two older people on the sidewalk begging for change and they did not approach us as we walked by.

The grocery store was really wonderful! They have fresh fruits and vegetables, butter, yogurt, juices, canned meats and fruits, frozen items and every dry good you can imagine. We purchased some mango juice for the babies, some diapers for Joshua, washcloths and the Babelac 3 formula that the care center said our kids drink still. We were told that it is hard to preserve milk, so all of the children drink Babelac instead of regular milk. It was pricey for Ethiopian standards at around $7-8 per can.  They had everything in this store. Upstairs we found kitchen appliances, fans, dishes, pillows and blankets, towels and washcloths, some tea sets, and baby toys and supplies. It was almost like an Ethiopian Walmart!  We checked out and paid around 300 birr for everything we purchased (around $30).  I asked Paul for the change so I could give it to the two beggars on the street.  

On the way back, we wanted to stop at this one man on the side of the road selling scarves. Just as we were walking there, we were introduced to Danny, a boy from Addis Ababa who is 11 years old and in the 9th grade. He informed us that he has passed his other friends in school because he studies so hard! He has near-perfect English and walked with us to help us negotiate. We were unable to reach a deal with the man on the street, so Danny told us he would take us somewhere else where they have nicer things. He walked us over the foot bridge to a pink building where they sell beads.

The story with the bead store is that the women of Addis who do not want to beg on the street to feed their families, or resort to selling their bodies for money, will come and make necklaces and other hand-crafted items to sell at the store to make money in an honorable way. It was a very small shop, about the size of a large walk-in closet in the USA, but they did have very nice things! We were able to find many items that we wanted to purchase! We bought hand carved wooden animals, some animals that were wrapped in wool yarn, an Ethiopian painting made on goat skin leather, some beaded hair elastics, and a necklace.

As we were walking back, Danny told us about his life. His parents both work. His father works for the local paper and his mother works as well – but I forgot where. Combined they make 750birr a month. Danny said that he has to make his own money to attend school which is around 100birr a month. We asked what he does and he stated that he works as a tour guide to the Americans who come to stay. He said some give him 50 birr, some 100 birr, some more… but all of the money goes to his schooling, books and supplies. He hopes to come to the United States some day and go to Harvard to become a doctor. As we walked closer to his home and our hotel, we discovered that Danny, his parents and 3 other siblings all live in the tiny yellow building across from the Union Hotel. We asked him if he has enough food for his family and he said that he did. Paul made arrangements to meet him again tomorrow to go shopping in the Mercato. Danny is such a kind, sweet and impressive young man and I really pray he is able to fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor.

Back inside, we had around an hour before it was time to walk over to the care center and take custody of our kids! I picked out clothes for them, did some baby-proofing, and had a snack while Paul went to the lobby to use the computer and check in with the kids. 

We have been unable to talk to them so far on the trip since our mobile phone for the group to use requires phone cards and the day I tried to buy one, the lady had no idea what I was asking for – even after showing her one from someone else. It has been good to be able to check in through Facebook and chat online with them for a few minutes, but I really miss hearing their voices and tucking them in at night.

At 5pm, we were ready to go take custody!  I packed the outfits up in a bag, grabbed my baby sling, and out we went! Our group was so excited to get there and we were all so ready to bring them back! The nannies brought the kids downstairs and they ran right to us! Finally – they ran to the correct parents!

We played for a minute and waited for Sister Martha to come out and say goodbye for the night. Lily saw my bag and looked inside and got so excited to see the new clothes! We quickly dressed all three kids and found out everything fit except for Joshua’s shoes were too small, but the care center said we could take their shoes and just bring them back on Thursday. I put Joshua in my sling and we were off!

Walking out the door of the care center with three beautiful children was amazing! We were all smiling from ear to ear and ran through the drizzling rain back over to the hotel.  We arrived to many smiles and greetings from the Union staff. They were all very happy to see the kids! We decided to go ahead and eat dinner so that we could go up to the room and relax for the night. We looked at the menu, but told the server that the kids normally eat Injera and something called “wet” and asked if we could have that. She obliged and 10 minutes later, we were feeding our kids their first dinner outside of the care center in almost a year.

The rainy season decided to arrive with a big crash of thunder right during dinner! It was an amazingly strong thunderstorm! It may not have felt so huge if we were in our home in Tennessee watching out of our windows, but here for some reason it just felt frightening. Maybe it was the thought of our new friend Danny across the street living in a metal house, or maybe it was the picture in my head of all of those people – women and children- living on the streets in a thunderstorm. You want to do something, but there is really nothing we can do.

At dinner, we had some issues figuring out the sippy cups I had brought, so I had to take the straw part out of the center which made them more like a normal cup with a soft straw. We gave the kids papaya juice at dinner, some mango juice and water in the room and then their Babelac 3 at bedtime. It became apparent as we entered the evening hours that Joshua takes a bottle at bedtime still. This was not mentioned to us at the care center, but he really seemed restless and fussy until we decided we would try the milk. All three kids self-soothe with some kind of sucking. Evie sucks on her cheeks and lips, Lily sucks her thumb at bedtime and Joshua would not put the sippy cup down all evening since he was sucking and chewing on the straw.
We gave the girls their American Girl Bitty Twins first… Lily loved hers; Evie didn’t want anything to do with hers!  We gave Joshua his Woody doll… he HATED it! Okay… 1 for 3… so we went with the blankies! Blankies were a huge hit! Success! We played in the room, lotioned up the hair and bodies, put on pajamas and watched a little of Finding Nemo and all of Abe and the Amazing Promise. They were acting sleepy so we decided it was time to try out bedtime.

First we put three wiggly little kids into one queen size bed. 
That didn’t work.  
We tried staying in there with them and singing, 
rubbing backs and generally just trying to keep the peace until they fell asleep. 
That didn’t work either. 
We decided to try the Divide-And-Conquer approach. 
I picked up Baby Boy and took him into the main room where our bed is and laid him down to go to sleep. I lay down next to him and tried to get him to go to sleep. He was having such a problem with his head being itchy. The pediatrician had said he has some kind of infection and they were using an antihistamine cream, but they didn’t give it to us. I was wishing I had it at this point.  He finally fell asleep! Paul was also able to keep the girls still long enough to give up and go to sleep. 
We had cleared our first big hurdle!

Later in the night, around 2am, I heard whimpering. I went into the girls’ room to find a soaking wet Lily lying on the floor uncovered. It made me so sad that she hadn’t thought to leave her room and walk the 10 feet to our bed to get help in the night. I quickly changed her pull-up, putting her into a smaller size, put her back into bed and covered her up and she went right back to sleep. I put Joshua on a bed on the floor next to me and tried to get more comfortable in my bed. I was afraid to take something to help me sleep thinking I wouldn’t hear a whimper in the middle of the night if I was in such a deep sleep. Around 4am I was able to get back to sleep. The babies were all awake around 7am. None of them got out of the bed until I came and got them (finding Evie on the floor and also wet). That also made me sad. (It’s one of the signs that a child has been in an institution – they learn that even if they cry in the night, even if they want to get up for someone to comfort them, they will not have anyone there. Eventually they stop looking for help and learn that survival method of just being alone. This makes me incredibly sad.) 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Travel Journal: Day 4 - Durame

Sunday –
5am came REALLY early. We got up, got dressed, got packed, made sure we had the right paperwork, then went down stairs for breakfast and coffee before our driver arrived to take us to Durame. Coffee was great, the eggs were a little strange as always. The driver was on time and we got ready to leave.  We managed to pack all 10 of us, our bags of clothing and supplies, plus 3 staff into a 14 passenger van.  It was not the most comfortable arrangement, but it worked.

The drive to Durame was gorgeous! 

So much lush greenery, mountain scenes, cool trees, rushing rivers of rain water, fog and farm land… it was beautiful. We stopped about 2 hours into our trip at a hotel/restaurant and had coffee. After piling back into the van, we drove another 2-3 hours to Durame. 

We arrived at our hotel and got our key. The hotel was indeed "rustic". The mattresses are as hard as were described – like someone forgot the mattress over the box spring. Things are broken, wires hanging down, no shower walls or curtain, moldy/mildewed ceiling tiles in the bathroom, muddy floors, peeling wall paper… and a menu that is hand written on one piece of paper and you put a tic-mark next to what you want. It is very primitive... but it is the best they can offer in the town of Durame. 

After quickly changing clothes, we went back downstairs for lunch. Lunch was rice with a spicy tomato sauce on top. It looked more like chili paste and it was very spicy. We were all preoccupied with our pending birth parent meetings, so there was a lot of small talk. Lunch was quickly over so we headed to the Holt Care Center in Durame (just down the road) for our important meeting.

We were brought into a room and introduced to the men who would be doing the translating for our meetings and given our schedule. Our family was to go last. We waited in a room with plastic yard-style chairs and were served more coffee and our first popcorn of the trip. The coffee was quite chunky, so Paul drank his and most of mine so that I would not appear rude. Thanks again, honey!

While waiting for our turn, my nerves finally got the best of me and I had to run to the potty. I asked the staff where a toilet was located. One of the non-English speaking staff showed me to the “toilet”. It was outside and around the corner in a room with a corrugated metal, non-closing door and was actually more like a toilet seat cemented into the floor over a large hole in the ground.  It was really smelly, lots of bugs, and about the most rustic toilet I have ever seen or used. It was quite an experience!

(And no... unfortunately I did not have my camera. boo...)

We had our birth relative meeting and I am saving those details for our children for when they are older. The meeting was one of the most emotional, powerful, God-sanctioned times of my entire life. We were able to experience an amazing moment with our birth relative and God that still gives me goose bumps when I think about it. I truly feel as though God ordained this entire adoption, but to see His hand so clearly in this moment took my breath away.

If you are an adoptive family who is weighing the decision to make the trip or not... do it, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel. You will never have the opportunity again and you would miss the biggest blessing you can imagine by not going!

I was shell-shocked from the intensity of the meeting and knew that I had just been a part of a divine appointment.
After the birth parent meeting we walked next door to visit the Durame intake center. The transition from the meeting to the care center was so abrupt and so sudden that my mind and heart couldn't take it. We walked through the gate into the care center and Paul turned to look at me and asked if I was okay... and I fell apart. I fell into his arms by a coffee tree and sobbed (that ugly, can't-catch-your-breath sob).
Yes, this is the coffee tree. Those berries turn red when they are ripe.

I was a little glazed-over once I got myself together, but I was still glad to see the center where so many of Holt’s children spend time before coming to Addis Ababa. It was very sweet to see all of the young children there.  

We met these two boys who were around 5 years old each. They were SO sweet and SO funny! They would repeat ANYTHING you said to them! It was hilarious! Paul had them saying Hello, Aloha, Howdy, Hi, What’s up, and several other phrases! Our whole group was laughing at how cute they were! Unfortunately, we found out they are still waiting and are not brothers, so they will be placed separately by Holt. It would be wonderful if they could stay together or at least be adopted by people in the same community. 
(edited to say - These boys both have families! I have spoken with one of the moms who lives only 15 minutes from me! They will not live near by one another, but we are praying that they are in the same travel group when they come home from Ethiopia! Isn't that awesome?)
The courtyard at the care center. 

We left the Durame care center and drove back over to the hotel where we dropped our things off in our rooms, then several of us sat and decompressed in a small sitting area upstairs near our bedrooms.

The hotel was really something. I don’t think I normally complain about accommodations, but this was really not nice. It felt unsafe, and unsanitary. I was very happy to know we were only there for a few hours! This hotel was the very best one in Durame. It was the best they could do given their supplies and abilities, and I felt guilty and like a spoiled American even thinking these things.
Bucket filled with water so you can flush, plug hanging down is 
for the water heater should you desire to shower.

Bathroom in the lobby.

We went down to dinner where I had the injera special with several types of meat and vegetables. I am so thankful that the Lord allowed us to find our children in a country filled with gluten-free food! Paul had ordered the “special pizza” which came with a raw egg cracked right in the center and barely cooked. It was special alright. 
Not the pizza, but check out that boiled egg in the center. See the yolk? Keep reading.

Side note about Ethiopian food: It has been our observation (well, Chef Paul's observation that he shared with me) that Ethiopians eat for sustenance, not just for pleasure. The pleasure in eating for them comes in the friends they share the meal with as eating together is an expression of friendship. There has been nothing that we have seen so far that has looked like someone decided to make food that would be pleasing for the eye or seasoned to taste really wonderful. The meats are from the oldest animals, so they are tough and chewy. They are also so heavily spiced so that they can cover up the taste of the gamey-ness and old-tasting meats. The egg yolks are white. I am not sure if it is because the chickens do not eat anything that would sustain their bodies well enough to produce yellow yolks, but they are certainly not the health-benefit eggs I love at home. The saddest part of this is that the people here really NEED high quality proteins and sustaining foods, not the older cuts of meat and produce.

After our dinner, we went up to the room where we quickly got under the covers, I took a sleeping pill, and we went to bed. 6am could not come soon enough! Tomorrow morning we head back "home" to Addis and we take custody of our babies!

We are official!

Here they are holding their
"Guide for New Immigrants" brochures!
Unfortunately, baby boy thought it was tasty...
and the girls, well, they can't read.
Into the souvenir box they go!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Photo slide show!

Just in case you would like to take a peek into what has me so busy...
here are some of the gorgeous faces occupying my time lately!

Travel Journal: Day 3

Having been awakened around 3am by howling wind coming through the crack in our sliding glass door, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I laid there thinking about our new three babies, how they will love meeting the 4 at home, and imagining our life as a new family of 9! Paul was awake too, but wanted to take a sleeping pill and go back to bed. He took the real kind, I took the herbal ones. One of us has been awake since then – typing 4 pages of memories from the past 24 hours! Oh well, he is getting some much needed rest and I am dressed and ready to go have some cups of buna in the lobby!
Today we go on a museum trip. I must admit, I would rather not if it meant we could spend the day with the kids instead… but I suppose we should learn whatever we can about Ethiopia while we are here!

 We saw lots of interesting things on the way to the museum: clothing stores, beggars, food vendors, incredibly frightening driving, the Addis Ababa University graduation in process, as well as the other typical sights – goats, bulls, cows, dogs and chickens in the roads.

The museum was very interesting – many cool artifacts and historical clothing from Ethiopian government history. We took lots of video, so my words will not do it justice. We found it very interesting to see the cultural items such as carvings, wooden furniture, clothing and jewelry that is typical to this area.
After the visit to the museum, we walked across the courtyard to the Lucy Restaurant. The restaurant is named after the famous Lucy artifact which was found in Ethiopia. The evolutionists say it is the earliest human form. The restaurant was interesting, animal hides on the walls in the shape of tiles, interesting menu options and the traditional Ethiopian-time service schedule.

After lunch we headed back to our hotel after first dropping the families off at care center 3 to visit with their children. We went over to see our kids and got to play with them for a couple of hours before their dinner time!  We enjoyed playing with the bubbles again as well as some hot wheels cars. When I first handed them the cars, baby boy threw his, Z** dropped it and reached for bubbles instead, and B** smiled and said “Machina!” (ma-kina).  The nannies brought juice for a snack – avocado and papaya blended together. The kids all guzzled their juice down in seconds flat! They love that avocado blend!

Too soon it was time for us to go. It was sad knowing we would not see them for over 24 hours at that point, but we knew that this was our last time leaving them overnight. I took all three up to their bedrooms where they were getting cleaned up for dinner and bed.  I left them their photo album books to keep overnight since it was their favorite thing we had brought so far.  After many kisses and fighting back tears, I descended the stairs, grabbed my things and went out the front doors.

Emma and I walked next door to the hotel talking about how hard it was to say goodbye today. We had some time before the cultural dinner, but only a short time frame before we were supposed to be downstairs waiting.  We changed clothes for dinner, got cleaned up a bit, and then went to wait in the lobby. While we talked to our travel group friends, we began recalling the events of the past couple of days. It is amazing how much we have packed into such a short amount of time!

After waiting for 45 minutes after the time we were told to be ready, it was finally time to go to dinner. Several from our group had decided not to go to the dinner, so those who were left piled into the van. We drove to the restaurant and walked into the smoke-filled restaurant around 8pm.  The smoke was due to the pine needles/incense that they burn as part of the coffee ceremony. There was a band playing traditional instruments on the stage and these cool chair groupings around these Ethiopian drum tables. The server pointed us to where to go and then removed a cover from the table to reveal a drum-like surface. We ordered our food and watched the show. 

The food was served family style and most of us enjoyed the injera with a yellow-curry-lentil blended substance the most. After some disagreement with the server over whether or not Paul could have the raw goat, he was served cooked goat which he did not eat. The manager got upset and the server and manager proceeded to tell him that the raw goat was not on the menu. It was, in fact, on the menu because he pointed to it to order. Anyway, we ate, watched the show, and then went back to the hotel exhausted. 

We changed into pajamas and packed our bag for the next days’ trip to Durame at 6am. 
There was an over-arching sense of nauseating anticipation in the air, knowing we would soon meet our children's birth family. 
Travel Group (and annoyed Ethiopian man in foreground)

Hand-washing before the meal - Emma and Michael on the right

More hand-washing...

Yellow stuff we enjoyed is in the 4:00 position - looks like creamed corn, but was SO yummy!

Dancers doing their thing! 

Check presenter baskets... pretty cool!
I think we paid around $12 for dinner.

Cool tree from at the museum - looked like a giant poinsettia!

Friendly reminder from the museum folks...

(Baby monkey named) Selam - they say is the earliest human child.
This was on the cover of National Geographic at one point.
Uh huh.

See! I'm not making this stuff up!
"Lucy" was on display in the USA while we were in Ethiopia... so we missed that gem.

Photo of a lady making injera. We didn't get to see anyone actually MAKING the injera while we were there, so this was a little clue as to how they pour it and get it all thin and even since they can't tip the pan around.