Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Of all the mornings my body would let me sleep in I have to get up and get ready for court. Craig had a rough night, he was tossing and turning in his sleep and burping up the most nauseous smell ever, I woke up gagging!!! I opened the window and poured him a double dose of Pepto, he and his pepper from last night are not getting along and I too seem to be taking some of the punishment! I’m calm but nervous, this is such a big day…. Jill takes B and B back today and flies home, we have court, I get to sit eye to eye with Roza and Sada’s birth dad and ask him a few questions and that poor man has to look into mine hoping I’m everything he wants for his children. He then has to look into the eyes of his children for the last time and say good bye forever and then turn and walk away. I’m not sure how he will be able to do it, how the kids will take it or how I can help them both. I’m full of fear, possible joy, heart ache, pain, tears, happiness, nerves, and a lot of questions in my mind. Lord I need you now.
I’m stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted and crying!!! I just said goodbye to my best friend who just said goodbye to her children, tears and snot have long since erased the makeup of my morning. We did not pass court today which every time I think of literally makes me cry more and now Jill is gone with her own broken heart. Adoption is so hard!!! You have no idea, heck I had no idea. Taking a child into your arms who is lost in this world and fatherless should be easy!!! It was for my heart, why does this world make it so hard and as I sit here thinking about my pain and sacrifice I’m also thinking about the pain and sacrifice of Christ and how much harder we make it on him and that he died on that cross willingly. Suffered willingly and takes us in his arms willingly and would do it all again without thinking twice because we are worth it. Now, as an adoptive mother who feels the same way about my children I better understand his love for me and appreciate it more than I did before.
Nine, nine families looking for the seal approval this morning from the Ethiopian government, one signature is all each family needed to bring 12 children permanently and legally forever in their lives. And of the 12 children looking to become part of us only 5 were signed off on this morning.
We (all the families) met in the lobby of the guest house this morning at 8:30 am for some prayer time as a group. Thank you Scott for leading us this morning. I was beyond nervous and after that time with our Father I felt calm…ish. At 9:00 am we loaded into three vans and drove literary 3 blocks to in front of the court house. We followed the leader up the 3 or 4 flights of stairs (I lost count) and as we walked down the hall to our court waiting room we saw some men using a crow bar trying to open a big heavy metal door with no handle. This building is NOTHING like a U.S. court building! We entered a room with chairs lining three of the walls all filled with the bodies of Ethiopian men and women you could tell that many of them had traveled far. The group of us huddled together in the only vacant area in the room near some open windows. The word SILENT was posted on the walls in multiple spots but that didn’t stop the soft whispers of everyone in the room. It took no time at all for two of the families to recognize their child’s birthparent. My heart began to race as I studied the room searching the face of the man who HAD to show up today to relinquish his rights as a father so we could adopt Roza and Sada. I saw him nowhere….. 50 or more people in this room and I can’t find our birthfather. I could feel the fear and panic in me as I looked at Craig and whispered “I don’t see him.” “I think I saw him down stairs but I’m not positive” I searched again and again until a man who’s face I recognized walked in the room and found one of the few empty seats. Some of my fear began to ease but this man who’s face I knew, was more thin than it was in the photo that was taken a few months ago. He was more frail but the same deep sadness in his eyes was unchanged and unmistakable and I recognized that. I kept an eye on this man as the minuets began to tick by and finally a door in the corner of the room opened and a women shhhed us all and then began to call out a few names at a time. When names where called men and women from all different regions of Ethiopia, all dressed in different fashion would rise and enter the judges chamber and in 2 or 3 minuets walk back out and find their place in the room again. This is when I realized that every person in this room was here for the same reason, they were giving up their child as we were gaining one. Face to face in one room them watching each of us wondering which of those Americans will be MY babies new mom or dad? Which one is replacing me? And us looking them over taking in every detail and trying to learn more of the story of our child’s past so that we can one day share every possible detail with them. As I was scanning the room our birth dad had disappeared, Craig and I both had taken our eyes off just for a moment and now he was gone. What if he changed his mind, walked out, took the kids back was racing in my mind. He was with in his legal right to do just that. I could feel 100% panic take over me. Craig held my upper arm and I could taste breakfast in my throat when I saw the sleeve of our birth father’s pale shirt sitting in the chair of the judges chamber. My stomach dropped, the burning left my throat but the speed of my heart didn’t let up as I watched this man walk out of the chamber I felt both relief and grief. It wasn’t long until the names being called changed from Ethiopian to American and three families walked in to face the judge. No quicker where they in there then they were out. Some had expressions of sadness and others joy. I didn’t have time to ask what happened because we were called in with three other families. We filed in the small room, the judge sat behind a big brown laminate desk covered with files upon files of adoption cases. Some stacks were taller than her as she sat there. Our passports were taken by the clerk and handed to the judge but she never opened a single one. They sat on her desk, next to the files as she began to question us as a group. First she would call out the name of our child/Children. “Sada and Roza?” Craig and I both lifted our hand to show we were present. Then she asked if we knew this adoption was permanent? A nod of our heads with a unanimous yes. She wanted to know if we had each taken time to study and embrace Ethiopia culture and did we promise to educate our adopted children in the ways of Ethiopia because she felt that was very important. Another unanimous Yes exited the mouths of all four families. To be honest I can’t remember the rest right now my brain and body are so exhausted but non of the questions were complicated or required more than a yes or no answer. The judge opened a file and looked at the first family in the room put a signature on the paper and said “It’s finalized, she is yours.” HOPE. Right then hope hit me. Someone passed, we could too, but then the next case file was opened and closed again with a no pass and I felt the energy of the room leave but not my hope. We were next. She called the names of Roza and Sada again. Briefly looked into our folder and said. “The father of Sada and Roza has an 11 year old son from a previous wife, his name and address needs to be included in the file, when this is done you will be finalized, this is the job of your agency and is in their hands.” and with that she shut our folder. That was it, we did not pass. I kept my composure better than I expected but I couldn’t stop the tears. As we were ushered out and the remaining families were taken in I asked one of AW repps. “This is an easy fix, right? I mean their father is here, can’t he just be re-interviewed while here today?” For gracious sakes I know the boys name and address!!!! Nothing in Ethiopia is that simple when it comes to paperwork. Before I had time to finish my question and answer session the last families where leaving the judges chambers and we were all led back to the vans we came in. Three blocks and 65 stairs later Craig and I where back in our guest room. That was it. It was that fast not quite 11 am and my heart was crushed.
I decided to re-watch the DVD of the birthfather’s interview so I could narrow down my questions for our upcoming meeting. I wrote them out in my journal as I ate a few red vines and then completely exhausted I fell asleep waiting for the phone to ring.
This is how it works…. After court you are driven back to the GH where you are told to go to your room and not come back out till called. AW then transports all the birth families to the lobby of the guest house and they call us down two or three at a time depending on how many interpreters there are that day. We get about 15 minuets of face time to get a lifetime of questions answered. We were able to ask about ten questions and tell the birth dad a little about us. We gave him about 20 photo’s of the kids as well as our family photo and he was very kind and let us video the entire process. What a treasure for Sada and Roza. During the interview the father and I both cried, and as I look at the pictures of Craig and I with him I can see how emotionally spent I am and can’t even imagine how he must be feeling, to think this is just the start of his emotional day. At this point we were asked to return to our rooms until all interviews were over. When that was finished we were driven to lunch and the birth families were taken to the TH to say goodbye a final time. I had been nervous for Roza and Sada. I wanted to protect them from the pain of good bye but not keep that from them at the same time. I was worried about what it would do to our bonding process with them and how to help them. As we pulled in to the TH after lunch I expected the worse but we were greeted by the happy smiling face and waving hand of Sada, Roza was her shy timid self but climbed into my lap. It was obvious she had been crying a streak of tear still wet on her cheek. Craig and I tried to make this a happier time for them and thought R and S put on a good show I could see the hurt and pain in their eyes and all over their face, I felt helpless to ease the hurt, a mother’s fear and heartache.
By the time we made it home from the TH Kelli, Jill and Maddie where back from taking B and B back to the orphanage. We shared news of hurt, pain and sorrow, ate some chocolate, packed Jill’s things and in what felt like the blink of an eye she was hugging me goodbye in the courtyard of the GH her luggage already loaded on top of the van. Tears, tears and more tears mixed with snot and I love you. The sound of the door closing her in was the last I could take. I’m done, I have nothing left in me toady I just need today to end and a new sunrise tomorrow.
Afternoons on Saturday and Sunday at the TH are the best because it is quiet and peaceful. I very much enjoy hearing the older kids in school on the weekdays and playing with them during recess but it takes away from the one on one time we need with Roza and Sada so on weekends only the children of visiting families join us at the TH. It’s a special time of parents and children bonding. No profound progress was made, no major breakthrough just, laughter and smiles as we spent time together and learned more about each new little personality that is joining our family.
Sunday morning began with a lovely church service and as we stood singing familiar praise songs my heart ached at the desire to be at home with ALL my children, in our church family, doing just that, court is on it’s way this week and it is heavy on the hearts and mind of each and every parent and child alike. Lunches are taking FOREVER because of the size of our travel group. I think we spent 3 hours trying to order eat and pay today. I don’t mind the slower pace but it cuts into the time we are allowed to visit Roza and Sada so I was anxious to get going. For gracious sake people it’s just food, your going to eat more of it in a few hours, lets get a move on, kept buzzing in my head. The afternoon was much the same as Saturday except Craig got his wish and it began to rain. Not much, just a quick down pour but it sure did help to cool things off and made for fantastic picture taking!!
Today was a good day!!! Lots of fun with the kids and Roza is now shouting MOMMY when she wants my attention and I’m not right by her side. It was a great feeling!!!! Maddie made a new friend, Leeza, and learned all sorts of new games and songs. Lots of happy memories made but I’m tired and have court on my mind and the day is not over yet. We are headed tonight to our traditional Ethiopian dinner with food, wine and dancing. My body is screaming GO TO BED but I want to take in every drop of ET I can so off I go………
Dinner was delicious and tons of fun. Warning!!! Don’t be the first into the restaurant, be the last, otherwise you are seated right in front of the stage and speakers. My head is pounding!!! I really enjoy Ethiopian food and found dinner to be fabulous. Craig took a dare and ate the pepper and my poor husbands eyes watered and became blood shot, sweat dewed up on his forehead and his face turned red but by gosh he did it! Madison loved it all. She was so cute when she got up on stage and danced. The way they move their bodies is beyond my imagination or capability!!! The end of our evening came a bit early because one of our fellow travelers was ill and you DO NOT want to be away from your on private bathroom when tummy sick in ET. A hole in the ground that you squat over just makes you feel more queasy! Despite turning in early we still had the full experience and enjoyed the time but I think it’s safe to say that were all ready to get out of there. In the backs of our mind is tomorrow morning and court. It’s the day we meet the kids birth dad and they have to say a final good bye to him. We need lots of prayer tonight!
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
On our fist day at the TH home we had been there maybe 25 minutes when Craig looked at me and said “ you know how I said we would never adopt again…… I’d reconsider for her.” and points at a precious little girl who had been hanging around since the moment we met Roza and Sada. As we spent our afternoon there Craig at a different point looked at me as we watched the children playing and breaking toys just so they could share it with the other children and said to me “I feel so selfish that we live the way we do and we aren’t doing more here” Well the BIG secret is that we have no firm plans at this moment but we are looking into returning for that precious little girl and surprise she has a little sister!!!!!!!!!
The reason to share this tid bit of information is because we had a busy day today at the TH. First order of business was spending time with Roza and Sada, then we were invited into a small office to meet with the kids physiologist and social worker. Sada seemed very connected to the physiologist and I couldn‘t help but feel the tiniest bit jealous. He has done a lot of work with Sada to help him be more interactive and dependent on others. “Sada is very independent.” he tells me “And it takes time for him to form a bond, but when he does it is solid and strong, he may not want to be away from you.” As for Roza the social worker told us how when she arrived they thought she couldn’t speak and had her tested but turns out she just chooses not to. She is very shy and has only really connected with one nanny and a few of the other children. We took this time to ask about ways to better bond with the kids based on their personalities and background and then to ask about adopting in the future. At first they physiologist was concerned that it would need to be the right child for us to adopt, one that would be a good match for Sada and the social worker agreed. He even suggested that he pick the child out, when we told them the names of the little girls we had in mind they were overjoyed. The social worker said she would write a letter of approval for us and that this would be a perfect match. These little girls, especially the older one is VERY close and bonded to both Roza and Sada. Craig then showed Sada on a map of the U.S. where he would be living and Sada made sure to point it out to all of us.
It was because of this conversation with the social worker and physiologist that led to one of the most unforgettable moments of this trip. The Social worker asked if we had met the youngest of the two sisters and when she learned that we had not she insisted on taking us over to the other TH, the one our kids actually live at to meet her and our kids nannies. The last house (or more like compound) on the road stood the un-marked gates to the second and older children’s home ( age 3 and up). The second we walked in 10 or more 3 and 4 year olds swarmed us, pulling on our pants yelling MOMMY! DADDY! MOMMY! DADDY! No way for those little voices not to break your heart right then and there. They wanted picked up, held and loved, a family to call their own and to feel the warmth of safety and security wrapped around them. In all of the chaos of our first moments in the door I noticed a little girl standing back a bit from the crowd of toddlers. As the social worker and two other nannies helped pull children off of us I knelt down and a beautiful smiled appeared on a chicken pox covered face of this little girl and I knew right then that this was THE sister we had come to meet. She gently wrapped her arm around my neck and smiled as she met eyes with Craig. If he wasn’t already convinced at that exact moment every string of doubt in his mind was snipped. Being careful not to undermine the bonding we had already done with Roza and Sada we slipped away from the group of children as they were being seated for lunch and held our kids hands tightly as we were escorted around the facility to see the rooms and beds our kids slept in. We also were able to see Roza’s pre-school room, which was a treat and meet two of the nannies. As we made our way back towards the gates they asked us if Roza and Sada could sit down and eat lunch with the other kids. I had no idea that by us being at the TH our little Roza missed her normal lunch time by an hour and ended up eating with the older kids which then cuts into her nap time. As we agreed they sent Roza and Sada away to wash for lunch and Craig and I were seated at a child’s size table away from all the other children. When Roza and Sada joined us they were served a plate on injera with a red sauce poured on top. Then a second nanny came by with a pot of cooked carrots and potatoes, it smelled and looked delicious!!! Sada turned down the vegetables but ate 4 helpings (and not small ones of injera) Rosa had three helpings of the carrots and potatoes and two of the injera with red sauce. Somewhere during all of this the social worker suggested to the kids to share their lunch with us. Roza’s little hand scooped up a bite of injera wrapped red sauce and as I ate it I was surprised at how spicy it was. Sada shared a bite with Craig and Roza gave me a carrot which WAS every bit as delicious as it smelled. We received our first lesson on Ethiopian culture as the social worker nicely scolded us for not leaning in for the kids to put the food in our mouths. It is a sign of love here for someone to feed you and apparently husbands feed their wives often. I have yet to hear of another family getting to join the kids for lunch and it is for sure a special day for us.
I feel so overwhelmed right now at how blessed I feel by being here and sharing these moments with Roza and Sada. Thank you to the family and friends who have loved and supported us, thank you to NLO and the strangers who felt moved to stand with us and most of all I thank God for matching our hearts with his and providing every step of the way. We were never without, love, guidance, emotional support or financial support because he carried us as we have and will keep making this journey.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
One of the lessons learned yesterday was that anything in our bag Roza and Sada felt like they could have, camera, video camera, I-Pod, ANYTHING!!! To fix this problem I dug out a back pack I had brought for Sada to use on the airplane ride home and Craig and I filled it with snacks, candy, toys and the kids favorite, their photo albums. I also brought along some hair products and a comb to do Roza’s hair. Blame the cosmetologist in me but the truth is I’m willing to bet BIG BIG bucks that her hair had not been out of those ponies in more than a month. I set to untangling her hair from the hair ties that were twisted in knots and no matter how much conditioner I used it was not a pleasant experience for either one of us. She had 10 ponies that needed to come out, be combed and put back in…..she made it till number 9 and then lost it. I gave in and left number 10 alone but she ran to Craig and ignored me the rest of the morning. I thought to myself, it’s a small price to pay to not have to shave your head girl (yes it was really that bad) and one day you will thank me. Craig was eating up the attention from his girl and I let him enjoy it. I told myself by the time we get back from lunch she will be over it and we can go back to bonding and getting to know each other. BOY WAS I WRONG!!!! When we came back after lunch, which was Pizza by the way, she went right into Craig’s arms and spent the rest of the day there making sure to have NO eye contact with me!!!!
As for my little Sada he spent most of his day with Madison and the other kids at the TH. They sang and played games that I would guess are similar to Red Rover and Ring around the Rosies. He would find Craig and I now and again to blow up a punch ball or open a candy but he is a very independent little person as life has required from him up till now and we can tell that it’s going to take quite some time to bring down the walls he has built up. It was so much fun to see him playing with his friends and sister.
One of the best moments of the trip happened today. A nanny came and sat next to me on a cement retaining wall and complimented my hair. She said it was very beautiful and wanted to know if it was real. All I could do was laugh as I explained that it was in fact real and that I color it to make it look this way. Not 5 minuets later some little girls and one little boy came over to me and began playing with my hair. They went through it layer by layer trying to find where my fake hair stopped and my real hair began. The nanny tried her best to convince them it was all mine but they had to check it out for themselves. When they finally gave up and decided the nanny was right they set to braiding my hair. Let me just say that Roza should have had NO complaints from me doing her hair this morning because I have a VERY tender hand compared to those girls!!!!!!
We all piled into the 9:30 van, Jill, Craig, Maddie, Kelli and I. As we made the ½ hour drive I thought I was pretty calm and collected but Craig pulled his hand away from mine and asked me kindly to stop rubbing my thumb across the top of it, the skin was getting raw from the friction. It was at this point that I realized my toes were numb from having them curled up in my shoes, I took a few calming breaths as we sorted out cameras, flips and bloggies but my stomach dropped as Jill squealed with excitement when she recognized how close we were. We drove down the worst road I have ever been on in my life, if you could even call it a road at all. Sharp rock, giant pot holes, dust, goats, people and dogs all crowding the way. We pulled up to a massive metal gate and the driver honked the horn and a guard opened the gate and we drove into the complex. Right away I saw THE STAIRS. The same ones I have seen in all the other families meetcha day videos, the stairs you walk up and wait at as they bring our new children out to meet us. I worked hard at being composed and calm as we crawled out of the van and made our way up the four marble steps. It wasn’t long until I could see two little faces down the dark hallway that led straight to Craig and I. Sada had a smile on his face and his eyes were cautious but the excitement showed anyways and Roza held on tightly to the Nannny carrying her wide eyes and definitely a little scared. I took Roza out of the arms of her Nanny as Craig bent down to greet Sada and at that moment we were holding our children in OUR ARMS and at that moment I knew it had all been worth it.
We spent the rest of the morning getting to know the kids, playing on a blanket and looking through photo albums we had brought each of them. Sada’s shy side started to show until other kids from the TH came around then he was all about protecting HIS PROPERTY which included Craig and I. Jill and Kelli took pictures and videos, played with the other kids and handed out candy and it seemed all too quick that it was time for us to leave for lunch and let the kids have a nap.
I had to laugh when we sat down at the lunch table at a local restaurant and started looking over the menu, it was Mexican food. I whispered to Craig “I can’t believe we just flew ½ way around the world to a new place with new foods and our first meal out is Mexican.” We settled in and placed our orders and at this point Jill became the nervous wreck! A driver was coming at the end of lunch to pick her, Kelli and Maddie up to drive them to her children’s orphanage. Lunch took FOREVER!!!!!! That’s just the way it is here in Ethiopia. If we had not been in such tight seating arrangements I’m pretty sure Jill’s chair would have fallen over when she was told that her driver had arrived and she jumped up from the table. In a flash she had Maddie and Kelli were out the door and a while later we were back in the van headed back to the TH to be with Roza and Sada again.
By the end of the afternoon I was exhausted and as we made our way up the 65 steps to our 3rd floor guest room I was dragging but then I heard the sound of Jill’s kids laughing from our room. It was so much fun to walk in to the disaster of kid stuff all over the place and to see not only the smiling faces of two beautiful new faces that will forever be in my life but the face of their Mommy grinning twice as big! I can’t imagine a better way to end such a remarkable day.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
1. Pack EVERYTHING you can’t live without In-country in your carryon! In our travel group we had a family that did not receive luggage until after meetcha day! No worries, the luggage did show up eventually.
2. Plug in items like flat irons don’t always work even with the plug-in adaptors, it must be a 50/60 hertz OR have a converter and adaptor!!
3.Have a pen and your passport handy when you are on your last flight into Addis! It sure makes filling out the visa information card Easier. You will also need the Name Address and Phone Number of the Guest House.
4. When you hand your visa information card and pass port over to officials make sure you get the visa information card back because you will use it one more time before exiting to baggage claim.
5. When you get to baggage claim DON’T let the uniformed baggage men help you!!! They try and tell you to pay a fee to pick your bags up THEN they make you tip them before they hand them over to you!! IT’S a SCAM, as we found out the hard way!
6. DO have your luggage claim tags ready because they DO check them and put your luggage threw security one more time before allowing you to exit the airport.
7. Don’t forget to exchange money into Birr at the airport. You can do it at the local banks - but the lines are LONG!
8. Don’t put that passport away just yet, when you check into the guest house they will ask for your passport number on your check in forms.
9. When the guest house is near capacity don’t expect internet or hot water. Try showering or getting on-line at user-friendly times like between 2-5 a.m.
10. When packing for the transition home bring a separate bag that is full of toys and goodies for your child. The first day we had everything in our family backpack so the kids thought they were welcome to anything in it like the video camera, water bottles, snacks and so on. On day two we taught them that the blue back pack was off limits but the red one was for them. We also would hide special new item in our backpack so we could pull them out as needed or wanted by us.
11. Pack you child his or her own water bottle. When they see you drinking out of one they want one too.
12. I brought one special gift for the kids number one favorite nanny. I didn’t make a big deal about giving it to her I simply took it off myself and put it on her.
13. Buy bottled water from the street vendors and not from the guest house! It is quick, easy and walking distance to get water this way and saves money.
14. If you would like to call home buy the GREEN CARD from the street shop just outside the doors of the guest house. The card costs 100 Birr and gives you 8 minutes of U.S. talk time. To use the card take it to the receptionist at the guest house and she will load them card number into the house phone and hand it over to you to make your call.
15. David the driver is SUPER HELPFUL but does not work for America World. He is paid a salary wage and then our tips.
16. The “GUYS” don’t really love chocolate as much as it is posted they do. Chocolate is expensive and all staff, AW as well as the guesthouse love the treats but be more creative than chocolate as gifts for the 4 men who MAKE THIS TRIP for you and your family.
17. The best days to visit your kids at the transition home is Saturdays and Sundays because the only children out to play are yours and those of the other families visiting. It is also the day I would choose to meet my kids as well as say goodbye.
18. Do insist to be taken to Salem’s. It is a “Unique Jewelry woven home accessories and scarves. Beautiful Pottery.” Tel: 091-164-5619 email@example.com This is a small shop owned and operated by friends of an AW family. This husband and wife employ at risk women to hand make the items in the small store. Not only are all the items beautiful but they are more than affordable!!
19. Do bring a belt for every traveling member of your family! Weight loss and pants that are too big seem to be a common theme in families, especially those staying more than a few days.
20. Verbal contracts mean NOTHING in Ethiopia. If you are agreeing on something important get it in writing!!
21. Bring an extra pair of shoes. My day to day shoes are a pair of leopard print flats that have not handled the uneven sidewalks well. My favorite flats now have a hole in them and I’m looking for new shoes along the street shops.
22. Take the time to visit the orphanages while in Ethiopia. I have now been to Kids Care, KVI, and Ahope. Each one has been a memorable experience and opened my eyes to a different world.
23. There are many digital photo shops in Addis that print BEAUTIFUL pictures. The one I visited was walking distance from the guest house and printed my photos off my jump drive. Each picture was 2 Birr each and worth it!!
24. The nannies at the transition house love it when you take their pictures and then bring them a copy of the print.
25. You can buy many of your favorite foods at the local grocery store here in Addis. The general packaging looks the same so keep an eye out for your favorite brands.
26. You can bring laundry soap with you but for as little as .30 cents a shirt you can have your laundry done for you. By the way I want to learn how they fold my unmentionables!! It’s awesome.
27. Mouth wash in your mouth while in the shower help kill any germs from water that despite your best efforts sneaks in your mouth.
28. The proper technique for brushing your teeth while in Addis is a water bottle in one hand and a tooth brush in another. This way your hand is not free to turn the faucet on and stick your tooth brush in the running water and back in your mouth making you ill for days. (Take it from me, I know first hand)
29. Bring your own chocolate, not only is it expensive but it taste different.
30. I love the little street shop across the street from the transition home. If you ask the guards they will let you take your child there to pick out a treat like, gum, juice, a coke, pen , paper and do on.
31. There is also a great little traditional Ethiopian cuisine place across the street. For 16 Birr you can bring a platter back to the transition home to eat with your child. I have had it many times and not been sick.
32. You may want to bring ear plugs, people are early to rise here and late to bed with dogs barking and music booming all night long.
33. Every time I pass a cash machine I pull Birr out. I chose not to bring too much cash with me un-sure of when I would be going home or where I would be staying. My bank charges $5.00 and a 1% fee so beware.
34. Feel free to hand out candy or granola bars if you are standing on the street but DON’T DO IT from inside the car. Your driver will get a ticket.
35. If you get pedicure at the spa WARNING it’s in cool water, but felt GREAT!
36. Runny noses……… I’m now on my 7th pack of Kleenex because my daughter’s nose never quits running. (this is common) you can buy more tissues from the street vendors but they are not soft like the kind from home.
37. Be discreet when taking pictures in public. Most Ethiopians want a birr to allow you to take the picture of them or their shop and they are NOT mild mannered about it.
38. When choosing your luggage for your trip choose pieces that fit in each other or collapse.
39. Ambo is a sparkling water that comes in plain, orange, lemon lime and strawberry and Yummy!! It has been a great substitute to the Pepsi and Coke offered here.
40. Not all beverages are served cold so make sure you specify when you place your order.
41. If you have a mini fridge in your room turn on the freezer and freeze a bottle of water to carry with you during the day.
42. Carry a small flash light with you if you will be out after dark. Our family went out to dinner one evening and the power went out. The restaurant had a generator and we finished our meal with lights but the streets were pitch BLACK and a bit scary.
43. A common phrase in Ethiopia is “Maybe tomorrow” It basically means settle down you silly American, it will happen when it happens and don’t ask me again. I pretty much hear this everyday in regards to court.
44. Be mindful of how you dress, nothing sleeveless or above the knee is preferred by this culture.
45. May is the hottest month here.
46. Meals here can take hours, by asking your wait staff to prepare your ticket when they are serving your food will help speed the process along.
47. It costs 3 Birr to enter the airport to pick someone up, this does not include the parking fee.
48. In many cases your luggage will be tossed on top of a van and not tied down as the driver maneuver the streets of Addis on your way to your destination.
49. It seems to be normal here to have roaches in the kitchen. As we were told “As long as they are not served in your food don’t worry about it.”
50. This is a happy place with smiling faces, enjoy your time and take in every experience you can!!!!!
It all began with a family swim night at our hotel room in Spokane. Craig and I have missed many an A.M. flight having to make the drive up from Colfax and this hotel we stayed at offered parking for our vehicle while we were gone . It was a great bargain. Three families including 7 adults and 12 kids swam in the three pools and one luke warm hot tub. We had so much fun but it didn’t stop the tearful goodbyes when Jill, Kelli Craig, Maddie and I had to say good bye.
Craig and Maddie where the only two who slept that evening. Jill and I were up every half hour checking the clock ensuring we didn’t miss our flights and 3:30 a.m. came fast. Craig drove Jill, Madison and I to the airport with our nine 50 pound bags to check in, 4 back packs and 3 carry-ons. None of that includes Kelli’s who met us at the airport an hour later!!!
Check in was a breeze and a BIG thank you to KLM for allowing us to bring the 9th 50 pound bag full of donations for free. We waited to go through security till Craig had driven the now very empty suburban back to the hotel and walked back to the airport. It wasn’t terribly long till Kelli joined us and our traveling party was complete just in time for a few pictures before sending Jill off to make her flights.
Now the story continues with Craig, Maddie, Kelli and I having a little Starbucks and breakfast before boarding our plane to Minneapolis.
It was an uneventful flight but the only one who took a nap was Maddie. She was out despite our best efforts to keep her awake. In Minneapolis we ate some French fries, had our favorite carbonated beverages and I paid a few bills before our connecting flight to Amsterdam. Now this flight was a little more exciting. Not only was the trip starting to feel real but poor Kelli was seated a small airplane isle away from a young man who had a break down. He was shouting and kicking his backpack into the isle accusing the stewards of thinking he was a terrorist and wanting them to check his bags. Craig very kindly changed seats with Kelli putting himself between us and this young man and in all fairness we had no more trouble from him after that.
We all got a little sleep on this flight but it felt like every ten minuets they were waking us up to feed us or pour a beverage. The service and flight was excellent. We then had a VERY expensive layover breakfast in Amsterdam that included a pastry, one coke and one $4.00 black coffee. It felt like forever before the security at our gate opened and allowed us to begin boarding. I’m pretty sure we sat at a children’s table for more than two hours at the crowded gate. I was so tired I wanted to lay down on the yucky airport floor and sleep but I made it to the plane before crashing.
To be 100% honest I had a little bit of fear about our layover in Sudan to refuel and let a few passengers off but it was no problem at all. The international flight was SO different than our US domestic flights. Strangers chatted away walking up and down the rows saying hello, so much more friendly and way less business like.
Our flight was over an hour early but we still stood in line what I thought was forever to get our visas, that was until two more flights came in and the airport exploded with people. We were doing fine till it came to baggage claim. Men in suits swooshed our hands away as we tried to pick up our luggage and that was the beginning of loosing $30 dollars to get our luggage out of the airport.
Now then back to Jill who had different flights that were suppose to come in with in half an hour of ours BUT we were early and after waiting in the parking lot, in the van, our family alone in a strange new world, the driver finally gave up on Jill joining us returned to the van and drove us to the Guest House. Kelli and I were a nervous wreck as we waited for Jill to pull up in her taxi but when she did we screamed, shouted hugged, and jumped up and down despite it was now after 11:00 p.m. and we were waking all the other guests. All I can say about the rest of the night is that I DON’T REMEMBER A THING because I slept so hard until dawn.
Stay tuned for the day we met this kids coming tomorrow………….
Monday, March 28, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
As packing and planning are still underway I'm happy to report that my to-do list is getting shorter and shorter but then again as I cross one to-do off I seem to add another so maybe I'm just breaking even. Anyways on the
to-do list of things came the hair cut. Now I was planning on a quick cut and color for myself and that is scheduled for the 24th and I knew my hubby needed a little trim before we left but as mommy sat scrolling threw google looking at different styles my little girls decided they too needed to add a little 2011 to their look and so became the infection that spread threw our house. Did you know hair cuts are contagious?!?!?! First came Kerrie a friend of the family she decided to drop her long locks for a short sassy look! On this same night Maddie had a friend over who of course couldn't be left out so we did a simple trim and tidy to her layers. ( she's not pictured) Levi wanted to go a bit more trendy and pulls of a short mohawk well, it was extra cute the day he styled it himself and used liquid soap instead of hairspray. At first Maddie picked out a long layers look which she wore to church but when nobody noticed the change she traded in for a Nicole Richie look. Mallory picked out a cute bob with a long light bang and we cut more than 6 inches off of her. Now then add to my calendar a cut and color for Jill, we cant have her traveling to ET with us and meeting her two new little ones with grow out and split ends, Craig still needs his trim and after a text last night from my mom letting me know that the picture attached to my last post looks like witch hair I'm in the mood for an entire new look ( not unusual for me). You see what I mean, hair cuts are contagious!
Mallory and Mommy
And Kerrie's new look!
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Thursday, March 10, 2011
The first struggle was the fact that I had to let God convince Craig that now was the time and not 5 years from now for us to start the process. He did just that in 2 short weeks.
Then there was the list, I know that I have not shared the list on the blog but before God changed Craig's heart he and I (mostly him) made a list of goals and objects that HAD to be obtained by us before we could start the paperwork. Let me just say that there was no way that even in 10 years we would have managed to fulfill this list. In the two weeks God worked on Craig, Craig let go of the list. Then the most AMAZING things began to happen, goals and objects from our list started to be completed. All BLESSINGS from God. We are one goal away from this 10+ year list being gone!
Moving down the time line we had the financial worry, how would we pay for an adoption??? Blessed again, this time by NO LONGER ORPHANS. They are a nonprofit that partners with one family at a time as they swim up stream threw the adoption process. They have financially supported the adoption, been there emotionally for the happy and sad moments and most important have followed a plan God has laid out for them. Because of that they have met not only the financial obligation our adoption but have made a HUGE dent in the adoption of their next family bringing home a son from Russia. I encourage you to go to www.nolongerorphans.blogspot.com and read about the passion and power that moves them and learn of ways you can help.
Next we come to our home study... allI I can say is we are on our third Official FInal Copy and what takes most families 6 weeks to 3 months to get all wrapped up ended up being an almost year long process due to circumstances beyond our control. Enough said but I give praise to God for giving me PEACE beyond UNDERSTANDING. My mother in-law calls me the terrier of the family and its NOT because I'm little and cute! I have a mean bite at times ;)
Lets move on now to the referral and God asking us to adopt special needs, that was another two week battle of the wills between Craig and God... God won of course! Praise again to him!!
With the acceptance of God's will came the official acceptance of our children. Yea, were adoption pregnant, but to keep the referral we had 4 SHORT weeks to raise $18,000 dollars. God opened up the hearts of family friends and strangers and with NLO we made the goal!
You would think at this point the struggles would be over but OH NO, to be honest they just keep getting harder..... So the adoption is paid for but during this LONG, LONG Process Ethiopia changed the laws and Craig and I would need to travel TWO times to Ethiopia and back. The first time to meet the kids and go to court, the second to pick up the kids Visas and bring them home. Two trips like this would be an estimated $12,000 dollars. NLO partnered with our church youth group who is planning a missions trip to Africa this summer to host and amazing Valentines dinner and auction. As four incredible women sat planning this event one afternoon the question came up.... How much money would each organization need to walk away with in order to make our time and effort worth while? The answer was $1,000 each. When the evening of our event came to an end the total raised was over $15,000! GOD IS SO GOOD. That was enough money that after expenses and then split with the youth group NLO had enough in the bank to pay for all the travel cost of our adoption!!!
And NOPE still not done. One of my personal struggles has been knowing that I would get to spend 10 days meeting and loving our kids and then HAVE to walk away till the embassy cleared us to travel. I'm not in a position to share the story of my kids past but let me just say this, it's NOT in the best interest of OUR kids to meet and then leave. This plagued my heart, many hours I have spent praying about how to overcome this and God's answer did come. It was for me to stay in Ethiopia with our kids the 6-12 weeks between court and embassy and have Craig and Maddie return home to the States. This plan only had on two road blocks the first was passing court. At the time this didn't worry me too much, 60% of families DID pass the first time and we have what I feel is a pretty straight forward case to be presented to the judge. No the BIG problem was going to be Craig and getting him to agree to lave me in a third world country by myself with two new kids for the 6-12 weeks. Straight away the prayers began and this time God only had to wrestle for two DAYS with Craig, I think Craig is getting better about listening and obeying.
Packing and planning was under way for our April 5th Court date and I was tearing off a post-it note a day as we were counting down to the moment we would depart. To be honest I thought the hard part was done. God had provided what I thought was going to be that hardest part, money, he saw us threw all the home study chaos and all paperwork, and we had a court date with plane tickets in hand. Then the rug was pulled out from beneath us... MOWA as mentioned in a previous post began re-evaluating how they processes cases and as of this very moment I would say that we have a 1% chance of passing court. Without passing court I wont be staying in Ethiopia with our kids, and it could be months before we do pass. Needless to say I was in a low, low place but now as I sit here tonight the kids in bed, the TV off and my I-pod still spilling tunes out in the background I DON'T CARE!!
And you know why I don't care...... Because if Satan would work this hard, for this long to try and put a stop to the creation of our family, to try and stop the adoption of the kids God has chosen to place in our family, and to try and beat us down to give up our faith and peace in our Lord, then we must have AMAZINGLY SPECIAL KIDS waiting for us and my God is stronger than anything Satan could throw at us. I alone can't change whats happening in Ethiopia and with our adoption but God can so I will rest my head and heart on that as my day comes to an end and the sun is rising on the day for my kids half a world away.
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Monday, March 7, 2011
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Did you hear me screaming at 9:20 a.m. the morning of the February 23rd? Well, to be honest I'm not sure if I was screaming, hyperventilating, or perhaps going into shock but we got a due date.....I'm sorry, I mean COURT DATE!!!!!!!! It's practically the same thing. I've been attached to my phone for the last few weeks now waiting, watching and wanting a phone call from our travel Coridnator at America World and so when it finally came with the great news that we have a court date of April 5th in Ethiopia what did I do??? Call, text, email and Facebook all of our family and friends of course!
To be honest it took me more than an hour to settle down and for the reality of this phone call to sink in, planning, packing, cleaning, shopping and more all needing to be done in just over 30 days. I paced around the house the rest of the morning waiting for the travel email giving our family all the details and rules for our trip. Poor Craig, it was his day off and as fabulous as it was that he was home for us to receive the phone call together by 11:00 he was wishing he was at work. I sat next to him on the couch as he did his computer stuff begging.... Refresh! Check the email. Is it here yet? How about now? Are you sure your doing it right?!? Now don't let me fool you he was just as excited as I was but he is WAY better at controlling it. I think he was secretly enjoying the fact that I was going CRAZY!
Thursday- Saturday were spent tracking down the best routes and airline prices from Spokane to Ethiopia, running to the court house to expedite Madison's passport, and many, many, mini freak outs that in 30 days we would be meeting our children for the first time, hugging them for the first time, taking their hands in ours, playing, bonding and meeting eyes for the first time ever.....CHILLS!!!
For the most part I have calmed down, I think. I must say that my friends know me well enough to give me the, relax, you don't have to do it all talk almost daily, BUT YES I DO!! I now have a very organized plan that goes kaputzzzzz daily. Index cards labeled as a daily count down, along with coordinating Must Do's, Should Do's and You didn't do yesterday like you were suppose too!!!! It works well for me but every morning as I announce to Craig X number of days to go he gives me a very worried look and says "your not helping me" remain calm. hee hee :)
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Friday, January 28, 2011
The next step is to wait for an official court date, our agency is hopeful that we will be in Ethiopia meeting the kids by the second week of March but then again I know our agency has many, many families waiting for court dates and with one of the judges being out for maternity leave and rumors that the other asked for a break from adoption cases in February I have fear that March might just turn into April. I have 100% faith in God's perfect timing but this is where I also believe in the power of prayer so my PRAYER REQUEST is to please pray for the families waiting for court dates and the children they have waiting in Ethiopia, pray for the court system and the judges and that cases move along swiftly with no glitches or hold ups.
Now then we all know that I'm a planner so sitting around with no court date is killing me! I have gained weight, over analyzed our packing list and yes I have even
re-inventoried our already packed bags, made adjustments and repacked them! We are so lucky to have our friend Kelli making the trip with us and with each airline ticket purchased we get two 50lbs bags and a 15 lbs carry on! Having knowledge of a family who had ALL of their checked items lost and ended up in Ethiopia for a week with just their carry-on's, I have packed all of our MUST haves into our backpacks. How I managed to get a week worth of MUST haves into a backpack for each of us is a miracle in it's self for which I'm grateful! That leaves all of our would VERY much like to have items stuffed into a suitcase and 5 suit cases at 50lbs each full of donations for the orphanages and gifts from other families in our agency that we get to hand to their children! How exciting is that!! Now then I did not include Kelli's suitcase use into my equation so I'm sure that will give us even more donation room! God is so good!!
This is Kelli and I!!
I'll let you in on a little secret, my husband is SCARED, SCARED, SCARED to death of needles! He hates shots and it's been mine and Maddie's secret all week that on Daddy's day off we were going to the Pullman Travel Clinic to receive all of our immunizations for the trip. Three hours, 8 shots and 9 prescriptions later we are ready for Africa!
Remember PRAYERS FOR COURT IN ETHIOPIA so we can put all of Craig's panic and pain to good use and get over there to meet our kids!!
Monday, January 24, 2011
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
1. This adoption has hands down been the hardest thing I have EVER done thus far in my life! I have SMILED more, PRAYED more, CRIED more, and REJOICED more than I could have ever thought possible, with that being said this adoption has hands down also been the biggest BLESSING!!
2. I love my family with a fury in my heart that would scare any beast but with the tenderness of the softest touch. My husband and children fill my life with love, joy and laundry!
3. My new hair cut and color is way CUTE but if my husband had his way I would be a platinum blond. UGH on me, but stinkin cute on other people!
4. I prefer wine to beer thanks to my brother and sister in law taking me wine tasting a few years back, Cheers to them! I'm also enjoying a glass now, so I guess that explains why it comes to mind.
5. I cry during movies, all movies from drama to cartoons (Yes Toy Story 3 got me. Admit it you cried, didn't you.) but don't tend to cry often with major emotional events. I'm truly curious to see how my emotions hold up when I get to finally hold S and R in my arms for the first time.
6.I love my footie jammies, you know the kind that two year old's wear. The best is when you warm them in the dryer first! TOASTY!
7. I have given up my passion for saving pound puppies and have matured to helping to save lives. Weather it is threw you and your family personally adopting, supporting another family who is adopting or sponsoring families in need it is a GREAT BIG WORLD out there and God has given each of us gifts and talents that can be used to help save another.
8.My favorite device is my Ipad! LOVE LOVE LOVE it! but some close seconds are my cell phone, Ipod, Nikon D5000 camera and Sony bloggie. Fun fact about me: I am technology challenged so I find it funny that I love my gadgets so much!
9. My favorite color is RED. It is strong, powerful and hot but also the color of love and HIV awareness. If you don't know the TRUTH or even if you think you do, take a moment and learn more at www.projecthopeful.org and then share it.
10.I am a SERIAL KILLER of plants and fish,WOW it feels good to get that off my chest. I wish it wasn't so but the bottom line is that I can't keep either alive despite my best efforts. Oh sure, I may make it a few months but nothing long term. My poor husband is on his own when it comes to gardening and lawn work and I have attended far too many fishy toilet funerals.
11. My husband and I have been married 11 years this Saturday and I love and adore him now more than ever. Fun Fact about me: When we were in H.S. I looked his phone number up in the telephone directory, called him and said "Craig, this is Caylene. Jamie is here at my house accusing me of liking Little John so I'm calling you in front of her to tell you I have a crush on you." He has been mine ever since so a great big THANK YOU to Jamie.
12. Snoopy was my first dog or child depending on how you look at things. He was a beautiful Beagle and died last December at age 13. Loosing him still makes me cry and I'm pretty sure I will NEVER own another beagle because none could compare.
13. I love cute SHOES!!! All shapes, all colors, heels are great because I'm SHORT but flats work too. FYI: I'm a size 7-7.5 but fully believe and live by the motto that what size shoe I wear depends on how bad I want to wear them.
14.I can't spell, trying to play Scrabble SUCKS! I have dyslexia and all I can say is thank goodness for spell check and calculators!
15. I enjoy reading but rarely have time. My favorite stories are those unpublished by my friend Chere and when those show up in the mail I make time. They are creative and dazzling just like her. I have complete faith that one day she will be published but until then I hope that she continues to honor me with her words.
16. I really REALLY really miss having my nails done. I'm a cosmetologist for goodness sake! It's feels like I'm breaking a secret code, big hair, fake nails and a great dye job!
17.I love to rearrange the furniture in our home. I do it ALL the time but for some reason I always feel this great need to do it as we are cleaning for company. My husband dislikes that about me very very much.
18.No matter what, when I put something, "In a safe place" I can NEVER EVER find it when I need it. Drives me crazy!!!
19. Going to Ethiopia will be the first time I get to use my passport. We are super excited to be taking our oldest daughter MADISON on the first trip, and in an effort to be 100% honest I'm going to publicly admit that I'm all packed and ready to go even though it looks like it will be early March before we go to court.
20.I greatly dislike MUD even though thunder, lighting and strong winds are my favorite weather. I love it when the power goes out and you hear complete silence, but nothing beats curling up on the couch with the kids, a blanket and a flashlight armed with one of each of their favorite books as we wait for the power to return.
21.LEOPARD is my favorite print. It's wild and fun, not to mention one of the new neutrals in fashion and decorating and lets not forget that it looks fabulous paired with red! I own leopard print heels, flats, purses (yes more than one) blanket, ring, earrings, sweater, manicure kit, toothbrush, travel make-up bag and flat iron case as well as some of my un-mentionables.
22.My best friend is AMAZING! She is a firecracker and God has BIG plans for her. My only hope is to be pulled along as I grasp tight to her shirt tails. It has been 14 years since I called anyone my best girl friend because the shoes were far to big to fill but God knew I needed her and so I count my blessings that I get to share my life with her.
23.I found a white eyebrow hair as I was waxing my eyebrows last week. Yes, it was devastating to me. I know not why I fear gray because that's what dye is for but UGH really my eyebrows! Maybe this all comes from turning 30 this last July, getting my first ever cavity x 4 AND admitting to myself that it just might be time for glasses.
24. I try and live by "SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE" it can be hard and sometimes as I deny myself something that I would otherwise indulge myself like my NAILS but it makes my heart feel good and I get a positive feeling of pride. I hope that this is a way of life that I can teach my children.
25. My favorite food is FRIED OKRA. Oh my, if you were to add to that sweet tea, a chicken fried steak, mash potatoes and a soft light dinner roll then we would be talking about my favorite meal and the best COMFORT FOOD ever! Hum, kinda makes me hungry.
26. By the way I'm from the south. Yep you would have never guessed it with all the Texas slang I use like KINDA, FIXIN, and Y'ALL. If I had a custom license plate it would be this: GRITS It stands for girls raised in the south. When I'm tired, upset or been on the phone with my family there my accent comes out strong.
27. No jokes but I'm the goat barn lady. I run the goat barn for our county fair and when I began this task 2 years ago I knew almost nothing about goats. I still don't know much but more than I once did. I love to see the kids succeed and learn the responsibility of caring for their animal. Ask me sometime about the goat suicide we had on our own farm, its a sad but funny story.
28.I love to plan parties! Big THEMED over the top parties. any occasion, any reason, I don't care, its just plain fun!
29. I hate to do dishes. My poor, poor husband. We made a deal when we were fist married that I would cook and he would do the kitchen clean up, I'm pretty sure he now regrets making this arrangement because I'm a MESSY MESSY cook but it sure tastes good. I don't dare ask Craig how he feels about our 11 year agreement because I don't want to make any revisions to the arrangement.
30. My favorite song is SMILE by Charlie Chaplin. It hold some extra special memories for me and not a day goes by that I don't sing it at least once. Some times I shout it, other times I hum it but one thing is for sure it is the first song ANY of my children ever heard and with out a doubt it will be the first song I sing to S and R!