Friday, October 30, 2009

Toilet of Fun

I know one day when my kids are older they will absolutely hate knowing I posted this. Isn't it good to know by then it will too late? There will always be those moments we as parents get to enjoy knowing full well that it will embarrass the heck out of our children when they are older. But I have heard it makes the teen years a little easier.

So here I go...

Did you know you don't need to buy children toys? In our house a few boxes will do.

Notice how torn up the box is and yet it still brings good play time

including a Lenny Kravitz moment for sister

The other thing that brings great joy in our house without the expense of toys is the toilet...

Who knew sitting on a toilet could be so much fun?

I mean where else can you go to contemplate "should I have a PBJ or toasted cheese sandwich for lunch?"

And of course you can't forget about concentrating super hard to go potty.

Sometimes it helps to look away...

other times you must stare straight ahead and drool...

or you can always hope sticking out your tongue and grunting will help...

But if all else fails....

Give it your best face...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Before there were kids...

Before we had kids...we had kids. They just happen to be a little bit furrier and never seem to grow out of the 2 year old stage.

April 26, 2009 we lost Hershey to cancer. She was 15 years old. Way too young in my book. Of course I am used to the cat that lives to be 18-20 years old. It was hard on me but it was doubly hard on Hubby. She was our first baby. Yep, I do mean baby. Nope, I am not some crazy cat lady. But when you long for a family for as many years as we have, you find ways to supplement your life.

Hubby called her Princess and she willingly lived up to her nickname.

It was hard to lose her especially during a time when we were receiving so much disappointing news about our adoption. I just kept saying “we still have Snickers, we still have Snickers.”

Our sweet lovin’ mouse protectn’ little Snickas.

Both of our cats were Mama's girls (don't tell Hubby) but Snickers has always held a special place in my heart. She is an unusual cat and not just because she is a Japanese Bobtail. Her fur is like thick rabbit fur. When people come over they can’t stop petting her (not that she minds). She adores attention and can’t wait to get up onto your chest where she can rub your face while she purrs and drools.

We get along great because she completely understands the need for a long Sunday afternoon nap (or a nap at any other time or place).

What else makes her unusual is that she loves me to hold her like a baby. I cradle her in my arms and she just stares at me and purrs (no really I am not a crazy cat lady). It has brought me comfort over the years as I have longed to be a mom. She just seemed to know I needed it. This leads into one more great part about Snickers. One of her many nicknames is “nurse” Snickers. She is the first one to try and make you feel better when you are sick. When I had my tonsils out at the age of 30, she never left me. She is also my computer companion. Always looking for an opportunity to slide in for some extra loves like she is trying to do right now.

So it was hard when we brought her home from my parents house and found a large lump on her back. Yes, I do mean large. I spent one night in my Hubby’s arms crying at the thought of losing her. A trip to the vet taught us that she had an abscess. A very large abscess hence the drain tubes you see coming out of her back. It seems that something bit her at my parents house (mostly likely a cat) and instead of the wound healing, it became infected. What a relief.

Until today…I found a new lump on her leg (heavy sighs). I had them look at it today when they checked her drain tubes. It is most likely a cancerous tumor. It is going to cost between 300-400 to remove it and have it biopsied. Hmmm…not what we want to hear.

So here we are at another bend in the road wondering the same thing we did at the beginning of April with Hershey, how much longer will we have Snickers in our life?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The first cut...

Yes, it's true. I have been waiting for this day for a long time. A very, very long time. Isaac's first hair cut. It was definitely time.

Hubby and I both like boys/men with short hair.

We have a great local barber shop called Larry's.

Today was our first visit and we made it a family affair. We thought Isaac might need all the moral support he could get...and he did.

But after a few tears and giving Daddy the "what are you doing to me" look...

...we were able to see the finished look.

He wasn't so sure about his new "do". But we are sure we like it!

We knew he had changed his mind when we caught him staring at himself in the mirror smiling after his bath this evening. Daddy told him he looked handsome. He nodded and grinned from ear to ear.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Green Bluff Etiquette

It is important when arriving at Green Bluff to do so in style...

There is no reason to lose your cool while you are picking pumpkins...

In fact there is no harm in striking a pose...

Or helping your grandma through the pumpkin patch...

You might even let the public see those baby brown eyes...

And just maybe you will show a glimpse of your flirty smile...

And maybe...just will take your Mom for a walk while you are there...

But whatever you it with style...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Those Eyes

Those eyes...those amazing and oh so beautiful eyes...

...they say I love you...

...they melt your Mommy's heart...

...and penetrate her soul...

...everytime she looks at you...

...and holds you... is a privilege to love you my beautiful little sweet peas.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 7 - Spokane or Bust

Day 7 – Spokane or Bust

After getting our luggage checked back in and resolving some ticketing questions, we headed for the nearest souvenir stand. Jocelyn had gone through all but one outfit and my shirt looked like I had been wearing it for a good week straight. I was feeling refreshed in my new t-shirt and Jocelyn looked adorable in her DC onsie. Now we need good food and a place to run.

We found a great restaurant and ate everything they put before us. Airplane food leaves much to be desired. Across from the restaurant was an area where there was no flight traffic coming in or out. We decide this would be a perfect place to let the kids run free. Our only goal for the next 3 hours is to not let them sleep. I know it sounds strange after they have been awake for over 18 hours now but our goal is to have them so exhausted they will sleep from DC to Denver. And if we are lucky…they will sleep Denver to Spokane.

I can’t even begin to express how much fun it is to watch Isaac and Jocelyn run free. Isaac adores running and having the space to be free. He hasn’t quite figured out that running and playing peek-a-boo at the same time is not such a great idea. Jocelyn is the epitome of “monkey see monkey do.” Our 3 hours are gone in the blink of an eye.

Our flight from DC to Denver is just what we want it to be…uneventful. Jocelyn still does not sleep as sound as Isaac because she can’t move all over the place. It is hard to flop around while you are asleep in your mommy’s lap. I even got the chance to sneak back and use the bathroom. I got up to stretch my legs while she was asleep in my arms. The flight attendants were completely smitten with her. One offered to hold her so I could take a bathroom break. I decide to take the chance and it worked. Jocelyn never knew she had left her Mommy’s arms. Phew!

We spend the 1.5 hours we have in the Denver airport finding our next flight and grabbing a quick bite to eat. The rest of the time is spent fielding questions from those around us. Our sweet peas are beautiful so people tend to watch them and comment on how adorable they are (of course we already know this). But we also field several questions about if we have adopted them. We are definitely white (especially Hubby) so you can’t miss that they don’t quite match us. I find this to be a perfect opportunity to educate people about Ethiopia, adoption, and how others can make a difference in the lives of an orphan even if they do not want to adopt. It is a great way to pass the time while waiting to board our flight.

As we sit in the plane waiting to leave the runway, Hubby and me just look at each other and smile. We are finally going to be home. Home has never sounded so good. Finally we will be home with our sweet peas in our arms.

We are blessed again to have wonderful flight attendants. United Airlines has been impeccable in caring for us. It always helps when they are smitten with your sweet peas. Isaac sleeps most of the way from Denver to Spokane but as we suspected Jocelyn had no intention of sleeping. Shortly before landing I change them into the last clean outfits I have for them. I wanted them to look good when they meet their Grandpa H.

We are the last ones to get off the plane. It is just easier to wait. We are so relieved to be home. As we get down towards the baggage claim area we are met by many smiling faces and cheers of joy. Several of our friends had come out to give us a grand welcome home. It was so much fun to see everyone and to show off our sweet peas. It didn’t take long for Jocelyn to want down. She had the attention of so many people. She must entertain them!

Grandpa H. was late getting here to pick us up but it was kind of nice. Everyone else was already gone so it allowed my Dad to see them alone for the first time. I don’t remember the last time I saw my Dad smile so big. His pride was written all over his face. It is so good to share our joy with family and friends. Our journey has not been easy these last 17 months but we haven’t taken this journey alone.

To all who have prayed with us, wept with us, laughed with us and rejoiced with us. Thank you for being a part of our lives. Thank you for letting us share our journey with you. We look forward to celebrating this new life with you in the months and years to come.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day 7 – or is it still Day 6?

Day 7 – or is it still Day 6?

One thing I have found as we have traveled to Ethiopia is the sense of time lost or is it time gained? Between jet lag, babies up at night and the difference of time between here and Ethiopia, I am not sure what day it is or should be. We are on the plane and it is now after midnight in Ethiopia which means its Friday but we are no longer in Ethiopia. So do I stick with Ethiopian time? Or maybe since we are on our way to Rome, I should switch to the time in Rome. Of course it might help if I knew what time it is in Rome. Or maybe since our final destination for this leg of the trip is DC I should use Eastern Standard Time. That would make it 1:00 in the afternoon on Thursday which would mean we haven’t actually left yet. Huh? You see my problem? So I am blogging like it is Day 7. Don’t ask me what time zone I am using or I might tell you I am using “Kelli’s too new of a mom to have clue what time it is” time zone.

Isaac is now fast asleep in a bassinet attached to the bulk head in front of Hubby (with a little help from Benadryl of course). Jocelyn is asleep but restless. Both of them are basically too big for the bassinets but we are hoping they will be able to sleep in the bassinet at least part of the way. The problem with Jocelyn is that she is an all over the bed sleeper so expecting her to stay confined to such a small space is like shooting for the moon.

It is hard for us to get any sleep since the flight attendants keep waking us up. Do they really need to wake us up to ask if we want water at midnight? An hour later we are awaken to an attendant asking us what we want for breakfast. Breakfast? It is 1 am in Ethiopia. Whose time zone are they using? Charlie is able to finish his breakfast without disturbing Isaac but I am not so lucky. Jocelyn is awake. She hasn’t even slept for 3 hours. Sigh…this can’t be good.

The next 20 hours are spent trying to keep our sweet peas from turning the people around us into axe murderers. I truly do feel for those who were on the plane with us. We did our best but have you ever tried to keep a 20 month old confined to a space too small for the average adult for 20 hours? Oh, no you didn’t misread the 20 hours part. We touched down in Rome to refuel. We were not allowed to get off the plane. In fact, you don’t even taxi up to the airport. You taxi to an area where they fuel planes that are touching down only long enough to refuel. It is quite humorous to watch our plane taxi up to a fueling station. There is a line of planes and ours pulls up and parks between two other international airlines. I never thought I would be at a gas station for air planes. Anyway, my original point is the fact that we were on a plane for way too long.

So…what do you do on a plane for 20 hours with two toddlers…besides say “no” a lot? Well…for me it meant standing/walking with Jocelyn for about 6 hours of the trip. She hated sitting in my lap. I won’t lie; I tried putting her to sleep many times with no luck. I will have you know there is not enough Benadryl in the world for this long of a trip. Hubby and I were not big on using it but we were even encouraged by our case worker who is a child psychologist to use it. It worked when we first got on the plane but the second time we tried giving it to Jocelyn, she literally shook it off. She started to fall asleep but then pulled her head up in defiance and shook it real hard. Her eyelids never drooped again.

Isaac did real well until about the last 4 hours. He had it with the whole sit on Daddy’s lap thing. Did you know it can get a little ugly with a strong willed child on a plane? We had many moments of him staring at us with that “just try to make me” look I so detest love. Poor little guy. He has yet to realize that his new Mommy helped inspire the book for the strong willed child.

We arrive at Dulles and I am more than ready to help the flight attendants open the doors or whatever else they need to get us off this plane. We are ready. Sweet peas are in their Ergo Carriers. Every nook and cranny has been checked for possible lost items. All of our carry-ons are organized and ready to move. And yet the doors have not opened…tick tock tick tock… Isaac and Jocelyn are getting irritated because they are now confined to our bodies (not what they at this point). The pilot announces that there is no one there to get us connected to the concourse. “I’m sorry what? Seriously? Did no one check to make sure they would be ready for us? Could we really fly into such a huge airport without anyone being aware of it other than the flight tower?” The pilot goes on to say that we will have to wait for the airport’s plane mates to get us. These are large vehicles that can hook up to the plane and then transport us to the Passport Control Center. At this point I am beginning to understand “going postal.” I have slept a total of 2 hours in the last 35 hours. I am in no mood to wait for anything neither is Isaac or Jocelyn.

We finally enter the plane mate and after a long wait are transported to the Passport Control Center. Everyone entering the US whether American or not must go through Passport Control to enter the US. We are now the next family in line to meet with a Passport Control person (probably not their official title). Hubby tells me I need to get behind the yellow line like the sign says. I look down at the sign that says stay behind the yellow line. My toes are behind the yellow line. Charlie gently says to his incoherent sleep deprived wife “not that yellow line – it’s the example – this yellow line behind you.” Oh, well looky there…there’s a yellow line extending the length of the Passport Control area directly behind me. I give myself an E for effort though.

The person we meet with takes our passports and the all important sealed documents. He carefully examines the seals to make sure they haven’t been broken. Once satisfied, he opens the documents and begins to stamp them several places. I breathe a sigh of relief. Now we have just one last hurdle to jump through…immigrations.

Before going to immigrations, we have to pick up our luggage at a special baggage claim just after the Passport Control area. This is a requirement so customs can check your luggage if they deem it necessary. Have you ever tried finding a black duffel bag after 2 hours of sleep in 35 hours? Do you know how many people travel with black duffel bags? For the first time I am wishing our luggage was neon pink like my moms. Hers was easy to find…no one else in their right mind…except for Paris Hilton would buy neon pink luggage. If you are not sure what I am talking about, please refer to my post from September titled “Pink Paris.” After Hubby and I search for about 30 minutes we finally find our duffel bag (note to self: never travel with black duffel bag again).

We move onto immigrations where a very kind woman who could see the exhaustion on our faces informed us to have a seat. She took the forms and placed them in a file organizer at the back. There were many families ahead of us since it took us so long to find our infamous black duffel bag. We sat down expecting a long wait but when the first immigration’s person comes available the nice woman plucks our file from the back and hands it to the gentleman. She says something to him and he leaves with our files. When he returns he calls us up to his booth where he hands us Isaac and Jocelyn’s passport and says “you’re free to go.” Our response “really?” His response “yes.” We stood there in shock for a moment and then thanked him and left. We were prepared to be taken into a room and asked many questions before we were granted access to US soil. We know several families who have had a much longer process through immigrations. This is living proof that God truly does not give us more than we can bear. This worn out no longer coherent Mommy needs a break. This is it. Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 6 – Part III – 37 Hours and counting

Day 6 – Part III – 37 Hours and counting

Now that we are finally through all the check points we immediately start looking for a place to get some water, juice or whatever we can find. I have brought two large bottles of water with us but I am saving them for the plane. I want to make sure I have plenty of water to make food and formula. Hubby finds a kind of bar/eatery and waits at the counter for help. After 15 minutes I head off with Jocelyn to find something else before Jocelyn begins to have a meltdown. I find a duty free shop with water and proceed to the cash register where I am informed that they need my passport and airline ticket for me to purchase the water. Seriously?! I can’t even enter the airport without a passport and airline ticket! Why should it matter now? It’s water for heaven’s sake! I immediately turn on my heels to look for somewhere else to buy something to drink. As I leave the duty fee shop, I hear the lady calling to me “would you like me to hold these two waters for you?” I would think she knew the answer to her question before she asked it.

I finally find a place at the other end of the airport where I was able to get some Pepsi for us and mango juice for Isaac and Jocelyn (they didn’t have a lot of options). To my surprise the pop wasn’t warm but had actually been cooled a wee bit. This was a big blessing considering it is usually served warm. Yes, you can get ice but since their water is not clean it is not advisable. On the way back I notice a money exchange booth. I make a mental note to let Hubby and mom know since we still had birr to exchange back to American money.

By the time I make it back to everyone, Hubby is holding his own Pepsi. We didn’t mind having the extra pop and he was unable to get anything for the babies. I popped open the mango juice for Isaac and Jocelyn and they sucked it right down. After downing a couple of bottled pops, we decide to take the last one with us. We were not far from the bar/eatery when a man comes running after us telling us we can’t take the pop. Charlie explains that we paid for it. He informs us we can’t leave because he wants the bottle back. I am beginning to think we stepped on another planet when we entered this airport. While Charlie argues with the man I begin chugging the Pepsi. I will be darned if we are giving him back the bottle full. It cost $10 (American) for the two pops. I finished the pop and we walked away with Hubby still spouting a few choice words at the man. Yep, you guessed it. My calm, patient hubby has finally gone over the edge where I have been since the ticket lady told us that she didn’t have any tickets for our sweet peas. We all have our breaking points and this was his.

We find a couple of the other families who will be traveling back on the airplane with us and discuss when we will know where to go to catch our plane. There has been no announcement as to what gate the plane is at nor is our flight showing on the reader board. Finally…we hear our flight being announced and head toward the gate. To our surprise we see that we will yet again have our luggage screened before we can enter the gate area. A man at the screening area informs me that the large bottles of water I had been saving for the 18-20 hour flight are not allowed. I explained to him that it was not for us but for the babies’ food and milk while we travel. They would not budge. I proceeded to make formula for 2 sippy cups and 2 bottles. I then make as much oatmeal as possible in the two small bowls I had packed for the plane ride home. My Mom, Hubby and me stood there and drank as much as we could before handing what was left over to the screening person. The most frustrating part about this was that I thought I had read everything about what we could and could not take both in the US and in Ethiopia. I never remember reading anything about liquid limitations in Ethiopia.

I am thrilled to see that there is a large open area next to the seating area inside the gate. Charlie and I agreed this will be perfect to let Isaac and Jocelyn run off some of their pent up energy. They have been cooped up in the van or the Ergo Carriers for the past 4 ½ hours. I also read the label on the mango juice after they drank it; a whopping 37 grams of sugar in a 12 oz bottle. Hmmm this is not the ideal drink for a 20 month old before boarding a plane. It will be good to get them worn out.

Isaac takes to the open space like a duck takes to water. He runs everywhere with his head tilted sideways laughing the whole way. It is so much fun to watch his free spiritedness in action. Jocelyn learns that there is a ledge along the rail of the floor to ceiling windows. It doesn’t take her long to realize she can step on the ledge if she holds onto the railing. She looks at us with the biggest grin as if to say “see how smart I am.” A man in uniform comes over and tells us we need to go sit down. He directs us over to 4 seats that allow about as much room as the plane allows for space. Wow, I can’t believe this is happening. Our kids were not disturbing anything. They were just playing. Now we have to spend the next 45 minutes in a confined space before we spend the next 18-20 hours in another confined space. I know Hubby and I are thinking the same thing “why didn’t we upgrade to first class?” Oh, that’s right. It was an extra $1,000 per ticket. At this very moment, a $1,000 doesn’t seem like much.

We board the plane and learn we have been upgraded to business class. Praise the Lord! It doesn’t have the room of first class but on a 767, this is a big deal! We flew on a 767 on the way over and there is no leg room to speak of. Hubby is only 5’11” and his knees were hitting the seat in front of him. It will definitely make it easier with our babies. Charlie and I settle into the two seats that are together while Mom settles into the seat across the aisle from us. It is perfect. Isaac and Jocelyn will be able to keep each other company during our long flight.

One of the lead flight attendants comes up and greets us and asks us about our babies. She doesn’t ask the typical question of did you adopt them. Many families travel on Ethiopian Airline to bring home the children they have adopted. So it is an automatic assumption if you are white with an Ethiopian child(ren) you have adopted. Her questions start with things like how old are they? How are they adjusting? I thought it was so wonderful to have someone taking such a keen interest in our sweet peas. But I soon realize there is another agenda unfolding before us. She informs us that we both can’t sit together with the kids. One of us is required to sit in the middle section of the plane. It is the rules she tells us. We tell her we will switch before we take off. At this point the kids had just settled in and we weren’t ready to upset things knowing full well it would take some time to get everyone aboard. She looks at us and says “yes, you switch now.”

Once Charlie settles into the center section of seats, the attendant notices Isaac sucking his thumb and takes it upon herself to tell him in Amharic that men don’t suck their thumbs. She then pulls his thumb out of his mouth and when Isaac tries to put it back in his mouth, she again pulls his hand away. Isaac immediately gets upset. How do you tell a flight attendant that you don’t want to offend at the start of the trip “don’t touch my child?!” Do we really need to make a 20 month old baby cry before we have even left the tarmac? As far as we are concerned Isaac could suck his thumb until the cows come home. I kept wondering if there were a pair of ruby slippers stashed somewhere. I so desperately wanted to put them on close my eyes and say “there’s no place like home…there’s no place like home…”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 6 – Part II – The Start of the End…could it get here any faster?

Day 6 – Part II – The Start of the End…could it get here any faster?

After getting back from our small excursion, I finish getting us packed while trying not to think about the visas and passports we don’t have yet from Abdissa. I spoke with Abdissa right after we got back making sure he would be dropping our visas off before we leave for the airport. We can’t leave the country without Isaac and Jocelyn’s visa packets and passports. He reassures me he will be at our Guest House in the next hour. Hmmm what does “in the next hour” mean? Well…for an American like me…it means he will be here in the next 60 minutes. Two hours later we see Abdissa’s car pull up to the Guest House. Every last one of my nerves is fried. It is a good thing I married such a calm man. Hubby looks at me smiles and says, “See everything is going to ok.” I am so blessed.

The documents that we are able to look at are amazing. We have birth certificates for them showing us as their parents. I have to hold back my tears as I see them for the first time. The certificates are made of thick shiny paper with a pale yellow pattern covering the paper and a silver border. They are written in English and Amharic. We also receive the Judgment approving our adoption. One is in English, the other is in Amharic. As I said in the first sentence, we were not able to look at all the documents. We were handed two packets that have been sealed and can only be opened in Washington DC by the immigrations department. If we open it for any reason before then, we will not be able to enter the US with our sweet peas. Holding these packets is like holding our sweet peas. They are precious cargo.

It is less than a ½ hour before we are supposed to leave when we are asked to come downstairs to the living room for a coffee ceremony. We gladly accept. In the living room near the entrance to the guest house there is a woman crouching over the ceremonial mat preparing our coffee. The coffee beans were ground by her and placed in a traditional coffee pot. The pot is then placed on top of hot coals. She then uses a grass weaved fan to fan the coals. The tea cups have been perfectly situated on a serving tray with another serving tray next to it with raw sugar and fresh milk. The cups for the coffee ceremony are beautiful, delicate and small. As I have said before, their coffee when served this way is VERY strong. There is no need for the 24oz cup.

Hanock arrives before the coffee is ready so we ask him to join us. He humbly accepts our offer. Earlier in our trip, Hubby had asked him if he had ever seen snow. He laughed and said “no.” Since we had time, Charlie pulled out our camcorder and showed him the shots we had taken of one of many nasty snowstorms we had last winter. We also showed him the 4+ feet of snow on top of our truck. He looked at the video in amazement and asked us “you drive in this?” We laughed and told him yes. He just shook his head. We were so glad Hanock could join us for coffee since he had taken such good care of us all week.

After a cup of wonderful coffee, we load up the van and head towards the airport. Hanock informs us that Isaac and Jocelyn’s primary nanny will meet us in the parking lot of the airport. We were thrilled and couldn’t wait to get there. We wanted to make sure we had time to take pictures and let her know how much she means to us. The drive to the airport is somewhat surreal. We are leaving a place where our kids were birthed not knowing if we will ever be able to return. In just 45 hours, we will be home. A place where our babies will grow up that will be just as foreign to them as Ethiopia has been to us. I am ready. I am ready for this journey to end and our new journey to begin.

There will be some things I miss about Ethiopia like the people. Their hospitality is wonderful and they have such a kind spirit about them. I will miss seeing all the things carved and made by hand. There is so much beauty in items that have been perfectly fashioned with ones hands. And yes, I will miss the coffee ceremonies which take place every evening in the homes of the Ethiopian people.

There will be some things I won’t miss about Ethiopia too. I won’t miss the seeing children along the roadside waiting to shine people’s shoes. I won’t miss seeing the crippled and woman who have been widowed begging for food or money. I won’t miss the dirt, garbage and the smell of diesel fumes mixed with burning garbage.

We arrive at the airport and park. Hanock informs us that the Nanny is still on her way and should be here any minute. We have the men load our luggage on carts while we wait. I teach Isaac and Jocelyn to twirl while holding their hands out. They and the people around us get a big out of the twirling. Hanock calls the Nanny again knowing we no longer have time to wait. There is no answer. I can see the concern in Hanock’s face. He knows it is important to us but it is just as important to her. Hubby finally steps in and says “Kelli, it is 6:30. We were supposed to be inside at 6:00. We need to go.” He is right. We can’t wait any longer. We hug Hanock one last time and thank him for everything. We tell him if he ever comes to the US, he can stay with us and help us shovel snow. He just laughed and said “no that’s ok.”

We cross from the parking lot to a walkway where two men stand vigil. You can only enter the airport if you are flying. No other guests, relatives, or friends past this point. It is a weird scene to me. Across the parking lot you see gatherings of people saying their farewells. We pass by the men and head inside where we are ushered to an area where our luggage has to be screened before we enter the airport any further. Our passports are also checked. A man working for the airport stops us before our luggage can be screened and says “whose children are these? Where did you get them? Who do they belong to?” He was not going to let us through. “God is this really happening? Have we come this far to be stopped at the airport?” I tried to explain to him that we adopted them and showed him their passports but it was not good enough. Hubby sees a woman in an airport uniform close by and informs her that these are our children. When she realizes what is happening, she immediately scolds the man and then begins putting our luggage through the screening process.

The airport is hot and muggy. I am not sure if Isaac and Jocelyn sense something is different or the stress in my voice or the heat of the building but they are restless. We tucked them into their Ergo Carriers to get them through the airport and it has become a life saver. We make it to the Ethiopian Airline counter where we are handed forms we need to fill out to leave the country. One for each of us including the babies. Boggled down with luggage, carry-ons, and children we scramble for the information they need and struggle to remember the dates they asking for on the form. I am frustrated because none of the information pertains to the twins since they are from Ethiopia. I also can’t fill out their Visa information because it is sealed in an envelope and can’t be opened. Is this a sign of things to come?

I hand the lady at the Ethiopian Airline counter our information with all of our passports. She proceeds to inform us that the children are not ticketed. “Seriously…is this really happening? God you tell me in your Word that you do not give us more than we can bear. I believe you have more faith in me right now than I do. Please Lord, let this be over, let her find the information she needs.” I am not sure how much time has passed but all the other families have made it through and we are still here. I point again to the information for the babies on our paperwork. Finally, she finds them. I then spend the next 15 minutes trying to get her to understand that Washington DC is not the same as Washington State. She wants our luggage to stop in DC. Somehow she finally understands that there is more than one Washington in the US but she doesn’t have the airport code for Spokane, WA. By this time I am hot, angry, frustrated, completely stressed, and Jocelyn’s mood is not much better. Thank goodness my hubby shouts out “GEG.” Many minutes later we have our tickets and we are off to the next check point.

I am not sure what this check point is called nor do I even care. We are ushered to a window where we are asked for our passports and the forms we filled out while in line at the ticket counter. I shoved them all in my satchel but two have literally disappeared. At this point, Jocelyn is crying and I am trying to help my mom fill out a new form so she doesn’t have to find her glasses. The somewhat rude woman at the booth hands me back Isaac and Jocelyn’s forms and tells me they need to be completely filled out. I told her that wasn’t possible. They didn’t travel here with us so most of the information we couldn’t fill out. I also informed her that they are not old enough to be able to sign the form. I tossed the paperwork back at her and turned my back to her before I said anything I would regret. I knew at this point I was probably being an “ugly” American but what would have transpired if I hadn’t turned around would have been much uglier. While I tried to cool down, I focused on trying to calm Jocelyn. She has soaked the front of my shirt with sweat and is in no mood to be consoled. But with a little bit of coaxing she begins to settle down.

For the first time since we arrived, I am counting the minutes until we leave. The airport is one big debacle. I can’t leave this place fast enough. Could anything else go wrong?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day 6 – The Start of the End…the Start of the Beginning

Day 6 – The Start of the End…the Start of the Beginning

Wow! I can’t believe it is Day 6 of our forever life changing journey. Our life…hmmm…it will never be the same…no more quiet nights at the dinner table…no more sleeping in…no more going places on a whim…nope…no more. It is good to be able to say no more. I remember us saying it when we started trying to have a family. I remember saying it when I was pregnant. I remember saying it 17 months ago when we started this journey. And now…the no more is finally here. I embrace it willingly as I begin to get us packed and ready to leave.

There is so much to do to get ready to leave. How do you prepare for a 37 hour journey home with twin 20 month olds when you have never had children? Stay focused. Pack first for the plane and let everything else get crammed into suit cases. But I can’t quite finish packing yet. Hanock is coming to pick Charlie and me up to go to Hallesy’s (spelling?) and to go by an Ethiopian Airline Office. We were informed by another family last night that we were supposed to confirm our tickets. I tried calling them but they couldn’t seem to understand me.

Hanock is right on time and his timing couldn’t be more perfect. Isaac and Jocelyn are busily playing with Grandma. It is a perfect time to sneak away. It is heart wrenching to leave our sweet peas with Grandma but we need to if we are going to get some last minute things accomplished before we leave. As we get in the van, we realize that our clean get away wasn’t so clean. We can hear Jocelyn crying. The only thing that keeps me from turning back is the fact that I know my mom can handle it. Note also said he would help in any way possible too. Note loves the children and is so determined to hold Jocelyn before we leave. She enjoys playing with him just as long as Mommy is near and he doesn’t try picking her up.

Hanock informs us on the way to the Hyatt Hotel (there is an Ethiopian Airline office there) that our sweet peas’ primary nanny is going to meet us at the airport today. We are thrilled! She was not working the day we were able to go to Grace House and we have had no time to go back. We thanked Hanock for the exciting news as we turned our attention to taking pictures. It is hard to take pictures from a moving vehicle. It is even harder to take pictures with a 20 month old on your lap. I am trying to take in every sight possible as Charlie clicks away with the camera. He does his best to swap from camera to camcorder and back again. Some of the images we see are hard but this is our babies’ heritage. This is where they were born. I want to see it. I want to absorb it.

The landscape is so rich with thick luscious grass and all kinds of trees. The variety is endless including a tree that has large beautiful magenta colored flowers blooming on the top part of it. I see dahlias of every kind. Hydrangeas with blooms as big as pom poms. The rainy season has just ended so everything is at its peak for lushness.

After a quick trip to the Hyatt Hotel, we head to a place called Hallesy’s. I don’t know how to spell it abut you get the general idea. The building is close to the postal shops. There is nothing on the outside to let you know you have arrived at Hallesy’s. It is a plain somewhat stark white building. They have their own parking behind their fence. The lot is empty but us. Michelle with Kingdom Kids had recommended coming here for souvenirs. Boy, were we glad she did! It is what they would call a souvenir shop but it doesn’t remind me of the ones in the US. For one, it is too big. Second of all, these are nice “souvenirs.” When I think of souvenirs, I think of the Mickey Mouse hat with your name stitched on it from your last whirlwind trip to Disneyland. I don’t think of statues hand carved from ebony or pendants hand crafted from solid silver. We could have spent hours in the store.

The store was comprised of approximately 5 decent size rooms. The first one held hand painted canvases, carved statues and the start of their ornate jewelry selection. The next room carries on the jewelry theme and moves into hand crafted traditional musical instruments. By the way…did you notice the theme? Everything is hand crafted here. There is no tag that says “made in China” or “made in Indonesia.” It is all made by the people of Ethiopia.

We are then drawn into the next room with more jewelry which I soon realize is much more expensive than the first room. There is a glass enclosed case with large blocks of wood that have been carved and painted. Most of them depict scripture. One of them has the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ. We work our way into the next room which is filled with hand crafted table linens, leather sandals, traditional Ethiopian dress and a few basic scarves. The last room is filled to the brim with hand woven baskets. Some are very small while others are very large like the traditional serving stand.

We move as quickly as possible through the store picking out items we would like for our home and several precious things to be given to Isaac and Jocelyn. These precious items will be given to them at key points in their life as they grow up. What’s that? You say you would like to know what we got them. Sorry, there are just some things this Mommy will choose to hold close to her heart.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Day 5 - Part III - The Celebration

Day 5 - Part III - The Celebration

We arrive back at the Guest House with only an hour to spare before we will be picked up again for a night of celebration put on by Abdissa. I quickly prepare some oatmeal for the kids while Charlie tries to get some things organized for us. Hubby is not looking forward to this evening at all or at least the portion that takes us back to the transition orphanage. Our kiddos become tense whenever we go there. He asks me if we can skip the evening events. I so badly wanted to say yes knowing how tired we all are but I reminded him that the orphanage should only be a small part of the evening.

Time has been a battle for us since we have arrived. We wanted to fly in a day early to Addis Ababa so we could have some time to do some things before we got our sweet peas on Monday. Unfortunately, there are only a couple of days a week that Ethiopian Air flies in and out of Washington DC. This meant us flying in several days early or leaving several days later than this Thursday. Financially, this was not an option for us. So here we are…a tight schedule mixed with just a smidge of exhaustion.

We arrive at the transition orphanage where Isaac and Jocelyn have lived for the past 3 weeks. As we enter the orphanage, I hear children singing. It is such a wonderful sound and the children are so beautiful. I instantly notice a change in our sweet peas. Isaac becomes lethargic and seems to be almost numb to the activity around him. I wonder…where does he go? Does he have a place inside him that he feels safe and protected from things? Jocelyn is more rigid and fussy. One of the ladies at the orphanage offers us cookies for the children. I think she believes they are hungry but we just fed them before we left. Like all children they eat the cookies but I can tell that Jocelyn’s tenseness has not changed. At one point Jocelyn sees something that disturbs her greatly but I don’t know what it is. I was watching another family and all of a sudden Jocelyn throws her arms around me, grabs me tightly and won’t let me go. Hubby saw this too. I won’t lie, it was very unnerving. “God, please get us out of here soon. I don’t want our precious little ones to be afraid anymore.”

Thankfully, after somewhat of a long wait the celebration finally begins. It starts with Abdissa reading from God’s Word about the 4 C’s. Honestly, I can only remember 3 with the help of my Hubby…compassion, comfort, and Christ’s love. It was good to hear him speak on ways we can all meet the needs of those around us. We can all give compassion, comfort, and Christ’s Love…no check book needed.

We next break bread Ethiopian style. The staff brings out a very large round bread that is about the size of a family size Papa Murphy’s Pizza that is 4 inches thick. Each family is encouraged to come up with all families members present and to make three cuts into the bread with everyone hanging onto the knife. The breads texture and weight reminds me of homemade cornbread. The taste of the bread is mild and quite good. The bread is served with nuts, butter cookies, bottled water and pop. As with most events in Ethiopia, we are served coffee in very small somewhat ornate cups. Trust me, one dainty cup of coffee is plenty! The coffee is very strong. It isn’t like going to Starbucks.

The celebration continues with Abdissa giving each one of us a gift of traditional dress. Each one of us receives a handmade shirt that we are encouraged to put on. They are white with stitching around the neckline and sleeve in black, gold or blue. All of our children are given traditional outfits for us to take home with them. The best part of the gifts is that those families who had family members at home, who didn’t travel, also received gifts. With the help of a lady from the orphanage, we slip Isaac and Jocelyn’s traditional outfits over the top of the ones they were already wearing. They were both uninterested and continue to be pretty nonresponsive. My heart is torn. The celebration is wonderful but I can see in my children’s eyes that they don’t want to be there.

It is already after 7 at night and we haven’t left for dinner at the Hebir Hotel. My heart is no longer torn. I am tired, my babies are tired, and I am ready to skip the hotel and head to our Guest House. Finally, we are leaving for the Hebir Hotel. It is a little strange to be out so late at night. This is the first time other than the day we arrived. We were strongly advised to not be out after dark. For us, this was not a problem. The schedule was crazy during the day so it was nice that they didn’t have anything scheduled for our evening except for tonight.

Hanock, our driver parks the van across the street from the hotel in what would be considered a parking lot. We are greeted by a man dressed in very nice bellman clothes who helped us out of the van. As we enter the hotel, we pass through their bar area which is amazing. The ceilings are painted in an Ethiopian somewhat iconography style. The lights are set in large inset circles that have the Amharic alphabet and numbers placed around the edge of the inset. The chairs are too difficult to explain the way they are made but they are made from what looks like solid wood. The padding is done in the colors of Ethiopia (red, green and gold).

We enter the main dining area hallway that is framed with large columns on each side. Most of the seating area is set to the right of us and is raised a few steps above the dining hallway. There are no formal tables with table cloths and silverware set at them. Rather the chairs remind me of comfortable patio furniture. There are a few small end tables near our seats with a couple of serving trays. Serving trays here are weaved baskets that have a wide pedestal style base that narrows towards the top. A large basket weaved tray rests on top of the pedestal. And yes, I do mean a large tray. They are at least the size of a Papa Murphy’s family size pizza.

The serving tray is the reason why you don’t see tables or silverware. Our waitress brings out a large round metal tray that is completely covered by one piece of anjera bread. She sets the anjera bread down on the serving tray and then proceeds to place our food on the large piece of bread according to where we were sitting. Another waitress brings another tray stacked with rolled up anjera bread. She begins to stack several of these roles in the middle of the serving tray. You use the anjera bread as your utensil instead of having silverware. Hubby and I ordered the grilled beef which was excellent. If you are wondering how the anjera bread tasted, read Day 3 – Part II and you will wonder no more.

Jocelyn fell sound asleep not too long after we had entered the hotel. I was so thankful since this is turning into such a late night for them. Isaac followed suit soon after but was back up when the music started playing during dinner. The music was great but loud. The fact that Jocelyn didn’t even flinch when the music started proves how utterly exhausted she is. Isaac on the other hand can’t sleep when music is being played. He loves music and was totally mesmerized by the band and dancers. The music was very upbeat in its sound and from what we understand, very traditional. The performers danced in traditional Ethiopian fashion. The dance is very physical but not in a violent or sexual way. The whole body is used and the dancers never stop moving or slow down. The dance is captivating. It is difficult to do anything else but watch the intricate movement of the performers.

The night has been lovely. We are so glad we went. The Hebir Hotel was amazing. The food was good, music excellent, dancers wonderful and the Ethiopian history the hotel reveals was very enlightening. I gather Jocelyn up in my arms and head to the van. Our now bright eyed bushy tail son snuggles into his Daddy’s chest as we head to our Guest House.

Did you know 3 flights of stairs after being gone all day, still jet lagged, carrying a 25 pound child after 10:30 at night can be somewhat challenging? Entering our room had never felt so good. I completely undressed Jocelyn and change her diaper without her ever opening her eyes. Isaac eyes are drooping as we tend to him before laying him in bed for a good night of rest. It is hard to believe that in less than 24 hours we will be heading home.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 5 - Part II - Grace House

Day 5 - Part II – Grace House

After about 40 minutes, we leave the postal shops. It is just too difficult to do with the babies and we want to make sure there is plenty of time to go to their orphanage, Grace House. The drive to the orphanage seems long. Isaac and Jocelyn are becoming cranky and impatient. I can’t figure out what is wrong. Then I realize that they haven’t eaten yet! Oh my gosh…I am such a horrible new mother. I didn’t even remember to feed my children! Thankfully we have Cheerios with us because we really haven’t been given the time to in our schedule today to eat lunch. For us, this isn’t a big deal but I didn’t think about our sweet peas needing to eat. My greatest fear has just taken place...the fear of being inadequate. Charlie has to constantly remind me that I need to allow myself to fail without being so down on myself. But it is hard to do when you have 2 little ones completely dependent on you. There is so much for me to learn.

Grace House is located Addis Ababa but it is nestled deep into an area where there are no paved roads. The best way for me to describe the roads you ask? Well, let’s just say you don’t want any hemorrhoids. The minimal shocks on our van give no ease to the roads. Every bump, rut, and pot hole is felt. I now understand why DHL does not use trucks to deliver packages here. ALL of their vehicles are dirt bikes with containers attached to the back of the motorcycle to carry packages.

Just about the time we thought the drive would never end, we slow down outside a gated home. I can only see the second floor but I recognize it as Grace House immediately. Michelle from Kingdom Kids (owner of the orphanage) had sent us several pictures of the compound. The building is 2 stories tall and is in an L shape. There is no real landscaping just compacted dirt inside the walls. The sidewalk is made out of broken pieces of some type of smooth stone. The building is made of a beautiful large style brick in varying colors of deep gray, dark rust, and a marbled tan/rust. We see a man dressed in nice clothes coming down an exterior staircase painted in white. He introduces himself as Getachow (director of the orphanage). We are grateful to meet him and we quickly pull out the two 50 pound bins we had brought full of items for the orphanage.

I must interject a little bit of information about these 50 pound bins. If you read my blog on “Weight Management” on September 11th, you will understand the frustration we had with trying to keep our luggage under 50 pounds. Part of the problem with this is that we were trying to limit our luggage so we could take 2 large plastic bins for Kingdom Kids filled with things for the orphanage. The problem we ran into the night before we left is that one of the bins was over 50 pounds. This meant we were going to have to remove some things to get us under the limit. We just couldn’t afford the additional $250 for an overweight piece of luggage. My thought at the time was no problem. We will just remove 2 pounds of items and give them back to Kingdom Kids. It all sounded good until we opened the bin. It was filled with little shoes, clothes, and books. Everything in the bin the orphanage badly needed. How do you decide what to remove? We had to take it. There was no way for us to leave any of it behind. In that moment, the reality of the need for our orphanage and others like it hit for me. It felt good to know we were able to get every last item in the bins to Getachow at our orphanage.

Getachow takes us to the first room that is nearest to our van and the front gate. It is the original room where Isaac and Jocelyn lived until the toddlers were moved so the room could be used for the older girls. My heart ached to learn that not only have our children experienced several moves and caregivers (6 total in their 20 months of life), but they have also experienced moves inside the orphanage. It made me question how they were feeling about all the change that had taken place this week. We are bonding quickly with them but I wondered if they feel safe. Do they feel secure or are they wondering when we will leave them too?

We follow Getachow to the other end of the L shaped building. All the while he is telling us about Grace House and answering as many of our questions as he can. He takes us into a large room where the walls are pretty much bare other than 4 small posters. The chairs are inexpensive white plastic patio chairs. There are 7 plainly built end tables that are being used as desks; three blue and four red. Up against one wall is a bookcase with 4 books in it and a sign that reads Happy New Year. As we enter, the room is filled with the beautiful sound of children singing. The bare walls and tile floor allow their voices to echo loudly. Their singing fills the room with color and joy that the walls and furniture were lacking. Their voices penetrated our heart and soul.

As soon as the children finish a couple of songs, several of the older girls come rushing over to see Mechot (Isaac) and Tezerash (Jocelyn). The kids are thrilled to see them but our sweet peas are now unsure of them. Isaac was willing to go with the older girl who had a smile that could light up the darkest night. Her eyes were so kind. You could see the love she had for our babies. It made me want to take her home too. Jocelyn would not go to anyone or allow them to touch her. I was grateful to see she felt so safe with me. We asked the children to sing us a few more songs before Getachow led us to another room that is now the toddler room.

As we enter the toddler room, the eyes of the two nannies light up as they begin to speak rapidly to Getachow in Amharic. They move quickly to us with arms outstretched ready to embrace Isaac and Jocelyn. Isaac goes to them only because Charlie places him in the woman’s arms but Jocelyn would have anything to do with them. Their reaction to the nannies is a good sign for us. We were warned that our sweet peas might prefer the nannies over us when we visited the orphanage. The fact that ours don’t shows that all of our hard work is paying off.

The two women are thrilled to see our sweet peas again. We are disappointed to learn from Getachow that their primary nanny for Isaac and Jocelyn is not working today. We desperately wanted to meet her, take pictures with her and personally thank her for pouring into our babies’ lives. I am still overcome with emotion for the two nannies now smiling and talking softly to Isaac and Jocelyn. I gently grasp the woman’s hand that is holding Isaac and squeeze it tightly as I look deeply into eyes hoping the tears brimming up in my eyes can say what I can’t say in her language. She gazes back at me with tears streaming down her face. It is good to know that although she can’t understand my words of gratitude, she can understand my tears that are now freely flowing.

While in the toddler room we are met by a very petite little girl who has seems to have lost the joy in her eyes. Getachow tells us that she is from the same region as Isaac and Jocelyn. He continues to tell us that she has a heart condition and will not live much longer if she is not adopted. Her problem can be resolved in the US but not in Ethiopia. “God the need is so great. Please heal this little girl’s heart. Give her a family who will shower her with your unspeakable joy and love so that the joy may once again return to her eyes.”

We are then led up to the second floor to a very small room with only 2 cribs. We are introduced to a young radiant nanny who is caring for 2 babies; a boy and a girl. Both of them are 3 months old. I pick up the little girl and hold her close. Her eyes dance with joy that comes from being held and she begins to coo. After some time of holding her, I reluctantly place her back in the crib as she reluctantly accepts leaving my arms. I then move over to the baby boy named Michael and swaddle him close. I can’t help but think about the irony of being in this room with these two precious babies. They are the exact age that Isaac and Jocelyn were when they were assigned to us – 3 months old. Oh how I had longed to hold them. We had always said if we were rich, I could just go to Ethiopia and volunteer for the orphanage until our adoption was final so I could be with them. Holding these two precious souls seemed to ease some of the pain of the time we had last with our little ones. I couldn’t help but wonder what might lie in store for the two little angels. “Lord, I just ask that your hand may be on these two babies. I pray the paper work maybe swift and that you may bring the right family of your choosing here to receive them.”

We thank Getachow for the tour and the chance to meet the children. We take several pictures with him and the staff before we leave. As we drive back to the Guest House, I find myself holding Jocelyn a little bit closer; thanking God for the two blessings we have been given.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day 5 - Part I

Day 5 - Part I

It is Wednesday already. I can’t believe we leave tomorrow night. Our time is so busy while we are here. Hanock will be picking us up soon to go shopping at the postal shops. When he arrives I remind him that we want to visit their orphanage, Grace House. Our babies were transferred from their orphanage to a transition orphanage after our court date was approved. It was important to us to see where the babies had lived for the past year and to meet their primary caregiver. Hanock promises us that we will go today once we are done at the postal shops.

Today the drive seems longer to get everywhere. Maybe it is because I have a 20 month old on my lap or maybe it is the crazy driving. My mom ventures to ask Hanock if people ever get driving tickets here. Hanock said yes. I am not sure he understood what she meant. Or maybe they just see driving differently?
The paved roads do have lines on them but we have decided the lines do not create hard fast rules. Rather they are there as a suggestion as to where you might want to drive. Passing cars 3 abreast on a two lane road is not a problem in Ethiopia. Two inches away from the vehicle next to you is also not a problem. Traveling a safe distance from the car in front of you translates – just don’t hit the car – 1 inch clearance is just fine.

We finally arrive at the postal shops which are line of shops just a couple of notches better than the shanties we see throughout the city that form a T between two roads. There is traffic and people everywhere. Hanock squeezes our van into a space that I am sure was only meant for a car the size of a Ford Festiva. Before we even get out of the car there are kids trying to sell us gum competing with adults trying to sell us maps and belts. The commotion is ended quickly with the arrival of a woman wearing somewhat military style clothes carrying a very large stick. The words of Winston Churchill came to my mind “speak softly and carry a big stick.” By the way the people scattered, it was obvious she prefers to use her stick over words. I believe her job is to keep illegal solicitors out of the way of those doing business in this area.

The first shop we enter is filled with all kinds of stuff but my eye is instantly drawn to the stacks of scarves on a very large table. There are so many different styles, colors and fabrics. Each one is unique and full of beauty. The ceiling has several different purses hanging from it. Some made out of thick linen while others are made out of silk. One wall is lined with items made out of ebony. Ebony here is in abundance so you can find tons of things made from it. We continue through several stores while Isaac and Jocelyn are nestled against Hubby and me in their Ergo Carriers.

It was so important to us to go shopping especially for the babies. We wanted to buy special items that we will give them over the years as a part of celebrating their heritage. But it was hard to concentrate. There just seems to be so much going on. We are busy worrying about the babies, being bothered by the owners of the postal shops to buy more, trying to make sure our money and passports are safe, and being conscious of the time so we are able to make it to their orphanage, etc…etc…etc… We try to keep moving, seeing as much as we can as quickly as we can. It feels a little bit like power shopping in a store you are completely unfamiliar with. To make matters worse, I forgot the list we had made of items we wanted for the babies. I know it seems like it should be a simple task to remember what you want to bring home for your children, but you have to understand the state our state of mind. Besides all the things we are worrying about while shopping, we are also still jet lagged, the schedule is exhausting, I walked the floor with Jocelyn for 3 hours straight last night, etc...etc…etc…

While at the postal shops, I received a stark reminder of some of the behavioral modifications we would be dealing with once we arrive home. All families are asked not to discipline their children while in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian people have a different style of discipline than us. Because of this, they ask that we wait until we are home for discipline. After about 30 minutes of shopping, Jocelyn decided to reach out and grab an ebony statue off a shelf. I put it back and told her no, don’t touch. She looked me directly in the eye and then dug her finger nails into my face. Can I just say it is hard to remember your promise not to discipline when your 20 month old child is digging her finger nails into your face? I grabbed her hand and whispered in her ear in the sternest voice I could offer in a whisper and said “don’t you dare.” She just stared back at me like “you want to make a bet?”

Behavior is one area that I believe was lost in all of our training. Attachment disorder, adjusting to life at home, and remembering their heritage seemed to be the focus of training. After talking to several other families who have adopted young children, there seems to be a theme with them – scrappiness. Biting, scratching, pinching and hitting seem to be how they cope with things. Why? We were very surprised to see this very spiteful side of our babies. It is just one more thing for us to ponder. Are Ethiopian people against disciplining such small children? Is it because they were in an orphanage with so many other children? Did they fill the need to fight for everything? Did others hit, pinch and scratch them? It is just one more thing to add to the laundry list of unknowns for us.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 4 - The US Embassy

Day 4 – The US Embassy

Today we go to the US Embassy. Abdissa has already turned in our paperwork and it was now time to answer some questions so we can get their visas to bring them home. It is weird. I feel like I should be worried after talking to two families staying at our Guest House who had problems at the Embassy. One family has to stay an extra 3-4 weeks to get some paperwork resolved. The other is unsure of how long it will take to fix the paperwork – maybe a week or two. But amazingly, I have complete peace. I have prayed for God’s peace and He has granted me His peace.

This morning while getting ready for the Embassy appointment, we began to teach Isaac that he can get down from the bed and play. We realized that he just sits in the middle of the bed without trying to get down and play. We think it might be from spending most of his time in his crib vs. running around like most toddlers. But like most things, we really don’t know.

Our drive to the Embassy brought a new level of awareness to me. On Monday I couldn’t stop looking at the people, green countryside, and their crazy scaffolding. But today, I am noticing things that I was sure didn’t exist yesterday. In fact, I tapped Charlie on the arm and asked him “Were the streets this dirty yesterday?” I really didn’t remember seeing the streets/curbs covered in dirt 6-12 inches thick. I don’t remember seeing so much garbage everywhere. I am sure it wasn’t here yesterday. Did they have a Mardi Gras last night and forgot to clean up? No…no unfortunately there was no large party someone forgot to clean up…this is how they live. As we drive over a bridge I notice the garbage spilling over the banks of the thick muddy brown river. There is a new smell in the air today. It is the smell of burning garbage.

Before reaching the Embassy, we pick up another family staying at the Ethio Comfort Guest House. As we turn onto the unpaved road, I notice a pile of goat skins that have been dumped on the side of the road. In America, people throw their McDonalds cups on the side of the road. Here, they throw out the skin of the goat they just slaughtered. I am so thankful for the location of our Guest House. Ethio Comfort Guest House looks beautiful but its location makes me uncomfortable. I notice a discarded goats head lying just outside the fence of the house next door. While we wait for the family, our driver, Hanock opens the door to the van to allow for air flow. There is no room for our van to fit inside the gated area so we are parked just outside the gate entrance. I noticed that Hanock never leaves the opening of our van door. I see him carefully guard part of the opening as a group of men pass in the center of the street. Hanock’s eyes never leave the men. I truly believe Hanock is a gift from God. I always feel like our safety and best interest is of the utmost importance to him.

We drive up a road that has cement barricades on the right hand side of us. We turn down a side street and there stands Abdissa. We are here. It isn’t at all what I expected. There is no US Flag and nothing that states you are at the US Embassy. As we pass through the barricade I notice several rows of benches filled with Ethiopian people. I assume they are waiting for an appointment to get into the Embassy. We run through two separate screening processes to enter the Embassy. I am surprised to see no US military service people in these two areas. We walk down a plain hallway with dingy walls. Abdissa stops us to show us where the only bathrooms we will have access to while we are here. I hope we will not be here for 6 hours like one of the other families at our Guest House.

We walk outside and into another building. Abdissa ushers us into a waiting room where there are a dozen or so other families already waiting. There are plenty of chairs to sit in but the room is not big enough for all the chairs to have someone sitting in them with leg room. We sit down and begin the wait. The room is painted but dingy. In the one corner there is a small enclosed play area for children with a couple of dirty toys in it. A young Ethiopian girl is trying to console two 1 year old babies. The bare walls and floor cause there cries to reach deafening levels. Their echoing cries begin to stress Jocelyn. The room is hot and Isaac begins to soak the front of Charlie’s dress shirt with sweat.

A Mom of one of the other families with us is not feeling well. She goes outside to get some fresh air and to find the bathroom. She comes back and informs us the bathroom smells like vomit and urine and there is no toilet paper. How could this be a United States Embassy? I am appalled and embarrassed by the conditions. Hubby is angered by them.

The noise of the now screaming babies is keeping us from hearing them call the families upstairs. Abdissa peeks his head around the corner and motions for us to come with him. We head upstairs to where we will eventually be called. We are grateful to be away from the screaming babies but the 2nd floor has to be at least 85 degrees. We sit down in one of the very few seats available. There is a “guard” sitting on a stool next to the stairs. I am not sure if he could do much if something happens. Where is our military presence? Do American employees feel safe here? Oh wait…I see the first sign that we are in a US Embassy. Hanging above one of the glass secured booths there is a framed (plastic frame) picture of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Charlie’s shirt is now drenched from Isaac’s sweat. Two of the other families with us have been called. Please God let us be called soon so we can leave. We hear our name. We go up to a “window” where a very kind lady is waiting for us. We are separated by glass and it is very difficult to hear anything she is saying. After answering several questions and signing more documents, she congratulates us on our adoption and informs us of when the visas will be ready for our children. We are done. We quickly shuffle our way out of the building into the closest thing to fresh air Ethiopia has to offer.

Our drive back to the Guest House is filled with two opposing pictures. The first is the ever talking and giggling Jocelyn. The second is a young boy whose face is partially covered in scabs begging for food through the window of our van as we wait for traffic to start moving once again. I look away because it is too much to bear knowing this could be our children if it wasn’t for them being taken to an orphanage. Unfortunately the scenery on the other side of the van is much the same. Poverty is everywhere here. It is so vast that I found myself paralyzed with helplessness. I see a man sitting in a wheel chair with his one leg bent completely backwards propped up on the arm rest. Another man is walking from one vehicle to another on his hands because his legs are all bound and knotted up. I wonder how many of these medical ailments would be a simple fix in America. It is all so sobering. I tried to remind myself of the school next to our Guest House and the children who are being educated there. But these thoughts are drowned out by the children sitting on stacked bricks waiting for someone to stop so they can shine their shoes and earn a living.

We arrive back at the Guest House emotionally exhausted. My lack of ability to cope with the overwhelming poverty drives me to immediately change my clothes and get washed up. I followed suit with the babies. Afterwards, I went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet and quietly wept. How can a place be so beautiful and yet so ugly? God reminded me that America also has its ugly side too. We also have children who live on the street unable to go home due to circumstances I can’t understand or imagine. It is just sometimes easier to look the other way at home. Lord, give me your eyes so I can see what you see and your heart so I can love compassionately the way you love me.

Free Blog Counter