Monday, March 29, 2010

Adoption Travel Journal - Day 5, Feb 23, 10 - Tuesday

Today proved to be a harder day. Fikadu was sad most of the day and Abush was very upset at meals. It felt like we started off pretty strong and as the days went by, it was more challenging. Since we treated the boys for scabies the first night, the treatment proved to work, but the intense itching and bumps were very uncomfortable for Fikadu. I had limited supplies to care for his itching. We used some antihistamine but needed some anti-itch cream.

We got up and washed the boys up and went down to breakfast. Fikadu loves it when he sees his friends at meals. He just lights up when we can eat together. It will be hard when he won't have his buddies once we get home. I am praying that the boys become better friends as they grow up together.

Most of the families decided to go shopping today. If you chose to go shopping, you have to take your children back to HH or one of the parents have to stay behind. Since we have 2 kiddos and they both prove to take one parent's attention, we decided to not go shopping. It would just be too hard for the parent who stayed behind and we didn't think going back to HH would be good for our bonding. Instead I sent some birr with one of the other families and asked for a few little things.

Since we stayed behind we spend the day in our room here at the hotel. We got the family suite which is 2 rooms and a little sitting room.

Here is one of the rooms with the bigger bed. This is where I slept with Abush.

Here is the other room where Fikadu and Chuck slept. This room had a window which let in some light and a breeze and lots of noise.
Here is the hall that connected the 2 bed rooms. All the furniture was really large and clunky. And much of the drawers and shelves were falling apart.

Here is Chuck in the bathroom. You had to step up 2 steps to go inside and Chuck hit his head many times in the door way. You had to remember to duck to get in. A big blessing was being able to flush the toilet paper (something that isn't customary in Ethiopia).Here is the hot water heater that we used to heat the water. Ours only worked a little bit.Here is the little sitting room when you first walk into the room. Then you go up about 5 steps to get to the hall with the bathroom and bedrooms.

The boys just had a hard day today. Fikadu pouted and sulked about everything. He didn't want to eat, he was rejecting and pulling away from me. It is pretty common for the boys to throw a fit when they don't get their way. They didn't eat at meals and just had a hard time. By now, we are all tired. Chuck and I haven't slept hardly at all and that is catching up to us. We are also not eating much so we are tired and exhausted. I've noticed how winded I am when I climb several flights of stairs (the altitude in Addis is around 7,000 ft). We all took a nap after lunch and that helped pass some of the time here at the hotel. Our water still isn't working great so it is hard to get the shampoo out of my hair. It seems to look worse after I wash it. All of that adds up to just not feeling like yourself.

Chad and Courtney came over to play in our room for a little bit. It is so nice to have them to connect with. We have enjoyed our travel group so much. The blessing of having Christian families to share this experience with is a huge blessing. I really didn't know how important having a Christian agency would be, but it proved to make our whole experience throughout the adoption so much better.

All the kiddos here have coughs and colds and runny noses and ear infections...the list goes on. They share everything so the germs get passed around a LOT. I put both boys on antibiotics the day we got here. I also used eye drops and ear drops on Abush. I was very thankful I brought the right medicines. I was able to share some with some of the other families in our group.

Regina and Siti came to play in the afternoon. We ended up going to dinner with them. It was the only day we had 3 meals in the hotel restaurant. The other days we would snack for one meal in our room. We ordered injera for the kids and they ate it right up. Most of the time, they say no to the food at first and then give in and eat it.

I finally took some Tylenol pm to help me sleep, it was a better night but still we were up a lot of the night. Still trying to figure out these little guys and make sure we can help meet their needs. Each day if full of both good moments and some hard ones too.

Dear Sweet Peas,

As hard as it is to watch you grieve and cope with the changes in your life, I am thankful that you are doing so. I pray that someday you can find true comfort and peace in Christ alone.

Love, Mom

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Adoption Travel Journal - Day 4 - Feb 22, 10 Monday

We woke the boys up early so we could be ready for our embassy appointment. I rubbed their backs to wake them up. Fikadu woke up, looked at me and smiled. Both boys wanted to get their shoes right away (something they did every day at first). We got dressed and ate breakfast at the hotel buffet. Abush ate bread with peanut butter and Fikadu ate a lentil pocket.

The whole group met together and drove to the embassy appointment which is across Addis (about an hour to get there). We rode in a bus so there was room for our whole group. It is a shame you can't bring any electronics on this trip because the drive through town is so interesting. People everywhere, lots of traffic, tons of cars, buses and vans, but NO TRAFFIC LIGHTS. We also noticed a lack of motorcycles or scooters (unlike India or Honduras).

We waited awhile for all the families to have their appointments. After going through security you wait in a waiting room or stand outside and listen for your name to be called. Once it is your turn, you head upstairs and go to the service window and answer the questions they ask. Almaz is there if you need anything but it was smooth sailing for us. We brought snacks and toys for the boys. On the ride back Abush fell asleep on me and slept through lunch (good thing I had the sling for him).

We ordered french fries and pasta to eat. Fikadu didn't want to eat but once he tried it, he ate it up. The families all met in the "ball room" in the afternoon to play a little bit. The big kids played while the parents looked at some pictures of the southern region or visited. Abush really shuts down emotionally when we are with people or at meals. But once we are back in the room, he jabbers, plays, squeals and giggles. Fikadu played a bit with me. I wrote his name on some paper and he copied the letters. We also colored and played with stickers. He didn't like when he made a mistake and tried to erase it (too bad it was a pen).

We were so tired so we went to bed early. The boys slept just fine but again no sleep for Chuck or I. Not sure if it is jet lag or just adjustment. There is so much for all of us to process through. For both the boys and for us. Each of our families in our group are having their own challenges. Either sickness, not connecting, not eating, not sleeping...all the things you know are part of the grieving process. As I was up most of each night, I spent my time praying for our group.

Dear Sweet Peas,

Today was the last hurdle to jump here in Ethiopia for our adoption. It is a blessing for us to be here in your native country and experience all the wonderful Ethiopian people. Each one we see is so beautiful. Makes me wonder what you each will look like when you grow up. Handsome for sure.

Love, Mom

Monday, March 22, 2010

Adoption Travel Journal - Day 3 Feb. 21, 10 Sunday - MEETING THE BOYS

We woke up around 8:00 am and were grateful for the 8 hours of sleep. I started to get ready for the day to head down for breakfast and couldn't find a hair brush (looks like I forgot one). Instead of showering, we went down to breakfast (buffet is included with the cost of the room).

There were some other AGCI families there who had come early. They had toured the southern region and already had their babies. Sooooo tiny and adorable.

Breakfast was a buffet. Omelet or scrambled eggs made to order, dry bread (french toast?), sausage, lentil pocket (somosa?), cereal, fruit, juice, coffee. Oh the wonderful Ethiopian coffee. Yummmm.

I got a hair comb from one of the other families and headed back to the room the get ready and unpack. When we were up in Courtney's room, it was fun to look out across the street and see the kids playing soccer, a man carrying a huge load of sticks and a donkey walking through the soccer game. All so normal here. Such great sights.

We didn't have hardly any water pressure and no hot water yet, so it was a trickle of a shower and pretty chilly. Enough to get clean and get my hair washed. Our blow dryer didn't work so I just let my hair air dry (I kind of had some scary hair most of the trip- oh well). Chuck ran to the lobby to send an email home to say we were here and safe.

After we had a quick lunch in the hotel restaurant, we met Almaz for our meeting. She went over all the needed paperwork for the embassy appointment and gathered the funds for the visa's for the children. Only crisp and new looking bills are acceptable. She also gave us a quick run down on all the kids. A bit of their personalities and eating habits. Then it was time to head to HH. The moment we all were waiting for. Meeting our children.

The anticipation was so electric. Each and everyone of us could hardly contain our emotions. We went to HH in 2 groups and we were in the second group. The other families that rode their with us were able to video tape and take pictures because they had already met their children.

The dirt road that HH is on is hardly much of a road at all. Dirty and bumpy. I was trying to soak it all in so I could tell the boys someday. But it was so hard to concentrate. We drove in the gate and got out of the van and Almaz went to find the boys. Even now as I think back to that moment, the tears just pour down my cheeks. To have these precious children walk up and be introduced to you is almost unreal. Fikadu came to Chuck and gave him a hug. Almaz encouraged us to focus on him because he was nervous in meeting us. I could hardly catch my breath.

Here they were. Our sons. In our arms. Little strangers that God hand picked for our children.

I wish I could adequately put into words what we were feeling. Grateful. Here we were with our arms stretched out say "here we are...ready for you...ready to be here for matter what".

We were so grateful for God's design. Grateful that we were chosen to be their much needed parents. Grateful they didn't initially kick and scream and cry.

You could tell from their eyes how unsure they were. Not exactly sure they understood that we were there, from a whole different land to be their mommy and daddy. I know Almaz explains to them, but I do wonder what they were thinking at that time.

Abush let me hold him all afternoon. He quickly heard a little music toy in my bag and was interested in it. Glad I had it to use to provide some kind of security. He held that toy up to his ear the whole afternoon. We just kept pushing the button to make the music play.

Chuck and Fikadu played with some of the toys we brought. Interactive toys were the best ones to have. Something to do together and allow the moments to be less intimidating. The helicopter toy was a hit. Along with balls and bubbles and cars.

We were able to take a little self guided tour around HH and saw where the children sleep. Somehow through the language barrier, we got Fikadu to show us his bed and room. At once the boys were in the same room, but one of them had been moved to be with other children closer to their ages.

Each time we walked into a room the special mothers called out the boys' names and showed affection. Abush was not interested in letting him be close to him at all. He did allow me to carry him in the sling and I wore him the rest of the day (actually the rest of the week).

It was time to head back to the hotel and eat some dinner. All the families piled in the van and the kids waved goodbye and off we went. As simple as that. All that work. All the time and energy you spend on the paperwork and planning and preparing and here they sit, with you in a van and you drive off. They are your children.

At the hotel, we gave the boys cups with water and they both chugged them down. I filled up the cup 3 times for Fikadu. He sure was a thirsty boy. We also gave them Cheerios and other snacks. They gobbled those up quickly too.

It is clear that Abush doesn't like it when he gets his way. Fikadu quickly gives anything up to please his little brother. One of the ways he cares for him. Their little friend Siti (Regina's daughter) came over for water and snacks and played with the boys.

We gave them a "stand up bath" with the trickle of water (kind of cold). Abush went first and cried the whole time. And then it was time for scabies lotion and new jammies. Fikadu did just fine in the bath.

Chuck ran to the lobby for something and Fikadu seemed sad when he left. I had thought all along that he would connect well with Chuck. Seems like my prediction was right.

We looked at some books and had more snacks and then it was time for bed. Fikadu seemed sad and scared at bed time. I was able to rub his back and sing him to sleep. Abush seemed tired and scared. I also rubbed his back and sang him to sleep too.

I had no idea of Fikadu would stay dry all night so I was up a few times to take him to the potty. Otherwise, both boys slept through the night. Chuck and I were wide awake the WHOLE night. Must have been too excited or alert to sleep.

My thoughts on how the boys are coping. Abush seems to disengage as his coping skill. He won't look at you or respond. He pulls away and turns himself away from you. He did look at me a few times, but only for a second. He babbled a little bit. Unlike some of the other kids from HH, he didn't cry when he is near us, but he does seem emotional distant. Fikadu warmed up to us as the day wore on. He was VERY timid at first, and stiff. But he was able to connect with Chuck and play together. He did let me sit near him while I rubbed his arm or back. Slow steps, all together great first day. And their responses to us are totally normal.

Dear Sweet Peas,

We have thought about this day for a very long time. The day we finally meet face to face. It is what we call our "gotcha day". The day that we will celebrate for years and years as a very special day in our family history.

Love, Mom

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Adoption Travel Journal - Day 1 Feb. 19, 10 Friday

Finally the day we leave. We have worked so hard to be ready for our trip and now it is time to say goodbye to the girls and give quick hugs and head out the door. We left from the local airport around 1:30 pm and had a short flight to Detroit. I ended up sitting near a talk-a-tive lady who had LOTS of opinions and wanted to share them all with me. Chuck and I didn't have seats together on this flight.

When we were waiting to board the next flight in Detroit, a few people noticed my Africa shirt and asked if we were adopting. We ended up connecting with 2 other families (not from our agency). It was so neat to all be on this journey for the same purpose.

This couple here were also adopting 2 boys and this was their first time traveling outside of the country. On the overnight flight to Amsterdam, neither Chuck nor I slept much (about 8 hours).

Changing planes in Amsterdam we met 2 more families (both with AGCI). It was fun to meet Courtney and Chad (we had emailed back and forth). Felt like we were meeting family for the first time. =)

On the third flight we met a man from Ethiopia who was able to help us with some of our phrases. He was very positive and encouraging about our adoption and told us we were giving these boys a life and we were helping them in a huge way.

On this same flight (from Amsterdam to Addis) there was a man in front of us that caused some trouble. When we were going through security, he beeped multiple times and cause some concern. He was scolded by the flight attendants and was told he could not have anymore beer. They also told him to quit asking for more. He was also eating off of other people's plates and hid under his layers of coats and hood and wrapped himself in a blanket (kind of freaked me out). When we landed they told him to wait to be escorted off the plane. And as soon as the flight attendants looked away, he ran off.

Needless to say, we didn't sleep on that flight either. We were so tired and hopeful that we could sleep at the Rivera. I loved seeing the map on the screen in front of me as we crossed the ocean. I took some pictures to show the girls as we crossed over areas we have studied in history.
What can I say, I am a teacher at heart and couldn't pass up a learning opportunity.

We noticed in Amsterdam how tall the people were and how many of them speak more than one language. Kind of puts us Americans in our place. We should work harder at that.

Samson (my seat mate) also told us Abush is a name you give a baby before you name it. Like little guy, or precious one, or baby boy. Not really a real name for a grown man.

We landed in Addis around midnight and stood in line with all of the other families to buy our visa and go through customs. All of this took well over an hour and it was so late and we all were tired. We learned it is just easier to be flexible and easy going rather than uptight. It was great to have other families from the same agency with us in line. We felt a sense of security being in a group. There were 4 families all together in our flight from Amsterdam with AGCI.

After we gathered our luggage (all of it arrived, but the donation bins cracked and were broken) and had our final check through security (had to show our claim checks for the luggage) we saw Wess and Johannes waiting for us with smiles on their faces.

We loaded our luggage onto a cart and headed outside to the van. The Ethiopian men wanted tips for helping with the luggage and were not happy with singles. They wanted a five dollar bill for their tip. The guys did a great job loading ALL of the luggage on the van and strapped it down tight.

The drive to the hotel (late at night) was about 2o min. We had to fill out some paperwork at the hotel and they took a copy of everyone's passport. By this time, we were sooooooo tired and just ready to crash. We had been traveling for over 24 hours and were awake longer than that.

We got to our room and just crashed on the bed and slept. It was the only night we actually had a good night's rest while we were in Ethiopia. We took some tylenol PM and found some jammies and slept until morning.