Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Photos from 2nd Trip...

Craft Bazaar at the International Evangelical Church -My favorite table there Abebe at the Oziopia Guest House
Some photos from our trip to the Southern Region

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


We've been home a week and a half, but I've been a little busy...
Our week in Ethiopia was wonderful, but we didn't get out much. The first day we arrived, we were on our own, so we stayed at the wonderful Oziopia guesthouse. Abebe was the best guesthouse manager I have met yet. He took us around in the blue minibuses (that was a thrill! and only 2 birr each, unbelieveable), and he even suggested the once a month bazaar at the International Evangelical Church. They only have it the last Saturday of every month, but it was the best place to shop! When I post photos, I will put up a photo or two from there. We went to the agency guesthouse that night, and the next morning we traveled south to meet birth family. The drive south was so beautiful and it was priceless to see all the families outside of their tukuls going about their day to day lives. We even passed a soccer game with a huge ring of people watching. Meeting the birthfamily was difficult and wonderful and priceless, and I'm very thankful that I was allowed to record it. It was a long full day, and we fell asleep at 6:30 pm that night. The next morning we saw Child #4 and she was wary of us, like I expected. Just for reference, she is fifteen months old and weighed 16 pounds when we picked her up. She took to me easily again, so I was thankful for that. We didn't have her in our care full time until the next day (embassy day). I was really nervous about that, but she was fine as long as she was attached to me. We were at the embassy four hours and she didn't really cry. Rather unheard of in our family. We stayed at the guesthouse three more days and she started to relax a little. I still couldn't set her down though. She hated the guesthouse bedroom. She tensed up and cried everytime we went in there (maybe because it was small, dark and quiet?), so we stuck with the outdoors and dining room mostly. She slept through the night very well and still does.
It's been interesting to see the progress we make with Child #4 every day. In Addis, she was fine as long as I was holding her, but she didn't smile much at all. The plane ride was about as long as I imagined it to be, but it wasn't quite as awful as it could have been. Sure, I'm not positive I had more than two hours of sleep during twenty eight hours of travel. And sure, I ended up arriving in Houston with a giant mustard colored poop stain on my jeans and twelve various milk, banana and drool related stains on my shirt. But she didn't cry as much as other kids. Actually, she really only cried when she was tired and trying to stay awake. I will admit that I almost burst into tears in the Customs and Border Patrol office at the Houston airport where we sat waiting after already being in line for over an hour. All I wanted was to pick up my luggage and go home and see my kids and sleep, but the agents behind the counter were joking with each other and in absolutely no rush. That was the closest I came to crying during the whole trip. I was thinking how nice it was to finally be back in America with our efficiency and routines, but they were apparently running the office on Ethiopian time. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Anyway, I somehow lasted through a half hour there (in retrospect, that is still far shorter than the four hours we spent at the embassy), and we finally got to go home. I was a bit nervous of what Child #4 would think of our other children, but there was no need to be concerned. We had a brief mishap right after we got home. She was fast asleep in the car seat, so hubby set it on the floor when we got inside, unbeknowist to me. I noticed the same time as our sweet timid little dog started licking her toes thereby scaring her awake and into screaming, crying mode. She was in hyper vigilant mode for a little while after that, but she quickly warmed up to Child #2 and even let me walk four feet away while they played. The hardest part has been holding her all the time. She will occasionally have an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening where I can set her down as long as I sit on the floor and don't move while she explores within an eight foot radius. If she is hungry, tired, etc. then I have to be holding her and standing up. Although, she let hubby hold her the first couple of days, she has been wary and scared of him since. It's not uncommon, but it is difficult for both of us. Last Thursday was a horrible day, probably because she had just had shots and a double ear infection, but Friday was much better. I have to focus on the baby steps that we make each day. Count every smile and laugh and remember it during the bad times. Notice the moments of independence and exploration and remember it when she won't let me put her down. Today and yesterday have been great as far as her exploring more without me, and she's been smiling more often than not lately. On the other hand, we found out she has Giardia, and I'm having the dickens of a time trying to get her to swallow the medicine. Out of seven doses (only 1 ml each), I'm not sure I've gotten even a drop down her throat. I've put it in every manner of drinks, sugary syrups, fruit. I've used a medicine syringe to push it right at the back of her throat. But without fail, she has spit it on me, her clothing, the floor, dribbled it out the sides of her mouth and down her neck. I don't blame her, if it tastes half as bad as it smells. We've been relying on YL DiGize, and thankfully, that seems to be helping quite a bit. She has even gained a pound this last week! I'm just paranoid of having Giardia go throughout our family of six and making a permanant residence here. So now I carry a bottle of Purell with me everywhere. Today, we went in to have blood drawn (six tubes!) and she had the skin prick for the TB test. It was just awful, and I don't think she liked it much either... Hopefully, there won't be anything to worry about there.
I'll try to get around to posting some photos of our trip later...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back from Ethiopia: Gondar

We arrived in Gondar around lunch time, and agreed to split a taxi with a German couple. I had no idea how seriously the husband took bartering, and all to save 5 birr. I think he may have pissed off our driver too. We seperated from them at our hotel, the Lodge du Chateau. From the moment we drove into Gondar, it had a very different feel to it. Our driver told us about how they love Americans there because so many of their family members live in America and send money back to build. He motioned toward downtown, "All this is paid for by American dollars." I didn't know that, but I could see the difference in the personality of the city. The clothes were more western, and I actually saw quite a few people smoking. There were nightclubs, and people flirting out in the open. Oh my! There was also new government subsidized housing, and it actually looked like "projects". I don't really know that they got the best of our culture. The staff at our hotel were by far the friendliest and most helpful people in the city. Our room was very affordable. My only quibles were that the bathroom door didn't shut and we had such loud music coming through our wall for twelve hours a day, it felt like we were in a discotheque. I never did figure out what was next door to the hotel. The hotel manager says it is a music store... On the other hand, Lodge du Chateau has one of the most beautiful views in Gondar. They have a well maintained courtyard garden, that is meticulously cared for every morning by their staff. They should be very proud of their flowers, especially the daisies. And the terrace where they serve breakfast was amazing! You can look out over the city, and watch people in the neighborhood going about their day. It was simply priceless to watch kids play marbles, or walk to school with each other. There was a motorcycle that appeared one morning, and the kids totally congregated around it pushing each other on and off it. You could tell when the owner was near because they disappeared really quick. On the last morning, I watched a woman cooking outside her hut. It was very humbling. Most everything I experienced on our trip was humbling. We did not get a guide for Gondar, and I think we did alright on our own. We waited until our first full day to go sightseeing, and we went to the Royal Enclosure right when it opened (50 birr each, priced just right). It wasn't as amazing as Lalibela, but it was pretty amazing on it's own. It isn't just one castle, it's a whole series all built near each other. The first was built in the 1600's and each successive emperor would add their own building or castle. You could see the different styles in each building. The coolest is Fasilida's Castle, but they are all beautiful. I just wish you could go inside more of them, but I don't think they are in the best shape inside. And I saw more birds, so that was great! I didn't know I liked birds so much until I came to Ethiopia. But now I've decided I'm going to make a book about birds of Ethiopia. I have so many photos of them, I just have to. Just on the castle grounds I saw a beautiful little gray bird with a blue belly and red spot by his eye, and a brown bird with a perfectly speckled belly. There was also sparrows flying in and out of the castles. They seem to have nests in the castles and they swoop quickly round and round the arches and through the windows. Anyway, moving on. After that, we walked through downtown past the internet cafe (not super quick but very affordable) to the Dashen Bank. Best exchange rate on the whole trip. Then we hiked 1 km out of town (but it felt a lot farther than that, probably because we were huffing and puffing up a hill) to see the Debre Birhan Selassie Church (25 birr each, again priced just right). Debre Birhan is famous for the painted walls and ceilings inside the church, and they are breath taking. There is no flash allowed, so you need to have a steady hand and a great camera. The ceiling is the most famous part with it's 80 cherubic faces, but I was just as impressed with the front of the church. There are tiny paintings going all along the curtained archways and corners, and the awesome Holy Trinity above the crucifixion scene. And like all amazing Ethiopian churches, it is still in use today. There was a particularly nice boy in the church courtyard that wanted to practice his English, and he walked all around with us talking. Outside the church, he went on his way, and we started back to the hotel. It was really sweet and refreshing to talk with a boy that just wanted to talk, especially after our walk through town. By the time we had gotten back to our hotel, I told mom that everyone seems to think our names are Mrs. MoneyPotts and Mrs. MoneyPenny, but mostly the kids. I understand we are western tourists, but we had already given all our clothes away in Lalibela. Our money was dwindling since this was our last stop, and I still wanted to go to the Falasha settlement and Goha Hotel for dinner. There is no easy way to explain this to young boys that have limited English. We hired a driver to take us to the Falasha settlement. This is where the Ethiopian Jews had a settlement before they were air lifted out over a number of years. From what I understand, now most of the families that live there are half Jewish. They still have amazing handicrafts, much of it with the Star of David. And I think I can safely say, it is home to the most determined sales women in all of Ethiopia. It was a rainy afternoon and we were the only visitors. From the moment we stepped out of the car, we were surrounded by women and children selling their wares. They started with necklaces and clay handicrafts, holding the necklaces four inches from our faces, each jostling to put their product closest to our eyes. "30 birr, 30 birr, okay for you, 25." They didn't even slow down when the rain started to pour. It was just like all of a sudden we were surrounded by umbrellas and untouched by rain. We tried to buy a little from everyone. Every time they would see us buy something, they would appear in front of us with similar items in that category, like, "Oh she likes the baskets! Show her our baskets!" And their prices were great, so I didn't bother bartering much. I loved their sign that said, "We will not beg for money, we do not charge for photos." Dude, they earn their money. I'm glad I saved my money for that village. Shopping there was an experience by itself. We drove to the Goha Hotel next, which sits on top of a mountain looking out over Gondar. The Goha is the nicest hotel in the neighborhood, and you can pay a bit and actually get Wifi up there. I've heard that it is the nicest hotel in the government hotel chain, and that wouldn't surprise me. Their restaurant was certainly along the lines of any five star American restaurant. Except they had birds flying around and chirping inside, which actually made it six stars in my book. Plus, I was able to find a copy of Journey to Ethiopia at their gift shop, which is out of print and very hard to find. We went to bed early, and left for the airport in the morning. I have to say the airport security there was much more vigilant than any of the stops we had previously been to. I'm not sure if it's always like that or what, but we were ready to go home by then. We ended up spending about eight hours in the Addis airport before it was time for our flight home to leave. I was pretty impressed by the shops in the upstairs of the Bole airport. Many of the stores had very good prices, and there was a lot of variety in the goods. Eventually, we made it all the way back to my family and home and bed. Thus ended my very first trip to Ethiopia, and my first trip out of the U.S. I am beyond excited to be going back, although this time for a much different reason. I won't have much time for sightseeing or shopping on this trip. Well, maybe just a day or two before all the fun starts...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Embassy Date!

We actually recieved our embassy date while I was still coming back from Ethiopia! But I've been so busy with preparing for our new daughter to come home, and doing laundry, and catching up on everything then getting ready to leave again, that I haven't had time to post about it. Our embassy date is just 32 days after our court date! I can't believe it myself. My post about Gondar is coming soon.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Back from Ethiopia: Lalibela

We went to the airport early in the morning. The plane is a Dash 8 and looks brand new. It's a super fun flight and less than an hour long. The countryside is beautiful and green. We go on a wild twenty minute ride from the airport to town. We see tukuls, livestock, barefoot children tending goats and a few woman carrying the bright yellow water containers. We hire the guide that is associated with our hotel, Derabe, and he proves to be the best guide ever. We are staying at the Tukul Village Hotel, and it is beautiful and luxorious. We quickly meet Getu, a teenager that is sponsored by one of my forum friends. I had promised to bring him a bunch of winter clothes and books for him and his brother as a favor to her. We also included a lot of things from us. It proved to be one of the highlights of our trip. Getu invited us to coffee at his house. His brother is currently in another city going to school for nursing, so he lives by himself in a one room house. Derabe goes with us, and Getu leads into his neighborhood. We climb around mud houses, up hills, and around holes. People walking down the street stare at us as we fumble to get to his house. We are one of only about six farenjis on this side of town. Getu has a neighbor girl fix the coffee. His house has a dirt floor with mats on it and two bed rolls. His walls are covered with posters of Obama, Mary and Jesus. Cds also decorate the walls, shiny side out. I am so humbled when he offers us seats and serves us popcorn (it is salty and sweet and quite good), while the girl starts washing the coffee beans. The water comes from two big yellow water containers that sit near the door. It was amazing to be able to watch the full coffee ceremony. She lights charcoals and roasts the beans, then she uses a mortar and pestle to smash them over and over. She uses the old style coffee pot to heat the water and cook the coffee grounds in it. I should mention here that I hate cofffee, and I determined ahead of time that I would drink the whole cup regardless of what it tasted like. It was served to us in little cups and saucers with raw sugar offered in a jar. I added sugar, and took a sip. Amazingly, I loved it. It was not bitter like coffee I've tasted before, and it was very dark. But it was wonderful. I had two cups! Later we start our tour of the churches. For those traveling to Lalibela, the price of admission to the churches has gone up again. It is now 350 birr per person, which is still good for four days. It is worth it, but we had not anticipated that price ahead of time. We climb up and down, and we take our shoes off and put them on again for every church. I cannot describe how amazing it is to see churches carved from the cliff side 800 years ago. These are churches that are still in use today. It's just awesome! When it starts to pour down rain on our way to see the church of St. George, we stop and take shelter at an artist's tukul. He makes his own paints and paints religious pictures on goatskin, and he also has about 30 students that he teaches to become deacons (the next step would be priests if they choose). While we're in his tukul, two more women come in, and the man just keeps moving his little table toward the back. At one point, there were eight people in the tiny tukul, and it felt like a clown car. I was glad we stopped there. He had very low prices, and even signed the back of his art for us. My favorite is a little picture of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednago in the fire. As the rain dried up and we walked away, two boys appeared at the door and started reading very loudly from their prayer books and another boy started singing a few feet away. It was like they were all trying to be heard the most. We invited Getu to dinner that night at the Jerusalum House. He said the last time he had eaten there was two years ago when my sponser friend took him there. He said it is normally too expensive for him. He ordered injera with beef tibs and an orange soda. He tells me about how much he loves injera. Getu is endearing.

The next day we went to see the rest of the churches. I particularly like Bet Abba Libanos. In my head, I call it the hobbit church. It is more of a cave church, but it has a gigantic tree towering over the facing cliffside. It is secluded and peaceful and lovely. We are fortunate to have come during the rainy season when everything is exploding in bright green and the rocks are covered with moss. We've finished seeing all the churches by mid morning, and Derabe takes us to see the market. They have a market day once a week, where people come from all around to sell their wares. Some people walk an hour, some a day, I am told. They seperate themselves by what they sell. We pass piles of firewood first, then a row of men selling "tire shoes". Simple shoes made from tires. They cost about 10 birr. I am told they last much longer than the prettier plastic shoes that sell for 20 birr though. Although, I think the plastic shoes look a little more comfortable. There are many people selling livestock, goats, cows, mules, chickens and eggs too. I see one woman emptying eggs out of a carrier made of fur turned inside and sewn up. It actually looks quite a bit like an inside out rabbit. There are rows of teff flour, legumes, sorghum, hops (for beer), rock salt, sugar, then rows of woven fabrics and dresses and scarves. It is quite a sight to behold. We take it easy that afternoon and get packed up to go to the airport in the morning. We see Getu, and he ties a small wooden cross around my neck, and then one around my mom's neck. He tells us that he bought them at the market for us to remember him and remember Lalibela, and he will pray for us. Positively endearing.

Back from Ethiopia: Addis Ababa Court Trip

We arrived in Addis Sunday night, and we were pretty exhausted from the long plane ride. We made our way through the airport, first time ever that my baggage claim tickets were actually checked. They actually x-ray your lugguage on the way out of the airport, so that was a little different. Sidenote to future travelers: the porters outside the airport are very determined, and if they so much as even move your suitcase from the ground to a taxi, they will expect a tip. It's a good idea to have a few 5 birr notes especially for this. We met all of our fellow court travelers at the airport (and it was a large group of 15 families), and headed to the agency guesthouse. As it turned out, our room was up four flights of stairs, so I soon saw the drawbacks of both my mom and I taking two suitcases each. Then again, on the way back I appreciated all the space in those two suitcases for all the things I bought.

The next morning, we headed straight to the care center where I met Child #4. I was especially nervous about that because by all accounts she does not take well to strangers, and she's described as a serious child. She is fourteen months old, but she was with the babies. I was actually thankful for that because it meant that I would get to have one on one time with her. She initially cried when everyone came in, but the nanny insisted on passing her to me. She calmed down quickly and spent the next hour and a half sitting in my lap and watching people around her, then she fell asleep toward the end. The next day went very similar, but she made a lot more eye contact with me. She really enjoyed chewing my finger and went right to sleep. She smelled wonderful, and her hair is soft. She has big lips and big eyes, but she doesn't smile or babble much. I wonder if she will be like this on the plane ride home, and what will her personality be like when she is secure in our love. That night, we went to the Yod Abyssinia Cultural Restaurant for dinner. We ate traditional Ethiopian food. I love injera, but I am not so good with the spicy meats. My favorite is actually the cabbage and the lentils. There is wonderful dancing, and it makes me wish I had my camcorder instead of the digital camera.

The day after that we have free time for shopping and exploring. It was a very fun day, and I love all the shopkeepers that I meet. I buy traditional outfits, tshirts, necklaces and coffee at the first store, and the lady has fun teaching me the correct way to say Ah-ma-say-guh-nah-lo (thank you). In another store, an old man visibly enjoys bartering with me over a goatskin drum. I notice belatedly that he's missing fingers. He is so adept that it doesn't seem to affect his cashiering skills. I love shopping, but getting to know the people was almost as fun. I fall asleep early that night. It seems like I'm getting up earlier and earlier, which is totally out of character for this night owl.

Day 4 is court day and I'm wide awake before the sun comes up. I go on our balcony and take photos of the neighborhood waking up, and all the colorful birds that I constantly hear chirping. I am meticulous with my makeup and clothes, and I'm ready to go two hours before it's time to leave. I end up going up and down the stairs aimlessly trying to burn off my nervous energy. Court turns out to be more mundane than I've built it up to be. When my turn comes, I go into an office, give my passport and POA from hubby, and sit in a chair. The judge is kind, but very soft spoken. She asks a few questions about our family and preparation to adopt, and I answer her in a shaky voice. When she says, "then she's all yours" I thank her three times and almost forget my passport. I have to go in the hallway because I burst into tears. I am so grateful that it has finally happened. She is ours and we are hers. I finally know that she is definitely coming home.

After we leave the court building, we drive to Entoto mountain road to visit a weaving shop set up for the women fuel carriers. Those are the women that carry up to 200 pounds of wood on their back on the mountain road, which they sell for people to cook with. The weaving shop is an alternative to selling wood. I bought quite a few scarves there. I have never seen so many beautiful scarves in so many colors. They are all woven by hand on looms. There are a few boys there that get a kick out of seeing short videos that I've taken of them weaving. Afterwards, we head back to the guesthouse and pack all our things. We will be heading north to Lalibela tomorrow morning, but that will have to be... in another post.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Court Date CONFIRMED!!!

I'm actually going! Here's how I found out:
Yesterday, I called my agency on a fluke, just to ask some minor questions (and I just can't resist calling them at least once a week to milk them for information). Anyway, after I babbled away to my specialist, she told me she had been planning to give me a call. She gave me the news with such a dour voice, I was sure it was bad. She said "Your birth family did make their appearance". It took me at least five full seconds to process that it was good news! So it is all confirmed. I bought the tickets last week (when the date was "tentative"), and God has had his hand on the timing. If I had waited till now to buy tickets they would have been twice as much. We're actually staying a day longer than we planned to because we couldn't get a flight back on our originally planned date. Apparently many people are traveling at the same time. My mother and I will be leaving on July 24, I will meet Child #4 July 27 for a brief time and my court date is July 29. I am super nervous about appearing before the judge. I will be armed with a POA from hubby, but it will be just me to answer the questions. Eeeek. Super crappy part is I am not allowed to take any photos or video of Child #4.... So you will all get to see lots of photos of Ethiopia (and her referral pic when we pass). Hubby has to stay at home with the kids (shortage of vacation time for both trips, needed at work), but thankfully, his parents will be there to help and keep him sane :) I am feeling massive mother guilt about being away from the kids for so long, and galivanting around with my mom while my husband stays at home. But on the other hand, both my mother and I have never left the country (unless you count when she arrived here at the age of 3 from the Netherlands), and we are pretending this is our own "Amazing Race" episode (except we won't be digging through hay bales). It is relatively affordable to travel around Ethiopia, so we will be going north to Lalibela and Gonder for the last three days to see the churches that were carved out of cliff sides 800 years ago and I'll actually get to see a real castle in Gondar. Can you tell how excited I am??
Here is my laundry list of prayer requests if you feel led (it just keeps growing):
-travel mercies for our parents getting here and for my mom and I and all the traveling we'll be doing, keep everyone safe
-that meeting Child#4 would go better than I could imagine
-that court would be smooth, simple and we would PASS (and that I wouldn't worry so much about it)
-that we would stay healthy and not be affected by jet lag too bad
-that hubby and his parents would have a wonderful time together, and that the kids would be good for them :)
-that we wouldn't have any mishaps or lost baggage or damaged items, etc. during our travels
-that I would be able to find an affordable way to talk to my family at home
-that we would glorify God throughout our trip and Jesus would shine through us
I'm hoping to get enough internet to post something. So check periodically after the 24th. If all goes well, we will hopefully be bringing her home sometime in late September. I don't think it will all sink in that I'm actually going around the world until I'm in the plane, and I'll probably be crying too much from leaving the kids to realize it.... :0

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


AAAAAH! Can you hear me screaming in disbelief and delight????
I just got a phone call today that we have a tentative court date of July 29. They won't tell us what the first court date is (when the birth family are going), but they will let us know sometime in the next two weeks if all went well. Then we get to buy tickets!! Oh my gosh, I might actually be leaving for Ethiopia in three and a half weeks. I am totally shocked. I wasn't sure if we would make the court closure or not, and now it looks like we will be in the first group of families from our agency to go before the judge. Can you say "nerve-racking"? I am having serious feelings of anxiety that I was not expecting. But I am so excited!!! Coincedentally, July 29 is Child #2's birthday. So I will probably be feeling some mother guilt on top of it all. So much to do!!!!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

REFERRAL!!!!! (After 19 1/2 months waiting)

On Friday afternoon, I got the call. Only I didn't know I got the call because I was buying groceries, and my cell phone battery was dead. When I got home, there was a message on the phone machine from our specialist asking me to call her back. I knew it had to be big news because I had told her a few months ago not to call unless there was a really good reason :) I was freaking out, and I couldn't reach my husband for three hours because he was on a flight. So as it happens, my mom was the first to hear the news. Hubby didn't hear the news until after 6 pm. In some ways, it was nice to have the whole weekend to look through all the information, and pray about it all. But then again, I had to wait until Monday to let her know that we wanted to accept the referral.
So onto the part you really want to hear. According to her birth date, she is almost a year old, but she may be older than that. She is beautiful. They describe her as a happy and smiley girl. I wish I could show you her photo, but since we haven't gone through the court process yet, she isn't legally ours. She comes from the southern region of Ethiopia. We don't really know what the time line is going to be like because of the new two trip rule. The next step is for our paperwork to be submitted and to get a court date. We're praying for the court process to go quickly and smoothly, but mostly we're praying for Child #4, that God would give her peace and calm and keep her healthy.
I am really excited about traveling. I have never been anywhere outside the U.S., except Mexico, and I have been reading Lonely Planet and Bradt guides for Ethiopia for the last year and a half (the Bradt guide is awesome). We really want to see Lalibela and the beautiful churches there. I would love to see the castle at Gondar too, but I don't think we'll have the time given my husband's limited number of vacation days. Aaaahhhhh! I can't believe our time is finally coming! I'll post news as it comes.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I haven't posted much about the garden because I'm always forgetting to take pictures. I have grape tomato plants, yellow beans, bell peppers, eggplant, and lot of strawberries. Here are some pictures of the blackberry and grape plants that we planted three years ago. My blackberry vine is huge. I've gotten at least a pint of berries from it already. We finally have grapes!
Our grapevine takes over the trellis every year. Should I trim it or not?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Awesome Blog Post

This is kind of a long read, but so awesome. Anyone that is thinking of adopting or has adopted should read this post.

Monday, May 3, 2010

19 Months Waiting...

It is defenitely getting harder to keep track of time passing. It feels like the months are just running together now. I can't believe it's almost the end of another school year. We are very hopeful that we are getting closer to a referral. That could mean anything. I really think it will be in the next one to three months, so I am taking guesses on the date of referral again. I know we tried that back in the winter, and everybody lost. You can also guess how old she will be. Anything between 3-26 months is possible. Personally, my guess is June 9 and she will be 25 months old. Hubby is more optimistic about the date. He feels we might have a referral in the next few weeks. Of course, both of us could be way off, and I might still be posting in August with time estimates... I'm actually excited that I will have to go to Ethiopia twice. I was looking forward to the trip so much, now I get to do it twice! Hopefully, the price of tickets will be low, and we'll be able to figure out child care easily when the time comes. Praying that the details will all fall into place, and that God is taking care of her and her birth family everyday.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Florida Vacation

Well, it wasn't a vacation in the relaxation sense of the word, but it was jam packed full of fun. We had an awesome time visiting everyone, and going to Disney World. Here's how our trip went. Left Friday, and drove 19 hours straight through. Got there late morning and decided to stop at the Playmobil Fun Park before going to my mom's. Brief time out in the parking lot when Child #3 vomited her Dunkin Donuts breakfast all over herself and the carseat. Thankfully, this just turned out to be caused by the stress of a car trip, not a dreaded stomach flu. After some baby wipes and a change of clothes, fun was had by all at the Fun Park. AND it turns out there was neat things sticking out of their dumpster. Go figure. We got to my mom's house, and took naps. Lots of visiting. Everybody (including my sister and her husband from Ft. Lauderdale, my sister and her husband and kids from Tampa, and my brother and his wife and kids) went to church Sunday with my mom. This made her very happy. I loved seeing some of my old friends at church, and I got to see my cousin and her new twins (They are beautiful, Cherie!). We took a big family photo after church, and for an impromptu, amatuer photo, it looks spectacular. So then we had lunch and played at the park. Then the Tampa relatives had to head home. I don't entirely remember what we did on Monday and Tuesday, but it involved a trip to Faith Farm (thrift store, highly recommend it), dinner with my husband's family, playing games with my brother, sister, mom and husband, and not getting enough sleep. I wish I lived closer so we could play Killer Uno more often (personally I like the potential for injury, that's why there is age restrictions), but I also had fun playing Rack O and Moods. Late Tuesday, we headed to Orlando where we stayed at a sweet/suite hotel. We shared a two bed/two bath room with hubby's parents, and there was actually enough space for everyone. We spent one jam packed, fun filled day at the Magic Kingdom, and then went to the Orlando Science Center the day after that. I would also highly recommend the Orlando Science Center. It was comparitively cheap ($12-$17), which includes movies and all exhibits. It has four floors of interactive exhibits, and we could have spent all day there if we wanted. My kids loved playing with the oranges, water, and basically everything in KidsTown on the first floor, All Aboard and H2Now on the second floor and Science in Toyland on the fourth floor. After the science museum, we went back to the hotel for naps and swimming. On Friday, after my husband patched a radiator leak he discovered the night before, we headed back home. Thank God we didn't have any problems with the radiator on the drive home. I was able to get Sonny's Bar BQ on the way home, and it was even better than I remembered (the sliced beef with sweet sauce! the corn fritters! the baked beans!), oh I'm salivating again just remembering it. I know Texas people think they make the best barbeque, but I don't get it. I have yet to find a barbeque place here that I like, and nothing I've tasted has been half as good as Sonny's. I think it's because Texas barbeque seems to rely heavily on spice whereas Sonny's is decidedly sweet. Feel free to weigh in. We had thought about stopping at the Battleship in Alabama and the big Bass Pro Shops in Baton Rouge, but we kept arriving just as they were closing. In the long run, it made the trip home go faster, but still... Can I just say that I hate I-10 in west Louisiana. It involves driving through large swaths of swamp land with nothing seperating you from plunging into the depths of murkiness except an eighteen inch concrete barrier. It is totally creepy at night because there are NO lights out there. And if it's not swampland it's just ugly, covered in strip malls (in more than one sense of the word) and casinos. Sorry if you like it there, but it just ain't my cup of tea. Funny story, when we first moved to Texas (and had never seen our home state before), we passed through west Louisiana and into Beaumont and wondered what we had gotten into. Photos are in a seperate post.

Florida Vacation Photos

Hubby's parents enjoying breakfast The awesome and awe-inspiring matriarch of my fam Individual and unconventional brother Strong and energetic sister #1 Sweet and vivacious sister #2 Buzz Lightyear at Magic Kingdom WDW The Orlando Science Center The Battleship we didn't get to go on. (FYI they close at 6 pm).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

18 Months Waiting...

So March has been interesting. The first two weeks saw all three kids get ear infections (when 2 out of 3 had never had one). I thought I was fighting a nagging cough/cold and came down with a raging fever. I had - can you guess? - an ear infection AND pnuemonia. I could barely get to the doctor, and it hurt so bad to try to breathe. I figured I had either mysteriously broken some ribs or I was really sick. Thankfully, I was able to utilize our wonderful family babysitter, and the doctor gave me lots of shots and prescriptions. I thanked him about three times for letting me take care of it at home instead of making me go to the hospital. I want to send a special shout out to the wonderful people at our church who brought us meals. Thank you so much Martha, Heather and Jackie, we really needed the love and prayers! So anyway, my husband is the only one that got through it with no antibiotics. The second half of March was much better, and I have been thanking God for every day that we have been healthy since.

Ethiopia announced that parents will now have to take two trips, and it would go into effect April 9. Then it was postponed indefenitely because the judge went out of town. Then the announcement came out yesterday that there was a meeting about it where it was decided the rule would now go into effect May 9. So it seems both my husband and I will be required to appear in court after we have met the child, then we will have to go back 6-8 weeks later to finally bring her home. This would all happen after we have finally recieved a referral. Sigh. I have a lot of opinions about this, but I don't think I have them clearly articulated enough in my head to lay out for public consumption. Needless to say, it has just added roughly $5000 to the expected travel. And I haven't even figured out how we're going to work with my husband's lack of vacation/sick time. There are other families out there that will have to pull out of the program completely because there is no way for both parents to appear in court.

So where are we at? Well, we're much closer than we were last month, but what the heck does that mean? There were about 17 families that recieved referrals last month, and it seems many were toddler referrals. That took off everyone on our UNofficial list that was ahead of us for 18-24months. What does that mean? I have no idea. Theoretically, we could recieve a referral tomorrow or we could be waiting for another three months. It really depends on what kids come into their care center, along with many other details. Frankly, with this new two trip rule, I'm not sure I want to be at the front of the pack while they implement it. That's what I'm telling myself anyway. I think we're ready to start guessing on when we recieve the referral. I used to wonder if we would be traveling before summer, but now I'm just hoping we make it to court before they close for the rainy season (Aug-Sept). My how our hopes and expectations change.

Monday, March 1, 2010

17 Months Waiting...

First note, and I will post more on this later, we are seriously planning a trip to south Florida, possibly for mid-April. No concrete dates yet, but let me know if you really want to see us, otherwise I think we'll spend the bulk of our time at theme parks :)
If you haven't noticed already, I have been hiding. January sucked, and February wasn't much better. If you're interested, here is what February brought our family all spread out over four glorious weeks - ear infection, sinus infection, vomiting, diarrhea, fevers across the board, coughing, sneezing, absentee/exhausted husband because of too much overtime and wretched commute, tantrums, and $800 in car repairs. On the plus side, it also brought our income tax refund, so the car repairs came at an okay time. I am struggling with how to praise and glorify God even when I have no motivation to. Most of the time, I'm just too tired and apathetic. I'm grateful to God for every day of my life, but I'm exhausted too. Now mom will ask if I'm taking my vitamins. Yes mom, but I haven't been taking iron lately. I'll make sure to rectify that.
Oh, and we're still waiting. My current estimate for the referral is May 2010 to May 2011. That is how much of an idea I have of when we'll have a referral. I don't want to talk about it anymore. I don't want to answer questions about it anymore. Our agency gave out five referrals last month. They have about 365 waiting families. Do the math on that. Even though we're closer to the front than most people, it is terribly discouraging. I don't think the slowdown is our agency's fault. Actually, it's probably the fault of all the unethical agencies that have popped up in the last couple of years and the allegations that are coming up now on those horrid, ruin-it-for-everyone agencies. Personally, I do think our agency took on too many families and should have stopped accepting applications, but I don't think I will have a clear picture until this whole journey is complete. I would actually be okay with a long wait, if I just had a due date. Not knowing is the worst part. There is simply no way to plan around such a nebulous event. Sorry for the whining.

Second Blessings Consignment Sale - March 5-6

I have been very busy sorting and pricing toys and clothes to put in the Second Blessing Consignment Sale, but I am finally done! If you are able to go, I highly recommend shopping there. There are tons of great values on baby equipment, furniture, toys, books, clothes, etc. I have only gone to Old Navy for all of last year because I never need clothes anymore. I find Gymboree, Gap, at Second Blessings and at Little Lambs in September. Twice a year shopping and I'm set! So here's the info:
Second Blessings Children's Consignment Sale is a fundraiser for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) at StoneBridge Church. We sell gently used children's clothing and accessories from infant to girls and boys size 12, toys, baby equipment, furniture, shoes, bikes, outside toys, children's books, games, and videos.
Friday, March 5th: 9:00 am - 12:00 pm and 3:00 pm - 7:00 pm Sale
Saturday, March 6th: 8:00 am - 11:00 am Half price Sale
If you don't know where StoneBridge is get directions here.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

16 Months Waiting...

Yep, still waiting...
So for the good news, it looks like we will be okayed to expand our age range, which hubby and I are really excited about. After all these months of waiting and all the learning and research we've done, we've really felt led to go older. I'm really hoping for a referral on the older end. That being said, we could still end up with a baby, and we would be overjoyed no matter what!
For the bad news, I have absolutely no idea how much longer we'll be waiting. Not a clue.

For all those of you that didn't know, Child #2 had an assessment on Monday. It took almost a year to get the appointment, so it was met with a bit of expectation. The doctor spent about two hours with us going through all sorts of questions and exams. Basically, he's a year or a year and a half delayed in a few areas (like fine motor, gross motor, some cognitive). She said he fits all 17 points for Combined Type ADHD. She also said he has something else that I have totally forgotten the label for, but it's a delay thing that we can recheck later. First, we're going to try medication and see if that improves some of the other stuff. I have very mixed feelings about this. I honestly used to think ADHD was just a label that school administrators put on hyper boys so they could medicate them and make them easier in class. I do not generally agree with medicating young children, but I also have to admit that my son is NOT normal (not that any of us are normal...). He is impulsive, disruptive, fidgety, unmotivated and has the attention span of a gnat. That seems kind of harsh now that I read it. I'm at the point where I am willing to try it, if it will change his behavior, make him able to learn, and stay focused on tasks like cleaning, dressing, etc. I'll let you know what I think of it next month, or possibly sooner. We'll see.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Things I Learned Over Christmas Vacation

I love learning new things - how to tile, traits of different kinds of animals, cultures of other countries, history, etc., but I'm not real keen on life lessons. I've learned some interesting things over the last month, some were fun, some not so much. Since I like being organized, here's a list:
1. Beatles Rock Band is the funnest game ever. It is way better than Guitar Hero and it is more family friendly.
2. My sister has a hidden talent for drumming (fake Beatles Rock Band drumming). She is really good. We never take out the drums because they are drudgery. But she loved them. Personally, I'm good with the Bass. I can play medium level on Beatles (yay!).
3. I love singing Beatles songs. Okay, I actually always knew that, but now I have a microphone that sends my mediocre voice across my whole living room! Twist and Shout...
4. No this isn't all about a Beatles video game. I learned about animals too. Our new cat is quirky. We found her hiding under our car around the same time Verona passed away. My son burst into tears everytime we mentioned the animal shelter, so she stayed. (She also was the beneficiary of shots and an operation). I have a sneaking suspicion that she is not really a kitten, but just a tiny, runty cat. She doesn't seem to grow.
5. She also has a tendency to attack when there is crying. I have to admit I haven't discouraged this. The kids are catching on now that if they lay on the floor screaming, they may have a cat bite them in the neck.
6. Apparently she was a stray for a long time because she eats table scraps. She is well on her way to replacing Verona as the dinner vacumn, despite the fact that her body weight is one-tenth that of our beloved dog.
7. I have also discovered that she has the bad habit of trying to clean out dishes left out. I discovered this after hearing suspicious noises downstairs in the middle of the night. It was just the cat knocking dishes onto the floor. We were clean before, but now we're really clean. My beleagured husband threatened to take her to the pound if he found her on the counter again, so now child #1 reminds us all to clean up and rinse our dishes. At least we finally found his motivation!
8. On the not so fun side, I learned that I am still not perfect (bummer!). I fell into some old patterns because of holiday stress. I let my own insecurities and inferiority complex sink me into a dark pit, and instead of rising to the occasion, I sunk deeper. Argh. I will use the excuse that my sister has a golden touch with parenting, cooking, sewing, scheduling, getting through a day, etc. and it made me see all the ways I fail in those areas.
9. On the plus side, I see the areas I can improve on, and I've already noticed a difference in the last couple of weeks. My sister helped me discover a great website, which I have used a few times already to get dinner ideas. I like using the ingredient search to come up with a dinner that will use up stuff in the fridge before it goes bad.
10. Fixing parenting issues hasn't been as easy. Child #2 has always been different and had his own set of problems. Lately, it has been tantrums/rages. I call them freak out meltdowns. They occasionally come up when he's playing with his siblings and they want the same toy. Then I have to seperate him and do time out. But apparently he wants to try them out in public now. Yesterday at Kroger, he took me completely by surprise. He wanted some Christmas candy he saw on sale, I said he could buy it with his money and I would hold it till later. He yelled something about he would hold it. I said we wouldn't get it because he was having a bad attitude. Then he screamed, cried, laid down on the floor (of Kroger). This wouldn't have been so bad if he were two years old and not five. I kept walking toward the register, and hoped people wouldn't notice the VERY loud little boy trailing after me. I was caught in a bit of a stupor when I saw the lines behind every register, and my dear sweet daughter was crying now too. Plus, child #2 seeing that I had stopped moving, decided that he should scream and lay down again. It was so awful. I was so discombobulated that when a sweet woman in a check out line got the kids attention telling them to help their mommy move to her short line (and stopped their crying cold), I had a hard time containing my own tears. No one is going to a grocery store with me anymore unless it is one to one ratio. Child #2 seems to have percieved a chink in my armor that I didn't know I had, but I see now that I need to employ new strategies. He actually has an assessment coming up in February where we're hoping to find out once and for all if there is a label to go with his differences.

Monday, January 4, 2010

15 Months Waiting...

Most of the time I force myself to forget that we're waiting for a referral. I still check the forums obsessively though, so that probably doesn't help. Mostly I am just sick of it. I'm sick of people that only wait a few months for a referral, and don't really know anything about the process because they didn't have to learn it. I'm sick of agencies that pop up in Ethiopia because it's the trendy country now, and they corrupt the system. I am sick of parents that defend those agencies practices because they either brought children home from them and don't want the guilt or they are still waiting and don't want their adoption jeopardized. Do me a favor, if you are considering international adoption, RESEARCH. Do it before you call agencies or fill out applications. Join the Ethiopia specific agency research yahoo group: Ethiopia AAR or the international adoption agency research group: Adoption Agency Research. Otherwise, you could end up with an agency that coerced babies from their mothers or gave you a referral with no paperwork for months or had you adopt a child with severe special needs that you were unaware of. And if you try to back out, they will probably keep a lot of your money. Personally, I wish I had never heard of BFAS, CCI, AGCI, and I'm not crazy about Hope, Dove or Adoption Avenues either. There are about twenty agencies that are allowed to process adoptions in Ethiopia, and I would only consider between four and six of them to be trustworthy and proven (Adoption Advocates Intl in WA, WHFC, CHSFS, WACAP, and possibly Holt and Gladney, still unsure on those). I have been in the process of adopting for two years now, and I am sick of ignorant parents supporting unethical practices because of promised short wait times. Sigh. I feel better now. Feel free to add to anything in the comments or flame me ;)
Belated addition: I am going to add Adoption Ark to the list of agencies to stay away from because of this woman's story. Even though it's Pakistan, her experiences with the agency itself are the problem, and the way an agency is in one country is probably the way they are in any other.