Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

Soooooo thankful to all be together......FINALLY.

Our Li'l B was terrified of our dog at first, look what 3 weeks home can do.

And Li'l B slept in our room the first couple of weeks, but the past week the nights have looked something like this. Awwww.

This year, Thanksgiving was shared with Farmboy's side of the family. Thanks to all the contributors, but especially Heidi and Chris, the food was fabulous and we all probably added a little thickness around the know, just in time for the holidays.

The boys watching our Lions get crushed. Go Lions ?!?

Part of the family getting ready for the big dinner.....and snacking on the pre-dinner appetizers that make you full even before dinner starts. Why do we do that?

Heidi had some 3 year old crafts that the 14 yr old and 12 yr old enjoyed playing with. Wow, Claire, nice coloring. Maybe your mom will put that one on the fridge???

Another tradition -- cut down the tree. Li'l B was probably wondering why in the world we were doing this, and why in the world is it SO cold. Oh, dear, it just gets COLDER.

The family.....the trick to a decent shot "spur of the moment" style-- do a black and white shot, that way you can't tell how awfully we clash.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Trip

People have been asking how our trip went, and I realized the blog world may like to hear, too, so here goes. And even if you aren't interested, well, it's my blog, so I guess I get to do what I want anyway.

Friday and Saturday

First of all, we were able to stop in Cairo, Egypt for 2 days before the "adoption trip". Highly recommend!!!!! Also, you may want to know that if you fly Ethiopian Airlines, the trip to Cairo is basically FREE. You only pay some minimal taxes, surcharges, maybe adding less than 100 bucks to the cost of the fare from Dulles to Addis Ababa. So, financially, very feasible. Also, I was very fortunate to have a friend who currently resides in Cairo, and she played tour guide the whole time we were there. Her apartment overlooks the Nile, with a view of the pyramids in the distance, so it is quite breathtaking. We crammed in as much as humanly possible in the 48 hours we saw this land. Yes, the trip was short, but since we may never return, I believe we took complete advantage of our time and enjoyed some wonderful experiences. And the food.....absolutely delicious. Honestly, Ethiopian food has some spices that are unfamiliar to my palate, so I eat rather sparingly in Ethiopia. But in Egypt, I enjoyed EVERYTHING!

A bit surprising to me, and another wonderful blessing, I was totally able to enjoy this jaunt out of the way before we embarked on the adoption trip. I was excited to meet Li'l B in a few days, but wasn't consumed with the thought, and was able to be fully present for our Egypt adventure. My dear friend Laura accompanied me on this part of the trip and when you get two old friends together, there is bound to be a wonderful time, with laughs, giddiness, silliness and just great fun. Oh, and little sleep, that may be a reason why there was so much giddiness.

This shot was taken from our balcony, the Nile before us, and the pyramids in the mist in the distance. Stunning.

Ouch, this poor guy needs a nose job.


Next stop, Addis Ababa.

We arrived in Addis on a Sunday morning, after traveling through the night from Cairo. Travis from Gladney was there, as was Solomon, our same driver as last time. So nice to see familiar faces! Travis dropped us off at the Ayat house, the same guest house as last time, too. Again, nice to see familiar, friendly faces, as we are welcomed back by Waguyu and Zimmett. I wasn't sure what my plan would be, but once in-country I wanted to meet Li'l B ASAP. Travis was completely willing to work with all my requests. We were not planning on following the typical Gladney schedule, as I had a year to think about what I wanted to see. Travis/Gladney were incredibly accommodating and flexible. So, we head off to meet my daughter, and the first meeting was quite comfortable. Not mind-blowing, not amazingly stressful, actually relatively calm. I came armed with bubbles and she was fascinated. This gave me time to hold her and introduce myself. Then we walked around and through the home, and THAT WAS IT. Laura and I then went back to the guest house where we crashed for about 5 hours. That got my head the rest it desperately needed.

Later, Sunday night, my friend Maggie flies in to Ethiopia, as she is joining us on the rest of the trip.


Today we were scheduled to drive out to my children's village in Bantu, about 60 miles, yet 2.5 hours, away. This was INCREDIBLE. We stopped along the way to pick up their great-aunt, who has been instrumental in advocating for all three of our children. SO grateful for this woman. Then, on the long car ride, I was able to ask great-aunt tons of questions, to help understand my children's stories before they were ours. So many little nuggets! We then met extended family in Bantu, and saw the house my children lived in prior to coming to Gladney. Family treated us to lunch and again, we were given more information about our children's life prior to us. I brought many pictures, but could have brought hundreds more. They were like gold. So, for those of you with opportunities to bring pictures, bring MANY. It still won't be enough.

The extended family outside the house our kids lived in for a time.

The river that the twins brought their animals to for water.

Monday night I walk to the foster home, this time armed with a balloon. Li'l B warms up a tad more and we punch the balloon around.


Today we drove down to Asala, about a 3 hour drive south of Addis. We were able to meet the birth family of Maggie's adopted daughters and see where they grew up. Priceless!!! This is a beautiful, lush part of Ethiopia, with green, rolling hills, and a backdrop of stunning mountains. Lots of herds, too, cows, cows, more cows, goats, sheep, even one herd of camels. We also saw a family of monkeys hanging around a group of trees.

Tuesday night visit Li'l B again, with a ball in hand. She is becoming more playful as we rolled and threw the ball and she high-fived me a few times.


Wednesday we slept in, recovering from our first 2 travel days. Later, Belay gave us a personal tour of the 4 foster homes. Man, he LOVES these kids!!! Again, I got to spend some time with Li'l B, this time bringing a book to read. We wrapped up the afternoon by shopping for much of it. I am NOT a shopper, but thoroughly enjoy it when traveling. Hey, we were just spurring on their economy. In the evening, went to dinner with Gladney staff, which was a blast.


Pack up in the morning, then walk to the foster home after lunch to GET Li'l B. We say our goodbyes, take tons more pictures, then I just walk her out of there to the guest house. And that is that. Seemed anticlimactic, yet peaceful.

Once at the guest house, she warmed up in about 10 minutes. She was playful the rest of the day, and basically a dream on the flight home.

Enjoying coffee with Waguyu and Zimmett.

Remember the 4 B's -- bubbles, books, balls and balloons. Super easy to pack and definitely crowd pleasers.

I totally want to stress the WONDERFUL time I had on this trip. My friend and I each got custody of our children almost immediately for our first adoptions, but we both believed doing it this way, visiting her at the foster home, yet not taking custody until the end of the trip, was massively less stressful for us all. I had the privilege to experience things I would not have been able to, had I had our little one in tow, and she was able to stay in the comfort of what was familiar while she learned to warm up to me.



Our first family the airport.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

One Week

Things are going surprisingly well. I am feeling emotionally strong, although I am exhausted by about 9pm every night. For this night owl, that is definitely not the norm. Li'l B is happy, talkative (we have no clue what she is saying, though) and sleeping very well. Oh, and potty-trained, too.

Looking around the dining room table at all my kids.......God is so good.

This has been a blessed first week.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

All together

Yesterday we returned HOME.

Our little one slept from 10pm to 8:30am.

Major blessing!!!!!

Now we just have to keep the other 5 kids from smothering her.

So thankful to finally be together.

In country, we were able to go to our children's village and meet with extended family members. Amazing! We got to see the church where our kids were baptized and the river that the twins brought their animals to for water. We got to hear the story of how their great-aunt was so instrumental in saving our little one's life. What a wonderful woman!

Oh, and we didn't take Li'l B to the guest house with us until the last day in-country. This was the perfect decision for us. I visited her every day, bringing a toy or two to play with and bond. We finally brought her to the guest house the day we were leaving, and she warmed up in about 10 minutes. Incredible, really. This gave us a chance to see much more of Ethiopia and really enjoy the experience.

She was a super traveler. My friend Laura is in this shot, too.

Home with her siblings.....

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Buttercup meets Tater

Buttercup has arrived in Addis and settled in at the Ayat house. We had a brief conversation over the phone this afternoon. In case any of you did not know Buttercup is not taking custody of Lil' B until later in the trip. She hopes to do much more traveling in country this time and the newer regulations, since our first trip, don't allow traveling about with the kids.

I honestly think we're happier this way anyway as we've heard of other agencies that ease you in with your kids over a series of meetings rather than taking them right away. She and Tater had "meeting #1" Sunday afternoon. Travis of the in country staff asked Tater if she wanted to go to America... her answer - um, no. I cannot fathom what is going on in her little head. What a life thus far for this precious little one.

Buttercup spent a short hour with her and eased into the connection with some bubbles & games. She had the opportunity to hold her and said it was a very successful first meeting... one last thing that got passed on... oh, and she has "good hair"... yes!

Tomorrow they hope to head off to the village where the 3 kids grew up in. This is honestly the part of the trip I am most jealous of. I am so hopeful we can get some pictures to help piece together more of their heritage. If we can get some pictures of their homes and surroundings and hopefully even some extended family how awesome would that be?

The days ahead should allow for a few more short meetings with Lil'B then taking her back to Ayat on Wednesday.

A few have inquired how I am doing here. Some say your head may swell very slightly when there is lots of stress. Others say in the rarest most concerning cases the opposite effect of a shrinking head may occur... well here's a picture of me with a few of the kids.

Actually, all is well back here at home... we're ready & waiting!