Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Q&A: Travel

Q. Did you buy Anna a seat on the plane or was she on your lap?

A: I did not buy Anna a seat on the plane. At her age, she is not really able to sit in a plane seat by herself, and I did not take a car seat for her to use on the ride home. In fact, she kind of really hated her car seat when we first got home, so I was glad I didn't bother with that. When she was awake (which was not that much) we played, she sat on my lap, my mom's lap, or Abigail's lap, or we went for walks around the cabin.

Q. How did you arrange to get the bassinet on the flight?

A. I cannot tell you the procedure for any other airline, but if you are flying Ethiopian Airlines, the important thing to know is that a bassinet can be requested but cannot be confirmed until you are physically holding your boarding pass. Only 3 bassinets are available per flight. If a boarding pass has already been issued for the seats where the bassinets are, you are out of luck. So the best way to get a bassinet on ETA is to arrive about 3 hours before departure and request it at the time that you are checking in. I did this, and I had no problems whatsoever.

Additionally, the ETA website says something about age restrictions on the bassinet. Anna was 17 months, 29 inches, and 18.5 pounds at the time we traveled, and they did not question my request. She fit nicely, but if your child is more than 30" tall, they will probably be too long for the bassinet.

Q. What travel agent did you use?

A. I didn't use a travel agent. Actually, I booked online directly through the ETA website. They emailed me the itinerary and I printed out the e-ticket receipt which also had my confirmation number on it. When I checked in, I just presented my credit card and they were able to check me in without difficulty. The ETA policy actually states that they prefer that you book online. (And for me, this was the cheapest rate- much cheaper than using my travel agent. Plus, I got to book right away, and not worry about things coming in the mail!)

Before leaving the US, I did call to confirm my seats on Thursday (I left on Saturday.) On the return trip, I did not confirm my seats at all (but then, I knew I would be arriving early for my flight....) When booking online, it will request a lot of info about the travelers, but I only provided names. I figured they would let me know if they needed more info. I did receive a second, separate confirmation email that had the number for the US ETA customer service desk (571-480-5210 or 571-480-5191).

I forgot to request a child's meal for Abigail at the time that I booked, but in retrospect, I would have done that. She did eat parts of the "adult" meal, but I think she would have been happier with mac and cheese:)

Q. How the trip was for Abigail (her health, enjoyment, energy, comfort level, etc...)

A. Abigail was an amazing traveler! She did so well- so much better than I thought she was even capable of doing!

In terms of the flights, she slept well on both flights, and was over her jetlag in Ethiopia within a day or so. Coming home, I would say it has taken her about 6 days to really get "over" her jetlag and back on her normal schedule (there were about 4 mornings where she woke up at 4-5am, but she has since returned to a normal 6-7am wake-up time.)

In Ethiopia, she did quite well. She did not care for the food, so she had French fries and Fanta a lot. She also ate spaghetti and pizza, and burgers sometimes. (Note, mac and cheese in Ethiopia is made with goat cheese or something like that. Abigail did NOT like it!) I took lots of snacks and foods with me, like granola bars, oatmeal, easy mac, cheese and cracker packs, fruit snacks, etc. Abigail never went hungry, but there were days were everything she ate was pre-packaged. She is definitely glad to be back in the US and able to eat "real" (meaning home-made) food. But a week of pre-packaged food was well worth the experience of this trip!

Abigail had no problem with any of the "strangeness" of Ethiopia, like the dogs barking, the unusual public bathrooms or anything like that. More than once we did talk about begging/beggars, the health status of people on the street, and other social/economic issues. I was honest with her, in age-appropriate terms, and we prayed for a lot of people. I think there were moments when she was nervous simply because of the appearance of some of the beggars being so different than what she was used to, and she was really saddened when she saw moms with small babies begging. But overall, I think she really grasped what I was saying, and wanted to do something to help.

Abigail and Anna really bonded on the trip, and she was very helpful in taking Anna for walks around the house or playing with her when I needed to make breakfast or whatnot. Anna really loves her sister!

Q. And in regards to the new rules, how often did you get out with Anna? How was leaving her behind?

A. Because I stayed at a guest house, I was able to take placement on Monday and have Anna with me at the guest house from then on. I think she really would have been freaked out if she left the care center during the day and then had to go back at night, so I really do recommend that you stay at a guest house during your time in Ethiopia, and that you take all opportunities to get to know your child. (I was really glad I had a week of Anna time under my belt when I got on that airplane....)

There are days/times when you can be out and about with your child. For instance, on embassy day, you pretty much have to take your child to lunch in order to be at the embassy on time. I will not elaborate on when/where baby is allowed out, because the enforcement of these rules may change when the court re-opens, and I don't want to create any "well, Grace said on her blog..." :)

Since my mom and I both went, we often traded off going out and going for meals, bringing home food for the other. I did leave Anna with the caregiver from Gladney when we went to the cultural dinner. Anna was quite comfortable, and the caregiver knew her immediately when she saw her. In fact, when we got home, Anna was clean, dry, and sleeping soundly in her crib! It was quite nice!

In retrospect, I would have left Abigail with the caregiver if the situation arouse, but it did not. The caregivers have limited English, but they can certainly communicate, and with a child Abigail's age (a child able to toilet and feed themselves- and watch cartoons!) I think everyone would have been fine!

I think you will be surprised by what you see... the enforcement of these "guidelines" really falls on the individual agencies. Gladney in-country staff does a great job finding balance. I mean, when Anna was sick, there was no question that I was going to take her to the clinic and the pharmacy. I don't want to say anything to make anyone at Gladney upset (and believe me, there were a few "don't put this on your blog, but..." moments:), and I don't want to misrepresent Gladney's stance, but I will say that when you travel, this issue will become more clear.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Preview: Q&A

Here are some questions I will be answering soon:

Relating to travel...
  • Did you buy Anna a seat on the plane or was she on your lap?
  • How did you arrange to get the bassinet on the flight?
  • What travel agent did you use?

Relating to the care centers and orphanages...

  • What was the orphanage like?
  • Did they have enough toys?
  • Were the kids able to play a lot of the time or were they in their cribs a lot?
  • Were there any obvious needs?

Relating to planning and budgeting....

  • How much money did you spend while there?

Relating to the in-country staff...

  • What can they use or what do they want from the US?
  • What about the caregivers/gifts?

Do you have any questions? If so, please leave a comment or email me and I will try to respond to all of them in a future post!

Adventure: Ethiopia- Going Home

Yeah, wishing that I could return to Ethiopia soon? Not so much. At least, not in economy class!

We were able to secure the bassinet for the flight home, and it was sooooo helpful! The flight was pretty uneventful, and both girls behaved well, baring some minor meltdowns during some very tired moments. I was glad to be on US soil, though!

So, if you’ve not traveled internationally before, here are some things to know about your arrival in the US. On the airplane you will be given a blue customs card. This is the only thing you need to fill out in terms of paperwork. Keep your passport, this blue card, and baby’s sealed envelope of papers handy when you exit the plane.

For those arriving in Dulles, you will exit the terminal and take the tram/shuttle thing to the main terminal. From there you will proceed directly to the Customs and Border Patrol Inspection area (just follow the signs.) There are special lines available on the far end for US citizens. Wait in this line. When called to the window, you will need to present your blue customs card, passports for all parties entering the US (including baby), and your packet of papers. The CBP officer will request you open the packet of papers, and then will proceed to stamp the passports and paperwork with your date of entry to the US.

Next up is baggage claim. I found the US baggage claim to be faster and easier than the Ethiopian baggage claim! Load up your luggage on a cart and follow the big arrows towards the exit. Have your blue customs cards ready. You will be directed to the Immigration line. They will take all your passports, customs card, and paperwork. You sit down and wait.

*Note* If you are at Dulles, and you need to go to the bathroom, use the bathroom that will be on your left as you face the exit at the baggage claim area. Your wait in the Immigration area can vary, so use the bathroom first!

Once they review your papers, they may ask you a few questions (ie- are you bringing food into the country, etc). They keep your packet of papers and customs card, and then you are free to go! Exit the terminal and welcome to America!

I was so glad to use an American (read- sparkling!) bathroom and to stand in American (read- understandable and well-marked) lines! I didn’t realize I missed the US so much until I got here: ) I was so glad to be home!

We met up with John and loaded up the car for our 2 hour drive home. Anna really didn’t like her car seat, but I sat next to her in the back seat, and that helped. We stopped at McDonalds after about an hour because we were all hungry! Anna had her first bites of a hamburger, nuggets, fries and milkshake. She didn’t really like any of it except the fries: )

It’s hard to believe we made it home- unscathed and actually so much better as people- so much more aware, informed, and compassionate. I have so many ideas about how we can help make this world better, and I want to teach Abigail to be a “do-er” not just an imagine-er. I can’t wait to see where this path takes us next!

Adventure: Ethiopia- Day Nine

I will be honest, I thought the explosion yesterday morning was bad. Ha! Little did I know!

Last night Anna had 2 more explosions, and Abigail threw up 3 times! Oh my word. The house stunk, and there was not a clean bed to be found! Amazingly, we all survived, and everyone seems to be feeling okay.

Mom and Abigail left early to run some last minute errands and get their hair done again. Mom wanted to make sure her ‘do would last long enough for Pepaw to see it on Saturday. Abigail wanted “krinkly” hair and got all of her hair crimped! I headed to the older baby/toddler house to deliver more care packages and take more pictures. I took Anna with me. She was really freaked out last week, but this week she did so much better and even allowed the caregivers to hold her! I had a blast taking pictures, playing, and delivering gifts.

After the older baby house, we went to the baby house to deliver more packages. Imagine my surprise when we walked in and found Anna’s b-mom waiting on the steps! It seems that her ride home had not yet picked her up, so she was just waiting at the care center! I am glad for the extra time that Anna had with her, but it was very unnerving, to say the least. Ryan B. happened along, and he took care of the situation for me. I visited with more babies, but I was feeling so sick that I didn’t stay long or hold any of the kiddos (I didn’t want them to catch what I had, because let me tell you, it’s gross when there is that much stuff in your nose and sinuses!)

Anna and I headed home for lunch with Mom and Abigail, and then Anna and Mom took a nap while I headed to the older children’s house to deliver a few items and take some pictures. Abigail made a best friend:) I wish I could say more about her, but I don’t want to break any rules!

To the parents who are waiting for your babes, especially to those who trusted me with a package and the task of capturing a moment of their child’s life…

Thank you. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey. Thank you for sharing your child(ren) with me. Thank you for trusting me, for letting me be your arms and hands and the voice of your lullaby when you could not be there. I pray that the journey is quick for you, from this point on, and that each step of the process will help you fall more deeply in love with your child. They are beautiful, precious children, and I cannot wait to seem them united with their loving families!

So, 13 care packages later, I was pooped, and had the great job of going home and packing half-dry puke and vomit clothes. Jealous much? I thought so. But pack I did. I know some people had questions about how I re-packed, since I didn’t have a vacuum to suck all the air out of my air bags.

First, I packed all of the souvenirs so that I could pad them with clothing and such. Then I loaded some air bags with the dirty clothes we had. I zipped the top most of the way closed, then compressed the bags to get the air out even more, and finished zipping them. They were not as compact as when I used a vacuum, but it did shrink things down a bit, and definitely contained the dirt and odor. I ended up using the 3 rolling suitcases I brought with me, 2 canvas duffle bags, and packed 2 of the rolling carry ons to be checked. (Since I had 3 seats and the baby, I could check 7 items without difficulty.) I ended up carrying on the diaper bag for the baby’s stuff, Abigail’s small backpack for her fun stuff, my backpack for the electronics (laptop, camera) and one rolling carry on for general travel stuff (neck pillows, snacks, a few books- because I would probably have time to read on the plane, right?) I used zipties to lock the luggage.

We finished off our dinner just as it was time to leave for the airport. (Our flight left at 10:15pm, but Anbes suggested getting there at least 3 hours early to ensure we got a bassinet.)

As we drove through the streets of Addis for the last time, tears came to my eyes. I was overwhelmed with emotions- my own sadness in saying goodbye to a place and people I had come to love, yes. But more so, the sadness of Anna saying goodbye to the only country she had ever known. It was sad that she could not understand that this was the last time she would watch the goats scamper across the streets, but it was even sadder that she would never remember those goats, and she would never remember the way she loved to look at them and giggle.

I wish I had taken more pictures and videos of the way life is in Ethiopia. Those moments where people are living, unaware that they are being watched. The goats and sheep and oxen in the road. The masses of people and cars and animals waiting on the sides of the streets for a break in the chaos that they call traffic. The farmer in the middle of the Ayat neighborhood.

As we drove past the “Hip Hop Biscuit” billboard (the first one my mom and I read when we arrived), it occurred to me that the next billboard I would see would be in the US, near Dulles… and that Anna would see that billboard, too… I was overcome again with the reality that she is my daughter and I get to take her home with me.

And I hoped that I would return to Ethiopia soon.

Adventure: Ethiopia- Day Eight

Wowsers! I think my child was the only one in our group who was not having diarrhea, but thanks to those antibiotics, that has changed! We had a major explosion this morning and Anna got her first bath. She loved the bath, but man, did she have to create such a stink bomb just so she could get a bath?

She was still not feeling 100%, so we hung out at the house and had a slow morning. Anna’s appetite picked up (since I am sure she had nothing left in her guts after the morning explosion!) and she ate well with breakfast. We wanted to play outside, but it was raining!

For lunch, we met Ryan B. and M&R at the Beer Garden Inn. Delicious! I had the fish and chips, and was brave enough to actually eat the salad (took my Pepto first:) Everything was great, and the slight queasiness that I felt had more to do with the impending birthmom visit than the lunch.

After lunch, we met Anna’s birthmother. It was a very emotional time for everyone. I had no idea what to expect, but I am so thankful that b-mom wanted to share. She was so open and clearly loves Anna, while at the same time she is happy and relieved that Anna is now with our family. I really learned a lot about her and have so much to share with Anna when she gets older, including some very precious pictures and videos. I am so thankful for the chance to meet this lovely soul. Please join me in praying for her, as I know her grief continues.

Anbes jokingly said that I set the record for the longest b-mom visit (2.5 hours), but I guess I just didn’t know how to say goodbye- or how to ask this wonderful woman to say goodbye, for the last time, to the daughter she carried, bore, and loved for 13 months. Then (just to give you a taste of the differences in US and Ethiopian culture…) the translator/social worker asked us to give b-mom a ride to the Gladney care center (she was staying there for the night before traveled home the next day.) So that was, um, different. Thankfully, Ryan B. and Anbes took care of us, and we were not put into that uncomfortable situation!

Because we spent so much time with b-mom, we missed saying goodbye to Mer, Ryan, and Simon. We relaxed the rest of the evening and I started packing once the girls were in bed. I am definitely coming down with something (thanks for sharing the cold, Anna!) I can’t believe that tomorrow is our last day! It seems like we have only been here a day or two, but at the same time, it is amazing to see how much my Anna has blossomed in just this short week!

Adventure: Ethiopia- Day Seven

The baby had a fitful night, or rather, fitful from about 2am on. When we got up, I could tell she wasn’t feeling well, and when I took her temperature, it was 104.3! I dosed her with Tylenol and Motrin, and left my mom with Pedialyte for her (she wasn’t interested in much else) and headed off to do some errands.

Lo and behold, the Internet was STILL not working, but I did get some money changed and picked up some bread at the Hilton. I also had a pastry from the café, but just so you know, don’t bother… wait and get something at Kaldi’s! It’s cheaper and yummier!

When I got home, Anna was still running a fever. The Tylenol and Motrin did not help a bit, she was lethargic, and she was breathing at a rate of 60-70 breaths per minute. I decided to take her to the clinic. I was nervous, partially because her fever was not coming down, partially because she was dehydrated/lethargic, and partially because she had pneumonia recently, and with the fever, nasty cold symptoms (since the time of placement!), and rapid respirations, I was afraid the pneumonia might be back. And 20 hours on a plane with a sick baby did not sound like fun!

Thankfully, the drivers were great. Tefessa was closest, so he picked us up and took us to the clinic. Anbes met us there. The guys took care of the papers, tracking down the baby’s records, and all the rest. I just tried to get her to take some liquids!

I will not elaborate on the clinic experience, but I will say it was very different than what you would experience in the US. I was frustrated because I know what the US standards for fever of unknown origin are, and I know exactly what would be done if I took Anna to a US clinic with a fever that was not broken by Tylenol and Motrin. Let it suffice to say that the US protocol is quite different than the Ethiopian protocol!

Finally, they gave Anna an injection that got her fever to come down from 104 to about 101.5, so that was a lot better. The doctor said some really distressing things (ie- that Anna’s liver and spleen were enlarged and that she thought Anna has TB!) and then told me that the reason Anna was sick was because she was hungry and had a sore throat. Um, what? Then she gave me amoxicillin (okay, that’s more like it…) and told me to take Anna to the US and have them explore it more.

Wow. That was different! I won’t get into my (very extensive and upsetting) thoughts and feelings about that, but I will say it was VERY different! Thankfully, they mysterious infection that was causing Anna’s fever seemed to respond to the amoxicillin, and her fever came steadily down until she was feeling much better and much perkier. I decided at that point to switch her to soy milk because she was also constipated (poor baby.)

The clinic visit took half of forever (okay, maybe about 3 hours?) We just chillaxed the rest of the evening… or rather, mom, Abigail, and Anna chilled out, and I called my fantastic friends/physicians and made sure that we agreed about the plan of care for Anna. I was really upset by the clinic experience, and really, that was the first (and one of the very few) things I saw in Ethiopia that would make me unwilling to live there full-time.

One thing I will say is that someone did a really good job of teaching Anna to take medicine! It is useless to try to giver her medicine when she is upset, but as long as she is pretty happy, she just swallows it down! Yea for whoever taught her that!

I don’t pretend that I will get any sleep tonight… I have Tylenol and Motrin and amoxicillin to give, and breathing to listen to, and temperatures to check… so for now, good night, and hopefully everyone will be better tomorrow!

Technical Difficulties! (Please Help!)

I am trying to make a montage for you all:) But I have video clips on my hard drive (.mod movies that open in Windows Media Player) and I don't know how to save them as a different format or upload them to onetruemedia.com.

Any thoughts/suggestions/tricks?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Telling it like it is

(From Faith - Grace doesn't know I'm posting this)
I just wanted everyone to know that we are all doing (relatively) OK. This is so much harder than I ever thought it would be. I had visions of going to church after the girls were in bed. (There is a great church near Grace with a conference going on that mom and I wanted to attend.) I thought our days would be filled with apple farms and playing at the park. I'm so naive!!!!! I'll have to let Grace tell you what she thinks but for me this is very hard.

I would like to ask every family that ever traveled to please forgive me for thinking that you were just too lazy to post. I am sorry! I was very selfish to want info and pictures right away. I didn't realize how hard this is. I'll know from now on how to pray for all those who travel.

Speaking of prayer...my mom is leaving tomorrow. AAAHHHH!!!!! Lord help us, please.
For all of those who traveled...how long until you returned to normal? (And no I didn't travel...I think it must just be sympathy exhaustion.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Adventure: Ethiopia- Day Six

Anna continues to wake me during the night. Maybe I can get someone else to take the night shift tonight? She just wakes up and isn’t satisfied no matter what you do. She doesn’t want her bottle, but she doesn’t not want her bottle…

We tried to go to the Alert Hospital to buy some things today. The drive was pretty long- Meredith and Ryan were about a half hour ahead of us since they got an earlier start, and they called to say that the shop was closed when they got there. Bummer! Anbes took us to another souvenir shop, and we picked up a few things, but I am saving the real shopping for Monday when I will go to the shop at the Gladney Office that is run by older girls who have aged out of the orphanage. I will also go to the Haile Sassile shopping center then.

We also stopped at “Misrak Bakery” (no one was there) and another coffee shop where we picked up some coffee from Anna’s native region. Anbes was explaining that Yurgalem (sp?) where Anna is from is known for the Sidamo coffee! Yum!

On the way home we picked up macchiato and pastry from Kaldi’s. So tasty! Then we all took a nap. That was fantastic!

At 3pm, Mer, Ryan, Simon, Mom, Abigail, Anna and I loaded into the Gladney van with Ryan B., Abby, Marta, Enoch, Ezra and Solomon (the driver) to go to dinner at Dreamland. The drive was long, but dinner was great and the view was beautiful. The kids had fun, and right as we were leaving, all the babies started crying! Ahhh! I don’t think I have ever been in a car with that many crying babies! Preparation for the flight home, I guess (haha.) It was nice to visit with Ryan and Abby and learn more about the process here.

To those who are still waiting, let me say this: I know it is difficult and frustrating during the wait. You have so many questions and so much seems obscure. There are no straight answers, and no one can tell you anything. I know that feeling.

As frustrating as it is, know this: it does get better. Your questions will be answered, and a lot of things that just don’t make sense based on what you are hearing in the US will be explained when you get here. It’s hard for me to tell you to just hang in there- to just trust that it will all eventually make sense, but that is the truth. It will. I promise. And in the end, no matter how hard the process is- no matter how frustrating- you will look back and nod and smile and say “yep, I would do it all again. And I would do it with Gladney at my side.” At least, that's how I feel.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Adventure: Ethiopia- Day Five

Anna tossed and turned most of the night. She was restless and just couldn’t seem to get comfortable. I finally gave in and got up with her at 7am. She got dressed, woke up her Gagie and Sissy, and we went down for breakfast. She wasn’t much up to eating, she wouldn’t go to my mom, and any small discontent was met by one of those “I am throwing myself backwards!” fits and a loud cry. Those were my clues.

I should not have been surprised when she threw up all over me at 8:15, but I was. We are not talking spit up, I mean real emesis. It was all over me. Ah, the unspeakable joys of parenthood! (Simon seemed to have a much better night than Anna- Hooray!)

Anna seemed better after she threw up, but I was still not sure, so I gave her some Pedialyte from a cup. I think she liked it, and I think she really liked drinking from a cup (we have been using bottles and sippy cups up til now.) We had a slow morning and by lunchtime we were ready to go. I tried out my Ultimate Baby Wrap for the first time. I had somewhat forgotten how to put the thing on, but once I got it right, Anna really liked being in it.

Note- if you have never used an UBW before, the key definitely is to make it snug on you. Like, really snug. Don’t worry- it will loosen up. I took Anna in and out of it a few times during the day, and I did not have to re-wrap it, but I do wish I would have wrapped it more tightly first thing in the morning. I really like the UBW, especially for a more shy/quiet child like Anna. She clearly felt pretty secure in it- both physically and emotionally, and I was comfortable, too. It was especially nice when I could use one of the shoulder parts to cradle her head when she fell asleep.

We grabbed some “take away” at Rafel on our way to the orphanages. I highly recommend this place for their sandwiches. My mom had the steak and cheese and declared it to be the best (meaning most “American” ) food she has had on the whole trip! Abigail and I had the chicken and ham. It was not what I expected, but it was tasty (Abigail was not really a fan. But then, it did not have ketchup or ranch dressing on it, so it’s not surprising that she didn’t like it too much.) Anna ate a few fries. She was looking out the window as we drove, and every time we would pass oxen, she would make this grunting/growling noise. It was hilarious! We were all cracking up and pointing out all the oxen, goats, and sheep.

I will write more about the orphanage visits at some later time. It was a lot to think about- a lot to process. Especially when you consider that the US has not had orphanages since the 1960s! My mom fell in love with several boys at Kolfe. I met at sweet little girl who stole my heart at the last orphanage we visited. Overall, it was highly emotional, and I can’t really articulate the feelings I have right now. I am going to let it brew…

We picked up more take away for dinner (my mom had a second steak sandwich from Rafel!) While we were waiting at Rafel, Anna played in my lap and was eventually sticking her whole head out the window and pointing and “talking” to the animals that were being herded on the street! She sang and did a little booty shake! At the orphanages, she was very quiet and withdrawn. I have no doubt that she understood the idea that this was an orphanage and there were no mommies, and I think she was scared we would leave her there (hence another reason for keeping her close and cuddled next to me- almost swaddled at times- in the UBW.) So it was great to see her change back into the more cute and playful girl that she is becoming each day.

We also stopped at the Hill Bottom where Abigail ordered pizza and I ordered sambusa and lamb tibs. (While on the subject, let me just say that I really liked the beef tibs I ate at the Beer Garden Inn, but the lamb tibs from Hill Bottom were, sadly, really horrible!) My mom tried the sambusa and finally found a second Ethiopian food that she likes! Now, if we go for Ethiopian, she can order sambusa and collard greens, and I can order all the other stuff, and we will be all set!

I have noticed that when Anna is just waking up or just going to sleep, she really prefers to be held by me. Any other time of day, she will go between my mom and I pretty freely, but at sleeping and waking times, she wants to be cuddled by me. In the morning it means a longer wait for that first cup of coffee, and in the evenings, it means fewer cuddles with Abigail, but I love it! I love that she really seems to understand that I am her mom. It is a great feeling!

I put Anna down in the crib and was just getting ready for bed when Abigail came in to show me all of her “bites.” Now, I have not seen a lot of insects at all: a few flies, a few spiders, a few crawly bugs. But overall, I probably see more bugs in a day at my house than I have in 5 days here. And never once have I seen or heard a mosquito. Ever. So these bites seemed very unlikely to be mosquito bites. She has them in distinct places- her lower legs and feet, and the sides of her torso, about half way up from the waist of her pants. I snapped some pictures. I have no idea what these bites could be, but I am wondering if they are some sort of bed bug? I washed them with soap and water and put some anti-itch crème on them, so we will see how they look in the morning!

Tomorrow we are going to the Alert Hospital in the morning, and to Dreamland in the evening. I am hoping to hop online at the Hilton (see how I make it sound like the Internet isn’t as slow as molasses in winter?) and change some money. Don’t let me forget to tell you about Anbes (pronounced Um-bus), our spectacular driver! When Jennifer and Jody said they got the best, they probably weren’t joking… but they hadn’t met Anbes! Can’t wait to make you crazy-jealous with all I have to say about him:)

Adventure:Ethiopia- Day Four

Okay, the crib? Big hit! Anna slept through the night, with only a few mini-fusses and coughing spells. She didn’t even need her bottle overnight! Yea! Definitely a step in the right direction.

Sadly, Momma did not sleep as well. My mind was going non-stop (probably assisted by the evening macchiato that I had!) I kept thinking that from now on, I would be introducing Abigail as my older daughter. Not just my daughter, as I used to do, but my older daughter. Because now I have 2 daughters. There are still moments where this whole thing is quite unreal.

When I finally fell asleep, I ended up having really strange dreams, so I just did not sleep well. Plus, the closet door swung open in the middle of the night, and even though I knew it was nothing, it still freaked me out! It was cool, dark, and rainy… and out of no where, a long, high-pitched squeak. Yeah, not so cool at 3am!

Simon had a good night, and he obviously is feeling much better! Hooray! He is not quite 100%, but he is well on the road to recovery! I know Meredith and Ryan are happy to see their little guy happy!

Once we finally got up and moving, I headed over to the “new” toddler house to start delivering some gifts and getting some pictures. It just so happened that the first room I stepped into had 2 babes that I did not have gifts for, but I know their parents and I couldn’t help but get some goods on them. They are both gorgeous! They bunk in the same “row” with only one baby between them, and that baby is also so beautiful! In fact, it may be the best-looking row of babies in the whole house… but it’s hard to say since all those little ones are so sweet!

I did get one gift delivered and took more pictures before Anbes whisked me away to lunch. For lunch we ate at “Family Restaurant.” They have a wide selection, but I opted for the burger. (I had the burger from Hill Bottom last night, and it was so flavored and spicy that it really didn’t fill my “burger” crave.) The burger was great, and the fries were awesome, but afterwards I had my first twinge of possible upset stomach. The feeling passed after a few hours, but still, I don’t know if I would eat there again, and if I do, I would definitely not eat there right before the embassy appointment!

It started raining during lunch, and it continued to rain most of the afternoon. We headed to the Hilton to try to confirm our flights and use the Internet. Unfortunately, the Internet was down, which meant that I could not log on, and Ethiopian Airlines could not confirm my flight! I did ask them to look into my missing purse, and they are supposed to email me to let me know if they are able to discover anything. It kind of felt like a wasted trip, especially since the traffic is so much worse in the rain!

To make up for it, my mom, Abigail and I went to do something fun! We went to the Boston Day Spa! My mom and Abigail got their hair braided, and I got a massage. Grand total for the braiding and massage was $335 ETB or about $34 USD. I thought that was a great deal! The braids are really cute, too.

My massage was good, but definitely different than American massages. Some of you may know that I have had some ongoing muscle issues in my back and butt/leg. The massage really reminded me of how much better some parts are and how much worse others are. When she touched my back, I almost cried. “Hurt?” she said. “Yes, a little,” I replied. “You have very much strong stress in back, You come back every week to make go away.” I sooooooo wish!

We stopped at the grocery and for a to-go macchiato, and then we headed home to our girl. We visited with Meredith, Ryan, and Simon. Then Ryan made a delicious pasta dinner and we had some fresh bread from the store. Yum! For dessert, we all had a Rice Krispie Treat bar and my mom popped some popcorn. The babies were both playful and talkative, and it was nice to spend time together. I sorted through the pictures I took this morning, and then I got to watch the video that they took for me when I took placement of Anna.

Oh my word, that girl has changed! In just 3 short days, she has totally come out of her shell! She babbles, screeches, and cries. She laughs and kisses and chases Abigail around the house. She has moments where no one but Momma will do (especially when she first wakes up) but by the end of the day, she is definitely torn between the silliness of Gaga, the boisterousness of big sissy, and the cuddles of Momma.

On a slightly off-topic note, I have an idea I would like to toss out here and see what you, beautiful Ethiopian adoption community, can do. I know that in the right hands, this idea could really go far and benefit many people, and I would really like to follow through on it.

I would guess that at least half of us that adopt end up needing some form of child care. I know I will need it! I know, too, that it is expensive, and center-based care doesn’t always work with my schedule. I have been looking into an au pair as well as nanny options.

At the same time, Gladney reps are in close contact with many young women who are aging out of the Ethiopian orphan care system. These are girls who have some education and no real skills/trade, but they know how to care for children, cook, clean, etc. They need an opportunity- a chance to pursue education, gain experience as an employee, while at the same time learning the life skills that they have not yet been taught, such as money management, budgeting, home living, and community/society involvement. How would these girls know how to budget money or how to choose which items should be stored in the refrigerator when they have not ever seen those skills in action? How will the know how to register to vote- or register for college courses? How will they learn to become involved in their community when much of what they have experienced has been institutional life?

Do you see where I am going with this?

I can’t wait to get home and see what can be done with some US-based au pair agencies or nanny agencies. I have not done a lot of research, but it seems that the most difficult issue would be gaining a visa. I know that this can happen if the word is put out to the right people, my wonderful community of adoptive/Internet friends… hook me up!

Here’s hoping for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we visit the orphanages.

Adventure: Ethiopia- Day Three

Another busy day!

Anna did very well overnight, only waking up once at about 2:45am and staying up for about an hour before she could get more comfortable and fall asleep.

This morning we went to the baby house. We enjoyed the coffee ceremony, and Anna’s special caregiver (they refer to the primary caregiver as the “mother”) came to see her and give her a special gift! Anna looked so cute dressed up in her traditional Ethiopian outfit! Of course, the head wrap came right off! This girl does not like things on her head- but she does like sunglasses!

After the coffee ceremony, we spent some time touring the baby house. There are probably 30+ babies in the baby house. I recognized some who had been referred! Others are just waiting on the mandatory 60 day wait period for relinquished children, blood work, paperwork, and such before they can be referred. Meantime, Abigail was outside helping with the laundry! There were so many little baby outfits, onesies, and socks!

After the baby house, we walked over to the “old” older baby house. This house is in the process of relocating to another house across the street; a few of the rooms had moved, but one room of toddlers remained. Here I saw many children I recognized, and a few that I don’t think have been referred (trying to figure out how to bring them home with me. I could fit a few in my carry on bags, right?) There are a few in particular who are just toooooo sweet for words, and I really might have to start the process for a baby boy before too long! I got to see the bed that was Anna’s- I definitely recognized it from the pictures I had been sent! There was already a new child to take that spot! The caregivers all knew Anna, too, and their smiles when they saw her were great!

We were short on time so we went to the “new” older baby house (again, lots of familiar faces!) but we did not have time for the older children house. I cannot wait to go back and deliver care packages and take pictures! I plan to go tomorrow morning- just as soon as Anbes drops off my camera which I left in the trunk of his car! In the mean time, I have gotten a bag ready to go for tomorrow morning. I have care packages, my book of pictures/names/family names of babies, and camera stuff ready to go! Just need my camera!

Anna was definitely upset by our visits this morning. She was uneasy at the baby house, and would not let any of the caregivers take her (she had a death grip on me.) Once we all settled down and were visiting while the coffee beans roasted, she came out of her shell a bit and was walking between my mom and I. But when her caregiver came in to change her clothes, she had to pull her off of me! I thought she was going to burst out crying, but she held it together and just needed lots of cuddles and snuggles to get over the trauma of separation!

It was being at the “old” toddler house and her old room that really upset her. She became very overwhelmed and wouldn’t even look at the caregivers! She wouldn’t even go to my mom! It was horrible to see her so distraught, but it was great knowing that she wanted to be with me and didn’t want to stay in the care center. I held her close the whole time and tried to visit with the other children, but she didn’t really like that either. When we left the care centers and went to lunch (she came with us because the next stop was the embassy appointments) she fell asleep in the car and slept through most of lunch. I think she was experiencing a bit of shock and really needed to use sleep as her coping mechanism. I am going back and forth on if I should take her with me to the care center tomorrow. On the one hand, it is nice because she gets to get out of the house and I know the care givers would really like to see her some more. On the other hand, it is not worth the emotional trauma!

We had lunch at “Top View” restaurant, which overlooks the city. The view was great! The manicotti was good, although it was more of a crepe than a noodle. Abigail didn’t care too much for the kid’s burger, but she did like the fries. My mom struck gold with the chicken shish kabob. Oh my word! So tasty! More than the food and the view, it was really nice to have all the traveling families together, and to be there as families, with our babies (side note, Anna is the only girl in our travel group, which I didn’t realize until today.) Even though my arm was almost asleep from holding her during the meal, it was just so fulfilling to be visiting with the other families, over the cry of the little babies and the silliness of the older babies.

Our next stop was the embassy. Anna was a wake for the drive, and I think she was a little bit overwhelmed. The embassy was no big deal, although it would be best for you not to wear a belt or have change in your pocket as you have to go through several metal detectors. The baby slings/wraps did not cause any problems. It is also good to leave any electronics in the car (hence my camera is in Anbes’ trunk!) Anyone who wants into the embassy must have their passport with them, so if your kids or the grandparents are traveling with you, make sure they bring their passport along for this trip! You are also told to bring your “paperwork” which includes things like copies of taxes, a recent pay stub, etc (detailed in the travel packet supplied by Gladney) although no one asked to see any of my additional papers.

When they called my name, I went to the window and answered a few questions (ie- do you know what happened to the birth mom? The birth dad? When did the baby come into care? Is this the child that was referred to you?) I did have one small mishap- instead of having my first name as Anna’s middle name on her birth certificate, it had my middle name as her middle name on her birth certificate. The woman at the embassy was concerned at first, but then she asked if I would be re-naming the baby in the US (yes) so she said it would not be a big deal. So, legally, Anna is Misrak Leighann right now!

We shared some small talk while the gal behind the window finished some paperwork and presented me with some papers. It was not stressful at all, and even with this minor issue, I did not feel as though I was being “grilled” or anything. Ryan and Philip collected all the papers that the embassy presented to me and will make copies for me. They will also pick up the visa on Friday, and present me with the packet of Anna’s info to give to immigration when we arrive in the US.

Our embassy appointments were at 3pm, and we got back into the car at 3:54pm, so really, it was not that long (despite the stories of hours of waiting that I have heard!) There is a bit of a walk from the area where the drivers are allowed to park to the actual embassy (and it is uphill on the way back!) so it would be a good thing to take a wrap/sling for this trip.

On the way home from the embassy, we stopped for a to-go macchiato from Kaldi’s (Ethiopian Starbucks). Delicious! I highly recommend the macchiatos here- I have not had a bad one yet! Once home, we decided to have a night in, and Ryan and I walked over to the Hill Bottom to pick up some burgers for dinner. (Note, a burger with cheese is a cheeseburger. A burger without cheese is just a burger. Do not call it a “hamburger” because they will think you want ham on the burger!) The burgers were definitely seasoned and a bit spicy, plus they had peppers on them, so they were not a hit with Abigail. I did eat mine, but it gave me heartburn, so just be warned. The fries were great! Actually all the fries I have had so far have been very good- crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and very potato tasting. I also made some “just add water” chicken noodle soup which definitely hit the spot for my mom and Abigail who were craving something more “American.” Anna liked it, too!

During the afternoon and evening, Anna really seemed more fussy than normal, and she was pulling at her ears. I checked her temp and it was just a touch of a fever, so I decided to give her some medicine before I put her down for the night. I don’t know if it was the medication or just the fact that she was exhausted, but for the first time, Anna drank her bottle then let me take it away so that she fell asleep with no bottle! We rocked a bit, and that was it: out like a light! She even slept through me moving her into her crib.

Abigail was been very helpful through all of this, and when I mentioned going out tomorrow afternoon, just me and her, she chimed in “and my sister, too!” I think there are moments when it is difficult for her to share the attention, but overall, she is doing great! She has eaten most of her food (or had the old stand-by PBJ sammy) at all the meals, and she has been a good listener and helper. While we were getting dinner ready, she played outside with Waguyu’s family and “helped” do their laundry. I am so proud of her. She can really make Anna laugh, too!

I head from my sister that a few people have gotten referrals. If you have gotten a referral and would like me to take pictures of your baby while I am here, please email my sister, Faith, (cfewers@gmail.com) with the baby’s name, gender, age and location (baby house, older baby house, etc) if known, and I will see what I can do! Be sure to put “Gladney Referral Photo Request” or something like that in the subject so that she knows it’s not spam.

I am going to let Anna sleep in her crib tonight. She tends to be a kicker, and I have a knot the size of Texas in my back, so I think it would be best if we had our own space. If she wakes up, we can cuddle and sleep together, but I am almost thinking that she might do better sleeping alone in her crib, especially since she is not feeling well. I will let you know how it goes!

Adventure: Ethiopia- Day Two

I signed off last night at midnight, and rolled over to go to sleep. Promptly at 12:30am, Anna started fussing! I see she already knows how to push her Momma’s buttons (haha!) I gave her a bottle and held her, but it took her almost three hours to settle back into a deep sleep, and that only after I put her down. Things I learned: she does not like blankets touching her face, she loves her bottle, and she does the stiff-leg/stiff-back fuss when she is upset. She did (shockingly) cry, and I will admit that I was a bit excited to hear it! She is such a quiet one that any noises out of her at all are pretty thrilling. I think it also threw her off that when she woke up, I was wearing my glasses. She kind of gave me the stink eye, and liked it much better when I took them off.

After 3:30am, not a peep out of her until 8:30am when she coughed and woke me up. I rolled over and she was sitting up in bed sucking on her very empty bottle from last night. Just looking at me. I reached over and cuddled her close to me, and we both “woke up slow,” just staring into each other’s eyes.

We got out of bed and went downstairs. My mom and Abigail were already up, and the Guzo’s joined us shortly. Poor Simon is still sick, and had a really rough night with very little sleep. I feel so bad, because there is nothing we can do. He did take some “lem-lem” which is what they call Pedialyte here. Anna would occasionally look over at him when he would fuss, and her look says it all: Baby, what is the deal?

My mom made toast for us and Waguyu/Zimmet had coffee waiting for us when we woke up. Let me just stop right now and put a plug in for these people. They are both lovely, kind, helpful people. Waguyu is very hospitable and accommodating. He has his daughter-in-law and granddaughter visiting from Germany right now, and he just plays with that baby (age 14 months) all day! He walks her in the stroller and follows her around and carries her to show her different things in the garden. It is so sweet! And Zimmet! I cannot say enough good things about her. She is more than just a housekeeper, she is WonderWoman! Clean does not describe what she does here. The bathrooms are sparkling. The kitchen is clean with dishes done about twice a day. She keeps the house tidy, and keeps on top of the mountain of laundry that 4 adults, one 6-year-old and 2 babies make. She also made a huge batch of injera today which she set outside to dry, and she plays with Waguyu’s granddaughter all the time! She is fantastic, and I don’t think I can tip her enough! If you stay at Ayat, you will truly be blessed by both of these lovely Ethiopians.

Anna at some peanut butter toast for breakfast, and then we got ready for the day. She loves to have her face and hands washed, and always gets a huge smile whenever I do that. While I got dressed, my mom watched some cartoons with Abigail and Anna. Anna was waving at the TV, and when I was nearly done getting ready, Abigail came tearing up the stairs to tell me that Anna was talking! Of course, I missed it, but apparently she was babbling, which has been the main developmental milestone she has been missing all along.

The girls and I went out to play in the yard while my mom freshened. We looked at the flowers, walked around the house, and played with the dog (I call him “Mitchell” because that is what his name sounds like to me, but his name is actually Ethiopian. I will not attempt to spell it here.) Anna is definitely afraid of the dog! Waguyu held Anna for a while and we spoke for a time. Then we heard a knock on the door.

Our across-the-street neighbor is actually an American woman who is renting a house and providing foster care for her child while she waits for courts to re-open. I will write some other time about my feelings about this practice as well as her agency (who is known as the “trouble maker” agency by all the in-country reps)… or maybe I won’t. But Jean was just so excited to see other adopting Americans! I plan to invite her over tomorrow for some coffee and popcorn.

Soon it was time for lunch. Anna stayed with a caregiver and my mom, Abigail, and I went to lunch. We were surprised to see that we had a new driver, but with the overlap of families from last week and this week on Monday, we had a “back-up” driver. Today Anbes became our driver, and he is great! (Side note, he and his wife are expecting a baby in April. How fun is that? We also compared notes about the differences between driving in Ethiopia and driving in other parts of the world. He is very well-traveled, and he shared many interesting things with us!)

We arrived at the Beer Garden Inn (specializing in German and American food and German beer.) It is very nice, and the bathrooms are nice, too! (Did I mention that the bathrooms at the Cultural Dinner are fantastic? Use them!) Abigail ordered pizza (she was not impressed, but she ate it) and my mom ordered some sort of German chicken dish which she liked. I got the tibs. Oh my word! So tasty! I was careful to avoid the peppers, but the injera and tibs (traditional Ethiopian beef dish) was great! I also had a double macchiato, and it was fantastic! (I added a bit of sugar.) Smooth, creamy, and delicious! I can’t wait to get one at Kaldi’s (Ethiopian Starbucks.)

Tangent: I have found that the food in Ethiopia (even the food at the cultural dinner last night) is much more flavorful and not as “hot” as Ethiopian food in America. I have been able to eat most things (and I am a heat wuss!) There have been a few things that were just too spicy for me, but for the most part, that has not been a problem. I also like the way the food here tastes better than the Ethiopian food I have had in the US. In fact, I really want to go for more native food (but not the raw meat dishes. Although Ryan B. tells me that is the best way to catch tapeworm, and really, a tapeworm could help get me back into my old pants…) End Tangent.

After lunch we went to the Hilton to try to use the Internet. I brought my laptop and paid $109 ETB (about $11USD) for one hour of access. It stunk. It took that entire hour to send one email to my sister, and I couldn’t get any attachments to work (hence the no pictures in the previous posts!) Mer and Ryan used the hardwired computers in the “Business Center” and seemed to have slightly better luck. I will try that next time, and see if I can at least get a few pictures through. I don’t know if the access at the Sheraton is any better, but Anbes said that there is one other place that has good WiFi, so we might try there as well.

We stopped at the grocery on the way home to pick up more water, milk, and some baby foods. We also ended up with salt and popcorn (mom’s main staple.) I picked up something called a “Hip Hop Biscuit.” This was advertised on a billboard near the airport, and it was one of the first things my mom and I saw when we arrived. So we decided to commemorate our arrival with a Hip Hop Biscuit. I will let you know if they make me Hip or Hop. I am guessing not, but you never know!

On the way home from the grocery, we had a nice discussion with Anbes, and when we arrived home, my mom actually said that she could see herself living in Ethiopia. My jaw almost hit the floor! I think that I could live here, if I had my own house and didn’t ever have to drive!

Anna did great with the caregiver, but I could tell that she was glad we were home. After dinner, I let her talk (listen) to Teta on the cell phone, and she is now addicted to the phone! She was mimicking talking on the phone, holding it up to her ear, and babbling. That’s right! She speaks! So far I have heard her say “hi”, “dada”, “mama” and a “p” sound. I don’t think she attaches meaning to these words, but the fact that she is even saying 2 syllabub words is fantastic! I got a bit on video, and I think I got some of her saying “mama!”

Poor Simon is still sick. It’s too bad, because he is just too cute when he feels well! My mom is really taken by them, and watching Meredith and Ryan figure out this parenting this is so sweet. They work well together, stay calm, and really read Simon well. They are doing great!

I trialed my “kneeling at the side of the tub” hair-washing technique on Abigail and then later on myself. It works well, and I really stayed much warmer this way. If you stay at Ayat house and you have thick hair, try out this method. It might really help!

Anna went down tonight around 8:30, but it took until 9 for me to be able to pry her bottle from her mouth and hand. She is sleeping well next to me, and I will bring her close (but not too close, she doesn’t like that!) when I hit the sack. Tomorrow we visit the care center (which is quite close) and have a coffee ceremony then head to lunch and the embassy in the afternoon. I am stoked! What fun!

Now I will listen to the lull of the neighborhood dogs barking and drift off to sleep!

The end zone

We are all here safe and sound. Thanks for all your prayers.
No one feels up to a picutre right now but we'll work on it.
God Bless!


Today I board a plane to fly out and spend a week with Grace, Abigail and Anna. Today Grace will exit a plane onto American soil with Anna. Today is a beginning. Today is amazing.

I have many thoughts and emotions swirling around in my head. I am not the writer that Grace is and I will not even attempt to write any of it out.

As I was packing last night I put on Facing the Giants. I love this movie!! It ministers to my heart every time I watch it. (Check it out if you haven't seen it!) Last night I was thinking about all who are waiting. Those who are paper chasing (or paper racing), those on the wait list, those with referrals waiting for a court date, and those who are waiting for their next court date. I would like to send this clip out to all of you. May it motivate you as it applies to your wait. While I'm not waiting for a child there are things in my life that I am waiting on God for. Last night I allowed this to give me renewed strength and vision to fulfill God's will for me during this waiting time.

Please take the time to watch this through until the end. (6 minutes)
(Sorry I don't know how to make it play in the post.)


Tuesday, September 23, 2008


In case you didn't see this in the comments:

Spoke with Grace today.
Anna is feeling a little better.


Monday, September 22, 2008

No news = good news??

Thank you so much to everyone that is praying!!
I haven't heard anything so far. I'm assuming that everything is OK. My friends keep reassuring me that she would call otherwise. She would, right??

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Praise and Prayer

I just talked to Grace. For starters....Praise. Simon is doing very well. Grace says he is all better.

Prayer....Anna is sick. It doesn't appear to be the same thing Simon had. Grace said she had a 104 temperature and is lethargic (my mom said she is like a rag doll). They are going to be taking her to the doctor. (Someone recently posted about taking their child to the doctor while in Ethiopia. If that was you can you please leave your info in the comments.) Anna was treated for pneumonia last month and Grace is wondering if she has it again. Please join me in prayer for our Anna.

(This is not a current picture of Anna. One of the families that traveled recently sent this to us. I'm not sure when it was taken.)

P.S. While we're praying can you please hop over and pray for this baby girl too.


Today my church joined with two others to have a FREE! carnival/petting zoo/live band/hot dog and snow cone outreach event.
I was co-running the "Catch-a-bite" booth. We had an apple dangling on a fishing pole and without using your hands you had to take a bite out of it. Deceptively difficult! We only had (I think) five people actually get a bite. It was really fun. My jaw hurts! I was really trying to help everyone by cheering them on with my mouth wide open. I kept catching myself doing it but I couldn't stop! :) (I'd link to someone who wrote a very funny post about mouths hanging open while feeding their baby but I can't remember who wrote it where. If that was you can you link in the comments??)

My mom called (from Ethiopia) and between the cheering and the live music I didn't hear my phone ring.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's good news...

...really it is. I just don't know exactly what that news is. I have to confess that Grace told me what to post but I didn't verify it with her and I couldn't remember it afterwards. Then, my pride kicked in and I didn't want to post anything that was...well...that made me sound like I didn't know what I'm talking about. But the truth is...I don't know what I'm talking about.

Grace was very excited when I talked to her. Basically she said that she got all the paperwork she needs to bring Anna home!! Help me out all you Forever Families! I think she got Anna's Visa from the Embassy. Is that it? Whatever it is - Grace. is. thrilled! Will you please forgive me for being to proud to post?

Speaking of Forever Families....this made my day! Congratulations Coffeedoc and Coffeemom!

Oh and a newly-home Forever Family. Check out Jenn's post. Grace and Abigail are in the middle of the first picture. They over lapped a few days in Ethiopia with Grace. It was really fun to be able to see Grace and Abigail.

Hope y'all have a great weekend.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Adventure: Ethiopia- Day One

(This is the second post that I received from Grace. Please be sure to read the first one (The Trip) first. Oh yeah and you are gonna want tissues handy!!! ~Faith)

I almost panicked when I turned over, opened my eyes, and realized that the sky was light! I woke my mom (as she had requested) and we chatted for a minute while trying to figure out how to find out what time it was. Thankfully, we heard Waguyu sweeping the porch, so I hopped out and asked him. 6:40am. Whew.

We had a nice morning, unpacking more, eating breakfast, and showering. (Note, if staying at Ayat House, there is plenty of hot water in the bathrooms, but the water pressure is not fantastic. I did manage to wash my (fairly thick) hair without a huge hassle, but I was a bit cold! The air in the house is always cool. However, the shower head is hand-held, so tomorrow I think I will ask my mom to just help me wash my hair over the side of the tub, then hop in to finish the rest of my shower.)

When Mer, Ryan, and Simon woke up, we had a good time meeting the little guy and catching up with M&R. Poor Simon is not feeling well in his tummy! Plus he has a runny nose and cough, and of course, like most kids, hates getting his nose wiped! But Mer and Ryan are fantastic parents, and it was nice to have Simon distract me from my anxiousness over my first meeting with Anna.

About 9:15, she arrived. Ryan B. held her a moment, giving her time to adjust to the new place (she was visibly alarmed, breathing heavy and clinging to Ryan B.) After I got her to warm up a bit by handing her a little dolly, she let me hold her and we quietly got to know each other a bit more.

It's a very shocking and overwhelming feeling to meet your child for the first time, whether they are yours by birth or by adoption. I felt so nervous- like I wasn't sure what I was "allowed" to do. I remember when I held Abigail for the first time, I asked the nurse's permission to open her swaddling blanket to look at her fingers and toes. I felt the same today, except I felt like I needed Ryan's permission, as well as Anna's. So we took things slowly, and she really started to warm up once I gave her a bottle. She relaxed back and let me hold the bottle for her, cuddling her close to me. That was the moment when I knew it was okay. I was her Momma, and I could do this- I could love her with my actions without permission from anyone.

Once Ryan and Philip left, we quietly visited with Anna more. I mention the quietness because it is a huge part of her nature. For the first hour or more, we did not hear a single peep out of her! But as her breathing became more normal (and with the aid of a few Cheerios!) she warmed up. We stayed very calm and quite until she began to give clues that she was ready to play. By lunch time, she was smiling and reaching for me to hold her whenever anyone else would hold her. It felt so good to have her look to me.

We decided to have my mom stay with Anna during lunch while Abigail and I joined M&R, Jennifer and Jody, Jody's parents, Belay, Ryan, Ryan's oldest daughter (Marta), and Philip for Chinese food. Let me just say right now that Marta is adorable, and I hope I can make Anna's hair just like Marta's! She was great with Abigail, and they enjoyed sitting next to each other and sharing Abigail's fruit snacks after lunch. Abigail also took to Philip (she loves men.)

I had a great time catching up with Jen. I feel like it's been forever since I spoke with her, even though she has only been here a little over a week! It was nice to finally meet her in person, too, and to get to share all our little tidbits about our babes. Lunch was tasty, although some things were prepared a bit spicier than I would have liked. But I tried everything! (Note, try not to use the bathroom here if you can help it. It's not horrible, but it's not great, either.)

After lunch Abigail and I exchanged some money at the Hilton, then went back to the grocery for more milk, and some bread and eggs. I also picked up some boxed pineapple juice, paper towels, and more water. The food here is very reasonable, although eating out is quite reasonable as well. Abigail fell asleep on the way to the grocery, and I let her sleep in the back seat while I shopped.

When we got home, Gaga and Anna were just waking up from a nap. We played some more, going for a walk in the yard, walking around the house, and just being silly. Anna at a peanut butter sandwich and drank even more milk! In fact, she had what we call a "pee-soaker" from all her milk! One of her favorite things she did today was rip paper (thrilling!) and one of my favorites is discovering that she likes kisses that end in raspberries! She is also quite ticklish, especially on her feet! I had her laughing out loud a few times, although nothing that sounded like a word, yet.

When we were walking outside, I put Anna down to look at some of the flowers. She is a pretty timid baby, but even more so when she is outdoors. While she was walking with me, Zimmet (the housekeeper) called her name, "Misrak, come!”. Anna quickly turned away from Zimmet and grabbed tightly to my leg. My heart soared!

Abigail has been absolutely terrific as a big sister. She reads books to Anna and is very helpful with fetching items, taking Anna for a walk around the living room, and just being silly. She did beautifully traveling, and I think the times when we are out without Anna really help Abigail feel balance- like she is not being ignored.

After a lovely afternoon, we left Simon and Anna with one of the caregivers, and we headed out for the cultural dinner. The food was fantastic (although Abigail remains unimpressed.) But Abigail did love the dancing and music! I have some great video of people we knowing dancing with the performers, so that is something to look forward to when we get home!
By the time we got home from dinner, Anna was asleep in the crib in my room. Right now she is lying there, quietly breathing and turning over once in a while. In a few minutes, I will bring her in bed to cuddle while we sleep. I have a bottle on the night stand, ready to go if she needs it- it's been a long time since I've done that. And if feels good.

Don't hold your breath...take your breath away

Don't hold your breath for those pictures. I just talked to Grace and this morning it took Mer and Ryan 15 minutes to send out one picture. Grace is going to try again later but it doesn't look hopeful.

I got to talk with Grace, Abigail and my mom again. Everyone is doing well except little Simon. He seems to have some stomach trouble. I heard him fussing over the phone. Would you all please join me in praying for him.

From what I understand Grace will be visiting the baby house tomorrow. It should occur sometime between midnight and 8am my time. (Ethiopia is 8 or 9 hours ahead of Chicago.) For everyone with a child there, whether you have received your referral yet or not, please know that tonight your child will be loved on. Tonight your child will receive a loving embrace. Tonight your love will be whispered into your child's ear.

I don't know about you but that takes my breath away!

(I don't in anyway mean to say that the Gladney care givers do not love on or hug the children. I just mean that someone who stood where you are standing is going to love on your child the way that others loved on Anna. And if I know Grace it will be thoroughly documented in pictures!!)

Adventure: Ethiopia- The Trip

(Are y'all ready for this?? Grace emailed me a blog post!!! Woohoo!!! She is also trying to send pictures that go with it but it doesn't seem to be working at the moment. I was so excited to hear the update and I just couldn't keep you guys waiting. Please come back to see the pictures. I will put them in as soon as I get them. Enjoy! ~Faith)

Wow, this flight is long! We are just about to land in Rome to refuel, and I am already more than done with flying! Alas, there are several hours yet to go. At nearly 6 feet tall (and most of that being leg!) both my mom and I are ready for a nice long stretch and walk to get our blood flowing and sensation returning to all of our extremities. J

Here are some thoughts about our trip so far…

After we checked in, we had to take a shuttle to our terminal. We happened to get on the same shuttle as our entire ETA flight crew! Abigail loved to look at all the flight attendants, and as we walked behind them to the gate, she said "I want to be one of them when I grow up, even thought I have this skin and I don't match them."

So far, the food has been great. They served dinner shortly after take-off (Abigail slept through dinner) at about 9:30pm EST. Dinner was a beef, potato, and vegetable pot roast, and it was good! They also served salad, cheese and crackers, and cheesecake. For breakfast we had a croissant and roll with butter/jam, strawberry yogurt, fruit cup, and beverages. Neither my mom nor I have needed to break into our snack pack yet. In fact, we have not really been hungry for most of the trip, but have eaten and drank lots of fluids.

If you check in at the Ethiopian terminal at Dulles (no connection), you have to check in and get your boarding pass and then drop off your luggage at a TSA luggage check point. It was interesting, but we managed (glad of the carts!) We left our rolling carry-on bags with John while we checked in and dropped off our luggage. No one weighed our carry-on bags, but as we were boarding, they did ask us to check one of the rolling carry-ons. I already had chosen one that I would check (it mostly had food/snack for in Ethiopia- we packed our "snack pack" for the plane in another bag) so I had no problem doing a gate check on that bag.

I am SOOOOOO glad I brought earplugs. Between Abigail laying her head on my lap (thus necessitating the need to keep still and not move/stretch) and the kid behind me kicking the seat, I really didn't get much sleep. But the earplugs and my neck pillow have definitely contributed to my comfort!

Abigail and I took off our rain boots as soon as we sat down and haven't had them on since. Ethiopian distributes a pair of socks shortly after take-off, and I suppose we could have put those on over our socks, but for now, we have just been wearing our socks to walk to the bathroom, etc. In fact, that is what most people have been doing!

I will be glad of a real bed tonight when we land. I am super-happy that our flight lands in the evening and then we just go straight to our guest house. I can't imagine getting off this plane and getting a baby! That would be great, but I am already so tired, I think the baby would meet the worst part of Momma, not the best! J

More thoughts about travel…

The rest of our flight was uneventful. Our plane actually landed early! We were trying to help a mom traveling alone with her 2 young children, so de-boarding and getting the visas was a bit complicated, and we ended up being last in line.

We were asked to gate check a rolling carry on, and that, along with all of our luggage, came through just fine. One of my Rubbermaid bins had been searched by security in the USA, but nothing was missing. I used zip ties to "lock" my luggage, and that worked well. We ended up waiting a long time for our final suitcase, and because of that delay, poor Ryan and Philip (a student who is working with Gladney for the semester) had to wait about 2 hours for us!

For those who travel Ethiopian Airlines, here is what you need to know:

On the plane, they will hand you an "Entry Card." There will be no explanation. Fill this out, including all the info that you have (passport number, date of birth, etc.) When you get off the plane, go down the stairs. If you walk straight, the bathrooms are on the right. Do not use these unless necessary- go on the plane after you land if possible, but do not use these toilets.

For those who arrive on any airline in Addis, here is some info:

Once down the stairs, look to the left. The "sharp" left will be a place for "Interlink" transfers or something of that nature. To the "easy" left, you will see signs for a visa. Get in line here, and have your passport and entry cards ready. If you have not received an entry card on the plane, request one and fill it out. They cannot issue your visa until the entry card is complete. Then you wait in line, and they review your entry card and passport. The final step is to pay for the visa- $20 USD.

When you exit the visa room, if you look straight ahead, you will see a bank where you can exchange some money. There will also be ropes that form lines, and you want to be in the first line, closest to the visa office, unless otherwise directed. We were the last people in line, so we had plenty of time to use the bathroom and exchange some money. And then stand and wait.

When it is your turn, have your passport and visa ready. (On the card, when asked where I was staying, I wrote "hotel." At this cubicle, the person asked which hotel, and I stated that it was a private guest house. I think it would have been okay to just write "guest house" on the entry form.) They will ask a few questions and stamp your passport. Exit and go to the right to baggage claim. There are 4 belts, and you will be able to see which one is for your flight. There are free carts (you have to push down on the top handle to get them to move- it is a built-in break, and while it takes getting used to, it is actually quite nice!)

While waiting for your luggage, have your baggage claim tickets ready. You will have to show your tickets to be able to exit with your luggage. If any piece of your luggage is missing, there is a "Lost Bag" area in the back left corner of the luggage claim area. It is a small office, but you will probably find it easily, since there is really nothing else in the area.

When you have your luggage, head towards the exit. You will be asked to show that it is your luggage (claim tickets) and you may be asked to X-ray your bags. We had to X-ray all of our bags, and then they wanted to search my bins as well. However, they couldn't get the zip ties open! (No scissors or knifes or anything.) In the mean time, I also supplied them with a copy of the humanitarian aid letter supplied by Gladney, and they were satisfied and let us go.

Interestingly, one of the questions that they asked before they let us leave was "Are you bringing any projectors into the country?" And no, I wasn't. Then they asked "Are you telling me the truth?" Maybe I looked like some sort of projecting criminal aiming to start a rally or something? I don't know- not having traveled internationally, maybe this is something they ask everyone?

On the way to Ayat house, we stopped at the grocery. I had already exchanged a small amount of money at the airport, so I was able to get some groceries without difficulty. At the grocery I went to, they had bags of milk (1 liter size) and I picked up some "full cream milk" (whole milk) for the baby, and some 2.7% milk for the rest of us. They were out of eggs and bread, but I did get water (buy lots!), coffee grinds, and Honey Nut Cheerios.

It was during our grocery trip that Ryan B. confessed that Sparrow is one of his favorites. He has a soft spot for the children who come in ill and grief-stricken. I could tell from pictures that Anna loves him, and it was so calming to my heart to know that he was taking special care of my girl!

It was 10:30pm by the time we got home, so we quickly unpacked enough to find our warm pajamas. (Seriously, you need warm jammies this time of year- without heat, the evenings and early mornings are chilly! And warm socks or slippers since the floors at Ayat are tile and very cold.) Ryan made plans to bring Misrak over around 9am and then he and the driver left for the evening (I felt so bad for keeping them waiting so long at the airport!) Mer, Ryan, and Simon had already gone to bed for the night, and Waguyu had already left as well when I realized that I had no clue what time it was, so I could not set my alarm clock. Hint: bring a watch and travel alarm clock, for sure! There are no clocks in Ayat House!

This was also when I realized that my purse, which I realized I had left on the plane, had my cell phone in it. Oops! I was not concerned about loosing my purse since I thought it only had my lip gloss. Kind of sad when I realized it also had my celly! Not sure what I am going to do about that.

Abigail and I settled in for the night and after a few rounds of dogs barking, we fell asleep. I was so glad to be horizontal! Once I heard a sound that could have been Simon crying… but then, it could have been a cat crying, as well, so I went back to sleep. Abigail woke up in the middle of the night and was sleepwalking- that was fun! But overall, I slept fairly well, considering that I kept waking up to see if it was light out!

Monday, September 15, 2008

All is well

I talked to Grace and my mom for a few minutes earlier today. Everything with their flights went well. They arrived on time and with all of their bags! Thanks God! They had some time to sleep (didn't ask about that part) and then "they" (I'm not sure who, I didn't ask) brought Anna to the house in the morning!!!! I talked to Grace at dinnertime and she said everything had gone well during the day. She said Anna is doing well. My mom was very excited to get a long nap with Anna sleeping on her chest while Grace and Abigail went out. When I talked to them they were waiting with some other families to go to dinner. I heard Abigail in the back ground giggling up a storm. I'm so blessed that all is going well for them.


Revision to my last post

(Sorry everyone for allowing my impatience to overwhelm me. Can I please try that again??)

Everybody wave hi!!!!!!!

We love you!!



Could someone here please call (or email) me already!!!!!

I heart google earth!

And thanks Dawn for letting me know that the ticker will start counting up.


Counting up


I haven't talked to them yet but if everything has gone as planned today is day 1. For a few hours now Grace has had Anna in her arms. I can't even imagine the joy of these past hours.

I had asked Grace to make a ticker to count up the days that she has Anna in her arms but with all the last minute business she was unable to make one. So until she gets back I'm going to keep track.

I have been such a blog stalker for the last couple of months and it is GREAT fun to be on this side. I hope everyone has a very blessed day. Join me in giving thanks.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

A little something....

Here is a little something to look at while I am gone:)

And as of Wednesday, September 10, a $300 donation has been made to World Vision, from your generous donations. Thank you all for contributing!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pretty sure

Well, I'm pretty sure they got off OK.
Church was cancelled tonight due to heavy flooding in the area and at the last minute a friend and I decided to go see a movie. We saw Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3D. Cool glasses, huh??

I called Grace right before the movie and asked them to text me when they were getting on the plane. I never got a message so it must have been crazy or something. But, I haven't heard that they didn't make it so they must be somewhere in the air. I'm very excited!! I have no idea when I'll hear anything but I'll post as soon as I do.
Also, don't forget to check back tomorrow as Grace has promised something very cool!

I'd like to take this moment to....

...introduce myself. Hello, I'm Faith, Grace's sister. I am pleased to meet you.

You may also know me as Te-ta.

It is my pleasure to update Grace's blog while she is traveling.
I just talked to them and they are about 1 hour into their drive to the airport. And so it has begun...

We're Off!

We are leaving shortly to head to Dulles. I am giving us plenty of time for the drive, and arriving at least 3 hours in advance of our departure. I find myself doing a lot of obsessive/compulsive behaviors...

  • checking that I have our passports
  • checking that I have all of our flight info and emergency contact numbers
  • "cleaning" little areas of the house
  • checking the fridge to see if anything needs to be tossed before we go (don't want to come home to a stinky fridge!)
  • checking my email/Google Blog Reader (for last-minute news of referrals:)

Things I am not doing compulsively...

  • weighing the bags (they are heavy, but I trust that they are not over weight)
  • checking inside my bags to see what I have packed (behold, the power of the list!)
  • checking the mailbox

Some closure to previous questions:

  • I took enough underpants that I should not have to send any for washing
  • I am not locking my luggage, but I am closing it with zip ties and packing zip ties for the trip home. Do they have scissors at Ayat?
  • I do not have my homework done. But I am hoping to get a lot done while waiting at the terminal. This is where my mom and the portable DVD player will come in very handy!

I want to give a big shout out to Laura who has graciously offered to manage the FBI list for me. This has really been a relief over the past few days and should hopefully decrease my stress while I am gone and when I return, while also maintaining the accuracy of the list:) Thank you so much, Laura! I really appreciate it, and I know everyone else appreciates it, too!

To those families who have sent care packages and are awaiting pictures, I will pray for your child while I hold them, hum a lullaby while I cuddle them, and whisper your love in their ear. If you have not emailed me with your home address, please do that so that I can send your SD card right away when I get back to the states.

For those families awaiting a referral, even if you don't yet know your babe's name and face, know that I will be loving on them and praying for them as I meet them in Ethiopia.

And for those that are still in the paperchase stage, waiting on approvals and home studies and feeling like so many people are holding up your process, know this: your dossier will be ready at exactly the time it needs to be to match you with your beautiful little one. Neither God nor Gladney will forget you.

Thank you all for your prayers and support in this journey- there are so many who have emailed me in the past few days, and I am sorry that I have not been able to reply to each email. But know that I am feeling so loved and supported right now. It's a great feeling.

My sister should be updating my blog for me, so tune in for updates. And I have something very special set to publish tomorrow, so y'all come back, ya hear?

They said..

There were those who said it was impossible. That it couldn't be done. Doubters.
And to them I say...

Boo-yah! It all fit!

Packing: A Comprehensive Guide (Or at least what I did.)

(Contents: 3 rubbermaid totes, 3 rolling suitcases, 3 rolling carry ons, one backpack/laptop bag, one diaper bag/purse. Not pictured: Abigail's back pack.)

Here is my packing list. This list was developed over several months and utilized several sources. I will continue to update this list with some feedback post-trip (ie- things I found useful, things I could have passed on, etc.) But for now, you can get an idea of what we packed.

Armed with my list, I attacked the job of packing. Here are some thoughts:

  • Once all of our clothing was laid out, I separated it into 3 piles. Each pile contained a few outfits for each traveler, as well as socks and underwear for each traveler. These piles were carefully folded and loaded into space bags. One space bag went into each suitcase. The thought is that if one or two suitcases don't make it, at least there will be clothing in each of the suitcases for each person! I also put snacks into each bag, but most of our snacks are in one of our rolling carry on bags.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would pack in rolling duffel bags. 2 of my 3 suitcases were initially over the 50 lb. limit, but with some re-arranging, they are all below 50 lbs. I think using the rolling duffels might have saved several lbs.
  • I might also consider packing in all rubbermaid totes. They weigh next to nothing and hold so much! Plus, totes are cheaper than duffel bags!
  • I would use all "medium" sized space bags. They are easier to pack around, and offer more freedom and flexibility in determining how you want to pack into each bag.
  • I borrowed John's shipping scale to weigh my bags. It was easy and non-stressful to rearrange a few items so that my bags were under weight. If I had to do this at the ticket counter, I would probably have cried. Use a scale at home. It helps.
  • I packed all of the "essential" medications into my rolling carry on. I am taking lots of meds (most nurses are "a walking pharmacy") but if a bag is lost, I know that I have the most essential stuff with me (ie- diarrhea scripts, a bit of Tylenol and decongestant if we get sick, etc.) I also packed Airborne packets that you mix with water in my carry on. We will drink those at the airport before we get on the plane.
  • I spread out the shopping for this trip over many months. I didn't have to make a mad dash to the store and drop $300 in one trip because I slowly added items to my pile over the course of many weeks.
  • Nothing is in the original package: tissues were removed from the box and packed in ziplocks, as were wipes. Pill bottles were removed from the box before packing. Poptarts and granola bars were removed from their box. DVDs for Abigail's portable DVD player were put into a small CD holder. You get the idea. It definitely saved lots of room!

Lily in Anna's carseat: Can I go too?