Monday, July 23, 2012

What to expect in the coming months...

This is a difficult post to write for me. I'm a big people pleaser and never want to offend or upset anyone. I've been dreading writing this because I don't want to upset people (and I'm probably worrying over nothing)! I wanted to write a blogpost to explain what to expect in the next few months. This is very important for family and friends who are local or who are thinking about visiting when we bring the boys home...

 First of all, what all you read below is NOT meant to be offensive. I know SO many have helped us along the way and want to be a part of the boys' lives when we bring them home. And you absolutely can... But..

 Besides the welcome home at the airport (more about that below), you won't be seeing us for a good several weeks or possible months. We'll be keeping ourselves at home spending time with our boys and learning to go from a family of 4 to a family of 6. We'll spend this time getting the boys on a good routine, and helping establish attachment with us. In order to do this, we'll be basically "hibernating" at home for a good month or so. We won't be going anywhere with the boys. Not to church, stores, family or friends. No where except their doctors.

We also won't be allowing visitors the first few weeks. I hope none of this comes off as offensive or anything, but it's truly important that they learn to connect with us and that Michael and I meet their every need to establish this attachment. Michael and I will be the ones to feed the boys, change Eyob's diaper, doctor their boo-boos, bathe them, etc. They need to know that they don't need to go to just any adult they see (as they've been used to) and that they can come to us - their mommy and daddy.

Many don't realize how different adopting is from just having a baby. Adoption comes with a lot of baggage. One of them being that they have never had the same adults meeting their needs their whole life. They've gone from person to person. Family to orphanage to transition home to us. They need to learn to trust us (and us only at this time) to meet their every need. And that we're not going anywhere. They are stuck with us forever! No more transitioning to ANYone else ever again (besides temporary babysitters, but not for a long time!) Depending on how things go in the first several weeks is how we'll decide when to venture out and allow some people in. At first we will only be allowing immediate family members who will be a part of their constant life and then we'll eventually open up to friends and church and such.

  I know this all seems so strict, but it's SO important for the boys! Please help us stick to this plan and please do not be offended by it! It's not that we don't want you to be a part of their lives - we do! Just important for them to get to know us first...

 I'm sure many of you are wondering "Well, what CAN we do?"

 I'm glad you asked!

 #1 - Prayer. Please, please pray for us during this time. For Michael and I, as we prepare to be parents of 4 children! Pray for patience and wisdom! For Ilana and Aydan, who are going from having just each other to adjusting to having 2 new brothers! And especially for Mikiyas and Eyob... They're leaving their home country and coming to the US, which is absolutely nothing like Ethiopia. The language, the food, the climate, the people. It's all going to be SO different for them. Not to mention going from an orphanage/transition home setting to a small family with only 2 adults and 2 other children. It's going to be quite a change for them!

 #2 - Meals. Many have asked about cooking meals. That would be fantastic if you are interested! We'll come back exhausted and trying to adjust to the time zone and also to being a new family of 6. Michael won't have any time off once we get back, so I'll be busy a lot on my own during the day, devoting the majority of the day with all 4 kids. I'll likely forget about cleaning, laundry, and do very minimal cooking. So, yes, meals would be great! I'm not sure who will be in charge of coordinating those, but will let you know! Again, the only thing with bringing us meals... It's so important that you don't stay and visit in the first few weeks. I know you want to see the boys and see how things are going, and I promise we'll let you! Just so important for the first few weeks to not. What may be best is for you to just set the food on the porch and send a text or knock or ring the doorbell letting me know you dropped it off.

 #3 - You can come to the airport! Like I said, I know so many are anxious and excited to see the boys! This will be a good opportunity to meet them before our hibernation period! When we get the okay to bring the boys home and order our plane tickets, I'll let you know when we'll be landing and where (will try for Ft. Myers so it's not so far). But this is something that many families do and I've absolutely loved seeing photos of Adoption Homecomings! I would love to have that for the boys, as well! ANYONE is welcome to come and welcome the boys home!

 Lastly, again I want to thank everyone for all the prayers and support (both financially and just being there) along the way. We're so thankful for each and every one of you for your outpouring of love... It's been an incredible journey and we're grateful to have so many rallied up behind us! Cannot thank all of you enough!

 P.S. If you're wanting any of the bracelets, hurry, because they are disappearing FAST! You can click HERE for more info!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Home... And our time in Ethiopia...

We've been home for a week now, and I'm still trying to adjust to the time change. I was waking up at 2am and 3am and now it's moved to 4 or 5am... In a way, it's been a blessing because I've gotten to spend some good quiet time in thought, prayer, and just time in general with my Maker, which is something very needed... The only downfall to waking up that early is that I'm exhausted and ready for bed at 7 or 8pm... Eventually I'll get back to "normal"!

Now, about our trip... I don't know that I'll be able to really explain it. So many people have asked us how our trip was, and quite honestly, I can't really find the words to describe it. It was the most amazing, heartbreaking, wonderful, sad, beautiful, hardest thing we've ever done so far... In order for you to completely understand you'd just have to go and witness it yourself!

Just a few highlights...

Day 1 and 2 - 

We left Thursday morning and made our way to the airport...

We flew a few hours to JFK airport, which was the busiest, craziest airport we had ever been in. It took us a good 2 hours or so to get from our landing gate to where we needed to be for takeoff. It was crazy! A few words from Michael on our flights...

  • Number one: JFK airport makes me want to cry for my mommy. 
  • Number two: It is possible to eaves drop on fellow passengers when their font is HUGE and they are a dental scanner expert who travels the world often and will get back to his clients as soon as he gets back from his trip to the US! Made a lot of great business contacts and is urging his company to move in a great market. You go guy! 
  • Number three: DO NOT drink coffee every time the flight attendant offers it. You will get no sleep for 30 hours!
  • Number four: Never let your wife eat so much cinnamon gum to calm her nerves. It burns your taste buds off and really makes breakfast fruit painful! 
  • Number Five: Germans love to make fun of American old ladies taking the trolley cart through the airport!
  • Number Six: Germans do not like to help Americans navigate their way through the Frankfort airport. I think they take pleasure in watching us try to figure things out.
  • Number Seven: Eating your wife's food (hey, airplane food on an international flight is good!) while she's sleeping (after she said I could have it) causes many people to stare and probably think I'm a horrible husband.
Anyway, we ended up making it to Ethiopia late Friday night (their time)! The first impression of Ethiopia for us was it was cold. Yes, cold! Many people think that since Ethiopia is in Africa, it must be hot. Addis Ababa is very mild and in the 70's during the day, 50's at night. 70's for us is cool. We're used to it being in the 70's at night here at home! We were picked up and taken to the transition home/guest house and tried to get some sleep... In the morning we would get to FINALLY meet the boys!!

Day 3 - 

Michael woke up super early and was like a 5 year old on Christmas morning... Just too excited and so we both got up and got ready and went downstairs, anxiously awaiting the moment to meet our sweet boys! Finally, it was time! One of the nannies brought them to us and it was better than I ever imagined/dreamed!

We spent the morning with the boys and then said goodbye before we went out in town. They want the first trip to Ethiopia to be full of experiences of Ethiopia and their culture. They want us to learn so we can teach our children as they grow up! We visited one of the well known churches up on the mountain.

 Then we went to one of the marketplaces! There were all sorts of items from clothing and scarves, to necklaces and earrings, to drums, household items, and coffee!

That evening, Woudneh (the in country director for West Sands - super awesome man!!) took us to a traditional Ethiopian dinner that had music and dancing. Their dancing - wow! It was incredible and great to watch. They made us be a part of one of the ceremonies, a "wedding" feast... It was interesting to say the least!

 We got back to the guest house late and were extremely exhausted from jet lag and from being out all day. We were ready for sleep!

Day 4

We wanted to go to church but were so tired and really wanted to spend the day with the boys, so we decided to stay at the guest house and we spent all day with them! We got to feed Eyob, hold him while he slept (so have missed holding a sleeping baby!!), capture the many faces of Eyob, play soccer with Mikiyas (he may be little, but boy is he good at soccer!), and just spend some really good quality time with them. It was great!

Day 5

Today we went to the Leper's Hospital and visited their little shop and got to see how they make beautiful pieces of art from start (a ball of cotton) to finish (a beautiful, hand loomed, hand embroidered tablecloth). It was amazing to watch and such a great place to visit! We found that not only do the kids there love lollipops, but all the sweet old ladies do as well! :)

We also visited the National Museum and got to see Lucy, who is supposedly one of the earliest human ancestors. It was an interesting museum! After that, we ate some lunch and went back to the transition home and spent time with our boys. That evening Woudneh decided to take us out for a really late dinner in which Michael tried his very first raw meat... It was an extremely spicy kind where our driver had once tried it and bled from his nose because of the heat. Michael was able to eat 7 bites before turning bright red, with tears streaming down his face.... It was funny to watch, but so gross at the same time (for me!)...

Day 6

This was NOT a good day for me. I was up sick all night and was sick all day this day. I spent most of the day in bed asleep... I'm the only one who did not eat any raw meat, yet I was the only one who ended up being sick! :(

Day 7

I woke up feeling much better and we got to visit the West Sands school for orphans. It was an incredible experience and we'd love to go back and volunteer our time there!

We also got to feed some cute wild monkeys bananas! We quickly ran out and Michael decided to offer them some lollipops. They loved those, too!

Day 8 -

You all know what this day was! COURT DAY!!! And if you read my post below, you know we passed!! :) We were nervous all morning and got to court about an hour early and sat and waited. We were the first in the waiting room. We waited and eventually the room began to fill up. Woudneh had us all worried because we look so young and he said he didn't think there were any other families that had gone through (through our agency) that looked so young. He thought we'd be fine, but as we watched other couples come in, we began to get more and more nervous. There was one other couple who was maybe in their 30's, but other than them, we were probably the only ones under 40! I'm sure they were all thinking "Wow! Are these kids adopting?" For those of you not on Facebook and didn't see my status, we were frequently asked about our age everywhere we went. People thought two things... They thought we were too young to be married, let alone have 2 biological children and be adopting 2 (the average age to get married, at least in the capital is in their late 20's, so to be married for almost 7 years and have 4 kids at 26 years old is a bit unusual!). Or they thought we were brother and sister... I promise - we are NOT related! :)

Day 9 -

Today we ventured to Ambo which is about 2 hours away from Addis. This is where Eyob's orphanage that he lived in the first several months of his life. We were hoping to meet Eyob's birth mother, but she was not able to come. We were able to talk with her via phone and it was such a blessing to hear her voice and tell her how much we love her little boy and to thank her...

Day 10 - This was the day I had been dreading... Our last day in Ethiopia... The morning was busy as we went to the Blue Nile Gorge. Because it was not rainy season, the waterfall was nonexistent, so we got to walk where it usually is. It was absolutely beautiful there!

After that, we finally made it back to the transition home and we spent the rest of the afternoon with our two precious boys. Before we knew it, the time was up and it was time to say goodbye... It was time for supper (and we were leaving right after), so we decided to go ahead and walk Eyob back to his room and tell him goodbye. I kept telling myself that I wasn't going to cry, but as I gave him several kisses, told him I loved him and handed him to Michael, and then tried to explain to the nanny that we were leaving tonight to go home, I burst into tears and had to walk away... The nanny cried and Michael cried as he gave Eyob back to her... It was SO hard... We made our way back to the guest house to sit down to eat as tears rolled down my face between bites. After supper we got to spend a few more minutes with Mikiyas. He didn't understand what was going on and as it was time to tell him goodbye, we took him to our driver and asked our driver Ashu to translate and explain to Mikiyas what was going to be happening. Again, I told myself not to cry, because I didn't want to make it harder for Mikiyas. I told him I loved him so much and we'd be back as soon as possible, and Ashu translated and told him what was going on. I gave him one last kiss and looked into his big, chocolate brown eyes which seemed to be pleading with me to not leave, told him goodbye, and once again had to hand him over to Michael and turn away. I bawled my way to the van and waited for Michael who came with tears running down his cheeks as well... I know we'll be back in several weeks, but I can't really explain how it felt to leave them... Other than it felt wrong... I can't wait to have my boys back and everyday my heart aches for them...

So for now, this is where I'll end this blogpost. Please, please, PLEASE pray that the translation of documents and submission for US Embassy happens extremely quickly so we can go back and bring the boys HOME. We're praying for 8 weeks... Please pray with us!

And on that note, to watch a video/slideshow I put together of our journey, click play below: