Being Sheep

"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep."John 10:14-15

Thursday, December 30, 2010

12 Days of an Adoptive Family's Christmas

You may have seen the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaD8xat6VDw of the "12 Days of a Large Family Christmas." If you haven't, you should check it out--it's funny!

So I was thinking this morning about an adoption version and decided to write it up for fun. All of these are questions or comments we've actually gotten about our adoption. :)

On the first day of Christmas a well-meaning person said to me: “Why Ethiopia?”

On the second day of Christmas a well-meaning person said to me: “How much did he cost?” and “Why Ethiopia?”

On the third day of Christmas a well-meaning person said to me: “Didn't you want a girl? How much did he cost? Why Ethiopia?

On the fourth day of Christmas a well-meaning person said to me: “Wow his hair is curly! Didn't you want a girl? How much did he cost? Why Ethiopia?”

On the fifth day of Christmas a well-meaning person said to me: “You're just like Angelina! Wow his hair is curly! Didn't you want a girl? How much did he cost? Why Ethiopia?”

On the sixth day of Christmas a well-meaning person said to me: “Couldn't you have gotten a puppy? You're just like Angelina! Wow his hair is curly! Didn't you want a girl? How much did he cost? Why Ethiopia?”

On the seventh day of Christmas a well-meaning person said to me: “Why was he given up? Couldn't you have gotten a puppy? You're just like Angelina! Wow his hair is curly! Didn't you want a girl? How much did he cost? Why Ethiopia?”

On the eighth day of Christmas a well-meaning person said to me: “Where is his real mom? Why was he given up? Couldn't you have gotten a puppy? You're just like Angelina! Wow his hair is curly! Didn't you want a girl? How much did he cost? Why Ethiopia?”

On the ninth day of Christmas a well-meaning person said to me: “He looks like Obama! Where is his real mom? Why was he given up? Couldn't you have gotten a puppy? You're just like Angelina! Wow his hair is curly! Didn't you want a girl? How much did he cost? Why Ethiopia?”

On the tenth day of Christmas a well-meaning person said to me: “So now you must be done? He looks like Obama! Where is his real mom? Why was he given up? Couldn't you have gotten a puppy? You're just like Angelina! Wow his hair is curly! Didn't you want a girl? How much did he cost? Why Ethiopia?”

On the eleventh day of Christmas a well-meaning person said to me: “Does he have AIDS? So now you must be done? He looks like Obama! Where is his real mom? Why was he given up? Couldn't you have gotten a puppy? You're just like Angelina! Wow his hair is curly! Didn't you want a girl? How much did he cost? Why Ethiopia?”

On the twelfth day of Christmas I graciously replied:

“That's a very personal question!”

“No we are not done.”

“I don't see the resemblance.”

“I'm standing right here.”

“That's a very personal question!”

“We like children more than puppies.”

“I have no response.”

“Black people's hair is often curly.”

“We like boys very much.”

“He is priceless.”

“And because our son was there!”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Attachment Progress

I am amazed at the progress with attachment N has made since we met him!

When we first met him he:

--had never had a bottle before
--didn't care who was holding him or playing with him
--wouldn't let go of a toy for anything!
--crawled everywhere
--refused to put anything in his own mouth; not fingers, not toys, not food
--hadn't yet had solid food
--screamed, cried, kicked and flailed his arms when we tried to put him to sleep
--woke up many, many times a night
--smacked himself on the head/face as a self-soothing technique


He quickly moved to:

--wanting bottles constantly, and cuddling close while taking them
--being very shy and unhappy when anyone other than Mom or Dad was holding him or talking to him
--dropping toys constantly in favor of grabbing something else!
--started taking steps
--started putting food in his mouth and chewing on toys
--started eating baby food, moved on to puffs
--falling asleep faster and easier
--sleeping for longer stretches at a time
--not hitting himself at all


Today he:

--wants bottles, but is only taking 3 or 4 a day
--willingly going to grandparents, giving others high fives, smiling at people, etc, but still very attached to his mom and dad
--climbs to get to whatever he wants ;)
--is running!
--is feeding himself table food and finding all sorts of things around the house to taste ;)
--is exclusively eating table food and drinking from a sippy cup (still also gets about 3 bottles a day)
--falls asleep in his own bed within a few minutes of being put down (usually)
--frequently sleeps through the night; sometimes waking up once or twice, but it's rare for it to be more than that
--still not hitting himself


He also:

--says "mama" and "dada"
--has names for his brothers
--signs the words for "eat", "drink", "all done", and "sleepy"
--says "I love you", though it comes out more, "ah va lou!"
--says "baba" for bottle
--waves bye-bye
--blows kisses
--tries to blow out the candles at the dinner table
--throws regular temper tantrums when he doesn't get his way
--climbs onto the furniture
--checks to see if you're watching before trying to touch something he knows is a "no-no"
--is starting to repeat words
--gives hugs and puts his face up to your lips to receive a kiss

What a wonderful blessing from God to be mommy to this beautiful little boy!! He has come so far in such a short time, and it's a joy to watch him grow.

~J

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"So Why Was He Given Up??"

I was asked today by an acquaintance why N ever became available for adoption. The person asked, "So could his parents not take care of him? Is that why they gave him up? Did he have any brothers or sisters? Is he healthy?"

I admit, I was a bit surprised at the personal nature of the questions. Of course, all through the process we were told by other adoptive parents to expect it, and I've had similar questions before---but it still took me by surprise. This person asked and was definitely expecting an answer!

I said basically that there are a lot of reasons children in Ethiopia become available for adoption, etc. and didn't give any personal details beyond what we're telling publicly: he was unable to get the care he needed, and his birth mom placed him in an orphanage.

Is there more to the story? Of course. Was it only a matter of money that made his birth mom relinquish him? No. Are we sharing much more than that? No.

Why not? He's only a baby now and can't understand what I'm telling others or what others are asking about him, but the day will come that he will start asking questions about his birth history. The day will come when he understands what the random stranger is asking, and he feels self-conscious, upset, etc. at listening to that conversation.

Additionally, imagine if everyone around you knew about your birth history before you did? Eventually N will be told everything we know about his history, but there are some details he won't be ready to hear until he's older. Those aren't the sort of details we want to be public information, ya know?

Bottom line: please don't be offended if an adoptive parent chooses not to answer the questions/s you're asking. There's a good reason for keeping some things private, and we could use your understanding in this. :)

An Adoption Experience

I've had a lot of questions lately about why we don't put N in the church nursery, or why we don't leave him with a baby-sitter, why we carry him and hold him a lot, etc. I'm never offended or upset at such questions, but it occurs to me that a lot of people don't understand what a child goes through in an international adoption. I've written this as best as I understand N's history, though some of the pre-adoption details have been left out and/or changed slightly so as to protect his privacy. Please take a moment to read.

In a typical parent/child relationship, a mother gives birth after carrying her child for 9 months. She then proceeds to take care of her infant's every need (of course with some help from Dad and maybe other relatives). :) When baby is hungry, Mom feeds him. When he's tired, Mom puts him to sleep. When his diaper is dirty, Mom changes him. He gets a little bigger and learns that when he smiles at Mom, she smiles back. When he bumps his head, she picks him up, hugs and kisses him. When he drops his pacifier, Mom gives it back. When he giggles, she giggles back. When he cries, she answers.

He's never far from his mom or dad. Even if Grandma is baby-sitting, he learns that Mom comes back. He eventually (of course, this takes longer for some than others!) learns that even if Mom doesn't feed him the minute he's hungry, she will feed him soon and he can wait a few minutes. He knows he is loved unconditionally, he's protected, he has a place.

Now imagine this same baby is born and taken care of by his mother. But she can't respond to all of his needs. She has to work all day to have the chance earning a meal, and there's no day care to bring him to. She wants to feed her baby, but can't. She wants to giggle with him, tickle him, change his diapers, but she's unable to. She eventually relinquishes him to an orphanage after realizing she can never care for him the way she wants to.

The baby's mom--that familiar face, the one who took care of his needs the best she could--is no longer there. And she doesn't come back. And he's left with several nannies who come in and out, and who speak a different language than the one he's been hearing his whole life thus far, and a whole lot of other babies. Some of them leave, others come. It's never the same.

When he's hungry, no one feeds him if it's not meal time. When he's tired, no one puts him to bed if it's not nap time. When he giggles there's no guarantee anyone hears. When he bumps his head, it may or may not be noticed. When his diaper is dirty, he sits in it until it's time to change all the other babies.

After a short time, he moves from this orphanage to another. Once again, he's left with several different nannies who come in and out, and a whole lot of other babies. He is loved. He is cared for. But it's not the same as having a mother who takes care of his every need, who responds to his cries, who cares for him as an individual rather than a group of babies who all need attention.

Eventually two people with different skin, different smells, different voices and language, come. He is handed to them, they take him home and he never goes back. He doesn't see the nannies again, the ones who loved and cared for him the best they could.

He travels to a new country with these new people, a country with different sounds, sights, smells, voices. A home with a mom and a dad who love him unconditionally, who respond to his every need the best that they can. Brothers who love him. More toys than he can play with. But is this the last stop? Will the day come that they leave him, too? When will he go to his next new home? What will it be like? Will he see these people again?

It seems like a happy place. Everybody's nice to him, get gets enough food to eat, gets rest when he needs it, has people to giggle with, and he always gets kissed when he bumps his head. But is it too good to last? He doesn't know, but he'd like to believe he'll be there forever.

Is he too young to truly be affected by his past? Every study says absolutely not.

Friday, October 22, 2010

5 Minutes

I let N out of his high chair. He grins at me and takes off, sitting on the floor in front of the toy kitchen. So I sit down at the computer to check my email. I then hear banging coming from the (real) kitchen. About half of my pots and pans are on the floor. Oh, and I just found out he can reach the counters. Don't put anything too close to the edge! I sit down again. N wanders past carrying my hairbrush, but then finds a very interesting piece of newspaper. I get up to remove the newspaper from his grip, he drops it and takes off down the hallway. He turns, grins at me, and speeds away. Straight for the toilet. Never fear, I'm right behind him; I pick him up and the entire neighborhood hears his shrieks. Bring him back to his toys. It is then quiet. Dangerously quiet. Yup, he found his brother's crayons again. Ok, we're headed to the living room. Behind the baby gates. Which he hasn't figured out how to climb yet.
(The key word here being 'yet'.) And that's how I spent the last 5 minutes.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Baby Boy

Baby Boy is doing really well overall. He's bonding extremely well with us, has some stranger anxiety (which is actually a good thing!) and is growing like a weed. Oh, and he can walk! I will get a few pics up soon, but tonight is finger food and family game night. :)

~J

Saturday, August 21, 2010

8 Weeks

Well, we've now been home for 8 weeks with little N. I intended to post the journal entry for our return trip home, but haven't yet. It seems I'm busy or something--ha!

N is overall doing quite well, but we've had a lot of sleep troubles. When we first got home we had to work on adjusting to our time zone (plus he was sick, so that didn't help). He finally started figuring out when night is, but wakes up a lot each night. He also doesn't nap very well during the day.

We've had some nights where he'll only wake up once, but many others where he'll wake up 6 or more times. His average is somewhere around 3 times though. This all makes for a very tired mama and daddy the next day!

I must say that my wonderful husband is truly being wonderful and handling a lot of the night wakings (one of the few advantages to bottle-feeding!). This has really helped me have the energy I need to be a good mom during the day.

It is really hard watching N cry and cry, feeling him cling to us, seeing his very nervous look when we're in a group of people. This baby is definitely not feeling very secure yet! He's bonding and attaching with us pretty well, but is very nervous about it. He wants us to be in his sight at all times, and he'd prefer us to be right next to him playing on the floor.

We've been doing a lot of praying for N. During the first couple of weeks he couldn't get to sleep without screaming and flailing his arms and legs, arching his back, etc. We would rock and rock and sing and shush, etc, but nothing seemed to really help. In order to stay calm myself I would hold him very close and tight, rock him, and pray out loud for him. It definitely helped my sanity level to remember that it wasn't about me, it was simply him expressing all his grief and anxiety over all that has occurred so far in his life. And knowing that God cares for this little guy way more than I do is pretty amazing, too!

When we got to Ethiopia, we definitely experienced a bit of culture shock--and we're grown adults. Just think about what a little baby was experiencing coming to the US with 2 people he'd only known for a week! And all this after dealing with malnourishment, being placed in an orphanage, moving to another orphanage, and then meeting us. It's not hard to see why he would be scared and anxious!

All of this one-on-one time with him has been great for bonding, but not so great for getting anything else done around my house! Thankfully my mom and mother-in-law volunteered to help and they're coming every other week or so to help me get caught up on laundry and house-cleaning. We tried to start school with A and D but put it on hold for a few more weeks until we get a bit more settled.

I know this isn't the most exciting post ever, but honestly--returning to life and trying to get into a "new normal" after bringing home a baby via adoption is not the most exciting this ever either. We're so very happy to have N home with us so we can begin the bonding and help him heal from the traumas he's experienced, but it's very tiring at the same time.

Would we do it again? Absolutely! But probably not until sleep patterns are a bit more established, lol!

~J

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ethiopia Journal, Day 9


Ethiopia, Day 9

Today was our last day in Ethiopia! Our plane left at 10pm, and though we've had a great trip we are so ready to go home!

We spent the morning packing (which was not nearly so difficult as packing to come here!), giving N a bath, and we had traditional Ethiopian food for lunch at the guest house. (N just loved his bath!!) After lunch there was a traditional coffee ceremony for us and the new guests that had arrived last night. (They are a family here to adopt a 15 year old boy.)

N was definitely the center of attention during the coffee ceremony as he kept trying to get into the coffee cups, the popcorn, etc—anything he could see!

After the coffee ceremony we went with Birtukan to Yezelalem Minch once again to give a gift to our sponsor children. When our van pulled into YM, our little girl jumped up and down pointing and yelling, “It's J! It's J!”

We hopped out of the van (N was asleep in the carrier) and gave a small bag of goodies to each of the children; it was some snacks, a bit of candy, and a picture of our family. We then gave the blankets and bed sheets to them that the social worker had purchased for them on our behalf.

We had wanted to leave them with a gift since it was unlikely we'd be back to Ethiopia in the very near future, so Birtukan asked their social worker for us what their biggest need was. And it was sheets and a blanket.

Here in the United States we have “Toys for Tots” and we provide school bags to children, etc. etc. And those things are wonderful! But in Ethiopia a sheet and blanket make a little girl say “This is the happiest day of my life.” For real, people. For real. For these children and their extended family, knowing that they will be financially provided for each month changes their lives entirely. Knowing that there will be food, clothing and school supplies gives them a chance at life.

Our little boy says that he wants to be a doctor someday. May the Lord allow his dream to come true!

I do not post about our sponsoring these kids in order to pat myself on the back or make myself look good. In reality, I so very much struggle with having so many luxuries in life... and not wanting to give them up. But when I meet these children who became so excited to have a warm blanket, my heart aches and I want to do more and more to help other children like them.

As S put it when the social worker was expressing his thanks, “You guys are being the hands and feet of Jesus. We're, like, the stomach.”

They were thanking us over and over for sponsoring these kids ($30 a month/child), and for giving them a blanket.

Can you spare $30 a month, or even $30 as a one-time donation? You can donate http://www.causes.com/causes/502045?m=71bb3202&recruiter_id=36255408

or

http://www.firstgiving.com/karasheartfororphansinethiopia

You can also read more about the ministry at this blog: http://journeytonumberthree.blogspot.com/

Yezelalem Minch currently has 680 children waiting for sponsors. Waiting for someone who can spare $30 a month to give them hope for a future. That's it—your $30 a month could literally save the life of a child.

I know that some think I should stop going on and on about “those African orphans” or wonder why I'm so passionate about them. God has truly given me a love for these children and a desire to serve them and help them to know Christ's love. You may not be in any financial place to sponsor a child right now, or maybe you already sponsor a child through another organization. But can you spare $30 a month? If so, you will not regret it—and neither will your sponsored child.

It was so emotional meeting with these kids. We hugged each other, and tried to talk to each other (difficult since we spoke different languages!), kissed each other, and eventually said good-bye. We knew we had to leave, but a part of our hearts stayed.

Afterwards we asked ourselves, “What if God called us to move to Ethiopia (or any other African country) to work with orphans? Could we handle it? Could we live without clean running water, without many of the conveniences we have now? Could we?”

Could you? If God said “Go”, would you? It's a difficult thing to ponder, isn't it? It's easy to say yes, but another to say yes and actually mean it! I don't know what exactly God has for our future, but I know it involves these children in Ethiopia and throughout Africa, who mean so much to him, but are forgotten by so many who have the means to help them.


When we arrived back at the guest house, we relaxed for a while and finished up our last-minute preparations to go. After an early dinner, it was time to load up into the van and head to the airport!

I will write about our trip home and homecoming in the next post!



N's first bath with us: he loved it!








An indoor coffee ceremony





Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ethiopia Journal, Day 8


Ethiopia, Day 8

It's almost time to go home—we leave tomorrow night! It has been so wonderful to be here, but we are ready to get home, try to get into a routine, and most of all see our boys!!

This morning we all piled into the van to head to the agency's office to pick up our visa information. While we were on the way there, we found out that the director was held up at the embassy, so Abel decided to take us to a small park/playground to pass the time while we waited.

The older kids ran around and played while those of us with babies walked around enjoying the sights and taking pictures.

We finally headed to the office where we received our visa packets. We were NOT ALLOWED TO OPEN THEM! I don't know what would happen if we opened them, but we don't want to find out! We are to bring them to the U.S. Immigration once we arrive in the U.S.

We then went out for a nice lunch. It was once again difficult to keep N happy during lunch; it's his fussy time where he really needs a nap, but is not very willing to go to sleep. But after lunch we got to deliver the boxes of formula and diapers to the orphanage that our church donated money for before we left. The workers there were so happy to receive the donations, they said they had almost been out of formula.

Since N was asleep in my carrier, I hopped out of the van with him to take some pictures. Several nannies came up to us asking if it was him, and they kissed him and prayed over him. It was so sweet, and thankfully he slept through the whole thing. I don't know how he would have reacted if he woke up.

Back at the guest house the families who were leaving that night got ready to leave. We got a bit of rest and then enjoyed an early pizza dinner before everyone left. After saying good-bye it seemed really quiet, but we headed to bed early so we could pack up in the morning—our plane leaves tomorrow night!



At the Park



The View






The Donations--this was bought with money donated from our church






Back at the guest house--this kid is seriously cute!



N is officially done being happy!


Well, that was fast




Ethiopia Journal, Day 7

Ethiopia, Day 7

Today nothing was scheduled with our agency except dinner, so we spent some time relaxing at the guest house in the morning. We had traditional Ethiopian food for lunch (Yum!) and a coffee ceremony afterwards.

Once the coffee ceremony was done, we went to visit Yezelalem Minch. Yezelalem Minch is a wonderful ministry that our guest house host, Birtukan, started. They work very hard to care for the orphans in their community, as well as their caregivers. There are so many, many orphans in Ethiopia. Many of them have nowhere to go. Others have extended family or friends who would take them, but can't afford another mouth to feed.

That's where Yezelalem Minch comes in. They have a sponsorship program for these children so that their basic needs (food, clothing, education, medical care, etc) can be taken care of and they can stay with their family members. They also have a boys' home and a girls' home to care for children who have nowhere else to go.

Each Saturday they run a feeding program and feed over 200 children; they also have Bible classes and games for them.

S and I decided to sponsor two children through Yezelalem Minch. It is $30 a month, but provides so much for these children. After seeing poverty up close and personally, it is hard to justify having all the stuff we have. It's hard to justify going on expensive vacations, buying video games, eating 3 meals a day plus snacks.

When we mentioned to Birtukan that we wanted to sponsor two children, she was so excited! She hugged me and thanked me over and over again. But (and I'm trying to just be honest here) I didn't like it. It's such a very small thing that we can do. $60 a month? Not really that big of a deal. We wish we could do so very much more, and are working to be in a financial place where we can.

I think we're supposed to struggle with this. I don't think we're supposed to ever be satisfied with the fact that we have so much more than so many others in the world. When faced with children who live in abject poverty, who've lost their parents, who don't know if they're going to eat the next day, how can we not take action? How can we not struggle with this knowledge?

Anyway, back to this post instead of my sermon...

We went to Yezelalem Minch, which is quite close to the guest house. They told us about the ministry and what they are doing in the community, and then we met our sponsor children. A little girl who is 8 years old, and a boy who is 7. (For privacy reasons we won't be posting their pictures on the blog.) The little girl is living with a relative; her father has passed away and her mother is very ill. She had a very sad expression on her face the whole time we were there.

The little boy lost both parents and is also living with a relative. He is HIV positive, can't hear out of one ear, and one of his eyes doesn't work properly.

They were both so sweet, though it was difficult to really say what was on our hearts, since we couldn't speak their language. We met their caregivers, who were so happy to know that their children would be provided for each month. We were able to spend a bit of time with them, but then it was time to say good-bye.

Back at the guest house, we got ready to go out to a traditional cultural dinner at a restaurant. We weren't supposed to take the babies with us, and the guest house staff was planning to watch them. It was quite nerve-wracking for me to leave Nathan! I knew he'd be fine, and it would be good for him to see that we left, but we came back. But I still was uncomfortable with it.

But I got all of his things ready, fed him and put him in PJ's. All the staff would need to do was give him a bottle and put him to bed about an hour after we left. No biggie, right? That's what I kept telling myself, anyway!

I brought Nathan down in his pajamas; a short-sleeve shirt, pants, and socks. Very cute. But apparently not warm enough! In Ethiopian culture, it is very common to bundle up the babies very warmly. So Birtukan insisted that I bring a sweatshirt down for him! (I was wearing a cotton skirt, sandals, and a short sleeve shirt and was very comfortable, but she thought it was quite cold!) Anyway, I brought the sweatshirt down for him, and we left.

The cultural dinner was nice, though some of the food was rather... interesting. Did you know you can make a “cheese” out of the center of the trunk from a banana tree? Yeah, I didn't know either. But apparently you can.

There was also traditional Ethiopian dancing and singing. It was a nice time, but we were ready to get back to the guest house and get to bed!







Playing in our room


Coffee Ceremony



Dinner at the restaurant


Dancing at the restaurant


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ethiopia Journal, Day 6





Ethiopia, Day 6

(The rest of the journal entries are coming soon... it's been quite the busy two weeks so far around here!)

Today was not overly interesting. We stopped at the market on our way to lunch at a restaurant. S bought a few things. We also were able to buy coffee, tea, and spices from people at the guest house this morning. Birtukan helps different groups in the community start a business and allows them to sell to guests at the guest house. It's a great way to get some souvenirs and also help people earn a living!

We had lunch at a nice restaurant before heading to the embassy. Cameras are not allowed at the embassy, so we don't have any pictures of this stop. But, we were granted a visa that allows N to enter the U.S.! Yay! That's the last “official” thing we need!

We went back to the guest house to relax, and spend the evening. It was a very nice day, but not very exciting to write about. We were able to get a few cute pics of N, though!



Trying to keep a whiny baby happy at the restaurant



Waiting in the back of the bus

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ethiopia Journal, Day 5

Ethiopia, Day 5


Today is the day we pick up N!

We first headed to the Bethany office to fill out our forms for the embassy date and meet with the social worker and nurse. On the way, Abel received a very shocking phone call. He came over to us and said,

“Well, I have a surprise. Your birthmom has been found and will be at the Bethany office today!”

We were shocked! We had hoped to travel to meet N's birth mom, but the social workers were unable to locate her, so we didn't go. We were very disappointed, but resigned to the fact that we would not meet her. And now we find out she's already in the city to meet us!

We were so nervous. What do you say to the woman who gave birth to your son? Who cared for him for several months? Who obviously loves him?

What words are there to say thank you, but we're so very sorry for the circumstances that forced you to relinquish him for adoption?

After filling out our forms and meeting with the social worker, it was time.

We were brought out to the lawn surrounded by flowers and sat on small stools.

And then she came. We stood and hugged her, and tried to convey how much we love N through that hug.

We all sat down and the social worker asked us what questions we had. And my mind went blank. We were not expecting to meet her that day, and we found we didn't know what to say!

She asked about us and our family, and she told us her hopes and dreams for N, which include him having lots of toys and learning to play soccer. She said that when he grows up she hopes he will help other children like him.

We told her how much we already love him, and she also reaffirmed how much she loves him. (This boy is very loved!) She wants him to know of her love and that she just isn't able to care for him. (For privacy reasons, we won't go into the reasons she is unable to care for him, but suffice it to say it's poverty beyond what we can imagine, along with several other factors.)

It was such an emotional meeting, and yet none of us cried. (That came later for me... and then the tears wouldn't stop.) We promised to send pictures to her as soon as we are able, and we said goodbye.

I don't know if we will ever meet again, but our hearts are connected forever.

After that very emotional meeting, we went out to lunch. Thankfully my stomach was feeling much better, so I was able to eat a bit.

We then went to pick up our children!

We crammed ourselves into a room where there were some chairs set up. One of the workers brought in some more chairs, then a table, cake and a large knife.

The children from the orphanage filed in. Each child being adopted that day was brought in one at a time while the other children clapped in rhythm. Once the child was placed in his parent's arms, applause broke out! After the kids were all with their parents, the other children from the orphanage sang songs for us.

It was then time to cut the enormous cake! Each child had a turn to cut (with parent's help!). Everyone then enjoyed their cake and soda.

I gave N a few tiny bites and he wasn't too sure he liked it. He did really want my Coke, though! That of course did not happen—haha!

We all piled back into the van (it was much more full this time!) and drove to the guest house. N watched everything out his window. He didn't want to miss out on anything! I could tell he was getting tired, but hoped he would wait to fall asleep until we got there. He did.

Once we arrived we made a bottle for him. To our surprise, he seemed to know exactly what to do with it! (At his orphanage babies are fed with small cups rather than bottles.) He only drank about an ounce before he was asleep.

Is there anything better than holding a sleeping baby?!

After his nap we went down for dinner. We fed him another bottle, and this time he drank the entire thing! He then proceeded to spit up the entire thing—all over me, the chair, and the floor. He only got a little bit on himself, of course. (I think this officially makes me his mom?)

But after that he was such a happy guy! He played and laughed and we had so much fun. When he started to get cranky, we headed upstairs and Steve rocked him to sleep. He's now just as cute as a button fast asleep in his crib. I'd better get some sleep, too!


Daddy's Note:

We met your birth mother today. How shall I describe her? Very quiet, soft-spoken. (To us, at least.) She is short, a little shorter than your mom, with long hair wrapped into a bun.

We didn't know what to say to her, what to tell her, what to ask her. We were so nervous!

I think you weren't so sure of Mom and I when we first got you. You preferred to look around at whoever was loudest or moving the most. After your first nap was another story entirely! You were laughing with us, playing with us, and we finally heard you get loud! Dadadada!

After playing for a while, it was time for supper. Mom fed you first, then I got to. For some odd reason, Mom thought I might want to give you to her after she finished eating. Ha! As if I would want my turn holding you to be shortened, silly.

Some of the other parents thought it was only because we had just gotten you today. Ha! Just ask Mom, I like holding my boys. If 7 isn't too old for snuggling, then 8 months is certainly fair game! (By the way, A is 7 now, and I still don't ever really want to let go, though I am occasionally willing.)

I got to rock you to sleep tonight. It was marvelous!

Oh my son, you are so cute and I love you. So you know: Mom will say that you snore.

~Daddy



Waiting for the ceremony to begin...




The cake!




I think I remember this guy...






Hi, Mama!




I'll take some Coke, please.



Back to the guest house for my first bottle and a nap!



And now, bed.



Ethiopia Journal, Day 4

Ethiopia, Day 4


This morning we went to an international evangelical church. The service was all in English, and very much like any American evangelical service. It was nice, but unfortunately one member of our group had her camera bag stolen during the service. We weren't able to find it, which was so upsetting for them as it had the pictures of their first meeting with their son on it.

After lunch we went to a golf club restaurant for lunch. Apparently it has the only golf course in Addis.

We came back to the guest house and there was a coffee ceremony happening for Birtukan and Nesibu. It was their 14th anniversary!

Ethiopian coffee ceremonies are all about spending time together with your friends and family. The coffee beans are roasted over a small fire while incense is burned. The coffee beans are ground and made into coffee. The first pot is very strong, the second less, and the third very mild. Served along with the coffee is lightly sweetened popcorn. While all of this is happening, everyone is visiting and enjoying being together. Even though I don't care for coffee, I enjoyed the coffee ceremonies!

While at the coffee ceremonies, we met Birtukan and Nesibu's four children who sang songs for us. It was adorable!

Afterwards I took a nap and then ended up sick to my stomach, so I stayed in bed for the rest of the evening.




Here's a picture of the ceremony set-up. You can see the coffee beans roasting, the incense burning, and the popcorn ready to be passed around.



This is Nesibu and Birtukan--two very hard workers who love the Lord and have a passion for caring for orphans.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ethiopia Journal, Day 3

Ethiopia, Day 3


I had a difficult time sleeping last night, which was very frustrating since I was quite tired. Over breakfast, Abel called and said we had left our camera in the van the night before. Oh my! I was so thankful we were able to get it back.

Breakfast was... interesting. It was tuna fish mixed with some sort of reddish sauce and some vegetables, and very spicy. I tried very hard to eat it—really, I did. But I only took a nibble and then ate a granola bar in my room later. I just couldn't do it.

We then went to Entoto, which is a mountain from which you can see much of the city. There were many donkeys running down the mountain with wood strapped to their back. We also saw several women carrying as much as the donkeys were.

When we stopped to get out, a little boy (maybe 9?) came right up to us and kept a very close eye on one lady who was getting a camera out of her purse. He was certainly hoping for some money! He followed us for a while...

We walked around a bit to see the beautiful mountain, then drove o the old palace and museum.

It cost 30 Birr for foreigners to enter (one USD = about 13 Birr). A guide took us around and explained all of the different items to us. It was very interesting, but because I was so tired, it was difficult to concentrate.

We then walked through the palace. It was very old and it was neat to see and learn more about Ethiopia's history.

We went to a restaurant for lunch that served a variety of things. The waitress recommended the pizza, so we all decided to try that. It was pretty good!

The afternoon was just for relaxing. I took a much-needed nap, and Steve and some others played cards.

Dinner was traditional Ethiopian food at the guest house—yum!

Bitrtukan told us more about the ministry Yezelalam Minch that she works with. I will write more on that later. Birtukan has amazing faith and it is so neat to hear about the work she and others are doing here. The church is quite involved in helping the poor and orphaned, which is also awesome to hear about.

The poverty here is absolutely devastating. Just everywhere, and it affects so many. Being here makes you want to do so much more than what you are already doing.





A common sight while driving around Addis: women roasting corn on the sidewalk and trying to make a living.



Views from the guest house:


The outside of the guest house:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ethiopia Journal, Day 2

Ethiopia, Day 2


We had breakfast at the guest house this morning—french toast, bananas, juice and coffee/tea. I don't usually like tea, but this was delicious! I must buy some to take home with us!

At 9:30 Abel (our guide) came to pick us up to go visit the orphanages. We went to N's first. We had to wait a little while so that the camera crew that does the lifebooks could get there. They wanted to film our first meeting with N!

It was almost like a dream. We had to take off our shoes, then climb the stairs to the baby room—the camera man filming us the whole time. We looked into the doorway and could see N on his hands and knees on a blanket on the floor, holding a toy.

We walked over to him and sat down next to him. I rubbed his back a little and then slowly picked him up. He didn't seem to be too scared or sad, but he was curious!

He like Steve's beard and my necklace. We just talked to him and played with him for quite some time. It was wonderful to be able to kiss his cheeks and run our hands through his beautiful curly hair!

There were 8 other babies in his room, all about the same age. The very young infants were in the room next door. N was definitely the most active of them all!

N did not want to let go of a toy once he had it—he has a very tight grip! He loved playing on the floor with toys and crawling around. He even crawled on the other babies! (None of them appreciated this!)

All the babies started to get just a bit fussy, and about 10 minutes later a big bowl of some sort of cereal was brought in. I held N on my lap and fed him. Part way through he became quite fussy, and then just fell asleep. They seem to have the babies on a pretty tight schedule! All of the others began to fall asleep one by one.

Holding my precious sleeping baby was amazing. So very sweet! After a while I passed him on to Steve, and then later he woke up pretty cranky. We're pretty sure he normally would have slept longer, but I guess we'll find out in a few days how long he usually sleeps...

It was difficult trying to care for N with the nannies watching. Due to the language barrier, we couldn't ask questions, and they couldn't give explanations. I kept questioning whether or not I was doing the right thing in the right way, but everyone seemed reasonable happy so we went with it.

Finally, it was time to leave. It was very difficult to go, but knowing we would come to get him on Monday made it much easier.

We went to lunch at a restaurant that served mostly Mexican food, and we met two more families who had just arrived that morning.

After lunch we went to the market. We were able to buy some things, including shirts for the boys and a pretty table cloth for our dining room.

Several boys followed us very closely the whole time, in the hopes that we would offer them something. After we got back in the van and were driving, more people came up to the van asking for hand-outs. We were wishing we could give them something, but also didn't want to have tons of people coming to the van—very, very difficult. (It's also illegal to give to beggars from vehicles in Addis.)

Back at the guest house we had fried chicken, vegetables, and rice for dinner. It was very good! I especially liked the rice. After dinner we were able to send an email to our family, which was so nice.

We all headed to bed quite early after a tiring day.


Daddy's Note:

We got to meet you and hold you today! Oh my, but you are an active boy! You wanted to stand, crawl, grab toys and see the rain.

Mom fed you, then she held you while I got to feed you. (rice cereal of some sort.) Then you fell asleep in Mom's arms. Ah, so cute! I got to hold you too, then a bad dream woke you.

But, that did give us a chance to hold and play with you more before we had to go. I so loved holding you watching the rain together. We'll have to do that on the porch at home.



Our first meeting:








The Orphanage (check out all the laundry--that's washed by hand!)