Friday, July 29, 2011

Wednesday in Addis - 2nd visit and Entoto Mountain

Our second visit was our surprise visit -the one we didn't know we'd be able to have.  It seemed much more calm, less frantic. Or maybe I just felt more calm and less frantic.  I think at the first visit I was always very aware that we only had one more chance with him after that.  Our second visit seemed smoother. We walked right in, took off our shoes (ha ha - I wonder if they'll always remember me as the mom who brought in all the mud) and just spent the hour getting to know our boy and the other kiddos in his room.  I felt like after that visit I really had a feel for the personalities of all the kids in there. I'm hoping to be able to find the families who belong to those kids and give them a little update.  Oh some of those kiddos are so funny, some are so sweet, others very quietly inquisitive. I love seeing little personalities shine through!

That hour was just pure bliss... playing with A, playing with his friends in his room, getting to know the caregivers a little bit. They don't speak English but you'd be surprised how creative you get when you're trying to communicate over a language barrier. We showed them pictures of our family and they commented (well, pantomimed) that Allyn is "sturdy" like A is.  During this visit, I was able to sit back a bit and watch. You can see that our boy has a healthy attachment to his caregivers.  

That's a really good thing.  But it makes me cry. I love this child, I hate for the hurt that he's going to go through when he comes home to our family.  Adoption is a wonderful thing, but it's more of a "joy through the pain" kind of experience.  But for A, the pain comes at a time when he's too little to understand the joy that will come later.  All he'll understand is that his little world, that bright, cheery, safe room with the women who have cared for him for the vast majority of his life, will suddenly be gone.  And he'll be with strangers. People who don't even speak his language.  And then we'll fly him halfway across the world to a land where everything is different. Different sights, different sounds, different smells. How scary for a child.

Trust me, I am acutely aware of the pain of adoption for our little ones. Of course I don't want A to grow up in an orphanage and of course we are going to do our absolute best to be the best parents we can be for him. I just wish there was a way to do it without that pain.  I'd take the pain for him if I could.

When our visit was over, we went to Top View Restaurant - it's a restaurant near Entoto Mountain that has a great view of the city. We've heard it's better to go at sunset but it was so rainy we didn't think we'd get much of a sunset.  We took some good pictures & video from up there of all the city. I'm glad I'll have that to show A.
View of Addis from Top View Restaurant - see all that rain???

Then we headed up Entoto Mountain.  I almost might need to make this a completely new post!  If you're still reading, PLEASE keep reading. This is good stuff.  Important stuff. I promise.

Entoto Mountain is crazy. At the bottom, there are TONS of stalls with people selling everything from dresses (I saw one I was very tempted to stop the car & buy for myself!) to tomatoes.  And people walking all in the street. Donkeys everywhere.  I've never seen anything quite like it. We've been to Swaziland so coming to an African country wasn't quite as shocking to my eyes as maybe it could have been, but there are some distinct differences between Ethiopia and Swaziland (of course - since they're completely different countries!).

As we drove up Entoto Mountain, you'd see families walking back up after having come down to go to the market. Some carried their bundles, others had donkeys.  But what we saw most consistently were the women carrying firewood.

Do you see those two women? Yes, women. Be prepared to have your heart break.  They carry those GIANT bundles down the mountain EVERY DAY.  It takes 6 hours for them to walk down with those backbreaking bundles.  We spoke with someone who told us they stopped and offered to give one woman a ride and it took THREE men in their group to lift her bundle onto their truck.  THREE.  These women are not educated. Many do not have any other skills so carrying firewood down off the mountain is their only option for feeding their families. Yet this isn't really considered an actual job. Police harass them; I watched them being largely ignored by others either coming down or going up the mountain along with them.  It is incredible to me that after watching donkeys being used all over the city, that women would be carrying these giant loads down the mountain.  I don't understand it.

But why would I be surprised to find God is already doing something about it? Of course I'm not surprised.  God laid it on the heart of a woman whose grandchild is adopted from Ethiopia (from the same area & orphanage as our boy) to work with these women. Her name is Pam and her agency is called Connected in Hope. Please go check out the website.  They connected with the Former Women Fuel Carriers Association.  Women who used to carry firewood now come together and weave beautiful scarves and baskets.  Connected in Hope makes sure they have access to the raw materials they need in order to continue their work.  They are organizing and empowering these women to make changes in their lives.  They have hopes to continue this project and expand it.  We were blessed to meet with Hirut, the young woman who works with them a few days a week. And she told us the stories of the women. We met the women and got to have a coffee ceremony with them. They are incredible.  And you know what they thank God the most for? That someone respected them. That someone noticed them.  I can't tell you how highly they think of Pam and not because of anything monetary that she's doing for them (although there's a lot of that going on).  

If you've read this blog before, you've heard me say that poverty isn't a money problem, it's a relational problem. This is exactly that!  These women are being lifted from poverty NOT because someone is giving money to them.  It's because they're being respected and taught and given the power to change the course of their lives. Pam cared enough to get to know these women; to talk to them, to find out what they needed.  Hirut respects them, listens to them, advocates for them.  Amazing. THAT is how you fight poverty.

So... now that you know about the amazing women who used to carry firewood, you're just itching to know how you can get your hands on one of their beautiful scarves, right?  Oh good. Here you go: .  I bought several scarves while I was there.  They are BEAUTIFUL!  And knowing the hands who made them and what they've been through. And what each purchase means. It doesn't get any better than that.  Check out their website -the money from your purchase goes back to the women at Entoto Mountain AND does some other amazing things too!

And I happen to know they have LOTS of scarves and baskets already in the US. How do I know? We were blessed with the opportunity to bring them back!!! Remember all those humanitarian aide donations we brought over? God knew we'd have a whole bunch of empty suitcases to bring back to the US so He just decided he'd fill 'em up! :) They're already with Pam so I'm sure she's getting ready to get them up on the website.

Remember how I said I'd been up all night after the coffee ceremony? Oh yeah, it started to hit me as we headed to dinner. We ate at Sishu, this cool restaurant with a play area on the bottom level. It was probably the nicest, cleanest restaurant we went to and we had burgers & fries (the fries were REALLY good).  And Riley LOVED playing in the play area downstairs.  Me? I had trouble staying awake. I didn't even know Rob took this picture:

I honestly was falling asleep sitting right there!

Riley, however, was much more alert - check out our "knight in shining armor":
This place was so cool - everything was made from cardboard covered in plaster.
Went to bed the minute we got home that night since we had to be up early for court (or so we thought). There's your cliffhanger for the next blog post...  :)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tuesday in Addis - Meeting Our Boy

On Tuesday, July 19th, our driver, Abey, picked us up at 9 to take us to meet our little one at 10.  We were up, dressed, and ready when he came!  When Riley woke up, I asked if he knew what today was. He answered, grinning, "Today we get to meet A___!"  He was so excited!  I was too.  Honestly, I didn't know exactly how to feel!  Excited isn't quite the right word, but it was a good feeling! It felt a little surreal that after 19 months of being in the adoption process, we were actually going to meet him.

Our guest house is a ways away from the orphanages, so we had about a forty minute drive. But it was nice to watch Addis out the window. I got to know the route pretty well - we'd pass the brewery, two sheep/goat markets (one little one, then a bigger one), then the airport, then it would start to look less city-ish and we'd see the little taxis that are just converted motorcycles that they only use outside the city.  And then we'd be there.

We stopped in front of the orphanage and Anbes, one of the in-country staff, led us up to his room.  This was not a bonding trip.  We didn't meet with our boy alone - we just went into his room and played with all the kids.  I will never forget the moment they opened the door. I scanned all the kids' faces and saw his right away. He was crawling and looked up as we walked in.  I knew that face immediately but was struck by how much bigger he is now than in the pictures we have.

Here's the funny part. I thought I had done so well by not running in and scooping him up right away.  I sat down near him and kind of played with him and the other kids for a long time before I just couldn't stand it anymore and I picked him up.  At least I thought it was a long time.  Anbes videotaped our first meeting for us.  When we watched it that night, I watched the time counter at the bottom of the video... it was only a minute and thirty-four seconds before I picked him up!  Ha ha!  Longest minute & a half of my life!

Let me tell y'all... he is SWEET! He's really a happy baby. We saw him grin and giggle and it doesn't take much to get him to smile.  And he LOVED Riley. He didn't take his eyes off of him the entire visit.  We had given Riley the job of blowing bubbles for the kids and he was diligent about his job! :)   Our boy is crawling really well, can pull himself up and even takes about a half step by himself before falling over.  He's cutting teeth (he has 5 already) and was in serious drool-mode.  Sometimes Riley would take his hands and then say, "Ugh! He's all wet!"  We'd just laugh and tell him babies are like that. Riley didn't let it phase him.

I wish I could describe for y'all what it feels like to meet a child that you have loved from afar.  I have loved this sweet boy from the moment I laid eyes on those referral pictures. I studied those precious 6 pictures I had until I had memorized every inch of his little face.  And seeing him in person was just amazing.  Those same eyes, his smooth eyebrows and his ears - all the features I'd been looking at in pictures were finally right there in front of me... but this time I could see the person behind the eyes, we could get to know his personality, learn what makes him laugh.  He has a funny little habit of clasping his hands together in front of him, like a little old man.  Meeting him was one of the most wonderful moments of my life.  It was cool to meet a child when you're not exhausted from labor. I was much more focused! ha ha :)
oh those little hands!
The other thing I did in my crazy, I'm-about-to-meet-my-child stupor was completely forget that I had shoes on and that they were MUDDY!  The streets aren't paved at the orphanage so of course we all stepped in big mud puddles when we got there.  I scraped off my shoes the best I could and then immediately forgot about the mud the minute I saw A's face.  I sat cross-legged on the mat in front of him and then when I went to move a few minutes later, there was a GIANT mud splotch! Oops!  At that point, I realized that of course you don't wear shoes in there.  I just was so overwhelmed with meeting him!  So we took off our shoes, and I flipped the mat over as quickly as I could! :)  We remembered to take off shoes after that! ha ha.

Our visit was an hour. It was the shortest hour ever.  And I'm not sure if we did a great job of acting as if we were there to visit all the kids.  A tried to crawl out of the room after us as we left.  It struck me at that moment that we probably had just given him the most individual attention he's ever had in his life.  Don't get me wrong, the caregivers in his room are amazing. They are wonderful and it is obvious that they love the kids very much.  But they have 6 kids in there and they do a great job of spreading the love around evenly.  I watched the caregivers pick up one and love on her and then after a minute put her back down and pick the next one up.  Sort of like a neverending rotation.  But it really was obvious that they love the kids.  My first choice would be for A to be home with us, but I'd pick these women to care for him in my absence if the choice was mine.

This is his room - those are the cribs for each of the six kiddos in there
After we left, we got the best present ever. Anbes told us that we'd have two more visits!!! We had thought we'd only have two visits total, so finding out about a third visit was probably the best news I'd heard in a long time!  So we immediately made plans to visit the following morning.

After our visit, we had some incredibly good Ethiopian food at Kategna for lunch. Abey, our driver, ate with us and explained what everything was. My new favorite is Chickena Tibs (which is like bits of meat with green peppers) with mit mita powder (a really spicy orange powder you dip the meat in).  Riley loves Ethiopian food so he went crazy at lunch.  His favorite is Shiro - I like that a lot too.  Oh how we love Ethiopian food!

From lunch, we went to Sabahar, a silk factory.  They have silkworms there you can touch and you can see each stage of their life cycle, including the silk they produce.  Women then comb the silk and spin it into thread and you can watch them. We also saw some men dying the silk thread and thread drying outside. They don't let you in where they're weaving, but the door was open so could you kind of peek in as you walked by. It was a really neat place.  Riley LOVED seeing the silkworms.  And the entire place is an empowerment initiative for women, so we were happy to make a purchase in the store - it's all fair trade.
Real Silkworms!
It had been a big day, and as we were driving around we'd noticed a playground in a park. We asked our driver about it and he took us there. Apparently it's owned by the Hilton and you have to pay to enter, but for the three of us to go in, it was just under $4. Definitley worth it. We hung out there for 2 hours, just letting Riley play.  This was like a playground on steroids - tons of climbing structures and some swings and lots of space to run.  The best part was that they had those big plastic frogs that we have at the Natural Science Center - the same ones! It made me laugh.  They also had some of the same dinosaurs that they have at Bur Mill park here.  It was great to let Riley run around and just be a kid after all our traveling. We made a mental note to return later in the week (unfortunately, we didn't make it - but I'll write about that later).  I have no pictures from our time there because they don't let you bring a camera in!  The playground is right across the street from the Prime Minister's House so they have guards all over the place and they check your bags as you come in! I understand why, but it's too bad 'cause Riley had a blast and I would have had some cool pictures. You'll just have to imagine Riley climbing up this big dragon and jumping off. Over and over again.

We came back to Oziopia to eat dinner with the family. Yummy Ethiopian food again!  And after dinner - a coffee ceremony!  The coffee ceremony is a really important part of Ethiopian culture... but really it's just an excuse to sit with friends and talk.  We loved it and Ethiopian coffee is by far the best coffee I have ever had. The only downside was that after having 2 cups of REALLY strong coffee, I couldn't go to sleep at all that night! It was worth it though.

A coffee ceremony has several components.  First they take raw coffee beans (see them in the scoop at the bottom) and roast them in that scoop over the fire, stirring them as they go.  Then they pass it around so everyone can smell (it's heavenly).  Then they take a mortar & pestle and someone grinds the beans until they become a really fine powder (they don't use coffee filters so it has to dissolve in the water).  This takes awhile so everyone just talks & hangs out and eats popcorn while we wait.  Meanwhile, water is boiling in the coffee pot (it's on the left side of the picture).  When the coffee's ground, they put it directly in with the boiling water and put it back on the fire. When it boils over, it's done.  Then they take those little cups and pour everyone a cup. This is the strongest coffee you'll ever taste.  You add a big ol' scoop of sugar to it and it is amazing.  This is the first round.  Once you're done, you hand your cup back, it gets rinsed out and they serve a second round of coffee.   After everyone got their first cup, more water is added to the pot and it boils again.  The second round of coffee is slightly weaker (still stronger than ours though).  You do this for three rounds.  And the funny saying is that the guest who arrives late and gets there during the last round is unlucky, 'cause they get the weakest coffee.  So a typical coffee ceremony is three cups of coffee. I could only drink one and a half 'cause I was worried about being up all night. I was right. Though I should have gone ahead & enjoyed every cup since I wound up being up all night anyway!

Check out this video of Riley grinding the coffee beans:

During the ceremony, Abebe shared the story of his family. He has a drawing on one wall that depicts the family history and it's really cool.  Their family, in particular Ayalech (his mom) has been through a lot. We felt honored that he would share his family history with us.

I was so happy to go to bed that night knowing we'd see our boy again the next morning...

Days 1 & 2. Meet Oziopia and our driver, Abey!

So I still can't stay awake past 8:30... but I did get something written about the first days of our trip!!

We left for Addis early on Sunday morning, so Saturday night we needed to drop Allyn off at our friend's house, where she'd be staying for part of our trip.  And it just so happened that we had a get-together with our Ethiopia Adoption Group on Saturday night.  I can think of no better way to spend the evening before traveling for court than around a group of friends who know what you're going through. We had a great night and dropped Allyn off with no problems. She was so excited to be there she just said bye with a little wave and I had to ask for a hug & a kiss!

Our flights there were no problem (oh don't worry, we paid for that on the way home!). We didn't have much of a layover in Dulles, just a few hours, so we let Riley run around as much as possible.  The flight was only 12 hours since we had a direct flight and it wasn't so bad.  Riley didn't sleep quite as much as we had hoped but otherwise it was okay.  I noted in my journal to remember that Riley watched Ice Age 2 (he watched it twice, actually) and turned to me and said "It's too bad Allyn's not here because this movie is hilarious!"

He was also quite impressed with the socks and eye mask they give you on international flights:

When we got to Addis, Riley fell asleep in the car on the way to the guest house. And we couldn't wake him!! So we decided to let him sleep an hour or so. I fell asleep too. We finally got him awake enough to go for a little walk around the neighborhood with Ehete and Amelewerk, the two teenage daughters of Ayalech, who owns the guest home.

Oziopia - our guest house!

Guest houses aren't exactly what you think.  We don't really have anything like it here in the US.  You actually stay in a family's home with them.  In our guest home, the family slept in a different area of the house and we had a room upstairs with a bathroom, but once we came downstairs we were in their living room, and ate at their dining room table with them.  For us Americans, it sounds uncomfortable, but let me tell you, it's not at all!  The family that runs Oziopia consists of Ayalech, the mom, and then Abebe the oldest brother, who is 23 and just graduated from high school, then Ehete and Amelewerk his two younger sisters.  They are so sweet and so welcoming.  If you know Riley, you know he takes awhile to warm up to things. He's not often comfortable in new situations.  By the time we got back from our walk on the first day, Riley was playing on the floor with Amelewerk and every day after that he'd ask us as soon as he got up if he could go ahead and go downstairs so he could see everyone. We felt at home there and that really meant a lot.

Our Room

The view from our window - lots of construction in Addis Ababa!
We really loved staying there.  Ayalech's food is incredible. Seriously.  One day she made us spaghetti and it was honestly the best spaghetti I've ever had in my life. And Abebe was wonderful about explaining Ethiopian culture and told us some of the most important things we should teach to our youngest about his heritage.  I cried when we left!
excuse the bad picture... but be sure to ask me about it 'cause it's a pretty funny story!

And meet Abey, our awesome driver!

Abey is 27 and used to work driving taxis. He's been a driver with Gladney for about 2 years, I think.  And he says he likes that job much better.  We loved him. He was unbelievably helpful.  We had a few miscommunications because of language issues but overall he was just wonderful!  We pretty much just told him every day the places we wanted to go and he'd take us and help us with anything we needed while we were there.  I told him I wanted a regular injera plate, not a tourist one, so that I could use it to actually serve injera on and he showed up with it wrapped in wrapping paper and gave it to me as a present!  He also brought Riley a t-shirt, also all wrapped up when he picked us up from Gondar.  And he was Riley's best friend while we were there, aside from Amelewerk.  The picture above is from a time when Riley was grouchy, tired and kind of done with the day.  He spent 2 minutes with Abey and check out that smile! I miss Abey already.

That night we ate dinner with the family (yummy Ethiopian food) and all headed straight for bed immediately after. We were exhausted from traveling.

But before my head hit the pillow, I had one final thought: TOMORROW we'd go meet our sweet little one....

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Our trip - the quick version

We still can't post pictures because we haven't passed court yet... but here are some cute brotherly hands :)
I'm hoping to write more about each day of our trip over the next week or two but for now, here's the Cliff Notes version.

We went to Addis and met our boy. He's wonderful. I cannot describe the feeling of meeting a child you have loved and prayed for for so long.  I can still feel how it feels to hold him in my arms.  We got to visit with him three times and we went to court. We didn't pass court since we don't have our MOWA letter - there was no surprise there.   But we are praying SO HARD that we'll pass before court closes the first week of August.

We really enjoyed Addis Ababa, we LOVED the food (Riley LOVES Ethiopian food), and loved getting to know the people.  We stayed at Oziopia, a guest house.  The family that runs it is amazing. We LOVED getting to know them, their sweet dog Lezzie, and their kitties.  Riley really felt at home there.

Gondar was a tough trip.  The city itself is beautiful and we had some great experiences there.  Unfortunately, we got a little taken advantage of by the guy who was supposed to be our driver. And we both hate conflict, so it made for a tough weekend.  But we were only there for a day, so it wasn't so bad.

I promise to write more. Those of you who are friends with us on facebook know that our trip home was a little difficult... so we've only been home for about 30 hours so far! Less hours than it took for us to get home, actually! ugh. ha ha.  I'm still a little jet-lagged and have about 7 million pounds of laundry still to do!

Overall, I want to say THANK YOU to all of you who have supported us along this journey.  I know there are so many of you who are praying for us, who donated humanitarian aid, who donated to our Both Hands project, who kept Allyn or loved on Allyn at church while we were gone, my amazing friends who listen to me when I need to complain or cry or celebrate.  They say it takes a village to raise a child.  In our case, it's taking a village to bring a child home to a family.

Thank you for being part of our village. We love you!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

That heartbroken thing again...

I'm terrible with technology... but if I did this right, you'll be reading this the day we meet the child we so desperately want to adopt. I wrote this the night before we left:

I've written before about being heartbroken.

This is the week my heart will be broken in a way it hasn't before.  God has given me a heart for the downtrodden, the oppressed, the forgotten.  And it hurts me to see people hurting.  But this week it really hits home for me.

This week I meet a little boy who fits into those categories.  And I am working so hard to get him OUT of those categories. I'll meet him, hug him, kiss him, hold him, whisper to him that we love him.  And then I have to walk out of his life with no clue when I get to walk back in. I want to be his Mommy. And right now, I can't be.

It's sinking in that we're really going to meet him.  I cried twice today about leaving sweet Allyn behind.  And each time I cried over leaving her for 8 days, a shot went through my heart telling me "you'll be leaving him for so much longer."

This is the pain of adoption for me.  I can handle paperwork, I can handle waiting, I can handle few & far-between updates.  For me, going there, meeting him, and leaving without him is the heartbreak.  And in all honesty, it's not likely we'll pass court before the rainy season so that means we could easily not see him again for 5 or 6 months. Five or six months. Or longer.

We've been so crazy busy since we found out about our court date that I haven't had much time to slow down and think about it.  When I do slow down, the tears come.  I was sewing something for our little guy today and while I sewed, the tears came.  Sewing just might be my love language. I prayed for him and for our family with every stitch.

This hurts.  This is what heartbroken feels like.  I can praise God through the hurt but right now that doesn't take the hurt away.  This is tough.

God doesn't call us to an easy life.  If you say you love God, yet you're not hurting in some way, you just might need to have a long, hard talk with God about that.  I don't mean to say he wants us to be in pain.  But He loves this broken world, and if he give us His heart, we'll be hurting like he is.  Hurting in a way that makes us do something about it.

Even if doing something hurts too.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

And the winner is...

We're a cloth diaper family and I never imagined a big ol' stack of "sposies" would make me so happy! 
We've been collecting diapers, wipes, and hand sanitizer donations for the past two weeks and our MOUNTAIN of donations is truly amazing!  We set a goal of bringing 200 pounds of humanitarian aid (which is 4 suitcases) and not only will we be bringing 250 pounds (5 suitcases!)  BUT we have enough still here to be able to bring at least two more suitcases full on our next trip!  Y'all rock!  This is the entire stack - nothing is on a chair - it reached up to my shoulders!!!  Thank you so much!!!

And just to sweeten the deal a little bit, I did a little raffle for all donors to win a personalized key fob, like these:

Before I tell you who wins... I will be doing a fundraiser when we return from Ethiopia making these so don't you worry, you'll have a chance to have one no matter what! :)

And since we had SO many wonderful people participate, I decided to pick TWO winners. I'm in charge. I get to change the rules like that! heh.

So I know you're wondering.... who is the winner?  Well ...(drum roll please....)

The winners are...

SHARON B.  My co-worker at HPRHS!  She's not working today so I just left her a message on her voicemail at work!

AMY M. - My new pool friend who's little boy will be in Allyn's class this fall!!! Hooray!

I'll get in touch with y'all as soon as we're back to pick colors, decide on personalization, etc.

And I really need to do a special shout-out to the folks at Friendly Avenue Christian School. They incorporated this as part of their VBS and sent home a GIANT plastic storage container full of diapers & wipes.  What an awesome place for kids to learn!  Thank you!!!

If you're still reading... please pray for us this week! Pray for all of our hearts. Mine is scattered right now. I hate leaving my sweet Allyn behind. I've been trying to soak up every bit of her this past week, knowing I won't see her for 8 days.  And pray for Riley as he meets a new little brother that isn't coming home with us. Pray for understanding for him as he gets to know Ethiopia.  Please pray for Rob and for me, as we meet this child that we already love so much, not knowing when we will finally get to bring him home.  Pray for little "A"s heart, because his little world is about to be turned upside down as this adoption goes through.  And pray that we get a favorable opinion from MOWA before they close for the rainy season.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Adoption Math that I actually like...

I am not a math fan of any kind, but I think I may have mentioned how much I hate adoption math... the kind where I sit at my computer and read blogs/unofficial wait lists/yahoo groups and try to figure out the future... namely, WHEN this sweet child will finally be home.

But here's math I DO like...

FOUR days till we leave
SIX days till we meet him (!)
EIGHT days till we go to court and tell the judge just how badly we want him in our family
NINE days till we get to hang out with him for a second time
TEN days till we get to see the city where he was born

Someone asked me today, "how do you do it?" I think she meant, "how do you handle all this waiting, all the uncertainty, all the unknowns."  I don't really have an answer. You just do. You have no other choice.  Although I couldn't do it without God. I don't mean that in the "I'm a Christian so I better mention God" kind of way. I mean there is seriously no way I could handle the emotions that go along with this journey without the peace of Christ.

And I probably need a little dose of that peace... it's VBS week so I've been teaching three year olds all week, which means I haven't done anything I'm supposed to be doing.  I haven't packed a thing, haven't gotten our paperwork together, haven't gotten a notarized letter giving the folks keeping Allyn permission to do whatever they need while we're gone.  Nothin'. We do have a mountain of diapers, wipes, & hand sanitizer on the dining room table to pack - but I've done nothing with those, either! ;)

I will have it all done by 4 pm on Saturday.  All that plus I'm getting injera & cooking Aterkik Alitcha because at 4 we're getting together with the Ethiopian Adoption Group here in our area! The very first time we got together with them was the night before our homestudy!  Now we'll be hanging out with them the night before we leave for Ethiopia!

Deep breaths... and lots of coffee!!! :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

What we expected...

We did not get an opinion from MOWA last night. It is exactly what we expected but I can't help feeling sad about it.  My heart hurt as I read the words "the courts did not receive a MOWCYA opinion today regarding your adoption."

So... from here we just continue to pray. We still appear for court in Ethiopia on the 21st.  If MOWA issues a favorable opinion for us before we go to court, the judge can finalize our adoption that day (oh how I pray this is what happens).  If not, we pray that an opinion is issued before the court closes for the rainy season and that there's enough time for the judge to approve our adoption before they close.

If none of that happens, we continue to wait.  If we don't finalize our adoption in Ethiopia before they close court, we have to wait till October for the court to re-open. Then we wait in October to hear that our adoption's been finalized and THEN we can start the process to bring our little one home.

Thank you so much to all of you for your prayers last night. They were heard. We did not get an opinion today but we know MOWA is working hard to process all the adoption cases and we know our prayers are not in vain.

On a positive note: our local (and some not-so-local) friends are amazing! We've been collecting diapers, wipes, and hand sanitizer to bring with us to Ethiopia as humanitarian aid and the response has been incredible! I can't wait to post a picture of all the stuff! It's still coming in!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

MOWA Hearing Tonight!

Tonight while we sleep, the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA for short) is supposed to issue their opinion on our adoption to the federal court.  Our adoption cannot be finalized in Ethiopia without a favorable opinion from MOWA.

I didn't think I'd be nervous but I am.

I keep telling people that it hasn't really sunk in that we're really going to Ethiopia, that we're really going to meet our little guy, that we're really going to have our chance to tell a judge how much we want him to be a part of our family.

But knowing that this VERY important part of our adoption may happen tonight certainly feels very real.

We're praying against the odds tonight. MOWA has been backlogged with lots of cases and it is entirely likely that they haven't gotten to us yet and won't issue an opinion at all.  Or they could ask for more information/documentation and not issue a favorable opinion.

I'm not sure how much sleep I'll get tonight!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The best big brother...

I have been praying about Riley joining us on this trip to Ethiopia ever since I learned there would be 2 trips.  We had decided he'd be coming with us.  Then he got his 4 year-old shots. It was one of the worst moments of my life. It took me and two nurses to hold him down while he was screaming and writhing and yelling "MOMMY NO" (I even blogged about it here).  After that horrendous experience, I really wondered if bringing him with us was the right thing to do.

I've been praying ever since.

Today was vaccination day.  And I got a call yesterday that they are out of yellow fever so not only would we need to get some shots today but we have to go somewhere else on Friday to get the yellow fever shots.  Two separate shot-incident days for Riley for a total of 3 shots.  Needless to say, my anxiety level was up.

We've been talking about the shots with Riley.  We explained he needed to have them in order to go meet his little brother.  At first he said he'd just stay home.  Once we got our referral and had pictures he began to say he wanted to go meet him.  Last night he told me he was ready to get shots.

All day today he asked when we were going. He told me not only was he not scared but he was excited to get shots. He told me he wanted to go first.  This kid, who is usually my cautious sensitive one, was telling me how he didn't even need anything to be brave today.

And today he did just like he said. He hopped up in the chair to get his shots. I held him and he only whimpered a tiny bit as he got a shot in each leg.  He was awesome.  And when it was over he said, "I did that for A_____."

God is so good. I've been so worried over making Riley get "unnecessary" shots.  This is a major personality change from 7 months ago.  I mean, this kid will break out in full-out sobbing over a paper cut. I love him dearly, but he's not the toughest cookie.

And the funniest part? We go tomorrow for one more shot. It'll be in his arm.  He told me he wants TWO shots, one in each arm, and actually got a little upset when I told him he'd only be getting one!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


We got our first update on our little man today!  So far, we've only had the pictures that came with our referral... and those had been taken in April. I was beginning to be worried I wouldn't recognize him when we met him since it had been so long since we'd seen a picture (just kidding)!

I now have one more sweet picture to add to my collection :). The update had a couple sentences about him, but the best part of the email was this sentence:

"He took some toys from other kids and crawls really fast when the caregivers tried to get it from him."

Ha ha - looks like someone's ready to handle a big brother & sister!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Why we're NOT adopting...

I've been working on this blog post for awhile, trying to figure out how to say what I want to say.

So I decided to tell you some of the reasons why we're NOT adopting.

We are NOT adopting this child because he was born in Ethiopia.  That is not the problem. He's not being "saved" from growing up in Ethiopia.  In fact, that's part of the tragedy of his story - that he won't get to grow up in his beautiful homeland.

We are NOT adopting a child because America is the best place to raise a child. Choosing international adoption is NOT (for us) a statement about America.  Children all over the world are raised in loving families. Being on American soil does not make American parents any better. Moving a child to America does not automatically mean a better life.  We are NOT a superior culture adopting out of an inferior one. Not. at. all. That is ridiculous.

We are NOT adopting as a second choice.  Adoption isn't easier, faster, or less expensive than having a biological child (if you've ever read our blog you certainly already know this!).  We're not adopting after 2 bio kids because we've satisfied our desire to have biological children.  In fact, our original plan was to adopt our second child, then have a biological third (no secret here that Allyn was a bit of a surprise!)  And honestly, had we adopted our second child, I have a strong feeling we would have adopted our third as well.  Adoption is a wonderful first-choice for growing a family.

We are NOT adopting as a solution to poverty. We can't solve the poverty issue by assuming impoverished families should just give up their children. In fact, poverty is NOT the same as neglect.  Those are different issues.  International adoption is like a bandaid. There are children who need families now who have been relinquished due to factors related to poverty.  But the real answers to poverty lie in relational programs like microfinancing, education, and family preservation.

We are NOT adopting as some kind of mission project or as "charity work".  I've blogged about this before here.  Yes, God tells us to care for orphans but that does not make the orphan himself a "project."  Charity has an important place in our lives - it is NOT placed upon my third child.

Anyway... lots of people ask why we're adopting. Just thought I'd share all the reasons we're NOT.