Thursday, September 29, 2011

Some Semi-Coherent Thoughts

We have not gotten the coveted call this week letting us know our adoption was finalized by the Ethiopian courts and are still praying for good news really soon. We may or may not be pestering our poor caseworker to the point that she likely complains to her coworkers about us. Somehow even though we know she'll call as soon as she has news, we (and when I say we, really it's my husband, no really it is!) can't resist emailing her mid-afternoon asking if she has any news. Yep, we are now officially THOSE people.


There have been other calls this week, though. For instance in one half hour time period my mom (who suffers from Lewy Body Demetia) called me 12 times to ask what time I was coming to pick her up. I answered the phone about 4 times and patiently told her, "At 10AM, so that's in 50 minutes." "At 10AM, so that's in 48 minutes." "At 10AM, so that's in 45 minutes." "At 10AM, so that's in 44 minutes."

And then I just stopped answering the phone. Does that make me a bad person?

'Cause I was trying to get the house vacuumed and simultaneously console the dog who I'd just picked up from the vet for her spay surgery (Yep, we did it; who were we kidding, we're no dog breeders!) The good news is, Madeline is fine and all the drama around her being in heat is over forever. The bad news? The vet wants me to "keep her quiet and calm for about 7 days." Huh?? How do you recommend I do that?

But as I attempted to ignore the ringing, knowing it had to be my mom again but also wondering a tiny bit if maybe it could be our caseworker, I couldn't help telling God I didn't appreciate his sense of humor!


In a moment of weakness, or perhaps just complete denial of all the tasks already on my plate, I suggested that I could make my daughter's Halloween costume. She wants to be Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, mostly because when they have costume day at school she can take a basket with a stuffed dog (Toto) in it. I've yet to go buy some blue and white gingham material to make her apron dress, however I did score some red sparkly shoes at Target that are sure to leave a red glitter trail anywhere my little girl walks in them, but at $12 for ruby red slippers, who's complaining?

Another shoe highlight of the week: Today just before 2pm after a full morning and early afternoon being out and about various places, as I changed my 4 year old into his swim suit for swimming lessons, I reached to help him take off his shoes and just had to ask, "How long have your shoes been on the wrong feet?"

Seriously, how is it that as preschoolers my kids do not notice at all if they walk around with their shoes on the wrong feet, but let there be a slight wrinkle in their sock and they demand I take the shoe off, smooth the wrinkle, and put it back on before we can ever leave the house? I don't get it! But the whole-shoes-on-the-wrong-feet thing is a finer thing you miss when they grow out of that stage.


Happy Friday!

Mommy's Idea

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What we do . . .

Newly emblazoned on a wall in our home, complete with my horrible, downward sloping writing:

Maybe we don't really do penmanship so well in this home, but all those other things seem more important anyway.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Now I remember why we have a dog!

As much trouble as our puppy has been over the past 7 months since we got her, and believe me when I say the trouble was much more than I anticipated, I'd do it all over again!

I've often asked, "Remind me again why we have a dog?" But, then a few weeks ago I was vacuuming and came upon this scene of my daughter hugging the puppy (now nearly a dog), I snapped a picture, and when I looked at the picture after uploading it to the computer, I thought, "There it is! The answer. That is why we have a dog!"

Find more Wordful Wednesday here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Adventures in Tooth-Fairying

Dear Tooth Fairy,

I lost 2 teeth. 1 I don't know what happened to it and 1 my mom flushed down the toilet.

Thank you,
(signature of my 8 year old)

For the record, he should have said, "my mom accidentally flushed down the toilet." Long story.

But, it probably won't be the strangest experience of the tooth fairy's night, right?
I mean you talk about someone with some stories, if you could ever catch her I'm sure she could tell you some good ones!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pins and Needles

Our adoption journey has brought us here.

One phone call away.

One phone call will be the difference between us officially becoming a family of 6 or the agony of another setback, more delays, more unknown.

One phone call bearing news that we have officially passed court in Ethiopia will set us squarely on the path to having our little girl, who now lives in an orphanage in Africa, home with her family, our family, by Christmas (Thanksgiving, maybe even. Oh, we are daring to pray boldly)!

The only thing I can compare this to is waiting on medical test results – cancer or not? The experience that every time the phone rings your heart races and you feel simultaneous dread and excitement! Your legs cannot get you to that phone fast enough, but at the same time your hand does not want to pick it up.

But, aren’t we always just one phone call away? On any given day one phone call can come out of the blue and change the entire course of our earthly lives.

We cannot be tossed by the waves of this ever changing world – the economy is up and it’s down; you have a job, you lose a job; your kid is the teacher’s favorite, or the teacher wants to set up a conference to speak to you about your child’s behavior; he proposed or he left you; you’re going to live or you’re going to die.

The truth is that there is something bigger than all of it. Someone bigger.

For weeks in the preschool class I teach at church, our theme has been “God is BIG and He does BIG things!” As I say the word “Big” to their precious little faces I hold my arms as wide as they will stretch. Now some of the children imitate the gesture. All of the Bible stories revolve around that theme.

But, our stories, the stories of our earthly lives, shout the same message!

So, from our seat here atop the pins and needles we are choosing to trust The Author of all the stories from the beginning of time. And we are thankful that whether the phone rings or not in our ordinary home this coming week, whether it brings good news or bad when and if it rings, we already know the ending of the whole book.

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.” Job 19:25

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Random Life

My 6 year old daughter wants to be a teacher when she grows up. I caught this scene of her holding school for one of her dollies and her little brother!

Yes, that is long underwear she's wearing, it was a chilly 90 degrees here this week compared to our 104 degrees!


My 8 year old forgot to bring home his lunchbox one day recently. I didn't make a big deal about it, even though absent-mindedness is an issue we are constantly working on with him, I'm actually surprised this is the first time that's happened. I just told him to bring it home the next day and in the mean time we had an extra lunchbox I could use to pack his lunch. My husband, however, said, "If he left his lunchbox as school, then tomorrow he should just buy his lunch like a normal person."

My 8 year old's response cracked me up, "The normal people eat out of a lunchbox, the crazy people eat from the lunch line!"

The food really is disgusting that they serve! Nobody should have to eat that stuff!


A police officer came to visit my 4 year old's preschool today to talk with the kids. My little guy thought it was pretty cool and filled me in on every single detail of the visit. That boy can talk your ear off! Then he asks me, "Do you know what a girl police officer is called?" I'm thinking, "Uh, police officer?" but I say, "What?" And he says, "A police officeress, you know like a waitress is a girl waiter." I bust out laughing and say, "What? Did the police officer tell you that?" And he says, "No, I thought of it by myself."

The same kid today when his swim teacher asked him where his big brother and sister were replied, "Those people are at school." The kid is too much!


In case some of you are not regular readers and a bit skeptical about if it's really chaos around here, let me share the fact that a tooth has been sitting on top of a Kleenex on my kitchen counter for a good 3 days now.

Why is it there?

Because a certain 8 year old lost it and keeps forgetting to put it in his tooth fairy pillow and I keep forgetting to remind him.

He also owes the tooth fairy a note about the tooth he lost and swallowed a couple weeks ago during an unfortunate incident where my husband was helping him with his tooth brushing because we're convinced he doesn't brush well enough, and the 8 year old was complaining, "Dad, you're brushing too hard!", and sure enough when my husband finished brushing, my son was minus 1 tooth he'd had (although it was really loose) prior to the brushing! We couldn't find that tooth anywhere so I guess he swallowed it!

Mommy's Idea

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to Prepare for a Trip to Ethiopia

This post has been a long time in coming; the stories have been told about our trip, now it's time to get practical! Before we ever traveled, I learned so much reading blogs from others that traveled before us and appreciated how prepared we really were for our trip as a result, so I want to pass on the blessing.

For my first bit of advice, I wish we had begun getting ready for our trip sooner! Every step of this adoption journey we've been kind of reluctant to jump too far ahead in our planning because we didn't want to set ourselves up for too much disappointment if things happened slower than we expected. So, we figured we'd begin doing the practical things to prepare for our trip to Ethiopia when we got our court date, well we only got 2 weeks notice from the call with our court date until we needed to get on a plane to get there!

I realize many people can accomplish a lot in 2 weeks, no problem, but we already have 3 children and just to keep daily life going like wash, cleaning, childcare, meal prep. takes up a lot of time! Also, we were taking 2 of our children with us and arranging care for the child we were leaving behind, so the preparations were harder. But, we managed, I just wish we'd started sooner!

One thing I did start long ago that helped was that I kept a Word document saved on my computer and during our nearly 2 years of being in the process of adopting from Ethiopia any time I'd read or hear a suggestion from someone regarding Ethiopia travel I'd copy and paste into into my "Ethiopia Travel" document. This is key because I guarantee once you get the call with your court date, your mind will erase any suggestion you've ever heard before!

I'm not going to list obvious things like camera and underwear, but just hit the things are that are a bit different than regular vacation travel for you to think about as you plan for your trip to Ethiopia (I'm focusing on 1st trip where you do not take custody of your child here because that's all we've done so far).

So here's my list:
  • Gather the donations you plan to take over early (check with your caseworker about what items are most needed at the time -- I imagine diapers and wipes are always in demand)
  • Go ahead and figure out how to fit those donations in bags that weigh less than 50 lbs.
  • We got a few of these duffel bags: Outdoor Products Mountain Duffel in size large, from and loved them! They worked great for stuffing in a bunch of donation items (the Gladney care center returned our bags after the donations were unloaded and we used them for souvenirs on the trip home) as well as holding our own personal stuff. Also, we had a few rolling bags I found at TJ Maxx (see picture above)
  • Pack a lot of hand sanitizer. I was glad I'd taken a big pump dispenser of it, we just set it next to the sink in our guesthouse and told the kids to use it instead of washing their hands after going to the bathroom. Granted there were 4 of us using it, but we almost used the entire big bottle during our trip! I also had a small bottle I refilled and kept in our backpack to use when we were out places.
  • Pack tons of little packs of Kleenex because pretty much no public restrooms in Ethiopia have toilet paper!
  • Also, related to the unclean water situation, I was really glad to have some pre-moistened facial cleansing wipes that I used to wash my face, you just really don't want to be using that water on your face!
  • Good shoes - We traveled right before official rainy season and it was already pretty muddy, and rained nearly every day, so I was really glad to have some waterproof hiking shoes like these: Teva Women's Sky Lake Hiking Shoe only in color blue shadow.
  • Lightweight rain jackets - we wore every day but also took them off and stashed them in the backpack every day (the rain was very intermittent), so a jacket that folds up small is great!
  • Snacks - I like these protein bars: Clif Bar Energy Bar, Chocolate Chip, 2.4-Ounce Bars, 12 Count (Pack of 2) and we ate them a lot in Ethiopia (there are decent restaurants, but for in between meals, or times you wan to skip a meal out, these are great), my kids love the Clif Kid Zbars. My daughter is allergic to eggs and thankfully I had heard ahead of time that the guesthouse served eggs pretty much every morning for breakfast, so I had packed some breakfast bars and Pop Tarts for her to eat. Also I brought some chocolates from home and they were a wonderful dessert for us and the kids back in our room! I packed way too many snacks in my carry-on for the airplane ride, though. We flew Emirates and they fed us a ton and especially the kids got these snack boxes with more goodies than they could eat! We did go through a lot of bottled water on the plane, though, and were happy we'd gotten plenty of those from the airport shops to bring on board the plane with us.
  • Warm jammies - It wasn't quite as cold in our guesthouse at night as we worried it might be when we saw the average nighttime temps and knew we weren't going to have heat. We took long underwear to wear under our jammies, turns out just one layer of warm jammies would have been fine for us while we were there!
  • USD money for the guesthouse and your driver (for BJoe's Guesthouse and our Gladney-arranged driver we paid them in American money at the end of our stay) already separated into envelopes so you can make sure you have enough left at the end of your trip and so you don't have to worry with counting up money/figuring payment while on your trip. You should be able to find out ahead of time what your daily rate will be, then just multiply it by your days there and add on tip.
  • Pocket Amharic to English language book - most people in restaurants, etc. in Ethiopia speak pretty good English but we were glad to be able to try out a few words with our driver and also translate and speak a few basic words with our toddler-aged daughter we're adopting!
  • Comfortable, conservative clothing - We did not wear any shorts during our trip, mostly due to the cooler temps., but I didn't ever see Ethiopians wearing shorts or short skirts and I don't think we would have felt comfortable out and about in them due to that. Best to stick to jeans, long pants that don't wrinkle and long skirts. Our days started off cool , but then many days the afternoons were warm, so we were glad to have a sweater or sweatshirt with a lighter weight layer under.
  • Slippers for around the guesthouse - our room didn't have any rugs and the floor was cold, also the bathroom tended to get pretty wet and didn't dry real fast (and you have limited towels so we didn't want to use those on the floor) so really some slippers with a hard bottom would be nice
  • Battery operated travel alarm clock - you may not have one in your room and there are many mornings you have to be somewhere at a certain time.
  • Flash lights - electricity seemed to go out quite a bit in Ethiopia, especially any time it rained even a little bit, so be prepared with some flash lights
  • Electrical convertors
  • Medications - we took a lot of it for just in case! Definitely take the prescription Cipro for traveler's diarrhea, you can ask your regular doctor or a travel med. doctor to write you a prescription (better safe than sorry). Then just over the counter stuff like allergy meds, Benadryl, Pepto, Immodium, Tylenol, Neosporin, rehydration packets, a first aid kit.
  • A few weeks before your trip you might want to start some probiotics. We took some but probably did not start it soon enough to really help, but we did not get very sick during our trip, just some minor stomach issues.
  • A phone that will work in Ethiopia. We knew our guesthouse gave us a cell phone to use during our stay but my husband still worked to get his Blackberry configured before we left so we could use it in Ethiopia if needed. Our guesthouse did give us a phone but the battery was not so good any more and even with charging it regularly there were times we tried to use it and it did not work. The Blackberry, however, did work for phone calls, but not for emails like we though it would.
  • Also, if you adopting a toddler or older child with our agency you are not supposed to give a photobook of your family to your child prior to you passing court, but if you leave a photobook in Ethiopia with the agency staff, once you pass court a case worker will sit down with your child and show them the book and explain that you are their family. So, create that photobook before you even get a travel date, it will be one less thing to worry about in the weeks right before you travel. Then remember to stick that book in your luggage and hand it off to the staff in Ethiopia.
I'm sure there are things I'm forgetting! I'll update later if I think of anything!

Ethiopia is trickier than most trips to plan for, but it is such an amazing place and well worth some extra trouble!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Grocery Logistics

I haven't done a Works for Me Wednesday post in forever and it's time.

Right now we are in the thick of planning for life with 4 kids, so I'd welcome any tips, hints, revelations you've had about managing life with many kids (and I do realize what constitutes "many kids" is different for everyone -- we can have fun debating that in a different blog post).

One thing that is a challenge for moms with many kids is feeding everybody. I've already seen this with having 3 kids. Just the logistics of keeping enough food in the house can be tricky. For example, right now with the kids we currently have, we go through 6 gallon size jugs of milk EVERY WEEK! My kids love milk, which is great, I think, for their health. They drink it with every meal and my 8 year old often asks for refills. I like to limit my grocery shopping to once a week so I get a lot of comments from the checkers with my 6 gallons of milk, but at least I've figured out a way for all of them to fit in my fridge at the same time! Although, I'm not sure how it's going to work when we add another child to the household. Perhaps we just need our own cow!

Also consumed with the milk, we go through a lot of cereal. I'm not too proud to admit that my kids only get a home-cooked breakfast once a week, on Saturday, and the other 6 mornings it's cereal! At least they get home-cooked dinners 6 nights per week, and the cereals I buy are fairly healthy -- Cracklin Oat Bran, Life, Multigrain Cheerios -- are all regulars at our house. For me, I like the Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal (both the kind with almonds and without, actually I mix the two kinds for the perfect ratio of almonds to not -- too much information?), eat it every day and never get tired of it! So, I was thrilled to learn a while back that had Kashi cereal in their grocery that they could ship right to my door with no shipping cost and I could even get a discount on the cereal if I subscribed to get the delivery on a regular basis! The contents of a delivery:

For me this works great. I pay less per box than at the store (or at least it priced out at less when I last compared), I don't ever have to worry about running out because I have deliveries scheduled periodically, and it's one less item for my grocery shopping trip every week! (And one less item, especially something bulky like cereal, is key when your cart is already full of children with little room for groceries -- which happened to me every week during the summer, and yes my kids are all 3 big enough to walk, but the trip goes quicker if only 1 walks and 2 ride.)

Since discovering the Kashi cereal, I've set up some more things in Amazon's subscribe and save. I only do items that are cheaper or the same price as at the regular grocery and things we use regularly. So far, my daughter's non-prescription allergy medicine, our bath soap, my husband's razor refills, and Clif bars are all on our list. And I'd love to add more, but so far our other frequently used products are either not there or they are more expensive than the grocery, so I'd rather just stockpile a bunch when I make a store run.

**** Disclaimer: I am an affiliate and will get a small portion of the proceeds should you make a purchase after using a link on my blog, but I assure you I would not recommend something if I was not happy with it after using it myself for months! ****

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Swinging in the Rain

Wanna know what it's like to finally get some rain after months and months without?

That's my 6 year old daughter, she couldn't wait to get outside in the rain, and a few minutes later I looked out the window to see her swinging in the rain!

Of course, with the rain also comes this:

But, I'll still take the rain and praise God for it!

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

If we build it, she will come

About four years ago when my 3rd child started walking and wearing actual shoes, it became very clear very quickly that we needed a system for managing the shoes or we'd never actually get out of the house with 6 feet in shoes (10 including our own feet)! So we got the shoe shelf/locker system I blogged about here going in our breakfast room (our laundry room is too tiny to be a mudroom but the good news is that our family is too big to use our breakfast room for it's intended purpose so we eat all our meals in the dining room, leaving the breakfast room free to be a mudroom in addition to a homework and arts & crafts center) and it worked beautifully!!! Really it has been a sanity saver!

But there were only 3 locker sections and we will hopefully have 4 children living in our home pretty soon, so a new system was needed. Also, we really liked that the hooks were low in our old shelf when we got it because our preschool-aged kids could reach to hang up their own coats, but fast-forward 4 years and now my 8 year old's jackets are nearly too long to comfortably fit.

I didn't want to spend a ton of money so at first I tried talking my husband into building one from Ana White's plans (Have you ever been to that website? I wish I was good with woodworking because oh the things I'd build!), but I couldn't sell him on that idea. (He had all kinds of logical reasons it wasn't a good idea, but really I think he just didn't want to.) So, I went back to brainstorming, our adoption slowed down, and it wasn't a high priority project. But, just as things picked up with us becoming a 4 kid family, and outgrowing our shoe shelf, I came across this blog post on The Polkadot Chair and I thought it was brilliant!

So, we headed to the Ikea (not coincidentally on the weekend kids ate free in the cafe) and bought 4 of the narrow Billy bookcases. We came home, my husband and I built 1 shelf and then my husband and my 8 year old built the other 3 shelves and it turns out the 8 year old is old enough to be a real helper for these types of projects, now (I've finally been replaced as the Ikea furniture co-builder around here! I gleefully turn over that title!). We left out the middle shelf during the building to have hanging space for coats (in the instructions the middle shelf seems important but our shelves worked fine without it). Then my husband screwed the shelves together so all 4 became 1 unit. We adjusted the height of all the interior shelves where we wanted them to best accommodate shoes & backpacks, secured the whole thing to the wall (this is a very important step 'cause you never know which crazy kid is going to climb the thing and wouldn't want it toppling over on them!), and then my husband drilled holes for the hooks and screwed them in. The Polkadot Chair put her hooks into the back of the shelf by adding some plywood reinforcement to the flimsy backing material, but we thought that sounded too hard and our old shelf had the hooks in the sides so that seemed fine to us. It worked great and actually allowed us to put hooks on both sides so there is double the hanging space in each locker. And we hung one side's hooks of each locker down a bit lower and the other side higher so we can accommodate both preschooler height and 3rd grader sized jackets!

I love how it turned out! So functional!

I searched the Internet for buckets/baskets that I liked to hold random kid stuff in the shelves, but I couldn't find anything I liked for less than $20 each (multiplied times 4 kids = $80 = too much!). I did, however, find sewing tutorials to make my own fabric buckets! The project definitely seemed out of my league, but I was excited to try.

I ordered Amy Butler Lotus fabric in cherry from (make sure when looking for fabric there you search on "supplies" rather than the default "homemade" which will just find things made out of the fabric). That fabric I used for the outside, for the lining I cut up a vinyl tablecloth I bought on sale at TJ Maxx for $2.00, of course when I bought it I had no idea what I'd use it for, just knew you can't even buy waterproof material that cheap! And now if anything nasty gets inside the bucket I can wipe it clean.

I also saw the idea somewhere I don't now remember to use chalkboard fabric (oh the genius of the person who invented chalkboard fabric!) for the labels -- that way in case we decide to change a child's name we can just erase the old and write the new. Kidding! But the chalk labels are easier than monogramming since I don't have a monogram machine. Plus I like the look of the chalk labels and I have a chalk pen that writes a bit brighter than typical chalk and doesn't erase as easily but can be erased with a wet rag. The kids' names are written on the labels, I just took the picture before writing the names since I don't like to put their names out here on the blog.

I combined this Internet tutorial with this one to get my instructions to make the fabric buckets. And then I wanted my own specific measurements so I tailored the instructions for what size I wanted, but I figured out halfway through my first bucket I'd made a terrible mistake in my geometry calculations! Thankfully, I was able to fix it and I'd only cut out my material for the 1 bucket so far, so the mistake could be corrected for the other 3 buckets. And that wasn't the only instance I had to use my seem ripper in this process but through trial and error I was able to do them and I'm really surprised at how good they turned out! It was a fun project and I'm so glad to get rid of the plastic beach buckets we used in the old shelf, I never liked those!

So, never mind that we don't have her bed set up yet, we have a place for our new little girl to put her shoes and really that's most important right? NOW can she come home?

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Waiting Out The Rainy Season

We are having a drought here in Texas the likes of which haven't been seen in over a century. Our state is literally burning up it is so dry. I walked my children in to school last week through a smoke filled haze (from wildfires about 30 miles away) so thick we could hardly breathe.

The irony in the fact that the Ethiopian rainy season is what is currently holding up our adoption process, is not at all lost on me.

I think in the last update I gave on this blog weeks ago regarding the status of our adoption, I said we were really hoping to pass court before the courts closed for the rainy season. But we did not; we got that news on August 17th.

Our MOWYCA letter was submitted to the court (the letter missing was the reason we didn't pass court when we appeared in person in Ethiopia on August 2nd), but the judge did not get to review it before she left. So we will not hear if the MOWYCA opinion was positive or negative until the courts reopen in October.

We took the news pretty hard. We were really clinging to the hope that the extra week the courts stayed open was going to be our miracle and we'd be able to get back on a plane and go get her soon. Our whole travel group spent that extra week (plus the 3 days of the next week when there was still hope we'd passed and the court clerk was just writing up the court decree) on pins and needles, emailing constantly, "You heard anything?" "Nope. You?" Until we each got the call from our caseworkers that we didn't pass before the closure. Not passing court until October is what we expected before we traveled to Ethiopia, but honestly that was easier to accept before we met our little girl, bonded with her, and just want her home!

So now we are wildly praying to pass court quickly after they reopen on October 3rd and for a speedy embassy process (currently averaging 9 weeks) so we can bring her home.

In the mean time we are trying to focus on productive mode. Without a doubt there are a lot of things we can be doing now that will make life easier, better when we do finally get to bring her home (November? December? Oh WHY is the embassy process taking so long now?!!). I'm taking another bonding and attachment class at a local church (spans 6 different weeks) -- just feel like I cannot be prepared enough in that area. Also, I have been kinda scared to do much around the house to prepare for our new child, because I thought it would be too hard to face her bed and her things every day if we ended up not being able to bring her home. But, I'm prayerfully pushing through that fear and think it will be a great distraction for me to do some of the fun things like buying girly bunk beds and redecorating my daughter's room to be a space for two little girls. And, oh, don't even get me started on being able to dig out all my daughter's old toddler dresses and wash them and hang them up in the closet -- oh, the joy!

"What if our blessings come through rain drops? What if our healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?"
song Blessings by Laura Story

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Journaling our Ethiopia Trip - Day 10

I didn't sleep much at all that night in Mekele, partially because due to the bed situation, my daughter was sleeping in the double bed with my husband and I and the girl moves a ton in her sleep, but also because it kept storming all night and all I could think about was if the weather was going to clear up enough for a plane to be able to land in Mekele to get us out! Then there was also the LOUD chanting from the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians that started in the pre-dawn hours and went on for a really, really long time! It is quite an eery sound.

We really needed to get back to Addis that morning because we had an evening flight back home to the U.S.!

We didn't even bother with attempting a real breakfast, the restaurant food the night before was too terrible. I had a few breakfast bars in our backpack. The weather was horrible, basically a white-out of rain, clouds, and fog. For some reason our cab driver to the airport insisted on speeding down the wet streets as we wound around a hillside and at one point we narrowly missed a collision with a dog in the road.

We were one of the first passengers to arrive at the airport that morning, hoping to secure our spot on the first plane out. But, the weather was just too bad, a lot worse than the day before when the plane couldn't land. There was this statue right across the street from the airport we'd taken a picture of it the day before and at many points during the day on Sunday, the fog was so dense we couldn't even see it!

We waited around the airport pretty much all day. They kept making announcements to the crowd in languages we didn't understand and we'd have to go search out this Ethiopian Airlines supervisor guy who spoke English to give us our update.

Aside from not making our flight back to the United States, we were also worried about the prospect of staying another night in Mekele. We were running out of our Ethiopian Birr money (we couldn't use a credit card at the hotel) and there was not a place to exchange money in that airport, and even if we took a cab to town, it was Sunday and we didn't know if any place would be opened. Our snacks we brought in the backpack were rapidly running out. Emirates airlines gave us complimentary vouchers for breakfast and lunch in the one restaurant in the airport but all they had was eggs and coffee for breakfast and my daughter is allergic to eggs. And for lunch? Egg sandwiches! You've got to be kidding me!

There were no opened stores in the airport and no other restaurants or stores anywhere within walking distance outside. I started rationing our snacks, not giving the kids something as soon as they said they wanted one, but trying to make them wait longer. I developed a whole new level of empathy for what many mothers suffer through every day when they don't have enough food to feed their hungry children. It is not a good feeling, and for me it was only an afternoon, for many it is their reality all the time!

Finally late afternoon they were able to get a larger plane to come from Addis that was able to land even through the thick clouds. We watched through the window; I can absolutely say I have never been so happy to see a plane land in all my life!

The little Mekele airport, however, was not so used to large planes, most planes that land there are small ones that just lower their own stairs straight from the airplane. So there was much to-do as the airport personnel rolled out a really old looking stairway to unload the passengers and then just a couple guys worked really hard to get all the baggage off the large plane and re-loaded.

We took off at 4:50 pm headed for Addis (an hour and a half flight) but our flight back to the US was at 7:30 pm, and we'd been told to arrive 3 hours before that flight to clear security and customs. We had been told by another couple that on their first trip they had gotten to the airport 3 hours early and only got to the gate 30 minutes before takeoff. We truly thought there was no way we were going to make it, especially considering our bags weren't even packed up back at our guesthouse, but we were praying!

We landed in Addis at 6:10 pm., our driver was waiting for us at the airport, we dropped my husband off at the International terminal to beg for mercy from Emirates airlines, and the kids and I raced back to the guesthouse to pack (thankfully it was only 5 minutes from the airport). It was a hilarious scene in our room at BJoes Guesthouse! Blaine (a lady who works there) came in and offered to help. Blaine, our driver, the 2 kids and I just started throwing everything into bags. Occasionally someone would ask me, "Where should I put this?" and I was all, "Wherever it will fit!!!!!" Meanwhile my husband was calling me on the cell phone asking how soon we could get there because there was a chance we could make the plane but we had to hurry!

When we got back to the airport (at 6:55 pm for a 7:30 pm flight) my husband had an angel waiting with him in the form of an Emirates employee supervisor. The guy is our new best friend! He held the baggage check open for us so our bags got on the plane, literally held up a badge and walked us through a long line of people to the front of the security line and customs, and then escorted us to our gate where we boarded (at 7:28 pm) just minutes before the door closed! We were so happy to get on (my husband had checked and the flights for the next 2 or 3 days were full) we would have sat in the cargo area, but they'd upgraded us to business class for the Addis to Dubai leg so that was a really, really nice treat after all the hassle of the previous 24 hours!

They gave us hot towels, toothbrushes, served us gourmet food, and the seats reclined all the way! It was heavenly! Oh, another plus? Due to the upgrade we were all split up, but a flight attendant worked it out so our two kids could be together. It was only a 3 hour flight before we'd stop in Dubai (I never used to call 3 hours short, but compared to 20 hours, it is!), so I thought the kids would be okay not sitting near parents and I knew my 8 year old could help my younger daughter. I checked on them a few times, but it was really funny because the flight attendant for them was different than mine, but she kept coming over and asking me things like, "They didn't eat all their food but they said they are done, is it okay for me to take the food away?" It was like I had a nanny right there on the plane. And after 10 days in Ethiopia spending pretty much every minute with my 2 older kids and my husband, it was really nice to sit BY MYSELF for a few hours!!!! In the meantime, after being moved by the flight attendants four times, my husband actually ended up in first class where he had his own "room", really just some partitions. After not having changed clothes (our shoes were really muddy from Mekele), showered, or shaved in about 48 hours, he got some odd looks from the other first class passengers.

It has been 5 weeks and I'm still praising God for allowing us to make that flight!

Thankfully there was no airplane drama in Dubai, we had a two hour lay-over and then the direct flight home (and back to our regular seats in economy)! Even with the crazy end to our trip and even though I was so glad to be going home, to get to take a real shower where I could let the water hit my face, to be reunited with our four year old son, it only took a couple hours before I missed it. Ethiopia. There is something magical about that place, mostly about the people, and I just want to be back there. Of course there was also the fact that it was about 70 degrees the whole time we were there and we came home to 103 degrees (and our air conditioner had quit working while we were away)! But mostly, being home it sunk in, she was not here. We were minus a family member, a little 2 year old girl we'd held in our arms and left behind.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Journaling our Ethiopia Trip - Day 9

We woke up really early to get to the airport for our day trip to Mekele, Ethiopia, a city in the Northern part of Ethiopia, about an hour and a half plane ride from Addis Ababa.

Our little girl is originally from Mekele, so we really wanted to see it and to fill in some of her history to be able to share it with her later.

Our plane was delayed, over and over again leaving Addis, due to weather (mental note that the beginning of the rainy season isn't the best time to be flying around Ethiopia) so we hung out in the airport all morning. Nearly everyone in the gate area waiting with us were Ethiopians so it was an interesting glimpse into their culture, watching them interact with each other and their children.

We finally arrived in Mekele early afternoon instead of the early morning we were supposed to get there. The airport in Mekele:
One of the guys who runs the Bana Orphanage, where our daughter spent a month before going to the care center in Addis Ababa, was supposed to pick us up at the airport, but since we were so delayed we had to call him and wait a few minutes. My children entertained themselves walking on top of a rock wall outside the airport. It was a wall that got higher and higher off the ground, getting pretty high in middle. In the United States, I really won't have worried about my children walking on it, but here in Ethiopia where medical care is less than a fraction of what it is in the U.S. and now in Mekele which is even a smaller, more remote city that where we'd been in the capital of Ethiopia, well I had to make them stop. I just couldn't help worrying that if they fell and broke an arm or needed stitches we would not have access to medical care to fix them. I take so much for granted in America, we live within a few minutes drive from some of the best medical facilities in the world!

Our ride arrived. We hoped in and took off through the gorgeous landscape of Mekele. It was really green and lush (likely due to the rainy season) and much more pastoral and peaceful than Addis.

The Bana guy didn't speak much English but he communicated to us that he needed to make a quick stop in town. We waited in the car while he ran in and came out with a lady we had never met before but she is a social worker with our adoption agency and usually works in Addis but was in Mekele for a few days to oversee the transfer of some new children into the care of our agency. Her English was great and we learned so much visiting with her. She told us the driver could take us to a location that was key to our daughter's history and so we went and stood in the very spot, it was emotional to get so close to some of the details surrounding our daughter becoming an orphan (details we are not sharing here out of respect for our daughter's privacy), but I'm so glad we got to go there. We took pictures and were able to add more detail to her story, things I'm so thankful we'll be able to share with her as she grows up.

Some beautiful children in Mekele:

A church in Mekele:

A road leading to a little village:

A house in Mekele:

Then we headed to the Bana Center Orphanage where our daughter spent 1 month (well actually the center is in a new building so it wasn't exactly the same place). We met some sweet kids who were there and passed out some toys and candy to them. We toured the facility -- a baby room, an older kid room, a gathering room with a TV, a kitchen/cook area, a shower area (that was really muddy), and an office.

In the office the social worker went through the files and was able to find the page on our daughter from when she was in the care of that orphanage, there was a little picture stapled to the page and we were so amazed at how different our girl looks now, how much healthier and it made us very thankful for the good care she has gotten while in the center run by our agency!

Before we left home we'd printed out the earliest picture we have of our girl, hoping one of the care givers at the Bana Center would remember her, one did! We also printed out the most recent picture we had and we showed the caregiver what she looked like now. She and the man that heads up the orphanage loved the pictures and asked if they could keep them -- absolutely!

We didn't have much time before our flight back so we headed back to the airport. We got through security and waited about an hour at the gate before there was an announcement that the flight was cancelled because the plane coming from Addis Ababa had circled the airport in Mekele 5 times and couldn't land due to thick cloud cover (it was a turbo-prop plane), so the plane had to go back to Addis and now we didn't have a plane to fly out on.

We were stunned. We had not packed much of anything since we expected a day trip. Thankfully we had a guidebook and called the hotel it recommended, it was also the one where our agency's social worker was staying. We called and hopefully reserved a room, with the language barrier who could be sure, but we hailed a cab and headed that way. We did have a room, but had the hardest time explaining that we needed two beds rather than just a king-size since we had our two kids with us. Finally, they offered to bring in an additional bed. I expected a roll-away bed, but no, they came and basically built another bed right there in our room!

Let's just say for the record, the nicest hotel in Mekele, Ethiopia is far from "nice" by most American standards, but at least I don't think we came home with fleas or bedbugs! Yes, Axum hotel, I'm talking about you!

We only had intermittent running water, the electricity went off several different times, the ceiling in our bathroom was leaking, and the hotel restaurant which was supposedly the best food in town, was barely edible! We longed for an American hotel with a gift shop where we could buy toothbrushes (mental note to self: even if you are just flying for "day trip", go ahead and pack a toothbrush; if said "day trip" happens to be within Africa, pack provisions for several days!), but instead we chewed some peppermint gum, said many prayers for clearer weather to get back to Addis in the morning, and went to sleep in our clothes!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Journaling our Ethiopia Trip - Day 8

Over breakfast at our guesthouse we and the other families staying there agreed it was going to be a hard day.

The day had already begun on a sour note, as Cipro was passed around at breakfast (several in our group had upset tummies from the week in Ethiopia, Cipro is the prescription antibiotic for traveler's tummy -- don't go to Ethiopia without it!).

The agenda for the day was to have our last visit with our kids at the foster care center, our last visit before having to leave them for months, and then there were the scheduled tours of the government-run orphanages, places where we knew we'd see kids in circumstances much worse than the care center where we'd been visiting our kids.

The morning's visit at the care center was good, I tried not to let the dread over having to say goodbye, the sadness of knowing I wouldn't see my little girl again for a long time, mar the time we did have together.

Our girl had latched onto a little Ethiopian Amharic language dictionary we'd been carrying with us. We had it out in her room at the care center trying to speak some basic words to her, but she loved the book and kept pretend reading it, flipping through it's pages over and over. We let her all the way up until we had to go, and then she didn't want to give it back, I didn't want to just grab it from her, thankfully I remembered the stickers in our backpack. I traded her a sheet of stickers (we weren't supposed to give them gifts, but I thought stickers hardly counted) for the book, she promptly began sharing stickers with the roomful of kids and it was a lovely distraction of our actually leaving. She wasn't supposed to know we were her family (just too incredibly hard for a little one to think of us as mom and dad and then have us leave for months), and I don't think she did, so I just said a quick goodbye and gave her a quick hug and rushed out of the room before the tears could start for she or me!

For about 18 months since there was the change to the Ethiopian adoption process and two trips were required, I had worried about that moment. What would it be like to meet my daughter and leave her? How do you do that exactly?

Well, I can tell you, although it was hard, leaving her was not as hard as I expected, however
being home without her all these weeks since have been WAY harder than I ever expected, nearly unbearable.

We left the care center and went to Kaldi's Coffee (the best coffee in the world and my kids think the best milk shakes!) to decompress. Kaldi's seems like a Starbucks knock-off (even the logo is similar), but it's better! Ethiopia knows coffee! We have craved a macchiato from Kaldi's every day since we left Ethiopia!

Next we let the kids burn off some energy at the Hilton Hotel playground. There are not many playgrounds in Addis Ababa, so the kids were thrilled to be able to run, climb, and play free for a bit before we set off on the orphanage tours.

A few months before our trip to Ethiopia we had become involved in helping the kids at the government orphanages. I don't want to say exactly how, and it is still not nearly enough, those kids need so much more, but the agreeing to give, on an on-going basis for this particular cause in the amount we did was a stretch for us, more than was comfortable for us to give was a faith-building moment. A big step in our challenge to ourselves to live on less so we could give away more. I say this not because I want pats on the back but because I want to testify to the blessing of giving beyond what is easy. Anyway, we were excited to see these kids, grateful to already be involved in a small way towards helping them.

First we went to the government-run orphanage for boys age roughly 7 to 18, called Kolfe. There are over 160 boys there, sweet, sweet boys. We were so impressed by how articulate many of them were, how good their English was, and how polite they were.

Here's my 8 year old son with some of the boys at Kolfe:

We especially connected with a 12 year old boy named Moses, he was so friendly, kind and articulate, wants to be a pilot when he grows up. He has lived in an orphanage as long as he can remember. The boys were just so happy we were there to visit them and so excited to show off their soccer field (a completely mud covered yard), the monkey who was running loose in their cafeteria!,

their beds (several rooms row after row after row of bunk beds, only one blanket and a mattress to call their own),

and their gymnastics abilities (back flips off a rock wall). There were no parents, really very, very few adults at all, except us and the 8 others in our travel group. For a few minutes I filled in the role as mom, worrying they'd get hurt during the back flips, yet cheering wildly and yelling "Gobez" (means "good job" in Amharic). We asked the back-flip boy if he ever fell on his head. He said, "Yes". I immediately thought of the fact that there was no mother to comfort and care for him when he got hurt.

Here's a sign that hangs in their cafeteria, it says "We are orphanage but we can do everything just like others."

This scene was particularly hard for me, the caving, leaking ceiling in their orphanage cafeteria right above the words, "God is love." on the wall. It reminds me of the quote,"Sometimes I'd like to ask God why He allows poverty, famine, and injustice in the world when He could do something about it...but I'm afraid God might ask me the same question." -Anonymous

I have thought about those boys at Kolfe every day, usually many times per day, since I met them. I wish I could adopt them all.

The girls orphanage had over 300 girls with again, no obvious adults. Sweet, sweet giggly girls. We were not allowed to take pictures there or at the baby orphanage, but I remember them, their faces. One latched on to me immediately hugging me with both arms for most of our time there, only stopping for a few minutes to braid my hair! Our 5 year old daughter was very popular there as the girls loved carrying her around. Our 8 year old son was popular for a whole other reason he was not particularly comfortable with as the girls giggled and whispered that he was beautiful!

At one point when we were outside seeing the garden the girls are very proud of, I lagged behind our guide and travel group, just a small circle of the girls and I. There was one girl who spoke really good English and was translating for me. There was so much I wanted to say to those girls, things like, "You are so beautiful and precious and special." Things I worried they'd never heard in their entire lives. I felt very helpless, wanting to somehow change the outcome, knowing the statistics that many, many of the girls would age out of the orphanage, end up on the streets, and fall prey to prostitution or sex trafficing. I noticed all the girls in that group were wearing wooden cross necklaces (very commonly seen on many in Ethiopia) and I said, "You know God loves you, right?"

The girl who had been clinging to me looked up into my face, her own eyes shining, and she asked, "You love Jesus?" And I said, "Yes, very much!" She said gleefully, "Me too!" and buried her head back in my chest. I was so grateful to have Jesus that day, He is truly their only hope, mine too.

The baby orphanage undid us. So many babies, two to a crib, some with arms and legs not much thicker than my finger! The caregivers were doing the best they could, they are just too outnumbered. All the babies needed to be changed, fed, held, and loved. We'd pick some up and cradle them in our arms, talking to them with our faces close to theirs and they'd stop crying, some even smiled and cooed, of course we eventually had to put them down and then the crying began again. I wished I could stay, wished the orphanage was near my hometown, I'd go over every day and feed babies, change babies, and hold them. Oh how they needed more loving arms to go around!

It was a hard day, but one I wouldn't trade for anything. We prayed a couple years for God to "break our hearts for what breaks His." It's been done a thousand times over, but each time, and most definitely that Friday on Day 8 in Ethiopia, I feel like I know Jesus more, like that's exactly where He wants me to be. Changed! May we never be the same, in Jesus name, may we never be the same.

I think of this song by Sara Groves:

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

What my children need to know about September 11th

It seems really odd to me that my children will never really understand September 11th.

That infamous, tragic September 11th was 10 years ago, my children were not alive yet. I know this logically, but conceptually it's just hard to imagine people who don't know what that day was like because they didn't live it. People who can learn about the facts but it will be without the memories of their own personal horror and fear and sorrow and experience that day.

I think of what I, now as a parent, want my children to know about September 11th, but more deeply I think of how I want to parent my children knowing their generation may have their own September 11th.

Would my children as young men and women have the courage to run up the stairs of those burning buildings?

What if my daughters as grown women, married with 2 children and a 3rd on the way were suddenly widowed?

What if my children came face to face with an evil so strong it threatened many, many lives?

How would they respond?

What would be their strength? their peace? their comfort? their hope?

And am I doing enough today to teach them about the only God who will never leave them, who loves them with an everlasting love, who can slay giants, who can save and redeem their lives so that they're ready if and when their world is rocked to the core one beautiful, sunny day.

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs." Zeph. 3:17

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It Sleeps Four!

We've been planning a bunch and executing a little, some changes to our house so it can go from being a 3 kid home to a 4 kid home.

Part of the planning involves picking out and buying bunk beds for the girl room. We had the choices narrowed down, but had not bought anything yet when my 6 year old daughter called down from the playroom recently, "Come look at my new bed!"

She just saved us a bunch of money!

And we move those games and that shelf can actually sleep 4!

Kidding! Kidding! My children will all have actual beds with mattresses and everything! (Just gotta clarify in case, you know, our caseworker is reading or some other adoption official.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Journaling our Ethiopia Trip - Day 7

At 9am we had another one hour visit with our little girl at the care center. It was a great visit! There were not the nerves we had before the first visit wondering what it was going to be like meeting her and it wasn't the last visit where there was the fear of having to say goodbye for a long time before we'd be able to see her again.

We just enjoyed playing with her and all the kids in the room. She was really active this visit and was literally running back and forth in the room at one point! She also did a lot of leading us around by the hand, and she kept zipping the jacket my 8 year old son was wearing, like she just decided it should be zipped up! It was really pretty hilarious to be bossed around by a 2 year old Ethiopian girl who didn't even speak the same language as we do, but I'm sure once she comes home and the honeymoon period wears off, there will be many clashes of wills, hopefully we'll be able to keep our sense of humor about it as we teach her that she can't always get her way! Even pointing this out to the kids they still can't wait to have her home!

In the middle of this visit the nannies started playing some Ethiopian music and a few of the kids began dancing. Our little girl danced forever, bending her knees over and over again with her little hands on her hips. It was the cutest thing ever! We got it on video!

As soon our visit was over we had to hurry back to our guesthouse where we were to meet Mathews, the boy we sponsor through Compassion International. Mathews lives near Awassa which is a 4 to 6 hour drive from Addis Ababa where we were, but with God's miraculous help we were able to arrange it with Compassion on short notice (we only got 2 weeks notice of our court date) to have Mathews and his mom travel with an escort/translator to Addis Ababa.

Mathews is 8 years old, the same age as our oldest son. We began sponsoring him a couple years ago, and have written back and forth several times, exchanging pictures. His picture hangs on our refrigerator, we've prayed for him and sent him birthday gifts. When we began sponsoring him I never in a million years would have ever imagined meeting Mathews in person. But the dream and the praying began shortly after we heard about the change to the adoption process that required us to make two trips to Ethiopia, rather than just one. Still watching the dream and the miracle come to fruition was so amazing, I really felt the need to pinch myself that it was actually happening!

We'd told the ladies who work at our guesthouse to be expecting the visitors in case they got there before we did since we knew we'd be cutting it close to get back in time from the care center visit. It was so sweet, Marta told me, "Yes, we will welcome them in, invite them to sit on the couch, just like as if at your home." That's just the kind of ladies that work at BJoe's, really kind and warm, actually those traits are pretty applicable to most Ethiopians we met! We'd also let another American guest who would be around the house that morning know what was going on and when we pulled up she was sitting on the back porch and told us, "They're in there!"

I couldn't believe it! And then the moment was there. I walked through the door and saw him. Mathews looked just like his picture! We all hugged and then settled in on the couches to visit. It was Mathews, his mom, their escort who is the nurse for the entire compassion program in Awassa, and a man from the Addis Ababa Compassion office who spoke perfect English.

Here are the two 8 year olds together (and neither too thrilled with having their picture taken at this point, but humoring me -- so many things transcend culture and background differences!); I really just could not believe this moment was happening! And that's Mathews's mom in the picture, too.

We gave Mathews a backpack of goodies, which was a fun way to break the ice. The backpack had a Texans (our local NFL team) shirt in it, a soccer ball, a pump for the ball, a few small toys, a notebook and pencils and some candy. Compassion had given us some ideas of appropriate gifts.

Mathews put the shirt right on, over his clothes! Check out his three thousand watt smile! Oh how I love it! That boy can light up a room!

Then the kids went outside and played some soccer. Mathews completely smoked my American children's soccer abilities!

Then we asked the Compassion guide about arranging transportation so we could take the group out to lunch and then some place fun for Mathews, like the Lion Zoo. He was able to get a driver with a passenger van and we headed off for lunch at Lucy's since it had a variety of food (even traditional Ethiopian food) so everyone could find something they liked.

We learned more about Mathews and his family over lunch, even learning half-way through the meal that it was their first time to ever eat out in a restaurant! Wow!

After lunch we went to the Lion Zoo where they have lions and monkeys in cages (not at all like the natural habitat zoos we have all over the U.S., just cages and cement floors) and also a playground area for the kids with rides. Mathews and his mom were pretty shy and serious during lunch so I really loved the huge smile that came over his mom's face when she saw the lions. They'd never seen one before!

Family picture (minus our 2 youngest children and the little girl we sponsor in Uganda).

At the zoo it was so fun to watch Mathews relax and see he and my kids interact! Mathews thought it was hilarious when my 5 year old daughter began hollering "Ooh ooh ahh ahh!" at the monkeys! Those monkeys, by the way, were not that impressive to Mathews and his mom. They have monkeys just like that on their street! And they didn't seem to think too highly of the monkeys, apparently the monkeys steal their stuff sometimes!

Then we got to the amusement area and it really got fun!

Mathews really came out of his shell at the playground and rides area. I will never forget his huge smile riding the ferris wheel with me and 2 of my kids! All of our language, cultural, life style, and background differences were stripped away for a few minutes and we just had fun! Of course I also did a bit of making sure everyone was holding on tightly -- no seat belts or safety bars on those Ethiopian rides!!

I will say, though, you get your money's worth on Ethiopian rides. In America you pay a ton to go around like twice on the ferris wheel, but in Ethiopia the rides went on for a really long time!

My 8 year old sometimes gets a bit queazy on round and round rides, but he rode the swings with Mathews to be a good sport. Poor guy, those swings (and yes, the seats are baby seats!) just kept going and going. My 8 year old's face just kept getting paler with each circle, but he survived and didn't throw up! My 5 year old daughter and Mathews loved the swings, though!

After the Lion's Zoo we had to say goodbye to Mathews. We asked the translator to tell he and his mother how glad we were that we got to see them and that we think of them as part of our family. The nurse/translator kept telling us we could write to her, too. I promised we would and that we'd send them pictures, and I still need to do that -- so terrible, must get prioritized on the to-do list!

I'd highly recommend other families adopting from Ethiopia who are early in the process to sponsor a child from Ethiopia and maybe you can visit them when you travel for your adoption. We plan to sponsor Mathews even through college and write regularly and the relationship has just taken on a whole new level now having seen each other face to face, hugged necks, laughed together. Being able to visit him was an amazing, wonderful experience. I'll never forget it as long as I live, praying my Compassion son and other son and daughter never forget it, either!

That night we ate dinner with our travel group at Avanti. It's Italian food (Ethiopia was occupied by the Italians in World War II so that's where that influence comes in) and it was my favorite restaurant of our trip - super yummy baked pasta! I had another funny bathroom experience with my daughter at that restaurant, the toilet had a strange flushing mechanism, like you had to pull this chain straight up from the top of the tank, it wasn't obvious and took me several tries to figure it out. During that process when we couldn't seem to figure out how to flush, my daughter shrugged and said, "Maybe it's automatic." Which made me laugh so hard I cried! She wasn't trying to be funny, in America many, many public restrooms are now those automatic flush ones. But in Ethiopia where you're lucky to have a toilet seat or toilet paper, the idea of an automatic flush toilet was absolutely hilarious to me!!

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