Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I sewed something with a zipper!

I had never sewed anything with a zipper (because I didn't know how), until today! With a bit of trial and error and some help from my personal sewing instructor, The Internet, it is finished, a dress with A ZIPPER in the back!

Now the sewing possibilities are really endless!!!

Nothing like a deadline to get a project completed. I've had this pattern and fabric for a while, but not until I planned for this to be the dress for my daughter to wear for school pictures did progress actually begin. Dress complete at 11PM tonight, picture day is tomorrow!

I got the idea/inspiration for the dress here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Journaling our Ethiopia Trip - Day 6

Scenes from Ethiopia:

Oh how I miss seeing sweet faces like these:

And you just think traffic is bad wherever you drive, imagine being stuck behind this herd on the road (notice the blue car behind the cattle)!

This day, the Wednesday of our trip to Ethiopia, we slept in a little since we didn't have anywhere we had to be that morning, slept in so much that the sweet ladies who work at our guest house finally knocked on the door to let us know breakfast was ready!

Then we picked up our friend who lives in Ethiopia and does missions work in the Korah area, since it was her day off. We visited the Alert Leprosy Hospital. Did you know there are still people with leprosy, it's not just a disease of Bible times. There's a man there who has worked for many, many years weaving rugs to sell and he has no fingers, yet works so hard and smiles, just the same. Humbling! How many times have I whined about tasks I need to do, tasks I can do without physical challenges!

We bought some of the beautiful things they make at the hospital, like a tablecloth, a rug, and a traditional Ethiopian embroidered outfit for my 4 year old son.

Next we toured the Ethiopia National Museum and had lunch at Lucy, which was great, with a large variety of food to choose from. By this point in the trip I was really craving salad and vegetables. We were avoiding any raw vegetables, like lettuce because it's often been washed in the unclean water, and we were being careful to avoid getting sick. Also, like when you eat out in the U.S. often there are not a lot of cooked vegetable sides offered. So, I loved the chicken stir-fry I got at Lucy, it had lots of good, cooked vegetables in it to satisfy my craving!

Then we wanted to drive up to see Mt. Entoto but the weather was getting rainy and our driver said it was raining on the mountain so we couldn't do it. We never got a chance to do Mt. Entoto after that and wished we'd gone earlier in our trip when the weather was sunny because the 2nd half of our trip it was much wetter than the 1st half.

Since we had to change the plans a bit, we went to Makush (an art gallery and restaurant) to see the artwork and I was impressed by how many paintings they had and we really loved some of them, but didn't buy anything, maybe on our next trip after we figure out where we have some open wall space for a painting. Then we went back to our guesthouse to visit a bit before dropping our friend back off at her home. Later that night we enjoyed traditional Ethiopian food (which all of us but my 5 year old daughter like) and dancing at Habesha. The food was really good (Even though it looks gross in the picture!) and those Ethiopian dancers were amazing to see!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Journaling our Ethiopia Trip - Day 5

Court Day

We and the 4 other families with our agency who had the same court date arrived at our agency's office in Addis Ababa where we were to meet the attorney and be given a brief overview of what to expect at court. We all somehow got the time wrong and arrived one hour early, so we walked to a nearby coffee shop.

We rode with our individual drivers to court. We entered the large, crowded waiting room and spent a good 45 minutes to an hour waiting for our turn before the judge. I was glad I'd packed books and workbooks to entertain my kids, so the wait was easy!

There was a large group of adoptive families who were European and after they came out from the judge's room, they were rejoicing, hugging each other, crying joyful tears. I kept wondering if their MOWYCA letters were there because it really seemed like they had passed court. I'll never know, but the neatest thing was the look on the faces of many of the Ethiopians in the room. As they saw those adoptive families celebrate, their faces had looks of shared joy, like they were so happy for these families and touched by the meaningfulness of the moment, which was so great to see rather than any ill feelings that foreigners were adopting "their" children.

I spent some of the wait time coaching my children that unless the judge asked them a specific question, they were not to say anything once we were inside the judge's room. I told them that if they had any questions about what was going on to wait and ask us after we walked back out of the room. I could just imagine them asking a bunch of loud questions while in there like, "What are we doing? Is that lady the judge? Why is she wearing regular clothes? Why did she say that? When can we leave?" But, they did great and did not say a word!

The judge called us and the 4 other families with our same agency all in together. The room was not very big, so it was a tight squeeze, but we fit. The judge asked us questions as a group, yes or no questions. She seemed genuinely concerned that we understood the finality of adoption and the challenges adopted children often face and that we would incorporate the Ethiopian culture into the lives of the children we adopt. And had we met the child and did we still wish to adopt them? "Yes! Yes! Yes! and Yes!"

Then she told us all our cases were just lacking the positive opinion from the Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs (MOWYCA) and we were dismissed. The outcome was completely expected as the MOWYCA was running about a month behind on writing opinions for cases.

We went out to lunch with our travel group at Island Breeze where even by Texas standards we had some pretty okay chips & salsa and quesadillas!

Then we did some souvenir shopping. First to the Kechene Girls Shop where 100% of the proceeds go to support women who have aged out of the government orphanage. We met a very sweet, articulate (in English!) young lady who worked there and said she had grown up in the Kechene Orphanage and now worked in the store. She made a lot of the jewelry they sold and another lady was behind the sewing machine and she showed me all the dresses she'd sewn. We bought some traditional Ethiopian dresses in a variety of sizes for both our daughters to wear throughout the coming years for special Ethiopian holidays or cultural days at school. We also bought some artwork and jewelry.

Then we hit the "Post Office Shops" which are completely geared towards tourists and the vendors really try to push their stuff on you. But, we did find a lot of things we had set out to buy in Ethiopia. The shops pretty much expect you to haggle with them, and my husband did a bit, but I just couldn't bear to. I knew this was their livelihood and the standard of living for those shop owners was way less than mine. I just couldn't bring myself to argue with them over 100 or 200 Birr which amounted to just about 10 US dollars (the conversion is roughly 17 Birr equals 1 USD)! We got some more dresses, an Ethiopian soccer jersey for my oldest son, a traditional Ethiopian shirt for my husband, an Amharic Bible, more artwork, little Ethiopian instruments, some crosses, a soft ball with Amharic letters and numbers on it.

Later we asked our driver take us to a music store and help us pick out some traditional Ethiopian music CDs. We got two and are so glad we did! Our 3 older children already enjoy playing the CDs here at home and I imagine our new daughter will enjoy dancing to the music after she comes home!

We had dinner that night at Shishu which doesn't feel like an Ethiopian restaurant at all. It was decorated in a modern style. They served cheeseburgers, had board games you could play at the table and a great kids playroom downstairs. There was a really neat big castle created out of plaster-coated cardboard and play shields and swords. Also a swing, a hammock and rocking boat. The kids loved it!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Its Friday, It's Got to be Random

Someday I will finish writing up our trip to Ethiopia, at the rate I'm going we may see the year 2019 first, but sit tight because it's gonna happen!


As my kids started back to school this week, I couldn't help but wonder where the summer went and feel a little guilty that less than half of the pages in the workbooks I got to help them stay fresh during the break were actually completed. I did console myself with the fact that at least the dog worked on them!


We did read some good books this summer, though, and are still enjoying some of these classics I found for $1 each in Target's dollar section -- Yes! One dollar, that's it! You can't find chapter books at the used bookstore for $1! We're reading a chapter of Heidi at bedtime every night right now and I must say I'd completely forgotten the story and it's delightful!


Speaking of great Target deals, their summer stuff is on half-price! Last week I got this new baby pool to replace the one the puppy popped (it was bound to happen and really the thing held out much longer than expected) for super cheap and the kids got to have a last-weekday-before-school-starts party in it!

How much do I love that my 8 year old d
oesn't think he's too big for this? A lot! Once inflated this pool turned out to be quite a bit smaller than our old one, but sibling love grows best in small spaces, right?


The festivities continued with shaving cream and food coloring!


In an unprecedented turn of events, I have actually done some Christmas shopping in August! Both of my little girls will be getting a Baby Be Blessed Doll. I've seen them a few times and always thought they were so sweet and precious, but now the timing is great for them to be Christmas gifts, and 20% of the proceeds from your purchase go to Mercy House in Kenya if you put "MERCY HOUSE" in the notes of your order now through Sept. 23rd.


Mommy's Idea

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Journaling our Ethiopia Trip - Day 4

We had breakfast at our guesthouse and drove about 30 minutes to the foster care center our adoption agency runs for our 1st visit with our daughter! The weather was gorgeous, mostly sunny for the first few days of our trip, then it got more rainy and the temperature was in the 60s and 70s -- such a wonderful change from the 100 degree days we were having back home in Texas!

Everyone drives with their windows down in Ethiopia, mostly because there is no A/C in the vehicles, but the problem with this is that there is a lot of traffic and Ethiopia is obviously not on board with the clean-burning fuels, so there was a lot of breathing in exhaust fumes throughout the trip. But, I still always enjoyed the drives, just so much to see!

My 5 year old daughter loved all the animals, like these horses that came right up to our car window. In Addis Ababa cars share the roads with cows, goats, horses, etc. Our driver thought it was funny that my daughter thought the animals were so adorable and always loved seeing them. In Ethiopia animals are more of a means of survival or work rather than thought of as cute or pets!

And then we were there, standing at the very gate of the foster care center!
The care center is in a regular, actually pretty nice, Ethiopian neighborhood. The only give-away that it isn't just a normal house -- all the tiny clothes drying on the line outside.

We walked into the toddler room where our daughter lives and there she was! The kids and nannies were all sitting on a rug in a sea of toys and our little girl was clutching the pink puppy we'd sent to her with another family (remember the puppy from this post?). I loved that she was holding that puppy!

We sat down on the floor near the children and began to talk to them (in a language they didn't understand), play toys, and take pictures. It took her just a few short minutes to make her way over to us (she didn't know we were her family, still doesn't, we don't think). She went to my husband first. He was sitting with a little boy on his lap, a precious boy built just like a little linebacker, so solid and with the most adorable dimples! That little boy had claimed my husband's lap first, but that didn't matter to our little girl, she just joined him in the lap.

I got my turn to hold her shortly after; she was so sweet and friendly! At one point she picked up a dinosaur toy and said, "Dinosaur". I exclaimed, "She's speaking English!" And my husband replied, "Or it's the same word in Amharic." Turns out that was true! We asked someone later.

At one point I was standing and she wanted me to pick her up. As I lifted her and hugged her I thought, "Okay, let's just not wait 3 months to bring you home; let's just go now." Of course, that's not an option or we totally would in a heartbeat!

Someone brought in a scale and measuring board to get the kids heights and weights, so the nannies began quickly stripping the kids clothes to weigh them. It was amazing how well most of the kids did at dressing themselves back. We helped a little with shoes and socks. A little one I really thought was a boy brought me some black patent Target brand ballerina flats to put on him -- they don't really seem to worry about gender specific clothes there, one day a for sure boy was wearing pink pants!

My 8 year old son and the little linebacker boy had fun racing cars and trucks back and forth. Then the little boy gathered every single car and truck from the whole room and lined them all up in one long, straight line -- so cute and smart!

The kids really liked looking at themselves on our camera screen. It was precious to see them point to their picture on the camera screen and then point to themselves!

Our little girl loved being turned upside down and giggled the most adorable giggles while upside down.

When our hour was up and it was time to leave, I hugged her and put her down. She immediately reached her little arms up to be picked up again. I couldn't help it, I scooped her right back up. I carried her over to the rug where the kids were gathering for snack and sat her down. I helped put the bibs on several children and then as I attempted to leave again, I realized she was holding onto my shoe laces! Thankfully, it was just that 1st day that she made it so hard to leave her because at least then I could leave knowing I had two more visits coming up!

We left the foster care center and immediately headed to the Korah area to meet up with our friend who is doing mission work there in that community situated around a large trash dump. I know our driver must have thought we were nuts when we had him drive us to that bad part of town (some taxis won't even drive in) and when our friend walked up we hugged her tight and looked at the driver and said, "Come back and get us in about 4 hours." I'm sure he thought we were completely crazy Americans and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. But, our friend took care of us, she knows the area well now, and I really never felt endangered.

We had lunch and then went to the church to meet the pastor our friend volunteers with, we saw the offices and classrooms for Transformation Love

and then accompanied our friend and the pastor on a home visit for one of the children in their sponsorship program. It was something to sit with an HIV+ mom and her little girl who just finished kindergarten, like our oldest daughter, in their mud hut smaller than our closet and pray with them! They are able to get food and the little girl is able to go to school due to a sponsorship program through Transformation Love.
Below is the outside of their house. In the back some of the mud wall was caving in, the mom said water came in whenever it rained.
As we walked the streets of Korah, children approached us, happy to see us, thrilled to hold our hands, and try out their English. We got used to being a spectacle just for being white and had to explain to our kids, they are staring and watching you because they are not used to seeing children who look like you do.

When our driver picked us up he asked if we wanted to go to the silk factory, which was on the sightseeing the agenda for the day for our travel group. We thought we'd have to miss it since we wanted to meet up with our friend in Korah, little did we know the silk factory was really, really close to Korah, so we got to see it afterall! Here are the worms that make the silk thread:

By then we were exhausted and stopped off at Kaldi's (Ethiopian version of Starbucks, only better). My husband and I both got a macchiato - so yummy - and the kids got chocolate milk shakes the deemed the best milk shakes they'd ever had!

We went back to the guest house to change out of our muddy clothes (did I mention it was super muddy in Korah?) before meeting our travel group for dinner at the Diplomat Restaurant, where they had the best public restrooms we saw the entire trip -- toilet paper and a toilet seat!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Back to School

Am I the only mom who doesn't like sending her kids back to school?

I just like it better when they are all home! For the most part, I enjoy being around my children, and miss them when they're gone. And really it's easier, too, not having to worry about getting them dropped off at a certain time, picked up at a certain time, lunches packed, agendas signed, homework, projects, field trip money, bake sale items, the teacher who wants parents to volunteer to decorate her door, etc., etc.!

But, enough complaining, they (my 2 oldest, my 4 year old hasn't gone back yet) did have a great first day of school today, we are blessed with a wonderful public elementary, where my kids learn a ton -- book knowledge and most important, I believe, life lessons.

My 8 year old walked himself to class all by himself (which he's done a lot, but never on the first day before), and they walk out of school by themselves too, rather than as a line with their teacher, like in the younger grades, so I didn't even see his teachers today (met them last week, though). I can tell the independence is good for him, and it's how it should be, he has his own world to manage without Mommy holding his hand or micro-managing as much as she used to. When he walked out of school I could just see the confidence exuding from him, like, "Yeah, I've got this elementary school thing figured out!"

My 6 year old daughter reported that she liked kindergarten better than 1st grade. When I asked her why she said, "Because in kindergarten we got to lay down and rest after lunch." So true, there is no rest time for the 1st graders! But it made me laugh because all last year her favorite thing about kindergarten was "workstations" and her least favorite? "Rest time!" She complained about nothing else in kindergarten but that rest time! You don't realize the good thing you've got 'til it's gone!!!

Then she said, "Why can't I just go down to my old kindergarten class and lay down for a little bit after lunch?" Ha! Yep, like I said, life lessons learned at school. I can't tell you how many times when I was in the working world, I just wanted to lay down after lunch and had to sit at my desk and work while fighting off sleep! Welcome to the real world, baby girl, now maybe when you do get a chance to take a nap, you'll appreciate it more!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Journaling our Ethiopia Trip - Day 3

We woke up in Dubai, ate a quick breakfast (the only meal I'd actually recommend at the hotel Emirates puts you up in for the night) and caught the shuttle to the airport with what we thought was plenty of time.

However, we underestimated the crowds and crazy in the Dubai airport, even early on a Sunday morning! We got through security okay, but made the mistake of stopping at a duty-free shop to buy some bottled water. The lines were really long and the guy in front of us was buying, no joke, about 200 individual bars of soap. I have no idea where he was from or where he was flying to, but apparently it was the land of no soap, ever! Or perhaps the land of really, really expensive soap. Whatever the reason, this guy was stocking up!! I wish I'd gotten a picture of the conveyor belt with all his soap stacked up on it!

Once we finally got the water, we still wanted to exchange our remaining Dubai money for U.S. dollars. We had exchanged $200 US dollars the day before, turning it into Dubai money at our hotel. We used that money to take a cab into downtown and back, buy water & shaving cream. When we exchanged our remaining Dubai money back into USD, we got $230. Thirty dollars more than what we'd started with! Not exactly sure how we made money on the Dubai exchange rate, but we think the exchange place at the hotel must have made a mistake.

We still thought it was no problem to make our flight at this point, but then we started walking and saw signs that said it was a 20 minute walk to the ranges of gates where our flight was leaving from! What? How can it be a 20 minute walk all within the same terminal? And if that 20 minutes is for the average person, considering we have 2 children with us who are carrying backpacks, surely we are going to be slower than average! Suddenly we began worrying we'd not make it, so my husband scooped up our 5 year old and we raced to our gate, huffing and puffing. We made it right as they were making the final boarding call!

We landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia around 10:30am, got our VISAs, collected our bags, and got through customs without any problems.

We met up with our driver, Biruk. Then my daughter had to go the bathroom, so we had our 1st Ethiopian restroom experience. My 5 year old said it smelled like "wet dog". She was right, then she asked, "IS there a wet dog in here?" There are certainly worse things for a public restroom to smell like, it was just hilarious how convinced she was that surely a dog must be in there! Thankfully I'd been forewarned about many Ethiopian restrooms lacking toilet paper and packed tons of little packets of Kleenex -- we needed them throughout our trip!

Our guest house, BJoe's, was just a short ride from the airport. Once there we met 3 other couples also adopting with our same agency and with court dates the same as ours. We loved getting to know the families throughout the week!

We went to lunch at Antica and ate brick-oven pizza -- my kids declared it the best pizza ever! Then we unpacked and rested a bit at our guesthouse before going to dinner at Garden Paradise where the food was just okay but the ambiance was nice.

We had told the kids at home that it wasn't safe to drink water from the faucet in Ethiopia and while settling in at our guesthouse, we reiterated the concept. My husband said, "The water's like poison, if you drink it, it could make you sick." And we set up a hand sanitizer pump bottle right next to the sink and said, "After you wash your hands in the water, use the hand sanitizer to get off any of the germs from the water."

All that was fine, until, fast-forward about 6 hours later when I was ready to help my 5 year old shower. I ran the water, got her undressed, checked the water temp, and then lifted her into the shower. She immediately freaked out and jumped right out of the tub! I was showering her in poison!!!!!!

It took a lot of convincing to get her back in that shower - "I won't get your face wet, keep your mouth closed, trust me, it's going to be fine!"

So, perhaps the poison analogy was a bit too dramatic?

I fell asleep easily that night and woke up thinking surely it must be just about morning. Nope! 2 am! I'm not really sure I slept much more after that, tossing and turning, anxious and so very excited to meet our new daughter later that morning!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reasons I'm Glad We Took Our Kids to Africa

I will eventually continue journaling our trip to Ethiopia, but today I need this post.

One of my children has had some health symptoms since we returned from Africa (not really during our trip, but once we got back), under normal American standards they could be considered common childhood aliments, but with having recently spent a week in Africa it was all more concerning. Everything took a turn for the worse last night and I found myself in a minor emergency clinic in the wee hours of the morning describing the symptoms and of course having to add the kicker, "and we just got back from a trip to Africa."

Thankfully, it is not malaria or typhoid fever and I think we're on the road to recovery now, but I do need to remind myself of all the reasons I'm still glad we took our two older kids to Africa.

There are many, many reasons and I would absolutely say it was worth it for all of the prices we paid to do it.

I don't have time to list all of the reasons, but, I can say I've seen a big change in my 8 year old's attitude since returning. He's always had a pretty good attitude and it's a quality (even more than immediate obedience) I really work on preserving/protecting/correcting in my kids. But he's an American kid and before our trip I'd seen hints of the attitude issues that plague many Americans (adults included) - entitlement, ungratefulness, selfishness, grumbling.

And now, several times each day we talk about the things we saw in Africa and I can tell his heart really was touched, impacted by meeting so many people who by our standards had nothing, yet they were full of joy and proclaiming their love for Jesus!

Today we walked in the house and he said out of the blue, "I'm glad we have air conditioning!"

And he's always reminding his little brother that he should just be thankful he has food to eat rather than complaining about what kind of food it is!

I wasn't really sure how much my turned-6 years-old-right-after-our-trip daughter internalized, but I've heard some funny conversations recently between she and her little brother (who didn't go with us to Africa) that indicate her perspective has changed, too. Here's a couple of the conversations:

My 4 year old has a standard prayer he says every night at dinner thanking God for our family and asking God to "keep Nana & Papa safe." And one recent night my 6 year old says to my 4 year old: "It seems like all you care about are Nana & Papa and us. What about the Ethiopian people?"

My 4 year old: "I do care about them, I care about everybody we know."

My 6 year old: "Well we don't really know them."

My 4 year old: "Then why do we care about them?"

My 6 year old: "Because they don't have very good food to eat."


Then today, we got home from the meet the teacher day for my two older kids and my 8 year old son raced in to let the puppy out of her crate with the 4 year old on his heels. You can guess who won that race! My 4 year old has a flare for drama when things don't go his way, even the smallest thing, and depending on the day and how much sleep he's had, there is the potential for much LOUD fussing to ensue, as it did today. Somehow in the midst of fussing about not getting to let the dog out he also figured out he had swim lessons later in the afternoon (sometimes he likes them and sometimes not, today was not) and that put him over the top. He began fussing his classic line:

"It's the worstest day ever!"

Thankfully his grammar mistake brings the tiniest smidge of cute to the huge annoyance of the fussing.

But, what was really funny today was right after he lamented, "It's the worstest day ever!" without missing a beat his 6 year old sister corrected him,

"No, you can only say that if you live in Africa."

Now I'm just praying that perspective lasts, for all of us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Journaling our Ethiopia Trip - Day 2

We landed in Dubai and staggered off the plane after such a long flight. The airport was bustling and super busy so it was rather disorienting considering we were also exhausted.

We arrived early afternoon, but there was not a flight out to Ethiopia until morning so the airline gave us a hotel room for the night(we knew all this at the time of booking). We picked up the vouchers for the hotel when we checked in for our flight from the U.S. We were not to collect our checked bags in Dubai, they'd be loaded onto our flight for Ethiopia, so we just needed to catch the shuttle to our hotel with our carry-on bags.

We followed the crowd to a line but then an official sort of person spoke to us in a language we didn't understand. Yep, definitely not in Texas anymore! From his gestures we managed to figure out we were to keep walking to a different line. That line turned out to be very short and was where we showed our passports and got our temporary visas. There was no charge for the visa. From there we found the spot to wait for the shuttle and once it got there we stepped outside into the extreme dry heat. Just like an oven!

We got to the hotel, checked in, got more free vouchers for lunch, dinner, snack and breakfast! We walked into our room and saw two twin beds and very small couch. At first we though the four of us were going to be very cozy sleeping, but then we realized that we actually had two keys to two different rooms! We had the room next door, too, also with two twin beds. So we split up guys and girls.

We ate a quick lunch in the hotel restaurant. Not the best food, a buffet with a combination of Indian and Ethiopia foods (imagine an Arab Golden Corral!) although they did have a pasta option. Breakfast was really the only meal I'd recommend in that restaurant -- man were we glad to see some croissants and cereal!

We exchanged some money in the hotel lobby and headed back to the rooms for a nap before attempting to do any sightseeing.

We crashed for a couple hours and had the hardest time waking the kids, but we worried if we didn't get up for a little while we'd all be awake at 2am! We easily got a cab from the hotel and headed into downtown to what I believe is the largest mall in the world, right next to the tallest building in the world.

The cab ride was about 20 minutes, perfect for taking in some views of the city! We didn't have much energy for the mall and covered probably less than 1/20th of it, but we did go outside to a plaza area between the mall and the tallest building where they have a water fountain show set to music. The show was kinda cool, but we've seen the one in Vegas it was likely copied after and Vegas wins, however the views of the tall Burj Khalifa building were spectacular!
At the mall we saw an indoor aquarium and tons of great stores but we didn't feel up to shopping and besides the crowds were making me a bit nervous, mostly because we had our kids with us. Even though Dubai is a very modern city, I felt much more comfortable out and about with my kids in Ethiopia than in Dubai, not entirely sure why. So we went to the cab line where literally hundreds of cabs were ready waiting! We had a small adventure getting back to the hotel as it turned out there were two hotels in town with the same name and the driver took us to the wrong one first, but we eventually made it to the right one, had a quick dinner, showered and went to bed!

I drew the worse end of the deal bunking with my daughter. My husband and son slept soundly all night. I slept soundly for a few hours before I was awakened by my 5 year old sitting up in bed complaining that she could not sleep! Granted we were on a very different time zone than what we were used to, but need I remind you the girl only slept 6 minutes of the 15 hour flight over? Wouldn't you think she'd be tired enough to sleep no matter what time her body thought it was? I attempted to answer her question over and over, "But, how? How do you fall asleep when you can't?" Me: "You just lay there and close your eyes and be really still."

Finally I broke down and let her play the iPad (at 3am!) for a few minutes after she promised to really, really try to go to sleep afterward! I think we finally both fell asleep about 1 hour before my husband knocked on the door with our wake-up call!

It didn't take much for me to rally, though, we were really and truly ETHIOPIA-BOUND!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Journaling our Ethiopia Trip - Day 1

(Keep in mind some of these are bags of orphanage donations! And yes, those are fuzzy dog feet in the left background and drying swimsuits on a chair - ordinary life intersecting with the extraordinary)

Friday, July 29th we began our trip to Ethiopia. Our flight left at 12:30pm.

The adventure began at home that morning, around the breakfast table with the 4 year old's chair very noticeably empty (he had already gone to his Nana & Papa's house) and an unsettling quiet in his absence, the end of the meal brought the discovery that the malaria medicine prescribed by our travel medicine doctor we were supposed to begin that day included swallow pills, rather than liquid medicine, for our kids. Our 8 year old and 5 year old have never swallowed pills before!

My husband and I demonstrated the technique with our own malaria medicine. They were pretty tiny pills as pills go and they've gotta learn some day!

My 8 year old son attempted. The pill along with a good bit of water was spit out over and over again, to the point that we worried the pill was going to dissolve away.

My 5 year old daughter watched her brother's attempts and then refused (and really who could blame her after the show her brother had put on) to try it herself. My husband had the brilliant idea that the kids could just chew up the pills, even though they were not really designed for such a consumption method. The kids got them down, but I was gagging at the thought as I grabbed the bag of chocolate candies I'd packed for the plane and handed one to each kid to get rid of the taste!

That routine was repeated twice a day for about two days until we learned from a reliable source that despite what the Internet had said, there was no real malaria risk in either Addis Ababa, Ethiopia or Mekele, Ethiopia (our 2 Africa destinations) and we all stopped taking the medicine.

The rest of the morning we left was spent rushing around. No matter how well prepared I feel I am to leave town the night before, the morning of always presents more tasks than time really comfortably allows for.

And no trip to the airport for our family would be complete without my husband worrying we won't make our flight! I kept insisting we had plenty of time, but then we encountered some weather that got even me scared.

After months and months and months of NO RAIN, drought like we haven't seen in a century, there was suddenly a massive downpour, near blinding rain right there on the interstate! We encountered the only outer band of tropical storm Don I believe our entire city got! Traffic was snarled and I began praying.

We did end up making the flight with time to spare, praise God! We flew Emirates with an overnight stop in Dubai. The service was outstanding and the food was pretty good. They even gave the kids these cool snack boxes for in between meals. I packed way more snacks in our carry-ons than we needed!

On the plane the kids were enthralled with the in-seat entertainment. Their very own screen on the back of the seat in front of them with video games, movies, music! We pretty drastically limit screen time at home so they were very excited about their unlimited time on the plane. They were so entertained there really was no whining or complaining during the long flight.

Although, about 2 hours into the 15 hour flight my daughter asked, "Are we in Dubai?" And she proceeded to ask that question every time there was an announcement of any sort over the speaker for rough air, etc.

My 8 year old son slept for a couple hours. My husband and I just dozed a bit here and there. My 5 year old daughter fell asleep literally for the last 6 minutes of the flight! The last 6 MINUTES of a 15 HOUR flight! But, at least she was happy and not bothering me for those 14 hours and 45 minutes of awake time! Girl watched a million episodes of this koala bear cartoon show!

I had fun perusing the vast music selection and created my own awesome playlist. There's just nothing like combing Taylor Swift and Moby and Fleetwood Mac and Kenny Rogers! My husband and son were in the row in front of my daughter so I passed notes that said things like, "Album 347, song 5". At first my husband expressed disgust that I was having him listen to a Kenny Rogers album, but even he ended up becoming a fan of some
"You Decorated my Life." It's good stuff, just click on the song title to listen yourself!

Dubai is, um, sandy. Really! Who knew it was a huge, bustling, modern city right smack dab in the middle of the desert? Okay, maybe people who actually paid attention in world geography class, but I was amazed as we flew in over all that sand!

That brings us well into Saturday, so stay tuned for day 2 coming soon (or whenever I actually feel like writing it). I know you're on the edge of your seat!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Back from Ethiopia!

We're back from Ethiopia and had a trip filled with so many amazing experiences! I could never summarize it in one post but will hit some highlights and then fill in the details in coming days.

We loved meeting our new little girl! It was fun playing with all the kids in the toddler room of the care center our agency runs and seeing their personalities. Some were shy and didn't really approach us and seemed intimated if we approached them, some were shy but smiled huge when we initiated play with them, and then some were in your lap after about 20 seconds in the room! Our girl was in the outgoing, friendly, lap-sitting group!

At one point the caregivers played some music and a few of the kids danced. Our new daughter danced the longest, bending her knees over and over again with her little hands on her hips! Seriously, it was the cutest thing ever! We were able to record it on video.

She is precious and definitely has a spunky side, after about 20 minutes with her we all had the thought, "There's going to be a new boss in the house soon!" Let's just say even with a language barrier, she makes perfectly clear what she wants and doesn't want you to do! We will have our hands full for sure but absolutely can't wait!

Our court appearance went completely as expected, we were just lacking one letter from the Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (MOWYCA), the ministry is behind on writing letters for nearly all families. But, on Friday we got news that the courts (scheduled to close for the 2 month long rainy season last Friday, just days after our court date) were remaining opened for one more week in an attempt to finalize more court cases as MOWCYA letters came in. The timing of the news was sweet after having to say goodbye to our little girl at our last visit with her that morning. Now we're praying to pass court before the end of the week so we can bring her home sooner!

While in Ethiopia, we got to visit our friend who is a missionary there and see the work she is doing for the people around Korah (an entire community situated around a large trash dump). It was something to sit with an HIV+ mom and her little girl who just finished kindergarten, like our oldest daughter, in their mud hut smaller than our closet and pray with them. They are able to get food and the little girl is able to go to school due to a sponsorship program through the organization Transformation Love.

Then later in the week we got to meet the boy we sponsor through Compassion International and his mother. They came to Addis Ababa from Awassa with a translator and we met with them in addition to a Compassion staff member. We gave Mathews a backpack of goodies, including a Houston Texans shirt, which he immediately put on, and a soccer ball. Our 2 older kids played soccer with Mathews on the lawn outside our guesthouse and we were just so amazed at the actuality of meeting in person this boy we've grown to know for years only through letters and pictures! We took them to lunch (the first time Mathews and his mom had ever been to a restaurant!) and to the Lion Zoo. His mom had a pretty shy, serious expression most of the visit but I loved the smile she couldn't hide upon seeing those lions! Then 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!!

So many adventures! We toured the government orphanages where conditions are much worse than the care center where our daughter now is; our hearts break for the staggering number of children in those orphanages, and their joy at just being able to hug us and hold hands was humbling. We were so impressed with how well many of the older kids spoke English!

We especially connected with a 12 year old boy named Moses, he was so friendly, sweet 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. So 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).

The girls orphanage had over 300 girls with again, no obvious adults. Sweet, sweet giggly girls. 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!

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. If we hadn't left a child behind in the U.S. (the child who told me today he missed our 8 month old puppy while at his Nana & Papa's house more than he missed the rest of us!) I think I would still be there now, caring for those babies.

I really appreciate your support and prayers for our family and hope to be able to share with you pictures of our new daughter very soon (just as soon as the court case is final), until then here's a glimpse: her little fingers holding my husband's hand!