"This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalms 118:24

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Conversation with a 16 month old...

Little J brings me something (can't remember what, not important).....

me:  Why thank you
Little J as she is walking away:  or el come
me:  oh, what good manners, good girl
Little J:  hank u

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day eight - landing in the US!

I forgot to add this pic to yesterday's post of Paula, Michelle and me.  This was while we were waiting our 3 hours before boarding!

After take off, and one of the few times Little J was awake.  We were both exhausted by the end of this week and I was so hoping I would sleep as well as I did on the way over.  No such luck!  Tim, he was like me on the trip over, could hardly keep him awake!  I am so grateful Little J was so peaceful and content and slept so much. 
Landing in DC, YAYYYY!!
Michelle's dad was able to drive to the airport to meet his new grandson (and pick up his wife Annette!).  We arrived in DC at 7:35 a.m. and our next flight to Chicago didn't leave until 2:30.  My cousin Paula to the rescue!  She rented a car so she could have a car seat and she came and got us.  When she arrived I looked at the car seat and had to chuckle.  I hadn't thought about mentioning "Little" J's size and she just told the car rental company that Little J was 4 months old, so they installed an infant car seat!  Hehe..... seems reasonable and it was pretty funny seeing her in it.  I can't find any pics so I think I must have taken one with my phone.  We fit her in but it was funny and thank goodness it was just a short drive.  This break from the airport was like a little piece of heaven.  I had packed us all a change of clothes and Tim and I took a shower which was AWESOME!  Paula and her husband Eric made us a great breakfast, eggs and bacon, mmmmmmm good!  Little J got a little nap in and while we didn't nap, it was so wonderful to have a rest on a comfortable couch!  After our change of clothes:

Paula and Little J
Wow, can you tell the difference in those cheeks (not Paula's, ha!) that everyone said looked like mine to her current pics?  Her body reshaping is starting from the top down  :-)  (and no comments that my cheeks have not changed.....).

We were a little worried about our plane change in Chicago, we had less than one hour and we were in a totally different terminal.  We had scoped it all out on our flight the previous Saturday before heading to DC so we knew exactly what we had to do.  Carrying three carry on bags (Little J got one too) and Little J we knew would slow us down.  Can you believe it, our flight from DC actually arrived EARLY!  We were golden!  We got to our gate with plenty of time to spare.  Little J had been awake most of the time since we had arrived in the US, minus the little nap at Paula's.  She was madder than a hornet right before we were supposed to board our last flight to home.  There was no waiting to give her a bottle at take off.  After she had that, she fell asleep in exhaustion again right as we were boarding the plane.  I had cute little matching outfits for her and for Big J and I only got her in part of it.  Little did I know that Big J was not too thrilled about having to change into her special outfit but "Aunt" Judy was able to do it!  When Tim and I got on the plane, for some reason our seats were across the aisle from each other.  I didn't think it would be any big deal so I got situated and all buckled in while Little J continued to sleep.  The stewardess came and told me I couldn't sit there - I now can't remember the reason but think it was something to do with the oxygen masks, it wasn't really all that critical in my exhausted state, heck it was less than an hour flight!  All I remember is I was so exhausted and had finally gotten Little J settled down and she wanted me to move? WHAT???  Couldn't she see I had been on planes for 19 + hours at this point and had this last one hour flight??  Ohhhh, I was so stinkin mad but I moved.  Tim was out sleeping before the plane even took off so I guess it was just as well I wasn't sitting next to him, ha!  I sat next to a gentlemen and we started talking, I told him how we were just coming back from Ethiopia.  He started telling me about his trip to pick up their adopted child in Russia a few years earlier so we had a really nice talk.

FINALLY, back HOME!  You know how on some small planes you have to give them your carry on luggage and they actually put it underneath the plane and then when you get to your destination you wait at the plane door as they bring this luggage back up?  We had to do that with our two bags and you guessed it, the very LAST ones they brought up!  I was about to high tail it and leave Tim to get them, I wanted to go give Big J a big hug but I was sorta patient and waited for him :-)  This was our greeting party waiting patiently:
Remember the families that I mentioned that all live right in close proximity?  Well how special to have 3 of the families there to greet us along with Big J and my best friend Judy and her husband, "Uncle" Bob (the both of whom spoiled Big J rotten on her week vacation with them!  You guys are THE BEST!).  And Sarah and Ryan were so generously kind as to pick up our van after we left the airport the previous Saturday and keep it at their house and return it a week later so we wouldn't have to pay to park it in long term parking and oh yeah, brush off snow from it sitting outside!  Jen had offered to do this too, I tell ya, great families!

I think they must know we have landed (didn't know it would be -what seemed like- 20 minutes before we would appear:
This is the ONLY time Little J's eyes opened, and it was for about 2 minutes!
Then back to this:
No dad, you have to drive home, wake up!

"Aunt" Judy and "Uncle" Bob

We got to our house around 9:00 p.m.  Put Little J in her new crib right in her clothes and the fleece snowsuit.  Big J was so cute the entire ride home, she talked real soft so as to not wake up her new little sister.  When I put Little J in her crib, Big J went to get a small step stool and put it right next to the crib because she had to look at her little sister.  She looked and looked and then said, "I love you Little J".  What a sweet ending to an incredible week that brought us such a treasure!  We all slept so peacefully that night!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 7 - heading home!

Wow, the week went so smoothly and quickly, but oh I was so ready to get home!  We were up early, 6:30, and spent the day getting organized and packed.  We would be two big duffel bags lighter going home as we had taken two full duffels plus another half of another one full of donations for the two care centers and we left the bags for easier transport of the donations.  This is an email I sent back to family and friends that day:

Titled:  Heading Home
YAYYY!!!  We leave tonight and we are VERY ready to be home!  The week has gone amazingly well, we have a great sleeper and she has started cooing to us too!  She even seemed to like the baths, we took one this morning to get all clean smelling for the long journey home.  We are praying she will sleep alot on the flights home, but even if she is awake, she is pretty content unless she is hungry - also kind of like me!  :-)

Can't wait to get some pictures out and some video.  Thanks for all your prayers, they have made our week a pretty painless one!  Looking forward to letting you know we are home!


We took some pics:
This is Tigest who was the day person at the front desk.  She was very helpful and really a delightful person.  You can see the computer in the background that she or Johnny would let us use to send and check emails. 
This is Haile (Hi lee) who was the 19 year old cook.  What a sweet, wonderful young man!  I tell ya, women and men alike truly adore babies and children, they are revered.  He was so cute, during this time when we were in the lobby and he held Little J and we were talking, he whispered to  me, "how old is she?".  I answered "4 months".  He says with a pause and whispers back ....."ohhh, she is too big", all in kindness and sweetness, but yes, we knew she was too big, a 4 month old doesn't usually weigh 25 pounds but it was not her fault nor the nannies who let her drink too much.  This was obviously her comforting mechanism and we just weren't worried and knew eventually she would grow into the extra weight which is occurring very nicely! 
Michelle and "G".  Is he not the CUTEST thing??!  We are going on vacation with them this spring and can't wait to see them again and meet his Big Bro "C" and Michelle's husband.  Their two boys are about the same age as our two girls, hmmmmm......  :-)
Mike and Paula, the fantastic dancers if you watched yesterday's videos, and sweet, adorable "B"!
Matt with model material "T".  We told Matt on probably a daily basis this kid needs to model!  His eyelashes were seriously the longest and most beautiful I've ever seen and his smile would melt your heart in an instant!
This is Haile with Matt's little guy!
Then our final picture.  Our travel group, except Annette, Michelle's mom.  What a great group of people that we were so blessed to travel with and with whom we shared a precious week of our life!  We are so grateful that we were able to travel to Little J's birth country and even if for just a short visit, experience some of her culture.  We hope that we can return with her in the future when she is old enough and ready and hope that we can travel to the region where she was born as we've heard it is so different than the bustling city of Addis Ababa.

Our flight didn't leave until 10:15 p.m. that Friday night.  We had heard that if we wanted to try and get a bassinet that attached to the bulkhead, you should get to the airport about 4 hours ahead.  It would take two trips to get us all there so Mike and Paula and Tim and I went in the first group.  We already had seats assigned when our travel agency booked our flights but this would hopefully let us change them.  When we got to the airport, we hauled our luggage in and got in line to send them through security first.  I had Little J in a sling with a metal ring, hmmm, wrong option!  She was asleep but they made me take the sling off.  Understood, but oh what a hassle.  At 25 pounds, she was no little peanut that you just stood and held for long periods of time.  After our luggage went through, they pulled one of the two bags aside as well as one of Mike and Paula's.  We had to go over while they hand checked it.  They seemed most interested/focused on a little bag of batteries and a portable batter charger.  After we got through that, I was already sweating!  We got in line to check in and wouldn't you know, that old memory issue of mine, I forgot to ask about the bulkhead seating until he was pretty much done - arghhhhh!  The whole reason we went FOUR HOURS early and I FORGET!  He was rather polite and said they were all taken - totally not true but again, at least he didn't say what he was thinking which I'm sure was, no way am I going to redo everything you crazy white lady!  The seats we did have our travel agent book were the three seats in the middle aisle.  We had booked the two outer seats (didn't have to buy a ticket for Little J) in hopes that no one would choose the middle seat.  I asked him if anyone had booked that seat or if it was still open and he said it was open.  He did SO kindly put a block on that seat so no one could sit there.  I was so grateful for that.  Maybe there is some benefit to having a terrible memory, Little J may not have been all that comfortable in the bassinet assuming she would even fit, and it couldn't have been any better to have all three seats to ourselves.  This is how she traveled much of that 17 hour flight to DC:

After we got checked in, we had more paperwork to fill out so we stepped over to another area to do that and then went through yet another line.  This is where they checked Little J's paperwork and all of our visa's.  By this time we knew that Michelle and her mom and Matt had arrived and were getting checked in.  We all eventually met up in the upper level of the airport.  They had shops and places to eat and an internet cafe.  We bought some bottled water to take on the plane because we were already checked in and through security, right?  Well, as they started the initial phase, we got in another line to go into our boarding area.  Believe it or not, we had to go through ANOTHER check-in with our carry on luggage.  So again, off with the sling and this is where they took my jar of peanut butter!  And, they took every one's water bottles, that we had purchased in their airport, and threw them all out.  They let us keep one for making bottles since we had a baby but poor Matt, they took all his water for "T" for his sippy cup.

Once we got in this area, boarding didn't happen right away and as I sat with Little J, I was starting to have a hard time keeping myself together.  I tried to keep busy either talking with others or walking.  We finally were able to board and at least I was keeping it to just tears running down my face instead of all out sobbing which is what I was feeling.  It still brings me to tears to remember this and certainly write it.  Thank goodness Tim was holding her and giving her a bottle as we took off.  My heart was breaking for her and frankly, I hope I will never forget how I felt as I am sure there will be the day when her heart will break for all she had to leave behind.  Yes, she is so loved and will have opportunities that she would never have in Ethiopia, but she still had to LEAVE to be in our family.  I know God wanted me to feel that pain, the thoughts that she is leaving HER country, HER culture, HER heritage, HER fellow countrymen, perhaps never to return, to be able to know in some small way the feelings she will likely have some day.  We hope that we will be able to return with her some day and experience more and share with her what information we have, which is little.  I pray it will be enough......

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day six - oh so entertaining

We could all just relax on this day since our Embassy appointment was behind us.  We just hung around in the morning and in the afternoon we had the option to go visit the care center in Addis where our kiddos were waiting for us until we could come get them.  I should say that our Little J, and in fact all the kiddos in our group, were originally in our agencies care center in Mekele, which is very north of Addis, bordering Eritrea which is next to the Red Sea.  Since all the adoptions are finalized in Addis, the kiddos are brought to the Addis care center about a month before the parents travel.  I should also mention that the two areas, Mekele and Addis, speak totally different languages.  While Little J and Mike and Paula's little guy were 4 months old and Michelle's little guy was 10 months old, I'm sure it still must have been confusing for them.  Matt's 2 year old, well of course it had to be VERY confusing for him, geesh, just learning to talk himself.  Tigest, who was the day person at the Guest House could speak both Tigrinya and Amharic so I know she was of a lot of help to Matt.

Tim stayed back with Little J and Matt stayed back with his little guy since he had visited the care center on his first trip the previous fall.  The rest of us all went, Michelle and I had care packages to deliver also!  This is "B", who parents are one of the great families we live right close by - can you believe it?  They left to bring her home one week after we returned with Little J.  We have gotten together with them on several occasions and want the girls to be great friends!

Above, February 2010

And, "B" just turned two in January and we went to her birthday party, how fun!

And this handsome little guy, this is Amanda's "E".  And I mean BEAUTIFUL!  Even won some cute contest which doesn't surprise me in the least!
This is the handsome lad today, Amanda says excuse the drooling, he gets six teeth at once!

This is the day the traffic really struck me.  Addis Abba is a city of 3.4 million people, and believe me the traffic reflects that.  We hadn't been out that many times, our drive from the airport to our accommodations, our touring around on Monday, the Embassy on Wednesday and now to the care center.  It was about 30 minutes away.  It struck me that in all of those drives, all different directions, I think I recall about 2, yes TWO stoplights!  I could totally just have, well you know, the middle aged pre-menopausal brain going on, but seriously, no stoplights.  Bumper to bumper traffic.  It is quite an accomplishment to learn to drive.  Haile, who was the young cook for us at the Guest House in the mornings was going to be learning soon and was nervous about it.  He was 19 and I DON'T BLAME HIM!  On the way to the care center, it was a three lane road both ways with a grass median in between but the one side (for quite some stretch) was totally torn up being re-done so all the traffic was on one side.  Hmmm, no barriers to "separate" the traffic, nope, about 1 1/2 lanes each way, sometimes 2 and 1, sometimes 1 and 2.  YEP, not.EVEN.kidding.  Our driver, 19.  He was fantastic.  Us, no seat belts, not a lot of comfort in this situation but we were going with the flow :-)  I figured out the system though, one beep meant watch out.....two beeps, hey really watch out.....and three beeps, not so good, REALLY REALLY watch out.  But you know what, while a driver really had to maneuver in expert fashion to get from a side street into the main traffic, I never witnessed any road rage.  They have their system and everyone abides by it, geesh, novel idea.....

Here is the torn up side of the road:

When we got back, our agency had arranged for us to have dinner at a restaurant that also had live entertainment, traditional Ethiopian singing/dancing.  I was really hemming and hawing about this, I didn't really want to leave Little J with the nannies that were available at the guest house even though they were fabulous, I just didn't want to do it.  I finally decided to go and we did leave Little J for the first and only time while there (she did just fine too).  Am I SO glad I did!  I was pretty sure I wouldn't be eating but that wasn't the reason I went, however they did have fish on the menu.  I'm not really a big fish person at all but hey, something I recognized.  Annette was about in the same boat as me so I didn't feel quite so bad and she order the fish too.  They came back out to make sure we knew there would be bones.  We said we understood and that would be fine.  YEP, you guessed it, here was our fish:
Here is our group, Michelle was not feeling well that night so unfortunately missed this.  Now, a year later, she can she what she missed (yes, I am so lame)!

And for the real entertainment of the night, Paula, Matt and eventually Mike all became a part of the night's dancing.  The first two videos are less than a minute and a half.  The third is longer, but believe me, TOTALLY worth watching the entire thing!  (sorry about the darkness of the videos, but not bad since there were the colored flashing lights for the dancing and I was just using my camera):

I'm not sure you can totally totally appreciate the talent and stamina these dancers have unless you attempt to dance with them, right guys?  :-)  I never even thought it was possible for your shoulders and head and body to be able to do these moves, mine certainly can't!

And really, this one is just the treat.  Matt has the entire place in a roar, and was applauded by the Ethiopian patrons who got as much of a hoot out of it as we did.  Mike gets pulled into the show near the end, and well let me just say Mike is TALL (go back to the picture of them arriving in the taxi on gotcha day and imagine him spilling out of the back seat!).  I think you will see that even though the male dancer is more on the small side, maybe 5'7-5'8?  I know I asked Mike at the time but have forgotten, how tall he is, but I am guessing 6'8.  Tim said 6'6 so we'll split the difference, TALL.  The Ethiopian dancer can't even jump as tall as Mike and he CAN jump!  You get the idea:

So, do you agree it was worth it to come back today?  Tomorrow, we begin the LONG journey home...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day Five - Embassy appt

I should go back and make a couple more notes about day four, gotcha day.  Michelle, my friend who had been snowed in at Atlanta and Mike and Paula, the fourth family in our group, arrived somewhere around 10:30 a.m.  They were on the same flight but didn't know it until they arrived in Addis!  We were told the kiddos would be there at 10, and in this case, the go with the flow was good.  The arrived like this:
And Michelle and her mom:

Here Michelle gets off a plane after traveling what seems like two days and she looks fresh as a daisy and has makeup on!!  Geesh, I didn't even BRING makeup!  Good thing they got there when they did as they were not there probably more than 30-45 minutes when they brought the kiddos! 

Ok, so back to Embassy day.  We were all being picked up at 8:00 a.m. in hopes to get to the Embassy early and get through the process of getting Little J's visa approved.  The Embassy gives certain agencies "appointments" on a certain day of the week so there were many more families than just our four.  Thankfully we did seem to arrive first but there were many Ethiopians there also, there was hardly an empty chair.  It was a little uncomfortable, not knowing what they thought.  We had been told by our agency that other than these necessary appointments we should not go out in public with our kiddos as many Ethiopians are not happy about their kiddos leaving the country, perhaps never to return, like their future is leaving.  Our wait was not too long at all, I would say we were all done within a couple hours of arriving.  When it was our turn, we had to answer a few questions and then that was it. 

After we had Little J in our possession on Tuesday, we didn't leave the guest house much other than to go out and get bottled water or to get a coffee or lunch.  The guest house was down a dirt alley (although the busiest ally I've ever seen!) and was right off a major road.  There was a coffee place right on the corner named Kaldi's which was just like a Starbucks.  We got lunch there a few times and we also got lunch from a place called Zola's which had Italian (pretty good) and traditional Ethiopian food.  Michelle, Paula and I had walked there one day to get lunch, really not more than 1/4 mile and were just going to wait for it.  They insisted they would deliver it to the Guest House.  What's more, the bring some regular dishes and silverware, not plastic, so they even come back to get this stuff.  The other funny thing about our meals, if several of us went together to get something to bring back, try as hard as we did, they would always combine the check into one!  Our communication skills I guess were a little lacking!

This day was pretty low key, so we spent time outside in the courtyard or in the lobby (the doors to the courtyard are always open).  We had great weather the entire time we were there.  I was a little worried about it being hot, most of you know how much I love the heat - NOT - so thinking of warm, humid weather was ugh, especially because I brought 3/4 length sleeves shirts as it was respectful to keep my elbows covered as a women and shorts were not acceptable for either gender.  We were there at a really great time, not too hot, not too humid, all God's timing I am MOST sure!

You won't want to miss tomorrow, we went out to dinner at a special restaurant and Mike, Paula and Matt were all a part of the wonderful entertainment - little did they know ahead of time!  Sadly, I never got the video uploaded so a year later, they have never seen there efforts.  I hope I can get it to upload, I am a total rookie at this thing but it is DEFINITELY worth seeing!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Back tomorrow but enjoy some pics

Two nights without my long winded posts - you are probably saying HOORAY!  Big J and I had a baby shower to attend tonight so day 5 will come tomorrow.  Yesterday's pics were of Little J one year ago so I thought you might enjoy these pics from TODAY (and well a few from the past few days).  Enjoy!

Notice the top waist snap.....yea, the other side wouldn't stay snapped either, size 3T (and just to note, they are NONE too long for her)! 

hmmm, wonder why the snaps under her diaper wouldn't stay snapped either?  :-)
While she doesn't look all that thrilled that dad put my coat on her, she was actually giggling about it.  He told her to go show mom and I hear her, "momma, me.....momma, me" 

Couple nights ago
Yes, she loves chewing on the tylenol squeeze top, and was being quite the ham about it.  (notice the two top teeth.....)
Big J took this shot, just the right height to get the total ham effect.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day four - She's ours!

Aawwwww, what a day!  Here is an email I was able to send back to family and friends that day:

first bath, first nap, and sitting here with me as I type, all is going really well so far!!  She napped for two hours - yahoo!!  To say she is chunky is an understatement!  The gal at the front desk here says she looks like me, I'm sure it is the chubby cheeks so not sure that is quite a compliment but for sure, she, Big J and I all have that in common!  :-)  (and she is a good burper and tooter!)  Will get out another message hopefully before we leave.