Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 1 of our time in Ethiopia

After 35 hours of travel, we arrived at the Addis Ababa airport very late Thursday evening. Exhausted, we then waited in the tourist visa line, exchanged some money, found our driver holding the sign for us, loaded our bags and rode 25 minutes through the dark city to get to our guest house. I remember stepping out of the airport and into the open air of Addis Ababa and immediately feeling like I wanted to run and do cartwheels because the weather was BEAUTIFUL! It was like a perfect and cool summer evening here in Illinois. There were pretty flowers planted along the walkway and I just remember thinking......."I already LOVE this place!" It was definitely a wonderful welcome after the long hours of travel, AND after having left the frigid climate back at home. We immediately realized on that first night's drive through the city, that the driving there was going to be.....uh....scary! Our driver said they do not have police out patrolling there at night, so sometimes people get a little crazier with driving. We also saw numerous wild dogs roaming all about, and then heard them howling to each other across the city all night long at our guest house! It was well after midnight by the time we got our bags into the guesthouse, familiarized ourselves with the room, unpacked a little, and tucked ourselves into bed. I had thought maybe we'd have to take some Unisom or something to help us sleep, considering it was only the afternoon in Illinois, but thankfully we all slept pretty well even that first night. During our travel, we had taken some homeopathic jet lag tablets we'd heard good things about, and I have to say we really didn't have very much jet lag at all while we were there!! Of course, with all the exciting things going on there each day, adrenaline was probably rushing through our bodies keeping us awake! Friday morning we woke up, excited, and wondering in anticipation how the meeting with Hanna's birth mother would go that day. It's a long story to explain, but it really was nothing short of a miracle the way God worked out the details of our meeting. I had prayed for months before that God would help us to find her. (Edilu was an abandoned/malnourished case, so no birth family known for him) I had laid awake in bed many nights praying for her and having this heavy burden to meet her and speak with her. I had pictures of her with Hanna, and one of her with Hanna's older sister. I knew what she looked like, but I really didn't have much more to go off of except the name of a HUGE region where she lived with millions of other people. I spent hours and hours on the internet trying to figure out if SOMEBODY out there SOMEWHERE could help me find her. Eventually, in my search, I stumbled across the blog of a woman in Canada whose son had also come from Tikuret orphanage. This was the orphanage Hanna had been relinquished to and had spent 7 months. It was a divine "cyber-appointment".....truly. This woman knew ALL about the orphanage and the staff where Hanna had been. She gave me contact information and I was able to get in touch with the staff there. They were AMAZING.....loving, godly people, passionate about the children and mothers of Ethiopia with a real vision to help change the fabric of Ethiopia. They had information on Meseret (birth mom) and knew how to find her. They were so gracious to arrange all the details for us. Praise the Lord! So Friday afternoon we were driven over to the orphanage to take a tour and then meet with Meseret. We were so happy to see that Hanna had been in a very nice place for an orphanage. Asayech, the director/founder of the orphanage is a nurse and understands much about hygiene/health issues and so for Ethiopian standards the orphanage was as clean and organized as it could be. I think she told us that about 50 kids are typically living there. Meseret (birth mom) had been brought to the orphanage the day before from her village 5 hours away. She was SO happy to have been given the opportunity to meet us! Every time I hugged her, I didn't think she was ever going to let go! It was so emotional for all of us, even Caleb. Asayech (nurse) translated for us so that we could speak back and forth to her. We found out during our meeting that she was a protestant Christian and had an amazing faith in God. She never acted angry or bitter over the difficult life she had, but always referred to how she trusted God to take care of her and how she had had to give Hanna over to God and trust Him with her since she had no means to raise and care for her in a healthy manner. She realized that she could not control her circumstances, but that she could trust the God who controlled them. She had been praying for a long time for Hanna to have a good Christian family. So here were two mommas, sitting together in a room after having been half way across the world, both praying for this little girl and for each other. I think it amazed both of us to see how God had brought us together! What a testimony of God's faithfulness! We learned much more about Hanna's life before and how her mother had lost two other children to malnutrition. It brought a flood of tears to hear of her life's difficulties at only 28 years old, but what a blessing to have had this time to spend with her. Tikuret then fed us all lunch and a while later had a little celebration for us over Hanna's adoption as well as over two other children that were leaving the orphange that day to go home with their new parents to Denmark. We were told that the next day they would drive Meseret back home and that if we wanted to, it would be okay for us to go with to see where she lived. Tomorrow, I hope to post this on day TWO of our time in Ethiopia...... Here are some pictures from this first day and our meeting with Meseret. Pictures at the guest house we stayed in. After our initial meeting we all shared a special lunch together at the orphanage. Meseret (birth mom) had graciously come over and served us and unrolled our injera bread and showed us how to eat it! With Asayech, nurse and founder of orphanage and another staff member. We celebrated along with a Danish couple who were taking their children home that day. We were all given gifts of Ethiopian clothing. This woman was performing a traditional coffee ceremony for us....roasting the beans from raw and then grinding, etc.... Long process....Yummy coffee!!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Quick update.........to be followed SOON by pics of our trip!!

It's hard to believe we've been home over 2 weeks now! Every minute at our house is busy, but we are definitely starting to fall into a routine as a family of 7! Overall, we are really doing well. I think partly we had SO prepared ourselves for the WORST that we are really thankful for the MANY things that have gone better than expected. The past two weeks have been full of Dr. appointments, blood draws, stool samples, LOTS of baths and laundry, teaching baby to sleep without a bottle constantly in his mouth, training Hanna in the ways of our household, and just having fun getting to build relationships with these two new ones!

We've found that despite the challenges, we are really enjoying the kids and have found so much to thank God for! Hanna is doing VERY well with English and is understanding so much more than she is even able to speak, yet she is saying new words and phrases each day. Today, she kept saying with her thick accent, "Thank you SO much!" She is a smart little thing and a very quick learner! She often catches onto what I am doing right away and takes action to help finish the task such as bringing me the diaper and wipes when she sees me lay Edilu on the floor to change him. For the most part she is so obedient and takes joy in doing what I've asked her to. She LOVES to do everything for baby, and I sometimes have to tell her "No, this time you CAN"T feed him.......Mommy's turn!" She LOVES to vacuum, do dishes, fold clothes and mop floors.......maybe just because everything is novel and new, but I sure hope it lasts. Even though it's quicker to do it myself, I've been trying to let her help with all these things and she just puts her whole self into it! It's so cute. Another great thing..... she eats ANYTHING we give her for meals! Tonight she gulped down 2 tacos without batting an eye, even though I KNOW she'd never seen one of those before in Ethiopia! The other day I left kidney beans to drain in the colander for making chili and she kept eating and eating them! The first week we were home, she was in the kitchen asking for food ALL the time. Now I think she realizes the food is always there and there's always plenty, and it has leveled off. She's not asking for food nearly as often.

Edilu is a sweetie, but we've figured out that he was definitely handed bottles ALL through nap/bedtime to keep him quiet and asleep in his crib at the orphanage. At first he would wake every 3 hours throughout the night and cry (scream!)for a bottle. We've been giving him much more solid food than he was getting and are weaning him off all those bottles. He's doing pretty well now at night, but does not really nap at ALL during the day..........We're working on that! He's a pretty typical one year old........into EVERYTHING, including the toilet water! We're learning to stay on our toes because you never know what he's going to get into or pull off or find to put in his mouth! Despite that, he's a pretty precious guy and the kids all love to carry him around the house.

Both of the kids had NASTY colds when they came to us and we are still constantly wiping noses. We're waiting on the blood work and stool samples to come back but are pretty sure our little guy has Giardia/parasites because of his recurring diarrhea/messy diapers. Edilu has been eating well for us, but at this time is only in the 5th percentile for his weight. (50 for height) The Dr. thinks he will catch up quite a bit, but is way behind because he started off so malnourished. His head and belly are pretty good sized, but his arms and legs are SO tiny!!! Hanna had scalp fungus from the orphanage that had to be treated, but we are hoping her other tests all come back okay. We should know soon.

As much as I love being with both of the kids all day they are not good nappers (working on it!) and I am lucky to get a few minutes to get anything outside of dishes and laundry done before we have to rush off to pick up the kids from school and start the whole homework/dinner/evening thing. That's probably been the hardest thing for me is feeling like I'm not able to get much else accomplished during the day..... But hopefully we'll get a better routine for nap/rest time established so I can have a little more time for things such as.........Blog updates!! =)

Our oldest three have truly been amazing helps! We've been trying to take little moments of one-on-one time here and there for them, because I know that it's still hard having to share mom and dad with TWO more people.....especially when those two people need lots of time in the beginning. We have had some really fun moments of just laughing and laughing at silly things altogether and that has been fun! Hanna has had us all cracking up a few times.

Tomorrow I'm planning to start posting pictures/maybe some video of our trip to ET. I think we've finally gotten everything downloaded/saved to our computer. Thanks again for ALL the support, prayers and encouragement along this path......it continues to mean so much to us!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

We are HOME.........Safe and Sound!!!!!

We arrived home very late on Friday night after 35 hours of loooooong plane rides, layovers and scrutinizing security checks everywhere. Unfortunately, the plane that was to take us from Amsterdam to Minneapolis broke down after we had already gone through security and were waiting to board in this room so packed with people that even though we (and others ) were camped out all over the floors waiting.....we were like sardines in there. We found out later that out of all those 300+ people, many had been held over in hotels from the previous day because the plane had also broken down that day. There was no place to get water to drink or for feeding Edilu his bottle. They finally allowed me to walk 20 minutes through the airport to spend a fortune on 2 bottles of water that were specially "sealed" from the airport store so that I could take them through security to use for Edilu's bottle and us to drink. Caleb had a fever and was feeling puny and we realized somewhere along the line that we brought waaaaaaaaay too much carry one baggage because we could barely keep from falling over with all of it AND the kids. I knew we would miss our next connecting flight, and we had a hard time figuring out how to communicate with everyone back home since we couldn't use wifi at the airport. Finally, everyone was told to take everything and walk to a different concourse at the opposite end (of course!) of the airport and to get ready to take all of our baggage and wait in that super long line to go through security ONCE AGAIN before we could board this new plane that would NOW be taking us to Minneapolis. Can I just say I have NO love in my heart for airport security people?!!? LOL! I know they are just doing their job....but I've never been "patted down" and questioned and barked orders at so many times in my life!!! I did get pretty good at being able to take my shoes off/on with a baby strapped to the front of me. Looking back, we know they must have been so horrible in Amsterdam because we were taking the same route/airline that the bomber from Nigeria took through Amsterdam back in December. I'm sure they are dotting every "i" and crossing every "t" after that episode! Overall, even though we missed our next connecting flight in Minneapolis, we are still so grateful for safe travels and that really, considering, the kids did extremely well through it all AND we were able to still get a flight back to Peoria later that night. Even though it was late at night, many friends still ventured out to welcome us home and that was really wonderful to see their faces!

We have spent the last few days getting settled in, unpacking, and getting over jet lag! Truly, I feel like we are still processing so much. How do you see what we've seen and just go back to life as usual in America? How do I walk into my home with a full fridge (thanks to the Hoyt's!) and indoor plumbing and several bedrooms and not think differently about it because of the faces and people we've met? How can my thoughts not drift off to the children digging for food at the garbage dump....living right alongside the pigs in the filth? Or to the hungry children who's faces lit up when they were given a granola bar? Or to Hana' birth family living in a small dirt floor room with no water.....the people carrying heavy jugs of water long distances,etc, etc.... My prayer is that we will NOT go back to life as before......that the things we've seen will change us LONG term, not just for a few days. We have much to praise the Lord for each and every day!! If we know where our next meal will come from, we are rich. If we have a few drawers full of clothing, we are rich! When I saw the faith of Hana's birth mom, Meseret, who had NOTHING and yet trusted the Lord, it encouraged my heart. I think often our "stuff" can give us false security, and help us feel independent. I'm so thankful for the Lord who continues to teach and mold me into the person he wants me to be. May I fully realize the Lord as my strength and provider even when I am blessed materially. In my blessings, may I be a channel through which many others are blessed.

The kids are all really doing well and getting used to a new "normal". Our three older ones have so far been very helpful and understanding with Hana and Edilu (still not named!). We have already seen Hana make HUGE progress. In the beginning, she would have a crying fit every hour or so about something. I really think much of it is her way of working out her frustration/confusion at not having any control over anything in her life. She has had so many people come and go, and I think she never knows how long she'll be at the "next" place. I pray she is learning that she will be here to STAY with us for good. Of course ,communication has been a little tricky, but I'm amazed at how FAST she is learning English! She is, at the same time, so absolutely precious!!! We're seeing more and more of her personality as she has warmed up, and she's just so much fun! She makes me laugh every day! We are building a foundation of trust with her and she is having fits MUCH less often as she is beginning to trust us and understand what we are asking her to do. She is quite the little worker........in one of her orphanages all the children had jobs to do. Well, she MUST have mopped the floor and folded clothes, because she's a pro at it and LOVES to do it. She repeats our words all the time, and is so proud of herself and grins when she learns new things.

Edilu is such a joy, too. He's still a little mixed up about days/nights and doesn't want me to put him in the crib too often or he cries. I think he spent a little too much time there, and DOESN'T want to go back to that life!

Both of the kids eat just about ANYTHING, which is wonderful! Edilu thinks Hana is SO funny, and Hana loves to help feed him, etc...

We have much to praise God for! There are challenges, Yes. And there will be many more, I'm sure! It's one day at a time! Yet, while in Ethiopia, God gave me such a peace that these children were handpicked for our family! No matter what lies ahead, it's so good to know that God's hand has guided every detail......he has a wonderful plan for each of our children.

Hopefully, in the next few days I can get some pictures/video posted of our trip. Until then, I wanted to post this little clip of a Sarah Groves video which spoke to my heart.

Thanks to each and every one of you for the ways you've encouraged us along this path! It's hard to name ALL the ways...... We can never repay........the blessings we've received have been invaluable to us!

We love you!