Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 6...Africa

I promise we will get all of these days journaled! I guess my lack of completing our Africa journaling speaks volumes for how busy life is with four kiddos and a business. But, I couldn't feel more blessed or be happier!!!

Today, Tuesday February 16th will forever be etched in my heart! It is our official "Gotcha Day." Samuel Yacob Koceich will be a physical part of our family from today on and we couldn't be more excited!! We woke up this morning around 8am and meandered downstairs for another yummy breakfast! Soon, mom and Madison arrived. They were picked up at the airport by the America World staff and after an all night flight and a bit of a stressful morning at the airport were happy to get settled! It felt so good to see them and made our anticipation for the "gotcha" moment (and mom and Madison's metcha moments) to nearly overtake us!!! But, first it was time for some shopping. We had planned to buy Sam 18 gifts for each of his first 18 birthdays and also a wedding gift so we had a plan! We went back to the Makato (sp?)shopping area and were able to find several gifts...we still don't have them all, but we'll be back for the rest I'm sure! Matt was determined to find a traditional Ethiopian shirt...David (one of the AW staff guys) worked hard to help Matt find the perfect shirt!

After our shopping spree it was time to head back to the transition house for lunch. While everyone stayed to eat, Matt and I went with Tilahun and Famey to retrieve our lost bin and to pick up a couple more America World families. They both had already made an initial trip and weren't able to bring home their second children until this trip. It was really lots of fun (as usual) hanging out with the America World staff. Tilahun told us he learned English (which is flawless...btw) from watching American movies. They have a new theatre with movies in English there. His favorite movie is Avatar! By this time in our trip Matt was ready to move to Ethiopia. I would have been right there with him, but I'm the planner and, of course, all of the details keep getting in the way of adventure for me! Since I've been home God has brought several books and studies to me like, "The Hole in our Gospel.", "Don't Waste Your Life" and the Beth Moore study on John. What do you think is the recurrent theme??? Um, not sitting comfortable with where you are in life, but allowing God to take you on an adventure. Also, alot of recurrent things of getting up and doing something about the injustice in the world...not just thinking about it! I'm getting there...

Anyway, back to the adventure at hand.

Once we were back at the Transition home we needed to quickly get our donations together and eat. When we got to the transition home we started by giving care packages to the families who were still home waiting for court dates and travel dates. We were blessed enough to get to give care packages to two families. First, we met a GORGEOUS little girl and boy. I so wish I could post their would melt!! They were so sweet and very careful to make sure they were understanding what we were trying to communicate. They wouldn't open the gifts until they were sure that's what we were wanting and they stopped to pose for pictures anytime my camera went up to my eye...poor things...they didn't know I'm a photographer and the camera practically lives there!! I so wished their forever families lived closer because I would have loved to have gotten to know them more!! Absolutely precious. When it was time for them to go the little boy gave me a giant, squeeze the breath right out of you hug...I'll tell you why later. I kissed and kissed on him and after his nannies told him he could kiss me, he gave me the longest most precious kiss ever!!! Totally made me want to go back and adopt an older child!
Next came a precious little baby boy!! His eyes were so big and beautiful. He was a cuddler and I can't wait for his momma to get to hold and cuddle him for the first time! Seriously, capturing these moments on camera would be a dream job for me! Seeing families united for the first time and looking into the eyes of children as they are beginning to have hope is truly indescribable!!!

After these precious moments it was time to see Yacob again and for Madison and Nani (my mom) to get to meet him for the first time. You know I was so nervous for how he would do after our last two times together. When they brought him out we could tell they had to wake him up. He was sleepy and very calm. One of the sweet dad's came over and took pictures for us and I am so grateful!!! I know it was hard to tear himself away from his new family to do something so selfless for us! After the nannies brought him out I watched Madison's eyes...she was in love right away! She is my thinker and the most resistant of all of my kiddos to change so I know she was anxious for this moment, and I could just see all of that anxiety melt away as she saw her new brother for the first time! She was mesmerized. Once he fully woke up he did begin crying, but this time it only lasted a few minutes. Once we gave him a toy he calmed down and just stared very intently at everyone. We wanted to get a picture of his nannies and his bed so we took him inside. It is so obvious that the nannies adore these children. It was a hard, but happy goodbye. They are angels!!

On the way home we stopped at a small grocery store and the guys went in to buy formula, diapers and wine...LOL! I happen to think those three items go together nicely! Then we headed back to the transition home to rest. I tried resting for a few minutes and the Adrenalin was pumping and I just couldn't do it so I gave up. Sam on the other hand slept nicely in Daddy's arms while he read a book (fittingly, "The Whole in our Gospel" which in my opinion is a must read).

Soon it was time for dinner. They served Tibs, which wasn't quite as awesome as the other places we'd had it so far, then visited for a while and headed back upstairs. I wanted to give him a bath, but he was so tired I just couldn't do that to him so I just gave him a bottle and put him in the bed around 11ish. I couldn't sleep much at all because I had an ulcer on my throat and had some pretty bad throat pain, but little man slept ALL NIGHT!!! It was quite the day for all of us!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Day 5

This morning I was up and on the computer by 7:30am and our wake-up call wasn't even until 8:00. Although we saw John and Angela and met one more family (Ben and Leah) the night before briefly, while we were checking in, I was so excited to meet everyone! There is a special bond that you share with other adoptive families. Knowing that God had called each family to specifically adopt from Ethiopia and He brought our particular group together had me very excited! I was not a bit disappointed as each and every family was wonderful!! I wish they all lived close by, but location could never diminish the bonds we felt on this trip! I would soon find out that would also include the America World staff in Ethiopia!! Each and every person working for America World was kind, humble and helpful!!

We met downstairs and I had my first guest house breakfast...another delicious meal. The chef made these amazing cheese omelets (which I had every day thereafter) and I also enjoyed some mango yogurt and a pancake sort of thing which was cut into pie shaped wedges! I have to say, I definitely missed my peppermint mocha creamer so I got into the terrible habit of drinking a Pepsi at breakfast. Oh well, I'm sure I burned the extra calories walking up and down those stairs!!

After breakfast, we headed for the Hilton hotel for our paperwork party. You feel like you are in a completely different place at the Hilton. They had a gorgeous giant outdoor pool which must have been heated because there were many enjoying it and absolutely beautiful landscaping!! It felt like a stateside five star hotel! We sat at a long table all together under a canopy and listened to Duni as she began preparing us for the emotions and excitement the week would bring! She had wonderful advice and it was obvious she was passionate about these precious children!! I had a few minutes to talk to her before we began and her story is fascinating. She moved to the states (from Ethiopia) at 16. Her mom started the Kid's Care orphanage in Ethiopia. To begin, Duni didn't think she wanted to follow in her mom's footsteps and do social work, but the Lord brought her to work at America World (located in Virginia) and now she and her husband (who is also from Ethiopia) have moved back to Ethiopia and work in country. She was an inspiration to me to someday live in Ethiopia. Not sure when, or for how long, but Matt and I definitely have short term missions (thinking every other summer) on our hearts right now. We are praying for guidance on this!!!

David, Robel and T (our driver and guides...whom we came to love dearly!)

Next began the fun-filled time called the paperwork party. If you've gone through an international adoption or know someone who has, you know this last statement is filled with sarcasm. The word paperwork gives me hives (kinda kidding, but not really). :) Matt was VERY gracious to offer to fill out these papers since I had done 90% of the paperwork over the last 17 months.

Can't  you tell how much fun everyone is having filling out the paperwork?

I learned to trust this man quickly with my life.  If you ever get a chance to ride in a car/van on the streets of Addis Ababa, you'll see what I mean!!  He was an awesome driver!!

Once the paperwork was complete, we stayed for lunch. Matt ordered tibs and I wished I had! But, I did have two awesome machiatos (sp?) and a yummy roll that tasted like a pretzel.

Soon we noticed Duni had pulled away one of the families and their conversation looked very serious. We found out one of the children's recent x-rays had shown a spot and it was possible Lymphoma. I think in that moment the compassion our group felt for that couple and the way our hearts hurt for them was a time of bonding! We all stopped and prayed for them and their little girl. (good news coming later in the day).

While we were finishing up lunch Robel,one of the in country guides, sat by Matt and I. We were able to visit with him quite a bit and had a taste of the how the Ethiopian culture values relationships. From Robel, and honestly everyone there, we felt a sense that our stories were important to them and their time with us was meaningful.. There is no rush and no barriers to friendship...just genuine interest! Very much a sense of community! We also asked Robel about Yacob. He looked at the paperwork showing where the police station was located (where he was taken when he was found abandoned). He said it would be an 8-10 hour trip, but that maybe there would be more information in the report. We will definitely be going the next time we are in Ethiopia.

Next it was time to get to the Transition Home. Although I was excited to see Yacob again, I was so very excited to get to experience the other families meeting their children for the first time! What a gift that God allowed me to see Yacob (not once but twice) beforehand so that I was able to fully focus on capturing images for the other families and really feel their emotions!! It was an experience I'll never forget! I would love to post some of those images, but will refrain for privacy of the families.

The families adopting babies went first because this transition home was where the babies were. The big kids (I think 2 and over) lived at a different home close by and they were being brought by van).

After all of the babies and older kids were introduced to their families they brought Yacob to us. I was very nervous about what his reaction would be. They handed him to me and he was good for about 2 minutes (I think he had been asleep) and then the recognition came and so did the screams. He again screamed for about 30 minutes until he wore himself out and fell asleep! Poor, precious baby! While I was walking around with him asleep in my arms the mom who had heard about the x-ray of her daughter came to tell me the test was negative for Lymphoma or TB, she was totally fine!! Oh, I can't even describe the joy in my heart and in her eyes!!! After a few more minutes it was our turn to talk to the doctor. He said he wanted to see how he was doing when he woke up. He seemed surprised and a bit concerned that he screamed and cried for three days with us that severely! When Yacob woke up I had a bottle ready (smart nannies) and in his mouth it went before he could cry. By the end of the bottle I think he realized I wasn't going to hurt him and maybe we were okay. He didn't like to make eye contact with me or Matt (although he would look at Matt more by the end and even reached for his glasses twice). The doctor said he was a very smart baby and that the crying was probably because he was so very aware of the emotions etc. He also said that him showing the emotions was a great sign for our future bonding. I think some children just get immune to emotions. They have so much grief and suffering that they become desensitized and that they then have a very hard time bonding. Breaks my heart!! The doctor was definitely right that Yacob would be able to bond. After that day we have been best buds and he has been an extremely happy little baby boy!! Oh, the blessings continue!!

exausted from all that crying!

precious little hands!!

I took this one with my heavy camera in one hand and Yacob in the other!  Sooo happy I captured one of his first smiles for us!
The oh-so-astute staff at America World planned a spa day for the ladies. Leaving our babies behind (especially for those that had just met them for the first time) was super hard so they put us in a van and sent us straight to the spa. The spa is amazing!! Christy met us there and we both were able to get hour long massages and pedicures. Everyone did end up having to wait on us, but they were super patient and didn't mind (I'm telling you, impatience and uptightness go out the window in is wonderful!!!).

That bottle of oil was full when she began my massage!

After the spa we headed back to pick up the guys and headed out for a traditional Ethiopian dinner. The restaurant had dancers that performed many traditional dances. The moves they could make were amazing! We had some kind of try it all plate. Many different sauces and meats to eat with the injera. It was great having Christy there to decipher some of it!

Very fun and entertaining dinner!!                                                                                                  

washing our hands before the meal...                                                                                                   

This was the first time I had seen a dark and light injera...both were yummy!!                                       

After dinner it was back to the guest house. I tried to Skype but the Internet was not cooperating! I did get through by Skype phone (never video) to Madison who told me they had talked to Abby and Max and Max was very sad. He is my precious sensitive little one. He still, two months later, tells Matt and I all the time, I miss you when you are gone!!

This would be my last night to have the bonus of taking Ambien and what I thought would be my last night of a full night's sleep for a while...I would be happily very wrong!!
I wrote in my journal tonight that I wonder what the next 2-3 months will be like for our family! I couldn't have dreamt that things would be so wonderful!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day 4 (Part II)

Here we are at only the second half of day 4 and I remember Matt and I kept saying, "wow, it just keeps getting better and better." Besides not being able to talk to my kids any time I wanted to (because of time change and Internet issues) our trip was more amazingly wonderful than we could have imagined! After our time with Yallewo's family and shopping at the market, we headed back to Dave and Christy's to freshen up and pack. After getting everything together we had another wonderful meal of pizza and smoothies made with bananas, mango and pineapples. Then it was on to church! The church Dave and Christy attend is beautiful! I saw this amazing tree on the grounds that looked like a tree with mini poinsettias on the limbs...just gorgeous! We met some really wonderful people all there to serve the people of Ethiopia.

After church we had another adventurous journey to the transition home but we found it. We were on the fourth floor (which is really the fifth floor because the ground floor is not called the first floor there). And, the really fun elevators. Remember, this is 8000 feet elevation. The guards ran (and I mean ran) our luggage upstairs...AMAZING!!! We were all sucking wing by the time we got to our room, well, except the kids who seem enthralled by the place. They took no elevator as a challenge and decide to run up and down the stairs. They were having fun, but the rooms were all right off the stairs and the stairwell echoed terribly so we they had to come in. We ordered cheese pizzas from the kitchen downstairs for everyone and after settling in a bit played a game called Scum. After dinner Dave, Christy and the kids had to get home. I decided to try the Internet to see if it worked better at the TH and I was able to get through to Sue although it was a bad connection. Max and Abby were doing great and had loved the snow! Then I was able to get through to Dad and I found out Madison had been sick with a fever...achy mommy heart ensued!! I also had a chance to log into my email account and had almost 200 emails...oh, did I NOT miss that!!! When I was finally ready to sleep it was way too late to take Ambien because I didn't want to be impossible to wake in the morning, so I tossed and turned all night anxious and excited for our official time to begin!!