Saturday, August 28, 2010

En Route to our Babies!

We arrived this (Saturday) evening in Dubai, and we're all headed to bed right now! The flight was much easier this go-round, and it is already so much fun having our Moms travel with us on this trip!

Sunday, one of my high school friends who lives here is going to be our city tour guide (Thanks, Lisa!). Our plan is to tour a mosque, do a city bus tour, visit the Ski Dubai mall, and see the Bellagio-style fountains at the Burj Khalifa in the evening. It should be a very full day. The weather forecast is sunny with a high of 103 and a low of 93 degrees! Toasty!

Monday morning, we'll fly to Addis Ababa and be reunited with our sons that very day! We're so excited to see them again and to have them in our arms!

We'd appreciate your prayers for safe travels, good health, and an easy transition into becoming a family of four!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Nursery!

Well, we took your advice and decided to put the boys together in one room. It has been so much fun preparing a place for them! Everything is we just need the boys. So exciting to think that they'll be home here with us in just a week and a half! Enjoy a look around the nursery....

We had fun adding some special/sentimental touches to the room. These are my baby shoes and the photos are of baby Brian!

The little blue outfit is what Brian wore the day his parents made his adoption final in court! Yes, my husband was adopted also! So was my Dad, and the little green hand print was his at age six! So we'll have three generations of adoption in our family!

We bought this wooden cross in Ethiopia. Several regions in Ethiopia have their own cross design. This is called the Aksum cross, and it is from the Tigray region, where Jeremy and Zachary were born.

It is also a sweet reminder of the blessing from God that they are to our family. We leave on Friday for Ethiopia to be reunited with our boys, and we'll be home with them Labor Day weekend! It's been a life-changing journey, and I am forever grateful that God has chosen us to witness and be a part of the miracle of adoption. Jeremy and Zachary, we're so happy to be your Mama and Daddy!

Showered with Love!

Wow! I am one blessed woman!

Last weekend, I was given two beautiful showers. The first was here in Katy, and it was hosted by four of my friends from church. I'm bummed that I don't have any photos of them handy for this blog post, but they are some lovely, lovely women!

One of the hostesses (another adoptive Mom) made this beautiful cake for the party, and let me tell ya--delicious!

The other shower was in my hometown of The Woodlands!

These were three of my lovely hostesses: my sister Jill, my friend and former roommate Catherine, and one of my Mom's best friends Carol. Can you tell we have fun together???

This is my sister, my Mom and me:

The cake at this shower had the words spoken by the Ethiopian judge when we attended court there, "They are yours!"

Opening presents at these baby showers was so much FUN! We received so many great gifts for the boys!

It is such a great feeling to have what we need to be ready to welcome them home! And so many wonderful friends and family made it possible! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ethiopia - Day 7 - Shopping, a Driving Tour through the Mercato, and "See you soon!"

This was our final day in Ethiopia. We had a few items we wanted to buy before coming home, so Solomon took us to this terrific shopping street that he described as a market "more for Abyssinians and less for foreigners". I loved hearing him refer to his own people as Abyssinian (what they were called long before the formation of the country of Ethiopia).

Brian and I really enjoyed shopping at this market. He found a couple of cool t-shirts, and I bought some beautiful silk scarves there.

After that, he drove us through the Mercato--Africa's largest market! It was mass chaos, and I was so glad to be in a car and not walking with the crowds.

The market stretched for what seemed like miles.

There were shops and stores selling nearly everything. We saw many people bearing extremely heavy loads on their backs and heads.

And these gentlemen were transporting chat--a legal (and heavily taxed) drug in Ethiopia, and also one of the country's chief crops.

Finally, it was time to go back to Bejoe's to pack up our bags and say our good-byes. Trip #1 had come to an end. We said "see you again in three weeks" to these beautiful ladies at Bejoe's. Even though I knew I'd be back soon, I still teared up saying good-bye. We so loved getting to know them.

And then there were a few more tears shed saying good-bye to our wonderful driver, Solomon. This guy is one special dude, and I can't wait to see how God's plan for his life continues to unfold.

He drove us to the airport, and off we went.

It's so exciting to know that in just four days, we're headed back to this wonderful country that will forever have a piece of our hearts--not to mention that it is the birthplace of our children!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ethiopia - Day 6 (Part Two) - Visiting the Government Orphanages

In the afternoon, we visited three government-run orphanages in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia’s capital city of 4 million people). The first orphanage we visited is the Kolfe Orphanage for older boys (ages 7-20). It was definitely bare bones conditions, but it was encouraging to see some of the improvements that have been made for the boys’ lives there, due in large part to donations made through Gladney. It makes us happy that our agency is not just about adoption, but also about providing humanitarian aid to orphans who may not ever be adopted!

The second orphanage we visited is called Kebebe Tsehai (meaning “Round Sun”). This orphanage is for newborns – 7 years old (all orphans that need families!). It was the saddest and worst of the orphanages we saw. We first walked into the baby room, and the stench of sour milk and stale air was potent. I noticed a couple of the men had to cover their noses until they adjusted to the smell. The room was pretty much wall-to-wall metal cribs with just enough space to walk between the rows. Every crib was occupied. The orphanage is severely understaffed. For the 30 or so babies that were there, there were only two caregivers. They have to prop bottles for the babies to be fed, which can lead to pneumonia. There were a lot of sick babies, and each one has his or her own story. I want to tell you about just one of them, because he is the one who I (for reasons only God knows) connected with.

When I asked if I could hold a baby, I was told by a Gladney staff who was there with us, “By all means! Please hold one. These babies need to be held!” So I looked around and found a tiny baby who looked like he was maybe six weeks old—no bigger than the first pictures that I saw of our Biruk when he was referred to us. I wanted to pick him up, but he didn’t have a diaper on, and he was lying in his own feces. (I imagine that someone took off a previously soiled diaper, but never got back to putting on a new one, as they are so overwhelmed by the needs of so many babies). Someone alerted one of the two caregivers, who came over and diapered him and returned him to his crib all swaddled.

I picked him up and gave him his bottle. He wasn’t so interested in the milk, but this tiny baby boy never took his eyes off of me, and when I looked into his eyes and talked to him, he smiled at me. Let me tell you, I am sure that his smiles were not because he was a charming newborn (though he was soooooo precious), and they certainly weren’t because he was charmed by me. Instead, I sensed his desperation. It was as if he was trying to communicate with me that he so desperately NEEDED someone’s eyes to gaze upon him. I held him until it was almost time to go, trying to give him what I sensed he needed—connection. And then, I put him in his crib and prayed that God would care for Him and provide this sweet baby with a Mommy. It broke my heart.

I’m so thankful that most of those babies will be adopted eventually, as adoptive families tend to want to adopt infants. Still, Belay Tafesse (director of Gladney’s Ethiopia Program) drove home the sobering truth that some of the babies there don’t live to be adopted, saying that he once saw seven babies die in that orphanage in one night. The internationally accepted standard for orphanages is to have a minimum of one caregiver for every five babies. Gladney’s care centers (where our boys are currently living) have one caregiver for every three babies. The Kebebe Tsehai orphanage has one for every FIFTEEN babies.

It only costs $70 US per month to pay a caregiver, and we all have to power to make a change! Would you consider making a difference in the lives of Ethiopia’s orphans by contributing money to hire more caregivers at Kebebe Tsehai? Another adoptive family is partnering with the Gladney Center for Adoption to make this project HAPPEN!!! Click HERE to read more about it and to learn how you can become involved!

Thank you for considering providing for the needs of the poorest of the poor. These babies need us, and we can help to significantly improve their circumstances and lives!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ethiopia - Day 6 (Part One) - Our Final Visit with the Boys

We started our day off with our third and final visit with the boys. When we entered their room, it was story time, and Robel was sitting quite happily in his caregiver's lap. As soon as he saw us, he gave a little whimper, as if to say, "Oh great, my parents are here again!"

We decided not to approach him right away, but just to sit with the group and enjoy story time with the kids. Robel just sized us up for a while!

This is his crib at the care center:

And here is his name written in Amharic!

After a while, his caregivers were encouraging him to interact with us more, which ended in the usual screams and tears, so they encouraged us to take him for a walk outside. He did seem to calm down sooner than usual, and he fell asleep in our arms:

After we enjoyed a few minutes kissing him while he slept and gazing at him, we brought him back to his room and said our good-byes. A lot of people asked us if it was heart-wrenching, and while it wasn't my favorite thing ever, we were just happy that he was in a good mood when we parted!

From his room, we walked over to our baby's room, and we got to spend about an hour cuddling him! Doesn't he look gorgeous in brown? (I'm his Mom, so I can brag on him that way!)

Eventually, the time came to say goodbye, and it was sad. I cried. There is just something fundamentally wrong with having to part with your baby. I was glad that he had fallen asleep in my arms, so I could just put him in his crib and kiss his cheek and leave while he was sleeping.

Pretty much from that point on, I was just ready to get home so that I could hurry up and get back to my sweet boys! Not long now!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ethiopia - Day 5 - Visit #2 With the Boys + Surprise Coffee Ceremony + Dinner at Fasika = Best Birthday Ever!!!

I woke up on August 5th (my 36th birthday!!!) with the joyous contentment of knowing that I was the mother of two wonderful boys. Our first thing on the agenda that day was to go visit them at the care center. We decided to go visit Jeremy in his environment, so we went to the toddler room first, armed with bubbles and balloons, hoping that this visit with him would be more fun for him than the last one. And it was!

After we played with him (and the other kids) for a while, the care givers brought out breakfast, and we got to feed him, which was fun! I love feeding my baby bird!

After breakfast, we took Jeremy with us to the baby house to visit Zachary. Poor Jeremy cried and cried again until he fell asleep in Brian's arms. This was our first photo as a family of four:

Here's our wee one:

I loved seeing his name written in Amharic:

After saying goodbye to the boys, we went back to our guest house, where some of the guest house staff had arranged a surprise coffee ceremony in my honor to celebrate my birthday! It was so sweet and special! Our driver, Solomon, bought me a beautiful birthday cake, and everyone sang "Happy Birthday to you" in both English and Amharic! It was awesome!

That's the coffee pot sitting on hot coals. Coffee is traditionally served with popcorn in Ethiopia.

These are some of the wonderful women who work at the guest house!
That night, all of the Gladney families were taken out for dinner to a fantastic restaurant called Fasika for a traditional dinner of Ethiopian food and amazing performances featuring music and dancing from various regions in Ethiopia.

These were two other Gladney moms who I got to know and love while we were there!

The dancers came around the room and danced with the patrons. I got to try out shoulder dancing!!!

It was a great day!!!