Friday, December 14, 2007

Happy Holidays!







Snow & Wheat

This is a picture looking out my front door at 11am on Thursday. As you might notice, there is no snow on the driveway, none on the walkway and none on the street. However, when we arrived at the bus stop at 8:09am, we were informed that school was CANCELLED! What? There was not a flake of snow or rain anywhere to be seen. We live in NEW ENGLAND people. They name storms after us. We're tough, we can handle snow. Or even the slightest possibility of snow. I find this to be so annoying. Especially because the kids can't even put on their snow gear and enjoy the first snow day. They actually rode bikes on the first snow day! We are becoming soft. Snow days when it might snow, trophies for every kid who even wore the soccer shirt so that no one will feel left out. What ever happened to the hard lessons in life? You don't always win, snow days are a rare (and fun) occasion, life is unfair. I feel like that served us well, but I'm afraid that my kids won't learn this. Don't get me wrong - I want them to enjoy life, but don't we enjoy the ups more when we have to experience the downs too?

Anyway, one down part of my day today is that we found out today that William is allergic to wheat. Yes, he is almost three and we're just finding this out now. We suspected lactose intolerance, but even that was only a few months ago (and we won't even know if that's true until we let his belly heal a bit from the wheat overload). I'm feeling like a bad mom that I've been poisoning him for approximately two years now with no knowledge of this fact. I guess technically it's a wheat intolerance, since it's not life-threatening and is really just an intestinal issue. That's a positive. The second positive is that he's not allergic to gluten, which is in far more things than wheat alone. So, once I become educated on the best wheat-free products to buy, it will be fine, but right now it's kind of a bummer - no bread, most cereals, crackers, cookies, pasta, pizza. Granted, they do make all of these things with no wheat, but I don't know how appetizing they'll be. The loaf of wheat-free bread I bought today resembles a large brick more than a loaf of bread. Anyway, I am happy to know why the poor kid has the largest, hardest, distended belly at bedtime and rarely eats dinner. I think he just got accustomed to feeling lousy - poor kid.

As far as Sophie, she's doing really well. She is still sleeping like a champ and starting to eat a lot more big people food despite having only two teeth (I can practically see all the others, so apparently they will all arrive at once - that should be fun!). She has gained a pound and an inch each month home. She is over 50% in height and head, and catching up in weight. Her Dr. is pleased and so are we - she's healthy as can be.

We have our 3 month homestudy update on Monday. In Connecticut you don't have to "readopt", you simply validate the international adoption in the local probate court, which took all of 30 seconds with a very nice judge. By the way, anyone who is adopting in Connecticute, DO NOT hire a lawyer - I almost paid $3,000 for a random lawyer to stand with us at this 30 second court date until our social worker told me I didn't need him - thank you Barbara!

She's definitely expressing herself these days (often screaming at the top of her lungs just to hear the sound) and absolutely loves wrestling with the big kids. And I mean full-on, tackle to the ground, wrestling. She loves it! It is so funny to watch. I love that she is going to be one tough cookie.

Ok, well I feel like I have whined enough in this post. I just sent out our Christmas cards today, so once I know that people have received the paper version, I'll post the pictures on the blog. I love how they came out - they really captured the kids well. Before I go I also want to say a big congratulations to the Runnions, the Clevingers and Ethiopia Mama. They are all officially parents of beautiful Ethiopian babies and are in various stages of travel or prepping for travel. I also want to congratulate Jocelyn on the referral of Pacey - she's had a long road and by the looks of the pictures, it was worth the wait - Pacey is beautiful!! To the Quinn girls, Frey family and Renee and Geert, we're thinking of you and have the court dates on the calendar - we can't wait to hear the good news!

Oh, I almost forgot. For those of you who haven't seen this Elf site, I can promise you it is the funniest thing I have seen in a VERY long time. If you don't know my kids, it's probably even funnier if you do it with your own, but it's hilarious nonetheless. Check it out for a good laugh. Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Holiday Giving

As I've been pouring over other Ethiopian adoption blogs lately, watching new referrals and court dates and anxiously anticipating others, the one thing I've found is that so many people have had such great ideas for gifts. Gifts for birth mothers, care takers, other children in the orphanages, etc. I am kind of bummed out that I hadn't thought of many of these things, or more bloggers hadn't gone before us so I could copy some of their ideas. There is no heat in Addis (yes, pretty much anywhere except for the hotels), so the best birth mother gift that I have seen is a hand made quilt. My mother-in-law is a master quilter and I'm sure she would have been thrilled to have made such a special quilt. And I would have loved to be able to wrap Sophie's birth mother in a warmth that would forever remind her of her daughter.

I also wish that I had brought more for the other children. We brought lots of random things, but with up to 120 kids in some of these places, you really need to have a LOT of things so as to avoid anyone being left out. We ended up leaving a lot of our bags of goodies with Belay so that he could distribute them as he saw fit, but I would have loved to see all of those beautiful eyes light up with even the simplest of gifts.

I guess my main point in thinking about what we could have done is that there are still so many ways that we can still help. Several friends have asked how to make a donation in Sophie's name in lieu of another baby gift that we don't need. I think this is probably the best gift we could ask for. One friend gave directly to the Gladney Fund and another donated a farm animal to a needy family in order to break the cycle of poverty through Heifer International. John and I sponsor two children from Rwanda (and will add two more to our sponsorship - to have one for each of our own children) through World Vision. The kids love to receive the letters and pictures from our sponsored children and love to send photos and hand-drawn pictures back. We know that one day, they will understand how truly important all of this is. We plan to make several trips back to Ethiopia throughout our lifetime and will include each of the kids in philanthropic projects right here at home as each is old enough to understand. This year, we plan to focus most of our annual giving on Ethiopia. After reading the recent accounts of Drew and Carey and the Mestas Family, I think it's best for those of you interested to go straight to their blogs to see about the specific projects.

Drew and Carey are involved in a great project that provides free wheelchairs for people around the world (and specifically in Ethiopia if you want to request it). You can donate one wheelchair for a mere $75. After seeing the many people in Ethiopia in dire need of a wheelchair, this one is a no brainer.

They also took some great pictures of the run-down playground equipment that we all saw at the orphanages, which you can view here and here. Gladney is trying to raise lots of money to pay for 5 new playgrounds for the orphanages. As you can imagine, the shipping alone is astronomical, so any little bit helps.

Finally, one of the other Ethiopia-specific projects near to us is the new library for the older boys at the Kolfe orphanage that we visited and that I wrote about in a prior post. I think the Mestas family explains it the best in their blog post entitled The Forgotton Boys.

If either of the Gladney projects are of interest to you, you can send checks payable to:
The Gladney Center for Adoption c/o Scott Brown.
Mail to: 6300 John Ryan DR.Fort Worth, TX 76132-4122
In the memo line of check write: “Ethiopian Humanitarian Aid”
I assume you should include a note if you want the money to go specifically for the playgrounds, Kolfe or if you want Gladney to decide how best to use it.

This year, we decided that none of the adults need to exchange holiday gifts in our families - we all have most everything we need and if we don't we usually just go buy it ourselves anyway. We're trying to simplify the holiday season and plan to enjoy it and the company of our friends and family more, rather than spending time stressing out about what to buy the uncle who has everything. In lieu of that, we're going to focus our holiday giving on some of the projects listed above and hope that you might be inspired to do the same. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sophie & her friends

I just started going through our pictures so that I can get them labeled and into an album before we forget who/what everything is. I need some help on a few. I know these babies were referred and Berahne was brought home in early November. I would love to have full, American names in the albums so that Sophie can see who her first roommates were. Also, I'd be happy to email these pictures. You can email me directly if you'd rather not leave a comment, and I would certainly take the pictures off if you don't want these up. Thanks so much!

The one in the pink next to Sophie looks SO familiar to me - can someone help me with a name? Robin, is this Pickles? I think the pacifier is throwing me off. I have stared at every picture on your blog, but since she has a HUGE smile in every one, it's hard for me to tell if this is her! The picture was taken by Lisa Holliday in August.

I recognize Berahne from Drew and Carey's blog (I have one more of him from our trip that I can also email you) .

Thanks for your help!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fun with Leaves


Hmmm, I don't think I should trust that face!
Yup, still just two down there...
Here are some more pictures. Although it was freezing outside today, the kids had a blast making leaf piles, burying each other with leaves and making leaf angels. I only brought Sophie out for a few minutes so that she wouldn't eat all of the leaves, but she loves being outside. Matt was still at school. Happy Fall!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Family fun

Ok, ok, here is a new post. I have had many people ask why I've been so lax, so I'm sorry for the lack of exciting news. I have to say, I was about to update last week when I found out that my blogging friend Jocelyn, lost her referral right before her court date. I have just been really sad for her because she had already fallen in love with that adorable little girl. The baby's birth parents decided that they couldn't give her up, so at least we know that she is very well loved all over the world. Jocelyn is moving forward as best as she can right now and will hopefully be able to open her heart to a new baby girl waiting for a forever home. Please keep her in your thoughts.

As far as us, we've been settling into life nicely - things seem so normal at home now that I haven't taken many pictures. We do have down time tonight between dinner and bed, so I made the kids take some new pics. I think they all look the same as last time, and Sophie even has the same outfit on! As far as milestones, Sophie is still teething like mad - she's an expert double-fisted-teether with 2 fingers in her mouth pretty much all the time. She finally started moving forward (as opposed to rolling everywhere sideways and scootching backwards), but is more dragging herself then crawling. She has gotten on all fours though, so I'm sure it will be any time. I think I better get baby-proofing, thought I'm not sure that's really possible with three other kids at home!

We've noticed that she's let her guard down even more. It seems so bizarre to say that about a 9 month-old baby, but it's true. Now when she sees us she literally screams with delight and kicks like crazy. Not that she wasn't happy to see us before, but both John and I noticed an entirely different level of excitement. It's really great to see. Sometimes the kids are so rough with her (with hugs and kisses, but still!). I'm amazed at what a good sport she is - she really seems to like it! I'm starting to realize how impossible a good Christmas picture is going to be with four. We can barely get a good one with three of them at once! OK, well it's bedtime for the kids, so more later.

A final Halloween picture
William LOVES Sophie
More loving
My pink twins
Me and my little ham
She is all over the floor these days - I better start vacuuming more!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

First dumb comment.....by me!!


Well who knew that the first really dumb comment would come directly from me! So, as you can see from the picture, we had our neighborhood Halloween parade today, which is always so much fun for the kids. We have a ton of kids in our neighborhood and our street leads down to a little beach where they have a candy hunt and the adults all watch the chaos and have a drink. Although our neighborhood is not exactly the most diverse our neighbors have been SO welcoming of Sophie and supportive in every way. It's really been a joy to share this experience with them. So John and I are standing down at the beach talking to a nice neighbor that we just met. I was holding Sophie in my arms. A 10-year-old girl in full costume (maybe an 80's roller queen?) comes up and says:

Girl: "Oh she's so cute!! What is she?"
Me: "Uhhh, I'm sorry?"
Girl: "What is she?"
Me: "Uhh, she is from Ethiopia"
Girl: "Oh" and goes on her way

Me (to John): "Well, I've never gotten that one before!!"
John: "Yeah, hmm" (both of us thinking, ok, she IS 10)

The nice neighbor we're talking with then touches the antenna on Sophie's head when it dawns on me. OH!!!!!! SHE'S A LADYBUG!!!!!!!!!!!

I am an idiot!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Music

I know that songs weren't part of the original tagging, but that is probably much more part of my life than movies or books, so I am adding it. I went running today for the first time in about 2 months and realized how much I missed my workout music! I never used to run with an iPod when I was actually running long distances, or training for something, but now, it's one of the few times I can listen without someone asking for a different song, or little people talking/yelling/crying over my songs. So here it is (and I want to know yours too):

All Time Favorites
The Waiting is the Hardest Part - Tom Petty (not only do I love the sound of this song, I think you would all agree that it's so true - especially this crowd!!!) This was part of my high school yearbook quote and I have never wavered - love it.
American Girl - Tom Petty
Comin' in from the Cold - Bob Marley
Beautiful Day & Sweetest Thing - U2
Romeo & Juliet (live) - Dire Straits
Ant Marching & Crash - Dave Matthews
The Boys of Summer - Don Henley
Stay - Lisa Loeb

Relatively Current Favorites (remember, I mostly get to listen to my music while spinning or running, so cut me some slack :)
Mama Africa - Akon
Move Along - All American Rejects
Big Girls Don't Cry - Fergie
The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani
Mr. Brightside - The Killers
It's Like That - Mariah
Hey There Delilah - Plain White Ts
Streetcorner Symphony- Rob Thomas
Fix You - Coldplay
Over My Head - The Fray
With Arms Wide Open - Creed (those of you expecting a new child have to listen to this song - the first time I really listened to it, I was about 2 weeks away from giving birth to Matthew and I was bawling my eyes out. It's a sweet song).

My kids are also big music people, and luckily for me not just Barney. Here are their current favorites:

Matthew - anything by the Rolling Stones - especially, You Can't Always Get What You Want (did I brainwash him?) and Brown Sugar, but also very masculine favorites like Beyonce
Katie - California (the theme from the OC, but I promise she never watched it) and Black Horse and Cherry Tree - KT Tungstall (sp?)
William - We Will Rock You (must be from all the sports on TV at our house, b/c that is definitely not on my iPod during dance party dinner making time)!

Hope you are all hanging in there while waiting!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tagged

For all of my family and friends, all of us adoptive families addicted to each other's blogs basically do the same silly email that often goes around, but just post it rather than email it. Carey (who, with her husband, Drew, will hopefully officially be mom to baby Zoe in mere days, who was with Sophie in the Gladney foster home in Addis) tagged me, so here goes:

JOBS
-Mom
- private equity associate
- equity research analyst (one summer)
- commercial banker
- bus girl (I lasted 1 day!)
- sunglass polisher in a factory (for a whole summer!)
- bank teller
- babysitter

PLACES LIVED
-Darien, CT
-Chappaqua, NY
-New York, NY
-Toulouse, France
-Hanover, NH
-Hingham, MA

PLACES I'D RATHER BE RIGHT NOW
-at the beach (not too hot) watching my kids play
-a long weekend away with John
-a weekend away with girlfriends (only 3 weeks away - yahoo!)
-This is a hard one. After a week away from the kids, and traveling to Africa, I'm really perfectly happy right here at home for now!

FOODS I LOVE
-All Mexican
-Most Italian
-Nana's roast beef, beans, mashed potatoes with LOTS of gravy
-ICE CREAM
- Any salad I didn't have to make
-Most comfort food - chili, thick soups, etc.
-Sweet potato fries
-Egg & Cheese on a toasted wheat bagel

FAVORITE TV SHOWS
- Brothers & Sisters (overall winner by FAR)
- The Office (although I liked it better as 1/2 hour)
- Grey's Anatomy
- ER
-Lost
- lots of shows that I shouldn't admit - most were cancelled b/c I was the only loser that watched them! (Bachelor, What About Brian, Jack And Jill etc)
-Studio 60 - is it really gone?

MOVIES I LOVE
- I really don't like to see movies more than once, and I'm a total sucker for romantic comedies (whether or not they're even good) so this may be lame
-Love Actually
-The Holiday
-A Lot Like Love (I may have a crush on Amanda Peet)
-I'm braindead - can't remember any others, but I'm sure there are more

BOOKS I'VE LOVED IN THE LAST YEAR
- Many by Jodi Piccoult
- Jane Greene & Cecelia Ahern books (mindless, beach reading)
-There is No Me Without You (and I just met Melissa Fay Green at the New Canaan Library - she was so funny and great to hear speak - Her stories about her own Ethiopian adoptions were so heartwarming)
- The Kite Runner

AND I TAG the Jennifers - Ethiopian Mama & Runnion

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sitting is fun!





Well, I don't think that I've tried sitting her up lately (she's usually is on my hip, being carted around by Matthew or Katie, in the exersaucer, on her belly, or asleep). Who knew she could sit up!?!?!?! I know, I'm already neglectful - oops!! Katie was playing with her and decided to sit up and she just stayed there and played! She seemed very proud of herself - and is quite the poser too!

She also seems to have turned into quite the Mommy's girl. She has a cry/scream on her that could scare anyone, but if I pick her up, it melts away. Many of you may be saying awwwww, but with 3 others that also want my attention, it would be helpful if she was a Daddy's girl too! The transition continues to go well - Katie is so enamored, and I am thrilled with that b/c Katie can be very difficult when it comes to dealing with things/people she doesn't like. She has never liked kisses (even from me and Daddy), but ever since Sophie came home, she won't get on the bus or go to bed (or let Sophie go to bed) without kisses for everyone. It is truly a very welcome change!! We certainly feel blessed.

By the way - Happy Birthday Jocelyn! I'm going out on a limb and guessing that I'm older - the big 3-6. It was a very happy one with lots of songs from the kids, a wonderful massage and a very nice dinner with my husband. Can't get much better than this :)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Yahoo! No Rickets!


We got the results back from the leg xrays, and although there is evidence that she wasn't eating as much as she should have been in the beginning of her life, there is no sign of rickets and she is already overcoming any initial issues she had. Her skin is clearing up so well and she now wakes up every morning babbling, rolling around in her crib - very happy!!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Life at home

Well, since I have been religiously checking blogs for court dates and referrals with no luck, I figured I should use this time to update our own blog. I'm feeling a little responsible for everyone being on edge. I really thought that things would move so much quicker once the courts reopened, but a week open with no news is really frustrating. The one thing that I did learn while I was over there (and during our process) is that Gladney tends to get everything buttoned down before getting ANY information out (most likely to avoid any potential and unnecessary disappointment). So for those of you waiting on various things, I have to believe that once you actually get a referral or court date, everything will move at lightning speed. I know that Belay, Ryan and Abby are working overtime trying to get the referrals ready and papers submitted to the courts, even though you aren't hearing anything yet. Hang in there - I can't wait to see the news coming pouring in!

As far as us, we have settled in nicely. It's hard to believe we've been home for two weeks. The first week was chaotic. It actually was really only hard trying to get everyone back to normal - go through all the mail, school papers, laundry, etc. I just kept piling the mail up and up until I couldn't ignore it anymore. I'm happy to report that that pile is now gone!


I think it was the first day that John left for work that I realized that I am responsible for FOUR little people. He was heading out of the kitchen and they were all eating and playing in the kitchen and I just looked at him like, you are really ok leaving me with all of them?!?!?! I feel like I'm still an irresponsible high school kid sometimes and couldn't possibly be in charge of all of this! Have no fear - they were all safe and we were able to keep everything under control!

The kids are doing so well with Sophie. It really makes all the difference when the new baby can laugh and smile immediately. They have all been so proud to get huge belly laughs out of her. I think Katie has made every bottle for her that she's been home for and Matthew and William love to read her books - see below :)



She has been a great baby. She sleeps about 13 hours a night - straight through. It's pretty unbelievable, actually. She also goes to bed SO easily. Pop in the pacifier, rub her forehead or belly for a minute and she's out! One night she even fell asleep while I was changing her diaper and putting her pjs on. She takes two naps and those were probably most affected by jet lag. They were each about 3 hours when we first got home, which was actually kind of a pain to be "trapped" at home for so long, but now she's settled in to about 1.5 hours for each, which is perfect. It took her about a week and a half, but she now actually wakes up happy in the morning. At first, she would wake up with this terrified cry. At first I thought she was starving, but then I realized that she calmed down as soon as we got her and was didn't need to eat right away. I don't know if it was being alone in the crib or room, but I think we're over that hump now.

The biggest issue has been all of the health stuff that they warned us to expect. The first day home I brought her to the city to a pediatrician specializing in adoptions. She was checked from head to toe. She had an ear infection, a terrible skin rash and possibly rickets (vitamin D deficiency). They gave her 5 immunizations and took a ton of blood. The shots were nothing compared to the blood work. Because they needed so much, they laid her on her back and had her head hang off of the table while they drew blood from her JUGULAR!! As horrifying as it was (although the "hanging" and being held down bothered her much more than any needle did), apparently it is the easiest and fastest way to draw that much blood due to the screaming and gravity. I'm not so sure about that! Anyway, she was 3% in weight, 12% in height and 45% in head circumference, so we're thrilled that she's even on the charts. The way she's chowing now, I bet she'll blow through these %s. Her birth mother was so tiny, though, so I don't know how big she'll end up (though her mom might not even be done growing). Looking at her most recent pictures, I think her face has already fattened up!


Last week we saw our regular pediatrician. In hindsight, I probably should have just started here since he seemed totally on top of any potential issues from Africa and that way he doesn't have to wait around for results from labs he doesn't know, etc. He was surprised to hear about the rickets and doesn't really think she has it. He had us take her for leg xrays (the least invasive and most conclusive way to check for rickets). He left a message saying everything was fine, but I'll speak to him in person today. The amoxicillan wasn't doing anything for her ears, so he switched her antibiotic, which had the added benefit of killing the bacteria that we found in her belly at the same time, so that's good. We had to treat the original rash with a pretty harsh cream that basically set her cheeks on fire! She also has excema, and it really flared up on her cheeks. We've been able to keep it calm since we figured out that it's just excema, but it's definitely still there. Given how many random little annoyances she's had in the past two weeks, she's really doing great. She is eating a ton and generally very happy. We'll see the Dr every month for a few months to check her progress, but he is optimistic that she'll continue to grow well.

Two days after we came home, we had the opportunity to see Melissa Fay Greene speak at a local library. She was even better in person than in her book – and she’s really funny! For those of you who don’t know it, or haven’t read it, I highly recommend Melissa’s book http://www.thereisnomewithoutyou.com/. It was so great to see local families with Ethiopian babies at home. I even ran into a woman that I know from town that's seriously considering Ethiopia for adoption. I'm so happy to see this really starting to happen in our community.

Oh, and I almost forgot - this was a big week for TEETH! Sophie got her first tooth on our first Wednesday home and got her second this past Thursday. She has two more on the verge. And her biggest brother Matthew FINALLY lost his first tooth this week (he might be the last kid in 1st grade with all baby teeth!). I think Katie and I were much more excited about the tooth fairy than he was since he tried to give the dollar to Daddy in the morning!


Ok, that's all for now. I can't wait to see new baby faces on other blogs soon. Hang in there guys!

See the first one? It's there!

Monday, September 24, 2007

We're home!

We're safe and sound and the kids are loving every minute of Sophie, as she is loving them. It's amazing how quickly we've all come to feel comfortable around each other and how normal it all seems! I am exhausted and ready for bed. Although we are home, our bags didn't make the connection (though we had to recheck them in DC, so we're confident that we'll actually get them!). Once I get my cords to connect the cameras and computer, I will post many more pictures of our trip. I will also post about the final day and other thoughts. Thanks so much for all of your good wishes and prayers for our safe return home - it's been so nice knowing how many people are out there cheering us on!!

Day 5 - 9/23 & 9/24/2007

Well this is it, the last day – hard to believe that it’s the day that we go home today. Although I’m feeling like there must be so much more for us to see and do, I am definitely ready to get back to the kids and our own life. I think that “best pizza outside of Italy” finally put me over the edge, so today I will be having Immodium, water and bread all day long. At least if I starve myself for the day I know I can survive at least until we get home! This morning we laid low trying to sleep in, pack, etc. Basically, John had Eyasu take him to an Ethiopian Catholic mass (in English) while Sophie played and I packed. I did a little more souvenir shopping at the hotel – mostly books about Ethiopia that I had wanted to bring home. I had a lot of trouble finding any books at home on Ethiopia, so this would suffice. Some of the picture books are from 1995 and it looks like they must have had a “beautify Addis month” before the photos were taken. Granted, most of my pictures of the city are taken from the car window as we’re driving past the scenes, but it still is a very poor, run-down city.

At noon we headed back to the Gladney baby house for more pictures (I forgot to get any of the actual house and rooms during our whirlwind visit last time) and some last minute loving of Baby Zoe and the Mestas twins. Sophie’s primary caregiver, Almaz, was working today, so I was happy to be able to get a proper goodbye and more pictures with her. The twins were practicing sitting up and playing, which was very cute. There is so little space in the rooms (especially because they are in the middle of painting the upstairs, so 3 rooms worth of cribs and babies are in 2 rooms until that’s done), that I don’t think they get much time to practice sitting up, etc, so it was good to see that. We got lots of pictures and videos and then it was time to say goodbye. I don’t know who actually started, but saying goodbye to Almaz was one of the hardest goodbyes this week. We both were crying pretty hard and not wanting to let go. I’ve said it before, but it is so amazing to know how much your child was loved before you were able to get to her. We are so very lucky.

The outside of the baby home
The back - laundry day!
One of the three crib rooms - freshly painted
The many wonderful caregivers - many of whom were once orphans themselves.


Dear Almaz
Next stop was at the older Gladney foster home again, but unfortunately, it was naptime. We did get to peek in and some of the older kids were still awake, so we got some hugs and smiles and let them rest. They are so darn cute – I really hope that there are families waiting to come scoop them up soon.
After we said our goodbyes, we headed to a circus! Basically, Lucas, the director of Kechene orphanage sponsors a circus for underpriveleged kids in Addis. They must practice quite a bit to keep them active and out of trouble and they were PHENOMENAL! There was lots of acrobatics and more dancing. The kids were performing these unbelievable feats with huge smiles on their faces. Happiness seems to be a national trait amongst these kids – truly amazing. At the end of the show, they had an auction for a circus poster. The entire auditorium was filled with Ethiopian families and although we were helping Belay bid for the poster, when they heard that Americans were trying to win the auction, they would NOT let the poster out of Ethiopia. Everyone was laughing and it was all in good fun – they were really just trying to get the proud Ethiopians in the audience to be the ones to bid it up and raise money for the children’s organization. Unfortunately, we could not understand most of the auction (which lasted longer than the circus itself), but what we did understand is that Belay is THE man. He was cheered and cheered each time he got on stage. At another point, Lucas insisted that a foreigner get up on stage to voice their opinion about the show. Well, let’s see…it was either John, a German woman that works for Kechene, or me (out of a few hundred people). Lucas didn’t want to hear from his own employee and there was no way John was going up, so that left little old, emotional me. I’m sure John would have won a lot of money if he were a betting man – yes, surprise, surprise, I cried. I brought Sophie up with me and basically just said how amazing the show was and how proud I am that my daughter is from such a beautiful and interesting place. Everyone cheered and John was very proud. And I was very glad the circus was over :)

After the circus, we only had two hours until we had to leave for the airport, so Ryan and Abby came to the hotel to say goodbye and introduce us to Enoch and Marta – their children. Enoch is 1½ and adorable. Abby said she’s always thought that there was something similar about he and Sophie and I definitely agree – I don’t know what, but they do look similar to me. Marta is about 9 and is beautiful – she was very good with both Enoch and Sophie. We still had some packing to do, so the visit was short, but it was nice to meet their children and to thank them again for all they do. I think that they have a very fulfilling, yet difficult job. They get to help all of these adorable children get forever homes and see their hard work come to fruition. On the other hand, they also have a lot of “entertaining” to do – and so much of it is repetitive – they continually host families like us for a week at a time and they also have their own children that need them all the time. I have the utmost respect for them and all of the Gladney employees that we have workedwith. We certainly couldn’t have done it without them and I will remember that every time our sweet Sophie smiles.

We were able to have a last meal outside at the Hilton (we both stuck with chicken nuggets and fries!) and then head to the airport. The trip home was as good as we could have expected. For a 17 hour flight, Sophie did MUCH better than we did! She had a great bassinet attached right to the bulkhead in front of our seats, so she was either asleep or eating in our laps. The only problem was that Ethiopian Airlines decided that we needed to eat (with EVERY light on and all eyes open) every two hours. It was very annoying to me – I wish that they would have just let us sleep more than two hours at a time.

Final dinner in Addis
We were so happy to have a welcoming crew in DC. Customs/Immigration took a little longer than normal since Sophie has an Ethiopian passport, but it really wasn’t bad. Once we cleared through and rechecked our bags, we were greeted by John’s oldest brother’s wife and two of his daughters. We were also joined my one of my oldest friends (from nursery school), Melanie. It was SO nice to see familiar faces and to introduce Sophie to her new extended family. After a quick lunch (it’s amazing how good airport food tastes after being afraid to eat anything for days on end), it was back on a plane. Unfortunately, we had to sit on the tarmac in DC for an hour with no A/C , and it was HOT!). We stripped Sophie down to her diaper in DC so that she didn’t sweat through her clothes. Anyone who knows me probably wonders whether I was tempted to do the same (only because I’m a sweater of course)! At this point, we were so anxious to get home to the kids that we really didn’t care what happened.

Obviously, the best part of the whole trip home was actually getting home. We called ahead so my mom brought the kids out to the back yard so she could greet us and grab the video camera so we could record their reactions. They were so surprised to see us and it was SO GOOD to see them! Will was napping, but Matt and Katie couldn’t have been cuter. They were so gentle with her and very anxious to hold her, etc. When William finally came downstairs, I almost didn’t recognize him. He looked SO big to me! I remember that the biggest Matthew has ever looked to me was the day he came to see Katie in the hospital on her birthday. I guess it’s the relative size that really blows you away. My 2-year-old is a big boy now. All three of them were great with Sophie. I think having her smile and laugh right away makes the transition much easier than having a newborn that does nothing but takes Mommy’s time away. Of course, they all get over that anyway and are probably better for it, but nothing could beat watching the three of them make Sophie laugh on day one!




Saturday, September 22, 2007

Original Day 4

Once we got home, I moved this posting to include the pictures, but wanted to keep the comments!

Day 4 - 9/22/2007

This morning we started with our usual coffee (coffee originated in the Kaffe area of Ethiopia by the way, so it’s pretty tasty) and then went to the National Museum. The building itself is not very big, but we spent about 2 hours learning all about Lucy and the other pre-human and human fossils that have been discovered in Ethiopia. This is considered the cradle of humanity b/c of all the discoveries that have been made here. Ethiopians are EXTREMELY proud of their heritage and all that originated here – humankind, coffee, but they are not overbearing about it, just very matter-of-fact. They also believe that the original Arc of the Covenant (with the ten commandment tablets) is located here. We found out more about Sophie’s given name, Yordanos. She was actually born on the day that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river, and that is why she is named after this river. When we have told any Ethiopian that (especially the tour guides at the Holy Trinity Cathedral and the National Museum), they are very happy for us and tell us how much more special that makes our little girl. After the museum, we went to the “best pizza restaurant outside of Italy”. It was certainly delicious, but after spending so many years in NYC I’m not totally convinced J The power kept flickering on and off because of very heavy rains. Since this was really the only day that we dealt with the rain for more than a few minutes, we really didn’t mind. Yesterday was absolutely beautiful – it felt like 80 degrees without a cloud in the sky.



Since it was so rainy and Sophie could use a nap in the crib rather than trekking around on our laps, she and John went back to the hotel while I was driven to do some souvenir shopping. Apparently, the Mercato is the largest ourdoor market in all of Africa with everything from jewelry to tires for sale. All of the Gladney people here basically told us that it is a total nightmare and the biggest discount you would get on any one item (compared to more civilized areas) was $1. Apparently it is so full of people that it’s very easy to get lost in the crowd and if you are going to have any pick-pocketing issues, etc, that’s where they would be. With that in mind, I let them take me to the best alternative – the post office area. Once I can post pictures this might sink in a little better, but suffice it to say, I felt very uncomfortable pulling up on the side of this muddy road in a spankin’ clean white mercedes with my driver. Granted, I had no other option since I don’t speak Amharic and have no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing, but I felt like an idiot. In the 4 or 5 tiny store fronts, I was able to buy lots of souvenirs for very little money. I had picked out one pair of leather sandals with pretty beads on them for myself and when the saleswoman told Eyasu (my driver, bag handler, interpreter and guardian) the price, his eyebrows went way up and he said the equivalent of “WOW! in Amharic” He then looked at me and said, “these are very expensive”. I was prepared to put them back when I asked him how much. He told me 130 birr with a surprised tone in his voice. I pretended to think about it and then decided that I would splurge and spend the $14 or so. I’m sure he thought I was way too extravagant with my purchases, but I just told myself that it couldn’t have been the first or last time he would witness an American buying up the store (it was really just 1 or 2 bags, but it felt like the store!) I’m sure he was also wondering why I wasn’t bargaining, but to be honest, I just didn’t have it in me. I’m getting a HUGE bargain, and they’re barely making a living – let them charge me a little more than they would an Ethiopian – what do I really care?
After shopping, Eyasu and his cousin Tafesse took us to “Dreamland” (they’ve been alternating driving us, but Eyasu doesn’t speak very much English, so it’s nice to be able to quiz Tafesse along our journeys). We drove about an hour outside the city into the countryside a bit to this restaurant that sits on the edge of a volcano crater that has been transformed into a lake. While we weren’t able to see a sunset through the clouds, it was a magnificent view and well worth the trip. We had a delicious meal for four with the incredible view for a total of $15 – including tip!!! We had an interesting ride home in the dark along with all of the huge trucks on the main commerce route back into Addis. The sun sets here at about 6:30pm. It’s so hard for me to believe that we’re going home tomorrow. We are going to the Gladney foster home again tomorrow and then hopefully to a circus with some of the orphanage children. With all of the excitement of meeting Sophie, her birthmother and then having to rush off to our Embassy appointment the first time, I didn’t get any pictures of the actual house or the rooms and I want to make sure that Sophie can see as much about her first 8 months as possible. One other family got a referral of their beautiful 10 week old baby girl while we were here, so now I can find her there and take lots of pictures of her to send back to her mom and dad. I hope they don’t mind if I hold her and send some hugs and kisses from them too! Congrats again, Drew, Carey & baby Zoe!!Well I don’t think I’ll be posting again from here, so good luck to all of those others that are waiting for referrals. Belay, Ryan and Abby are bracing themselves for a VERY busy fall! Belay predicts that they will place 160 children this fiscal year (starting September 1) compared to only a third of that last year. Hang in there guys – you are almost here!!!!

Mommy & Sophie overlooking the volcanic crater lake - we didn't even get to see a sunset and it was still spectacular!
Daddy & Sophie at Dreamland Restaurant


Friday, September 21, 2007

Original Day 3

Once we got home, I moved this posting to include the pictures, but wanted to keep the comments!

Day 3 - 9/21/2007

Sophie slept all the way through the night last night and it was great! We’re finding out that when she wakes up, she isn’t very happy. I thought it was because she wanted food IMMEDIATELY, but I think it’s more of a scared, where am I? and where are all the people? cry. This morning we met Tafesse after breakfast He took us to Entoto, which is the highest mountain in Addis and was supposed to be where the Emperor was to build his palace way back when. But his wife discovered hot springs in the lower area of Addis, so she insisted that the palace be built right by the hot springs. Now Entoto is simply a beautiful mountain with amazing views of the city and fresh air (a rarity in the lower parts of the city where we’ve mostly been breathing diesel fuel). We saw another traditional Orthodox church and paid a man with a big gun $1 so that I could take his picture. We watched tens (hundreds?) of donkeys and women load their backs with dung patties, eucalyptus leaves and wood to bring down from the mountain to sell. Yes, the donkeys and women have the same job, but I think it’s a little easier for the donkeys because they were mostly running and the women were doubled over to carry the goods!

Sophie's favorite Hilton employee :) The donkeys at work The man with the gunThe view from Entoto The daily task of hauling eucalyptus branches to sellAfter walking around the top of Entoto breathing the air for as long as possible, we met Ryan for lunch at a delicious Chinese restaurant. He had spent the morning at the Embassy for us and we now have Sophie’s Ethiopian passport, US visa and all of her paperwork to bring her back home. After lunch we went to the Alert Hospital, which is a whole compound for the treatment of Leprosy, and is the only such hospital in all of Africa. The main reason for visiting there is because the people that have been treated there spin cotton and weave all of these beautiful cloths and clothing. We were able to see the whole process (all hand done) from pulling the raw cotton into yarn to the looms to the final embroidery. John even got to spin some cotton himself! We bought quite a few souvenirs for the kids and our home there and felt like we paid way to little for such beautiful handiwork.

John spinning cotton at the Leprosy Alert HospitalOur last stop before naptime was the Lion Zoo. For $1 a person (+ $2 for your camera), you can see the black maned lions in these horrible, cement cages. Although being that close up to the lions was absolutely amazing (and I think the kids will love the pictures), PETA would not be very happy. It was a little depressing and the raw slabs of meat in the cages leftover from lunch was not all that appetizing!

Close up at the lion zoo
A lot of people have asked whether Sophie is Ethiopian or foreign (and many people thinks she looks like John except for her button nose!) Ryan said it’s mostly a function of her lighter skin and slightly straight hair. It’s funny b/c I can almost see the people discussing and guessing before they ask. The people have been so great. It’s going to be hard to come home and not be able to have someone else hold her all the time while I get things done. Everyone here (stranger or not) wants to hold and kiss her!Well after lots of rest yesterday afternoon, we had a quiet dinner with Belay at a restaurant called Serenade. It felt very familiar – small, quaint and the food was delicious. John and I felt kind of guilty as we scarfed down our delicious meat dishes while Belay had to have a medley of vegetables served in halves of eggplant – Orthodox Ethiopians fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, which means no meat or any animal products on these days. After dinner Sophie and I passed out at about 9. For some reason, John and I have been on opposite nap schedules, so since he wasn’t tired, he hung out in the hotel lobby for a little while watching Rugby. We’re so conflicted because we want to spend every minute soaking in the city and the culture, but we are truly exhausted. Luckily, neither of us has gotten sick, but that being said, neither of us has felt “normal” since we arrived. I really don’t know if it’s jet lag, the altitude (~8,000 ft about sea level), the intense diesel fuel we’re breathing in, or just the fear of getting sick. I have been either freezing or really hot the entire time we’ve been here. I also have felt a little light-headed and my stomach sort of feels like the days after you’ve had a bad stomach bug and haven’t eaten for awhile. Although we are certainly ready to get home to the other kids and to resume a normal life, I’m afraid of all that we’ll miss. My body is definitely ready to come home though!!