Saturday, December 6, 2014

Settling In: Four Months

I promised myself I would finish all my thank-you notes before I wrote on the blog again. I am happy to say I only have a few to go so I felt like I could give an update.

Yes, it's been four months. Four months as a family. After the last update you may be wondering how things are going...IC is in school. I am at work. Life is, well, getting into quite the routine. I can say with full gusto we love being a family of three. In the three months since I last wrote, so much has happened. I'm not going to be able to get to it all. So I'll just hit the highlights. Forgive me. As expected, life is busier now than ever before and I spend my free time cleaning up messes and, well, sleeping.

IC loves school. He was very nervous to start but he immediately settled in. He goes to a public school and attends English Language Learner class throughout the week in addition to his general instruction. He has the best teacher in the whole wide world and all of us are thrilled with his experience so far. His teacher has been super responsive to our discussions regarding sensitivity to IC's specific circumstances. We aren't always on time to school (um, that's an understatement) and she's been very kind to understand that with so much change, some things are going to just be hard. Like getting to school on time.

2nd Grade body project. Is he not the cutest!?!?

We recently went to parent teacher conferences and were happy with the results on many fronts. Not only is IC's English coming right along and we are able to see progress in his reading and writing but we're also seeing lots of social progress. We took him with us to conference (we don't do babysitters yet unless the uncles are free...which has been a life-saver!!). When we got there, IC walked out to the playground and as he walked out, he was met with a crowd of kids yelling his name. Turns out our little guy is quite the kickball player and it's made him a friend to many on the playground. It was really fun to see his entrance met with such enthusiasm. Our goal for this year is for IC to feel more comfortable in school, make friends, and learn English. I'm happy to say he's making progress in all these areas and then some. It's been so fun to see him come into his own academically and socially.

IC had is first American birthday. We had a very fun tailgate part with the family (more on football in a moment). He got PLENTY of birthday loot including science experiments, tools, Legos, and superhero clothes and costumes. Basically, he got more of all of his favorite things. We were also informed he got his very first birthday cake. Well, TWO birthday cakes. On his actual birthday, we took IC to a pizza place with his friend from school and celebrated with pizza and another cake. We didn't want to overdo the birthday and make it overwhelming but we also wanted it to be memorable. I would say birthday number 8 was a huge success!

If you even know our family just a little, you know this deserves its own category. We took IC to his first football game after he'd been home only a month. I have to say we were all a little nervous. After all, a stadium filled with 70,000 people can be overwhelming for anyone. But as it turns out, our guy LOVES Mizzou football. He tailgates with us for hours, and even gets his own root beer to enjoy. He quickly learned the traditions and songs and won't leave until the very last second has run off the clock, no matter what the weather is like.

Last week we celebrated as Mizzou won the SEC East. It was a fun moment for the whole family. We stayed all the way through the students rushing the field and danced in our seats to "Georgia on My Mind." We're looking forward to a little home tailgate and football watching today, although IC is not a fan of watching football on TV. As it turns out, the screen for 3-4 hours is not nearly as fun as the stadium. He's promised us he'll entertain himself while we watch the game. I'm hoping it will be a fun enough game we'll all want to watch. High hopes. Low expectations.

We're all a little bummed football home game season is over and we can't wait til next year. IC is often heard running around our house yelling "Welcome, welcome, WELCOME to SEC Football!! Welcome to the ZOU!" For those who don't know, that's how the opening video goes on the field.  Next year is sure to be a success. IC has also already told us he will be playing soccer and football at Mizzou (he doesn't understand there's no men's soccer at MU and we aren't about to break that news).

Home Life and Attachment
We've come so far in such a short time home. Sometimes it's easy to forget how short a time we've been a family of three. Four months isn't long at all. While we are still learning to be a family in some ways, we've made huge strides. We're seeing routine more and more and all learning to trust each other more each day. We're seeing less of a struggle to try to figure out our family structure and rules and more ability to talk through the "real stuff" that all goes with growing a family through adoption.

We've gotten to see some of the many talents IC already has. As it turns out, he is a gifted tailor:

He loves building things (which he calls "working") and has already completed several projects with dad:

Yep, that's a chair the boys built out of scrap wood.
Most days after school we visit dad, head home, and IC gets to work in the garage on some project. It's amazing to see his brain work through the details of what he wants to make, how to make it, and seeing it through to completion. It's also been a great bonding experience for IC and daddy. They've been quite the pair, making gifts for others, a working street luge, a chair, a giant box, and more. They're always thinking.

The love for his dog just continues and expands. One area we've had some trouble is bedtime but we're thankful for Dash. He helps IC feel safe at night:

If you are praying for us, thank you! Bedtime is where we could use the most prayers right now. We're seeing lots of progress but it's still a time met with fear, delays, and a need for mama to be present a good portion of the night. We're so thankful for the trust being built and hoping each month makes IC more comfortable with falling asleep and feeling safe.

Halloween was a blast. Captain America quickly learned the tradition. He went with 20 other kids and started at the back of the group, slowly making it from house to house. By about five houses in, though, he was sprinting from house to house and was at the front of our group. We still have two full tupperware containers of Halloween candy. He's too observant for me to pitch it! The joys of having a smarty kid:).

Don't try to tell me there's ever been a cuter Captain America. It's not possible.

We've seen IC start to understand the weather here. And let me tell you, the results are mixed. The cold isn't his favorite:

But he does LOVE snow. We've had a few flurries and he's in love. The very first time it snowed, we had less than an inch of accumulation but he was still rolling on the ground, giggling, and sticking his tongue out to catch snowflakes. I can't wait til we really get some snow this winter. I have a feeling it will be quite the party.

We've really been amazed at how God has worked to orchestrate our family. We've seen lots of little reminders that, while our family started with loss, God has blessed it with lots of good things. We'll be working through healing and attachment for months and years to come but we are seeing so many great strides. 

Our holiday season started off with a wonderful Thanksgiving and we can't wait to experience Christmas as a family of three. I hope to keep up to date better but life is full and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

We're Home: Four Weeks

Yes. I realize that my blog has had us stuck in Ethiopia for the past few weeks. The reality couldn't be further from that. On July 19 we scooped up everything from the guest house, took our sleepy little son to the airport, and spent the next twenty-something hours traveling and trying to make it home. It was hard. But sometimes we got fun pictures like this:

And then, when we thought we could not take it one more step, handle one more in-flight meal, or deal with one more airport, we arrived home. In our tiny town. In our tiny airport. With our friends and family. That airport moment? The one we had been waiting for since March 2011? It finally happened. On July 20, 2014 three of us stepped off the plane in our matching attire and our friend Gerik snapped this photo of our family, finally in our town.

Aren't you glad you can't smell airport stink in photos? You should be, my friends. You should be.

I drove the short drive home with a wide-eyed boy in the back, next to my husband. We gently placed him in the bed we'd lovingly assembled and crashed into dreamland. Hard.

And that, my friends, was the beginning.

I've wanted to write you for four weeks. To tell you what life is like and tell you we're safely at home as a family of three. That's easier said than done. I am more tired than I can explain to you. The free moments are fleeting and usually, by the time our little is asleep, I send out a few work emails and crash. Hard.

I struggle to tell you what the past four weeks have been like. If you have heard of Jen Hatmaker, she says things way better than I ever could. Of course, she's a professional author so that's probably why. Here's a post Jen wrote a few months after she arrived home. And here's one she wrote a year later, reflecting on what their journey was like.

For us, we had heard we would have a "honeymoon period" where our son would kind of live in "fake world" before he started to deal with the struggles of trauma and brokenness. While this may be the experience for some, this wasn't ours. Pretty much from the moment he got home, we saw how hard this whole thing was for him. As we've mentioned before, we aren't sharing the details of his particular story or struggle. Those details are his. But know that adoption always comes from brokenness. And we see him struggle with coming to terms with that brokenness each and every day.

Picture, if you will a moment, you're seven. Everything you've ever known has been ripped away from you by some people who don't look anything like anyone you've ever seen before. They promise you it will be for the best but you met them about a month ago so in your head, you have no reason to believe them. They tell you family is forever. You have no concept of this. They take your language, your food, your friends, your school, your smells, your home, and everything you've known. And then, they expect you to act happy. Grateful even.

Guys, that's the definition of insanity. I mean.

But attachment is a dance. And in between the hard stuff, our days are filled with beauty and connection and love.

Anyway, here's what I know. The last month of my life has been incredible. I love a little boy more than I could ever, ever imagine. In four weeks, he's wrapped himself around my heart in ways I thought might be possible but I had no. stinking. idea.

I realize the next sentence makes me really lucky. I got to take a month off work to bond with my child. This month could not have been more needed. And it made me realize how lucky I am to have adopted an older child. Because bonding? Well. Lets just say I'm pretty tan from all our bonding. Exhibit A:

From the moment we got IC home, he talked about the pool. So we started going every day. I can't say this has been the best summer for the pool. It's been a little cold. But he hasn't noticed. We go almost every day, rain or shine. In case you were wondering, no, he had never been swimming before. But he went from staring in amazement to spending almost our entire three hours each day underwater.

We've taken to getting ice cream after our pool adventures so I have a regular little Starbucks lover. He did eventually figure out what real ice cream is. But mama still gets Starbucks and he then goes through the ice cream window for a vanilla cone with sprinkles.

Another thing we've been doing lots of: bike riding. A sweet friend got IC a bike. Before he had ever met us, one of his updates said he would like to learn to ride a bike. We promised to make this happen. So on day four of being home, we tried to teach him. And on day five, we bought training wheels and went back out again. Because teaching without training wheels was surely going to be the death of E or me.

For the first few weeks we ran beside him and he pedaled. We found a cute park near our house and would take morning outings to the park. IC loves to take pictures. He usually asks to send them to daddy or grandmama. Like this one:

And this one:

The running-by-the-bike worked for a short while but it wasn't long before I was panting. Well. A dear friend and neighbor offered me her bike and I started riding next to him early two weeks ago. Which was just in time. Because last Saturday we were on a ride, he headed home, found a wrench, removed his own training wheels, and took off with fury. I was so glad I had a bike to keep up. That kid is fast! And he NEVER gets tired. Between E and I we probably rode 25 miles or so with him this weekend. Is IC tired? No. But mom and dad are sleeping well at night.

And maybe you're wondering how the dog thing is going?

Let's just say Dash has a new best friend and we have one less dog sleeping in our bed at night. Those two are inseparable. It's like they knew they were meant for each other. We're so glad they have each other. They have a sweet little friendship going on.

Yes, this month has brought us so far. We're figuring each other out. We're falling in love and learning how to love better.

I am sure a million times a day I'm doing it all wrong. But as my friend texted me the other day, I have never been more in need of Jesus and his grace than I am right during these early days as a family of three. 

I've been so thankful for our little village. We've had meals dropped at our doorstep, gift cards mailed to us, texts sent, visits on the from stoop (so as not to disturb our bonding process), prayers given, hugs given, tears shed with us. And we know this is just the beginning.

Someone found the costume bag

We're slowly beginning to add real life back in. I went back to work this week. We've started to attend church. And yes, little IC starts second grade on Tuesday. I've never seen anyone more nervous to start school in my whole life. If you think about it, say a prayer for our beauty on Monday night or Tuesday morning.  One more thing in the list of new experiences and our little perfectionist is so worried he won't do well because his English isn't at the standard he has set for himself.

In the midst of all this, I have an amazing husband. When I'm sure I can't be alone for one more second, he sends me to Target or the bathtub or the grocery store. Or, amazingly, to take a nap. And I am refreshed.  And thankful to co-parent with a man who loves God most, me second, and our little IC in amazing ways.

Each day we cling to each other and our faith as we learn how to be a family. And each day we laugh, we smile, and we know God's up to something good. And sometimes good means hard work. And that's just fine with us. Because we can't imagine life without our little IC.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Road Trip Photos

Guys. I am so tired. We went to the Blue Nile Gorge today and crossed the Portuguese Water Bridge. It was beautiful. And exhausting. We are all so tired. So with your grace and permission, I am just going to post pretty pictures today and head to bed. Because this mama is BEAT. And frankly, so was her son. His head couldn't hit the pillow fast enough, poor buddy.

Today included a 6 hour trip that should have been four hours, a vomiting child (not mine!!), a LONG hike, LOTS of baboons (close up, even!!) and lots of great Ethiopian food. I was emotionally and physically exhausted so I can't imagine what a toll this took on our little guy.

Please enjoy the photos by husband while I head to the pillow to crash. xoxo

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Farm Animal Juju and Other Tales from Today

Yesterday, despite the absence of a blog post, was a great, filled day. The picture above is from a drive we took. That same drive we saw baboons. Very close up. But as we went to get the camera, they moved along. Probably good. I'm not sure how friendly baboons are.

For those of you that aren't Facebook friends with me I feel like I need to tell you one thing from yesterday. We hit a donkey with our van. Well. The driver did. We were on our way out to the place where we took the above picture and we came to a small town. It was market day so everyone was walking their farm animals to the market to be sold. There were people and animals around every curve. We came around a curve and our driver started to honk. And slow. But the donkey out in front of us did not care. We came to a screeching halt--right into the donkey.

It took about an hour for the scene to be settled. There were police who our guide told us had to measure things (What things? We do not know.) and they arbitrated the dispute. The townspeople gathered 3-4 deep around our van while we waited and another group gathered around our driver and guide and watched the arbitration like a TV courtroom drama. Big entertainment, I tell ya.

In the end, the donkey breathed its last, our driver paid a fine, and we left after an hour. Our guide mentioned a conspiracy theory the police had that this person had brought their blind donkey to be put out of its misery by a car. Apparently this is a common phenomenon. A donkey has an ailment. A family needs money. The donkey get "helped" and so does the family. I can't confirm this donkey was actually blind. His testimony was lacking in substance. But the whole thing did lead to a good story.

On to today. We woke up and tried to figure out what we were going to do for the day. Some of the other families were headed back to the transition home so we asked IC if he wanted to go see his friends and he said yes. We got his sneakers on and headed that direction. It was a weird morning. I can't exactly describe it but basically it felt like we didn't fit their anymore. We had our son. He had us. And though it had only been two days, it just felt different. I did get to play a little with some toddlers, which was adorable. And IC got to say goodbye to his friends (we said goodbye to some of them too since we'd grown affectionate toward them in our time there) but really, when lunch came, we were ready to roll. We agreed that was probably the last stop we'd make there. It was time for our family. The TH was no longer our place.

When our driver arrived to pick us up, he handed us the golden ticket!! We now have IC's passport, visa, and sealed file to hand to immigration upon arrival in the US. We're ready to go when it's time on Sunday. I think we are still finding it hard to believe that ALL the paperwork is done. I mean, except for lots of social worker post placement visits and yearly update reports. Oh yeah. Those.

We did lunch back at Makush, a restaurant and art gallery. Restaurants are a funny dance because the waiters can speak to IC better than we can. But, of course, we want to approve his choices. So we have to let them talk. Then talk to the waiter, then talk to IC and hope he gets it. He liked whatever we ordered today so I'm calling that a win. We also worked on using a fork today. Since most of the time he eats with injera (the spongy bread) he's really not used to utensils. So we tried to mime using a fork for his meat and just holding his bread instead of using it to scoop. It was a funny scene. It's going to take a little getting used to, I think, but it went well over all.

We stopped at a market after lunch to pick up spices. There were three adoptive families and zero guides so the comedic value was higher than usual. We headed over to the spices, each of us trying to say the Amharic word and looking at our kiddos to point to the matching spice. Berbere? Got it. Shiro powder? I think so. But mitmita? Not so much. We asked and they pointed to chilies. Whole chilies. We asked again. They pointed again. We gave up. I googled just now. It does have chilies in it but there are more ingredients. Sadly, IC will have to live without mitmita. We tried, buddy. We really did.

By the time we got back in the van, IC was showing signs of exhaustion. At the TH, they take a nap each day. It doesn't seem to be wearing on the other kids but we can tell immediately if IC has gone too long without it. He crashed on my lap on the bus and awoke when we got back to our guest house. He was so tired, though, that he let E pick him up and carry him the two flights up to our room. He laid straight back down and crashed for two hours. We woke him at five. Who knows how long he would have kept sleeping. Of course, he's missing nap time. But it's also a LOT of change on his little person. And change is hard. And draining. And napping helps. So nap we did.

After a long nap he headed down to play with the other kiddos. We don't let him play on the phone or computer (except for a little educational stuff in the morning) but when he's with the other kids we let them do what they are doing. We look over and he is playing a video game on someone's phone and has headphones into an mp3 player listening to some Ethiopian pop music. A minute later he was playing with Legos and it occurred to me if you didn't know better, he looked like any other American 7 year old in that moment. See:

All the adoptive families still around (our suitemates left today) decided to do dinner together. E and I wanted wine. It was a pretty small restaurant and when we ordered the import wine they told us they were out. So we agreed to try the domestic wine.

Never, never try the domestic wine. Never. Picture you have a neighbor who knows nothing about wine but decides after watching a youtube video they are going to bottle some. So they find some bottles, do a rudimentary fermentation procedure, and invite you over. Can you imagine what that might taste like? Like badly fermented grape juice that you immediately want to forget? Yes. Yes. And Yes. But it was an adventure. Never say we're not up for an adventure.

We left the restaurant and as we were standing on the porch, I noticed a shadow. What? Yes. It was an escaped bull. With horns. Running through the street. As our friend Michael, who was with us, said, "your family has bad farm animal juju." Yes. We do. We hopped in the van and then were stuck in traffic. Guess why? That's right. The bull (or oxen, as our driver said...anybody know the difference?) was holding up all the traffic. A city block's worth of people was chasing the oxen up and down the street, trying to wrangle it. At one point it was running straight toward our bus window. But he passed us and we were finally free to move toward our guest house. Adventure. It's all over us.

Bus selfie!

We got back just in time for shower (IC's favorite...he still giggles the whole way through), Bible story, and prayer. It was a full, good day and tomorrow is even busier. We are headed on another trip to the countryside.

I want to stop my narration for a minute to thank you all for praying for us each day. Our days are filled with lots of fun stories and great moments with our son. However, as each day passes we see how much we are asking of IC--to give up everything he's known to be a part of our family. We see glimpses of how hard this is and will be. He's a wonderful little boy but everything in his life is changing. Thank you for you prayers. Please continue to pray for strength and patience for our little guy and his parents. 

Can't wait to tell you about our trip tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to it. As long as there are no farm animals.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Embassy Appointment: Complete

We are going to try to get to bed early tonight so I'm going to write a quick post while we wait for dinner to be delivered.

Today was a good day. A good, good day. Let's start with this: at 5am little IC had made his bed and was standing over us, ready to greet the day. Only problem is mom and dad weren't quite as pumped. So he crawled in and let us sleep a little longer. E got up before I did and when I finally woke up, IC spoke his first sentence to me, "Where is Dad?" Guys, I couldn't be prouder. A full sentence.

We found dad on the roof waiting for the sunrise so we joined him and all watched the sun rise in Ethiopia together. I feel like there's a metaphor about the dawn of our lives together or something but I'm too tired to flesh that out so go for it, if you so choose. The sunrise really was lovely and as soon as it was fully up, we headed back downstairs to get ready.

I have to show you IC all ready for the day because, I mean. I have a little looker on my hands, in case you didn't already know. Case in point:

As soon as we were ready to go, we loaded the van and headed to the embassy. Just as I was told, the embassy is a very nice building. Very nice and not friendly to photography. We can't even take photos outside the building. So we didn't. I'll give you the pretty basic rundown: we came in, we talked through a window, we left. The guy at the window was super nice. We exchanged a few comments about the World Cup (which we didn't watch because it was on LATE here!) and then he told us we could pick up his visa and passport later this week. Easy-peasy and quick.

We went straight from the embassy back to the transition home for a few last items. We arrived and they had prepared a coffee ceremony for us. In Ethiopia the traditional coffee ceremony is a big deal. You may remember we had one at the traditional Ethiopian dinner last time we visited. It typically has coffee that is roasted, ground, and boiled to completion right on the spot. There's always incense and there's always popcorn. Which is good for our family because we LOVE popcorn. And coffee. It's a very nice thing to do a coffee ceremony for visitors, so it was sweet to have one done as we removed our kids from the TH for good.

All Photos of the coffee ceremony by IC

We met with a few of the officials from the transition home and took a few pictures for families still waiting to visit. We talked to the counselor about several things, one of which was the dogs. We tried to explain that Dash, his favorite dog, might be too excited to see him and he might jump up on him and put his paws on his shoulders. We didn't want him to be scared. But as the counselor started to translate, IC went into fits of giggles. He thought it was the funniest thing he had ever heard! He even told one of the other boys about it and laughed the whole way. So we're hoping it will be that entertaining when it happens.

By this point, we were all so, so hungry. It took quite a while so I got to play "mama" and hand out a pre-lunch snack to my little guy. I felt pretty awesome that I had come prepared and could help him in this small way. Because, you know, this mom thing is new.

We loaded the van and headed off to lunch.

Lunch took a while and a few families had just arrived so by the time it was over, pretty much everyone (myself included) was yawning. We headed back to the guest house and I crawled into bed, with two sweet boys next to me, for a nap.

I woke up and the boys had gotten up and were playing memory in the living room. They really are a sweet pair. We inflated a soccer ball and Mama G and I watched the dads play from the balcony of our room. I knew they had finished when I heard a loud commotion coming up the stairs. We calmed down with tetris and tangrams. And then as I started to write this post, the boys began to work on school. I can hear them spelling out words now and IC is working so hard. If you think we are the ones pushing the school thing, you are absolutely wrong. He loves working on school and will work until he is fully exhausted from working so hard.

As I mentioned, we're waiting for dinner and we'll be heading to bed a little early. Full disclosure: I don't expect to get a blog post in tomorrow. So I hope to chat with you again on Wednesday.

Much love from Ethiopia.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

We've Got Our Son

Happy 7th Anniversary to us!!

We touched down in Addis about 11:30pm. So I think that means our official anniversary day began somewhere along the Visa and immigration line. We were the last ones in the line and thus became the last ones on our plane to go through. We quickly grabbed luggage and found our driver. An hour or so of unpacking, an anniversary kiss, and we crashed hard. 

Don't hate me but because we went to bed between 2 and 2:30 am, we decided to forego church for sleeping. We each got some personal bible time after we woke up at 9am and did breakfast. 

Our driver arrived at noon. Our original plan was to grab lunch and then pick up our kiddos. But our guide asked if we would be ok picking up our kids and then heading to lunch with them. You mean that is an option? Yes, please!! 

So we headed over to the transition home and as soon as IC saw us he was in a dead sprint. I got a big hug and then he gave the same to daddy.

We gave him marbles--something he had requested we bring back. Methodically, he divvied them out to his friends, making sure everybody got the amount he deemed appropriate. Then he kept a few for himself. The guide asked me the English word and I told him "marble." I asked him the Amharic and he told me what it was. To me it sounded pretty guttural and I told him it was a difficult word. To which he replied, "You know what is a hard word? Marble." Touché.

IC said some goodbyes (though I think we will be back for a few housekeeping items later in the week). One of the boys turned and asked me how old I was. I told him I was 30 and asked why he was asking. Our guide said he said I looked like a very young mom. And that's when I adopted a second child.

Just kidding. But seriously. Who doesn't love hearing they look very young? This girl eats it up.

We walked out the gate and took pictures by the sign, signifying the end of our son's time in the orphanage. At this point I feel like I should mention there was another sweet family with us. Not just any family. It just so happens God saw it fit to have the G family end this journey with us. Here's what you need to know about the G family. Mama Rachel and I became friends online when we received referrals at the same time. Then we followed each other through the process. They live one state over from us and we met them at a conference. We immediately felt like our families just meshed. Good thing, too, because we found out our kids actually are from the same region and the same orphanage before joining our agency's home. We are hoping to keep them lifelong friends. Because we sure think we are lifelong friends now!

We headed off to pizza lunch all together and shortly after, we arrived at the guest house to hang for the day. It's a weird distinction, the difference between embassy trip and court trip. Court trip the guides and the agency dictate your schedule. Embassy, not so much. We had some requests for the week but we really get to decide what to do and when to do it. Because, you know, essentially we are just hanging out with our son now. So that's pretty cool. And completely different.

First things first: we got cleaned up at home. This included a shower tutorial and newly cleaned clothes. It was precious. And then? Well. Then we played for the rest of the day. We said no to TV and video games and were met with utter compliance (somehow). We got out a 1st/2nd grade workbook and went through several pages. He did really well but some things in the book require cultural understanding. For instance, when we were matching animals to their surroundings, IC had no idea what to do with the dog. So he used deductive reasoning. "Bear? Cave. Bird? Nest. Dog? I guess it goes in this weird building but here they pretty much live on the street." Good point, buddy. Good point. For the most part, though, he did really well.

We put together a puzzle, did a little reading, put temporary tattoos ALL OVER (remember the tattoo story from our first day? We brought temporary tattoos and he was the happiest kid on the block) and did quite a bit of drawing. And then Mama Jess got tired so we laid down for a little while. I woke up and realized IC had crawled in next to E and we were all snuggling. Seriously, guys, great anniversary.

We headed up for a little sight seeing from the roof and IC and I did some cartwheels, spins, and handstands. My kind of thing! And then we headed down for soccer. Not my thing, but definitely his. He's so cute to put up with me as I attempt not to shank the ball ever 3 seconds. Daddy, expectedly, does better than I do. We gave a two-minute warning and headed up to dinner.

Since we had so much leftover pizza, we just did pizza in the room for dinner. I also had some apple squeeze packs and quickly found out he likes apple sauce. Another win. After dinner, we didn't do much. Just chilled, and played with our G fam friends and watched the kids play games. They are super cute together and we've kind of already arranged a marriage. Don't tell.

Around 8:30 we geared up for bed. Another shower (hey--he likes them!), jammies, a snack, and then tooth brushing. We read the story of Jesus' birth from the Jesus Storybook Bible, and said our prayers. E and I in English. IC in Amharic. It was the most perfect end to the best gotcha day ever.

Have you ever seen a cuter kiddo in jammies? I'm sayin.

E and I headed back into the common area of our suite and cracked open a bottle of wine and toasted to our anniversary. It's not where we planned to be when we were two selfish kids who stood on a mountain 7 years ago and said "I do." But God's stories are the best stories and this is more amazing than anything we could have written for ourselves.

We are up early for our embassy interview tomorrow to officially conclude the paperwork-ish process. We can't believe there's a sweet little boy sleeping in the bed next to ours tonight. Thank you for loving us and cheering us along on this journey. We're so thankful for you. And we're incredibly thankful to the Father. We covet your continued prayers on our behalf. This is just the beginning.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Off We Go!

Greetings from the Qatar airport! It was my most sincere intention to write this post a few days ago. As it turns out, planning for international travel, prepping a room for a cute little guy, and trying to prepare to be gone for a month at work keeps one busy. Quite busy. 

So instead I'm writing this on an airplane. Somewhere between here and Qatar. No idea where. But if you will indulge me, I'd like to take you back a couple of weeks. 

The last week in June we were checking email very carefully to see which steps had been completed in IC's embassy process. We were really hopeful we would be submitted July 2nd and be on our way to Ethiopia shortly after. But we got an email June 29 saying we wouldn't be submitted until July 9. Well. The good news is we were told it was pretty certain we would ge submitted the 9th and should get cleared 1-4 days later. Normal people would be excited about this development and would patiently wait to be cleared and book tickets and happily travel once they had their interview dates in stone. 

If there's one thing IC needs to know, it's that his parents are not normal. Never were. Never will be. 

When we heard the news we would for sure be submitted on the 9th, the only date we saw was the 13th. We desperately wanted to be with our son on the 13th. Our anniversary. Our 7th anniversary. So we chatted. And we chatted. And we took a leap. 

Before we were submitted to the embassy, we bought plane tickets to go pick up our son. 

I don't think there's a strong enough way to say this: we do not encourage our behavior be modeled by anyone. Ever. EVER. 

Because in Ethiopia (and let's be honest, in every government ever) nothing is ever certain. There were a million ways this could go wrong. Our paperwork could get lost. We could have a weird unexpected delay. Anything. But we didn't care. We wanted to get to our son. So we booked plane tickets. 

Round trip plane tickets. With a return date we weren't sure would work. 

And then we prayed a lot and laid low. Well not too low. We had a lovely weekend with my family for the 4th. Their friends threw us a shower so beautiful and so overwhelming I still can't wrap my head around it. To grasp this, you have to know my parents moved to their current home two weeks before my wedding. So I never lived there. And they have lived there 7 years. and yet somehow the people have surrounded our family and made us feel like small town locals. Like we've always been there. Which is a big deal in a small town. 

Anyway, the next week we held our breath and waited for the definite yes that meant we had been submitted. As we prepped the room and packed suitcases we knew there was a slim chance this all
might come crashing down. But Wednesday came and I got the "your case has been submitted" email. First sigh of relief. 

We had heard most people cleared within 1-4 days of submission and we had asked those who knew we booked tickets to pray we would be cleared before we actually left the US. So when I woke up Thursday morning to no email, I was a tad but disappointed. But I really didn't expect it. So when my email "pinged" at 6:45 while I was getting ready and it was THE EMAIL, I was floored. Our prayers were answered. We were cleared to pick up our son. The return ticket would work. And it was all really happening. We would pick up our son on our anniversary. And he would be ours forever. 

And then it really, REALLY hit me that we were less than 24 hours from take off and there was still so much to be done. I thought I would be more prepared booking a week ahead but it turns out no. It doesn't matter how much you prepare. You're gonna be down to the wire. If you are me, that is. 

So I marched into the office Thursday with a mile-long to-do list. We started the morning with meetings. And it quickly turned into a beautiful, overwhelming surprise baby shower with friends and coworkers. Oh my goodness it was so much love. Like so much. If I could write a book on how to support adoptive parents, it would be all about the way our friends and family have already done everything by the book. The unwritten book.  So maybe this metaphor falls flat. But you get it. 

I left work with a trunk full of goodies and a back seat full of donations and realized it all needed to be put away and I needed to be in the airport in 10 hours. So we did what any good couple did: we called our family in town. Uncle Pete and Aunt Cay Cay arrived with dinner and unlimited energy.  And by 1 am, all the bags were packed, the donations were stuffed, the toys were tucked away (more on this later but we are trying to not overwhelm IC so many of the gifts will make their appearances later), and the to-do list was ta-done. 

We crashed and 4 hours later headed out of the house. I mean. 

Here's the good thing about our flights: we found it was the same price to fly out of our small town. Win! 

Here was the seemingly bad thing about our flights: we were to spend 13 hours in Chicago. 

But I called a good friend and she agreed to meet up with us for breakfast. And we got to check our baggage all the way through. Prayers answered, again. And when our sweet friend picked us up off the train, she had an idea. What if, after breakfast, we put our stuff at her place? 

We loved this idea. And in fact, we asked if maybe, just maybe, we could crash there for a little while. And that's how we got an almost three hour nap. The best gift. We enjoyed the city and headed back to the airport in plenty of time. What seemed like a really hard plan on paper turned out to be a delightful day. 

I'm not wrapping this up in any pretty way. Because, I'm on a plane. And in a few long hours I'll check into our guest house, post this blog, get a few hours of sleep, and E and I will take custody of our son. On our anniversary. On July 13. And we are happy people. So all those details and no conclusion. 

To be continued. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Preparations and a Baby Moon

We have been hard at work, making preparations for our little guy to come home soon. If you recall, here's the list of things that need to happen before IC can come to the US:

  • pass court in Ethiopia
  • wait for court decree
  • translate court decree to English
  • use court decree to get birth certificate
  • use birth certificate to apply for passport
  • get passport
  • go to embassy medical appointment
  • do final once-over of all immigration documents
  • submit documents to embassy for approval
  • wait for clearance email and set up flights and an interview date in Ethiopia
  • hang out a few days in Ethiopia as they process IC's visa
  • fly home with our cutie!!

So yes...we've knocked out "get passport" and "go to embassy medical appointment" this week. They've checked our documents. Now we're waiting to be submitted to the embassy. This can only happen on Wednesdays s we're just chilling for now. But still. We're getting closer to getting our little dude home!

In the meantime, we've had three major priorities:

  1. See our friends since we'll be cocooning for a while after IC gets home.
  2. Prepare IC's room and prep our house for our newest members.
  3. Spend as much time as possible with each other, knowing our alone time is going to disappear for a long while. Very soon
We've gotten to see several friends, which has been a blessing. We're so thankful for friend who love us and have taken time this month to see us and encourage us as we wait for IC.
As far as room preparations go, we've been hard at work. Lots of sanding and painting and sanding. And things are finally coming together. Exhibit A...

Just a few more additions and we'll be ready. Curtains, knobs, and putting things in drawers. I am chomping at the bit to finish it up and make it look like someone really lives there. Because someone WILL live there. Soon!

But the BIG splurge-y fun we had was last weekend. My friend Jillian brought her son home last year. She messaged me when we got home from Ethiopia and highly encouraged us to get away. She said it was one of the best things she and her husband did and to just do it, even in the middle of the busy-ness and expense of adoption. So I asked E for permission to splurge and he allowed it. I booked one night in a bed and breakfast close to us. Close enough that we wouldn't travel much but far enough that we wouldn't be able to clean, sort, arrange, paint, plan, anything inside our home. 

We were so excited all week for our little "baby moon" as we dubbed it. Our anniversary is July 13 and we were pretty sure we wouldn't get to do something that day. Because in our hearts, we've always been sure we'd be in Africa then. So we just geared up for an early anniversary celebration. And then, a couple of friends and family sent us some notes that said they were in such support of our getaway they wanted to help make it possible. We felt so blessed to have people love us so much. And it made the getaway much more stress-free. Wow.

We arrived at the B and B Friday night and immediately life slowed down. We had a great dinner at a local winery and then went to a quaint little place for the most giant desserts I have ever experienced in my life.

The next morning we wandered the streets and went antiquing...And by antiquing I mean we just chilled and walked around and took pictures...

This guy is obsessed with taking pictures

We enjoyed some relaxing time over at the winery. It was such a beautiful day and we felt blessed with weather.

It was a beautiful town and a wonderful day. We just kept saying that even though we were so excited to have IC home, we just could not believe what a blessed weekend it was for the two of us.

We spent quite a while over a glass of wine talking about what our attachment and cocooning plan will be. I hope to share that with all of you soon so you can support us as we come home with IC.

We decided to take a moment at the end of our baby moon to get a little souvenir of sorts.

When we finally got the call for our son, I felt like I needed a physical representation of this journey. If I were to birth a child, the pregnancy and the labor and all of that work would culminate in a physical process. A process that changes your heart and mind and body forever. Not only do you also have a child out of the deal but you are forever changed.

In adoption, we also go through labor but the labor is emotional. And our hearts and our minds are changed forever. But my body? Well, I wanted a physical representation of the emotional labor of the last three years. A way that would alter me and remind me of the experience we've had.

And so E and I headed in to the tattoo parlor for our baby moon finale. I had shared with him what I wanted several months ago. And he agreed and said he wanted the same. We can't wait to have our little guy home. He's changed us already in ways I can't describe or explain. But now we have a physical representation of those changes as well. We'll never be the same and we'd never have it any other way.

I hope to update you with plans on our travels and cocooning plans soon. We are already packing so if you think you'd like to contribute to the orphanage donation piles, this week is the week to do it. Because we're leaving as soon as we can. AS SOON AS WE CAN! And until then, we're treasuring every moment.