Thursday, December 6, 2012

Letters From My Kids

Oh that's right! I lured you into reading this post by titling it "Letters From My Kids." Which it will be. But first I have to rave about them really quick, and then on to the letters. ;) These kids are so freaking amazing and I love them so much!!!!!

Levi: Levi is a care-taker. I guess that isn't really a word in this context, but it describes him perfectly. His priority in life is to take care of the people he loves. Especially Z. He is constantly checking on her and making sure that she has what she needs. If she is sad or upset, Levi may roll his eyes (typical big brother) but ten seconds later he is asking her if she is okay and trying to make her feel better. He will talk to her and then try and play with her until she is happy again. Yesterday when she was moody, he offered to play basketball with her and within ten minutes, he was signing to me, "Mom, Z is smiling now! She's happy." The look on his face was so precious; he was overjoyed that his baby sister was no longer upset.

One of my favorite things about him is how far he is willing to go to make her smile. I mean, he is the perfect big brother. He will give up ANY of his belongings (including his camera or his soccer ball) if it will make her smile. He will play baby dolls with her--and give the baby a kiss. He will play make-believe stuff. He will sit with her while she plays dress up. He actually put ON a dress one day.....which led them both into hysterics. :) He tells her she is beautiful. He reminds her to say thank-you (for everything haha. He is constantly like, "Zahria, tell Mom thank-you." For every little thing. :) Anyone who met him in ET, especially the Parkers, will back me on this next statement: Levi is Mr. Manners. He is the most gracious kid ever to walk this earth.)

Zahria: Z is a helper. No matter what she is doing or where we are, she will be right next to me with WHATEVER I am doing. When I get home from work and Levi is sleeping or working out, she is downstairs waiting for me. Normal, right? Except if she is downstairs, that means she has already made her bed, made MY bed, and thrown whatever clothes she sees in the laundry (she doesn't understand that not ALL clothes that are not put away are not dirty haha). She helps me make breakfast; she does the scrambled eggs ALL on her own. After breakfast, Levi washes dishes and Z sweeps. Except she doesn't just sweep. She takes initiative and straightens all our shoes, dusts, gathers the trash and takes it out. It's ridiculous. This precious baby girl helps me deep clean and do laundry all the time.

Both kids are always concerned that Abe and I don't eat enough and EVERY meal they try to give us their food off their own plates, but Z is especially big on this. She will tug on my sleeve every meal, offer her plate, and go, "Mama?" It breaks my heart. Her biological mom described her as an incredible helper and said that any time there was food, that Z would give it to her mom before eating any herself. This tiny tiny baby is trying to be the mommy and take care of those she loves. It breaks my heart. She tries to take my coat from me and hang it, she brings me blankets and a pillow if I sit down on the couch, and she puts away the groceries with me. She is literally my tiny shadow. Actually no. She's more like a third leg or arm......both in the fact that she almost never lets go of me, and that I can't function without her anymore. :)

Are they perfect? No. (Me neither, go figure. :)) Levi is almost OCD about keeping stuff clean and in a certain order. Like, EVERYTHING. He drives me insane in this area. He daily reorganizes a cupboard or entire room in my house (without checking in first). I can't find anything in my kitchen. Well, not anything that I want. I do find surprises now, since everything is moved. Example: I looked in where the glass cookware is now, and he had put some thawed chicken thighs down there because they were in a glass bowl near the fridge and he didn't like them cluttering the counter. Bye bye chicken dinner. It was a little old at that point. :) He also went upstairs (I myself am a neat freak, but he has me beat by a mile!) and decided my hairbrush and comb should not be on bureau so he stuck it with my nail polish and nail files. Then he reorganized my earrings. I can't find a ton of them. I haven't said anything yet though, because he is SO proud afterwards. And it's really not hurting me. And he thinks he is helping. However, once I put a bowl where it USED to go and then he opened the cupboard and looked at it sadly, and just stood there shaking his head. Later he went to my room, saw a pair of jeans on the floor and did the same thing. I was like, "Get OUT haha," and he started laughing and walked out still shaking his head.

Z has a habit too that drives me slightly insane (mostly because it requires a lot of patience and that's not my strong point) but this issue is a little more personal for her and are possibly adoption/grieving/bad past related, so I won't expand on them here. She's also pretty jealous of me which is both a blessing and a curse. :) She even drew a line down my face and chest yesterday in the air and told Levi that my right hand, side of my face, etc., are hers. :) She told Abe he can't hold my right hand either haha. Her exact words were, "MY Mama!!!!" :-p However, she is a precious DARLING, and the sunshine of our house (and the queen of silliness) and I have no clue how she and Levi turned out as amazing as they are after all they have been through. #angels #trulymiracles

Something I L-O-V-EEEEEEEEEE is that the kids clearly love us as much as we love them. Levi is constantly hugging me throughout the day. He will walk up and just hug me ALL. THE. TIME. And say, "Mom, I love you! I love you SOOOOO much!!!!" He also kisses my hand. I seriously cannot believe that after all this time fighting for him, that he is actually here and grinning while he walks around rearranging my house. This child is SO special....words can't describe it. He is a living, breathing miracle and testament that circumstances do NOT have to shape who you are. He knows how hard we fought for him, and he and I have a special saying. I say, "Levi, my heart is in here," and I tap on his chest over his heart. And then he will say it back to me. Yesterday he made me a bead heart in Ethiopian colors and told me it was so I could have a visual "heart".

 Z bear hangs on me and usually I am carrying her around or holding her tiny hand. I love to tell her about the first time I saw her picture but didn't know she was going to be mine and all I could think was, "That little girl is SO beautiful.....whoever gets her is SO lucky!" She loves to snuggle (we also call her Snuggle Bear) and will sit in my lap any time she can. I love hearing her run through the house calling, "Mama! Mama!" Side note: she decided a week ago to call me Mama and that is my name now. No Mom. No Mommy. It's Mama. :) And I love it. :) Her laugh is infectious and almost always present. She is talking in 3 and 4 word sentences and usually she describes or explains something by saying, "Dis (deees) one Mama, dis (deees) one! Mama, JD, (motions to tail), BOOM-BOOM (points to eye)." Me: "Oh no, JD's tail hit you in the eye?" "Yes Mama! Dis one go boom-boom!"

Oh look, we are finally at the part about the letters! Like, a year after I started this post. :) Anyway....both kids write us letters (this started about a week ago) every two days or so. I thought I would post the first one from Z and the most recent one from Levi.

Z's is pretty self explanatory. I cried when I got it.

I am going to interpret Levi's for you, just to make sure you understand what it really means. The left hand column is pretty clear most of the way down. "GOOD NOW" means that he is good now. As in, he feels safe, protected, and loved. So he is "good now". He often tells us stuff from his past and then says, "LEVI GOOD NOW." My poor poor baby. Last time he told us stuff was two days ago and let me tell you I was BAWLING. And of course, Levi tried to comfort ME. Anyway, back to the letter. "YOUR YOUR" means that he and Z are mine. "Good much love so your" means, now that they are mine, they are both good (safe, loved) and they love me so much. 

Can I just say I love these kids beyond words.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving

First, I need to say a HUGE thank you! I LOVE YOU GUYS!!!!!!! You all are so amazing and Abe and I are SOOOOOO grateful for all the support we were shown from the minute we stepped off the plane. It was completely amazing to walk out the airport doors and see so many happy faces there to greet us. We cannot tell you what it meant to us, having you there with signs and balloons and HUGE grins!!!! After 3 years of fighting and 30 hours of travel, we were so grateful to see so many faces who love us. Thank you also to everyone who couldn't be there but was praying for us and thinking of us. We love you guys soooooooooooo much!!!!!!!

Thank you everyone for respecting our wishes and not approaching the kids. They were so overwhelmed and you guys were incredible. Levi talks about the airport all the time. He will be like, "I saw so-and-so, and so-and-so, and so-and-so," and point to your picture and I will say, "Yes, and they love you SO much!", and he will smile and duck his head. :)

Second I need to say another HUGE thank you to some special friends who made our coming home and first week amazing and easy! We were driven home by the lovely Jamie, and we arrived to find our house stuffed with ballons, cards, welcome home signs, and a refrigerator and freezer full of food and meals. We had pot roast, pork roasts, pizzas, lasagnas, frozen meals, and fruit and veggies galore. Even just two days ago, someone dropped off a delicious meal of homemade mac and cheese, salad, bread, and ice cream. HOW DID I GET SO LUCKY?????? This is unbelievable. The support and love you have shown us has blown our minds.

I also need to say thank you for the cards and giftcards. We have literally received SOOOOO many giftcards to Target and Wal*Mart (thank you for clothing our children) as well as to other stores, that we have been able to purchase everything our kids need from your generosity. We are STILL getting cards in the mail!!!!! We even received cards from families I knew when I was little, but who I haven't seen in YEARS. Like, since I was 15 or 16. Over a decade. Seriously, you guys all make me want to cry. I am so blessed.

So how is it being home after two weeks and having the kids full time for a total of three weeks?


Nothing can describe this. Having my two babies HOME is absolutely incredible. It's been three weeks home (and one month together) and I can't imagine life without them. They are an extension of us; part of us. Was the first week totally different than life as we have known it? Yes. Was it a little tough being tied to two kids and having them 24/7? Of course! (We are talking about ME here, Miss Independent and Always On The Run....I've spent more time in my house in one day than I have in the entire time we have lived here.) Did I think, "OMG, what have I done?!?!?!?!?" Several times. Did I wonder why I had thought we could handle a teenager? Once. It's completely normal. Our life has changed. Many mothers experience post-partum depression when they have a baby. It's hard when everything changes and your life goes crazy. I am so thankful that we have had it VERY easy, and that the first week was simply adjusting and trying to figure out a new schedule and routine that works for all of us. Really, about four days in was the hardest, and everything has been downhill from there. By the end of week one, we were grooving. End of week two, loving the groove and ready to bring home two more kids ASAP. Yeah that's right. It's gonna happen. Not right away, but it will. Bring on the babies! :)

Here's our routine so far. It's been working great. I work 4am and get home at 7:30am and then Abe leaves for work. The kids and I make breakfast together and set the table. The kids are AMAZING. Soooooooooo helpful and they always want to do everything with me, which is great, because we have plenty of time, and they need to learn a lot of American basic life skills. :) Z LOVES making eggs in the morning. We cook together and then we eat together. After breakfast, Levi does the dishes (his favorite chore). Zahria sweeps the floors and stairs. I pick up anything around the house, start the laundry or whatever, and then run and do my makeup. We all meet back downstairs and read Bible stories and then do schoolwork. We do school for about three hours or so (the kids are super smart and they love to learn). Then we make lunch, eat it, and clean up together. After, we play with JD in the yard, and then go running, or play basketball, or do P90X (Levi is obsessed with it, and he is GOOD!). In the afternoon we color or play games, and then often Skype with their ET friends. We then make dinner, eat it with Daddy, clean up, and get ready for bed. The kids sleep 12 hours and are used to going to bed when it gets dark, so 7pm-7:30pm is bedtime. By that point, not even gonna lie, we pretty much go to bed too. We are both shot by that point. They kids are AMAZING, and they also take all our energy. Plus I wake up at 3am pretty much on a daily basis for work, so I'm readyf or sleep anyway. Weekends have been a great time of family hangout and fun.

So what have done since we've been home?

-Met a few people
-Made paper chains, Thanksgiving turkeys
-Board games and card games
-Grocery Shopping
-Clothes shopping
-First doctor visit
-Small waterfall
-Paintingsticker books
-Skypingwith friends
-Made cookies
-Made a movie "David and Goliath" (the kids were hysterically cute and Abe totally put his pride on the line and showed what a great father he was by letting Z put a pink crown on him and also wearing tinfoil armor and allowing us to put en eyeliner beard and moustache on his face. LOVE THIS MAN.)

The kids have been angels. I keep waiting for the honeymoon phase to drop and the war to start but so far, parenting these two has been a piece of cake. They are amazing kids and have been trained and raised so well. They are so respectful and helpful that it is literally not possible. I am so thankful to their mother and the other people who cared for them and taught them how to act and live. I can in no way take credit for their stellar behavior but am forever blessed by it. I couldn't ask for better kids. I LOVE having them around, I love being with them, I love living LIFE with them. Listening to them laugh is the best thing ever (and they do that a LOT). They say the cutest things, do the cutest things, and are all out awesome.


Levi is my handsome young man. He has been great; is always trying to learn new signs and asking for the "name" (spelling) of something. He works so hard at his school and is always so willing to help me. He will NOT let me do the dishes. Like, ever. I have to trick him into watching a movie and then do them sometimes, and he yells at me after. He is also always convinced that I should eat half his food. He will NOT be affectionate to me in public (a cultural thing) or around Abe, but in the house when it is just us and Z, he will hold my hand or hug me and he says "I love you, Mom" about a bazillion times a day. We have this thing where he says, "I love you," and I say, "I love you SOOOOOOOOOO much!", and he says, "I love you SOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH! S-O  M-U-C-H!!!!" He also is constantly telling me I am beautiful. He especially says this after I have my makeup on........... :-D He's also made up a sign for "I-REALLY-LOVE-YOU-MOM". He is SO expressive and loves to tell me stories or describe stuff. He is going to be KILLER at ASL. So proud of him. He is an amazing kid and I have no idea why I am so blessed to have him in my life.

He is also in an American-only phase. He will not read in Amharic. He will not use Amharic Sign Language. I wanted to videotape him signing in Amharic before he forgets but he is constantly tell me, "AMHARIC NO. ME ENGLISH." He says that about everything. He wants American Sign Language. English reading/writing. American food (he loves pizza especially). He is always pointing to an American flag and saying, "MOM, ME-LOVE." I'm like, "I know sweetie." He is beyond precious.


Zahria is our sunshine. That baby girl is constantly laughing or being silly. She is a RIOT. I wish I could record everything she does. Luckily, she loves the camera and lets me get a lot more pictures and videos of her than Levi does. She is my helper and is always running around by herself and finding ways to help me; she folded laundry when I was with Levi, and she sweeps and dusts and does whatever cleaning her little hands can find. She loves to run the washing machine and dryer; she will follow me around and say, "Mom! Laundry! Mom! MOM!" She is shy in public but at home and with her brother, she is crazy. She is also agressive....we were playing basketball with Grandpa Brian and she was bodyslamming him and Levi for the ball! She actually stole it a few times and at one point she and Levi both jumped for the ball, both missed, and slammed DIRECTLY into each other mid-air. It could have been an NBA move. They narrowly missed hitting Abe's car as they fell, landed on the pavement both laughing, and then Z jumped up and grabbed the ball and took off. Abe and I were DYING. The kid is COMPETITIVE.

These kids are also so much like us that it's scary. 

Z can't do anything (play, school, whatever) unless all the cleaning is done. She can't focus. She's gotta wash all the dishes and fold laundry with me before a movie. She's crazy competitive. She has to get everything 100% perfect. Period. Angry Birds score of 1 or 2 stars? No way. She will stay on a level till she passes with 3 stars. Always. Produce a sign wrong or say a word wrong? She will go, "A-gan (again), a-gan!" and do it over and over until it is perfect.  She loves getting her hair and nails done. She talks in her sleep. She cries like me (no sound, and just a few tears.)  She's like Abe in that she LOVES taking her time with things and playing games that require patience and thinking. She's like Abe in that she is brilliant in math and she loves to learn in general. She loves music. Also like her daddy, she will give me the clothes off her back and food off her plate, literally. 

Levi is so much like Abe. Chill, sweet, beyond helpful, totally selfless. Always putting others first. (He also wants hair like Abe's; he talks about this EVERY. DAY.) Good at basketball (he's also awesome at soccer!). Takes care of his family: if Z is sad or needs help he takes care of her or helps her (or anyone who needs it). He (generally) dislikes having his picture/video taken. He sleeps like the dead (literally can NOT be woken. Trust me, Abe and I have tried!) He's like me in that he likes quick decisions and action, minimal details. Slow, thoughtful processing and strategy bore him (us) to tears. He loves to read (although his version is looking at pictures and making up the stories since he can't read English). He has two chapsticks on him 24/7. Yes, that's right, he sleeps with them. (He's a child after my own heart!) He loves avacados and mangoes. He's a clean freak. He loves music.

I wish I could record everything that has happened the past few weeks. The kids say and do so many funy and sweet things. And they have had so many firsts these past few weeks! First hot chocolate, first ice cream, first time living with electricity and running water, first time picking out their outfit from their OWN clothes, first Thanksgiving, first time making cookies, first time trying to ride a bike.

What's the hardest part of all this? It's actually that both kids need exposure to language, only they are both trying to learn TWO languages (ASL and English) andddddddddddddd I can't do both at once. So everything takes twice as long. For example: I will read a Bible story in English while both kids look at the pictures and then Z will hold the Bible and turn the pages and I will sign the stories for them both. Z signs almost as much as Levi which is amazing and awesome, but it is still hard. Also extremely hard is the fact that Levi has had almost no education and he does not have a language yet period, but he wants to do school. Thankfully, both kids are super smart and eager to learn.

Things I have learned over the past month:

1. I LIKE staying home with my kids (although I do miss my crazy old schedule. Life is still crazy, just different crazy. :-p)

2. I can lie (not sleep!) on the edge of a bed with a tiny 200 degree Ethiopian grip-locked around my neck for 11 hours straight for three consecutive nights to scare away bad dreams. (I lost all feeling in my left shoulder and arm those nights haha).

3. I still don't like to cook.

4. Cornrowing hair that is 1-1.5" long IS possible. Barely. But it CAN happen.  

5. My 8-year old is going to know more math than me within two years. #babyengineer #daddysgirl

6. Being a mommy and doing your makeup is still totally manageable, it just takes a little planning

7. The past 4 years were INSANE and almost killed me and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I would I am doing it again. ASAP.

8. There is nothing like my daughter being wrapped around my leg and saying firmly, "Mom work-work-work? NO. Mom STAY. Work-work-work? No no no," and shaking her head while squeezing my leg with all 57lb of her tiny self.

9. My heart can explode and yet still function when my son (who by every right should be a hate-filled, bitter child) randomly signs, "MOM, I-LOVE-YOU. I REALLY LOVE YOU!!!!!!!! SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

10. My husband is a sexy daddy. Especially with an eyeliner beard and tinfoil armor, or cardboard ears and a tail (long story, we made a movie of David and Goliath, or as Z says, "Dawit and Go-lee-ath!"). 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Embassy Donation List

Okay, I have to say THANK YOU to everyone who has donated supplies for this embassy trip. Our house was literally STUFFED! I am SO grateful! And the orphanages will appreciate more than I can tell you!!! Below I have made a list (I tried to count everything) of what we have received! We literally have 200lb of donations going with us. All with my unique identifying zebra tape......hey! It worked last time! Even the Ethiopian men at the airport who brought me a cart thought it was great. :)

                                                    (Click on the picture to see it full size.)

Embassy Donation List:

55 Beanie Babies
14 Pencil Sharpeners
7 Slinkies
27 boxes of crayons
2 packages Kleenex towels
120 toothbrushes
153 chapsticks
57 adoption bracelets
7 jump ropes
100+ balloons
1 balloon pump
3 hackey sacks
3 balls
3 yoyos
3 large boxes of gronola bars
1 large bag of fruit snacks
24 kids sunglasses
30 toy jewel rings
44 jumping frogs
53 matchbox cars
100+ small toys
5 paddles and balls
4 pads paper
8 decks of card games and flashcards
50+ stickers
13 plastic necklaces
14 packs of gum
103 flosses
6 soaps
5 Desitin
4 lotions
10 pairs scrubs
20 pairs of shoes
4 small formula packets
8 bottle nipples
2 triple Antibiotic ointments
2 A+D ointments
21 toothpastes
1 baby rattle
2 bags cough drops
1 Iron Drops
1 Vitamin D drops
19 boxes bandaids
1 box alcohol wipes
4 bottles multivitamins
1 Robitussin
3 Benadryl
5 Tylenol
2 dry erase boards
2 puzzles
8 books
6 boxes markers
18 boxes pencils
11 boxes colored pencils
1 box of erasers
1 bag of pens
1 box eye of eye patches
10 bottles of bubbles
16 bottles pain reliever
16 bottles Cough + Cold relief
40 bags of clothes (Obviously I can't take them ALL, but the rest are at Goodwill and shelters! :))
 $360 cash to buy formula in country for the infants!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012


This past week I've been a cranky mess. Matt and Marina are flying out Saturday (and now we are going with them, but hold that thought!) and I was so frustrated and stressed because I desperately wanted to be on that plane with them. I wanted to travel with good friends, and I wanted my daughter to feel safe because her friend would be with her. And I was done waiting. I was near a breaking point. Exhausted and heartsick, I cried multiple times a day this whole week.

Fast forward to Friday the 19th. I don't know if it was God giving me a hint or my own stubborn self trying to force something to happen, but I started feeling like we were going. So I started believing that we were going. Going on Saturday the 27th. I even wrote a post about it (although I held off actually posting it because I didn't want people asking about the trip when there actually was no trip at that point). We spent the weekend shopping for donations and minimal outfits for the kids (how do you shop when you don't know their sizes? Weight charts and eye-balking pictures!!!). Then we packed. I sorted and rearranged and went all out crazy the entire weekend. Abe is a saint for putting up with me. I also spent all Saturday crying. Like EVERY. TEN. MINUTES. Allllllllll afternoon. Every movie we watched while packing made me start the waterworks. "What To Expect When You're Expecting" (total trash by the way and completely inaccurate), "Killers", "Beethoven". Cry cry cry. Abe just sat there and snuggled me and let me be a mess. (Thanks babe <3 I love you!)

By Sunday afternoon, I was done with the waiting and inaction. I had to DO something. I emailed my travel agent and asked about getting on Matt and Marina's flight the following Saturday. At 9pm or so that night, I got an email back from her (who does that? They were CLOSED. How awesome is SHE?!?!?!) with a quote of $1,600 per ticket with that flight being open. For our court trip, tickets were $2,300 each. I started freaking out again. What if the embassy didn't give us our date and we couldn't catch the flight? What if the birth parent interview (BPI) went awry? What if we didn't clear embassy????

Sunday night I went to sleep and got up at 3am for work. Worked two torturous hours and then at 6am (the time of the BPI) I started checking my email every other minute or so. Wore my phone battery down before I even left work to head to my next job. Abe had to come bring me my charger.

Ethiopian embassy closes at 10am EST (5pm their time). 7am hit. 8am. 9am. I met with my mentee and sat down with her to give her feedback on a project. And lo and behold, at 9:17am an email made my phone buzz and I jumped at it like it was a live bomb. We had CLEARED!!!!!!!!! I emailed back that instant with dates we wanted to go (I gave them three days for next week) but they did not respond before closing for the day. I was more tense than before now. We didn't want to announce it because we didn't have confirmed travel and we still weren't sure if we were making on M&M's flight AND even if we did, flight prices could wreck us.

I didn't hear anything from my travel agent all day yesterday. I knew she was probably crazy busy and I didn't have an appointment with the embassy anyway, so there was no point in bothering her. Around 9pm that night (LAST NIGHT :)), she called me. And told me of a miracle. Here's how our conversation went:

Agent: "Marissa, it's me! I'm so sorry I couldn't get back to you. I was slammed all day!"

Me: "No problem! Thanks so much for calling me."

Agent: "Okay, you're all set. I've booked your flights."

Me: confused/stunned/??????/silence.

Agent: "I know you really wanted to get on that flight and the only way to hold them was to book them. So I did, and I processes it as cash so they would go through and I have 24 hours to cancel them! If embassy doesn't give you a date, let me know so I can cancel."

Me: "OH MY WORD!!!!!! You're amazing!!!!!!!

Agent: "It gets better! Tickets are cheaper than what I had quoted you! $1,500 each for you and Abe and $1,350 for each kid!!!!

Me: "That's amazing!!!!!"

Agent: "Yes! So I already booked them. But there weren't any seats left for the kids on that return flight. You and Abe were the last two."

Me: ................

Agent: "So I wait-listed the kids and called Washington, DC, and spoke to the airline manager and told them we need two priority/emergency seats for your kids since you are already on that flight. Those seats will be clear by tomorrow."

Me: "Are you an angel from heaven?"

And that, ladies and gentleman, is the story of our embassy trip miracle. How cool is God? The kids seats cleared this morning and I paid for the tickets. We are ready to roll! and Marina and I are sending the agent flowers.

Leaving Saturday for Ethiopia!!!!!!!!!!

Attachment Plan

(I wrote this blog on Friday, 10/19/12).

This is is people. The game changer. The final inning.

We are still in limbo. Our I-171H (immigration) finally arrived this past Tuesday, but we are waiting on the results of the birth mother interview, which is going to be on Monday, Oct. 22nd. The embassy could clear us, require more documents or interviews, or send us to Nairobi. I'm choosing to hope/believe/pray/obsess that we will pass. And that we will travel on Oct. 27th. Why the 27th you ask? Well, Marina and Matt are flying then.....and I'd like Z and Shanbu to be able to talk (they speak the same dialect) on the 18 hour flight (pre-layover) home!!!! :)

It's almost the end (we pray!) of this specific journey, and we are expecting an email from the embassy fairly soon. This email will tell us that we are free to spend the remaining savings we have (four years of working 18 hours a day) to climb into a giant piece of metal and fly halfway across the world. I hate flying. But I'm DYING to climb into that aerodynamically impossible metal bird and sit in a cramped seat for 13+ hours. Because we will be flying to our kids. And THAT is surreal. (P.S. Our I-171H, also known as "immigration", arrived three days ago!!!)

While we are waiting for that precious embassy email, I'd like to explain our attachment plan to you. I'd posted it before, but I want to bring it up again, and this one has adjustments. A lot of what is below is directly copied from my previous post.

Now you may be thinking: an attachment plan? What???? What does that even mean? Why would they need one? Aren't they getting older kids?

An attachment plan is just what it sounds like. We have to figure out how to make our children trust us, bond with us, depend on us, and realize that we will NEVER leave them and that we will ALWAYS care for them.

We've spoken to multiple families (as well as our agency and social worker) who have adopted children of all ages on the topic and made our decisions for our personal attachment plan based off the information we have gathered.

Our kids each have a personal history that we will not be sharing or discussing. They have possibly been abandoned, have been moved multiple times with no warning or explanation, have had numerous adults in their lives (none of them permanent) and have had communication barriers (or no communication) with their care-givers for years. It can only be expected that they will have attachment issues. These issues could be a huge range of things but mostly likely will be an inability or struggle to attach to anyone, specifically an adult/care-giver OR the tendency to try to attach to EVERY adult they see. We want them to learn that WE are their parents forever and we want them to learn that it is safe to attach to us. We do not want them trying to attach to others.
Therefore: attachment-plan-a-la-Ruper. :)

So here is what we have decided. On our "airport day", the day when we finally come home with the kids, anyone and everyone is welcome to come to the airport. We WANT as many people there as want to come, to celebrate one of the happiest moments and greatest victories of our lives. :)

On the "airport day", anyone who wants to can come. You can bring balloons and signs and cameras. Basically, it's a party, except that we ask you do not GIVE our children anything, and also that you do not TOUCH them. No hugs or kisses. Imagine being taken from everything and everyone you know, leaving with two people you cannot communicate with, and not in your wildest imagination be able to envision where you are going. Imagine leaving a dirt courtyard with small wooden buildings where you sleep and then coming to AMERICA. Imagine being surrounded on the trip home by thousands of people you don't know who do not speak your language and being exhausted and given unfamiliar food and being forced through airport security and customs. Imagine FINALLY landing after 19+ hours flying (not including layovers) and being greeted by a large group of unknown white people (and you are used to seeing brown skin) and all of them want to touch and hug and kiss you. And you can't ask what's going on, who they are, or what's happening. Completely overwhelming. So we've decided that we cannot allow anyone to touch the kids. Anyone. Period. Thank you for your understanding and please feel free to hug me and Abe! ;)

Also, no presents, no snacks, etc. Thank you so much for your generosity but they need to learn that everything they need comes from us. This will do wonders in helping them attach to us and learn to trust and love us. (PS, if you want to SEND presents, or give them to me and Abe to give to the kids, that is fine with us. :))

After the "airport day", we will be staying home as a family to work on our new "normal" and to start bonding as a family. We will not be allowing visitors at all for about 5-8 weeks. During this time we will work on teaching them to trust us. Eight weeks may seem like a long time, but it really isn't. We will use an intuitive approach depending on how our kids do, but 5-8 weeks of solidarity is the plan. If we happen to make a trip as a family and you see us, feel free to say hello and chat but please do not touch our kids or give them anything. You CAN talk to them though; I'm sure they would love it. :)

After eight weeks, we will allow family and close friends, 2-3 at a time, to visit us if they want. During these visits, you are welcome to play with and communicate with our children! :) We would love that. And we are sure they will too. You are extremely important in their lives. The only clause is that you may not touch them (no hugs or kisses) and you may not give them anything. No presents. No giving them a drink if they are thirsty. No feeding them. No helping them complete a task. Abe and I will be taking care of that to ensure they know WE are their caretakers, even in the presence of other adults.

After ten-twelve weeks, we will evaluate how we feel our children are doing and figure out how we will proceed from there.

Thank you for your understanding! We love you all, are so glad to have you in our lives, and can't wait to introduce you to our precious children! :)

Monday, October 15, 2012


Okay, so Wednesday we got our embassy submission email. And our file-under-review email. Thursday we received another email saying that the embassy is requesting an interview with the birth mother. Most likely, the American Embassy in Ethiopia is just checking in to make sure that everything is being done legally and that the kids aren't being sold. Sometimes scheduling these interviews take weeks/months depending on the embassy's scheduling availability. However, on Friday we received yet another email, saying that the interview appointment will be Monday, Oct. 22nd, at 1pm. So exactly one week from today. Then the embassy will probably make a decision sometime next week as to pass us, request more documentation, or investigate our case.

After we clear, we give the embassy three dates we are available and they pick one. Then we go and get the kids!!!! We COULD travel early and pick up the kids before clearance but we would be stuck in Ethiopia indefinitely as the kids wouldn't have visas and other critical documents. And we are too poor to risk flying over and staying indefinitely. So we are waiting.

On that note, Marina and Matt cleared for Shanbu this morning!!!!!!!!! (That's right, her second BigBird came!!!) We are SO happy for them!!!!!!! Can't wait to see pictures of Shanbu with his Mommy and Daddy FOREVER!!!!! :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

EMBASSY SUBMISSION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WE GOT SUBMITTED TO EMBASSY YESTERDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND THEY ARE REVIEWING OUR CASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!

Typically the process is that you get submitted and wait a week to ten days to get s second email saying that they are reviewing your case. The embassy then has ten business days to decide if they will pass you, require further documention or interviews with the child's relatives, or investigate and send your case to Nairobi, Kenya. Since we got submitted yesterday, Oct. 10th, the embassy has till Oct. 24th to make a decision regarding what they want to do. To clarify, this is the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has legally given us custody of the kids. Now the American Embassy in Ethiopia is going to look into things and make sure that everything is being done correctly and legally. After they clear us..............WE GO GET THE KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is the LAST step, people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We were extra blessed because we recieved our submission email yesterday at 4:17am (Ethiopia is seven hours ahead of E.S.T.) and then at 6:55am, we got another email saying that they have started the review process on our case!!!!! That made an awesome day even better; I was bouncing around all day and grinning like an idiot at anyone within 200 feet of me. I'm sure I looked like a creeper. Marina got her review email six days after submission and my friend Brandy got hers TEN days after. So three hours was a miracle. :) One other family was also submitted, reviewed, and CLEARED yesterday. That is a record in the history of embassy clearances!!!!! So happy for that family......we were at court with them, and they rock. :)

While we are thrilled to be submitted and under review, we are still waiting on a new I-171H (immigration) with our new address, and we can't travel without it. So if we clear embassy, but don't have our immigration paperwork.....then we are stuck. I have called our officer at USCIS three times and left messages but she has not returned my calls. I am hoping our letter is in the mail and on its way. Please pray that it gets here in time! It's the only thing we need besides clearance!!!!!!

I thought I would put down a quick timeline of our process here, since it is almost over! :-D These are the most important things that happened.

December 2009: started talking about startiung the process
January 2010: started the process.

01/29/10: Announced our decision to the world
03/01/10: Officially signed with EACI (an adoption agency)
05/27/10: Switched agencies (signed with AWAA)
02/18/11: Dossier to Ethiopia.....started waiting for a referral
07/31/11: Found out about Levi (and started fighting tooth & nail for him)
05/31/12: Levi and Zahria showed up on the Waiting Child List
06/21/12: Received our referral for Levi and Zahria
08/17/12: Court date (PASSED)
10/10/12: Submitted to embassy

1,015 days so far. <3

Friday, October 5, 2012

Update on the Kids :)

We finally got our September update on the kids!!! We've been waiting impatiently for almost ten days now haha. ;) I pretty much wear out my phone battery every two hours, since I check my email every five minutes now that we live for updates on the kids and an email (*hopefully soon*) from the embassy! Here is some brief info that we can share from the update:

Levi is signing "Dad" (Yes, that's right, I'm jealous! Where's my "Mom" picture hahaha????)

We love you tooo baby girl!!!!!!!!! <3


Zahria: Z is healthy this month (yay!). She now weighs 48lb (that's a total of 8lb gained since May!) and is about 4 feet tall. My baby girl is growing!!!!!!!! My favorite line from the update about her is, "She is a dearly loved child at the transition home; she has a beautiful smile and laugh but is a little bit shy. She plays with children cooperatively and with understanding. She is good at reading different children's fiction books and has been reading a lot. She has no fears about going to America and can't wait to start a stable family life."

From previous updates we have also learned that she loves puzzles, role-play, and injera (the local bread). She does NOT like milk. Z is in 2nd grade (although levels are different than in America).

In last months update, the ET staff said: "She enjoys participating in different physical acitivites like jumping, running, throwing, etc., and performs them competitively. Also, she is a polite, disciplined, and loveable child at the transition home. She loves you and can't wait to meet you again."

Levi: My boy is healthy (yaya!). :) He now weighs 90lb and is 4 feet 10 inches tall. My favorite comment about him from the update is, "He is sociable, cooperative, and an excellent child. He is very much excited to go to America and start a new life with his adoptive family. He repeatedly asks us when his adoptive parents will come and take him. He expects his mom to help him a lot to learn sign language."

Previous update information has told us that Levi is passionately interested and involved with all sports. I am predicting a LOT of time in a large grassy area watching him play haha. Already have a sports schedule lined up for both the kids haha! Registration starts in January!

Last month the staff in ET said this about him: "He is a very interactive and happy child. He interacts with all children and staff members in a healthy manner. He loves all the CDs you sent and wants to thank you very much. He has been watching the CDs repeatedly and has improved his language skills. He loves you and misses you a lot. He has been asking when you will come and can't wait to meet you again and start living with you."

Also, both children LOVE soccer. Did I say LOVE? I meant L-O-V-E. That's right people, I'm a soccer mom. ;) Guess I should start looking for a bumper sticker...... ;)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Day in the Life of Marina and Me.

We are not clearing embassy this week. Again. I emailed the coordinator yesterday to find out, so that I wouldn't  be up all night waiting for a non-existent email. Her reply was no, that we would NOT be submitted. Again. And it's been seven weeks. But rather than dwell on that and obsessing about the possibility of NEXT Wednesday, I decided to write a post that will hopefully make you laugh. :)

So over this adoption process, you get super tight (allow me to translate my street lingo: "close") with people from all over the country. I've made sooooooo many incredible friends who I absolutely adore, and who I could not survive this process without. One of these lovely ladies is Marina, who is waiting for embassy clearance (we are positive she is not clearing until I am submitted; because we NEED to travel together ;)) and she and I have been texting almost 24/7 (no joke) for ten days straight. I thought you might like to see in on the texts of two desperate and crazy moms (we survived court together), so here you go! Welcome to the minds of Marina and Marissa. This is an edited selection of some of our texts from the past 24 hours. ;)

Warning: Reading the following may induce blurred vision, extreme laughter and/or stomach pain. Other possible symptoms include but are not limited to: bewilderment, shock, and the desire to never again look at this blog. Talk to your doctor before reading this post.

Marina: "I got the big bag!" (We sometimes eat our feelings....)

Marina: "Hey-I heard about a Big Bird sighting near you!! They say we might see him in the wee hours of Wednesday morning!!"

(To understand "Big Bird", "Muffin" and other such lingo, read "Club Soda and Muffins".) 

Me: "Hahahaha I freaking adore you!"

Marina: "I am standing here debating whether or not to wash my hair. Ugh. I hate getting ready :)."

Me: "Hahahaha just wear a scarf or headband and then you don't have to wash it!".........(two hours pass)......."How's your day babe? Did you wash your hair? LOL!"

Marina: "I did wash it and didn't have time to completely dry it and my work wardrobe is suffering in a serious way and my ass is huge because I live on pretzel M&M's so I look a LITTLE skeptical today :)."

Me: "Don't worry, I went to sleep with my hair wet and it dried vertical haha! I'm wearing a cloth headband thingy. And jeans. Because I feel like rebelling. And a pair of my work pants split down the front at work yesterday, BELOW the zipper!!!"

Marina: "NICE!!!  Hoping I have more time for the gym when Shanbu comes home. I just wear long shirts to cover up my panty lines. And I have the benefit of wearing a lab coat :) I miss u."

Me: "I want a lab coat !!! Then I would feel cool! And I miss u too! Why you no live near me??? :(  I demand that you and Matt move!"

Marina: "Ok. On it. Lol. So have you received an update?"

Me: "No, did you??????? OMG I'll beat someone haha...."

Marina: "Me too. I am jumping out of my skin over here. I feel like we will still travel together."

Me: "I'm not making it (embassy) tomorrow..........."

Marina: "It's gonna be good. We got this."

Me: "It's pouring rain here. Appropriate. I hurt too much to cry.."

Marina: "We will pray hard Marissa!!!! Matt is praying--he is WAY closer to God than the rest of us peons :). Lol. You want me to call and tell them to put a stat order on it? Xoxo I am sorry love...."........(hours pass)......."Cake and beer go together, right? I hope I eat healthier when Shanbu comes home. I also hope my desire to wash my hair daily and not wear sweatpants comes back."

Me: "LOLOLOLOl!!!!!! It will! You have to be the sexiest mama hahaha!"

Marina: "Oh yeah...Sexy...That's me!!! The ironing board seems like an appropriate place to leave all of our laundry--clean or dirty. It's really nice--all options are just displayed and you can just pick whatever you want. Matt prefers his laundry folded and neatly hung in the closet--I don't know what's wrong with him."

Me: "Omg I can't breathe I'm laughing so hard!!!"

Marina: ":) glad I could give you an ab workout!"

Me: "I think my Big Bird got hit by a plane. Maybe Carrie took him out by accident."

Marina: "Boo and hiss!!!"

Me: "SQUACK!!!!"

Marina: "I am praying something happens tomorrow....Good night my friend."

Me: "Talk to you all day tomorrow? Haha love youuuuuuuuu. P.S. I have a scone ready for breakfast. Basically a muffin..........We should go into comedy hahaha."

Marina: "We would be amazing as a standup!  Xoxo. Maybe someone cool will read it and we can be on SNL."

Me: "Omg go look at Jill's new pix of her baby *****!"

Marina: "Is kidnapping illegal?"

Friday, September 28, 2012

Club Soda and Muffins.

So we were told about a week ago that we were *hopefully* being submitted to embassy on Sept. 26th (this past Wednesday). Two of our good friends who went to court with us were also given this same news, and we were all VERY excited because several embassy cases within the past two weeks have moved QUICKLY. A few friends have been submitted and passed within FIVE days. This is practically unheard of. There are basically three possible outcomes at this stage in the game:

#1. Your case is held up indefinitely (waiting to be submitted to embassy) due to missing paperwork.

#2. You get submitted and then the embassy may hold off on your case and not review it indefinitely.

#3. You get submitted and the embassy reviews your case and makes a decision as to whether or not to investigate you further, or to clear (pass) your case.

Of course, we want #3. Two friends have gotten this and the embassy has cleared them in record time. They are leaving this week to go get their kids. JEALOUS!!!!!!!!!!! A third friend also just cleared. Since I can't go over and get MY kids, these lovely ladies have kindly agreed to all take pictures for me, which should ease my heartache a little. I am also sending care packages with two of them (they happened to travel at the same time, so my kids will be overloaded with gifts!). I am sending shoes and a dress and t-shirts with our family picture of us and the kids silk-screened on the front, as well as picture albums with the house and from our court trip, tons of little toys, and snacks. I wish I could be there to watch them open the packages, but I should be there myself SOON, so I will be patient. :)

Anway. Abe left for Texas for a work conference on Sunday and I was trying to distract myself from the possibility of being submitted to embassy. Embassy submissions only happen on Wednesdays, and I didn't want to obsess, even though I was pretty sure we would be submitted. Right before Abe left, we went to a craft store and I bought a ton of flowers and plain head bands and little jewels. Then I spent the afternoon making Z a TON of headbands. I had made her some beautiful ones before, but I sent them all to Ethiopia for her. So I made a bunch for her to have HERE. They turned out great!!! I can't wait to see her wear them. :)

Sunday night I went to my BFF Jamie's house, and she and her daughter and I made welcome home t-shirts and poster signs for our friends who were bringing home their little boy from China on Thursday night. Our t-shirts turned out great. :) We did, "LIVE. LOVE. ADOPT.", stacked on each other in hot pink and then under the "ADOPT" I put, "Ethiopia" in bright yellow (Levi's color) and Jamie and her daughter did "Colombia" in green down the side of their shirts.

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday all day were spent working texting my girls Carrie and Marina, who were also waiting to be submitted. When you are waiting for embassy submission, there are only two days. Wednesdays, and not-Wednesdays. By Tuesday night we were almost losing our minds. Ethiopia is seven hours ahead of American time, so the earliest we could hear about submission would be 2am our time. The window is 2am-9am, and if submitted, you recieve an email. If you don't get submitted, there is no contact.

Marina decided that directly asking each other would be too hard, especially if one person passed but another did not. She came up with some code words to help us tell each other what was happening. If we got submitted, the code word was "Big Bird." (Don't ask why, it's just what we decided haha). If we did not get submitted, the code was "Muffin". I voted in a third one, to signal that we had heard nothing, and that was "Club Soda."

I'm not sure but I think Marina and Carrie were up most of the night. I tried to sleep because I have to wake up at 2:45am anyway for work, but I was pretty much texting back and forth with them ALL night inbetween nightmares. I figure it was because I was so stressed, but I had horrible dreams all night on and off as I cat-napped and in one, all my teeth but one fell out. I'm happy to say that Carrie laughed at me (instead of sympathizing) when I told her that one. Cause we are tight like that haha. :)

2:00am hit. 2:55am. No word. Marina texted out sadly, "Muffin." I was like, "No way, we are CLUB SODA till 9:00am!!!"

FINALLY at 6:21am we got the first "Big Bird" text from Marina. :) HUGE sigh of relief. I started checking my email like every minute. Nothing.

7:07am. Carrie got her "Big Bird".

7:30am.  I left my VRS job and headed for my second job. A friend from work texted me, "Ok, club soda text me as soon as your big bird flies away! Fingers crossed, just said a prayer, k?"

8:00am. I knew. Somehow, deep down, I knew. It wasn't happening. I was going muffin.

9:00am. 10:00am. I emailed our agency. Sometimes the embassy doesn't have the correct email address, so you are submitted but not notified. Somehow I knew this wasn't the case, but I asked anyway. 10:22am. We got an email from the travel coordinator. We were not submitted.

I was in class at that point. I had promised myself I wouldn't check my phone (I was interpreting 10-12) but of course I had to. Luckily since I had already felt like it wasn't happening, I didn't break down in class. But it felt like CRAP. Here my kids are waiting, asking for me, and we have been in this process SO long..........I was just hoping SOMETHING would start going right/processing quickly. Think again. I should have expected this to go wrong, like pretty much everything else. I can't express how overwhelmingly grateful I am that we passed court on the first try; THAT would have been devastating if we hadn't. This is just a minor set back. And the travel coordinator said she is hopeful we will be submitted next week. I want to hope, but I will believe it when I see it.

Missing my kids aside, last night was really cool because we got to see little Micah come home. :) Amy left for China a few weeks ago and the family flew in last night. We got to be party of the welcoming party home and it was so amazing. Micah is so precious and adorable and everyone was so happy. Jamie and I were bawling our eyes out of course. :) It was SO good to see it finally happening for SOMEONE. I admit wishing I was the one getting off the plane with MY babies, but seeing Micah was such a cool experience and the next best thing to seeing mine or Jamie's kids come home. Totally in love with my little nephew already. <3 :) We love you Micah!!! :)

Below are some pix from Micah's home-coming!

Friday, September 14, 2012

And. Hulet. Sost.

If you walk past me and hear me muttering things like, "And. Hulet. Sost. Arat. Amst. Sdst. Sebat. Smnt. Zetegn. Asr, ", don't be alarmed. It's just me counting in Amharic. I have been practicing a TON. My goal is to impress my little sweetheart with my amazing counting abilities. She was trying to teach us to count before we left and we failed miserably. So now I'm going to show her that I learned it just for her! She is smnt by the way! :)

I miss the kids so bad that I can't even explain it. Everything feels wrong and pointless right now. I just want them HOME. My self therapy consists of constantly trying to count in Amharic, or memorizing little phrases for Z. And I walk into Levi's room all the time and just stand there and cry. Work also anesthetizes the pain. Getting up at 3am and home at 10:30pm pretty much leaves you too tired to think and while I hate my work schedule, it's been a godsend. I don't have time to obsess over the kids. Literally. Four weeks ago yesterday we got on a plane to meet our kids. Four weeks ago today we saw their precious faces. Only four weeks, but it feels like a lifetime has already passed. It feels like a dream; like it never actually happened. And yet, I have one ring fingernail with splotchy layered orange nail polish to prove to me that it DID happen (I refuse to paint my nails again until ALL her nail polish has worn off). I have pictures that they drew for me on my fridge, and a homework assignment from Levi with a perfect score (he was SO proud). I have videos that I obsessively watch instead of working on my to-do list, because nothing matters except hearing Z's giggles and seeing Levi's precious smile. I have a chunky Ethiopian handmade ring that I bought as a reminder of my promise to their birth mom, which helps me feel close to her--as if she can know I will keep my promise, every time I look at it.

Every time I hear or see a plane, I get frustrated. I want to be on a plane, flying out of here, headed for my babies. Me, who HATES (despises/loathes) flying. I WANT to be on a plane. 

I am here and I am functioning, but I am a shell. My heart is halfway across the world with two precious brown-eyed angels. 

P.S. We received an update from our agency. We asked if the kids knew we loved them and are doing our best to get back ot them and this is what they said: "Yes, she (Zahria) is well informed and she loves you and can’t wait to meet you again. He (Levi)  knows very well!!! He loves you and misses you a lot. He has been asking 'When will you come?' and can’t wait to meet you again and start living with you." They also said (regarding Levi): "He loves all the CD's you sent and wants to thank you very much. He has been watching the CD's repeatedly and has improved his language skills." #bestillmyheart

A Letter To My Babies

*This was written about two weeks ago (Friday, August 31st)*

Dear Levi and Zahria,

I miss you. As in, words can't explain MISS Y.O.U. Ever since we had to leave you and come back to America, everything has been different. The world feels like it has gone gray; all the color sucked out of it. Nothing seems to make me happy now. All I can think about is you. What are you doing? Are you getting enough to eat? Do you miss me? Do you know I'm coming back for you? Do you think about me?

Daddy and I kept our watches on Ethiopian time. We're always looking at them and saying, "The kids are eating now," or "This is when we would be at the TH playing with the kids," or "They are sleeping right now." Knowing vaguely where you are and what you are doing is a little comforting. It helps us feel closer to you. 

Everything has been insane since we came home. Daddy started work the very next day. I got really sick and was home for a day with fever and terrible cramps and then I worked a half day. The next day I was back to both jobs. I think work is the only thing keeping me from losing my mind. I'm so busy all day that I can barely function, much less cry 24/7 about you. I'm so exhausted I can barely stand up, but the pain of missing you is dulled by the constant run from 3am-11pm. Everyone always asks how I do it; work 18 hours a day, that is, and my response is always, "For my kids. When I wake up, I look at their picture, and that's what gets me out of bed." Don't ever forget, my precious babies. I love you more than anything and I will do anything for you. 
Your Dad and I are insane. I just wanted to warn you, before you come home and have to figure it out for yourselves. We are totally out of our minds. How we are still alive is a miracle. Take this week for example. We were supposed to close on our house on Wednesday (yes, we are moving and it is a LONG story!!!). It didn't happen. We were rescheduled to Thursday. This was slightly (okay, VERY) stressful but we tried to go with it and just deal. Our social worker is scheduled to come on Wednesday night next week to do an update/addendum. Which means we have to be totally painted and moved in by that Wednesday. No big deal right? We're superheroes, so it's no problem. (*cough*) Then we got a call on Wednesday saying that Thursday wasn't going to work. The stress factor tripled. I spent a LONG time on the phone with my real estate agent, Abe, and the paralegal on Wednesday. And Thursday. They told me we weren't going to close. No closing? People, you don't understand! We HAVE to. Our adoption appointment is Wednesday. We HAVE to make this happen. If we don't, we can't get a new I-171H from immigration and then we can't be submitted to bring the kids home. How about pre-possession? (I have to say, our paralegal was FANTASTIC and I love her; she was SO willing to work with us.) Then my real estate agent called me at 10pm (she and her husband are AWESOME like that) and told me she had been calling the other attorney herself and pushing for us to get a closing date. On Thursday, we found out we would close Friday afternoon at 4pm.
AWESOME. Except that gives us Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday to paint and move in. No big deal, right? Oh wait, yes it is. Friday I work till 3pm. I will then be running to the bank for a certified check with most of what is left in our bank account. Then we will go to closing. We were told this could take hours. We are *POSSIBLY* picking up a table and chairs, washer and dryer tonight (thank you, Craigslist). Which means we have to borrow the truck from Jimmy. Then we intend to go and start taping the house in preparation to paint. And if we are lucky, get one coat down in the living room. I work at 4am tomorrow. So we will call it a night around 11pm and go back to the apt. Tomorrow (Saturday), I work 4am-8am. Then Callanach has a mini-show until 12pm and then I have to run and get more painting supplies and stuff from Home Depot. Back at the house by 3pm and then painting  like our lives depend on it. Sunday no work (thank goodness!) so up early to paint, and then church (where I WILL be interpreting). Then back to paint. Until late Sunday night. Because we have to be done then. Period. Monday is Labor Day. Abe has it off. I do not. His job will be to move us. I'll help when I get out. We need to be 90% moved by Monday night. Tuesday I work 4am-10pm and Wednesday I work 4am-6pm. Then the social worker comes at 7:30pm.

I'm not sure if this will actually work. It scares me to think about. I could really use Mary Poppins right now. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Home Isn't The Same.

Being in America feels weird.

Here, I'm not afraid to use water, from any location. I can drink any water. From a faucet. I can wash my hands in it. I can cook with it. I can get it from INSIDE my house. And I LIVE in a house. A real house. Not a trash heap, made from old tires and sheet metal and rags and sticks.

When I walked out to my car today, there were no people around. No crowds thronging the streets. No children offering to sell me gum or shine my shoes. I got into my own car, by myself, (instead of into a minivan stuffed through the roof with passengers) and I pulled out onto the street. All the traffic followed the same rules and patterns, instead of crazily weaving in and out and all the pedestrians were safely on the sidewalks, instead of dancing between the cars. No children, maimed people, or mothers with babies tied to their backs came to my window to beg for food. No eyes haunted me with their desperate stares, no one tugged my sleeve to ask for help.

But still they haunted me.

I drove to Wegman's to get fruit and milk and cereal. Instead of people selling their produce on the street, all the food was clean, safe to eat immediately, and there was too much of it. Everywhere. In a cool, air conditioned warehouse, with clean, solid floors. No mud, or flies. No one walked up to me and tried to convince me that their food was the best, and that I should buy from them. I was deeply thankful to be in a place where plentiful food abounded and was easily accessible, but at the same time, I started to cry. All I could think about were all the starving children I had seen. The stupid fruit and vegetable bins in Wegmans could feed hundreds of them. I started picking through the apples, trying to avoid the bruised ones, and then I cried more. Because those bruised and damaged apples would be treasures in Ethiopia.

I saw a little kid screaming and swatting at his mom. I heard other kids complaining and whining. And I remembered walking into the older kids' Transition Home, and how all the kids ran to us and begged to be held or hugged. They just wanted love. Just a hug. Or a kiss. Every time I would try to put a little kid down they would scrunch up their legs and refuse to stand, and cling to me. How one little girl with a hunchback came and stood a few feet away and just stared at me and kept saying, "Mom, beautiful Mom," until I started crying and put down the other kids I was holding so I could go to her.

I hate being home. I feel sick. All the wealth, and the waste. Everything I see, I relate and compare to Ethiopia, and then I cry. It's like a depression.........a heartbreak..........a crime. I am haunted by all the eyes. Children from the streets running next to me, holding my clothes, begging for food. They say it, and sign it, "Food, food, food. Please, food. Please. I have a small brother at home. A small brother. He hungry. I no lie. Please, food. Food."

God help America.

Update: we passed court on 8/17/12 and so the kids are legally ours in both countries. We can't bring them home however, until we pass embassy. Usually families start the embassy wait immediately after court. Our situation is different (of course). We have to move, get another homestudy update, go through USCIS again, and THEN start our embassy wait. Which means probably November or December before our kids can come home. Please pray for us as we try to push through this extra paperwork. We miss them so badly and it is so hard, knowing they are waiting for us and that this process just keeps getting dragged out. Thank you!

Ethiopia Diary #3


11:02pm ET time. I'm lying in bed (Abe has been out for 40 minutes) and I'm trying to process how to write. What to write. I can't possibly include or explain everything we are seeing and doing and I desperately wish my eyes could be a camera so that I could record EVERYTHING. There is so much I wish I could show you. I'm going to try and pick up where I left off yesterday, but yesterday is already hazy. Everything is happening so fast. 

Today was incredible and yet heartbreaking. We woke up at 7:30am and then just laid in bed and talked for 45 minutes. Mostly we kept saying how beautiful our kids are. We are just so amazed by them. They are the most incredible kids I've ever met in my life. And I'm not just saying that because they are mine. They are just SO amazing. I feel so incredibly blessed and I am sooooo lucky that I can claim to be their mom and yet really can't take credit for how incredible they are. 

We finally got up and Abe showered. I'm waiting till Saturday. Disgusting? Maybe. But the water here is not safe and I don't want to risk any more than I have to. We haven't gotten sick at ALL (not from the food or  the trip) and I want to keep it that way. Abe went downstairs and ate and I grabbed a pop tart. Then I made sure our bags were packed with donations, paperwork, and stuff for the kids and we headed out. Yonas had us pile into a van and we drove to the court building. 

Driving is a whole other experience that I could write a book on. There are NO rules of the road. Cars are EVERYWHERE, at every speed and vehicles just manhandle their way through. I've never seen anything like it. It's like adult bumper cars, only way more dangerous. Pedestrians are all over the place dodging cars and we pass within INCHES of them. Everyone is swerving and weaving like they are drunk. There are dead dogs on the sides of the road everywhere. I don't know HOW we haven't hit anyone or another car. I'm going to video it, because I really do not have the words to explain it. 

Back to court. We arrived and climbed a bunch of stairs, which is hard because the air is REALLY thin here (major altitude change). The steps were all made of marble because the marble lines are so close, but it feels like a contradiction with the rest of the building, which is not at all like an American court. We were ushered into a room full of chairs and we all sat. And waited. Lots of other agencies and families filed in and we squished together to make room. It was chilly and we had no idea what to expect. About fifteen minutes in, I saw Hanna's little face peeking through the door and when she saw us, she grinned. She and Levi came over and gave us long hugs and then sat in the back of the room. We turned around in our seats and kept signing "ILY" to them and then we played some ABC and number games with Levi from across the room. After the room emptied a little, they let me go sit with Hanna and Levi and I read a traveler's book to them and we practiced signing. About 40 minutes after we had arrived at court, we got called into the judge's room with four other families. The judge started asking us questions about the kids and if we really wanted to adopt them, etc., and we were all so nervous. We were only in there about five minutes though, and she passed all of us on the spot. It was such an amazing feeling. I felt like my heart was whole. 

We went back out and found the kids. I've been working on explaining to Levi everyday that when we leave, we will come back. I want him to know that when we leave on Sunday, we WILL come back for him. We signed that we would see him tomorrow and hugged them both. Then we were taken away. 

We went out to eat at a really cool restaurant that appeared to be made from bamboo on the inside. I ordered beef tibs, which is beef in a spicy hot sauce on peppers and other vegetables with injera (the local bread, like a damp, sort of sour tortilla). It was really good. My friend Carrie had to go to the bathroom, but often the bathrooms don't have toilet paper OR doors. I went with her to block the door, but we found the door and so I left. There's more to the story, but I won't share till Carrie gives the okay ;). 

After lunch we were brought to the guesthouse to pick up our donations. Then we drove to the Transition Home. The kids came running over to see us and Hanna grabbed my arm and clung to it. Such an incredible feeling. Levi gave me a huge hug. We took the kids to the schoolroom and started reading a book that I brought with signs in it (thank you KIERSTEN!!!). We were teaching Levi new signs and soon were surrounded by 12-15 kids and all of them were signing with us. It was SO cool! They all adore Levi and communicate with him SO well. I can't believe how much they all love to try and sign with him. It almost makes me sad to bring him here, where many people WON'T try. His friends are amazing and they just want love. They all snuggle up and hold your hands. I feel like I could hug them for DAYS and never get enough. 

We played Uno after and were amazed to see that all the kids, down to some 5-6 year olds were pros at it! The game was smoking fast and so fun! It was one of the best moments of my life (top 5). Every kid was chattering and signing and laughing and snuggling up and throwing their cards around and they were so HAPPY. These kids have nothing and they are HAPPY. So cheerful and they share and are so kind and sweet. I don't understand. It's so amazing. I feel honored to even be here with them. 

Someone called me for donations in the middle of the game so I went and brought those to the counting area. That went by fast, but they were so grateful for everything. I wish I could have brought a million more bags. 
(Abe and I debated on sharing this next part. We decided to go ahead and do it, because we feel it is an important part of ours and the kids' story, but we will not be sharing any further information regarding it, as it is very private. Thank you.)

We played Uno some more and then we got called and were told that the birth mother was here. We weren't ready at all. We grabbed our camera and the pictures that I had for her and followed our guide across the street. We walked in and a man came up and shook my hands and kissed my cheeks. I found out he was the birth father. Then their mother came up and hugged and kissed me. She is so tiny and beautiful. We went into a tiny room with glass walls and sat across from them and a translator sat near us. We asked questions and they asked questions and we talked for almost half an hour. If you don't want to cry your eyes out, don't read any farther. I asked if the kids had any specific characteristics when they were young and what their favorite activities were. She told me, "My children have never played. Always they were helping me try to find grass (a special grass that is served for a coffee ceremony) to sell so we could eat. They did not play. They have never played." She also said that often she would beg the neighbors for food for them because she had none. I started tearing up the moment she said they had never played and it only got worse. I asked if there was anything that she wanted us to tell them; anything specific she wanted us to make sure they remembered. She said (crying), "I want them to know that I worked so hard for them. I took care of them all by myself and I tried so hard. I want them to know I love them so much and I am dying so I cannot care for them. I will die soon. I did my best for them. I give them to you. All responsibility I give to you before God. I give you my children. I give them to you before God." She was crying so hard and so was I. I mean, we were SOBBING in that tiny office. I grabbed her hand and Abe did too and we all cried and cried. I told her, "I promise!!! I promise to love and take care of them forever. I promise." We cried for a long time. Then Abe told her we will send Levi to a deaf school and I told her we are having whole conversations with them. She started smiling through her tears then and said that she knew, and that Levi had told her we could sign, and that he was SO excited. I gave her pictures of the kids and she was just kissing the photos over and over. We cried some more and then we took some pictures and then walked back over to the Transition Home together. (FYI, I'm bawling as I write this. It's so painful to write, and so private, but I don't want to forget any of what happened and I think it's important for people to read this. To understand why we all need to be adopting.). The kids came up to us (tons of other kids and families were in a half circle around us) and were smiling at us. Levi and Hanna/Zahria's mom was hugging and kissing them. Hanna ran over to me and wrapped my arm around her so she was up tight next to me. Her mom called her and I gave her a little push. Her mom started speaking to her in Amharic, telling her I was her mother and to listen to me and that I would take care of her and that she loved her. The mother and I were both crying really hard. She handed me Hanna and sent Levi over to me. Someone snapped a few pictures of us all and then she said something to the kids, and shook my hand and kissed me. Our tears were worse than the rainy season. I grabbed off my opal ring that Abe gave me five or six years ago and put it in her hand. She kissed me, put Hanna in my arms, and turned and basically ran. I have never felt so honored, or so horrible in my whole life. Hanna and Levi were smiling when they were next to us and Hanna was holding so tight. I picked her up and promised her I would never leave her. I promised Levi. And then I cried and cried. That beautiful woman gave me the most precious things she had. The two greatest gifts in her world, and in mine. I can't even tell you what it felt like. To know she trusted me and gave me her treasures and to know that she is dying and loves them so much kills me. I feel like such a huge, HUGE responsibility has been given to me, and I swear I will do well for her. 

Levi took us to a seat and I mostly just hugged Hanna (Levi is too manly for more than a few hugs at a time). Then we played Uno and I asked Levi about getting an American name. His Ethiopian name is Tamirat ( fitting) and then we looked at photos on my phone and camera. He thought my brother Josh was hysterical, and my Dad (his "papa"). I had pictures of my parents and my dad was being really stupid and making crazy expressions and Levi was laughing out loud. #incredible 

Yonas called me to take pictures of Kalkidan (my girl Lindsey's baby) and she was so funny! She came right up to me and held my hands and walked with me. We went outside and I tried to get her to smile but she just looked everywhere but at me and kept rubbing her eyes (she had just woken up). Then she noticed my camera and went after it. I let her touch it but she started pushing buttons so I pulled out my iPhone. She GRINNED. I mean, ear-splitting grin. I sat her in my lap and we took self photos and then I let her play with it. Instantly I had 10 or so kids on top of me (literally) all wanting to see the pictures on my phone. Kalkidan was hysterical; she was pushing these big 5-8 year olds away from her and hugging my iPhone. She would make these angry attitude faces at the other kids who tried to touch the phone and I was laughing so hard. I turned on some fiddle music for them and they loved it. I showed them pictures of Levi and Hanna and they would all chant: "Tamiru! Hanna! Tamiru! Hanna!" It was so precious. They all wanted to have a picture with me but I wasn't allowed to take any of them. 

We left the Transition Home around 4:30pm and at 7:30pm got picked up for a traditional dinner. There was live music and dancing. It was pretty cool. We tried honey-wine (no one was a fan haha) and ate injera. All of the meats and sauces and dippings were delicious. The dancers came down and started making people dance with them and they grabbed Abe. We had vowed NOT to dance but I pushed him up anyway. They made him dance and then carry some girl around and it was hysterical. THEN later they came back for him and made him stand up on stage and do another crazy dance. He tried REALLY hard and did a good job! The Ethiopians are CRAZY win their should movements but he did so awesome! Then some girl came for me and challenged me to a shoulder dance and I went right at it (and sucked) but it was fun and she was laughing with me. Totally crazy to dance in front of the whole restaurant. We looked like insane people haha, and so uncoordinated compared to the Ethiopians haha. So glad we did it though! Although Abe threatened me if I show the videos I shot (oops! Did I say I shot a video? I DID!!!!......). 

Now we are back at the guesthouse and I'm going to bed. I wanted to catch up on yesterday's post but I need to sleep. 

I can't believe the kids are ours, after such an insane fight. I love them so much.

Ethiopia Diary #2


It's 7:32pm ET time right now. We're exhausted. As in, drop dead, can barely focus exhausted. Actually, Abe has been passed out for a half hour. We arrived back at Yesabi and ate a pop-tart dinner, and then re-sorted and organized all our luggage. We rearranged all the donations and made bags of stuff to give to the street kids. We made a pile of things we brought for Levi and Zahria. Then Abe went to sleep and I went on a hunt for a computer. I found one downstairs; but the connection is slow. Email is virtually impossible. I updated my FB status and wish I could thank everyone and personally respond to the comments but I don't have time. 

Okay, documenting this day is going to be nearly impossible. It was overwhelming and dream like and crazy. We landed in Addis at 7:30am and it took two hours to go through the process of getting a visa, going through customs, and collecting our baggage. We did it without any trouble then, which was a huge relief. We stayed with Carrie and Dave the whole way and it was nice to have friends with us. I thought it would feel weird being basically the only white people in the airport but it didn't. I didn't even notice it. The whole day just felt so weird. We were greeted by Yonas (who is super cool) and we had our first experience tipping.....none of us gave enough money and the guys went to Yonas and complained and then he tried to explain tipping to us. The result is that we are now passing out 100 dollar birr like candy. 
We were rushed to meet our kids right after we arrived. We dumped our stuff in our rooms and were driven to the Transition Home. We were the last family to meet our kids and it happened so fast. Hanna ran out and jumped into my arms and I started bawling. Levi ran out and ran to Abe. I wish I had more time to write how it all felt, but I am too tired. It was completely and utterly amazing; the most incredible experience ever. We played with our kids the rest of the day and they are insanely awesome. We love them so so much.

I can't keep my eyes open. Good night.