Thursday, May 27, 2010

{ethiopia} DAY 5

Last day in Ethiopia and I didn't want to leave.

We were suppose to have three more days.
But, I knew we were doing the right thing.
We needed Miles to get well and it just wasn't happening there.

Since we weren't able to meet any of Miles' birth family that morning, we had the caregiver come early so we could do a little souvenir shopping before we had to meet Travis at Kolfe, the boys government orphanage, and for a tour and to get Miles' passport and visa.

To our surprise, Miles' Special Mother came with her.
After shopping for a couple of hours, we headed to Kolfe.
I honestly didn't know what to expect.

We were greeted by a dozen or more boys.
Sweet boys with big smiles on their faces.

Since I can't post any pictures of the boys, I thought I'd just post a few of the orphanage.

Outside by the kitchen.


The kitchen.

One of the dorms.

Garden.

Soccer field.

After we toured the facilities, Alex played soccer with a bunch of the kids while Keith and I talked to this young man.
He is 18 years old and has lived in the orphanage since he was a young boy. He is in school and told us that he has about 3 years left. The more he told us, the more our hearts broke for him. See, they are allowed to live there past 18 as long as they stay in school and stay out of trouble. He is studying to be a tour guide, but told us that he know that when he gets done with school, he won't be able to get a job because jobs are so hard to come by. He doesn't know what he will do. He told us that he practices his people skills by talking to people that come to visit and he hopes that will help him get a job when he get out of school.

It was like looking at Miles 18 years from now.
The whole time I was there, I kept thinking this could have been him.
He could have very easily ended up in a place very similar to this.
It was a hard afternoon.

After a couple of hours, we left and headed back to the guest home to finish packing.

Before leaving for the airport, Miles' Special Mother came by for one last goodbye. She came in and just held him for a while.
After all our bags were loaded up and we were ready to leave, she walked with us to the car, carrying Miles in her arms. Before handing him to me, she just stared at him, kissed him all over his face, hugged him, said something to him in Amharic.

After she and the caregiver finished saying their goodbyes, we hugged them both, told them thank you one last time and headed to the airport.

It was time to take Miles home.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

{ethiopia} DAY 4

Thursday was a long day.
There was something scheduled for us all day long.

This would also be the first time we left Miles.

Miles was only allowed to leave the guest house with us to go to Gladney Foster Care, to the doctor, or to the Embassy. Any other time we left, one of the caregivers from Gladney came to the guest house to stay with him.

I spent the first part of the morning on the phone with the airlines trying to move our flights up. After talking to our doctor, we felt like the best thing would be to get Miles home. We were suppose to fly out Sunday evening, but our airline had a flight leaving Friday night. We were told the flight was full but we could leave a number and they would call us if anything opened up. Twenty minutes later, they called back and told us they had three spots open up if we wanted them. We went ahead and booked them and just prayed that we would get Miles' passport and visa in time.

We met up with the other Gladney families that morning at the Holy Trinity Church for a tour. Travis took us through the church and gave us quite a history lesson. The Church is the burial site of Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife and it also houses a memorial to the first victims of the Derg regime.
After spending the morning at the church, we went back to the guest house to pick up Miles for our interview at the Embassy. The caregiver stayed there because she was watching Miles again later that evening.

Whenever we went anywhere with Miles, I just held him in the back seat.
Alex usually took pictures out the window as we drove.
He actually ended up taking most of the pictures while we were there.

On the way to the Embassy, Alex snapped this picture.
Of all the pictures Alex took, this is one of my favorite.

Our interview at the Embassy was quick and easy. Waiting in the warm, crowded room for our turn was the hardest part. They asked us questions about Miles... where was he born, the name of the hospital, how he ended up in Gladney care, how old he was, if we met him before we passed court. We knew the answers to all the questions, but it was also helpful that Joanna came around while we were waiting and made sure we knew what to say and was there to help if we had any questions.

After we were done at the Embassy, we stopped by the doctor so Miles could get another shot, then we went back to the guest house. We spent a couple of hours there hanging out with the caregiver and Miles' Special Mother, who had walked over from another guest house. It ended up being a sweet time because they shared stories about Miles with us.

They remembered when he came to Addis... "Misikir, tiny baby. So little".
They also told us... "Misikir, good baby. Such good baby. No cry".
Then they laughingly said..."In morning, we turn babies on tummies and they cry and cry, they no like, but Misikir, he lays head down and goes to sleep. And we take babies outside and lay blanket and babies cry, they no like sun in their eyes, but Misikir, he goes to sleep."

Every update we received on Miles said he was a laid back little guy. To this day, that seems to be true.

After we visited for a while, we headed to dinner with the other Glandey families. We went to a cultural dinner that had Ethiopian food and traditional dancing.
By the time we got back, Miles was fast asleep.

If I haven't said it before, let me just say that Gladney Center for Adoption is AMAZING. Their staff is AWESOME and they take such great care of you, from the paperchase all the way to picking up your child.

We are very proud to be a part of the Gladney family!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

{ethiopia} DAY 3

We went to Gladney Foster Care for a tour of the four different homes and the Coffee Ceremony.

This was the day I was excited and nervous about.

I was excited to see where Miles had spent the last seven and a half months, to meet the women who had cared for him, to be able to look them in the eyes and tell them thank you.

But I was nervous about taking him back there.
I didn't know how he would react being back.
Would we walk out holding a screaming baby who doesn't want to go with us?
We knew that was a possibility, and now we were at the point where we would find out.
The first home we toured was Miles' home. We found that out immediately when we walked upstairs and we heard several women start yelling his name and squealing. They were so excited to see him. Within seconds, they snatched him out of my arms, grabbed the bottle I was giving him and took over.
We were able to meet his Special Mother and she put him in the traditional Ethiopian outfit she bought him. Isn't she beautiful?!
The caregivers are so amazing and so sweet. They take such good care of the children and really do love them. We will forever be grateful for all the love, care, and affection they gave Miles while he was there.

After we finished touring the other three homes, we returned to Miles' home and waited for the Coffee Ceremony to begin.
When it started, his Special Mother brought him downstairs and returned him to us.
Did you notice he is sucking on his bottom lip?
He started it when we went upstairs and did it most of the time we were there.

After the Coffee Ceremony, we sat and visited while waiting for our turn to see the doctor. While we were waiting, one of the ladies asked us to come back upstairs and to take a picture of Miles' bed.

This was his bed. The one on the left.
Where he spent the last seven and a half months.


Alex did not want me to put him in his bed.
He was so upset about it.
He didn't want Miles to feel like we were going to leave him there.
So protective.

We snapped our pictures and Alex got him out of there.

By the time we got back downstairs, it was our turn to see the doctor. So we headed back across the street to wait our turn.

The doctors office is a small room and that particular day it was very warm in there. We were in there for what seemed like forever. After throughly checking Miles out, he told us that his ears were still infected, his legs still had spots on them (we were told is was fungal, but they looked like bug bites to me), and his breathing was still shallow and he felt like his pneumonia was getting worse. He decided he wanted to start giving him antibiotic injections once a day for the next five days. Then he told us if he was not better in a day, he was going to recommend he be admitted into the hospital and we would have to stay in Ethiopia longer than we had planned.

I'm not going to lie, that freaked me out a little.

I would have loved the opportunity to stay in Addis longer, but not under those circumstances.

While we were in the doctors office, Alex was starting to feel sick to his stomach. So I took him outside to get some fresh air while Keith finished up with the doctor. When we went outside, we were talking to some of the staff and telling them what the doctor said and we were advised to call our doctor and get a second opinion. Not that they didn't trust the doctor, because they absolutely do, but since our doctor was already aware of Miles' health and sent antibiotics with us, they felt like he would help us make a wise decision. Then they told us the best thing for Miles would be for us to bump our flights up a few days and get him home as soon as we could, not for us to stay longer and put Miles in the hospital.

So we had some decisions to make.

After the doctor we were suppose to meet up with other families and have lunch with the Gladney Representatives, but Alex was feeling worse and felt like he needed to lay down. So, we called Travis and told him we were skipping lunch to take Alex back to the guest house and that's where we spent the rest of the day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

{ethiopia} DAY 2

We spent all day Tuesday at the guest home with Miles and the other families that were staying there. Besides us, there were two other families and we had so much fun hanging out with them. They were such a huge blessing to us and we are so thankful for the time we spent together.

The most eventful thing that happened that day was that our luggage arrived!
It was a good day indeed, since I had officially worn the same outfit for FOUR days. Gross, I know.

Even though we didn't actually DO anything that day, we were dealing with quite a bit.

When we got Miles, he had a double ear infection, pneumonia and that morning had some bumps that started popping up on his legs that were spreading. We were given medicine to give him and were told to come see the doctor if his breathing got any worse.

Besides dealing with a sick baby, we noticed that he wasn't doing a lot of things that we thought he would be.

We received updates on Miles once a month for three months before traveling to Ethiopia. The updates let us know where he was developmentally. Even though we had an idea that he was a little behind, we had no idea to what extent.

When Travis handed Miles to me, I was a very surprised at how wobbly he was. His head was real jerky and we had to support his neck.

At eight months old, I assumed he would be stronger than he was.
I assumed he would at least be sitting up.
But he wasn't.

Here is a picture of Miles trying to sit in a bumbo.

Poor little guy just couldn't keep his upper body up very long.

He could roll over once in each direction, but that was about it.
He was not sitting, crawling, or pulling up.
He couldn't even bear weight on his legs.

At one point, Keith and I wondered if something was wrong with him.
If it was more than being developmentally behind because he would fix his eyes on a spot on the ceiling and start shaking his head back and forth. Fast. It freaked me out a first because I had never seen anything like it.

And, we couldn't snap him out of it, he just stopped when he was done.

When he was mad or hungry, he did the same thing, just with his eyes closed and crying.

That was the moment it clicked for me.
That this would take time.

It would take time for him to trust me.
For him to know that he doesn't have to try and sooth himself.
That we could help comfort him.

The first day and a half, we saw a whole lot of this face...

He sucked on his bottom lip.
Like he was nervous.
Like he was confused.
Maybe even a little scared.

But half way through day 2 we were seeing a lot more of this...

By staying in all day, we learned a whole lot about Miles.
More that any update we received.
More than any visiting family could tell us.
We learned so much about him just by being with him, watching him, playing with him.

It was a good day.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

{ethiopia} BROTHERS

Alex is such a great big brother.

I knew he would be.

He has such a big heart and loves with no strings attached.
He genuinely cares about others and is eager to help people.

Alex is such a joy and Miles was immediately drawn to him.
The first hour we had him, he spent most of the time laying on the bed with Alex, rubbing his face and just starring at him.

Alex was the first to make Miles smile and the first to make him laugh.

The minute we saw them together, we knew bringing Alex to Ethiopia with us was the right decision for our family.




Saturday, May 22, 2010

{ethiopia} MEETING MILES

It's so hard to put into words what it was like.
The day I saw Misikir for the first time.

For 4 months, I knew his story.
For 4 months, I stared at photos of him.
For 4 months, I tried to imagine the day I would finally get to meet him face to face.

And that day had come.




I remember thinking, "He's really real!"

For so long he had just been a picture.
Someone we talked about, but had never met.
Someone we were in love with, but had no idea who we were.

In that instant, it all became worth it.
All the paperwork.
All the waiting.
All the trouble getting there.
It was all worth it.

We spent the rest of the day up in our room.
Just being together, for the first time, as a family of four.

Friday, May 21, 2010

{ethiopia} WE MADE IT

We landed in Ethiopia on Sunday night and I was so thankful to be there.

What an adventure!
And we were just getting started.

After we got off the plane, we got our visas, exchanged some money, and caught up with Travis. He was a little surprised that we traveled so light. Apparently, flying to Ethiopia without any luggage is not exactly normal.

We met Sammy, our driver, and he took us to the guest house.
After getting there, we spent the next three hours trying to get a hold of our parents so they could track down our luggage for us and see if it could get on the Ethiopian Air flight the next morning. If nothing else, I wanted the Humanitarian Aid to make it. I did not want it waiting for me back home.

We were able to get online, but for whatever reason, we were unable to leave a message on Facebook or send an email. We tried to use our cell phones, but were not able to get a signal. We were given a cell phone to use while we were there, but we were only able to receive international calls, not make them.

We were drained... emotionally, mentally, physically.
We finally gave up and went to bed.

The next morning, we were up getting ready when out of no where, I heard my phone beep. It beeped like I had a message.

Keith and I just looked at each other.
Since we were unable to get a signal the night before, we went through our phones and turned everything off that would allow email, messages, text or phone calls. In fact, the only reason I didn't turn it completely off was because I used it as my alarm clock.

I grabbed my phone and, sure enough, I had a text telling me that @meridithfloyd4 had sent me a DM on Twitter (thanks Meridith!), which also let me know that I had service!

I immediately called my mom to see if she could track down our luggage for us. Even though it was Monday morning in Ethiopia, it was only Sunday night in the states. She called me back within about 15 minutes and told me that it is on the plane and will arrive in Ethiopia Tuesday afternoon! I cannot begin to tell you how thankful we were. What a huge blessing!

Later that morning, we called Travis to find out what time he was bringing Misikir. He told us it would be sometime that afternoon and he would call us back later when he knew exactly what time. Although I wanted him as soon as possible, getting him later that day would give us time to walk down to the store and try and find some formula, bottles, diapers, you know, all the things you need when caring for a baby. All the things that didn't make it to Ethiopia with us.

Since we had a couple of hours to spare, we had Sammy drive us around Addis.
We drove all over the city.

It is such an amazing place.

Something about it captivates you.
It takes you in.
It steals your heart.

Happiness in the midst of extreme poverty.
Joy in the midst of despair.
Love and affection without shame.

After a couple of hours,
Sammy took us back to the guest house to wait for Misikir.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

{ethiopia} GETTING THERE IS HALF THE FUN... RIGHT?

Our luggage. Ready to go to Ethiopia.
Unfortunately, our luggage took a detour...

We waited 18 months for our day.
Our day to travel to Ethiopia to meet our son.

We spent months planning, shopping, packing.

We were ready.

Our paperwork was in order.
Our bags were packed.
Our humanitarian aid was ready to go.

Unfortunately, nothing went as planned.

"Dallas... Washington DC... Addis Ababa Ethiopia. Praying the weather cooperates!"
7:07 AM Feb 13th via Twitter

Well, it didn't.
The Dallas airport shut down due to fog.
No planes coming in or going out.

"Our flight to Dallas was delayed over 2 hours this morning. We pulled up to the gate just in time to watch our flight to DC pull away."
2:14 PM Feb 13th via Twitter

We missed it.
There was a plane sitting at our gate and we had to wait for it to move. While we were waiting, Keith and I watched out the window as our flight pulled away from the gate. That has to be one of the worst feelings in the world. Horrible!

When we got off the plane, we hurried to the counter to find a new flight and were given two options:
(1) fly to Charlotte, catch a flight to D.C., and arrive with about an hour to spare.
(2) fly to Baltimore, take a taxi to D.C., and hope we make it in time

We decided to go to Charlotte, because we didn't know how the roads in Baltimore were. (They had a huge snow storm the week we left that shut down the city.)

The lady at the American Airlines counter tracked our luggage, had it put on the flight to Charlotte and sent us across the airport to the US Airways counter.

So, we took off running from one terminal to another to make our connection. The airport was so crowded and all the lines were so long, which, I guess is what happens when an airport shuts down for two hours.

We finally made it to the counter and got in line. After about ten minutes, an announcement was made that the flight to Charlotte will be delayed three hours.

THREE HOURS.

There is no way we will make our connection to D.C. if we wait for this flight.

So, we take off running BACK to the American terminal.

We already know our options, and it's not looking good.
The flight to Baltimore was scheduled to take off in less than an hour, but we didn't even know if there would be any more seats.

The lady at the American counter told us that she can get us on the flight, but our luggage would still go to Charlotte. And that's where it really hit me. There was a really good chance that we were going to Ethiopia without any luggage. It was all I could do keep it together.

Since the flight was leaving in less than 30 minutes, we didn't even have time to think about it. We told her to book it and she told us to do the same.

We run BACK through the airport, to another terminal, get to the gate, they give us our tickets, we get on the plane and they close the door.

"After 2 hrs of running around DFW airport, we are headed to Baltimore & our luggage to Charlotte. Not sure when we will meet up?!"
5:37 PM Feb 13th via Twitter


On the flight to Baltimore, Alex and I sat beside a nice man from Nigeria, who ironically asked me if I knew if his luggage would be in Baltimore... ha!, and Keith sat 2 rows behind us beside two sweet ladies. We were too tired to even try and switch seats, which turned out to be a good thing.

Keith ended up talking to the women beside him and shared our adoption story with them and what we had been through that day. And Lindsay, one of the ladies, reached into her bag and pulled out 2 shirts to give to me so I would have something to wear besides what I had on. Keith told her that I would not accept them and she told him to put them in his bag and don't tell me until we get there. So he did. (Thank you, Lindsay! What an unexpected blessing!)

We landed in Baltimore, got off the plane and took off running.
When we got to ground transportation, we found a taxi driver that was willing to drive us to Washington D.C. We spent the majority of the drive on our phones returning phone calls, text messages, emails, talking to our travel agent and our caseworker.

"In Baltimore. Taking a taxi to DC. Decision time... IF we make our flight, we go w/NO luggage. NONE! Or stay 2 days & go w/luggage."
6:07 PM Feb 13th via Twitter

We arrived at the airport 45 minutes before our flight was scheduled to leave. We grabbed our backpacks, and ran to the Ethiopian Air counter. After stepping up to the counter, we told the gentleman our names and he said... "YOU'RE LATE!" Keith told him we didn't have any bags to check and asked if we could there was anyway we could get on the flight. He stood up, looked over the counter at the floor and looked at us and said, "You're flying to Ethiopia without any luggage?"

Apparently we are.

He gave us our tickets, and told us to RUN!
So we did just that.
Straight to our gate, where, once again, we were the last to board the plane.

"We're out of here! We've waited long enough!"
7:05 PM Feb 13th via Twitter

We decided that we would keep trying until we hit a dead end. If we had to wait until Monday to fly out, we would, but it had to be the only option.

It may sound silly, but I wanted to be able to tell Misikir that we did everything we could to get to there. That we never stopped trying. Just the thought of not being in Ethiopia on Monday to hold Misikir was enough for us. We would just figure it out when we got there.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

FIKIRTE ON MY MIND

Today is Mother's Day and Africa is all I can think about.
Africa and Fikirte.

Fikirte is Miles' birthmother.
I wish I could have meet her while we were in Ethiopia.
I wish I could have given her a hug and thanked her for the precious gift she had given me.

I know I haven't told you Miles' story.
The details are his to share.
When he is older. When he feels comfortable.

So leaving out major details, here is what we can share...
His birthmother was unable to care for him for reasons we know,
and some we don't.

So she left him here.
She loved him enough to leave him someplace safe.
Somewhere where he would be cared for.
She loved him. She loved him very much.

I can't help but wonder what it was like leaving the hospital and walking through those gates.

Without her baby in her arms.
Without Misikir.
What was she thinking? Feeling?

Fikirte, we are thinking of you today.
Thank you for choosing life.
I am honored to be able to share the title of Mother with you.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I AM THAT BLOGGER

I never thought I would be one of those bloggers.
One of those who travel across the world to bring home their baby, comes home, and doesn't blog about it.

I use to wonder why those families wouldn't update.

I mean,
Didn't they know I was dying to find out about their trip?
Didn't they know that I wanted to see pictures of their newest family member?
Didn't they know I was anxious to hear how the family is adjusting?

Well, apparently, I am that blogger.

When we first got home, I was so tired.
Too tired to function, much less blog.
Between the emotional roller coaster of getting to Ethiopia (more on that later), lack of sleep in Ethiopia, jet lag, and life with a baby that gets up a couple of times a night, we were doing good just to get a shower each day.

When I sat down at the computer to post an update, I felt lost.
I had so much going on in my mind, so much I wanted to say, but my words would leave me.

We've been home for two and a half months and are still trying to figure out what life with a 10 year old and a 10 month old looks like.

Miles has come so far in such a short amount of time and now that he is finally sleeping through the night, I will have time to catch up on more that just laundry, bills, and dishes.