Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Days 5 and 6 in Ethiopia!

First the bad news- This post does not have many pictures with it like my previous trip posts have....  Then the GOOD news- This is because we were spending so much of the time with our sweet Zoe and she is about all we took pictures of on these days!  Sooo...  here's hoping that our MOWA letter comes SOON and we can post pictures of her ASAP!  I'm just dying to show her off to everyone in blogland- although most of you have probably already seen her pictures since I carry them around with me and Zoe's grandma's have also LOVED showing their new grandbaby off! 

Saturday (June 18th)- We woke up and spent a little time with Zoe in the morning before heading to do some shopping and ate lunch at a local Italian restaurant. It was delicious food- especially in comparison to the other food we had been “attempting to eat” at the guesthouse. Went back to the guesthouse to find Zoe napping, so we decided to pack for a little bit and told the nannies that we wanted them to let us know when she woke up. We got everything all packed and ready and then spent all of the afternoon with her. Very bittersweet, I loved every minute of it, but kept thinking about how hard it was going to be to leave her there and head home. I got very emotional when Woudneh said it was time to leave and it was much harder to drive away from the guesthouse and transitional home than I thought it would be. We arrived at the Ethiopia airport around 6:00pm (ETH time) and our flight left at 10:30pm.

Sunday (June 19th)-We arrived in Washington DC Dulles airport at 8:00am (3:00 pm ETH) and had to go through immigration, get our bags, customs, etc. We ended up having enough time for an AMAZING lunch before our flight left- we even went to a different terminal in order to have Chipotle. I think it was the best Chipotle meal we've ever had (after all the awful food we had while in Ethiopia). Our flight left DC around 12:30 pm (7:30pm ETH) and we arrived in Detroit at 2:00 pm (9:00 pm ETH). We gathered bags as quickly as possible and drove home- couldn't wait to see our little guy! It was great to be home, but we truly are counting down the days, hours and minutes until we can go back and bring Zoe home. Overall, it was a great trip and it was wonderful to experience Zoe's country. We can't wait until we have clearance to go back and get our baby!
 I know these pictures aren't exciting at all- but they are pretty much all I took during the last 2 days except for our Zoe...  I mainly took these for Evan so I could show him pictures of the airplane we were on and the airport...
 Washington DC Dulles airport tower (one of the many)
Our plane in the background as we were being shuttled to a different terminal only to wait in MORE lines for immigration, customs, check-ins, etc...  What a great sight this was to see it behind us as we were FINALLY off it it!  The 16 hour flight from Addis to DC was rough..  That said, I will GLADLY do it again to bring home my baby!!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Days 3 and 4 in Ethiopia

Thursday (June 16th)- We woke up early and spent a little time with Zoe before finding out that the director of the Finot orphanage had gotten in contact with Zoe's birth-aunt Mulu who is studying applied chemistry at the University of Addis Ababa and that she was willing to meet with us. Woudneh worked it out with her and we took off to meet with her. We met her at a little “restaurant” outside the university and got to ask her questions about Zoe's family. It was so precious to meet her and I was thankful to be able to give her the scrapbook I had put together with pictures of our family and Zoe's room, etc. Mulu was so sweet and told us that Zoe looks like her birthmother, which I was so happy to know. She also gave us a couple pictures of herself, which she wrote on the back a note to Zoe in Amharic. I'm so thankful Zoe will have this- I know she will treasure it in the years to come. Then we went to a VERY nice housing addition that is under construction (for Shane) and got to go through some very nice homes. It was mind-boggling to me that these homes exist in Addis right in the middle of all the EXTREME poverty throughout the city.  After a little sight-seeing, we ate lunch at the Sheraton. It was a very nice meal, and probably the first meal we had eaten since arriving in Addis that we really enjoyed. After lunch we headed back to the guesthouse to spend the afternoon with Zoe. It's amazing to me how much she has thrived on the one-on-one attention we have been giving her while visiting. She has started to become very smiley and make lots of noises, is CRAWLING all over the place and very active (we may have our hands full when she comes home!), and we even got her to laugh out loud today. Truly music to our ears considering we couldn't get her to crack a smile the first day. We've also discovered she has a very special bond with her Daddy- she smiles and her whole face lights up when she sees Drew. I think she may be a little daddy's girl.

 The entrance to the University in Addis Ababa.  *A little side-note- Woudneh told us that anyone wanting to attend college in Ethiopia can for FREE. Unfortunately, many people can't because they need to help provide for their family and can't leave to attend college.  For example, Mulu and Zoe's birth-mom also have 3 other siblings and only one of them was able to attend college- Mulu was the lucky one.
 The restaurant where we met and talked with Mulu.
 Mulu with us- Sorry the lighting is so yucky.  And you will notice she isn't smiling in either of these pictures.  It's NOT because she is sad, but we noticed it's a cultural thing for Ethiopians not to smile for pictures.... 
 Mulu holding the scrapbook I put together for Zoe's birthfamily to keep..
 A random shot of the poverty ALL OVER...
 And more poverty...
 And in the middle of this extreme poverty- a gated beautiful housing addition...
 Woudneh took us through a couple of these homes under construction for Shane....  This was the view from the balcony of one of them...
 The four of us at the Sheraton...
 A view of Addis from the Sheraton...
The resort area at the Sheraton...

Friday (June 17th)- We woke up early for our court appointment, hoping to spend a little time with Zoe beforehand since we didn't know how long we would be at court, or what we would be doing the rest of the day. We had finished getting around when we realized we were locked IN our room. Drew had locked the door before heading to bed the night before and somehow had misplaced the key after locking it. We panicked a little (okay- maybe I should say I PANICKED A LOT) and turned the room upside down trying to find the key. After about 20 minutes of searching, Drew opened up the window and started yelling down to the transitional home staff and children for help. Several of the children playing outside heard him (but didn't understand what he was saying) and just started repeating him saying “help” over and over. It is funny looking back now, but wasn't so funny at the time! Finally one of the nurses who speaks a little English understood and unlocked our door with a spare key (Drew did find the missing key later in the afternoon). We still got to spend a little time with Zoe before leaving, but not as much as we would've liked. We headed to court and waited for a couple of hours before we were called in to talk with the judge. We were only with the judge about 2 minutes and answered about 5 yes/no questions before she said “you understand this cannot be undone and the child will be yours pending the MOWA letter”. Those words were so wonderful to hear! After court, Shane and Syndi and Woudneh decided to drive to Nazareth and visit the orphanage there. We decided to just spend the afternoon at the guesthouse due to Drew's carsickness (because of the crazy driving and the horrible exhaust fumes) and the fact that we wanted to spend as much time with Zoe as possible. We loved every minute with her and the 3 of us enjoyed a nap together on our bed.
 The sign outside the court building...  Definitely a different setup for court than you would find here in the US. 

Most of our Friday pictures were of sweet Zoe!  I'm sooo praying that we get that MOWA letter and can post those soon!!! 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Days 1 and 2 in Ethiopia

I kept a journal of the things we did each day (mostly for myself and for Zoe to read someday) and thought I would post it on the blog.  I will add a few pictures, although I won't be able to include pictures of sweet Zoe until we get that pesky MOWA letter. But I promise to post them as soon as we can!!   

Tuesday (June 14th)- We woke up at 2:00am to leave the house by 3:00am and head to the Detroit airport. We made it there with plenty of time to spare and flew to the Washington DC Dulles airport. We waited in line for what seemed like FOREVER to get our boarding passes, and then had enough time to spare for lunch at Chipotle in the airport (praise the Lord for this wonderful meal before a week of not-so-great meals!) Our flight left at noon from Dulles and it was a direct flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We hardly slept on the flight there and arrived in Ethiopia in the morning on Wednesday.

Wednesday (June 15th)- We waited in a LONG line for our visas, then went through immigration, and then searched for our bags only to find one of them missing. After dealing with filing a lost luggage report (which took forever), we went through customs and found Woudneh, our agency's director in Ethiopia. He took us to the guesthouse where we would be staying- we were blown away by the extreme poverty and the crazy driving in the city. These are the kinds of things you can hear about and see pictures of, but until you can experience them firsthand, it's very hard to believe. We arrived at the guesthouse and before we had even had a chance to catch our breath, they brought Zoe to us. It was SURREAL. It all happened so fast, we didn't have much time to prepare ourselves. She is soo precious. She didn't cry or smile right away- just was very serious and wanted to take us in and really look us over. When we put her down on the floor, she took right off and started to crawl. We couldn't believe it! We got to spend a little time with her before Woudneh said we would go to the Finot Lewegon orphanage (where she stayed prior to the transitional home) in hopes that we could meet her birth grandmother. When we arrived at the orphanage, we found out that it wouldn't be possible to meet with Zoe's birth grandmother (bummer)- she had already left to go back to Korem to take care of Zoe's birthmother and Zoe's older siblings. But we did get to ask the director some questions about Zoe's story and look around the orphanage. Zoe's favorite nanny there (Mulu) showed us the picture of Zoe she carries around in her pocket “so she always has her close”. Melted my heart. After visiting the orphanage, Woudneh took us around the city a little bit and showed us some construction sites. The other couple we were with (Shane and Syndi) were very interested in the construction since that is what Shane does here in the US. We are continually blown away by what we saw in this country- makes us appreciate all our blessings so much more and definitely puts things into perspective. Then we went to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant, which was an experience for sure. We were not too keen on the food, but it was great to experience this part of their culture. Ethiopian music followed the meal, and then we left so we could see our babies a bit before heading to bed.
 Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
 Sign for West Sands- the guesthouse and transitional home are gated and a guard is there 24 hours a day- we felt soo safe!
 The guesthouse owned by West Sands where we stayed
 The transitional home (where all the West Sands kids who have been matched with families stay in the interim).  The transitional home is in a u-shape and the guesthouse where we stayed is directly in front of the it.  We were very close to Zoe and the other kiddos!
 The infants' dorms...The one on the right is where Zoe's bed is...
 The common area of the guesthouse- where meals are served and where we hung out a lot...
 The Finot Lewegen orphanage where Zoe was before coming to the transitional home...  Woudneh (our agency's in-country director is on the right)
 Mulu (Zoe's favorite nanny) at the Finot Lewegen orphanage.  She carries a picture of Zoe around in her pocket so "she always has her close" 
 Zoe's bed at the Finot orphanage
 The traditional Ethiopian restaurant we ate at...
 Our meal- Ethiopians traditionally all eat off a common plate.  So this was what we all shared.
 Woudneh ordered raw meat for himself (it's in the black bowl).
The music at the traditional Ethiopian restaurant...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

We are HOME and we are in LOVE!

We are home and are still trying to adjust to normal life again!  Our trip was amazing- we definitely left a piece of our hearts there...  Zoe is soooo PERFECT and it was soo hard to leave Ethiopia without her.  I have been pretty emotional the last few days- it was a really strange feeling being so torn between my little man at home and my baby girl in Ethiopia.  I wanted so badly to just snatch her from that orphanage and hide her in my suitcase- but Drew reminded me that I really don't want to be in prison in Ethiopia!  We passed court on Friday and are just waiting on our MOWA letter to make everything official.  Once we get that letter, I am free to post all the hundreds of pictures we took of sweet Zoe while we were there.  Yes, we did take a total of 691 pictures and 2 hours of video in the 6 days we were gone!  I plan to post a day-by-day journal of the things we did and experienced each day while we were there..  thanks again for all the prayers and support.  We truly feel so blessed and it's been so amazing to see how God has worked in EVERY part of this adoption process.  I just have to trust that HE is holding my baby girl and watching over her even when so many miles separate us and I can't hold her.  Oh, but how I wish we could go back tomorrow! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Our Bags Are Packed!!!

We've been super busy the last few days!  Drew's dad retired this year after 38 years of teaching- we went to a convocation on the last day of school and surprised him... 
E wasn't overwhelmed by all the people at all- I was surprised!
 A picture of all Brad's siblings (minus Beth in South Carolina), his parents, Cal and our family in his classroom after the convocation...

And the last few days have been filled with LOTS of packing!  I think we're finally ready except for a few last-minute things we need to throw in!
 I also put together a scrapbook with pictures of our family (and their names translated in Amharic) for Zoe's birth grandmother.  We will have the opportunity to meet with her when we arrive this week..  What a blessing that this worked out so perfectly!
 Some pictures of Zoe's big brother!!
 My side of the family...
 Drew's side of the family....
 One of the huge suitcases jam packed full of donations for Zoe's orphanage!
 Another suitcase filled with donations!!
 Lots of things piled on our bed to remember to take!
 In the process of filling our suitcases...
These are E's surprise bags for each day we are gone.  We have also taped videos for him to watch each day we are gone...I truly think this week will be much harder on us than on him...  He will be in great hands while we are gone! 

We have been reminded numerous times in the past few days that God is in the DETAILS....  We received 2 new pictures of Zoe yesterday (the only ones we've received since our referral on 4/1)!  The visit with Zoe's birth grandmother worked out wonderfully- she agreed to stay in Addis after her court appointment in order to meet us!  We also found out she has been moved to the transitional home owned by our agency so we will be staying RIGHT NEXT DOOR to her!  So thankful for these things...  I have a peace about leaving Evan and going to meet Zoe...  For those of you that know me, this can only be a GOD THING.  I would not usually be at peace about making such a trip- especially when it means leaving Evan!  We treasure each of you who have walked this journey with us and continue to lift up our family and baby Zoe in your prayers... We will try to update while we are in Ethiopia if at all possible!!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New Friends and Adoption!

One of the greatest things about this adoption process thus far is all the new friends we have made...some we have met in real life and some we have "met" through email, blogs, FB, etc. Our church is very adoption-focused (which we love) and even has an adoption ministry called Truevine that has been a big support both emotionally and financially.  We have also become involved with an Ethiopian adoption support group based in Fort Wayne which we are so thankful for and hope to become more involved with once we bring Zoe home.  And we have met soo many nice families who either have already adopted or are in the process right alongside us.  One of these families have been a huge blessing for us.  You can check out their blog here and follow them as they are in the process to adopt from Ethiopia again.  We met with Jon and Amy when we were early on in the process and still undecided about which country God was leading us to.  Their girls, Jada and Adia, are from Ethiopia and absolutely adorable.  It's been awesome for me to watch them grow as it's a little glimpse into our future :)  We met with them last night at a local park for a picnic.  What a blessing it is to have friends who can answer questions, share in our excitement, and pray with us.  The kids had lots of fun playing on a very HOT day!
 Double slide- perfect for twins!
 Little cutie-patooties!
 Evan joining in on the fun!
Jada and Evan were loving the alligator, but Adia wasn't too sure!

First Court Hearing!

Yesterday was our first court hearing in Ethiopia (that we did not need to be present at).   It was at 9:00 am in Ethiopia, which was 2:00 am our time.  Drew had set his alarm and we woke up to pray together while the court date was going on... We heard last night from our agency's director that all went well and Zoe's birthfamily gave their consent.  Our MOWA letter was not there (which we expected) and we passed pending that letter.  Hopefully we will have the letter in the next few weeks.  For those unfamiliar with the process, there are 2 more steps left in the process until Zoe is "officially" ours.  We will attend our court hearing next Friday (the 17th) and once we pass that hearing, it's just waiting on that MOWA letter.  This was the part of the process that changed a couple of months ago- they are only processing 5 letters a day- a definite decrease from before.  Once we get the MOWA letter, she is officially our child and I can post pictures of her on this blog!  Can't WAIT!  We are getting more and more prepared for our trip and our house is filled with lists, piles of donations for her orphanage, and piles of things we want to remember to pack...  We are getting so excited to meet Zoe and love on her!!   

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A little reminder...

Yesterday, Evan and I made our weekly trip to the library...  While there, I was reminded YET AGAIN that GOD IS IN THE SMALL THINGS and THERE ARE NO COINCIDENCES.  I picked up this flyer for the new session of storytime starting next week. 
 As you will notice, they are talking about the world....
and the very day we leave for Ethiopia, they are talking about travel.  I had wanted to make sure that Evan does a lot of his "normal activities" while we're gone in order to keep him in somewhat of a schedule since he is a very structured kid and I couldn't believe this....
May seem like a small thing, but it was just another reminder to me that God is in all the little parts of this process- not just the big ones! 

Monday, June 6, 2011

7 Years!

Yesterday Drew and I celebrated our 7 year anniversary!  It's so hard to believe it's been 7 years already!  But what a great 7 years it's been.  I am so very thankful for Drew and the amazing husband and father that he is. I am so incredibly blessed...  Can't wait to see what the years ahead of us hold!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

what we have been up to....

In between all the list-making, trip shopping, flight booking, dreaming of meeting our baby girl, getting teary-eyed thinking of leaving my baby boy, packing, getting more travel immunizations, and more list-making- we have been keeping busy
 riding bikes with friends
 playing at new parks
 swimming at Grandma and Grandpa's
 running through sprinklers
 sliding into sprinklers (in front of an audience of grandparents)
 playing at parks with friends
 and bouncing around the house for hours at a time!  All the while preparing ourselves and our little guy for our quickly approaching trip
HERE to squeeze and love on our baby girl!!  As excited as I am to finally meet this baby we've been praying for and dreaming of for SOO long, my travel anxieties and fears of leaving my little guy at home are definitely surfacing too.  Prayers are much appreciated!!