Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? -Matthew 6:26

As we walk through this adventure called life, we remind ourselves that we are all precious children of our Father-- those of us who have walked a little further down the road striving to guide those who have been entrusted to our care for a time. Here is our journey down this path.

Friday, April 25, 2014

One Week HOME

This feels really rambly, but I guess that is how my brain feels right now, too! (And I will really try to post the Ethiopia pictures, soon....just too tired right now!)  Here's our Easter snapshot for now:

Well, it's been a week since we got home.  We're HOME.  What a great word.  Especially for a little boy who hasn't had a home for most of his life. One week tonight.  And quite a week it has been.  I'd say overall, the progress we've made is mind boggling.

We're not skipping through fields of flowers....but things are better every day.

Let's start where I left off....the SEVENTEEN hour flight.  It actually went better than we expected.  Although it didn't start great.  Departure time was 10:15pm (Addis) so we kept D up late hoping he would sleep.  He did well  waiting--we walked around and around the terminal, waved to people, and walked some more.  When we finally boarded, he seemed to be quietly curious.  Then as we were taxiing away from the gate--diaper EXPLOSION.  I mean, up the back, on the clothes...you know the kind.  And we were about 4 minutes into the 17 hours!!

Oh. My.

Luckily, I had PJ's and another change of clothes. (although at that point, I was thinking it might not be enough!!)  We quickly changed him and as he settled back in to his seat, he fell asleep before lift off.  Whew.  He slept for a long time, woke up and ate some bread :) and then slept again.  A good 'night's' sleep really.  The last few hours, he got antsy, (who wasn't???) but we walked the aisles, sat in the aisle with some little girls in front of us and 'colored' and generally...made it.  The only 'fit' was when we tried to buckle him back in for landing.  NOT having it.  So, I probably broke some FAA rule, but I held him.  And we made it to DC!  He became a US citizen and after a short layover, it was on to ATL-napped the whole flight.  Whew.  Papa & Grandma Carol met us at the airport and he had his first car seat ride...a little pulling at the straps, but not too bad.  A little stop over at their house and then on the road to home.

Our homecoming was sweet.  It was SO GOOD to be back under the same roof, our own roof, with all of the kids.  All 4 did great with their friends while we were gone, but we missed them terribly and couldn't wait to hug them again. The kids were really excited to meet D and he was curious about them.  They all played cars together and he seemed to be doing pretty well with all of the crazy chaos.  Everyone talking at once, playing, hugging him.  HIGH energy for sure.

The first few days home were tough.  The tantrums/anger/spitting/hitting continued.  I can't blame him. I like to get my own way, too.

But....now that we are home, the rules have kicked in.

Toddler Boot Camp.

We are, of course, picking our battles.  Foot on the table?  Wiping dirty food covered fingers on his shirt?  I'd rather him not, but not a big deal right now.  Spitting in my face?  Biting? Hitting? Throwing food?  Not acceptable.  For several days, I felt like my emotions were so on edge...just waiting for the next episode.  What was going to set him off?  How bad?  How long?  I looked forward to nap/bed for a bit of a break, but dreaded getting him IN the bed.  Then, I couldn't sleep wondering if he was about to wake up.  ON. EDGE.  If you look closely at the picture, you might be able to tell my eyes are a big red.  I felt so emotional Sunday morning and I just knew I was going to cry at church.  The place where I am so well loved and fed.  Well, someone gave me a sweet hug when we walked in the door...the tears started and didn't really stop until we left.  And it was good.  Good to get the pent up emotions from a hard week away and a hard first few days home.  Good to feel safe enough and with such sweet friends that I could be honest.  So thankful.  And they get it.  It's not all fun and easy and cute.  Sometimes, it's hard.

But....this kid is smart...a quick learner.  The first big tantrum Saturday morning...he wanted a shoe on that was too little.  I tried to show him it wouldn't fit.  Offered him other shoes.  Screams/throwing/hitting commenced.  I told the other kids, "Get up and walk away."  We all did and he looked confused.  After just a few minutes, he calmed down, picked up a nearby book and started looking at it. 2 of the kiddos returned and encouraged him.

So the days have gone.  We have really tried to be consistent with how we are dealing with him.  When he realized the usual behavior wasn't getting what he wanted, he ramped up a bit--instead of sitting screaming, he would follow us, then follow to hit, then, once--crawled over and bit Jeff's shoe. :)  He did bite me (HARD!) once, but since then we have gotten smarter about avoiding those sharp little teeth.

So, all sounds great, right?  The glamor of international adoption....

Tonight, if I look back a week, I can't believe how well he is doing.  Especially since this week has included--a visit to the pediatrician, bloodwork, dermatologist, pharmacy x3, several errands, 2 soccer games, a baseball game, (and a partridge in a pear tree!)

The last several days have been MUCH better.  Here's a run down:

Attitude--Now, most of his time during the day is happy.  When he is happy, he has a GREAT personality--silly, funny, with a BEAUTIFUL smile that lights up his big brown eyes.  He likes to sing, dance, and be tickled. Thankfully, we are seeing more and more of this side.   He had 1-- ONE--bad tantrum yesterday.  And it was shorter.  He had a few smaller ones today, but they are much shorter and less intense.  He has even taken no for an answer without any tantrum at times.   He's still not going to bed great, but after a few minutes of screaming, he calms down, lays there nicely, awake--and chats with me, holds my hand and smiles.  Then falls asleep.  Tonight, just to see what he would do, I put him in bed and then just sat there.  He cried, got out and walked over to the corner.  He stood there for maybe 90 seconds.  I just sat.  Then, he slowly walked over and climbed in bed.  With a smile.  Has he been playing me?????

Diet--He's not a good eater...at all.  Lots of carbs and milk.  But we have added eggs, peanut butter, 1 sliver of a carrot, a few bites of turkey.  No fruits, no other veggies.  Well....we will see.  I'm really trying not to freak out about it.  Yet.

Speech--He seems pretty smart as far as language--good age for that--a little sponge:  Nose, eyes, ears, please, dog, eat, bath, shoes, Mama, Dada/Baba, Thomas, Samuel, Molly, Cynthia, Abby(dog), one, two, THREE!!, stop it!  Let go! (pushing a car).  He has several words that mean more/again that I can't exactly recall, but I recognize.  He is understanding a lot already.  I asked him to go get his shoes the other day, he toddled into the other room and brought them back!

The dog--From day 1--screaming in sheer terror and literally trying to crawl up onto my head, he is now very curious and watches her closely.  Still hasn't touched her and is eyeing her suspiciously if she gets too close, but tolerates her in the same room.

Activities--loves playing cars, we have taken lots of long stroller walks which he has really enjoyed, LOVES the bath--crazy splashing, flipping around and getting the entire room wet.  Pours water on his head and laughs.  We went to a playground on Monday.  He loved the swing.  I got the impression he had never been on a playground before, though.  He seemed really hesitant about climbing, sliding, etc.  He like the slide when I did it with him, but didn't want to do it alone.  Tonight, we went somewhere that had a huge slide--and he LOVED it.  Not a lover of books....we will have to work on that in this house!  Loves to be chased by us or siblings.

Name--We think we've settled on David.  We think.  We are considering giving him 4 names...David Dawit Michael  Drake.  Maybe.  He is responding to either David or Dawit now.  Even from others--someone yelled for a baseball player named David this evening and he snapped his head around.

Sleep--mostly sleeping pretty well.  In his own room.  Waking some nights, but quickly going back to sleep.  For some reason, I keep waking up to see what time it is...even when he doesn't.

Siblings--for the most part, they are doing really well with him.  No one likes the screaming, but when he's in a good mood, they are playing great together.  He definitely has a little mama in Molly.  Cynthia is adjusting pretty well to not being the baby--although she did say she wasn't sure yet if she liked being a big sister. :)  Thomas and Samuel do really well with him--even help with teaching/directing behavior.  After spending a week with him in Ethiopia, coming home to these two older boys--it suddenly sunk in what a big age difference it is.  I knew it, but the reality of it has hit now.  Definitely different stages of life.  Some good examples, though...most of the time. :)

Mom--I'm doing much better, too.  My tears have slowed.  I'm tired, (like falling into bed at the end of the day exhausted tired--in fact, I've tried to write a 'home' post about 4 times, but haven't been able to!) but so, so encouraged.  If we've come this far in a week, I feel like he is going to continue to do better and better.  I KNEW this time would not be as easy as before.  C was just so easy to meld into our family.  I truly wasn't expecting the same again.  Although, if I really think back, there were nights of fighting to get into bed, biting her sister, and some other issues.  I guess it's like labor, right???  Our memories fade.  And, really, that's kind of what this is...Labor.  A labor of love, for sure, but with the joy of adoption always comes loss, pain, transition, stretching, leaving behind the familiar and known and stepping out into a new world...and not just for him!

So, overall, we are really encouraged.  We still have a way to go, but we are on the way.  And don't we all have a way to go????  When he does break down, I pray...for patience, unconditional love, compassion, gentleness.  Only the Lord can fill me with those things.  I certainly haven't done it well at moments--I have a way to go, too--but He is faithful to bring this, too, to completion, for all of us.  So, my prayer for him is this:

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Monday, April 21, 2014

Last Day in Africa

Wow!  We really had a great day.  What an answer to prayer.  We started the day by waking up after he slept 12 hours straight!!  He woke up happy and we had a good morning.  A few fusses here and there, and throughout the day, but overall doing much better.  Tantrums are even a bit less intense.  Played outside (of course!!) for a while.  Then, we headed back to the embassy to pick up his passport with an American Visa in it.  They also gave us a sealed envelope that we have to present at customs in the US.  Packed carefully away ready to go.

We then did a little more shopping…when we went to China, we got Cynthia a small gift for each birthday until she will turn 18.  We wanted to do this for Dawit also, so had a few more to find.  Found a shop that gave us good prices, so finished that up there.  Fun treasures for later.

Then, we had a treat of having lunch with a friend of a friend who is a missionary here in Addis.  It was great to hear about what he has been doing here and his heart for Ethiopia and Jesus.  I was a bit worried how D would do sitting in a restaurant for a while.  Again, much to my surprise, he did SO well.  He sat in a high chair, he was happy, he ate bread, drank milk (and 7-Up! and laughed with each sip.) and was generally very well behaved.  He got a little fussy toward the end, but we had been there at least an hour or hour and a half, so I can't imagine what 2 year old wouldn't.  

Now, we have packed our bags, said our goodbyes to our wonderful driver, Eshetu, and to Hereg, the house manager as well as the cook and guard.  It is bittersweet as we have really come to love especially Eshetu and hope to see him again some day.  Jeff told him, "if not here then there." and he replied….'our eternal home."  What a blessing to walk this journey with a brother in Christ.

So, we head to the airport and go 'home'.  That is home for US.  We are leaving Dawit's home.  We hope to bring him back some day when he is older…as we hope to do with Cynthia to China.  But it is a strange feeling to know we are taking him away from everything he knows.  We know it is for the best, as there are no other options here for him, but still there is a sense of loss.  What a beautiful country and beautiful people we have been privileged to have the experience of getting to know.  

As we say goodbye to Africa, we look forward to seeing many of you really soon.  We may be a bit travel weary, but I'm going to pray and trust that God will continue to answer prayers.  Not just for the trip home, but for our son's new life as he joins our family.  Thank you for being so faithful in praying and encouraging us on this amazing journey.

Love to you all.  Gotta' run….have a plane to catch.

Whew. Day 4.

Today was a big mix.  It's even hard to sum it up in a word.  OK, maybe exhausting. :)

We woke up at 5 this morning and D wanted some water.  He guzzled 2 cups which seemed like a lot to me, but I had seen him drink his milk really quickly at the foster home, so didn't think much of it….until about 45 minutes later, he spit some of it back up--all over him and his bed.  Lovely.  We got cleaned up and he fell back asleep, but had a couple more episodes of yuck.  He was pretty draggy for the morning and even fell back asleep, but around 10 perked up, ate and has been fine since then, thankfully.  (Someone tell Cynthia, he likes eggs. :) )

I think the different food is getting to me a bit as I was pretty draggy this morning, too.  So, we stayed in bed together for a while as we didn't have anywhere to go until 2 today.  

After we both got up, we spent a little time outside, but he wasn't as content there today.  Kept wanting to go in and out.  We are definitely seeing that he has an opinion!  If he is doing what he wants, he is happy.  If not, well, not so much.  The problem is that what he wants seems to change pretty often.  And, of course, he can't tell us, which is making it worse.  Hoping that as the communication comes along, this will get better.  It also seemed he got really hungry after a while and the snacks I had, he didn't like.  We were told 'he eats anything!', but really haven't seen that.  Maybe it's just the transition, but he hasn't been eating very much at all--we did get the 'right' milk for him today and he finally took some of that this evening for us.  It's all so difficult to figure out--imagine all that you learned about your child in 2 1/2 years--now imagine you know NOTHING and you need to know it NOW.  It will get better, I know, just trying to muddle through right now. 

We did all take a short nap between lunch and heading back to the foster home.  We had to wake him up, and, apparently, the advice to "never wake a sleeping baby" applies internationally. :)  Once we got in the car, though, he was fine.  He loves to ride in the car.  I basically have to just not look where we are going--as we weave through all of the crazy traffic with him on. my. lap.  (My pediatrician self has palpitations even typing that!!  And there aren't even working seat belts for us, either.)  At one point today, we were turning left and there were cars on both sides of us turning the other way--I'm telling you, NO rules!  Amazingly, we made it fine.  

As I said yesterday, I was really dreading this for his sake.  BUT, again, God answered prayers.  When we got there, he didn't run to Sister, or a nanny, or the guard.  He WOULDN'T EVEN GET OUT OF THE CAR!  Now, not sure if it was the car or us….but again…I'll take it.  When he did get out, he was still very hesitant to go to anyone and seemed to prefer me.  REALLY encouraging to my heart.  He eventually got comfortable and was going to say hello to all of the adults, but not clingy or upset about anything.  He kind of had the run of the place as all of the other kids were still napping.  At one point, he was chatting with the guard--who seemed to be a favorite--and all of a sudden, a huge smile broke out on his face, he gasped his cute little gasp, and started running toward the house.  We looked over and 5 of his precious friends were coming out to see him.  This was one of the sweetest things I've ever seen.  They all looked SO happy to see him, yelled, 'Dawit!", gave hugs and kisses, giggled, and just loved on each other.  What a precious bond they have created for these kids in this home.  Amazing when you think of the circumstances. 

The coffee ceremony itself was really nice and I was so glad we went.  (I think I would have still been glad to experience it, even if he hadn't done so well, so if anyone reading is debating about going back, I'd encourage it.)  They had the ceremony set up in the room we had visited in before and the sweet, very, very shy cook made everything.  Sister explained that this is an Ethiopian tradition for those who are respected.  Humbling.  The cook sat on a short stool on the floor.  In front of her was a grass mat with a small round stone 'hearth' with coals burning.  When we first arrived, she was roasting coffee beans in a small pan on top while fanning the bottom.  Smelled delicious.   Later, she put the traditional coffee pot on the hearth to warm the water.  She had small coffee cups on a tray as well as saucers and spoons.  There was a basket of popcorn on the mat as well.  In addition, on another table, sat a bread she had prepared--dabo bread, made for special occasions and holidays.  This was served first, and Jeff was asked to slice it….think of a large pizza pan with about 3 inch think bread.  Huge.  It was delicious--like sourdough.  D and the children all had some, too.  Quite a mess of crumbs was left when they all got up.  Then came the coffee.  Those of you who know me, know I don't drink coffee (love the smell, though).  I was hoping it wouldn't be too offensive to them, but I was worried.  I did take a few sips, but when they asked me if I liked it, I fessed up and I told them that their Ethiopian ears wouldn't believe it, but….  Jeff doesn't either, but drank a little more than I did.  The ceremony traditionally serves 2 cups to each person, but we weren't offered the second cup.  :)  The popcorn was yummy, too--tasted like kettle corn-a bit sweet.  When all of this was served, we thanked them so much for all they had done for D, and that was really it.  It was really special, he did great and I'm glad we did it.  We didn't however, see Marta.  I asked about her, but never got a straight answer.  I couldn't understand if they were saying she wasn't there today, or something else.  I'm sad she didn't get to say goodbye, but I hope she knows how much we appreciate her love.

We then took a brief shopping trip to a market--something our shortened trip didn't allow us to do last time.  We were cut a bit short today by an unhappy boy, but managed to spend most of the Birr in our pocket anyway.  I've been in places like that in other countries, but can never get used to the atmosphere.  Stall after stall after stall of many of the same things.  As soon as they see our white faces, calling, 'please, come in and look.'  Having to barter--not my favorite, Jeff took care of that.  And the children on the street--some selling small items, some begging.  All getting swatted away by a police officer at one point.  As we left, one boy kept saying, "Mama, come back."  I couldn't tell if he wanted me to come back to buy his wares or to come back and get him…heartbreaking either way as he was around the age of our boys.  What a different life.

In the car again, D was fine--this time standing up looking out the window.  Ugh.  (When in Rome, right???)  We will see what he thinks of a car seat. :)

Back to the guest house for a little outside time and then dinner.  Again, didn't eat much and wanted to go outside right away.  I will say, before we ate, we were checking on some paperwork and he was pointing to the door.  I said, no..in a minute.  And he followed me to the other room without screaming.  Baby steps.  When he was finished eating, he didn't react the same way…screaming, etc.  We asked the sweet house manager to tell him if he ate first, then we would go outside.  He sat and listened to her, ate a few more bites and started screaming again.  Then she started talking again.  He kept making little noises like he was listening, then looked surprised, so we asked what she was telling him.  She said she was telling a story that if he cried someone would come and cut his ears off!!  Apparently a traditional Ethiopian story…so she said.  May have to look that one up for later. 

We did take him out after we finished and he was happy for a while.  Then we went up on the roof to watch the sun set…too many buildings in that direction, but still an amazing view of the city.  There were a couple of pigeons up there that kept his attention for a while, but we headed back in for bedtime routine soon.  Something made him really upset and we had the worst tantrum of the day.  He just fought and fought.  It was sad to watch, but I know that spunk both comes from what he has gone through and will serve him well in the future.  We just need to help tame and direct it a bit…at things bigger than not wanting socks taken off. :)  Bath, PJ's, milk (the RIGHT milk) and he was getting sleepy.  Amazingly, went to sleep without a wimper tonight.  After all that, I think he was worn out.  

Today was really hard for me.  I felt yuck this morning.  When he got sick, I was really worried about him.  That triggered my whole fear about having to seek medical care in a place I'm not familiar with.   I'm tired.  I'm just really ready to go home.  I miss our other kiddos and I'm ready to get him started on 'normal' routines.  I feel like it (hopefully!) will be easier in my own realm…when I can choose his food, get him used to his new bed, his new house, his new life.  And I think it's going to help a lot to have the other kids around.  The way he interacted with the kids today made us think he will do really well with them.  I just hope they are able to be patient while we work through his transition.  

It was really hard, but I was also really encouraged that where I leaned on the Lord--specifically the coffee ceremony--he answered even more than I had hoped for.  I, maybe unfaithfully, still assumed he would cry and cling and not want anything to do with us.  I was truly amazed when, shortly after we got there, he leaned TO me FROM the arms of one of the caregivers.  

She looked surprised, too. 

 She smiled and said, "This is good."  

And it is. 

Better. God is Faithful. Day 3.

So many of you sent messages that you were praying.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  Those prayers were answered.  Today was definitely better.  Still some throw-down-screaming, but not as much and not as long.  And we think we are starting to understand him a little more.

He slept all night!!  Thankful for that and hoping it happens again.  When he woke up, he sat up, pointed to the door and gave a little fuss.  I picked him up and we went out to the balcony to sit.  We have now learned that he LOVES to be outside.  I think they spent a lot of time outdoors at the foster home, so it seems to be where he is happy.  For a while, he just watched the goings on--the people walking on the street below, cars driving by at the intersection up the hill, a dog here and there.  Then, he started to respond to some of it.  Pointing, making really cute little 'gasp' surprise noises when he saw a dog, babbling about some things.  He was also snacking on some puffs, which helped, too.  He seemed to like them a lot and stuffed a bunch in his mouth at first, so I started giving him 2 at a time--1 in each hand.  He would then point to the container and 'ask' for more.  All happily. :)

We went down for breakfast, and he ate a few bites.  I had started to feel a little tummy yuck starting, so sweet Jeff took him outside while I rested a bit.  They played ball, watched some construction equipment working on the road (boy stuff) and generally had a good bonding time.  At one point, they came up to the room and D had a handful of flowers for me.  :)

After a while, we ate a quick lunch (and by we, I mean Jeff and D--I couldn't eat) and then headed to the American Embassy for our appointment.  Wow!  What a nice place.  We went through security where they took cameras, cell phones, and of course D's little toy car(???--it apparently lit up on the X-ray machine in the bag--luckily it was in the bag and not in his hand…that would have been a scene.  Still not sure what the danger was in that!)  We then waited to be called to a window.  Several other families there were adopting, fun to see.  One appeared to be adopting 4 girls!  They called 'Drake family to window 12.' and we went up, raised our right hands, swearing that all of our paperwork had been correct, answered yes, we had seen him before court.  The sweet English speaking (!) lady then stamped some papers and told us we could come back Thursday to pick up his Visa.  Done.  He will be a US citizen once he enters the US.  And we fly into Washington DC--seems fitting.

Back to the guest house for nap time--we are going to have to adjust back to this stage of life. :)  A bit of an ordeal getting him to sleep, but finally did and we all rested a bit.  When he woke up, I was feeling SO much better--like myself again, so he and I went outside and played ball, I got a huge smile making silly faces at him (so of course did that about 317 times!), and played with the sweet older man who is the guard here.  Then time for dinner--I could eat, yay!  As soon as he was finished, which was quickly….he pointed back outside.  We weren't ready yet, and there it was -- screaming, crying--didn't throw himself down this time.  We just finished eating (all of about 5-7 minutes) and then cleaned him up and went outside.  Lesson learned??? I. have. no. idea.  We will see.

Things really picked up this evening.  The guard took his hand and started walking around the courtyard with him.  Sweet, but sometimes all of the 'help' isn't all that helpful for our cause.   Then he had to go do something, so I quickly jumped in.  I said, "Let's get Baba." and walked over and poked Jeff, who obliged by laughing.  Smile.  We walked around again and this time he poked him, too.  This went on and on.  Over and over--with big smiles even on the way over, and he started running toward him.  The guard came back and joined us.  At one point, somehow, he took him alone--and D turned around and held out his hand to me--looking for me to join him.  

After it started to get dark, we went inside--small protest.  There is a TV with 4 channels--all usually in Amheric.  D was holding a non working remote and when he pushed a button, Jeff would change the channel with the other one.  A big, open mouth surprise face with a smile.  And then, of all things, Barney came on..in English.  Lovely.  He seemed to like the music, but lost interest pretty quickly.  Smart kid.

We came upstairs and had a great time…making faces in a mirror, turning light switches on and off..and on and off…and…you get the picture.  Then, as we were exploring, I realized we could walk out on the roof.  What an AMAZING view.  Full moon and we could see for miles the lights of Addis.  Will definitely be going out there tomorrow in the daylight.

Then bath time, which he enjoyed, and afterward some silly, tickling and falling down on the bed.  Got our first real laughs…so great to hear.

We sat on the balcony a little while again before bedtime.  Then came bedtime…..ugh.  Not sure what the bedtime routine at the foster house was, but he seems to want to be held.  Standing up.  Oh, my back.  This mama is usually a strict, no-fuss, bedtime routine kind of gal, so we will be working on this soon, but for now…oh, my back.  He finally fell asleep and is resting quietly.

All in all, a great day.   So much progress in a little bit of time.  The screaming fits today really seemed to be 2 year old issues.  At one point, at bedtime, I did think he might be calling for his nanny, but the rest seemed situational.  We have some work to do, but I'm going to bed tonight with a much lighter heart.

We do have a prayer need---tomorrow at 2pm here (7am in Augusta), we are going back to the foster home for a traditional coffee ceremony and goodbye.  I think it will be really hard on him to be back there, but we want to go for the nannies and care-givers.  They gave so much to him and we know they need to say goodbye.  Just praying it doesn't set him back too far, or cause to much angst.  I'm going to be a weepy mess.

One observation from driving to the embassy today.  We passed a bunch of sheep on the side of the road.  Jeff asked what they were for and we were told it was for the traditional Easter meal this Sunday.  He said, "you get your meat in a supermarket, right?" with a smile.  I was thinking how much more of an experience it would be if we didn't.  I can tell you right now, as soon as that sheep came to our house, Molly would have it named and have a bed made for it.  It seems that the understanding of a 'sacrifice' would be so much deeper that way.  Just a thought as we celebrate Holy Week in another culture.  Not that we will be getting a sheep.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sleeping Giant

Toady was tough.  We woke up with hopeful anticipation that we would have a good day as our 'Gotcha Day' had finally arrived after all of these long months of waiting.  Yesterday had been really encouraging.  We slept (off and on through some crazy hours--jet lag is a bear...) and got up, organized our room for a toddler and had some breakfast.  Then off to the foster home.  As the nanny brought Dawit out, the boy we saw in December returned....crying at the first sight of us.  If was really HARD, especially after the glimpe we got of his happy self yesterday.  We were at a bit of a loss...and everyone was trying to help.  The nannies, the guard, the sweet cleaning lady.  But, of course, he preferred all of them over us, so it was just frustrating to us.  It was a lot like December--he would be OK for a minute, then see or hear someone and it all started again.  So went the 2 hour visit.  When we left, he did want to keep a toy car, but, thinking it might be the only 'bribe' we could use later, we took it with us.  He toddled away into the house...and didn't look back this time.

We went back for lunch, both pretty silent.  My stomach had butterflies, knots, etc.  How could a 2 year old be making me this nervous???  We spent some time in prayer, then rested a little.  

We then had arranged to go to a hotel to check email, etc, briefly before going back to pick him up.  NOT funny at the time, but now a little....well, maybe it will be later.  Our driver said he would 'wait here' outside the hotel.  We went in and spent maybe 30 minutes with a really slow connection to say hi to family, etc.  When we walked back out--I'm sure you guessed it--no car, no driver.  We waited a few minutes and then decided we had better call.  Well, the 'emergency number' was in our bag back at the guest house--as we thought we were with someone!  I knew I had it on an email, though...so back in to the hotel, hunted the email down and called from the front desk...busy.  Luckily, I had jotted down several different numbers, so we tried another and got someone who said he would send a driver.  Through the language difference, though, we were hoping he understood where we were.  The faithful Eshetu drove up a little while later and explained that the other driver had been sent on a 'quick' errand by the lawyer and got stuck in traffic.  Would have been nice to know, but all ok in the end....whew, not the best feeling.

Then on to the foster home where, as the gate opened, we saw Dawit in the courtyard.  Annnnnddd, he cried when he saw us.  We were there only briefly before the car came to fetch us.  We signed 2 papers saying we were taking custody.  As all of this was going on, I noticed Marta, his nanny, sitting in the upstairs window, just watching.  I couldn't see her well enough to see her eyes, and she smiled when I waved, but somehow, I could feel her pain.  I can't imagine how she must be feeling.  I KNOW that his being upset is because he is SO WELL LOVED in this place.  And if he is well loved, someone is loving well, and that someone is her (and the others, too, but it seems they have a stronger bond.)  Love like that can't be felt by a child if it isn't real from the adult.  And if it is that real, the pain is, too.  Raw pain.  We will forever be in her debt and I pray for her heart to heal knowing what a gift she gave--herself.  And a piece of her heart.

Then, suddenly, it was time to go.  Yesterday, there was a car sitting in the courtyard for a while and D acted like he wanted to get in...not so today.  I think someone must have told him he was going with US.  The kind guard put him in the car and sat down next to him in the back seat.  I got in on the other side and he was ok.  Then the guard got out and Jeff got in...and he was OK!  He rode to the foster home, just quietly curious, let me carry him in and I thought we were ok...for about an hour, he was happy.  Exploring around--wanting me to hold him the whole time, which is good--pointing to the balcony, then to the window, back and forth, back and forth.  Played with my sunglasses.  Saw a bottle of water like Jeff had been drinking earlier and pointed to it.  I handed it to him and he said, 'Baba'!! so we went and gave it to Baba.  I was so surprised.  He seemed to be doing ok.  (A funny aside...he had on a pink zippered sweatshirt, that matched his pink shoes....Thomas and Samuel will be so glad...I took off the sweatshirt when we arrived as it was warm in here...to reveal a onesie that said "I'm a little princess. :) He he.)

Dinner was served and he ate a little--and then started fussing.  He started pointing to the door and wanting me to pick him up.  We walked around and around and every time we passed the door--he'd point and cry louder.  As if to say, "OK, this was an interesting field trip, but I'm ready to go back now."  Worse and worse.  After a while, we headed up to our room and gave him a bath. Some wimpering, but seemed ok.  Got PJ's on and worse again....all out tantrum, screaming, kicking, hitting.  We just let him.  There didn't seem to be anything else we could do at the moment.  Jeff tried to sit down next to him after a while.  He scooted away.  Repeat.  Same reaction.  Repeat.  Scooted away from Jeff and backed into me...so I picked him up.  It seemed he thought I was the one who carried him in, so I might carry him out...pointing to the door, crying.  Finally, I sat down with him, we turned the light off, and a few minutes later he leaned back into me.....and crashed.  90 to nothing in about 15 seconds.  I just sat there a while.  Taking it in.  The weight of his little body on mine.  His calm breathing.  That was about 7:30pm.  It's now 1:45am (did I mention jet lag is a bear???) and he is still sleeping quietly.  We crashed shortly after him, so got some good sleep for a while.  Now, I'm wide awake, wondering who we will see when he wakes up.  Will tomorrow be a little better???  I'm praying so.

In my head I really do KNOW this is OK.  We had none of this with Cynthia, and she seemed to bond really quickly.  I just don't think she had a great bond with the people she had immediately prior been with.  It did seem, however, that foundation had been laid earlier in her young life as she did so, so well.  This time--I can see and feel and hear his grief.  And it's good.  I'm glad he loves well.  I'm glad he can be sad that someone he cares for isn't here.  It's all really, really good.  But that doesn't mean it isn't HARD.  It is really hard to watch him hurt.  It is really hard to not be able to comfort him.  It's really hard to know that what he desperately wants isn't what is best.  It is hard to keep my own emotions in check.  It is just plain hard.

So, as he sleeps, and I don't...I pray.  Please join me.  Will update later, if able....and let you know who awakes.

Sunrise Over Africa

What a beautiful sight.  As we neared our destination this morning, the sun began to peek over the horizon to the East.  First faint hints of light.  Then deepening colors--pinks, light orange, yellow.  Then the brilliance of the deepest hue of orange.  The dawn of a new day.  The morning light revealed the landscape as we descended.  A stunning patchwork of green fields--all colors of green, like someone took all of the Crayola green varieties and colored the scene.  Spotted around the landscape were clusters of small buildings--homes, I assume of those who tend to this land.  

Then, as we got closer to landing, the green became less common and the houses began to be more dense, until they were back to back, side to side.  Corrugated tin roofs covering the view.  Larger buildings and roads in the city rose from the ground as we neared.  Then, wheels down--one of the smoothest landings I've ever felt.  An applause rose from some of the passengers nearby.

As I was mesmerized watching out of that window, I wondered why it seemed new--why I felt like this was my first glimpse of the larger Africa.  Then I realized, the last time we came, we landed when it was still dark.  So this really was a first glimpse.  My mind went to the last few crazy weeks before getting here.  We got the news a little over a month ago that our case had cleared and we were free to travel for our embassy appointment and to bring Dawit home.  The logistics of life with children and their activities, living in Augusta in the spring and our jobs dictated that we wait a few weeks.  So, after watching soccer games and cheering Thomas' winning goal, seeing Samuel hit an 'in-the-park' grand slam to make the tie and go ahead run/win--biggest smile ever--, enjoying the girls' perform in the Roar of Love, cleaning our house to prepare for Masters guests (part of life in Augusta) and working a few last days, we were off….to Atlanta.  We are blessed with such amazing grands in my parents.  They will host us, feed us, watch the kids, listen to the bickering over who sits where, and even get them back to Augusta for school and the busy week ahead--all while taking it in stride.  A huge thank you to them!  We did a few fun family outings as a family of 6--for the last time.  Disc golf, a trip to the Chattahooche Nature Center, and a dinner out.  Fun to enjoy our kids after the whirlwind of the last few weeks and before the craziness of adding another.   Then, we packed and headed out.

We rose early to get to the Atlanta airport and were pleased with no delay or hiccups this time.  The only problem was on our first flight--our 'carry on' baggage was too little for the small overhead bins on that plane.  So we had to check them--the bags we had strategically packed to carry in case our checked baggage got lost.  Grr.  Otherwise, a quick trip to Toronto, Ontario, Canada and we made it there with plenty of time to sit a minute for a bite to eat.  Then, we boarded the Ethiopian Air plane and settled in for the long leg.  A few movies, some sleep, and several meals later, we made it to this beautiful place.  Immigration took a while--Visas can be obtained here on arrival, so we did that with several other (hundred) people.  Then through immigration, then to baggage claim--where (big exhale) I found all of our bags while Jeff exchanged some dollars to Birr.  As passengers exit the Bole International Airport, all luggage is screened, so one more time through the X-ray machines and we were on our way.  Since our flight actually landed an hour early, we made pretty good time through the whole airport process and our driver was waiting right there when we walked out.  Dozens if not hundreds of people were waiting in the parking lot.  All the while, cars are constantly moving, tapping horns, pedestrians are scurrying out of the way….all looking like it is completely unorganized, but somehow it seems to work.

We snaked our way through the lot to the exit and headed toward the guest house.  Watching out the window, I can't help but think of the term 'the heartbeat of Africa'.   This, I had seen before, on our last trip.  There just seems to be some kind of energy here, some constant flow, some eternal activity.  People walking, opening market stalls, carrying their wares or goods all over--on the sidewalks, roads and dust laden side streets.  There still seems to be no rule of the road.  We pass several stop lights--none of which are operational.  Somehow the 'just-keep-moving-while-I-honk-to-tell-others-I'm-coming-and-they-get-out-of-the-way' works for the cars, buses, taxis, and pedestrians.  One stray soccer ball did make us hit the brakes, but other than that, it just works.

We were fortunate to observe a tradition for Palm Sunday.  Many people were wearing small palm branch pieces tied around their foreheads.  Some simple bands, some with a woven part over the forehead, some included several fronds attached to the weaving and standing straight up.  Christian Orthodox tradition, we were told.  So, not fully aware of the meaning or significance of these headbands, but really encouraging none the less, to see so many visibly proclaiming the celebration of the arrival of Christ into Jerusalem today.

We arrived at the guest house and rested a few minutes--then off to visit our boy.  Overall, a much better experience than last time.  He was carried out of the home--and had on a palm branch head band.  Cutest one around.  He saw us--and DIDN'T cry.  Well, not right away, at least.  We had a decent visit with some playing, he let us hold him without being upset and a few hints of smiles.  There were intermittent tears…he would look at the door where he came out, or the window to his room, point as if to say I want to go there, and then cry--sometimes a little fuss/whimper.  Sometimes full on tears and wailing.  The closer to our departure time, the more tears as he seemed to be getting tired.  When it was time to say goodbye, he seemed a little relieved to go.

Back at the guest house, we had a quick lunch and then took a nap.  When the alarm went off, we were both in a bit of a fog, but headed back for our second visit anyway.  This time, he took the ball Jeff offered him and backed right into his embrace as Jeff was squatting down to say hello.  He actually seemed to have just woken up as well and at first, was subdued--sitting in my lap, quietly, a few tears.  After about 20 minutes, we all seemed to wake up and he got more interactive.  There were still tears, but fewer and he played more.  He pushed a matchbox car around outside, played a little ball, and started exploring the intricacies of our stacking cups.  I had some cheerios, and while he ate a few, they seemed more interesting as objects to put in and out of things--the snack cup, the stacking cups, and then ultimately the bag I brought along.  Dumped right in there…of course to no protest from us.  Not yet, anyway.  When it was time for him to go this time, he kept trying to pick up all of the stacking cups to take them with him.  As they were not stacked, this proved quite difficult for his little hands and he kept dropping them.  Finally, he got a few stacked, put a few in my bag, and stood up with his stack, ready to go.  The nanny directed him that, no, he couldn't take them with him, so he turned to put them away.  She told him to say goodbye and he kissed us both on the cheek and started to walk with her.  BUT HE TURNED AROUND.  Several time--he turned around, looking back at us.  To be completely honest, I'm not sure if it was us or the toys he was looking for, but right now, I DON'T CARE!  He walked up the steps to the house and again stopped-at the door he had been pointing at crying earlier, ready to go into--and looked again.  I went over and put my hand through the rail, he reached out and touched/gave me five.  Then slowly went in.  Once inside, I could see him pick up the pace toward his room as the door was closing, but we left with smiles.  Bonding started….

Now back at the guest house with no internet, spotty power today, and pretty tired.  So, I know you aren't reading  this in real time as I have no idea when I will be able to post it, but when you do…pray for his transition.  Pray he feels comfortable and safe and loved.  That's a timeless prayer.

PS Internet back up---will try to post day #2 soon.  Pics not currently working...hopefully to come later.