Sunday, December 18, 2011

Back to Ethiopia - Part 3

So, our little one didn't want to go to sleep on Thursday night. We realized later it was due to our goof up though...we let him have 2 naps that day because he wasn't feeling well. Never again! He showed more of his little stinkerness that night, but he also had really sweet cuddly moments too.

Friday was our last day in Ethiopia, and we were SO ready to be home. It was a pretty emotional day for both of us - we just were both overwhelmed with all of the newness and big changes, plus we hadn't slept or eaten much, and we were halfway across the world with 30 hours of travel and 4 flights looming in our near future.

We had to stop by the Hope office that morning to pick up Abe's passport and visa. We also wanted the staff to be able to say one last goodbye to him. A couple of them were teary-eyed when we left, but also very happy that Abe was going to finally be part of a family that will love and care for him. We came back to the hotel to begin packing and relax a bit before our long trip home. The reality of what we were doing set in fully for us that afternoon, and we had lots of talks, processing, and tears. It's a strange thing to much of this experience was tied up in that one trip...we just really wanted and needed to be HOME. We both felt much better after some rest and chatting with our parents.

By the time we needed to leave for the airport, we were feeling much better. The airport in Addis is C-R-A-Z-Y, just so you know. It's weird...there are just massive groups of people hanging out in the parking lot and in the main area. It's almost like it's a mall or something...people just go there to hang out. You go through security like 3 times, but I never really am sure anyone's paying attention to the scanners. The first time we did this it took forever to get through the first security line. This time, we had a little boy in a stroller so we got escorted right to the front. NICE! Already loving the perks of having a child. All day Friday I had been praying that the Lord would place other American adoptive parents on our flight from Addis to Frankfurt. I just really needed to see a friendly face that "gets it" and speaks our language. Well, our God delivered. As soon as we got in line to check-in, we saw a family that had been on our Frankfurt to Addis flight over and also at the Embassy. I hadn't gotten to speak to them before, but we had a chance to meet them in line. Oddly enough, the whole reason they were even on this particular flight was because of us, and we didn't even know it! They heard us at the Embassy saying we were leaving Friday night. They were scheduled to leave Saturday and felt like we did - so ready to get home, so they contacted their travel agency and got on our flight at like 1am on Thursday night. I'm so glad the Lord worked this out for them! Once we got through security and were finally at our gate, they found us and we all sat and talked for awhile while we waited to board our plane. That was just a really nice time. I think it helped to calm all of us. There were quite a few other adoptive families on our flight as well...some bringing their kids home and some who had just had their court date. There was one couple diagonal to us on the plane that kept watching little Abe and how he was doing. I recognized that look of longing and curiosity. As we got off the plane I asked if they were adopting. They had just had their court date and were traveling with another couple coming back from their court date as well. They were all Americans and were very friendly.

Our next flight was supposed to be from Frankfurt to Zurich, and then from Zurich to Newark, NJ and then home from there. When you are flying internationally you have a bunch of extra security get used to whipping out your passport to do almost anything. (I halfway expected to have to show it to use the restroom.) We got to our first security check in Frankfurt and were told we could not go on to Zurich because Abe does not have the proper visa to travel within Europe. This was especially frustrating because our travel agency was told specifically to make sure we were not routed to places where this would be an issue. (It's too much to explain, but if you're curious, you can google Schengen Visa). So...we had to head to the Lufthansa service counter and see what could be done. We were originally told we would not be able to get out until the next day...UM, NO. I immediately started praying. Then some tickets popped up, but we're talking thousands of dollars and we had to get clearance from some supervisor, and blah, blah, blah...lots of obstacles, etc., etc. Still praying...staying calm...trusting that God has this and whatever happens is actually going to be His BEST. Finally...we find out that we can get on a United flight out in a few hours...but Ben would have to go to the United counter and get everything all straightened out. This meant going through security...and Abe wasn't allowed to go through there until this was all settled and he had a boarding pass for that flight. So....Mommy and Abe had to stay in this part of the airport and wait while Daddy got all of that settled...with no way to communicate with each other since that would cost us an arm and a leg. Yikes. A little nervous at this point. So, guess what I did? PRAY again. I got his diaper changed, and we found that we could wait in the McDonald's...thank you, Lord! I got us in there and got us some snacks and prayed that I would find some Americans...and guess what...there were the 2 couples I met as we were getting of the plane. They were so kind to let me sit near them and they kept me company for the 2 hours I waited for Ben. Praise the Lord! Ben finally came back with our boarding passes, and we were all good to go. We got to fly straight from Frankfurt to Newark, and at NO CHARGE!!!! The man at the United counter is from Africa and said that he didn't want to charge us anything since we're bringing Abe home from his home country. Who says there is not a God, or that He is not intimately involved in our lives?

Abe slept through the entire flight from Addis to Frankfurt (another praise), and slept the first couple of hours on the 2nd flight. He did pretty well on all of the flights and did really well in his stroller. We were so proud of him! He had a few fussy moments, but we handled them and really, we were so surprised at how well he did. I cannot tell you how happy we were to finally land in the US! I sang every patriotic song I could think of, and we ate some McDonalds...real McDonalds, not the weird German version. :) We got through Customs and Immigration without a hitch, and we were homeward bound! It was so good to touch down in Dallas and see our parents waiting for us. That night was kind of a blur, but it was so good to have them there with us to help us and get to know their little grandson. It was a really great reunion! SO good to finally be HOME with our SON! Praise the Lord for all He has done and all that He is!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Back to Ethiopia - Part 2

So, the first day we had Abe he was really, really sick. Runny nose, chest cough, glassy eyes...we took his temperature and found he had a 101.5 fever, so we immediately began dosing him with children's Tylenol and Benadryl. This all explained his overall lack of personality. Of course he was a little scared and having to get used to being with just us in a totally new place, but he really wasn't expressing much of anything that first day. However, after having the medicine in him for a good 24 hours, everything changed!

The first night we had him we tried to feed him and he wouldn't take anything from us. We were getting a little bit worried...especially knowing that we had a few more days before we would be home and he was sick. That night he slept super soundly - although his breathing was really labored. He slept in his crib for most of the night, but we put him in bed with us finally because we were worried about him. It took me awhile to go to sleep - jetlag, and I'm a super light sleeper - so I spent a long time praying over him that night. I cannot tell you the closeness Ben and I have both felt to the Lord and to each other since getting Abe. Something about raising and caring for a child that draws you to the Father and to your spouse. I love it. We've said this was the hardest week of our lives but with the best results - our son, and closeness. Abe slept really well and we could tell he was feeling better the next day.

He ate from us on Thursday! Total turn-around. He still didn't have tons of personality, but as soon as I opened the curtains in our hotel room he pointed outside and began to chatter away in his little language. That was so good to see! We found that he really loved some of the toys we brought him, so at least we could tell he was settling in and was happy. He had his first poopy diaper this morning too. I include this bit of information for those of you who know me and my INCREDIBLY SENSITIVE GAG REFLEX well. All I can say is praise the Lord for my husband! He had to take the reins while I held out wipes and the odor masking bag (HA!) to wrap his diaper in. The minute he opened that dirty diaper I began to gag in about 3-4 second intervals. It was so hilarious to me that I began to laugh uncontrollably at the same time, which then caused tears. Ben was also CRACKING UP! Poor Abe...he had no idea what was going on! We finally got through it though. That boy has some STINKY DIAPERS!!!

This was the day of our Embassy interview, so we had a little bit more of a schedule that morning. After playtime and breakfast, we all started to get ready. We changed Abe, and put him in a red polo and some khaki pants and we were all packed and ready to go. Then....he completely wet his diaper and soaked his pants. Really? (I know, I know, many of you parents out there are just laughing...this is only the beginning.) Thankfully I had packed 1 extra pair of "nice" pants. Whew.

Off to the Embassy. We were a little later than we had hoped to be because of that last minute diaper change and needing to print something off in the business center, but we still arrived about 15 minutes early. They give pretty much everyone a 1pm appointment time. The earlier you get there, the lower your number is and the sooner you actually have your appointment. We got to the front of the US Embassy and there was a security guard there asking for our passports. So, no big deal, our passports are always right where we keep them. Uh....not this time. I could NOT find my passport and was FREAKING OUT! This caused quite a bit of stress over the next few hours as we were leaving for the US the next day!!! Thank goodness we were at the US Embassy! The guard accepted my Drivers License instead - praise Jesus!!! We got in, got our #, and sat down to wait. The Embassy basically has a big waiting room and these little booths with windows all lined out across the front of the room. Kind of like what you might see at a DMV or something. They had Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz on the TV...ha. America. We sat and waited for awhile and saw a couple of the other families from our Frankfurt to Addis flight come in with their brand new kids. So neat! Then we smelled it....oh, can this boy poop! It was Mommy's turn to change his diaper - and my first time all by myself. And if you read about our first experience earlier, you can imagine my FEAR AND DREAD. We did pretty well though. Mommy has learned to take big breaths and hold them while changing Abe's diapers. Whatever works, people.

A couple of minutes after we changed Abe, our name was called. We walked up to our booth and were SO happy to see Americans and hear their wonderful accents!!! :) They were really nice, and the whole process was super easy and smooth. They basically have you raise your right hand and swear that the information you've provided is true. Then they ask you a few questions and give you information about your case. We found out we should have received some pertinent information after our court date...we'll be discussing this with our agency. :/ They explained a little of why our case was delayed - inconsistencies in the mom's testimony at court and at the Embassy (she's super young). They still had some qualms, but not enough to keep our case from proceeding...and there's no way to reverse an Ethiopian court decision anyway. So, they said we should receive all of these documents that we were missing a couple of weeks after we arrive home. And those will help us understand a little more of why things took so long. We should get some more of Abe's history as well.

It was so good to be done with everything! Abe was finally and officially ours! We got back to the hotel room and FOUND MY PASSPORT! (It was in my coat pocket.) Then we took Abe for his first stroller ride around the grounds of our hotel. He didn't really perk up at all and was getting pretty cranky...we had started to see his "2 year old" come out this day. We were both kind of struggling through this - we just didn't expect him to feel comfortable enough with us this first week to hit and throw. That wasn't his personality back in July. He would just shut down when he was scared or upset. The whole thing was becoming very real and we both just needed to be honest with each other, allow ourselves to feel & process this whole thing. Everyone has since told us this is very natural for new parents no matter the situation, and that it's a good thing. So, there you have it. We were pretty discouraged heading back up to our hotel room - we just couldn't seem to get him to perk up. When we got back we thought we'd log on to Skype and see if our families were up. Ben just happened to put Abe in his lap and turn on some music, and that was all it took. Almost immediately his personality came out - he smiled really big, began talking, and bobbing his head to the music. The rest of the night was super fun! We played and was really good. So, we found the key to unlocking him! MUSIC!

We were so thankful to the Lord for providing for us on Thursday - finding my passport, clearing us at the US Embassy, and bringing Abe out of his funk. We truly have seen Him go before us through this entire process. He is such a good God.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Back to Ethiopia - Part 1

I know it's been SO long since I've blogged. Honestly, I just had a hard time putting "pen to paper" during our LONG wait. When we left Addis in July, we were told we would be coming back again in 4-8 weeks. Our return trip ended up being about 4 months later. I won't bore you with all of the details of things that occurred during our wait...let's just say that the US Government doesn't work quite as quickly as the Ethiopian government. But...their motivation is absolutely for the best of the children and families. We learned more today at our Embassy interview why our case was prolonged. That may have to come in another post.

We found out last Wednesday, November 30th that we were approved and got our Embassy date the next day. Then it was a MAD DASH to try to get airline tickets at a reasonable price, hotel reservations, and get us packed & ready to go. The Lord went before us in all things. On Wednesday, the hotel we had stayed at in July told us there were NO rooms available for the first 2 days of our trip. We kind of panicked as hotel rooms were hard to come by and we really preferred to stay somewhere "familiar." The next morning, a room became available for our entire stay! Also, we had been given an amount by my grandfather to help offset airline costs. It was looking like that was not going to cover everything...then again the Lord came through and we got tickets for $600 less than the amount given to us. So many things fell in to place. We know the Lord was at work in all of it. (and still is)

We left on Monday afternoon and had a short layover in Frankfurt, Germany, then on to Addis. We kind of felt like pros this go around. Everything was much less stressful...which was good because once Abe came, a whole different kind of stress entered the picture. :) (good stress, of course) We got checked in, and found that our hotel was completely decked out for Christmas. AWESOME! We got some good sleep that first night (Tuesday night in Addis) and couldn't wait to finally have our GOTCHA DAY with Abe the next day! :)

Here's a video of our first time with Abe again after many months. (*note: most of the videos are with Daddy...mommy did the videoing this time so I'm not in many.) He actually was all smiles when we entered the room! That was an incredible blessing! We didn't get pictures or videos of our first encounter with him this time b/c we wanted that to be a private moment. So, he was pretty shy again when we actually picked him up and held him, but that's just his personality at first. AND...we found out later that day that he was super, super sick. Mommy & Daddy got him feeling much better once we had some time with him at the hotel and got some medicine in him. Anyway, here's a video of our first few moments with him.

We spent some time there with the caregivers and they had another Coffee Ceremony for us. YUM! Then we got to take him back to the hotel and just get to know each other. Pretty special night! Here's a "teaser" of our first morning together. Will post again soon with more videos and highlights of our first full day as a family of 3 (well, 3 1/2, let's not forget sweet Izzie!).

Abby & Ben.