Monday, July 30, 2012

Some Would Say We Were Crazy...

On Saturday I gathered with 6 of my college friends, their significant others, and all of our children.  The entire crew totaled 14 adults and 10 children.  That sounds like enough crazy for this introverted gal, but let me add to the details that the oldest child was three and a half.  That's right - we had 10 children all under the age of 4!

Our friend who was hosting did a fantastic job baby-proofing her house, so we could let the little ones play without worrying about their safety.  There was even a "kiddie corral" of sorts filled with toys and secured by a large baby gate!

Somehow the men quickly migrated out to the deck to sit in the shade of the canopy and visit in the afternoon breeze.  I think it also had something to do with the beer cooler sitting on the deck!  That left all of us women inside with all the kids.  It ended up being okay, though, because as the kids played together (beautifully, I might add!), we reminisced about our time in college and got updates on what everyone has been up to recently.

The day went by quickly, and all-too-soon it was time to say our goodbyes.  I am grateful that I was able to make many life-long friends in college.  I am also thankful that we continue to get together.  It's been quite awhile since the entire crew was gathered together in the same place, but over the years the pieced-together groups at gatherings allow us to connect and maintain the friendships started over 10 years ago.

A few mental snapshots I'll take with me:
  • 4 highchairs lined up in a row around the kitchen table
  • Two moms racing to save a little one who went down the slide into the pool for the first time and went underwater.  The moms collided and overshot the pool, missing the child!
  • The newest baby sleeping on her mom's chest in a Moby wrap as we talked on the patio
  • A kitchen counter full of delicious food prepared from all corners of the Midwest and brought to share
  • Dairy Queen ice cream cake (in following our tradition!)
  • One of the dads walking through the kiddie corral and saying, "I think I stepped in something wet over there."

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ethiopia 2 - Thanks for Joining Me!

Thank you for joining me as I walked back through our trip to Ethiopia to bring Feven home.  It meant a lot to share stories and pictures with you.  I have more of both, but you'll just have to ask about them next time you see me!  :)

In case you missed an entry, here is the compiled list of posts about our second trip:
  1. The Explanation of My Silence
  2. Preparations
  3. New Friends
  4. Reuniting
  5. So Close, But Not Yet
  6. My Daughter's Hometown
  7. Scared Eyes
  8. A Beggar, A To-Go Box, and How My Life Changed Forever
  9. Guest House
  10. God Trying to Get Through to Me
  11. 18 Gifts
  12. A Trip to the Clinic
  13. A Common Mishap
  14. Sleeping
  15. Hello Again (meeting Feven's mother a second time)
  16. The (Long) Plane Ride Home
  17. The Palace
  18. Hard at Work
  19. Goodbye...For Now

Thanks again for taking an interest in Ethiopia and our family!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Friendly Kid

Feven's new favorite thing is to wave and say "Heeeeeeeeey!" to people we pass in public.  For example?  We went grocery shopping this morning and almost every worker stocking the shelves was greeted.  Here are a few pictures of her friendly wave.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ethiopia 2 - Hard at Work

It seemed to me that people in Ethiopia did not shy away from hard work.  I saw so many hard-working people while there.  I also saw some hard-working animals.

If you look closely, you will see a donkey under each haystack.  They were making their way down the mountain.

Here is a picture of the mountainside they were walking down.  Not a bad view!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

First Taste of Injera

Our family went to an Ethiopian celebration a few weeks ago and Feven got her first taste of injera.  Injera is a bread from Ethiopia.  It's a staple food, and you eat it by dipping it in stews and sauces.  I've heard it compared to a pancake or crepe.  It isn't sweet, though, it''s injera!  If you haven't tried it, I encourage you to do so!

Here's Feven's first reaction.  (Don't let this deter you from trying it!)

She did end up eating quite a bit of it, but preferred the more mild sauces to the spicier ones.  If you're in the Minneapolis area and want to try injera, I recommend Shabelle Grocery.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ethiopia 2 - The Palace

I feel like I didn't share enough pictures with you of our time in Ethiopia.  Here are a few more before I close this chapter...

We got to do a little sightseeing while in Ethiopia.  We went up to Mount Entoto and toured the Entoto Museum and the old palace where Menelik II, the founder of the capital city of Addis Ababa, lived.


It was special to see a place that held such history.  I enjoyed walking through the palace and imagining what life was like when Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taitu lived there.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ethiopia 2 - Goodbye...for Now

There are two ways to take off a band-aid: you can either rip it off quickly and get it over with, or go slowly and extend the pain.  Our departure from Ethiopia was more like going slowly and extending the pain.

Okay, maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but when I think back to our departure, I still feel a sadness and heartache.

Our goodbye's started the first full day we were in Ethiopia.  Our new friends, Jen and Trevor, were flying out that evening. Our new friend Kristine flew out the next day, and as we waited with her for her driver to come the time passed much too quickly. 

A few days later our new friends Becky and Andrew flew into Ethiopia, but departed just days after that while we remained.  We consoled ourselves by hanging out with another family from Denmark who was adopting and staying in Ethiopia indefinitely until their son's visa was ready. 

Wouldn't you know it, the day after Becky and Andrew flew out, the Danish family got clearance and left too!  We said a heavy goodbye to them and then were alone.

That was unfortunately the same day that we took our leave from our agency's driver and translator.  With tears in our eyes, we said goodbye at our guest house gate.  Our translator said, "I'm really going to miss you guys.  You're so everyone."  What a compliment.  I can say the same of her.  Spending time with her was a treasure, and I don't know if or when I'll see her again.

I think that was the hardest part of all of these goodbyes.  They weren't, "Okay, see you next week!" or "Can't wait to see you next month!" or even "Let's get together next year!"  I don't know if or when I'll see any of these wonderful people again.

And then came the hardest goodbye.  Saying goodbye to Ethiopia.

As I mentioned before, my time in Ethiopia wasn't easy.  I struggled, as evidenced by my journal entry from April 13:
"I want to be in a place where I just understand the norms and expectations.  I want to make coffee if I want it.  Oh, how I long for fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies!  I want a laundry bin for my clothes that are dirty and access to a washing machine to throw in a load of dirty clothes at my leisure.  I want more than one room so that when my daughter is sleeping I can turn the pages of a book and not fear waking her up.  I want my food, my space, my routine."
I was homesick, and I thought I would be ready to say goodbye to Ethiopia when it was time.  However, when our day of departure dawned I wasn't ready at all.

With slow steps, I made my way through our guest house one last time.  I knew that people came in and out of this place all the time, but this was the place where my life changed forever.  It was a sacred space to me.  We snapped some last-minute photos of the room and grounds to treasure and then waited beside our bags for our driver to arrive.

My eyes started to pool as we sat with our luggage.  I kept saying to Zac, "I don't know why I feel like crying.  I don't know what's wrong."  I tried looking up at the sky to keep the tears from falling because I didn't want to look like a goon in front of the guest house staff or the driver when he came to pick us up.

I managed to hold it together (for the most part) until our driver got there.  As we drove from the guest house and through the streets of Addis to the airport, the tears came.  This was my last time driving down these roads...for how long?  When would I return?  Under what circumstances?  Would it ever be possible for me to come back again?

We arrived at the airport all too soon, unloaded the car, and headed toward the doors.  The sky was overcast and it was sprinkling.  The weather seemed to fit. 

My feet were dragging as we got closer and closer to the doors.  I wasn't ready to say goodbye.  You know how in a marriage the two individuals become one?  I think that same thing happens once you have a child.  Feven and I are joined in a very powerful way.  She is my daughter.  And because Ethiopia is her birth country, I am also joined to Ethiopia in a powerful way.  It is a part of me now.  I wish there was some way to forever keep one foot in Ethiopia and one foot here in the states.

I looked up to take one last mental picture before turning around and walking inside.  I stood on the sidewalk as people passed by me and I studied the mountains.  I took in the buildings and tin roofs.  I watched the low, gray clouds moving across the sky.  Ethiopia.

Goodbye, for now.  I hope we meet again soon.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Big Girl Puffs

Look whose hair is long enough for big girl puffs!  I'm amazed at how fast Feven is growing up.  I think she looks especially grown-up with these pigtails.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ethiopia 2 - The (Long) Plane Ride Home

Never before had I needed to leave so much up to prayer and chance.  Some of the questions running through my mind as we packed were: How do I get through the airport with an infant?  How would Feven handle the take-offs and landings?  How were we going to entertain her for 24 hours of travel?  How was I supposed to keep track of her naps and bottles as we flew west through 8 time changes?   

We arrived very early to the airport in hopes of securing bulkhead row seating and a bassinet for Feven.  We got through the initial security and found our carrier's line quickly.  Then - we waited.  Our carrier's desk wasn't even open yet, we were there so early!  It was Feven's bedtime, and she thankfully was asleep.  I was wearing her in the Ergo, with a blanket covering her as was custom for Ethiopia.  This wouldn't normally have been a problem, but we dressed Feven and ourselves in layers for the plane ride.  The poor girl had on socks, pants, shirt, and sweater.  I had on the same.  We were both sweating buckets.  We finally decided to risk waking her up in hopes to take her sweater off and keep her body at a more comfortable temperature.  After we did that, we waited some more.

While waiting in line, we saw a couple whom we had met in the Amsterdam airport on the way to Ethiopia!  They were from the states, and had even lived in Minnesota for a time!  They were adopting 2 boys and were in Ethiopia for their first trip - the court trip.  Both of our families were leaving the country with very different feelings in our hearts.  We were happy and relieved to finally be bringing Feven home, and they had just said goodbye to their two new sons and were parting indefinitely before returning to bring them home.  I think that perhaps we gave them hope that it wouldn't be long until they returned.  It was really nice to see them again and share stories about our time in Ethiopia.  It helped the time pass.

Soon our carrier's desk was occupied by an employee and they started checking in passengers.  We had maybe 10 or so people in front of us and the line seemed to be moving so slowly!  We stood in line, every now and then picking up all our luggage and moving it ahead 2 feet each time someone new got called.  Suddenly there was an airport employee standing next to us on the other side of the rope, and raising the rope up.  "Come with me," he said.  In my head I thought, "Crap!  What did we do?!?"  It turns out that traveling with a baby has its perks.  He was kind enough to see that we were a bit uncomfortable, and so he took us out of the line and moved us to the very front.  We were the next passengers called!

We got checked in, then made our way to customs.  After getting our passports stamped for our exit from Ethiopia (and using a little of our Amharic), we browsed the airport shops and then met up with our friends in a restaurant for some sodas before boarding.  Feven was awake at this time and, well, a little loopy.  She was louder than we'd ever seen her and babbling nonstop.  We were kind of embarrassed by how distracting her behavior was!  Luckily, our friends were gracious and understanding, as they had 4 children at home in addition to the two they were adopting.  This was nothing new to them.

We waited at the restaurant as long as possible before heading to security.  Why, you ask?  Well, on our first trip, we were so anxious to get through all of the checks at the airport, that we went through security as soon as possible.  This was a BAD move on our part because there were no bathrooms and no water on the other side of the security checkpoint.  There were only chairs for waiting.  So we had to wait for a few hours after we had gone through security on that first trip, growing thirstier by the minute and getting more anxious to use the bathroom.  We were not going to make that mistake again, especially with a child!

We cleared security with 20 minutes to spare this time and found our gate.  Feven was starting to get ornery now, her cries seeming incredibly loud compared to the silence of the tired passengers around us.  It was nearly 10pm and the other passengers were waiting patiently to board the plane.  I felt like their eyes were on me trying to quiet Feven.  I felt like they were thinking, "Oh no.  We're going to have that crying baby on our plane.  Why can't that mom keep that baby quiet?"  They probably weren't thinking that...well, maybe a few were, but I did my best to help Feven feel comfortable.

Once on the plane, we were shown to our bulkhead row seating.  YAY!  We were so pleased to have been given these seats.  We had extra leg room, and even a bassinet for Feven that attached to the wall in front of us.  This way, we could put her in there while she slept so we wouldn't have to have her on our laps the whole time.  A stewardess filled Feven's bottle with water and we quickly made some formula to give her for the take-off.  Our strategy was bottles during take-offs and landings, and some in-between as needed.

That Feven was a trooper.  She didn't cry once during the take-off.  She didn't even seem the least bit uncomfortable.  That was the way she handled ALL the take-offs and landings on our trip.  Praise the Lord!

She fell asleep within the first hour of the first flight, and I tried to put her in the bassinet.  Ha!  That did not work.  She wanted to be held, not placed in this strange bed attached to the wall.  To get her to finally stay sleeping in the bassinet, I had to stand up with her in my arms, bend over to place her in the bassinet, and keep holding her in it as though I was still snuggling her in my arms.  It took a long time before I could slowly wiggle my arms out from the bassinet and she stayed sleeping.  Meanwhile, the whole back of the plane got a nice, long view of my rear. 

She slept the majority of that first flight, and had no problems during our stopover in Khartoum, Sudan.  We were not allowed to leave the plane during the stopover and had to remain seated.  She did great.  In fact, she did so great on that entire flight that the Ethiopian man next to us commented on what a well-behaved baby she was.  Way to go, Feven!

As we were getting off the plane in Amsterdam at 7am, a flight attendant tipped us off that there was a baby lounge in the Amsterdam airport.  As soon as we heard the term "baby lounge," we knew we had to check it out during our layover.  We navigated our way through the airport, passing the tulip stand and the giant teacup booths to find the baby lounge.  As we entered the dimly-lit room, the noise from the airport drifted away.  Sheer curtains hung down in circles from the ceiling, creating individual pods for families.  Each pod contained a crib and cushioned seating on either side of the crib.  There was even a nightlight that displayed a changing light show on the ceiling for the babies. 

While we had an overnight flight and got some sleep, we were both still pretty tired.  Zac got Feven to fall asleep in the carrier, then laid her down on the seating without waking her up.  One of us sat right beside her so she wouldn't roll off and we all took naps in the pod!  It was so peaceful - a true oasis in the airport chaos.

When I woke up, I ventured out to get us a Starbucks coffee.  Upon returning, we let Feven walk around for a bit (she made a lot of friends with her sheer cuteness and toddling walk), and then made our way to our gate.  In Amsterdam, you have to go through security right at your gate.  Our security officer was a kind woman who had also adopted.  She asked us a little about our experience and shared a little about hers.  She gave us a few words of wisdom, then sent us through. 

Our hopes were high that we'd have as good of flight the second time as we had the first.  We got to board early because we were traveling "with young children," and were seated again in the bulkhead row.  YES!  Next to us sat an Ethiopian woman who now lives in Minnesota.  She was traveling with her little boy who was just a few months older than Feven.  I felt relieved knowing that if Feven fussed, this woman would understand and be sympathetic.

All in all, the second flight was very good.  Feven stayed busy playing with our packaged food.  She loves things that make a crinkly sound, and I swear she crunched the plastic wrapper of a bread roll for at least 30 minutes.  From time to time she'd get antsy, and we'd switch her to the other person's lap and she'd calm down a bit.  We walked a few times around the plane, or simply stood and bounced her while wearing her in the carrier.  The only time she ever really cried on either of the plane rides was when we were changing her diaper in the bathroom.  Ooooh, did she hate that!  We'd walk in, shut the small accordion door, and then the screams would start.  They would escalate once she was placed on the changing table and only subside after she was back in our arms.  I felt awful being in there with a screaming baby, and could only imagine what others thought who were hearing those shrieks from outside the bathroom!  Zac said you couldn't hear her very well, but I think he was just trying to be nice.

We encountered some turbulence on our second flight toward the end.  We were flying into Minneapolis and there was some severe weather in the area that was making the plane wobble.  I can't remember if I took Dramamine, ate some crackers, or just got lucky; whatever the reason, the turbulence didn't affect me like it usually does.  That little boy next to us, however, was not so lucky.

About 20 minutes before landing, he threw up.  A TON.  All over his mom and almost on me.  That poor kid must have really been feeling sick.  The mom had to try to find clean clothes for both her and her son.  She had on a beautiful hijab that totally got nailed by the puke too.  The little boy smiled so big after he puked - I bet he felt a lot better! 

We made it the final 20 minutes without incident, and soon we were back in Minnesota.  Thank goodness!  I couldn't have asked for a better little traveler.  When we got to our house, we stayed up for all of 3 hours, then we fell asleep for a "short" 6-hour nap!  Nothing beats sleeping in your own bed!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Saturday Morning Dance Party

We attended a family wedding on Friday night where we learned just how much Feven likes to dance.  That girl was out on the dance floor longer than either Zac or I ever would have been!  She danced with Grandma, Auntie Lindsey, Uncle Brandon, and she even danced with Mama and Dada. 

She stayed up 3 hours past her bedtime dancing, but luckily all of us slept in Saturday morning.  When we finally rolled out of bed, we put some tunes on and continued the dance party in our pajamas.  Here's a clip of some of her moves:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ethiopia 2 - Hello Again

While in Ethiopia, we were given the opportunity to visit Feven's hometown.  We went to the orphanage where Feven first lived, and while we were there, we had a meeting with her birth mother.  For some families, this is the first opportunity they have to speak with a birth relative, but for us it was actually the second.  We had a surprise, spur of the moment meeting with her birth mom on our first trip.

Because we had met before, it totally took the pressure off for this second meeting.  All the unknowns were replaced with excitement and anticipation to see her again.  We even made a special book with pictures of Feven, our home, community, and relatives that we were looking forward to giving her. 

When we pulled into the orphanage, I was a little out of it from the long car ride.  We hopped out and began to look around.  The translator was leading us to someone and it took me a moment to realize it, but then I saw that it was Feven's birth mother!  Her hair was different this time and while she had jeans on again, this time she wore a white hoodie.  She had the same soft, dimpled smile as last time - the smile that we see everyday now when we look at Feven. 

I was overflowing with joy upon seeing her again.  We made our way to the orphanage director's office and sat down.  Our translator was taking care of something else and didn't come right away, so we sat with Feven's mother in somewhat awkward silence.  We had so much we wanted to say, but we didn't speak Amharic.  I realized that I could give her the book now, and she could page through while we waited.  I sat beside her and we looked through it together. 

When our translator came in, we paged through the book again and I got to tell her all about the people and places in the pictures.  It was fun to share, and I hope the pictures gave her comfort.  At the end of the book, Zac and I composed a long message to her, trying to convey with words the deep respect and gratitude we have for her.  When asked if she wanted it translated, she said no, that she would read it on her own.  I don't know how much English she knows, but she spent quite a few minutes reading it.  I hope she understood all of it.  We thought long and hard about what we wanted to tell her, and the words we chose were important. 

After looking at the book, we started asking her some questions.  We learned quite a few things!  We learned that she is training as a runner.  To train, she runs in the stadium or runs up the mountain.  No small feat! 

We asked her what kind of man she wanted Feven to marry.  The first thing out of her mouth was, "An athlete."  We all laughed about that.  We told her that whenever boys would come to the door asking for Feven, we would take out a stopwatch and tell them to run to the corner and back.  If they were fast enough, we'd let them talk to Feven!  She also went on to say that she wanted her to marry someone who would treat her well, and also someone who is a man of God.  We told her we would see to these things.

We were fortunate to take a video of her giving a message to Feven.  Our translator was on the video as well, translating Feven's birth mom's words from Amharic to English.  This video is so special to us!  She said a number of things, but one that sticks out to me is that she told Feven to work hard at school.  I think we'll play this message for Feven each September.  :)

It was incredible to have the opportunity to speak with Feven's birth mother again.  I didn't want our time to end.  She thanked us for coming all the way to Assela and asking her what SHE wanted for Feven.  I was surprised by that because I can't imagine it any other way.  Yes, Feven is our daughter, but she is also the biological daughter of another woman.  That bond will forever be there, and we will likely think about each other regularly for the rest of our lives.  Her wishes for Feven are just as important to me as my wishes for Feven.

It's funny because when we started the adoption process, I was scared of open adoption.  Open adoption is when the adoptive family keeps in touch on some level with the biological family.  It seemed too invasive for me, too unknown.  I was scared.  Now I have participated in a more closed adoption.  We will not have direct contact with Feven's birth mother, and I am saddened by that.  Now that we have met her and know her, we love her.  We have her to thank for our beautiful daughter.  I want her to know all of the special things in Feven's life - like her first steps, first words, personality and silly things she does.  I also want her to know that I think of her every. single. day.  I want her to know that I pray for her, both that God will heal her hurts and bring good things her way. 

Zac and I took a few photos with Feven's birth mother before heading home.  When we said goodbye, I lingered.  I think I hugged her, but I don't remember exactly anymore.  I know I wanted to.  I think I did.  I also think I held her hand and said a heartfelt "thank you" in her language. 

I don't know when I will see her again and that is hard.  There's a lump in my throat as I type that and the realization sinks in yet again.  I feel such a strong connection to her, and our lives are forever intertwined.  She is often in my thoughts, and often in my conversations with my daughter.  Soon her picture will be up in my daughter's room for us to look at each day.  She is part of our lives.  I wonder if we are part of hers too.  I wonder if she pages through the book we gave her and wonders about us.  I wonder if the pages of the book have water splotches from tears of sadness or tears of joy.  I wonder if the book is tucked away somewhere because it's too hard to look at now.  I don't know.  I have a lot of wondering.  I think that I will always have a lot of wondering. 

We intend to bring Feven back to Ethiopia at least once.  I hope we can bring her back more times.  And when we bring her back, I hope with all my being that we will be able to see her birth mother again.  She is an amazing, amazing woman.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lookin' Cool

I don't know what it is inside of her, but somehow Feven knows when she looks cool.  Here she is modeling her sunglasses again.  :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ethiopia 2 - Sleeping

A lot of things were overwhelming for Feven that first week we were together in Ethiopia.  As a result, she slept a lot.  Sometimes she'd fall asleep in the carrier when we were out sightseeing and we would transfer her to the bed when we got back at the guest house.

At nighttime we'd put her to bed about 7 or 7:30, wait for her to fall asleep on our bed, and then turn the lights on after she was sleeping.  We'd sit next to her with our books, magazines, or journals, and relax until it was time for us to go to bed.  Notice her good sprawl in this picture.  You can see why she didn't last long in our queen bed once we were home!

And another nap picture.  We loved sitting beside her and watching her sleep.  She is such a miracle to us, and it was special to have that time to soak it in.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sprinkler Round 2

Feven is getting more and more comfortable playing in the sprinkler since her first experience playing in it.  It's fun to watch her grow and get braver!  She now likes to stick her tummy into the water and also drink from the spray.  She doesn't cry when her face gets wet, and sometimes she even purposely puts her face into the streams!  She enjoys when I pick her up and swing her back and forth through the water.  I'm so proud of her for trying new things!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Ethiopia 2 - A Common Mishap

Who doesn't love cuddling with a kid when they've just woken up?  They're a little lethargic, more calm than usual, and all snuggly. 

One day in Ethiopia, Zac picked Feven up after her nap and held her close.  As he was cuddling her and walking toward me, I noticed something shiny on his shirt.  It was sparkling, almost like moving water.  Wait a second, it was moving water!  Where was that water coming from?

Apparently even the best disposable diapers can't hold liquid forever.  They reach a saturation max, which we think Feven's did, and then it just starts coming out the top or the sides.

I was so in awe of the amount of pee on Zac's shirt that I had to take a picture.  It was the first of many times now that we've had to change clothes because of Feven.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Ethiopia 2 - A Trip to the Clinic

"How much does a baby poop?"

"I don't know, this seems like a lot."

Within a few days of having Feven in our custody, she began to have a lot of dirty diapers.  A lot.  Between 4-6 a day.  I was talking with a family from Denmark about this one day at our guest house because we were both first-time parents and new to all of this baby stuff when the wife expressed concern.  She works as a nurse in Denmark, and she began asking me all sorts of questions about the diapers which I won't include in my post, in case you're reading this over lunch or an afternoon snack.  I tried to describe the specimens as best I could, but I also tried to look at the dirty diapers as little as possible when I changed them, so I wasn't a big help.

Do you know what she said next?  She said that next time Feven had a dirty diaper, I should come get her and she'd look at it.  I was blown away.  She had only met me days ago, and was willing to come into such a disgusting part of my life with me for the sake of my daughter.

Well, it didn't take long and Feven had dirtied another diaper.  I debated about whether to get my new friend or not.  Did I really want to give this wonderful woman a dirty, stinky diaper?  Ew!  I think God knew my hesitation because when I left our room to go into the hallway of the guest house, there she was!  I told her about the diaper and she came right in to check it out.  She was not afraid.

She advised us to take Feven to a clinic because what she saw made her wonder if Feven had a parasite or something that was bothering her stomach.  We called our adoption agency's translator and she said we'd go later that morning to the doctor.  I appreciated her flexibility and willingness to help us out.

A little twist to our trip to the clinic was that our friends Becky and Andrew were at court that morning for their son's adoption, and were still in the van when it came to pick us up for the clinic.  Those poor people were hauled along to our clinic adventure, which as you will see, ended up to be quite the process.  Bless them for never complaining once about the inconvenience or how our trip to the clinic kept them from spending a few more hours with their son.  I hope to be as grace-filled with others as they were with us.

We arrived at a renowned women's and children's clinic in Addis.  It wasn't a huge complex, but there were a few buildings on the grounds.  We went inside the smaller building, gave our name, and sat in the lobby to wait for the doctor.  There were maybe 10 other families in the waiting room with us.  I was a little nervous how I'd be perceived - it was obvious we were adopting.  I didn't sense any negativity, though, only the understanding eyes of other moms when Feven would squirm or cry. 

Once our name was called, we went in an office to see the doctor.  He spoke to us in English, which was a welcomed surprise.  It was nice to talk directly to him about Feven's problem.  After listening to us and briefly checking her out, he gave orders for some lab work.  We left with a piece of paper and went into another building.  There we handed the paper to someone in the lab.  They gave us a small container guessed it...a stool sample.  Now we had to sit and wait until Feven pooped until we could move forward at the doctor's office.

At this point I felt so bad for Becky and Andrew and our driver that we decided to have them go get lunch while our translator, Zac, and I waited for Feven to, you know, do her thing at the clinic.  We waited and waited, then began to wonder if it was a false alarm to even come to the clinic and maybe now she was fine.  Was this one of those first-time-parent panic trips where it's really nothing?

We got permission from the clinic to leave with our little container and bring it back if she ever did her thing.  From there we went to the House of Hope where our friends got to hang out with their little guy and we got to play with Feven in the company of her nannies and friends. 

After a few hours of playtime, one of the kids began to smell.  It was ours!  We could collect our sample and go back to the clinic to see if anything was wrong with our baby.  Once back at the clinic, we turned in our container and sat to wait for the results.  Not much was happening during that time because the power was out, so staff and patients were sitting around waiting until the power came on.  The staff tried to start a generator at one point, but it didn't power all they hoped it would.  It was so strange for me to see the operations of this clinic come to a screeching hault because there wasn't power.  It seemed like a common occurrence to all of the people there, and to observe it, it didn't seem like it bothered anyone.  Just a part of life.

When the power came back on, we were able to pay for our labwork.  One of the workers brought us a slip with the results, and we took the slip back to the first building to wait in line for the doctor again.  There weren't near as many people in that waiting room this time.  In fact, many of the staff had set to work scrubbing the walls and the floors.  I'm still amazed at how hard people work at cleaning their homes/courtyards/clinics.  Scrubbing the floors seems to be a daily occurrence.  I wonder what my house would look like if I practiced that...

When the doctor saw us, he told us she had food contamination.  He prescribed something for her, and we were on our way.  I was both relieved and disappointed to hear the results.  Relieved because there WAS, in fact, something wrong with her.  It wasn't a first-time-parent false alarm.  I was disappointed because it seemed to me that the problems started after we took custody of her.  I must have done something (or not done something well) that made her sick.  I still don't know to this day what it was that caused her to have trouble, but the medicine helped.

Looking back, I'm so grateful for the people who helped us get our daughter feeling better.  For the Danish nurse who encouraged us to go in, for our driver and translator who made the appointment happen quickly, for Becky and Andrew who were so patient and comforting as we went through our first doctor experience as parents, and for the kind staff at the clinic.  All of those people had a hand in helping Feven get better.

We had to pay full-price for our visit because we didn't have health insurance or anything to help us out.  Our total cost included two doctor consultations, lab work, and a prescription.  The whole thing set us back $6.00.  Nope, I didn't forget a zero.  Six bucks.  Full price.  I'm thankful that it was so affordable for us to get medical help for our daughter.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Photography Lesson

Always make sure you pay special attention to the background in which your subjects are standing.  Especially (ahem) where the water streams are shooting.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ethiopia 2 - Eighteen Gifts

While in Ethiopia, we did some intense shopping.  In one of our adoption circles we heard of a family who gave their child a gift from their birth country each year.  We wanted to do the same, so we set out to collect 18 gifts.

I'm torn - I REALLY want to tell you what we got, but should Feven stumble upon this post someday, I don't want her to find out all her gifts!

Zac and I had so much fun choosing gifts for her.  We imagined what type of things she would like at different points in her life.  We got her a mix of toys, Ethiopia memorabilia, and jewelry/grown-up things. 

We plan to give her a gift each year on her Gotcha Day.  This is a term often used within adoptive families to mark and celebrate the day that their child became theirs.  Some families choose the day the adoption was made legal in the foreign court, others choose the day when they took custody of their child, and still others celebrate Gotcha Day on the day they return to the states with their child.

Our Gotcha Day for Feven is April 7th, the day we took custody of her.  I guess you'll have to check back then to see what we got for her!  :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Beauty of Daycare

Blessed are those whose children go to daycare, for they shall have fewer messes to clean.

On the upside, Feven was not hurt by any shattered glass, and my stove, all the burners, and even underneath the stove top got a VERY thorough cleaning.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ethiopia 2 - God Trying to Get Through to Me

An excerpt from my journal:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Yesterday a lot was going on in my heart.  It's hard to have time to process on a deeper level because much of the day is spent on, "What time is it?  When did she eat last?  Where are we going?  Gosh, I need to tidy the room again.  I need to sterilize bottles..."

But the disparity between my life in the states and the lifestyle of the average Ethiopian is eating away at me.  A few experiences in the last 24 hours have made it stifling.

First, we went to a nice restaurant down the street.  Dishes were VERY affordable for us at this high-end place, with dishes being 65-85 birr each.  That's about $4-$5 USD.  The wait staff at this place brought out warm water in a kettle, soap, and a basin before and after the meal so we could wash our hands.  They also gave us heated damp towels to dry our hands.  The server presented food, check, pop or whatever very elegantly, gracefully, and with flare.  This meal would be priced as a nice dinner out for Ethiopians, but for us it was the price of fast food back home.

After supper we wanted to get fruit.  We walked by a woman begging on the street with her two children [which I shared about last week, so I will not include the details again in this post].

As if that experience wasn't enough to get my wheels turning and heart aching, a third experience happened as I was getting ready for bed.  Earlier, about 9pm, I saw the guards pulling a tarp or blanket or something out of the small guard building.  I didn't know what it was, but figured it had to do something with closing down our guest house for the night.  

I should mention that our guest house is VERY nice compared to other housing options, and also compared to the average home in Ethiopia.  Zac and I are staying in a suite which as a large living area with a king bed, couch, chair, coffee table, mini fridge, crib, desk, and desk chair.  We have a dressing room with a hutch, large closet, and mirror covering one wall.  We have a bathroom big enough for a dance party with sink, toilet, bathtub, shower, and shelving.  Did I mention the balcony?  It overlooks the small garden where large trees and flowers line the perimeter and a grassy area covers the center where umbrella tables and chairs sit.  We pay $85 a night for this.  And a wonderful breakfast each morning.

It was from this room that I surveyed the driveway tonight where, upon closer look, I saw that the guard was now sleeping on the ground.  What he'd pulled out from the guard building earlier was perhaps a mat or some blankets, and he made his bed by the gate to be alerted if there was an intruder.  (Side note - guards are extremely commonplace for homes and businesses.  We were not in danger because our guest house had a guard.  Don't worry, Mom.)
Now, my heart ached for 3 things.

First of all, it has rained everyday that we've been here.  And most of the time it was in the night.  Was he sleeping on a wet floor?  Was he going to get rained on? 

Secondly, the nights are very cool here.  Maybe the altitude contributes to this, I don't know.  But when I'm on the balcony before I go to bed, I want a sweater and even then I'm on the cold side.  How cold did it get at night? 

Lastly, here I stand in my mini-palace with my plush king bed while he - protecting us - sleeps on the ground.  Is his family missing him?  Does he get good rest at night?  I could hear the pieces of my heart falling to the ground and my voice silently screaming, "This is not fair!"

How can I live in such wealth and not realize it?  How can I live in such comfort and remain unaware?  How can I see glimpses of the disparity and still not have a fire lit under me to get up and DO something?

Now, disclaimer here: I recognize that I have assumptions going on left and right here.  Maybe the guard loves sleeping outside.  Maybe as he gazes at the stars he feels grateful each night that he has a job which allows him time outside.  Maybe the begging mother and children fare well.  Maybe in this rich neighborhood they are better off than their non-begging counterparts and bring what they've earned home each night.

I don't know all the details, but I know this hard and fast truth - I am rich.  I have excess.  It's time for me to share.

Here is a photo of the gate from the inside of the guest house.  On the right is the small guard building where the guard would sometimes sit when it rained.  He slept on this section of the driveway.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Sunday Without Fear

Who thought 10am church was a good idea?  That is right at my little darling's naptime.  I never minded before Feven was with us, but now that she is, it's difficult to get there and ensure that she won't have a meltdown.

She usually takes a nap about 9am, but today in order to be to church on time (which is a 20-minute drive), I had her take a nap at 8am.  I laid beside her and tried to help her sleep to no avail.  She wasn't having it.  Finally FINALLY I got her to fall asleep.  It was 9:08.  I needed to wake her up at 9:30 to leave for church.  Sigh.

Was it even worth it to go?

I mean, even if we did get there on time, she would talk and laugh and screech during the sermon and I would spend the majority of church pacing the hall anyway.  What was the point.

During her (short) nap, I spent some time reading the BBC World News.  I always enjoy hearing what's going on around the world.  I learned that today in Kenya, there were attacks on two churches.  Approximately 7 gunmen used grenades and gunfire to kill at least 7 and injure 40 worshippers.

Can you imagine?  Can you imagine what it's like to be peacefully worshipping God, and then suddenly the whole room turns into panic and those friends and family members of yours are in danger?

I am so saddend that this happened today, and I know it happens in other places too.  I am fortunate that I never fear this when I go to my church.

My biggest challenge in going to church is my daughter's naptime.  In light of what has happened in Kenya today, I think I can handle it.  I have no excuse not to go to church.  And I hope to go gladly in honor and remembrance of those brothers and sisters of mine in Kenya today who have witnessed tragedy.  My thoughts are with them this morning.