We witness a miracle each time a child enters a life
But those who must make their journey home across time and miles,
Growing in the hearts of those waiting to love them,
Are carried on the wings of destiny
And placed among us by God's own hands.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Smile That Ends My Day

Returning to work almost a month ago was definitely very hard to do.  Nathan and I had grown close and were used to our routine of having to be nowhere at no specific time (other than appointments of course).  I was anxious about thrusting him into a whole new routine and new environment---daycare.  I had so many questions spinning in my head.  Would it remind him of the orphanage and terrify him that I was "taking him back"?  Did he bond with me well enough to remember that I am his mother and not the women at daycare?  Would he quickly learn that I would come back for him each time and would he even care that I come back?

The first day of dropping him off at daycare was of course traumatic---for the both of us.  We had visited several times before the "big day" but that was different from me leaving him.  On that first day, and the next two weeks to follow, he cried and screamed when I left.  Thankfully this lessened each time after the first few days.  On the start of the third week he willingly left my arms and waved goodbye.  I was thrilled that he knew I would be back but also heartbroken that he could "do without me."  I think I cried leaving as much that day as the first!

The payback to all of this, however, is the greeting I get when I return at the end of the day.  Whether he is across the room or sitting at the table eating a snack, when he sees me he gets the most heartwarming, biggest smile on his face and barrels across the room into my arms.  Often times he is also giggling uncontrollably.  This makes even the worst of my days seem so insignificant.

I have often imagined what that little boy is thinking when he runs to me, smiling that beautiful smile.  This is a child who was abandoned and raised in an orphanage for the first fifteen months of his life.  He had no one person to call his own.  He had no one person to claim him as theirs.  Now he does.  I believe he sees me arrive and thinks "That is MY mommy and she is taking ME home---AGAIN!

"That is MY mommy and I am HER son!"

Leaving the orphanage in Ethiopia

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Looking Back . . . Looking Forward

With a new year upon us it makes me reflect on the previous year, as it does for so many.  I remember the start of 2011 was just the first sign that the coming year, mainly our adoption process, was going to be anything but smooth.  Our problems with paperwork began in January with the birth certificate issue and things just snowballed from there.  A seven week delay in January, a court failure in April, another seven week delay in the summer and a two and a half month delay at Embassy.  I feel like I could go on and on.  Looking back it seems like I spent most of the year in frustration, sadness, and anxiety.

Of course, this year begins much differently.  No longer am I ruled by heartbreak, longing, and anxiety.  My boy is home and with him he has brought happiness, love, and much laughter.  Most days I barely remember the torment of the previous year.  I guess time does heal most wounds. 

He is a gift from God and I truly believe he was picked by God to be a part of our family.  What else would explain his quick adjustment and perfect fit for our family.  I still look at him sometimes and can't believe he is actually here, yet in the same breath feel as though he was never NOT here.  And not only is he here, but he is here to stay!  We can now look forward to a lifetime of memories with this little boy we fought so hard for.  Memories that we as a family have already begun to gather and cherish.  Time flies so quickly and each day must not be taken for granted.  It seems so long ago that we sent in our application to start the adoption process.  Likewise, it will someday seem so long ago that our boy was little and joining our family forever.

Referral photo we received 11/4/10

First meeting in Ethiopia on 4/17/11

First moments at the guest house after leaving the orphanage on 10/9/11

At the airport---Finally home on 10/14/11

Nathan and his Forever Family

Happy 2012 Everyone and God Bless You and Yours!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

One Month and Then Some . . . Home

Nathan has been in our home for a little over a month now.  I can say there has been an adjustment for all involved.  He has been doing remarkably well.  In fact, his adjustment has been so good that I think it is a testament to the resiliency of these children.  Imagine for a minute being a child in an environment surrounded by the same people your whole life, no matter how short that life has been.  Following the same schedule day in and day out and eating the same food everyday.  Then one day you are suddenly whisked off to another environment with totally different people filled with things you have never seen before.  Your schedule is off by seven hours and the food is nothing like you were used to.  Everyone you now encounter speaks a language your little ears have only rarely heard before.  That scenario I believe, would throw anyone for a loop!  Our son, and many other children, have lived that scenario.  Considering this, he has done wonderfully!  He eats just about anything and only seems to have a dislike so far for cottage cheese and luncheon meat.  In just a month he has learned to nap at about 12:30pm and go "night-night" at about 8:30pm.  Most of the time he sleeps until 6:30 or 7:00am, although not uninterrupted.  He is now saying a handful of English words.  These words include:  ball, all done, hello, dog, daddy, Elmo (although it doesn't sound like Elmo he says the same word when he see's him), eye, and occasionally Jessica and Jenna.  He just seems to soak everything up like a sponge.

As far as adjusting to us, he knows who his mom and dad are.  He goes to Troy now almost as often as he does me although he still will get out of sorts if he see's me leave without him.  We are able to lay him down for a nap and at night and leave him while he is still awake without any fuss.  As Troy said; "I think he knows he is here for good."  He is a very loving little boy and now "gives kisses" when asked or when Daddy leaves for work or the girls leave for school.  The girls play with him constantly and he looks to them as a source of entertainment, tickles, and laughter.

Our adjustment has been a little more of an ordeal.  I mean, let's be honest, going from two totally independent children with the youngest being nine to a needy, clingy 16 month old is a bit of a shock to the system.  For me, the end of my freedom has been the hardest adjustment.  I once again have to time my outings around meals and naps and when I do go out I can only "stay so long."  My house is never clean as I now have a little tornado that follows me around undoing what I have just done.  It has most definitely been a change . . . but one that I would never trade for a million dollars.  I think back to those horrible months of crying, and stressing, and being heartbroken with the delays we faced and the uncertainty of whether he would ever come home.  The lingering pain from that ordeal makes all the changes seem like nothing.  I can definitely deal with a messy house and more "home" time if it means my son is finally here with us.  As they say, "it is always darkest before the dawn."  We went through a very dark time and now we have our little ray of sunshine to show for it. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Two Weeks Home

It has been two weeks home with our son and I can honestly say it is going much better than I expected.  He has definitely become one of the family and seems happy about it.  He is a very easy-going and laid back child who is always smiling.  He has a comedic side and he loves to make others smile and laugh.  He is also quite brilliant.  He mimics everything, is understanding commands, and has picked up several words; including ball, hot, dog, daddy, baby, and Jenna.  I continue to listen for mama but no such luck yet :(

He LOVES the girls and plays with them constantly.  He now enjoys books where in the beginning I don't even think he knew what one was.  He is great at batting the balloon back and forth and loves throwing balls.  He is now riding in the stroller and the carseat without complaint.  He has not found much he doesn't like by way of food with his favorites being bananas, oatmeal, and of course his bottle.  He actually does a little happy dance when he see's his bottle being made! 

He continues to be very attached to me but this is improving.  I can sneak out of the house and he does fine while I am gone.  He just can't see me leave.  I can now put him down for a nap or at night with his bottle and leave the room before he falls asleep.  This is very nice since I was staying in there with him before for up to an hour before he would fall asleep.  Not conducive to getting things done around the house!  I think he is beginning to realize I am not going anywhere.  He is still hesitant to let anyonce hold him other than myself, Troy, and the girls.  Our theory is that he thinks anyone else may take him back to Layla House.

The one thing I have learned over the last two weeks is one's capacity to love a child that is not biologically your own.  In a very short time, no less.  My love for this child is as great as my love for my girls.  I think Troy would agree.  Seeing him bond with this child brings tears to my eyes.  Even though our process was long, heartbreaking, and stressful, I would not discourage anyone from considering adoption.  This child has brought so much love with him and has made all the blood, sweat, and tears to get to him worth it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Home Sweet Home

As we settle in at home, I would be amiss if I did not post about our embassy trip.  I was planning on doing this while there but the internet was so unpredictable and spotty that it was nearly impossible to do so.  Instead, each night I wrote down in a notepad about our day and now I will share the highlights of our trip in my blog.

October 8, 2011:  This was the day we arrived in Addis.  A driver from the AAI met us at the airport and took us to the guest house.  Despite being exhausted, Kelly and I decided to call a recommended driver and go down to Churchill Street to shop as we were told we could not bring Nathan down there once he was in my possession.  I had wanted to get him some native goods for his upcoming birthdays.  We called a driver, Dawit, who would become a good friend and a reliable driver.  We used him to drive us everywhere on this trip.  After shopping we went to lunch at a restaurant close by Layla House (the care center where Nathan was) called Caribou.  Believe me, it was very difficult not to just run to the care center and snatch him away and I did feel gulity for not doing so, but I think I was somewhat nervous of his reaction to me and not in any hurry for a possible let down.

We walked to Layla from Caribou and when we got to his room there he sat---ON THE POTTY!  Not exactly how I wanted our first meeting in five months to be but he looked great and was full of smiles.  One of the nannies took him to the changing table and after changing him she stood him up and he reached his arms out for me, smiled, and wrapped his arms around my neck.  My heart melted!  This was however, the last time that day he acted this way toward me.  Yes he would play with me and sit near me, but he always ran back to one of the nannies for reassurance.  I even tried to take him outside but he screamed and struggled to return to the house.  I left there that day struggling with the fact that this child was very attached to the nannies and I would most likely have to drag him out of there the next day while he screamed and cried.  I cried that night at that thought and did not sleep a wink.

October 9, 2011:  This was the day I would be taking Nathan back to the guest house with me. We returned to Layla in the morning and before going to see Nathan I gave Kelly a tour of the compound.  When I did get to Nathan's room we played a little but once again he was a little stand-offish.  He acted as though he did not feel well with some chest congestion and ear pulling.  When it was time for the kids to eat lunch,  Kelly and I walked to Kaldi's Coffee and ate lunch.  We returned to Layla and found he was napping and the nannies were having a coffee ceremony.  They asked us to partake in the coffee and we did.  We had Dawit scheduled to pick us up at 2:00 as I did not want to walk back to the guest house carrying what I thought would be a screaming child.  Nathan woke up at about 1:50, almost as if he knew he would be going somewhere soon.  He again acted as if he did not feel well.  Kelly and one of the nannies began changing his clothes into an outfit I brought while I stood there and began crying.  I could not believe this was finally happening.  Another nanny gave him a bottle and I picked him up.  He seemed content as the nannies one by one kissed him goodbye and wished him luck.  I was crying as were several of the nannies, for we had been told many times that he was a favorite of theirs.  I walked out of the compound and never looked back.  Nathan never fussed or cried---it was quite a miracle.

When we returned to the Ritmo, he would not leave my arms or let me out of his sight.  In fact, at one point I attempted to leave him with Kelly while I used the restroom and the minute I left his line of sight he began crying and ran after me!  He had his first bath which he did not like very well as well as had his hair washed.  He cried at the latter.  He fell asleep quickly that night in a pack-n-play that was in our room.

October 10, 2011:  Nathan slept fairly well; about five hours then up and I gave him a bottle of water then he slept seven more hours.  He definitely was sick so I began him on the antibiotic the pediatrician gave me for the trip.  I figured it was better to treat a possible ear infection than have a horrible plane ride home.  I had to go back to Layla that day to talk to the director about a few things but was apprehensive as I was worried if he saw the nannies he would become upset and want to return to them.  As soon as we entered the compound we ran into one of his nannies.  When she tried to get him to go to her, remarkably he gripped tighter onto my arms and turned his head away from her.  I was shocked---and thrilled!  This boy knew he was with his mother and he was NOT going back!  For lunch that day we ate at an Italian restaurant called Arcobellano.  It was very good and that is where we began to see how smart this child was.

After lunch we walked to AHope---the orphanage where Nathan was at before being referred to AAI and then subsequently to us.  They had done so much work on his case that I wanted to go personally to thank those involved.  We met the administrator of AHope and he was happy to meet the little boy who "caused so much trouble."  He introduced us to many others involved in Nathan's case as well.  I asked him if it were possible to meet the woman who brought him to the orphanage, as she too did a lot to help his case and I wanted to thank her for essentially bringing our son to us.  He called her on her phone and just like that, scheduled a meeting with her the next day.  We would meet her at AHope at 11:00.  The administrator went on to tell me a little about Nathan's history and how he came to the orphanage; background on the woman I would meet the next day; and answered many of my questions.  It was the most information I had yet to receive on my son.

October 11, 2011:  This was THE day!  EMBASSY!!  THE END of this long and often times heartbreaking journey!  We would start the day off however, with meeting Tekuamwork---the woman who brought Nathan to the orphanage.  We met her at AHope and she was already there when we got there.  AHope's administrator translated for us.  To say it was an emotional meeting would be an understatement.  She told me of how she came to find Nathan and his mother and how she helped his mother.  She gave dates of his birth and baptism and how SHE named him.  She shared details with me and answered questions that I never thought I would ever have answered.  She was tearful during most of the meeting and kept touching Nathan, wanting to hold him but he would not go to her.  I tearfully told her that she did a wonderful thing and thanked her for bringing our son to us.  When we parted ways we hugged and she kissed Nathan with tears in her eyes.  Kelly videotaped the meeting so that if Nathan wants to see it someday it will be available to him.  I even got to see a picture of his mother and would later get one in the newspaper ad they ran looking for her.  This was unexpected but definitely a welcome bonus. 

Immediately after the meeting we were whisked away to the Embassy.  After standing in a line outside we were ushered throught security and taken to a large room with 15 windows reminiscent of a BMV.  They called people one by one up to the various windows and when it was our turn, Nathan and I went up with Gail and were asked several questions.  The woman behind the window looked through his file and said everything was there and we were approved for the visa.  That was it!  Very anticlimactic.  After we walked away and were heading out Gail proceeded to tell us the woman behind the window was the one responsible for holding us up for the two and a half months.  Good thing she told me after the fact because I might have said something not so nice to her otherwise :)

We went back to Layla so I could speak to the doctor about his health conditions, mainly his legs.  We ran into several of his nannies and they wanted to hold him.  This was again a test.  A test to me whether or not this child really liked me. He did the same thing he had done earlier.  HE DID NOT WANT TO GO BACK!  What a relief and reassurance to me.  It was the best feeling in the world!

Later that day we returned to Churchill Street with Nathan and picked up some last minute gifts and then ate at a restaurant called Metro Pizza.

October 12, 2011:  Since it took two days to process his visa we had to stay until the 13th.  This day we decided to go to Entoto Mountain.  We had worked out with Dawit the day earlier to drive us there and he picked us up promptly at 10:00.  It was a wonderful half day trip and Kelly was able to see more of Ethiopia than just the city.  We took a museum tour as well as saw some old palaces.  Before going back to the Ritmo we ate lunch at a wonderful place called Sishu.  I think we had the best burgers and fries we had ever had!  Nathan was as good as gold during the trip as well.

October 13, 2011:  We were leaving this evening and of course had some creative packing to do and some last minute shopping.  We had Dawit take us to a local grocery store where we bought Ethiopian coffee.  We ate lunch at Kaldi's coffee and bought more coffee there.  Our intention was to return to Layla House that afternoon to say our good-byes and get some final pictures.  This however, did not happen.  Gail stopped by the guest house with his visa (YEA!!) and luckily I found out we were to have gone to the Sheraton and checked in for our flight and bought Nathan's ticket.  I thought you could do it at the airport but Gail said no.  Crisis averted!  We called Dawit who thank God was available.  He picked us up and took us to the Sheraton where we were able to check in and buy Nathan's ticket---all about three hours before we were to be picked up for the airport!  Needless to say, when we got back to the Ritmo there was no time for anything other than zipping up the suitcases and walking out the door.

The plane ride home was LONG---17-1/2 hours long.  Nathan only slept about four hours total and I slept about ZERO!  He decided that was the day to have bowel issues and proceeded to have eight blowouts on the plane.  Believe me, no fun changing those in an airplane bathroom!  Despite the long journey, he did quite well.  It also helped that he was supposed to be a lap child but the airlines was able to seat us with an empty seat between Kelly and I.  That was a Godsend!  Kudos to Ethiopian Airlines!

Once off the plane, my sheer exhaustion kicked in.  We dragged our bags and our sorry selves through the airport.  I carried him (he was dead weight as he was sleeping), an eight pound backpack, and a camera bag from one end of the airport to the other; while Kelly pulled our luggage.  My back was absolutely killing me but I knew this was the END of a LONG journey---with my girls and husband waiting for us at the end.  When I saw my girls smiling and running toward us the flood gates opened and the tears came.  We were home.  HOME with our son!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Leaving On A Jet Plane

In no less than twelve hours I will be on a plane headed for Ethiopia.  We got our embassy appointment scheduled for October 11, 2011---Our "Gotcha Day."  This also happens to be my oldest daughters thirteenth birthday.  I'm sad I can't be there to give my new teenager a kiss on her special day but she will be in my thoughts and we will celebrate when I get back.

My nervousness is starting to appear as tomorrow approaches.  Not only am I not fond of flying but sitting on a plane for thirteen hours there and seventeen and a half hours on the way back does not thrill me.  Not to mention the "adventure" the trip home will be with a fifteen month old.  I also worry if this child of mine will even "like" me.  When we were there for court he seemed very fond of me by the second day; but it is now five months later and he is a different child.  I so hope he takes to me again.

I will try to post on this blog daily while we are there as long as the internet is working.  That is always an iffy thing in a third world country.  Please pray for safe travels and that all goes well with Nathan.  We will see you all when we return.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Day Has Come!

Two words:  "WE CLEARED!"  We finally got the news this morning at about 9:30 am that the embassy is finally satisfied and we can go get our son.  FINALLY!  I found out while at work and therefore kept my emotions in check other than for a few happy tears.  It is just so hard to believe that this is over---OVER!  No more worrying and asking myself ;  "Will this really happen?", "Did we just waste two years of our life?", and "Why us?"  Our boy is coming home!

We have already requested our interview date choices but won't hear anything until tomorrow.  I am hoping to fly our either Wednesday or Friday of this week.  Yes, I said THIS WEEK!  I have to keep saying it to myself to make myself believe it . . .