Monday, June 28, 2010

Can't wait

Can't wait to see these guys again in a few short days... especially if I can talk them into coming a day earlier.

We're also getting together with a few other adoptive families. I'm totally looking forward to seeing Michelle and Betula who I think I've blogged about (it's an amazing God story). I would love to show you this sweet girl but didn't ask her momma's permission first. I didn't ask Shonda and Travis either but they'll have to get over it :)

Thanks to my sweet hubby for organizing the get together. I wish more families from the midwest could make it. If you wanna stop in and learn about adoption, or visit with those who are experiencing it first hand, come on over!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Items we brought home from Ethiopia

A miniature coffee ceremony set (I’m sure that’s not the official name).
Coffee cups
Coffee pot
Lots of coffee to give away to friends as “thank you’s”
Traditional outfits for now and later
Bracelets to give the kiddos and their friends
Leather injera holder – cause I make so much injera ya know.
Several “Lion of Judah” items since it’s huge in Et and it’s our son’s name.
Ethiopian flag
Judah of course (I know, I know. He’s not an item, but I thought it was cute to say)
The clothes he was wearing on custody day – we traded for a pair of clothes.
Table top mesob
Traditional Ethiopian crosses
Mancala games
A few traditional toys

Friday, June 18, 2010


I'm slowly adding journal excerpts to my blog. I'm adding them the day they were written. When I have all the journals posted, I will link to them on the side for anyone who wants to read. For now, here's a few pictures from the Ethiopian country side.

[love the differences in soils here]

[steep crop fields]

[the most beautiful rainbow I've ever see]

More Questions

Since I recently posted on questions I’d ask the Holt nannies, it got me thinking about the questions we asked Judah’s birthmom. Having never been through an adoption before, I had no clue what questions to ask or what that might look like. In the months leading up to travel, I started a list of questions that I might ask his birthmom.

Maybe you’re just going through the process of adoption. Maybe you’re considering adoption or maybe you’re just curious what kind of questions get asked. For those who’ve been through the process, please comment with any additional questions I didn’t know/ask. I’ll share the questions I had written down to give you an idea of the questions we put together. If you’re adopting through Holt, they will also give you a list of potential questions to ask. Please know that we didn’t ask all the questions we had written down. In fact, I had to re-create my question list as we drove to Durame because my questions were part of the “packing list” that was left in the states.

Why did you name him Asfaw?
What would you like us to tell him about his brothers?
What would you like us to tell him about his father?
What would you like us to tell him about you?
What skills/special talents does your family have?
Can you tell me about his birth?
Who does he look like?
How did you decide to relinquish him?
Can you tell us about your village?
Can you tell us about his birthmarks/scars?
Write down some family names and history to talk to his mom about
Ask her how you can be praying for her.
Take photo album
Show her pics on the digital camera
What do you want me to tell Asfaw about why he was adopted?
What do you want Asfaw to know about you, his father, his brothers?

We also wanted to bring back something that Judah could see and touch that would relate to his birth mom. I traced her hand with the intent of writing her name or something meaningful inside of it for later on (ie her name or “love” in his original language). I also thought that I could use her traced-hand next to my traced hand with her hand having the wylotinga “love” in it and mine having it in English. As a side note, if you’re going to do this, I would suggest that you show her by example first so she’ll be more likely to hold still. The other thing we did was ask her to dictate a letter to Judah that he can be given later on. This got mixed up in translation a bit so we ended up with a dictated letter to us which is pretty special. She then followed it with a letter to Judah which we don’t have in our hand. It had not been translated and the nurse Tesfaw took it home to translate and bring back the next day. Well the next day his mom was sick and he took her to the hospital so he wasn’t there on our last day to give us the letter back. I do hope that he sends it to Holt in Oregon so they can forward it to us! The last thing we did was take pictures with Judah’s birthmom. Every family did this. After the pictures Ryan turned our camera around and began showing her pictures and video of Judah. Her entire deameanor changed and we asked a friend (thanks Jayme) to take pictures of Judah’s birthmom’s reaction to his pictures and video. Those pictures that Jayme took are pretty special!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Do it Again???

Last night we had company before Ryan was home from work. Since the dinner table is our normal place for conversation, Ryan shared about his day. He’d been on a call and someone (I apologize up front, I don’t remember all the details, just the important ones) asked him if he wanted to adopt a 2 year old. Ryan went on to share that this child is currently staying with an elderly grandparent because the mother apparently tried to sell her child for drug money. How heart wrenching.

Not exactly a topic I want to discuss over supper with Ryan’s folks and his friend. But since caring for children is a soft spot on my heart, I couldn’t let the conversation wait until our guests left.

I asked Ryan if he said yes. He looked at me with surprise and said “do you really want 3 two-year-olds?” Well that’s not ideal, I answered but I certainly don’t want the child being sold for drug money. He thought of our friends who are adopting – maybe they’d be interested in adopting this child. I thought of us, why couldn’t we love this child? Every child needs a loving family. God loved me and sacrificed and was willing to sacrifice for me.

A year ago, I don’t know that I would have entertained the idea of adopting a child in this situation, let alone adopting this child having just returned home from adopting in Ethiopia. Last fall that all changed. A local high school girl found out she was pregnant. Ryan and I discussed if we’d be willing to adopt this unborn child if she approached us about it. God really worked on my heart about how I’d answer that question. I came to believe that I would say yes but that I’d also love to take this young girl in and love on her and teach her to love on her child. How cool would that be? Since then the child has been born and I don’t know the situation but I’m sure the child is loved and care for.

I believe I wrestled with that whole issue, all while pursuing an international adoption, for a reason. Today I can’t stop thinking about what Ryan shared with me last night. Do I ask him to contact the grandparent? Do I wait and see if God is stirring in Ryan’s heart about the same thing? Do I wait and see if the question is posed again?

I’m curious to see what becomes of this ongoing issue about loving children who need loved…

negative thoughts on adoption - not serious

I didn’t know it was possible but I’m finding some negative reasons for adoption:
1. He’s not a baby so he doesn’t sleep/nap lots throughout the day.
2. I’m home on “maternity leave” so I’m eating for two. Problem is that Judah is not a baby and is not breastfeeding so I’m not burning extra calories. Do the math: Extra food + normal calorie burn = weight gain. Yikes. It doesn’t help that I have a back injury and can’t move and burn extra calories.

That’s it. Petty reasons that shouldn’t keep anyone from adopting.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Things I took on the Trip that I loved

  1. Wisp toothbrushes – one use brushes that have toothpaste on them already. They weren’t perfect but were better than nothing.

  2. Two converter adapters – Ryan could use one to hook his ipod up to the tv and I could use one to dry my hair or charge the computer battery

  3. Flashlight thingies since the power was out one night

  4. Crystal light single drink packs

  5. My nalgene water bottle – it never got confused with anyone’s water bottle from the hotel.

  6. Malaria meds cause we had lots of mosquitos in our first hotel room in Durame.

  7. A netbook for journaling, it’s way faster than writing, especially when you’re tired.

  8. My hubby of course!

  9. An extra lightweight blanket that was used for Judah.

  10. Curious George - I think a few of us adults played with him more than the kids :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Money in Ethiopia

Okay this subject is totally boring unless you’re planning a trip to Ethiopia. But for those who are planning a trip, this is super valuable information.

We took $2000 in US dollars. We changed over $200 USD at the Addis airport. The rest was changed over prior to shopping day. Since the hotel just keeps a running tab of food and drinks, there wasn’t a huge need for cash. We did use cash when we ate out and when we shopped at the grocery store. The day of money exchange, our travel group gathered together the money we wanted exchanged and Tesfaw (the driver hired by Holt) took all the money and had it exchanged. Our group had a little mishap when we realized that people were short ~$500 USD in birr. Since I had gathered the groups money, I was really nervous. Tesfaw took the envelopes with the wrong amounts back outside (we were eating lunch at the time) and got it straightened out. Besides that little mishap, it went great.

We exchanged more than enough money. My theory was to not have to exchange money again. With more than enough, we could pay our hotel bill in birr and if need be exchange money back to USD. We knew that we’d likely lose a little in the exchange rate but we thought it was worth it. Good theory, in theory. The problem that we ran into was the we didn’t have a receipt for the money exchange.

When we got through airport security, we were running short on time. Ryan had $500 USD worth of money to exchange back and headed off to do that. I went through the security to the gate and waited. As Ryan got to the exchange place, he quickly learned that without a receipt he could only exchange $150 USD worth of money on his passport. Being short on time and the fact that I was through the second security check and at the gate meant that we wouldn’t have time for me to go and exchange money with my passport. Tired, and ready to go home, Ryan did what he though best – he headed over to the duty free shop and purchased LOTS of Ethiopian stuff. It was wild. We are thankful for the Ethiopian stuff but would have preferred to exchange our money back.

So for those of you travelling. Take into consideration that you can only exchange $150 USD per passport. Maybe you can talk to Tesfaw (he’s a great guy) and tell him that you need a receipt or ask him about exchanging money a second time if need be. Doing so might remove some of the stress at the start of your trip back home.

Packing for the Trip Home

Two things made my packing for the trip home a good experience. The first was that I brought two full suitcases worth of donations thanks to a few friends. The second was that I made a special trip over to the Leper Hospital (it was a holiday on our shopping day) and bought lots of woven items. The donations meant I had lots of room to bring home Ethiopian things. (Side note: I also packed our suitcases light leaving the United States to allow for more weight coming home). The woven items, along with dirty clothes, were great to wrap and pack the more fragile items. What I wish I would have had more of: bubble wrap! With that said, we brought home lots of fragile items and nothing was broken. I had taken empty yogurt and coolwhip containers for Judah to play with and those assited in the packing on the way home too. The containers gave structure surrounding things. We had enough room that we probably could have packed a smaller suitcase in a bigger one and come home on less luggage.

In our carry-ons, I typically don’t worry about clothes coming home. I figure I’ll get home to a closet full of my less favorite clothes if my luggage gets lots. Well, this time I packed an extra set of clothes just in case. You never know when your child is going to pee through their clothes onto yours as you arrive at the airport (lesson learned last summer). Judah’s clothes were packed in a gallon Ziploc bag. Each bag consisted of a complete change of clothes and a diaper. We had several bags just in case. (A side note here is that we packed the other two kids who stayed in the states that way too. It made it super easy for getting them ready in the morning. They were given their Ziploc bag and knew was to put on in the morning.) Thankfully we didn’t have any explosive diaharrea leak onto clothing, urine that soaked through or puke. The change of clothes did come in handy as we were arriving back into the states. After travelling almost 48 hours, I opted to freshen up and put on a clean pair of clothes so I would at least smell a little better to those sitting next to me on the last flight or those hugging me at the airport.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What I wish I would Have Asked the Nannies/Staff

- Does he pee standing or sitting on the potty?
- How is he put to bed?
- What is he told for comfort?
- Does he speak mostly Amharic or wolytinga?
- Is he ever told “I love you”?
- What bath/body products are used on him?
- Ask about the schedule… some babies schedules said they get bottles 3 times a night and don’t. Some said they nap whenever tired and didn’t have a schedule for that.
- What do you do to make him laugh?
- What is his favorite thing to eat?

Having been home over a month now, I’m not sure how important each of these questions is. But some of the things might have made that first month easier. I would encourage those in the adoption process to start a list of questions you might ask. If you travel in a group, find out what the other parents are asking. If you think of questions throughout the week of travel, stop back by the care center and ask.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thoughts on birthparent meeting

The birthparent meeting, what an honor to experience! We drove to Durame and stopped to drop off our bags and grab a quick lunch before heading over to the Holt office. Holt Eugene staff informed us that we’d be sitting in the same room with birth parents while we waited our turn to “meet”. Fortunately that was not the case. We sat in a big room waiting for our turn. The birth parents were in another room or outside. Though Ethiopians will typically greet with a hug and kiss, in this instance this shouldn’t be expected. It’s a sad event and therefore not appropriate for the Ethiopians to show any sign joy. They are expected to be sad. Things might also get a little jumbled in translation. For us personally, info was double translated – from English to Amharic to Wylotinga. After our official meeting with a birth parent, we were able to share some photos and videos from our camera. Our birth parent expressed emotion during this time and it was precious! If you have the opportunity to print a recent picture of your child to give to a birth parent, it will be worth it. Take along your camera with pics and video to share with your parent – to show them how well their child is being cared for.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Random Thoughts about travel to Ethiopia and Lessons Learned

  1. No matter what flights and airlines you take, it’s a long trip. We stopped for two days in Amsterdam which made our adjustment to Ethiopia go much easier. The draw back was that it cost us more money and being a tourist in Amsterdam kind of took our focus off the task at hand – bringing Judah home.
  2. Four flights of stairs in high altitude is hard at first but gets easier throughout the week. We were super thankful for the hotel staffers that carried our heavy luggage up the stairs at midnight!
  3. I wouldn’t count on internet at the Union.
  4. If you get carsick, take Dramamine the night before and that morning… it helps.
  5. Hamburgers have a different texture and taste than what we’re used to and I didn’t like it at all.
  6. Settle on taxi fare before you drive!
  7. The fruit at the Hilton was awesome and so was the internet. Both were pricy.
  8. Be prepared to drink lots of strong cofee at the different places you go:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Trying to get back into the groove of posting blogs is an adjustment in itself. My goal is to post something each day for a week about our trip and/or adoption experience along with an update of how things are going. Here it goes:

I came up with 3 different documents before leaving: the Packing List (which was much more than that), Info for those caring for our children at home, and a letter for our children for each day we were gone.

Let’s just say that I had a lengthy 10-page list that helped keep me sane prior to the trip. It was a compilation of others’ packing lists and my own. It included items that needed to be packed: clothing, toiletries, clothes, electronics, miscellaneious, donations I was taking. The document also included info about flights, about the Union Hotel, places I wanted to shop, items to bring home, places to eat, info about Durame, etc.

This document was super helpful. I was able to check things off as I purchased or gathered them and then cross them off once they were in a suitcase. It also acted as an easy to access list of things I had on hand should someone else need them. Now that I’ve traveled, of course there are things I’d change on the list. The typical packing list was great before going. I had an individual list for each of us traveling. The flight info included flight numbers, airline phone numbers and contacts. This is helpful when/if you’re confirming your return ticket while in Ethiopia. The specifics about the Union Hotel were mostly comments I heard from others. They were helpful comments about the showers, the TV, laundry service, the so-called internet connection, etc. More helpful information that was great to know ahead of time but info I could recall out of my short term memory since I’d typed it out. The rest of the info about Addis was helpful considering tipping, shopping, drivers, etc.

The shopping topic was one of my favorites. Reading others’ blogs, I got ideas of some of the things I wanted to take home with me and where to get them. This was super helpful especially on the day that we hired Tsegaw to drive us.

I wish I’d had more information about the trip to Durame. I didn’t take the opportunity to walk around town at all while there. It was too bad that I spent most of the time waiting for my supper and not in the community at all. What I did find extremely helpful was the topic about the birth parent meeting. There doesn’t seem to be much about birth parent meetings on blogs and understandably so. I’ve learned a lot in the last month and hope to specifically post on this topic. One thing I did was write down a list of questions I had for our birth parent. I also wrote down things I wanted to happen during our meeting. More on that later. It was an emotional visit and I was glad to have some things written down to help facilitate my emotional mind.

Two other bits of helpful information on my list was a rough schedule so I wasn’t completely surprised by the schedule given to us by Holt. The other thing written down was the Ethiopian Holidays – we had 2 while there which affects business and you as a traveler.

The info for people caring for our kids had various info on it. Contact info for care providers and emergency contacts, insurance info, schedules, medical info, directions and more. It seemed helpful for everyone involved.

The third thing I had before I left was a letter for our kids for each day we were gone. With the help of a certain little cartoon monkey, we informed our kids what was going on each day and how they could pray for us. It was a fun way to get them involved even though they didn’t travel with us.

Of course these documents took time to create. But in the end I had my sanity and was happy… even if I forgot to take the list with me to Ethiopia. If anyone is looking for a list, child info our letter ideas, I’d be happy to share mine.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Judah is a doll though he’s not perfect. He’s learning quickly and we’re taking the bad with the good. Today he said “I love you” on the phone to my dad. I’m not sure how clear it came out but he said it. He did well playing at the table with a car tonight while we played two quick hands of Uno with our older two kiddos.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

new computer

I have a wonderful hubby who bought me a new laptop for our anniversary.  Thanks love.  Now you'd think I'd be able to get all caught up on blogging and such but that isn't the case.  I'm currently sitting at the motel parking lot using their wi-fi.  I had to come to town earlier for xrays on my lovely back issue.  Then over to the pharmacy to pick up my muscle relaxer which they wouldn't fill because the pharmacy in DesMoines said they gave me more than they really did.  Gotta love the locals, they called right to DM and had them fix it with insurance so I could get my sanity, I mean, muscle relaxer.  So as that's getting ready to kick in and do it's job (well, sorta kinda), I'm heading back home to rest while mom keeps the kiddos.  Thanks mom.


The New Busy think 9 to 5 is a cute idea. Combine multiple calendars with Hotmail. Get busy.