Made it!

This post may end up being random and incoherent because I’ve not had any real sleep to speak of in the last 24 hours and I don’t think I can do paragraphs.

Ethiopian Airlines direct flight was awesome. Awesome for us but not for the airline that it was only about 1/2 full. Plane was new and comfortable, the entertainment selection abundant and the seat belt sign only came on once in 12 hours. My kind of flight.

Landed just at sunrise…the first time we’ve ever landed or taken off in daylight. Ethiopia is a beautiful place.

Our friend and driver Melke picked us at the airport and delivered us to our hotel. We decided to stay at the Sheraton this time. We had hotel points and decided that all the green space and the playground and all the other amenities might just make the transition mor comfortable for all 3 of us. Ahhhhh we’re so glad we decided to stay here. It is amazing. Like not just a great hotel by Ethiopian standards but great for anywhere in the world.

Decided to take a short nap before heading out. Waking up was rough but we needed the rest. At Melke’s suggestion we had lunch at Island Breeze (great pizza) and then went to see Biruk. This boy…he is just an absolute delight. He is funny and sweet and silly and outgoing and has the sweetest smile. And he was even cuddly. We picked up right where we left off with him emptying my purse and confiscating my phone. He was absolutely fascinated with the pictures of himself on my phone. I’m not sure if he recognized us or if his nannies had prepped him but he was immediately calling Matt Ababa (daddy) and me some version of Mama. He totally melted our hearts. When we left he stood at the window and said Ciao (goodbye) and waved and blew kisses back to us and then kept trying to leave with us. So thankful that tomorrow he will!

So now it’s about 5 pm in Addis and we’re trying to keep ourselves awake for another 4 hours or so. Right now were sitting at the pool having macchiatos and French fries. The weather is absolutely perfect right now…70 degrees with a light breeze.

Tomorrow at 3:00 our time (6:00 am at home) we will go back to the care center to take custody of him forever. Can’t wait!


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This is it!

We are once again (finally) en route to Ethiopia. This time our son will be coming home with us. It’s been a long almost 4 months since our last trip. The last few weeks have been particularly tiresome. For the last month or so our case has been under review by the US embassy in Ethiopia. They are the arm of the US government charged with making sure that everything checks out, all the necessary paperwork and steps have been completed and ultimately issuing a visa for Eli to enter the US. At this stage of the process the embassy communicates directly with the adoptive parents about any corrections that are needed to documents, any additional information they are requesting and all the other milestones along the way. And that communication is via emails that come in the middle of the night, because the workday in Ethiopia is exactly the 8-9 hours that I would usually be asleep. For the last few weeks every buzz or ding or ding of an electronic device has me up and checking my email. So I’m a bit physically tired.

I think it’s safe to say we’re also both a bit emotionally weary. It’s been 11 months since we were matched with our son. Most every step of the process has taken longer than expected. I’ve been telling people that one of the hardest things about the process is that you never know how close you are to the end for sure. You only know once you’re there. There is really no clear path or schedule to the finish line and so many things can come up along the way to derail or delay you. We didn’t expect to be given the all clear earlier is week. We thought there was still one final hurdle that would take at least another week to jump. We were thrilled and shocked when we got the email that we were clear (at 4:30am-Matt was far less interested in discussing travel arrangements at that time than I was). And then we were frantic!

So here we sit tonight in our hotel in Washington, boarding our flight to Ethiopia in the morning. We arrive in Ethiopia Monday morning, take custody of Eli on Tuesday and head home Thursday afternoon. Friday afternoon Zoe will finally meet her baby brother.

We are so thankful that our family will finally be together. We are so thankful that God is entrusting us with this sweet boy and allowing us to be part of his story. And we are so thankful for our family and friends and the support and encouragement you have been and will continue to be to us in this journey.

There’s still a lot of praying left to do, however. The waiting was hard, but the really hard work starts in just a couple days. This little boy will leave everything that is familiar to him and everyone he knows. It will no doubt be a confusing and traumatic experience for him. And while we know it is ultimately for his good, he may not understand that at first. We pray that we will be able to comfort him and begin the attachment process quickly. We pray that we will all stay healthy throughout the trip so that we can focus on getting to know each other. We also pray that he will be comfortable on the flight home and that he will sleep….a lot.


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Day 3

It’s more than a little bit crazy that day 3 (Saturday) is also our last day in Ethiopia.  This is a whirlwind trip across the world.  To Africa and back in 6 days is probably not advisable. We would have loved to have longer in country, but with the short notice we had to get here (4 days) and the other things going on in life, it just wasn’t in the cards this time.

One of the other families here for court has been gracious enough to allow us to tag along with them today.  They had already arranged for Tsegaw, our driver from our first trip to Ethiopia and all-around great guy, to drive them on Saturday.  Due to a bit of a mix-up with the driver we had planned to use, we found ourselves stranded at the guest house.  Thankfully, they came to our rescue.

First thing this morning, we headed back to Sele Enat, the care center where Biruk is.  We had some donations for their clinic to deliver and also wanted to see Biruk one last time.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever experienced something that was both so heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time as what happened when he saw us today.  It was our third visit with him.  He saw me walking in from across the courtyard and when he did, he got a huge smile on his face, toddled over to me and immediately held his arms up for me to pick him up.  I’m so glad that he recognized us and was happy to see us.  But having held him and loved on him in person makes it all that much harder to have to love him from the other side of the world. And even though where he is right now, it’s a decent place for what it is (an orphanage), he’s now our son. And the thought of our son spending his days and nights there and not with us…well, I can’t think about it for too long.

After our time at the care center, we had a pretty full day of shopping.  Our first stop was Salem’s.  This place has beautiful woven pieces, baskets, jewelry and other art.  Next stop was Makush, which is an art gallery and Italian restaurant.  On our first trip we visited Makush, but I passed on actually purchasing any art which I have regretted for the last 4.5 years.  Not this time.  We also had lunch at Makush and the food was very good. Final stop was the Sole Rebels shop in Adam’s Pavilion.  I absolutely love brands that are stylish and also help to develop fair trade opportunities in places in this world where such opportunities are limited.  Sole Rebels is that kind of a brand. I highly recommend a visit to all of these shops when you’re in Addis.

Our expectations for this trip were very, very low.  Given the short time we had in country, the brutal travel schedule, the fact that we were told we would be the only family in Ethiopia for court with our agency, and the emotional nature of meeting our son and leaving him I think we had both categorized this trip as “something to be endured”.  Thankfully, however, our expectations for this trip have been exceeded by miles.  Even though we haven’t been here long, we have managed to pack a lot into our 3 days.  And we’re not here alone, there are two other families here for court with us and also some families here that have just taken custody of their children and been approved by the US embassy to head home.  Both families in our court group had less than 24 hours notice to be on a plane to Ethiopia, which makes the 4 days we had to prepare seem almost excessive.  This trip hasn’t been something that we have suffered through, it has been one full of pleasant surprises and new friends and great experiences in our children’s country of birth.

Just last week the sermon at church and our small group discussion focused on how to live without worry.  But as we prepared to leave, my anxiety kicked into high gear.  The list of things I found to worry about was just embarassingly long – some at least moderately rational concerns (I have an almost phobic fear of others puking in my presence and about half the people I know that go to Ethiopia get some sort of stomach or intestinal issue.  Rational, right?) and others that in hindsight were completely insane (those, I’ll keep to myself).  I would be lying if I said I was worry-free this week. And since Matt lived this week with me and knows the truth, there would be no getting away with such a lie. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t even close. I did however, have lots of opportunities to engage in the spiritual practice of turning my worries into prayers. I also had a lots of opportunities to practice Candy Crush, which was my go-to distraction in particularly insane traffic jams (something I worried about – I hate crowds almost as much as I hate puke and you haven’t experienced a crowd until you’ve experienced a traffic jam in Addis right now). 

As I reflect on the last few days I am humbled and grateful.  God’s mercies were new not just every morning, but every single minute.  In the midst of my unfaithfulness God once again proved faithful.  In the midst of my worry God made his presence known to me.  Not only were we protected from all the things I worried about, we were blessed with an experience that far surpassed what we imagined it could have been. Thank you again for the love and prayers you’ve offered us on this journey!

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Day 1&2

Yesterday (Thursday) was a big day! We were finally able to meet our son, Biruk (we believe we will call him Eli and keep Biruk as his middle name). Today (Friday) was also a big day, an Ethiopian judge declared the adoption “final”. It’s not really final yet. The US government still has to do their part and we still have months of waiting to do (likely 2-3) but this is a huge step in the right direction. We are so anxious to be with him permanently as a family of 4.

We met Biruk yesterday. He is sweet, cute and unbelievably chubby. Take a look at the chubby little foot below! We brought some toys to play with and he took them from me one by one and gave them all away to his friends. He spent the rest of the time we were there going through my purse, chewing on a package of Kleenex and playing with my phone. He seems to be quite an outgoing and social little boy. Today we were able to have a short visit. He let me snuggle him some and let Matt cradle him and feed him a bottle – both good signs! He spent a lot of time with the phone again, pretending to answer it and taking pictures. It was not easy to leave him today. I pray we’ll be together as a family of 4 very soon.

Today we went to court house first thing. We entered a room with about 10 other adoptive families and waited on the judge, she entered the courtroom and then began calling families. She asked a series of questions – have you learned about Ethiopia, are you preparing yourself for the challenges of adoption, are your other children excited about the adoption, do you regularly meet with families that also have children from Ethiopia, etc.. We answered all her questions and then she said all the paperwork is here and the adoption is final.

We’ve spent much of the last two days riding around Addis in a van. The other two families here for court have children at different care centers so there has been a lot of drive time between care centers. So much has changed in just the four years since we were last here. There is so much construction – a new modern building going up everywhere you look. And they’ve started construction on the new light rail system which has made traffic an absolute nightmare. Nightmare traffic in Addis is very different from what you might think of in the US where you might sit on the freeway a while or have to wait through a stoplight three times. It looks like absolute chaos, although I’m quite sure there is a code that drivers abide by because you never see accidents. At one point we were being tailgated by a bulldozer whose claw was hanging over our van.

Early, early Sunday morning we head back home. We’re going to try to squeeze in a little more shopping and sightseeing tomorrow before we do. Thanks for your continued prayers!


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Made it!

We arrived in Addis Ababa about 1:30 this morning and then spent another hour and a half getting through the airport. Thankfully our driver was right there waiting for us and our guest house is not far from the airport. We finally got to sleep about 3:30 Ethiopia time. Then we woke at 7 to the sun blaring through our window. I swear the sun is brighter here than anywhere else I’ve been. We are severely sleep deprived but not really feeling it yet. The excitement of being back in Addis and meeting little man today are overpowering the fatigue for the time being.

So far we love our guesthouse. It’s in a quiet residential neighborhood (at least for Addis) and is very comfortable. And the food is great too – French toast and fried potatoes for breakfast this morning. There are several other families with our agency here also, which is definitely nice. Not quite like the travel groups of the old days, but it’s nice to see familiar faces of people I’ve met through Facebook here in person. Right now we’re enjoying some sun on our balcony watching daily Ethiopian life in our neighborhood.

Our flights were all comfortable and smooth. Qatar Airways is a good new option for getting here. We were lucky to get the bulkhead exit row on our flight from Chicago to Doha, which is pretty awesome when the flight is 12 hours. The food was good, the entertainment selection large, and the cabin crew awesome. The Doha airport is also very nice and the layover was not too long. The final flight from Doha to Addis was only 3 hours or so, but it felt way longer. We met lots of nice people along the way, fellow Americans coming to Ethiopia for different reasons and Ethiopians living abroad coming home to visit family. We are so thankful for all your prayers as we made the trip.

It’s so good to be back here. This place is just such an important part of our family. We’re still waiting to hear when we will head out to spend some time with little man, but it should be soon. We would appreciate your continued prayers for health and safety!



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Let’s get this show on the road

Zoe informed me on the way to the airport that I say this all the time. I wasn’t aware, but it is exactly how I’m feeling right now. We’re all checked in at the airport ready to go. Chicgo-Doha, Qatar-Addis Ababa!! We’ll arrive in Ethiopia in about 28 hours.



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Ethiopia Bound

zoe biruk      This little girl…she’s in love with a little boy that she’s never met.  When we first told Zoe that she was going to be a big sister, she was just a baby herself.  She was only two.  Now she’s almost five(??!!). In those days, she refused to talk about having a little brother.  She was only interested in a little sister.  But since that day seven months ago when we showed her this picture for the first time, we haven’t heard one word about a little sister.  She’s only interested in this little guy.

In some ways, I wish we hadn’t told her so early.  We never expected it to take two years for us to see his face.  And we never expected it to be seven months from the time we showed Zoe that picture until we would actually meet him.  But hearing this little girl pray for her baby brother every day is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever wtinessed.  If we forget to pray for him at dinner or bedtime she is sure to remind us.  She often feels the need to break into spontaneous prayer that he is safe, warm, healthy and that his nannies love him.    And most importantly that we will be a family very soon.

Just the other day Zoe looked at me and told me that she didn’t think she should call him her baby brother any more because he’s not a baby.  And she’s right.  He’s almost two.  He may be two by the time he joins our family, and that is definitely not a baby.

Funny how different things are the second time around. The first time, we told everyone we knew as soon as we decided we were going to start the process.  This time, we haven’t talked about it much because I wasn’t sure that it would ever actually happen and I knew if it did it would be a long and uncertain road.  The first time, we were a family just four months after we saw Zoe’s face for the first time.  This time, it will likely be close to a year before we are all at home together.  The first time, I had Zoe’s nursery ready 6 months before she was home with us.  This time, the nursery is still full of stuff that I don’t have anywhere else to put and still has the leftovers of Zoe’s room on the walls and in the closet.

We leave for Ethiopia on Tuesday (this was news we received on Thursday – needless to say things are a bit hectic).  We will meet our son next Thursday and we hope that an Ethiopian judge will declare us his and him ours on Friday.  We will leave him behind in Ethiopia on Saturday.  We will come home and try to return to our normal lives while our son remains in Ethiopia.  And we pray that in a very short number of weeks we will be given permission to go back to Ethiopia and bring him home to meet his big sister.

We’d love for you to follow along.  We’ll be updating here, at least until we’re all home together.  And then you can expect an update once every three years or so.

We would also love your prayers.  For safe travels, for health, for Zoe and our parents as they stay behind with her.  And for our little boy, that he will be with us soon.

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Well, well, well

It’s been a while.  Once you get out of the habit of blogging, it’s awfully hard to get back into it.  I can’t count the times I’ve formulated a post in my head and just never made the time to sit down and type it out.  I’m hoping to get back into more of a normal blogging routine, but only time will tell.

As you can see, little miss is getting to be awfully grown up.  I think the last time I posted she wasn’t walking or talking.  And now she is doing both…a lot.  Zoe is now almost 21 months old and is just so much fun.  She is spunky and funny and sweet and affectionate and a little bit shy (but a huge ham once she gets comfortable with you).  She loves her friends (especially Ari – or Agen as she calls him) and loves to dance, tickle and be tickled, play peekabo, play in the water, do mommy’s hair, love on her babies, color and read.  I absolutely love seeing her learn to say new things and explore her world and figure out how things work.  Babies are cute and cuddly and all, and I’m sure someday I’ll long for those itty bitty days, but right now we’re having a blast with our little toddler.

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How I found the two of them getting ready for church on Sunday morning.  Daddy’s interpretation of baby-wearing?

Little Miss is certainly developing quite the personality.  Keep in mind that this is the baby that one of the nannies in the care center told us was a “silent baby”.  I’m amazed at how much language (verbal or non-verbal) she can comprehend and respond to these days.  A few funny things:

  • When she’s riding on Matt’s shoulders she puts her hands on his cheeks, peaks around to see his face, and whispers “hi” in his ear.
  • Yesterday we were reading “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” and when we got to the “no more monkeys…” part she started wagging her finger.  I thought maybe I was just imagining it and had no idea where she would have picked this up but it turns out her babysitter does this when she reads this book to her.  Unfortunately she has now begun to use the finger wagging every time she hears the word no, which makes it very difficult to tell her no and keep a straight face.
  • There’s been a lot of nose-blowing on my part around here lately given that I am on day 17 of a sinus infection and Z started imitating me on about day 12.  When she sees me blow my nose (or just wants to make me laugh) she picks up a towel/blanket/burp cloth/whatever she can find, scrunches up her nose and blows into it.
  • She’s started using a fake laugh to try to make us laugh or when she sees us laughing.  It’s about three parts adorable and one part totally mischievous.
  • She’s trying so hard to make friends with Dolly.  Occasionally Dolly will humor her for a few minutes and Zoe gets so so excited she flaps her arms and dances around.  She’s also realized that Dolly wants her food so as she’s eating in her high chair she’ll drop a bite on the floor every other bite or so and call Dolly to come get it.  Unfortunately Dolly tends to stay clear of the high chair because she’s terrified (with good reason) of being hit on the head by a flying sippy cup.
  • She’s started “singing”.  She’s either trying to sing the Elmo’s World song (which I taught her) or Getting Jiggy With It (which daddy taught her).  Either way, when you ask her to sing she uses the sweetest little voice and sings “na na na na”.  So, so sweet.
  • Her daddy taught her how to do the Beyonce single ladies dance (just the “put a ring on it” part – not the booty shaking) and she now does it any time she hears the song.  Ridiculous, I know.
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Happy Birthday Baby Z, Welcome Home Ari and Other Miscellanous Things

As you may have noticed, I took a rather forced but much needed break from blogging for the last couple months.   No, I’m not giving up blogging.  It’s just that I’ve had the somewhat perfect storm at work that found me at the office more than I really like to admit or care to repeat.  And when you’re a working mom, that means that you squeeze quality time with the little one (and the sweet, patient, understanding, long-suffering husband) out of every spare minute that you have.  Thankfully the “storm” seems to be over and life is returning to normal (if by normal you mean gutting and remodeling a house that we just bought and getting ready to pack, move and sell our current home).  Unfortunately my first few days of normal are accompanied by a nasty cold courtesy of the beating my immune system took over the last couple weeks.  I can just hear my mom’s voice telling me that I must take better care of myself.  I totally agree.

So, what have we been up to?  Everybody asks me if Zoe enjoyed her first Christmas but really she was pretty indifferent to it all.  She was showered with gifts from her loving grandparents and aunts and uncles and quite enjoyed playing with all the tissue paper and her cousin Carter and visiting my family.

Shortly after Christmas (the 29th) we celebrated her first birthday.  It sounds so cliche but I just can’t believe how fast she is growing up.  She was such a baby baby – about like a 3-4 month old at 6 months when we brought her home and all the sudden she’s practically a toddler.  Her birthday was definitely a time to celebrate, but it was also a pretty difficult and emotional time for me.  My heart hurts every time I think of her birth family in Ethiopia (and I think of them pretty much every day) but in the days and weeks leading up to her birthday I just felt such an intense grief  for the woman that gave birth to this precious tiny baby girl and then made the most difficult decision imaginable. We celebrated the incredible joy that this little girl has brought to our lives and how blessed we feel to be her parents but there were more than a few tears shed as I reflected on all these things.

And then, the long-awaited Ari made his appearance here in the U.S. accompanied by his new parents, our dear friends Roger and Abby.  We got to greet them at the airport and Matt took some photos of their first moments at the airport.  Zoe and Ari have already had a few play dates and she is quite fond of him.  How could she not be?!  Just look at how beautiful he is!

These days, Zoe is changing every single day.  I’ll warn you in advance that I’m probably going to blabber on and on about all of the cute and exciting things she’s doing – most of which practically every child on the planet does – but I just can’t help myself.  So…here’s a bit of what she’s been up to.

  • She’s not quite walking yet but is getting very close.  She’s all over the place and can stand on her own for quite a long time.  Yesterday I saw her stand up from a sitting position without holding on to anything.

  • She has four teeth now.  Her top two starting coming in a couple weeks ago and are about half way in.  She’s got this really cute gap between them.Can’t wait to see what that smile looks like once they’re all the way in.
  • In the past couple months we have been through a pretty shy phase where she didn’t want anything to do with almost anybody but Matt & I.  In the last couple of weeks though we have entered a rather outgoing, charming, ham-it-up phase.  Last week we were eating at a restaurant and she was waving and saying “hi” and blowing kisses to everyone that walked in the door. 
  • She makes the most expressive faces – she does a lot of semi-winking, raising her eyebrows, puckering her lips and scrunching up her nose.  And if you laugh at her, well, she’ll do it another 25 times.  She imitates almost anything that we do (scary, I know).
  • She gives very sweet but super slobbery kisses.  She knows how to pucker and does it all the time to make us laugh but for some reason when she actually goes in for a kiss she opens her mouth really wide, sticks out her tongue and licks your face.  Gross, but cute.
  • She plays with purpose now.  I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but for the first time it’s like she’s actually thinking about what she’s doing.  She stacks things, she sorts things into different piles, she chooses specific toys for specific reasons (like because she wants to dance to the music that it makes), and she turns her stacking toy upside down to get everything off and then puts them all back on.  It’s so exciting to see that little brain work.
  • Her favorite activity right now is to sit down with her basket of books.  She will pull them out one by one, flip through the pages and then toss them aside.  I think she could entertain herself with this for an hour.  Hopefully this means she’s going to be really smart. :)  She doesn’t have as much patience for being read to right now.  She wants to flip the pages herself too fast to allow for reading all the words on the page.
  • She has the funniest dance moves.  Words don’t do it justice.  We’ll just have to get some video some time soon.
  • She will eat absolutely anything.  Brussell sprouts, lima beans – it doesn’t matter.  Sometimes we wonder if she actually has working taste buds because she is the most indiscriminate eater I’ve ever met.  (We know she does because there are certain things she likes more than others – like green peas, for example.)
  • She’s really picked up the sign language.  She watches her sign language DVD every day and knows almost every word on it.  It’s so cool to be able to communicate with her like this.  She can tell us when she wants to eat, when she wants milk, and when she wants more.  She also knows how to sign car, fish (complete with the most adorable fish face you’ve ever seen) dog, cat, sleep, flower, baby, airplane and shoes but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of practical application for most of those words yet.  For some reason she refuses to sign mommy and daddy.
  • Her relationship with Dolly seems to be improving.  We’re pretty sure that Dolly was actually her first word.  Zoe absolutely loves the dog and spends much of her time pointing at her, saying her name, and doing the sign for dog.  Occasionally Dolly will sit and let her pet her and it absolutely thrills Zoe.  Most of the time though, Zoe talks to and waves at Dolly through the back door.  It’s her favorite spot in our house.

  • She is still jabbering on and on all the time, but only has a few words that we can actually understand.  Dog, hi, and daddy are about it.  Occasionally she’ll utter something that sounds like mama.
  • At her one-year doctor appointment she was in the 90th percentile for weight and 75th percentile for height.  Hard to believe she was barely on the charts just 7 months ago.  We have heard that the people from the Kembata region of Ethiopia (where Z is from) tend to be bigger so I’m thinking it’s just in her genes.  She was so chubby (in the cutest way) right before she really started crawling but now that she’s on the move I can tell she’s already starting to thin out a bit.

Sorry for the length of this.  A lot of milestones to cover. :)

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