Thursday, December 15, 2011

Officially a family of four!!!

Ethiopia day 4 ~

Today was the big day. The day we have been waiting for and the main reason for this first trip to Ethiopia! Today was our court appointment to make the boys legally ours. The Ethiopian court system is very random and does not make full sense even to the Ethiopian staff at HH. We were picked up by one of the HH drivers at 8:30am and drove about an hour to the court house. It was a small room located in a pretty big building. We waited in silence for about 2 ½ hours for our agencies name to be called. We then went into another room along with a staff member from HH and the other adoptive family that has been here with us at the same time. It seemed like such a simple process once we were before the judge. She simply asked yes or no questions such as “have you met your children?” and “have you learned about the Ethiopian culture?” among others. She told us that once we passed court today that there was no undoing this adoption. The other family was told that they passed right there in the courtroom but for us and our boys she said that there was a typo in the spelling of our last name and she could not pass us at that time. My heart was racing. “What does this mean” I thought. I asked “H” (the HH staff member who was with us) what this meant and if it would delay any paperwork being submitted to the embassy. He told us that he had gone to MOWA (Ministry of Women Affairs) earlier this morning and submitted the correction. It would then be submitted to the judge by the end of the day for her approval. We were so happy and felt do very relieved as “H” assured us that everything was fine. Later that afternoon when we went back to HH to be with the kids we were met by “A” who told us that we passed court this afternoon! “so the boys are ours now?” we asked. “Yes” she said, “the boys are yours” Those were the words we have been waiting to hear and it was so great to hear them. Our boys are now OURS!

Today was a long day. In between the courthouse and going back to HH. “D” took us to a market where we were able to get some Ethiopian paraphernalia. We wanted to get some things for the boys to help them remember their Ethiopian culture. We found some really cute traditional Ethiopian outfits for them as well as some animal pictures made from banana leaves to hang in their room at home.

Another huge highlight of our day was being able to go through the boy’s photo albums with them. This was such a milestone especially for Noah. We put together an album for each of our sons so that they can look at it often and remember us when we are away from them. It has mostly pictures of Andrew and I with captions that say “Daddy” and “Mama” in both English and Amharic (Thanks to one of the special fathers). It also has pictures of our house, the boy’s new room and even our dog “Kimber”. Noah’s face lit up as soon as he saw his photo book. He studied every photo for a long time and pointed to Andrew and I and then back at the photo of us. It was so great to watch him identify us as daddy and mama. It was so precious to see how proud Noah was of his book. He wanted all his little friends to see it and he wanted to sit on our laps and flip through the pages over and over again. The whole scene just totally melted my heart! Colton really is too young to know what a photo book is but he sure did like to chew on the pages with his 4 small teeth that are starting to erupt. We bought him a baby photo book that is made of fabric and has lots of fun colors and things to touch.

Thank you for all your prayers everyone! We are amazed by the power of prayer and have felt so supported through our journey to our boys!

These are pictures of us showing Noah and Colton their photo albums for the first time.

~ Getting to know our boy’s schedules

Ethiopia Day 3

Well, today we got to spend most of our day with the boys at HH. Andrew and I both spend time getting to know our boy’s personalities and routines. HH does a great job keeping all the kids on a schedule that works for everyone. Colton (“U”) falls asleep everyday at about 10:30am no matter what is going on around him whether we are in a meeting with the boys and the HH director or playing outside, he falls asleep in our arms like clockwork. Noah (“B”) is getting use to his schedule too with lunch at 11:30am and then a nap for 2-3 hrs. Every day we have (unwillingly) been escorted back to the hotel during the early afternoon for our lunch and a rest. Although we have wanted to just stay at HH and be with the kids it has actually been good, especially for Noah to be able to re-charge before we go back in the later afternoon.

Noah is a really good eater and often times asks for 2nd and 3rd helpings. Today Andrew fed him with the fork which turned out to be a great bonding experience for them. Most of the days they eat injera with some chopped meat, potatoes and of course SPICES! We asked the staff if the meals are prepared with bland spices but they actually use spicy spices just like what the adults eat. We are so glad that we have practiced making Doro Wat and other Ethiopian dishes so Noah will have some familiar foods to eat when he comes home.

Colton is 7 months now and we plan to keep him on the bottle until he is 2 years old and start introducing baby food and rice cereal sometime after his first birthday. We learned that all the babies in Ethiopia are breastfed exclusively until they are 2 years old. We know that at least one bottle in the evening up until he is two will really help with bonding so that is our plan (we have done quite a lot of research on bonding and attachment of the adopted child ).

Tomorrow is are court appointment so Andrew and I would so appreciate prayers for that!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ethiopia Day 2~ Where are my white people?

Ethiopia Day 2

This will be a short post tonight because we are pretty exhausted from our full day! The highlight of course was being able to spend more time with our boys at Hannah’s Hope. Noah (“B”) was very excited to see us again today which was nice to see because we had to leave him crying in one of the special mother’s arms yesterday. Noah again wanted to play with stickers with Andrew again. We also brought some bubbles today and he was so cute as he tried to blow into the bubble wand. Most of the time his blow was so strong that no bubbles would form but is when he did manage to create a bubble he would make sure that we both saw it. He is a very smart toddler and has been picking up English words even just since we have been there. He does not speak Amharic like the special mothers do because he came from a region that speaks a different language.

Noah wanted to do everything just like daddy (Andrew) and if Andrew would sit a certain way in the courtyard, Noah would be right there sitting in the same position. It just melted my heart to see that. Towards the end of the day our driver and special father at Hannah’s Hope “W” came to see if we were ready to go back to the hotel (we never are). He told us that everyday Noah would ask the staff at Hannah’s Hope “when do my ferenghi(white people) come?” It breaks my heart to think that every week or so he sees other families come to visit their new children and up until this point no one has ever come to him. The staff has told us that they have tried to explain to him that we are here now but have to leave for while but then will be back to take him and his brother to America. I know that he is only a toddler but I really hope that he has been able to grasp this concept even just a little.

Colton (“U”) was just as happy as can be again today. He almost never stops smiling! He is at that curious stage where he is wanting to look around at everything, especially anything colorful! I put him into our Moby wrap again today and he was less than thrilled because he wanted to play so he was quickly out of it again.

Today we also met the director of Hannah’s Hope a wonderful Lady “A”. She helped us fill out our I-600 forms and told us a bit about the rest of the process. Our next step is very unpredictable. We have to go home and wait for our embassy appointment. “A” wasn’t able to give us a time frame as the way the Ethiopian government processes these cases seems to be quite random. She told us to pray for a miracle because we are now at the mercy of the government and it is completely out of our hands as well as our agency and Hannah’s Hope staff. We know that we will get an appointment to come back but we need prayer that the case will process quickly.

Well, wish I could write more but must get some rest for another day with our boys tomorrow!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Day Our Lives Changed Forever~ Our Gotcha Story part 1!

Ethiopia Day 1~ Picture of the boys at the bottom

Well, we arrived in Addis Ababa Ethiopia late last night and traveling went really well with no long delays or luggage hassles. We were so tired by the time we got to our hotel but we were also too excited to sleep right away. I stayed awake thinking of what the next day would bring. We would be picked up and taken to Hannah’s Hope to meet our boys for the first time. I didn’t really know what to expect. Would the boys pay attention to us or would we be just another white couple coming and going? Would they want to be held or would they shy away at any attempt to show them affection. We really did not know what kind of emotions we would encounter for both us as well as our boys.

10:30 am our driver “D” was in the hotel lobby to take us to HH. There is another sweet couple here as well for their first trip court appointment and they were preparing to meet their little baby girl for the first time. We were all so excited as we climbed into the van. The drive to HH was only about 7-10 minutes from our hotel which was nice because I was already getting so inpatient to get to the boys.
We turned onto a bumpy road and soon saw the infamous black gate separating us from HH. This was the gate I had seen so many times in pictures and videos from other adoptive families over the past 2 years. My heart must have been pounding at 150 beats per minute as we drove into the courtyard. As the van drove in we immediately saw young kids running towards the van to greet us. Our driver asked who is getting “B”? “We are” Andrew and I said. The van door swung open and we saw our son Noah "b" looking up at us with the most precious eyes and hand extended up to us. I think I was so overwhelmed by emotion that I kind of froze for a few seconds. It seemed like it took Andrew and I forever to climb down out of the van to greet him. Noah (B) immediately warmed us to us as if he already knew that we his parents coming for him. From all the referral pictures we had seen we were expecting him to be much bigger but he is actually quite small. He is suppose to be around 2 ½ or 3 but he was wearing sizes 18 and 24 months.

After playing ball with Noah for a couple minutes, Andrew picked him up and “D” showed us where all the babies were being cared for. As we approached the courtyard area in the shade we immediately knew who Colton ("U") was amongst the other babies. He was sitting in his little baby chair on the mat just smiling away. I rushed to him and picked him up! He took a quick look at me and then proceeded to lay his head down on my chest and snuggled into me. My heart was melting more and more by the minute. It was an unbelievable feeling to finally be holding our sons in our arms. Such as answer to prayer that they warmed up so quickly!

We spent the next almost 4 hours just holding them and playing with toys. Noah loved the stickers we brought and soon Andrew was covered in them. Noah would put a sticker on Andrew and then put one on himself in the same location. He also knows a few English numbers and letter and he counted the stickers “ one-two-three” as he placed them on daddy! Noah really attached himself to Andrew right away and after playing for a while he fell asleep in Andrew’s arms. When one of the special mothers tried to take him away for nap time, Noah pushed her away and buried his head into Andrew’s chest. This was so encouraging to see the bonding already taking place. While Noah napped, I held Colton and fed him his bottle. As he sucked on his bottle he looked up at me with wonderful eye contact for quite awhile with a very content look on his face. He is such a happy baby and has the most infectious smile. Colton can sit with a little help and can roll over but has not started to crawl yet. We think he is about 7 months but he was wearing 12 month pants. He has definitely been well nourished and appears to enjoy all his bottles.

The time went by so fast and before we knew it our time to leave for the day had come. We managed to squeeze out a little more time but we needed to be sensitive to keeping the boys on their nap and eating schedules as much as possible as well. I carried Noah up to his bunk bed and tried to hand him to the special mother. He wrapped his legs around my wait and started crying. He didn’t want me to put him down and apparently didn’t want another nap either. It was so hard to leave him there while he was crying and I felt myself tearing up as I walked to the stairs. I know that this is a small glimpse of what is to come when we have to leave Ethiopia without them on this first trip. I can’t even think about it without getting so emotional.

Well, as difficult as it was, we came back to the hotel for a bit of a rest and ate some Ethiopian food in the hotel restaurant. I can’t say enough how much we both LOVE Doro Wat and injera. Andrew and I then decided to venture out into the community a bit and had a walk through some of the streets where people were selling mostly food items and plastic sandals. Then back to the hotel for some emailing and updates.

Well tomorrow we have some HH orientation and we will fill out our I-600 forms. We will of course have more time with our boys as well!

We could only post one because of the internet connection. We cannot post their faces on the internet until they are legally ours but take our word for it they are stinking cute!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Prayers answered!

We wanted to update everyone on a huge praise we received just moments ago while sitting here in our Munich hotel! We got an email from our case manager that our boy's birth mom safely arrived to her court date yesterday and everything went smoothly! We are truly praising God! Thank you everyone for you prayers! We are going to try to sleep now, it has been an incredibly long 30 hrs without sleep! ;)