Friday, December 31, 2010

The Great Ethiopian Adventure (Finale)

And so, we hopped on the plane and headed home.  Have I ever mentioned that I don't like to fly?  I'm guessing I have.  LOL  It's true - I don't.  Makes me nervous.  Well, flying doesn't make me nervous, turbulence makes me nervous - and it's not the normal turbulence on take-off and landing, I'm ok with that, but it's when we're 35,000 feet above the ocean and we start bopping and rocking all over the place.  If it really drops a lot, I will definitely scream out loud, without a doubt.  So, all this to say, the big prayer I had was to  have smooth flights.  I must have forgotten to make it plural because out of six flights, only one was smooth.  And to be honest, I ended up popping a little white pill over this.  I just needed to sleep and not sit and panic about falling from the sky.  I guess the pill helped although I was definitely very aware that 3/4 of the first flight was a bumpy mess.  The flight to London was no better, but the flight to Addis Ababa was the smooth one - which was really a blessing after the fiasco at the airport.

So, jumping back to the flight home - I kid you not, it was super bumpy.  I popped a pill.  I tried to sleep, but it was so turbulent that I was just pretty much starting to panic so I just sat there and started crying.  I was on the isle of the three seats in the middle.  Gatlin was in the middle, and Cooper was on the isle next to Brian who was on the two-side isle.  Poor Brian, he couldn't walk over to comfort me because even the flight attendants were told to sit down - and he couldn't even reach me to hold my hand - so he just sat there watching me cry.  Now, honestly, I was just SO tired, both emotionally and physically.  I'm really not one to break down very often - almost never - so I know that part of the tears were just the emotional dam breaking.  Thankfully, I was able to get a grip and finally just let the stinkin' turbulence rock me to sleep.

We had a three-hour layover in London and went straight to our next flight because we knew not to mess around in that crazy just takes so long to get anywhere.  We got on the next flight and Gatlin and I were literally in the very back row and Brian and Cooper were in the row in front of us.  It was a nice plane, though, so that was good.  Ok, I am NOT kidding when I tell you that the turbulence on that flight was just out of control.  And seriously, I just started laughing out loud.  It was ridiculous!  It was obviously some kind of mental breaking point because I wasn't even scared - I had just given in to my life as a bounced-about flyer.  It was my destiny so I guess I sort of embraced it.  I closed my eyes, pulled my coat over my head, and fell fast asleep.  I slept hard.

We were originally scheduled to have a 5 hour layover in Chicago but before we left for our trip, I realized there was an earlier flight that I thought we'd have time to catch.  I tried to change our flights to that flight but would have had to pay a fee so decided to just try to fly stand-by once we got there.  However, before we left Ethiopia we decided to ask the agent there about the possibility of changing to that flight.  We spent almost 30 minutes with her and she handed us a pink confirmation paper saying we had been changed to that flight.  So, when we landed in London we showed that pink paper to the agent there and she said, "Uh, no.  I don't know what she did, but you're not confirmed on that flight.  Just ask the agent in Chicago about flying stand-by".   Alrighty then.

We went to the gate in Chicago to try to get on the earlier flight but were told that would cost us $50 per person to be on the stand-by list and that the flight was oversold.  Ok, no.  So we waited for our 7:00 flight.  However, it was delayed.  Then delayed again.  And again.  And again.  You get the picture.  We left Chicago a little after 10:00pm.   This was one of those small regional jets.  You know what I'm going to say now, right?   We bumped around the sky like nobody's business.  Honestly, ya'll, it did NOT bother me one bit.  I was so resigned to it at that point.  I just closed my eyes and thought about our sweet kiddos in Ethiopia.  I prayed.  I slept a little.  Gatlin reached over at one point to hold my hand and she asked me if I was ok.  I told her I was.  She said, "Mom, I have never been closer to God.  I have been praying SO hard for you".   PRECIOUS!!

We landed in Nashville.  Brian went to get the car and the kids and I went to see if by any chance our luggage had made the trip back with us.  Nope.  We headed home and arrived at our house at about 12:30am and we were totally wired.  It was funny cause we walked in the door and my friend, Stephanie, was here painting the kid's bedroom.  I had told her we were going to be home on the 30th.  Oops.  Well, technically we did end up getting home on the 30th.  LOL   She has been so sweet to paint the room for us.  Love her.  Anyway, we called the airline and Brian went over everything with them again and at the end of that conversation we were told to call back in 24 hours.  We read the mail, we looked at our emails.  We didn't end up going to bed until 3:00am.

Yesterday was just a lazy day of unwinding - I actually can't remember anything about it at this moment. ha!!

Today I actually started laundry and went to the grocery store.  My sister's family is coming over for dinner in just a few minutes.  Yay.  I will miss them when they leave this weekend to go back to Thailand.  It has been so awesome having them here.

Throughout yesterday and today there has been a Scripture passage that just continues to play in my head so I'm gonna post it here.  God must want me to remember this very important truth.

Matthew 6:25-34 (New International Version, ©2010)

Do Not Worry
    25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?   28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Sometimes life takes us on adventures that we never imagined we'd go on.  Or maybe we imagined parts of it, but it played out so differently than what we expected.  Right now, I'm just needing to remember that God has got it all under control and that I don't have to worry about any of it.  He had that ridiculously bumpy plane right in the palm of His hand.  He has our luggage right in the palm of His hand.  He has my three precious Ethiopian children right in the palm of His hand.  It is my job to seek Him.  It is His job to keep His promise and work all things out for His good and for His glory.  I really do believe that I can trust the Creator of the universe with my little life.  I hope you believe that, too - no matter where your adventures take you.

Thank you for reading about ours.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Great Ethiopian Adventure (Day 3)

Somewhere during the night (I'm guessing around 3:00), Gatlin woke me up and asked me to come into the bathroom with her.  I was so afraid there was going to be some barfing going on so was relieved to find out that it was just a major mosquito attack.  She had 13 bites on her body and was woken up by that pesky little dude buzzing around her head.  I tried not to think about the malaria possibility and just decided to believe the people who said the elevation was too high there and thus, the mosquitoes are not carriers.  With that positive thinking we were able to go back to sleep.  I hate mosquitoes.

We all woke up somewhere around 6:30 again and headed downstairs for breakfast shortly thereafter.  The ladies had made French toast and it was excellent.  We all ate a ton.  Shortly after breakfast, Bennet came out of the bathroom, looked at me and said, “I pee pee’d and wiped, I poppied and wiped and I washed my hands”.  It was SO funny cause she said, “poppy” instead of “poopy”.  I cracked up.  She is SO stinkin’ funny.  She was so proud of herself for remembering what we taught her about proper hygiene.  Adorable.

After breakfast, Cooper and Brian made the very familiar trek over to the airport to see if any of our bags had arrived.  They walked over each day and Brian said his feet were sore because all the terrain was so uneven and bumpy.  One bag was found on this day, so that made for the forth one recovered.   We had brought one bag for Amanda’s sister, Ashley, who is now living over there doing work for Project 61.  This is the suitcase that arrived, and honestly, if only one suitcase was going to arrive, I was so thankful that it was that one because there were important things in it that Ashley really needed for her work there.  But, once again, we were stuck with none of our personal things and were resigned to our same clothes for yet another day.  (Oh, when I walked downstairs for breakfast one of the guys was sitting in the living room area and he said, “Hey, Wendi, I like your outfit”.  I know that doesn’t read that funny right now, but at that time it cracked me up!!)

After Brian and Cooper got back, a group of us headed out for some shopping to find some cool Ethiopian stuff to have so that a little of their culture could be at home with the kids when they get here.  Ann, Nick, Sallee, Brian, me and Alazar (the awesome guy who works for the adoption agency and the guest house) had a great time shopping and bargaining.  Many funny moments were had as Ann was too nervous to just “walk away” and “play the game” a little bit.  Sallee and I were great at it.  Surprise.  LOL   Sweet Ann was ready to pay top dollar for everything she was buying.  It was so funny.  We bought darling hats, shirts, bracelets – just lots of great stuff for really cheap.  The people were so nice and we really had a lovely couple of hours making fantastic memories.

After shopping, we headed back to the guest house and stopped to grab “take away” Chinese.  This food ended up being fantastic.  Everything we got was really, really good.  The kids loved it.  In fact, they don’t seem to be picky at all.  Kali may be a little more particular than the other two, but she wasn’t near as picky as half the kids I know over here in the good ole’ USA.   Speaking of Kali, while we were shopping, Gatlin thought it would be a good time to wash Kali’s hair, so she and the nannies took to that task.  However, when the nannies styled her hair after washing it, Kali was visibly upset (this is what I was told when I got home).  Apparently they had styled her hair in the exact way it was before they washed it and she had really wanted a different do.  So, the big pouty face came out and it was made clear to all that she was not happy.  With that, she went upstairs and took a nap.  She woke up when we got home with lunch and came down with a happy heart and ate her noodles and rice – she ate a lot – and smiled the whole time.  She had wanted some rice the day before and we didn’t have any, so she was happy to see it on the table. 

After lunch, we all just hung out together – the kids played outside, either shooting baskets or kicking around the soccer ball.  We were all dreading the upcoming return back to the orphanages and there was definitely a heaviness in the air.  Bennet asked me numerous times what time Alazar was coming to the house to take them back.  I had told her it would be after dinner, so when we found out it was going to be 4 or 5 o’clock, she was pretty bummed. 

I spent some time getting their things together (which wasn’t much since none of the things I had packed for them got there).  I felt badly sending dirty clothes back to the orphanage, but there wasn’t any other option.  I was so thankful that there had been a couple outfits in the orphanage donations that worked for them – they were able to take a few extra things back with them and I was grateful for that.   They also got to take the soccer ball we bought for them to play with at the guest house – and Kaleb was thankful for that.   (;

When Alazar pulled up the driveway it was like all the air was sucked out of the room.  A huge, collective sigh of sadness.  Our family huddled in front of the guest house and prayed together and then the four families piled into the van.  Our family of 7 sat across the back row – a couple on laps.  The Tunheims, Couches and Van Nestes were the other families – and each of them held their precious little ones in their laps.  The first stop was an orphanage called, E Olam.  It was about a 20 minute drive and it was very, very bumpy and very smelly.  Many times Bennet covered her nose and commented about the stench.  I thought they would be used to it, but apparently not. 

When we pulled up to that orphanage and they opened the gate, all the little kids ran to look out at us.  They were all so adorable and I recognized a couple of them from pictures I’ve seen from their soon-to-be parents.  I can’t describe how sad it was when Ann and Nick and Scott and Angela crawled back into the van without their children.  There was shoulder heaving sobbing.  There were silent tears.  There was deep, heart-felt pain.  Awful.

The next stop was the Transition House.  Kids are brought there when their parents are ready to go to court because their orphanages are so far away.  They need to be closer to the city for all the paperwork, the medicals and everything that needs to be done before the Embassy appointments.   Sallee and Montie had to return their precious son, Samson.  I wanted to run into the house for just a minute because a couple of my friends have children waiting there and I had promised to give them hugs and kisses.  It was so amazing to see their sweet little faces and get to tell them that I know their parents and that they’d be there with them soon.  But I hurried as quickly as I could because I knew that it was so hard for Sallee and Montie to be sitting in the van waiting for it to pull away.

I got back into the van and we headed to our kid’s orphanage, Resurrection.  The ride was extremely bumpy and at one point we had to go off the beaten path because of a wreck in front of us that must have been pretty serious because an ambulance was on hand.  Kaleb asked if he could sit by the window and get some air and I was worried that he was getting car sick, but he made it to the orphanage just fine.  

We got out of the van and Bennet started crying.  We all had tears in our eyes and were doing our best not to lose it, but she was full out bawling.  I felt so badly for her and just kept telling her how proud I was of her for being so brave.  She asked me again how many days it would be and again I told her that I thought it would be between 30 and 60 days.  She said, “Mommy, please, only 30 days, please, Mommy”.  I told her that we would pray and ask God to please let it happen as quickly as it possibly could.  We walked them to the steps and the doors opened – and when they did, all the kids started screaming Bennet’s name because they were so happy to see her again.  She is such a helper to the little ones there and I know they are going to miss her very much when she is gone.

We got quickly back into the van and pulled away.  Immediately Cooper began to sob.  Uncontrollable, big, heavy sobbing.  It completely tore everyone up.  This strong, adorable, cool, teenage boy sobbing because he loves his new siblings so much and hated leaving them.  It was something I will never forget.  Gatlin, Cooper, Brian and I held each other in that back seat and just cried and cried.  I then did what I almost always do when I’m sad or afraid – I started to sing.  “Beautiful One I love, Beautiful One I adore, Beautiful One my soul must sing….”   Gatlin and I sang the whole song together as others joined in as their tears would allow.  It was a wonderfully painful ride home.  Wonderful because it wouldn’t have been so painful had we not already loved them so much.

We made the 20 minute drive back to the guest house.  Cooper and Gatlin were exhausted and all they wanted to do was go to our room and lie down.  Brian and I walked to the coffee shop to eat dinner with Scott and Angela, Nick and Ann and Yonaton.  We had a really nice dinner and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Yonaton a little better.  We’re hoping that one day he’ll be able to come to America to visit us.  He would love it.

We got some food for Cooper and Gatlin and headed back to pack up and leave for the airport.  Everyone else had earlier flights than us (except Rick and Amanda who were staying one more day) so we said goodbye to our new friends and watched their van pull away.   We woke up Cooper and Gatlin to eat their dinner, but Gatlin opted to skip it and just slept until it was time for us to leave.  About an hour later we loaded into our van and drove to the airport.  We had borrowed a suitcase from Sallee so we could put the things we had bought while we were there in it – we checked that one lone suitcase – and we prayed that we’d see it again when we arrived in Nashville.  (;  

And all the way to Nashville we prayed for our precious new family members!  

To be continued…

The Great Ethiopian Adventure (Day 2)

Every night I sleep with a sound machine on but since it was stuck in a suitcase in London, I was worried that all the unfamiliar noises would keep me awake.  Well, I did wake up off and on throughout the night, but I also slept off and on and really think I was more asleep than awake.  At one point, I just had to giggle as I listened to all the snoring and heavy breathing going on around me.  It was so sweet for just about two minutes, and then I put the ear plugs in.  LOL

As the sun started to rise, so did our kiddos.  I had no idea what time it was because there were no clocks and I didn't ever have my phone on, but I was guessing it was somewhere between 6:00 - 6:30 since that's when we had flown in the previous morning and were watching the sun come up as we were descending. The sweetest thing happened - Kaleb got out of his bed and came straight over to Brian and put his arms around him and laid down beside him.  Heart-melting.  He laid there with us for about 15 minutes.  Kaleb was very quiet the first day - although he was very happy, he hardly spoke.  I wanted to hear his voice and so I started counting his fingers and toes and was hoping he'd join in.  Instead of counting, he told me their names....Thumb, Index finger, Middle finger, Ring finger, Little finger.  The best part was the Ring finger, cause his accent rolls the r's so it was, "a,Rrrring, finger".  Adorable.   Later, he called out, "Mom", when he wanted to show me something.  Sweetness.  But those were the only two times I heard his voice that first day.

Kaleb eventually got up to use the bathroom (and I'll insert here that we quickly had to teach about putting the seat up cause things were pretty messy his first go - but once we taught him, he did it right every time) and Kali decided it was her turn to join us in our bed.  She jumped in between us and Brian began to rub her back.  Her skin is so stinkin' soft - it is crazy soft.  She was so content lying there - it was precious.  She likes my hair, so every now and then she would just reach up and run her fingers through it.  Love!   Brian rubbed her back for a good 15-20 minutes and then everyone was getting hungry so we all decided it was time to get up and go downstairs to breakfast.

The ladies that work at the guest house were so wonderful....they cook, clean, babysit - just lovely people. They had prepared pancakes for us and they were so yummy.  We all loved them - they're thinner, like crepes - no butter, but we did have syrup.  Tasty.   I had to tell the kids they couldn't have Pepsi or Orange soda for breakfast (I know, mean Mommy) so instead, they opted for milk.  However, I then saw them putting sugar in their milk.  LOL   I asked Yonaton (amazing guy that works at the guest house) about it and he said, "That's just the way we do it".  Ok...decided to just wean them off the sugar in the milk when they get home.  So, sugar milk it was.

After breakfast, the kids hung out and played basketball, kicked around the soccer ball, and played on the iPods.  The iPods were the biggest hit of all and at times their were small squabbles over them.  Bennet quickly learned how to play Solitaire (she must take after my mom) and Kaleb listened to music as loud as I would allow it.  ha!  He also loved Angry Birds, some block stacking game and some gun thing that drove Sallee Couch crazy.  LOL   Kali really liked Angry Birds, too, but mostly she liked pretending that she was talking on the phone.

Brian and I had to get ready for court so we were busy bumming clothes from our new friends.  Brian wore his own jeans (which he wore for 6 days straight) but he borrowed a shirt from Nick.  There was no way I could wear sweats (we were told to wear nice clothes, but not suit and tie nice) so I borrowed jeans from Amanda Flores and a shirt and sweater from Angela Van Neste (such awesome ladies).  I had to wear my Uggs because apparently I have big feet.  LOL   So, I was feeling pretty special in my borrowed outfit with my old, dirty Uggs.  But, what can ya do?  I just kept telling myself it wasn't about what clothes I was wearing, it was about getting those sweet kiddos home.  And honestly, I am positive that they did NOT care what their new Mommy was wearing.  So...we finished getting ready and we headed to court with all the other families (all the kids stayed at the guest house with the nannies and Cooper and Gatlin, except for Bennet - she had to come to court because she is over 10 years old).

When we pulled up to the court it was so different than what I expected.  I mean, I didn't expect the White House or anything, but this was just a little building on the side of a random bumpy road.  We walked up four or five flights of stairs that were lined with people - and ya'll, it smelled SO BAD.  The people are precious, but the BO was not.  Oh my word.  One of the moms with us (Lana) was pregnant and got very nauseous.  Sweet Ann Tunheim was already nervous (it's all a bit overwhelming) and the intensity of the smell just made her start shaking and I'm pretty sure she thought she might faint.  I felt so badly for both of them.  Thankfully, once we got into our waiting room we were past the "smelly zone".

We didn't wait long at all before we were called in.  Again, I didn't know what to expect, but the room they called us into was the size of my closet.  Seriously.  They took three couples in together (and I was so grateful for that) and the judge (a beautiful Ethiopian woman) asked us a series of questions.   I don't remember all of them exactly, but some were, "Do you know other people who have adopted from Ethiopia?" "Do you interact with those families?"  "Have you taken courses to educate yourself about adoption?"  "Will you teach your adopted child about the Ethiopian culture?"  "Do you have other siblings and are they ok with this adoption?"  "Do you understand that adoption is permanent?"  There were maybe a couple other questions, but this was basically it, and after each question, we simultaneously answered, "Yes".   The judge was kind of "cute" then and said something like, "Well, I suppose you didn't fly all the way over here to say, 'no'", and she giggled.  She then said, "We will let you know later today".  And with that we walked back into the waiting room and the next group of families went into the closet room.

When they came back out, they said that they "had passed" and were the official parents of their children.  Well, our group wasn't told those words and so at that point we were all looking at each other, like, "uh, oh - did we not pass?"   We found out later that it was simply a matter of the "sign the paper guy" got there right after our session and so he was there to sign their papers, but not ours, and ended up signing them later that day - and we were given the official word that "they were ours".  Ok - back to the court room -- we were waiting and then they realized that the judge needed to speak to Bennet.  The families who were finished went back to the guest house and we stayed.  After about 15 minutes or so, they called Bennet back to the closet room and that very brave little girl stood in front of the judge and answered her questions.  When she came out she said that the judge asked her if she understood that she was going to be adopted and that it was permanent - and she said, yes, she understood that.  The judge also asked her if she wanted to be adopted.  I said, "What did you say?".  She said, "I said, YES, Mommy", and she just squeezed me and laughed.  (And yes, I am now typing through tears cause I'm telling ya'll, this is one brave and strong little girl).

From there we went back to the guest house and ate lunch - pizza from a place around the corner.  My friend, Gina, had said the pizza they had was good, but she must have gotten it from a different place.  LOL   I'll need to find out where to get it for the next trip cause this wasn't our favorite.  But the funky food is just part of the adventure.   After lunch, Cooper, Kali and Kaleb took short naps, Gatlin and Bennet made bracelets and necklaces and played with the other kids, and Brian and I headed out to shop for socks and underwear.  We had two suitcases of donations for the orphanage that actually got there that day and I was able to pull clothes out of those for the new kiddos, but there was nothing in bigger sizes, so we ended up buying a new shirt for Gatlin, Cooper and Brian.  I just stuck it out in my tank top and sweats.

I'll tell you a funny thing - I had packed a few things in our carry-on suitcase because I did have that moment when I thought, "What if our luggage doesn't get there".  So we did have some basic toiletries, but not much.  Anyway, for some reason I packed a pair of underwear for everyone except me, so since I was changing to go to court and Gatlin wasn't going, I figured I'd just wear her underwear and then buy new ones for her and she could shower and change after we got that was the plan.   However, I will tell you now, Gatlin's stretchy HELLO KITTY underwear do not quite stretch far enough for me.   I mean, they were on, but that poor kitty may never look the same.  LOL

Cooper also got to experience the Kitty.   I didn't know it at the time, but when we got to the guest house on the first day he went ahead and changed socks - into the only extra pair for him we had.  So the next day, he had to borrow the socks I brought for Gatlin - which, of course, were HELLO KITTY.  We assured him it didn't matter because nobody would see them inside his shoes.  However, when he and Brian went to the airport to see if our luggage was there, they had to go through security and yep, he had to take off his shoes.  So, there he stood in his Hello Kitty socks for all the travelers to see.  Hysterical.  But, that poor kitty was stretched out so far to fit his size 12 feet that I doubt very seriously anyone knew what it was.  And I'll go on record as saying that his kitty had to stretch farther than mine.  LOL   These are the funny things in life that I love!

So, the rest of that day we just hung out at the guest house with the other families - just enjoying our children and getting to know each other.  And I'll say again, we were there with the most wonderful families and I'm so grateful to God for that!!   For dinner, we all decided to just stay in and have the guest house folks make dinner for us.  Everybody ordered what they wanted off the menu and we ended up with a couple burgers, some spaghetti and some traditional Ethiopian.  After dinner, Brian and some of the guys went to get ice cream to bring back because Bennet had been asking about ice cream from the minute she walked in the door.  It was GREAT ice cream from the wonderful coffee shop around the corner.

After ice cream it was time for baths.  Like I said in Day 1, they were so clean when we picked them up so there was no need for baths on the first day, but on Day 2, it was time.  Plus, I felt like it was very important for me to see their bodies and to make sure that they knew how to clean properly.  We started with Kaleb and it was a cake walk - he just laughed the whole time and kept telling me the water was too hot.  He was ticklish and was cracking me up.  Too cute!   His little body is adorable and I will admit that I told him to turn around just so I could look at his little butt cheeks.  SO stinkin' cute.  LOL

Kali was really easy, too.  I didn't wash her hair because it had a couple braids in it that were super tight and I felt it was best just to leave it alone since I'm not an expert yet.  But she was great in the tub and washed herself from top to bottom, just like Kaleb had.  Cutest little body.  So stinkin' adorable.

Ok - I know this is long - I'm almost done, but this is the most emotional part of this post for me to write because honestly, it tore me up a bit.

I called Bennet into the bathroom and told her it was time for her shower and that I'd need to stay in with her to make sure she was safe (cause the shower was super slippery) and to make sure she was washing properly.  She was fine with that until she realized that I meant I was going to actually be looking at her naked.  Ya'll, that sweet child welled up with tears and stood covering her private parts and just looked at me so unsure of the situation, but wanting so badly to please me and do what I was asking.  Remember, she is 11-12 years old and is aware of the awkwardness of being naked.  I said, "Bennet, I am your Mommy now, and I need to see you and I need to make sure you are getting clean the way you need to".  She nervously said, "Ok, Mommy" - I'm positive that I'm not doing this justice, but it was so emotional.  I explained to her that Gatlin and I both had all the same parts that she did and that she didn't have to be embarrassed.  I told her that nobody else should be looking at her, but that Mommy needed to look at her then, but not every time she showered.  She was very trusting of me and got into the shower. She is precious - she has been taught so well and I only had to go over a couple little things with her.  She laughed when I lifted up her arms and told her to get "the pits".  I just can't tell you how sweet this child is.

After baths we called it a night - we said our prayers, we gave our kisses and we said goodnight.

To be continued...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Great Ethiopian Adventure (Day 1)

Oh my word, this is gonna be a hard one to write for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that my brain is a little fried.  I am tired and my body feels like it’s floating just a bit from being on a plane for the past 18 hours (and right now I'm sitting in the Chicago airport waiting on our delayed flight to get us home).  I hope I remember everything, but I’ll just start at the beginning and see how I do.  It’s probably gonna be a long one – so much to tell.

We left our house at 3:30 on Christmas Eve.  We flew from Nashville to Washington, Dulles and then to London.  I have to say that those were two ridiculously bumpy flights and I was praying and asking God to smooth it out for us – and when He didn’t, I began to remind Him that I was going to Ethiopia to adopt ORPHANS.  Apparently He knew that already and I was supposed to just deal with the turbulence.   LOL  Turbulence is one of my least favorite things in all of life.   GGGGRRRRRR.  On a side note, the last time I flew to London was four years ago and I had the privilege of flying first class – yep, that is better than coach.  Sigh.  

We arrived in London on Christmas morning at 10:00am.   We left the airport there because we had a 10-hour layover and decided it would be more fun to see a bit of the city than it would be just to sit in the airport.   Because it was Christmas many of the transportation options weren’t operating so the only choice we had was to get a cab into the city, and even those were few and far between.   It was about $100 for the cab fare one way – ouch!!   We were dropped off near a hotel where we had lined up a three-hour bus tour to see the sites.  We found a little restaurant that was open (most weren’t) and ate some fish-n-chips for our Christmas lunch.  They were good, but we had hoped that we’d be able to find an “Olde English Pub” and have that experience, but it was not to be.

After lunch we walked a couple blocks  (so cold, but actually really nice to be out walking) to the hotel and waited for our tour to start.  We got on that bus and did everything we could to keep our eyes open and enjoy learning about London.  Gatlin and I gave into a nap somewhere between Buckingham Palace and Big Ben.  Brian and Cooper managed to stay awake and they would wake us up when it was time to get off the bus for photo opps.   This would have been good had I ever gotten out my camera.  I never did.   Isn’t that crazy?  We were just so cold and so crazy tired and pretty darn loopy, so somewhere in that mindset I decided we’d just go with the memories.  LOL    After the tour, we headed back to the airport and went to the terminal for BMI airlines to catch our flight to Ethiopia.

OH – wait, we weren’t on BMI airlines even though that’s what our itinerary said.  So, we tried to figure out what airline we are on and there was NOBODY in Terminal 1 who could give us that answer…they told us to go to Terminal 4…so we headed to Terminal 4.  Now, that may sound easy but it was Christmas Day and the train between terminals was only running every 30 minutes.  We were there 2 1/2 hours early so this should have been fine EXCEPT that when we got to Terminal 4 we were told that there was no flight out of that terminal to Addis Ababa.  Ok – at that point we were frantically trying to figure out why our itinerary said BMI and yet, that wasn’t the correct airline, and why in the world weren’t there postings of flight cities, only airlines.  It was SO FRUSTRATING. 

We finally found an agent who knew that the flight was actually Ethiopian Airlines and it was in Terminal 2.  We RAN to the train, only to wait 30 minutes for the train to pull up.  We jumped onto the train and then the train man came by and said everyone needed to exit the train for a routine security check.  Not kidding.  We got off the train, waited five minutes for that (felt like forever) and rode the train to Terminal 2.  We RAN to the ticket counters and literally couldn’t find Ethiopian Air – and finally saw it back in the very back corner of all the others, and then noticed that it said CLOSED.  Yep.   Thankfully, there was still a gate agent there and she immediately asked if we were the Green family – we said, “yes”.   She then said that they had canceled our seats when we didn’t show up (but at this point, it was 7:30 and our flight was at 8:15 – I was TICKED that they canceled us that early in the process).  Upon her words, Gatlin started BAWLING.  She was so afraid that we weren’t going to get to our kiddos in Ethiopia.   The agent went ahead and took our passports and started checking us on to the flight, but informed us that we were going to be on standby.  Did I mention Gatlin was bawling? 

We then started a mad dash to the gate and went straight to the gate agent there.  She said that she was expecting us and that there was no need to cry because we had been upgraded to business class – woo hoo – OH WAIT, she then walked over to another agent, came back and said, “Did you say you were the Reeves?”   Um, no, we are the Greens.  “Oh, sorry, this isn’t you, you’re on standby – sit over there and wait”.   So, we sat over there and waited.   Thankfully, we all got seats on the flight, but none of our seats were together.  This didn’t go over well with Gatlin and me so when we got on the flight we asked the man sitting next to me to switch with Gatlin.  He was hesitant, so I have to admit that both Gatlin and I pulled out the puppy dog eyes – and it didn’t hurt that her poor little eyes were all bloodshot from crying.  He moved.  We sat together.   The flight was smooth – thank You, Jesus.

We landed in Addis Ababa about 8 hours later.  However, our luggage did not.  Apparently luggage sitting in London 10 hours just isn’t really long enough to make the connection.  (I honestly have nothing good to say about the London airport.)  So we made our way to the baggage claim agent and spent the next hour plus there, immediately realizing that what everyone who had traveled before us had said was true – you can’t make any plans in Ethiopia – you just have to be patient and go with the flow.   The agent said our luggage would be on the flight the next day.  Eventually, we got to the guest house and got “checked in” there.  We loved the guest house and the people who worked there.  Wonderful. 

There were five families staying at the guest house and a couple of those families were out picking up their kids at the orphanage or transition house when we arrived, so we went to eat some lunch with Rick Flores (one of the other adopting dads who happens to be from Franklin) while we waited for a driver to take us to get ours.  There was a nice coffee shop within walking distance of the guest house and we grabbed lunch there and then headed back, met Alazar (he works for the adoption agency) and drove about 20 minutes to the orphanage.   Before we left, Alazar told us that we wouldn’t be able to bring the kids back with us on that trip (because their Aunt was coming to the orphanage to visit with them that afternoon) but that we’d go back after dinner and be able to bring them back with us at that point.

When we drove through the gate at the orphanage, Bennet came running out the front doors yelling, “Mommy, Daddy”!!    She threw open the van door and grabbed us before we could even get out.  She just kept saying, “I love you, I love you, I love you”.  She kissed and hugged us more times than I could count – she was just visibly so thankful that we were there.  Kali and Kaleb were quiet, but they were just as happy to see us and gave us so many hugs.   On a side note, a little guy named, Temesgen, stood beside the van crying huge alligator tears because he so badly wanted HIS family to come out of that van.  It was all I could do not to bawl.  Ya’ll, it was so sad.  He has seen so many families come for their children there – and yet, he waits.  The good news for him, though, is that a family has chosen him and will hopefully get their court date soon and he will finally get to open the van door for them!! 

Bennet, Kali and Kaleb took us inside to show us around - all the kids followed us and were so precious.  I saw many kids who I recognized from the waiting children list (and thankfully most have found their forever families and are just waiting for them to come get them – praise God!)  We took a few pictures and the kids loved that – they love seeing themselves in pictures!!  They showed us the girl’s room and the boy’s room where each child shares a bed with another child – so, ONE bunk bed is shared with FOUR children, and these were smaller sized bunk beds.  Having said that, this orphanage is so nice – I mean, as far as orphanages go, we all decided this was the Hilton.  The orphanage director is amazing and she takes such good care of the kids there.  They were about to eat lunch so after our “tour” we headed back to the van and assured the kiddos that we’d be back in a few hours to pick them up and take them back to the guest house with us. 

When we got back to the guest house we met the other families that had just gotten back with their adorable children.  I just can’t say enough about the other families that were there with us – they are amazing people and I just know we will be friends for life.  Our new friend, Nick, said that the “intensity of the adoption experience bonds you very quickly together” and he is absolutely right!  Everyone was just kind of hanging out playing with their sweet new kids, but we decided it would be smart to take a nap so we did that before heading back over to the orphanage to pick up our kiddos. 

When we went back, a couple of the other adopting parents wanted to go with us so that they could not only see the orphanage but also a couple of the kids who are there whose parents they know, in particular our sweet friends, the Krehbiel’s, precious twin three year old girls.   I also got to see my new friend, Jill’s, little adorable son and daughter.  I recognized so many of the kids but am having a little trouble remembering who belongs to who since I’ve met so many wonderful adopting families since we started this process.   It was so fun to be able to have the orphanage workers tell the kids that we know their families and that they will be there for them soon.  Loved that!!   It was a quick in and out and we loaded up our three kiddos and were just about to head back to the guest house, but then the orphanage director said that the kid’s Aunt was there and that she wanted to meet us.  I had no idea that she was still there and got a little nervous at the thought of meeting her.  Brian asked the director if the Aunt was happy that we were adopting the kids, and the director said that she was “very happy” so we were grateful to know that.

We walked back to the front of the orphanage and she walked out onto the porch and I hugged her.  She didn’t speak any English and so the director was translating.  I told her how happy we were to become the parents of the kids and she did a traditional bow to thank me.  I was able to ask her how the kid’s mother died, and like I had suspected, she died in childbirth with the twins.  The Aunt said that the father died of high blood pressure.  I don’t know exactly what that means or how accurate it is, but that’s what the translation was.  I had hoped that she might have some pictures of the parents, but she didn’t.  We were told that she would be at the courthouse the next day.  Bennet shook her hand goodbye, which I thought was interesting. 

We got back to the guest house and all the dads went to get dinner “take away” and brought it back.  We had spaghetti and meatballs and everyone liked it (and I have another son who can throw down on some chow - wow!!).   We were all so tired, so after dinner we went up to our room and got everyone ready for bed.   Oh – have I mentioned that NONE of our luggage arrived?  Yeah, so, after we left the orphanage the first time we made a stop at a little store and bought pajamas for everyone (except me cause I was wearing sweats that were comfy enough to sleep in - but little did I know I would be wearing them 24/7 for SIX DAYS).   Thankfully, I did pack toiletries in our carry-on bag so we did have a few necessities.  Gatlin and Bennet slept in a double bed together.  Kali was on a cot next to them.  Cooper slept on a double mattress on the floor and Kaleb was on a cot next to him.  And Brian and I had a double bed as well.  Our room was perfect for us – we were stuffed in as one BIG family – just the way it was meant for us to be. 

The kids were so giggly that it took a few minutes to get them to settle in – they were just SO excited about everything.  SO stinkin’ sweet.  We said our prayers and gave our kisses and everyone fell fast asleep.

To be continued…

Friday, December 24, 2010

And We're Off...

In just a few hours we'll board the plane and head to ETHIOPIA to meet our kiddos face to face for the first time.  I'm actually very calm about that part of it - the only part that makes me nervous is the flying, I just don't love it.  You'd think I'd be ok with it since I have spent so much of my life flying around the country, but alas, it is NOT one of my favorite things.  So as you're praying for us, will you please throw in a smooth flight - thank you.

We will fly to London tonight (so thankful that the weather is cooperating there now) and spend the day there tomorrow - just gonna do a little bus tour of the city and find somewhere to have some Christmas lunch.  I'm sure this will make for a good story later as we have no real plan and many places will likely be closed for Christmas.  Adventure awaits us - woo hoo!!

After our few hours in London we'll hop back on the plane and fly overnight to Addis Ababa and arrive there at 7:00am.  We'll head to the guest house, freshen up and then hopefully head right over to the orphanage to see our kiddos.   The "plan" is to hang out there for a while and play with all the kids at the orphanage and pass out some of the goodies that we have for them - just some candy and a few little toys.  All the stuffed suitcases actually go to the Transition House for the agency workers to go through and divide amongst all the orphanages that our agency works with - that way each orphanage gets what they need.

Having said that we have a plan, I will say that I understand you MUST hold your plans VERY loosely while you're there.  Apparently there is no real concept of time and things just kind of happen when they happen.  There are going to be THIRTEEN families from our agency there at the same time and we will all be dependent on the same driver to get us where we need to be.   Thankfully, there is a large van, but still, it might take some patience to sit and wait for our turn to get to the orphanage, to court, or wherever.  So, we shall be flexible and just go with the flow.

I've been so blessed to become friends with many of the other families going to court with us and they are just awesome people.  We've been sending notes of encouragement back and forth and talking through the details of everything - it's been a huge blessing.  I'm really looking forward to spending the next few days with them and forming friendships that I pray will last a lifetime!

So, Bennet, Kaleb and Kali - here we come!!!   AAAAAAHHHHH.    Oh, I've said this to a couple people....there's a ride at Disneyland (I think it's Peter Pan) and right when you start it says, "Hold on everybody, here we GOoooooo"....that keeps playing in my head.    Like, I hear it all day.  LOL    I am very excited about this ride!!   People will sometimes look at us like we're crazy when we say we're adopting three kids, but when you know it's the right thing to do, you need to do it.  I know that we are obeying God in this call on our lives - to disobey Him and walk away from it would be a much different ride, and I don't want to get on that one.  When doubts creep into my mind (and they've actually been few and far between), I just remind myself that we must keep an eternal perspective.  Not trying to over-spiritualize here, but this is what I believe...this life is NOT about ME.  It just isn't.  I want to be about doing the things that please God - and it is very obvious to me when I read His Word that HE LOVES ORPHANS and wants us to love them, too.

As you celebrate Christmas, will you just commit to praying about your role in adoption.  Look around at all you are blessed with and really ask yourself if you could share with one more (or two, or three).  As Christians, we are ADOPTED into God's family - can you imagine your life without it?  I can't.   Jumping in and taking that first step is the hardest, but I promise you, God will be with you every step of the way.  He promises!!   This past week my sister's family made the decision to adopt and I just can't tell you how excited I am.  The verse that has been resonating with them is, "I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you".  James 14:18.   What is stopping you?  Is it your own comfort level?   Your fear?  Your "lack of finances"?   There are approximately 160 million orphans - could you save just one?

Ok, I have a plane to catch and I'm sitting here in my jammies so I better get ready!!

Merry Christmas - Amen and Hallelujah!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

And the winner is...

Jim and Connie Taylor!!   Jim and Connie are from Brentwood, Tennessee and they are the proud parents of two awesome boys who have both been a part of my summer acting camp.  This is a great family and I'm thrilled that they won.  Woo hoo.

I just can't say a big enough thank you to all of you who donated to our travel fund - we raised $1900 towards our expenses.  One ticket this trip was $1600 so we paid for one ticket, plus.  Yay.   Praise God from Whom ALL blessings flow.

Ok - here is even bigger news.  We got a call at 6:50 this morning from our friend, Shane Putty.  He said that his wife, Kelly (who's over in Ethiopia right now) was with our kids at that very moment and they wanted to Skype with us!  Oh my word - I jumped out of bed SO fast (have I mentioned that we home school so this was a tad early for us - ha!!).   We looked a mess as we gathered around my computer to talk to our sweet kiddos.  It was amazing.  Kelly said that she was about to leave the orphanage but that they were asking her so many questions about us and she realized she had her computer and the internet thingy majig in the van - so she ran and got it.  They sang, "Jesus Loves Me" to us.  Bennet said, "May I please see my bedroom".  AAAHHHH   I explained that it wasn't quite ready yet and there was stuff all over the place cause we are preparing to paint it - but we carried the computer upstairs and showed her the bunk bed and her closet!!   I had just recently bought some clothes for her on eBay so I washed them yesterday and had a stack of clothes ready to put away today - so I held those up and said, "These clothes are going in the closet for you".   She was so excited.  It was precious.

We showed Kaleb and Kali their bunk beds, too, and when we showed Kaleb his comforter he started giggling.  Priceless.  Then we took a minute to make sure that they were ok with us changing their names just a little bit - cause we were calling them by their new names and all of a sudden I thought, "what if they are thinking, 'who the heck are you talking to?'".  LOL    We first asked Bennet (whose African name is Bemnet) if she liked the name Bennet and if she was ok with it, and she said she does like Bennet.  One down.  Whew.   Then we told Kaleb (whose name is Kalab - so basically just pronounced a little differently) that the way you pronounce his name here is, Kaleb.  We asked if he was ok with that and he shook his head yes.  Two down.   Then we asked Kali (her African name is Kalkidan) if we could call her Kali - she shook her head very dramatically and said, "YES!".  It was adorable.   She and Bennet are very talkative and very animated.  Kaleb appears to be the quiet one, but we shall see.  (:

Then they wanted to sing us another song and they sang a song (in English) of the days of the week and the months of the year.  It was so cute.   They have good pitch.  Whew.  LOL

Oh, at the very beginning of the conversation all they kept saying was, "We love you".  Oh my gosh, ya'll.  It was just unreal.  Honestly, my daughter got off the Skype and said, "Mom, I love them to death....and I mean it".  It's just crazy amazing to see how God has orchestrated this.  I mean, come on!

So, what a way to start the day!!  And then a friend emailed to tell me that they said, "yes", to a referral today and it's a child I've been praying for off the Waiting Children list.   I was going crazy.  It's amazing the bond you develop with other adoptive families.  The friendships are formed fast and strong because of such like-mindedness.  It really is a God thing.  I'm grateful.  Very!

I thank each one of you for supporting us - whether financially or through prayer, or both - or acts of service, like our AMAZING Uncle Jim.  Can I just tell you about him real quick?  This guy is one of the best people I've ever known.  He would do anything for our family.  I wish that everyone had an "Uncle Jim" in their lives.  He has been helping with all the projects at our house.  We can never repay him for the work he has done for us -- all we can do is love him and call him family.  It's an honor.

So, it was a pretty darn amazing day - but just so you don't think I've got it made in the shade (ha!), I did have to get a mammogram today!   Ouch!   LOL    But even that can't bring me down from these clouds.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Great iPad Giveaway...

We really want to do a fundraiser that is FUN - thus, we are giving away an iPad.  iPads are FUN.  Not that I personally know this, cause I don't own one, but this is what I hear.  And yes, I've told my children that they can't donate to win.  They are not happy about this.  LOL  

So, if you'd like a chance to win the "thank you iPad" then just donate $10 for one chance and $25 for three chances (or feel free to donate more and have more chances).  All the money goes towards our travel expenses.  We are getting close to having it covered and are praying that this FUNdraiser gets us over the finish line.

And please post it on your Facebook and your blog even though that means you'll have less of a chance to win.  ha!!!  Remember, you're doing this for a good cause.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

God and Garage Sales...

Once again the Lord has proven Himself faithful to us.  Not grateful.

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook know that we had a garage sale this weekend.  It's probably not an ideal time for a garage sale, mainly because it's cold.  We had no idea what the weather was going to be but both days turned out to be really nice - chilly, but nice, and no rain (thank you, Lord).

My sweet sister, Jenni, let us have the sale at her house because our driveway is a bit steep and we live right on a busy road so it's just not an ideal spot for it.  She lives in a wonderful neighborhood only five minutes away so it was perfect.

My friend, Gina, had had a garage sale a couple months ago at her home in Brentwood and she ended up with three garages full of donations - it was awesome.  They made a great amount of money for their adoption and then she generously gave me all that was left to sell at our sale.  There was a lot of really good stuff left and we were very thankful.  Some other friends donated, too, and we ended up with a lot of good stuff.  Didn't have any idea what yesterday would look like - just not really up on garage sales and didn't know how Fridays fare - but it turned out to be a great day of sales and we made $850.

When we woke up this morning it had just started to sprinkle, but that quickly passed and we were so happy when it didn't rain on our garage sale parade.  BUT, we were so surprised at how few people came out today.  I thought Saturday would be really busy - but it just wasn't.  A friend later told me that you should advertise the two days separately because if you do a two-day sale, people think all the good stuff is gone on the first day and they don't show up the second day.  So, if I ever do another sale, I will heed that word of wisdom and see if it helps.  Anyway, we only sold about $250 today.  I hadn't told very many people this, but my goal was to get the Visas paid for.  Each kiddo needs a Visa and they are $400 each.  Then our family of four each need an $80 Visa.  So the total for that is $1520.  The total for the sale was $1100.   However, my sister (the above mentioned, Jenni, who was already being so sweet to let us use her house - AND she made cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate for us) said that she and her husband had decided to give us a little donation -- but it wasn't little.  It was $300.  Ok, so what you need to know here is that they are missionaries.  I know they don't have extra, so for them to give so generously to us is just mind-blowing and SO greatly appreciated.  With that gift our total jumped to $1400.  Woo hoo -- the kiddos Visas are completely covered and ours are so close.  I have three items listed on Craigslist that I know are going to sell -- and that will be that.  WOO HOO!!  God was so sweet to show up in such an awesome way!!

The sad news is that my sister's family is only here on furlough and will be moving back to Thailand in just a few weeks.  They won't be here when our kiddos get here (and my eyes are welling up with tears even typing that).  It has been amazing having them just down the street.  In the 19 years that we've lived here we've never had family near us.  I wish they could stay.

At the end of the sale we had enough children's clothes left over to pack up five suitcases to take to the orphanage.  Yipee!!!   We also had a couple riding toys and some formula that we added to the bags and they are in the basement ready to go in just TWENTY DAYS!!

I have gotten two very sweet emails from another adopting mom who was in Ethiopia a few weeks ago and got to meet our kiddos.  She has emailed to tell me how sweet they are, especially Bennet.  She spent a good amount of time with her and Bennet asked her to tell me that she loves me.  PRECIOUS!  This gal also got their handprints and sent them to us.  How sweet is that!!  I love nice people.

So, next week I have a cool fundraiser that I'm gonna start.  Well, it's not actually anything super exciting, but somebody will win an iPad.  And I'll round up a couple other gifts to give away, too.

One last note - I just can't express my gratitude enough to those of you who have made donations to us of any kind.  Whether monetary or service or prayer - we appreciate all of it more than words can ever say.  Blessings on you!!  

OH wait -- one last word -- if you ever have a garage sale, do NOT let my brother-in-law, Tim, negotiate the sales.  It's a long story, but trust me on this.  LOL