First Days at Home!

The boys LOVE playing in the snow. At first they were afraid to go outside so Mike modeled getting dressed and then threw snowballs at the window once outside. John Eyob was ready to get dressed and run outside and once Ryan Ephrem saw his older brother getting ready, he got ready too!
We made a sensory table with a large Rubbermaid bin and 3 different kinds of beans - hours of fun!

Gramma gave us powdered sugar donut holes and we really loved those!

Opening all our Valentine's from Gramma and Bompa, Uncle Don and cousins Sami and Maddy Jo, and Aunt Sarah and Uncle Ken!

Playing our fishing game.

Ryan Ephrem loves to wear Mommy and Daddy's shoes!

These pictures were caught between meltdowns (and we have many every day!). Ryan Ephrem threading wooden beads and ...

John Eyob with pattern blocks.

2/22/10 - First Days at Home

Okay - the plan is to go back and really elaborate with pictures on each day in Ethiopia but that will all have to happen during nap times (and it's not nap time right now!) so a bit of a shorter post and sorry, there's no pictures.

It is UNBELIEVABLY AMAZING to have our boys at home!! I look at them and still have trouble believing they are really here! God is so good to have blessed us with these two little miracles who call us "Ababa" (Amharic for Daddy) and "Mommy." While the days are filled with a few melt downs (but wouldn't you melt down too if you were 3 and 4 and your world had turned completely upside down in the last week?) which is to be expected, they are more filled with the awesomeness of watching two children, who are loved by so many, take wonder at the world.

What we have enjoyed/learned since first meeting the boys and then arriving home on Saturday: balloons can and do provide hours of entertainment; the piano in the playroom was a big hit; Ryan likes bananas and John likes grapes; they both shrug their shoulders when they are mad at you and you talk to them; they could stay and play in the bath tub (a new thing as we think they only took showers before) until they were little prunes (and no we did not test this theory out!); they are not all that excited about television but John liked the Olympic ski jumping and Ryan twirled around the living room after watching ice dancing; Ryan licks new food to see if he should try a bite while John makes a hilarious face when he tries something he doesn't like; they were ready to go out and play in the snow as soon as they saw Mike snow blowing today; they love to dance to Ethiopian music (they sang along to Teddy Afro for all you fellow travel buddies!!); they love their blankets; they love the sippy cups we brought on the plane for them and continue to carry them around the house; John loves to flush the toilet; they both love to play in the water; Ryan is just a bit freaked out about the cat; John loves when the phone rings (he goes running) and cracks up when someone talks to him on the other end; they need to push every button and open every cupboard repeatedly; they tell each other to be "gentle" and "say please" (complete with sign language); they are an absolute joy to have in this house and I am blown away by how wonderful it feels to hear them call my name or want to be picked up. This Mommy is truly content!!

I'll end with my new motto is: If it doesn't get done at nap time, it's not getting done!

Everything Went Great at the Embassy!!!

The Embassy apointment today went great and we will have the boys visas Friday morning and be leaving Friday night to come home!!!!!! We were off to a bit of a crazy start this morning as all our schedules said to meet a 9:30am when in actuality we were supposed to meet at 8:30am - typos, oops! But when the knock at our door came at 8:20am, we were both so thankful that we had showered, the boys did GREAT getting dressed, and I threw all we needed in bags and we made it downstairs in time! The actual appointment was about 5 minutes in front of a window answering a couple questions about the boys. The woman asking the questions was actually originally from Chicago, how wild! Then we were off to lunch (the boys have great table manners and John is more of an adventuroues eater than Ryan. John will try anything but does he ever make a face if he doesn't like it!). After lunch Mike returned to the guest house with the boys (those adventures are another day's post) and I went and did a little more shopping with the group. We spent the afternoon playing with the boys and they have a great game of hide and seek they play together.

Tomorrow we go to visit the orphanage they came from.

Metcha Day

First let me say what an amazing honor it was to witness so many families see their children for the first time!!

And second let me say that it was an amazing day!! Way beyond what we even hoped, imagined, or prayed for. We have just returned from our authentic Ethiopian dinner and everyone is SO TIRED, emotionally and physically, so I'm just going to get the highlights and will add pictures when we get home (I don't think they have our picture program on this computer):

MORNING: Paperwork Party where we fill out the last (at least until post placement paperwork and readoption paperwork) of our adoption paperwork - yeah!!


TRANSITION HOUSE: There are actually two transition houses, so all the children 2 and older are at the other house but it is only about a block away. So all the babies were called first. Then the van carrying the boys drove through the gate!! Words cannot describe what it was like to know that our sons were just inside that van! All the older children are told their parents are coming and we were told by Famy, one of the America World workers, that our boys were excited!
Things we expected - John was all smiles (especially for the camera) and Ryan was a bit serious
Things we didn't expect - John walking up to me right away and giving me a hug! How tiny and totally cute they are! That they LOVED being chased and giggled like crazy when we picked them up and tickled then and kissed them and gave them raspberries! That it only took about 10 minutes and a game of chase for Ryan to smile! That John would spend 20 minutes coloring a page in the coloring book my Mom sent with us! Both boys holding bubbles out to us asking for help opening them! That Ryan would hold our hands and walk with us! That both boys several times would ask to be picked up! That when asked by the doctor who Mike was, John answered "Ababa" (Daddy) and who I was answered "Mommy" and where are we going he pointed up in the air for airplane!

Tomorrow we get to go get them and bring them to the Guest House with us - and the fun will begin!!

We are here!!!

We and our luggage made it to Ethiopia no problems!! And the plane ride wasn't any where near as hard as I thought it was going to be (thanks Tylenol PM). There was another America World family on our plane so we were able to brave the airport in Addis together (there was one point when we weren't sure quite where to go so it was a bit stressful) but we all made it to the Yebsabi Guest House about 10:30pm Sunday night. Our room is great: bedroom, bathroom, sitting area, and kitchen.

In about 45 minutes we leave for our paperwork party then lunch and THEN WE MEET THE BOYS!!!!!!! Mike slept okay last night but I woke up about 2:30am and couldn't go back to sleep. So I had a great time praying and sharing all my excitement and fears and worries with God and then thinking about the boys and singing through all the children's songs I knew.

I'll try and post again tonight. Don't know if I'll be able to do a picture but I'll try!

Thanks for all your prayers for safe travels!! Keep praying for the boys and their transition and all our health and travel group!

2/12/10 - "So how are you doing?"

If I had a dollar for everytime someone asked me this over the past few weeks or if I was excited, I'd have a little extra spending money in Ethiopia!

And what's my answer been so far: "I don't know how I'm doing!"

I have seriously pondered this question all week. How am I doing? Am I excited? This has been such a long journey for us, 5 years and 3 months since beginning to try and start a family and 21 months in this adoption process. And for those of you who know our story or know international adoption, there are always bumps in the road. We were told that and they were to be expected, but it didn't make them any easier. So you guard your heart and prepare for things to change and prepare to wait. But now the waiting is done (except for that long plane ride!) and the wonderful and challenging and expected and unexpected changes that are coming can only be imagined: what will their voices sound like? what will their laughs sound like? will they recognize us from the care package photos? how long will it take for them to love us? what will is feel like to get their first true hugs? how long and hard is the plane ride home really going to be? what will they think of snow? will they like the pictures on their bedroom walls? will they be able to sense how much their cousins love them? what will they think of my attempts at injera? will they like bath time? will their personalities match their pictures? what about their first trip to the zoo, the library, camping, swimming, play dates? what will they think of this whole new culture? will they ever really know how much joy they have brought us?

And I have come to the conclusion that I am overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed by a Father who could love me so much to place these two precious boys in my care. I am overwhelmed by the support of friends and family and coworkers and strangers during this entire process. We seriously have a cheering squad of hundreds!! I am overwhelmed by His financial provision and support of this adoption. I am overwhelmed at the thought of being responsible for two little bodies, minds, and souls. I am overwhelmed by the thought that I will love my sons more than I already do. I am overwhelmed at the thought of my husband finally becoming a Daddy. I am overwhelmed at the thought of finally being called "Mommy" (and not because one of my students accidentally called me that!). I am overwhelmed that this path has always been God's Plan A for us and that He felt I was worthy enough to walk the path of adoption. I am overwhelmed and humbled and loved and supported and ready to go get my boys!!

A Few Little Changes

This one on the kitchen table in the sun room:

This one in the downstairs bathroom:

This one in the kitchen cabinet:

Look What the Stork Brought!

This showed up in front of our house last week - thanks Jim and Susan!! I was telling Mike about a month ago how I wanted a big stork in front of the house announcing the boys!

Just for Fun - A Few Websites

Our Guest House:

Ethiopian Air which will take from Dulles to Addis Ababa (you can take a virtual tour of the airplane):

To check the weather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:

The Week in Ethiopia: A Preview

Washington DC and the surrounding area have been closed down for the past four days, as many of you know. So we never actually received word from our agency that they received word from the Embassy in Ethiopia saying they have enough time to process our paperwork because America World's office has been closed all week and the staff is working from home!

We will be flying out of O'Hare and into Dulles Airport in Washington DC. We then have a four and a half hour layover (can you say time to write lots of thank you cards!) before boarding our plane on Ethiopian Air and embarking on a 15 hour flight across the Atlantic, with a 45 minute stop to refuel in Rome, before landing in Addis Ababa, 22 hours after leaving Chicago!! And the return flight is the same thing in reverse with a five hour layover in DC.

Here's a rough outline of what our week will look like:

DAY 1 - Welcome to Ethiopia!

Arrive in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital and where America World's Transition House - and our boys - are. America World will send a representative to meet us at the airport.

DAY 2 - Paperwork Party and Meet Our Children Day!

All traveling families meet with America World staff in the morning at the Hilton Hotel to fill out and sign more paperwork and have lunch. Then we are off to the Transition House, where families will be called, by last name (and no, we are not last!). And the moment we have prayed about and dreamed about for five years and three months - meeting the children God has always had planned for our family - will become a reality! Families take pictures and video for each other so all of "Metcha Day" memories and moments will be captured on film. We are able to spend about three hours with the boys, playing and getting used to each other. We plan to bring two footballs, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, picture books, and maybe crayons and coloring books to play with with the boys before telling them we will be back tomorrow for them. We will also be able to talk with the boys' nannies and doctor on this day. Then it's off to the Spa with the ladies and back to the guest house for the gents. Mike actually hopes to begin painting a mural of a beach scene on one of the Transition House's walls, at America World's request - we are honored. That evening we will gather at an Ethiopian Restaurant for an authentic dinner and dance presentation.

Day 3 - Shopping and "Gotcha Day!"

We will be able to spend time shopping for presents for the boys (we are planning to buy a little gift for each of their birthdays until they turn 18 as well as wedding gifts), authentic Ethiopia dress for the boys, various child and adult sizes, as well as us, and some presents to bring back to friends and family. Lunch will be at the Guest House and then it is back to the Transition House. We will be able to take pictures of where the boys have lived since August 31st and leave our donations for the Transition House: 10 packages of wet wipes (AW requirement), paper towels (suggestion by AW), small space heater (urgent need), 2 buckets of plastic animals (suggestion from Transition House Child Developmental Psychologist), clothes for older boys, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and children's medicine (thank you Karen and parents at CDW@Play!). We will also have the honor and privilege to deliver care packages to the children of families who are waiting to pass court or for paperwork issues to be resolved before traveling themselves to bring their children home. And then, we will be entrusted with two "good and perfect gifts" forever! The boys will leave the Transition House with us in the afternoon and stay with us at the Guest House.

Day 4 - Embassy Appointment

America World will bring all traveling families, with their children, to the Embassy for our Consulate appointments. This really long morning consists of sitting in a tiny room with no windows and waiting for our name to be called. An America World representative will go to the window with us when our name is called and assist us. This is the time we apply for the boys' visas which they need to enter the United States. If there is going to be any kind of glitch, which of course there is not!, this would be when it happens. We go for lunch after the Embassy and then more shopping before heading back to the Guest House.

Day 5 - Orphanage Visit

The morning will be free for us as we only want to visit the orphanage the boys came from, Kingdom Vision Orphanage, and that isn't planned until the afternoon. So Mike plans to finish painting the mural in the morning while Amy spends some play time at the Guest House with the boys!

Day 6 - Visas Picked Up/Last Day

We will be met by an America World staff member in the morning to pick up our children's visas. Then all traveling families will tour a coffee factory, as Ethiopia is fabled to be the birth place of coffee and it remains their largest export. We are hoping to plan an activity such as the Lion Zoo before heading to the Guest House for a scheduled group picture and a time of prayer. Then maybe time for one more activity, hopefully swimming at the Hilton, and it will be on to the airport where after approximately 24 hours of travel, we will be walking through our front door as a family of 4!


Last Care Package Update

Thank you so much Kern Family!!

"Congrats on having 2 of the cutest boys ever! I really enjoyed meeting them. The older one is so charming and happy. He smiled a ton! The younger one is more reserved, but totally adorable. They loved getting their care packages."

Their hair has been cut!!

But still our smiley, cute big brother!

And our not too sure little brother!

But check out these smiles!!

We're coming for you babies!

It won't be long now!!

Small Group Shower

My wonderful small group gave me a shower on Saturday, January 30th - and not only that, but they looked through my frequent adoption email updates and figured out who some of my friends were and invited them to the shower too!

I felt so loved on! To have people gathered who have prayed for our children for years, way before we even knew about America World or Ethiopia, was humbling.

And I must admit, driving to the shower was very surreal - I was heading to a baby shower ... for me ... because I'm a Mom and have two boys!!

The following are pictures of my small group and some of the parties festivities:

This is my dear friend (and fellow Monk lover) Dianna pinning on the precious corsage she made for me. It had a football and baseball intertwined with ribbon!

This is one of my best friends, shoulder to lean on, ear to listen to, do anything for me, sister in Christ Alison:

This is my friend Christine who recently joined our small group as she married one of the guys in it! She has been so excited and supportive of our adoption since she first learned about it from Dave (her now husband, then boyfriend) and has shared that excitement with her family. I love her!!

This is Karen and her daughter Emily. I have known Karen for almost six years. We met serving in our old church's children's puppet ministry. Karen has been one of our biggest cheerleaders and champions in our long journey toward adding children to our family. She is my "AHHHHH!" friend whenever there is exciting news!

This is my dear friend Doreen. Doreen who knows our adoption story so well that at both our summer garage sale and fall candy sale, she was able to tell others all about our journey and not miss a detail! I can't wait for the boys to get some lovin' from this auntie!

This is Dianna with her three daughters, Emma, Dannah, and Aria. All three girls have prayed for our children for years!

How cute is the cake Doreen picked out:

Presents for the boys!

Thank you Sue and Hayley!

I look way emotional in this picture, but I was really so excited (not hysterically crying) that my friend Alison had hand made gifts for the boys as I was so hoping she would!

Our boys will look stylish and adorable in clothes from Doreen!

My kindred spirit Gloria picked out these shirts for the boys and this is what we will change them in to when we arrive back home at the airport!

One of the gifts from our friends Karen and Angel. Angel picked out these hot wheel cars for the boys!

And Karen's daughter Emily made an amazing bracelet: two silver little boy jewels, a silver J, and a silver R surrounded by green beads. I will wear this to Ethiopia!

This is one of the many gifts from Jeff, Dianna, Aria, Dannah, and Emma and the one Mike and I spent the most time playing with once we got everything home! It is really cool and does lots of stuff. Can't wait to play with it "with" the boys!!

We have some new games to play with John and Ryan thanks to my friend Terie!

The boys will have chairs to sit in and sleeping bags to sleep in when we go camping thanks to Christine!

A soccer ball from my friend Jan! Soccer is the big sport in Ethiopia (and pretty much all the world except here in the US) and this ball is just the right size for them.

It was an amazing day!

Care Package Update

Care Package 5 - Thank you so much Ross Family!

"Eyob (John) is definitely more outgoing. He had so much fun coloring in his book. He's really great at coloring too! Ephrem (Ryan) took a while to warm up to us - but seemed to really enjoy himself after a while."

Our serious little man:
But here's a smile! And note the stickers on his arm:

I love the camera!

We already knew we were bringing bubbles, but these pictures got us excited! (The other boy in the pictures are one of the Ross's sons.)
Here's another smile:

Catching on quick!