Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trip 2: Day 3?

Is it really only day 3? Time is so weird here. Today we decided we would mostly stay at the guest house and lay low. Nap, bond, etc.

I might have forgotten how much work it is to have a toddler, yo. We are exhausted. I know it has a lot to do with the many changes and transitions, but we are beat. Rob might have napped twice today... maybe.

It was another good day, we ventured out to do a little shoe shopping (Google: Sole Rebels) on our own. Well, we grabbed a ride from the driver, but we didn't have a translator come with us. We might have bought some purple shoes... and we don't mean for the girls. We stopped into the Ethiopian version of Starbucks and got some coffee and sweets to go. Everywhere we go people react to Sitota.  Everywhere.

Today was another big transition for us. Our friends Autumn and Mihretu left for home. I probably mentioned M before- they were both brought to the same orphanage as infants. I met Sitota in Oct 2010, Autumn met M in July of 2011. We've both ridden the roller coaster and the kids transitioned to the care center together. Autumn went to court the week that we did, and now, finally, we came to get them the same week. Although they live in Nashville, we expect to stay connected and keep the kids connected as much as possible. They are a huge part of each other's stories.

The kids love each other, and I love and admire Autumn for following her heart and adopting as a single parent. She is a wonderful mom, and her boy will thrive in her home. It was super sweet today- Sitota was having a bath in one side of a double sink, M heard her and they came in and he bathed in the other side of the sink. They made one heck of a mess, but had a great time. We took lots of pictures and videos.

Sitota is definitely feeling all of these transitions, but boy howdy (did I just type that?) is she ever making progress. We had so much fun reading Goodnight Moon tonight. And making up games, and repeating each other. She is understanding and repeating so much English, and teaching us a little Amharic, too. There will be PLENTY of frustrating moments when we won't be able to understand each other, but she's learning so much so fast.

She cracks us up. She was sad after Mihretu left today, and we played quite a bit of charades to figure our what she was hollering about, It turned out she wanted another bath. So we gave her one, and after, when she got her pajamas on, she insisted that we put her chamas back on- her shoes. I am certain that she figured if she put her shoes on then we wouldn't make her go to sleep. Smarty pants.

All day she was asking to “see” Aidan, Ca-lay, and Llllucy on our phones. The time difference makes it so hard, but because Clay and Lucy had early dismissal today, we kept her up a little late so she could say goodnight. She hams it up for the kids- and loves to facetime.

Oh, I forgot to mention that it was windy today... so Sitota did not want to play outside. Wonder what she'll think of her 1st blizzard...

Two more days here, and then a full day of travel to get home.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trip 2: Day 2: Adoption day. Birthday. Sitota day...

I'm tired...  bear/bare with me...

So, Sitota slept through until the alarm went off at 6:30 am... 12 hours- despite the middle of the night texting about storm damage at home. (Everyone's fine and we have insurance. We will work it out.)

We hung out at the guest house for breakfast and soccer this morning. She was totally daddy's girl, but I got some smiles and we had great fun playing outside. Our friend Dani came over and Rob and I BOTH took back seat to him. Handsome, kind, patient AND he speaks her language... who could blame her :-) Toss in that no one on the planet has known Sitota for as long as Dani has, and you begin to understand their bond.

She still kinda seemed to be warming up to me... then Rob decided she should ride on my lap on the way to meet out adoption agency representative. That wasn't the best choice. She kinda cried and just sat next to me. Oh, well.

While we waited for the clock to tick we met some other families who are also here for embassy and/or court. It was really nice. Rob re-established his bond with her, and she fell asleep on his lap on the drive to the Embassy.

Embassy was quick and we exchanged pleasentries and details about the storm with the man who helped us. Boom Bam. 2 years, 3 trips, and a whole lotta pendulum swinging, and a two minute meeting finalized everything.

By the time we left Embassy, Sitota was playful and silly and fun. Dani took us out for a celebratory lunch at this beautiful restaurant close by... called... LUCY. The food was wonderful. I had Indian :-)
The entire luch Sitota was great- she let me feed her and was playful and we laughed a lot. After, Dani took some photos :-)

Next stop: the dreaded care-center goodbye. Sitota handled it pretty well- she did cry, but even by the time we got in the car, she had stopped. Melancholy, sure- but not crying.

We stopped on the way “home” to the care center and got Sitota a birthday cake. Then Dani stopped again to get her a special “3” candle. She was coming back around again when we came back to the guest house, and again let me feed her...

But after dinner was magic. Pure magic. We were blessed by the company of the family who has been checking on Sitota for us these past months. They knew her while she still lived at the orphanage, and at our request began visiting her at the care center. Their visits and updates were how I survived the wait. Seeing their children with her, reading C's updates became somehow essential. Many times I thought, I'll never be able to thank them enough.

Then a week or so ago I panicked about the logistics. I knew I had to meet them, to know them, to hug them... but I was afraid of putting Sitota in a position of having to choose between the family that had been visiting her regularly for months... or the couple who came once but then abandoned her again. That would... stink. For us, sure, but I imagine it would be hard for the other family, too.

Then, as suddenly as the fear came it left. I knew it would be great. And from the moment they walked through the front door it was. It was an amazing gift to share this table with these friends. I felt connected immediately to them, Sitota played lovingly with them. And I fell a little bit in love with this family who had given us so much these last weeks.

I LOVE that I will be able to watch their children grow though Facebook. I love that they can write to Sitota or send photos or videos. I LOVE that they are a part of our story.

As good as that all was... we also saw Sitota light up the world when they left. She was engaging and talking and saying the kids names and we quickly decided to try and catch our family. Auntie (Amy) got a call and Sitota was a laugh riot. “Hiiii Auntie, I love you, Auntie, kwass (ball), Aidan, Clay, Wooocy” on and on. Then we called the Punks and Meme and they got more of the same. Then NO ONE in my family was available (jerks).

So, she is running all around playing with Rob...“Mommy, I love you” she was signing and saying “more, please, “ she was saying “me beep beep again” to get in the stroller. “Hellllo Mommy.”

I decided to call my family one more time, and lo and behold I hit the jackpot when my mom, 2 sisters in law, and a handful of cousins were all together. They couldn't hear her very well, but they got to see her. I think we will try again tomorrow.

What an amazing day. Adoption day. Birthday. Sitota day... just intense and big. I don't know what I thought that this would be like... but today blew it out of the water.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Trip 2: Day 1

It is October 29, 2012 at about 7:30 at night. I am so utterly exhausted, I have no business writing anything but... I think I need to write every day. So much and so little happen, that I'll forget. I forgot a lot from our trip in August.

Our flights were relatively uneventful, although the woman who checked us in was a complete jerk with a nasty attitude and it took me a glass of wine or 2 to shake it. I think the 1st plane we were on from Boston-Germany was circa 1972. We were wedged between two other people, and if the person in front of us tipped their seat back we were practically resting our chin on their forehead. The next plane (Germany to Addis with a refuel stop in Khartoum was about 1/3 full so we were livin' large.) The flights were ontime and uneventful.

I kept picturing our return flight and how challenging it might be.

We got to the guest house around 10:30 pm, unpacked and slept pretty solidly until the prayer chants started at 3:30 am. They lasted until we got up around 6:45 am, at one point Rob woke me up so I could check to see if there was a radio on in the room. Yes, folks, he woke me up to hear the chanting. And we are still married.

Our plan was that our friends Dani and Tam would meet us for an early breakfast so we could say a quick hello to Tam before he headed out to Kenya for a conference. Then we would run over to Kolfe (the boy's orphanage) and drop off 50+lbs of great sneakers, give out a buncha hugs, and share some smiles... Unfortunately, the boys had decided to meet us at the airport the night before, where someone told them that our flight from the US was cancelled because of the storm... so, thinking we were delayed, they did not show for breakfast. Insert sad face. We love Tam.

So, the Kolfe thing had to be put on the side burner, and we hired a different driver to take us to see Sitota. We arrived at the care center and... honestly, it was a luke warm welcome. Can you blame her? We show up and shower her with love and affection for a week and then: SLAM. Gone. FOR FOUR MONTHS. So- she was NOT her usual exuberant self.

She started to warm up a bit- we showed her some pictures and some videos of the Punks, and some pictures and videos from our last trip... she was coming around. She definitely warmed more quickly to Rob.

In any case, we brought her back to the guest house with us. We have Embassy tomorrow, and the logistics of leaving her at the center were a bit too complicated. When we worked it out to ride back with her good friend Mirhetu, it made the decision much easier.

She wouldn't eat a thing for lunch- nothing, in fact, until she had a few pretzels in the late afternoon. But we played soccer, played with toys in the court yard, took a bath in the sink, she even got us up to speed on her potty training routine. Rob left us alone in the courtyard for awhile and after a bit she was laughing and playing with me- making funny faces for photos, playing soccer, etc.

Then when Rob came out, she was shunning him. It is utterly fascinating to me. It's like she can only be cool with one of us at a time. It varies who it is, but it is never the two of us together. Perhaps most people are like that... they like me and tolerate Rob, or they like Rob and tolerate me... certainly worth considering.

Mid-day we decided to call the Punks. It was 630 am and everyone was getting ready for school. We facetimed with them for about 10 minutes. I know they felt great about starting their day like that, and we were excited. We never skyped or facetimed with them when we were here in August, so this was their 1st realtime interaction with their sister. I get a little choked up thinking about that. I was actually pretty happy that I could say to them, “She wants nothing to do with me right now, but look how comfortable she is with Papa.” And by the end of the call Sitota even waved to them and blew them a kiss. Maybe next time she'll shine that killer smile... it is such a gift.

There are only 3 families in the guest house, us, Mirhetu and his mom (our friend Autumn), Autumn's friend M, and another couple from another agency who is here for court.

Sitota ate a little bit for dinner, then went upstairs with Rob to hang out. She was clearly overtired and a bit freaked out. She rejected me and reluctantly let him kinda-sorta-comfort her, and she was asleep in minutes... At 6:15 pm... so we will see how tonight goes.

Earlier in the day, when we decided that we were going to leave the care center, and take Sitota with us, I told the head nanny, and her face fell. We'll be back tomorrow, I promised. “Oh, okok.” This is part of the loss that I've spoken about. Now Sitota has to walk away from the women who have loved her for the plast 5 months. And they have to let her. And in my heart I know that they battle with happiness because they see how we love the babies, and grief because we leave. We just go.

I brought some photos of the nannies from our last trip to leave with them. Tomorrow, I will try to take a photo with all of the Nannies and send it back to them, with photos of Sitota in her new life. Tomorrow, I believe, will be the hardest of our 6 days here.  I fully expect that we will leave  with her in a full blown tantrum.  In agony.  I'm crying just anticipating it.

But right now, the littlest Punk is asleep in bed. With that look of comfort and trust. And tomorrow we'll be sad together, and we will bask in thankfulness that we get to be here. That we get to be her parents.

We will celebrate her birthday with her tomorrow. It won't be elaborate,  but we will really be rejoicing that never again will that day pass without a family to love and celebrate her...

Thanks, God.

And while You are doling out these blessings,  please protect the Punks and everyone else, at home.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Leaving Eve

It's like Christmas Eve I guess.  We leave tomorrow.  But I guess it's like Christmas Eve Eve because we won't arrive in Ethiopia until Sunday.  But I guess really it is like Christmas Eve Eve Eve because we won't be with Sitota until Monday.

It's after midnight and we are mostly packed.  We are bringing 3 large bags of goodies for Kolfe (the boy's orphanage), the care center, and some friends.  Then we have our stuff packed in carry-ons.  I think we will have 8 bags all together...

We have clothes that we hope will fit Sitota.  We have a few toys and books that we hope will entertain Sitota.  We have snacks that we hope will distract Sitota during our long trip home.

Really,  who cares what we bring?  Ok, except for the shoes.  I am thrilled to be bringing 50 lbs of high quality sneakers for the Kolfe boys.  Thanks for helping me do that!

But really,  what matters is that Sitota, Rob and I will have 5 days together in Ethiopia.  That's how much time we had last time, too.

But this time,  there isn't the cloud of knowing we will have to say good-bye.  No uncertainty of when we will be together again...  (there are plenty of other uncertainties...  but not that one.)  JOY!

There is a weight though.  Yes,  we are incredibly relieved and excited and happy and euphoric, even.  Our punk is coming home.  At long last.  Home to our modest lives.  Home to our tiny house where we have been preparing to embrace her for the past 2 years...  Euphoria...  underlined by melancholy.  By sadness.  She's leaving her homeland.

I love Ethiopia.  This will only be my 3rd trip,  and I've never traveled very far from the capitol, and I don't pretend to understand its complexities or it's history.  It is a complicated country on a complicated continent.  There is a long, long history of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.  Ethiopia is one of the oldest sites of human existence known to scientists.  A history we can't comprehend from America.  There's pain and poverty and loss (oh, the loss) and hurt.  There's joy and kindness and for the love of it all, there is hope and opportunity.  There is Joy and Hope and Opportunity.  Yes, there is a sadness in taking our daughter away.  With that sadness comes a great desire to honor this privilege and recognize the loss while still joyfully celebrating the gain.

I hope that we will raise Sitota to be proud of herself,  her birth country, her name, the color of her skin, the strength of her voice, and all of the the gifts that she brings to her new country and to her new family.  I hope and I truly believe that she will always continue to be the light. 

And I hope and pray, as her second family,  that we will reflect that light right back.

I can't blog from Ethiopia,  but I'll keep sharing on the Facebook ;-)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Grief anticipated.

Writing is like an anchor for me these days.  Even when (especially when?)  I mostly write for myself.

Sometimes I am in silent shock thinking that in only 4 days we'll get the ok to go get her.

Other times I can't believe I have to wait 4 MORE days to get the ok to go get here.

I've gone beyond the highlight real in my head... not anticipating each "first..." Well,  not *just* anticipating each first.  I think a lot about the logistics of our day to day and what that will look like.  Teaching a toddler English. Feeding her hungry belly.  Comforting her grieving heart.  Showing her that this is forever.

And grief there will be.
Away from her nannies.
Away from her friends.
Away from her language.
Away from her food.
Away from her climate.
Away from her music.
Away from her culture.
Away from her life.


Into a family who has been waiting desperately to love her.  Waiting for 2/3 of her little life.  Anxiously waiting to know her.

But the truth is, we are terrifyingly unknown to her, and separated by so many differences.  It will take time,  patience, and an astonishing amount of grace to make it to the other side.

And yes,  bringing her home will be one of the top 4 moments of my life.  But we are not expecting miracles.  We are expecting exhaustion, frustration, heartache, and struggle.  Parenting isn't for wimps, yo.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


It's started.  The sleep that isn't sleep.

I close my eyes.
I sleep.
Moments with Sitota dance with lists that haven't been made.
Just this side of sleep.
Anticipation dances with worry.
And the soundtrack behind it all is "baby, you're a firework..."
There's a romance in expecting:
The longing, the daydreaming, the potential.
The other times I fell asleep feeling the life inside of me.
Now, I feel the life in those moments just before the sleep that never really comes.

When her voice comes to me, and I'm there again:
Learning, listening, loving, all intertwined with longing.

Soon, sweet punk, you'll learn what family is.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012


If this doesn't illustrate the highs and lows of Adoption-land,  I don't know what will.  Pendulum, roller-coaster, whatever illustration you use as your metaphor... 

Yesterday,  it was grim.

Today,  they are hoping to interview someone we CAN locate,  and they are hoping to do it next week. 

What does that mean?  It means it is looking good and likely that we will get our official Embassy clearance to travel to bring Sitota home one week from today.  Let me say it again,  it is likely that next Thursday we will get an email that says,  "come and get your daughter."

I know-  from the darkness into the light in 24 short (ok, that's a lie, they were very long) hours.  No guarantees, no promises, but more hope than we ever could have imagined yesterday.

Hey God,  thanks. 

Thanks for all of your prayers and hopes and vibes and wishes and even your dreams.  Please keep us in your mind as everyone prepares for and conducts the interview next week.  We are so close.  So close.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


When I decided last week that I would start blogging all things adoption,  I decided I would try to be transparent about all of it.

Because sometimes people only talk or write about when things are going swimmingly and life is perfect.  And then those of us with less than perfect days or lives feel less than.  And that's just stupid because everyone is sometimes less than,  and sometimes it helps to have that reminder.  So,  yeah.

I've made no bones about the fact that parts of this are exceptionally difficult.  From the very beginning of when we started inquiring about doing a pre-identified adoption, it took some deep dark twists and we thought it just wouldn't happen.

But then things happened to open up and usher us down this path,  and here we sit,  hopefully nearing the end of this part of the story.

Then this morning, SLAM.  Another delay.  The specifics don't even matter that much,  and I feel protective of Sitota's history.  Suffice it to say,  the embassy wants to interview someone whom our agency hasn't been able to locate.  We provided the letter from the police and the ads that we ran in the paper,  but still they ask for more.

It might just shake out that it was an error.  That someone wasn't paying attention.  I hope and pray and when I'm feeling optimistic, I even think that that is the case,  and that tomorrow we will get another email saying,  "Just kidding!"  Or maybe our case will be processed differently and it will be a short delay and not the HUGE one that this has the potential of being.

But for now,  the weight of every delay and every pause and every question that we've experienced in the last 2 years has taken up residency in my chest cavity.  I'm tired.  It's hard to breathe.  I'm sad and feeling funky.

Normal stupid things,  like breaking my phone and forgetting my wallet and buying a new dishwasher feel heavier that they might have yesterday.  And the weight of the wait is multiplying with each passing hour.

People who've done this before us say that soon enough,  when we're tucking her in and experiencing her tantrums and becoming a family,  this wait will fade and the pain lessens.  Like the pain of labor.

I'm just longing for that day.

I'm thankful for all of the support that you all have given us,  and continue to give us...

Thank you.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Day 5: Goodbye

Though I'd been dreading this day for months, it actually started out great.   I woke up and creepily stared at my daughter,  asleep just inches from me.

She awoke, sat up, and looked uncertainly around.  Remember,  she had gone to sleep in a different room the night before...  This was the expression she woke up with (excuse the bad iPhone photos):

But within moments,  she was her goofy self:

We shared breakfast in the room.  She was a big fan of eggs.  Shortly after she woke up,  she joined Team Rob.  She wanted exactly nothing to do with me,  and would only allow Rob to hold or help her,  or give her things.  At first I was fine with it,  after all,  Rob had received the majority of her grunting for the previous days,  and I was glad that they had bonded.

After another nice long bath, she busied herself with eating crackers and drinking ice cold water-  which she was a huge fan of.  She wasn't warming up to me,  so I busied myself with packing.  Every time I packed one more thing,  the weight of our departure grew heavier.

I was just so sad.  I couldn't imagine dropping her off and leaving for months.  MONTHS.  I loved Sitota for years.  And while I yearned for her before our court trip,  I'd grown accustomed to being apart.  The last time I said good-bye,  it was to one of far too many orphans.  But now, I was expected to say good-bye to my daughter.  Not an orphan.  My daughter.

I packed with a heavy heavy heart.  Rob,  acutely aware of my heartache that Sitota wanted nothing to do with me,  left us alone for just a few minutes.  She still glared at me,  so I ignored her,  and took my camera out to take a photo of the view from our window.  When I turned back to her,  she was watching the camera intently.  So I pointed it at her.

100% Ham.  We proceeded to have a little photo shoot.  Smiling, goofing,  hamming it up.  It was nice to have her laughing and smiling with me again.  She was definitely still keeping her distance,  but she wasn't grunting at me.

Maybe she knew that if she was super snuggly and loving than I would never be able to leave...

Dani came to pick us up to bring her back.  Sitota was happy to see him.  She snuggled in with Rob for the ride back to the care center.

I wish I had thought to take some pictures on the way back to the care center.  It was pretty scary.  I don't think I have ever seen rain fall like that.  And while the roadways are being improved,  there is a lot of work to be done.  The care center was about 30 minutes from the guest house.  At one point we were driving up a fairly steep incline,  and the water rushing down the hill was up to the hubcaps on Dani's Toyota Corolla (circa 1985).

It was also dark.

Crying made Dani and Tam a little uncomfortable.  We had talked about it earlier,  and they explained to us that... well...  **Generalization Alert**  Americans- especially women-  were cry babies and it often made Ethiopians uncomfortable.  So, despite the darkness,  I donned Rob's sunglasses in effort to disguise my swollen, red eyes.  I could barely see.  During the ride,  I also explained to Dani that I was not goting to be able to talk when we were there,  but I would appreciate it if he would thank the nannies for us.  I felt like I saw pure joy when I watched Sitota interact with some of the women who work at the care center.  Toddlers wear their emotions on their sleeves, as we had experienced 1st hand,  and I felt like Sitota was loved and loved many of the women.  It was Dani's job to express this to the folks at the care center,  while I avoided eye contact and doled out the supplies I had brought for the kids.

And then it was time,  and I didn't dare try to hold her.  I went to her, tried to smile and say "ciao," and blow her a zillion kissed.  I choked out "amaseganalo," and bolted for the car. 

And as I shut the door,  I am sure they all looked at each other and wondered why the sad American Mama was wearing sunglasses on the darkest day of the century.

Pause.  Seriously,  how did we leave?  I still have no idea.

Dani and Tam took us out to dinner before we went to the airport.  We were super silly.  We talked about girlfriends and prospective wives.  We talked about careers and dreams.  We told jokes and we shared pictures on our phones.  We told stories and laughed some more.

It was a perfect way to end a very difficult day.

Then Dani and Tam dropped us at the airport.  In one of the many lines we were in, we were joined by a wee Ethiopian in a stroller whose little voice sounded exactly like the punk we were leaving behind.  Reassuring to Rob, troubling to me.

And then,  25ish hours later, we pulled into our driveway in Maine.  So anxious to see the 3 punks,  so devastated to be without the littlest, newest, most Ethiopian punk of all.

And now,  It is Sunday night.  2 months and 3 days since we arrived home.

I could write about the excitement and enthusiasm we've experienced in that time period.  Or the fear and discouragement.  Or the fatigue.  Oh,  the fatigue.

But instead,  I am going to tell you about how I am going to climb into bed tonight and get a great night's sleep.  That is a lie.  I am going to wake up often, phone in hand, anxious to get the email from the United States Embassy that our case has, at long last,  been accepted.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Day 4: The Overnight

Thursday we woke up, hopeful that Sitota would come back to the guest house with us for some time with just the three of us.

After Wednesday's roller coaster, I wasn't sure what to expect.  We decided that once we got to the center, we would try to move kindof quickly... not linger... but I will be honest... I was scared.  I had visions of her crying as we tried to bring her in the car. GAH.

Well...  I walked through the door of her room and she was still in her pajamas,  and I got a big smile.  BIG.  Relief flowed through me as I stripped her down to change her diaper and clothes... She was in the BEST mood- so happy-  so playful...  running away from me in just her diaper when i wanted to get her dressed...  her lovely little lanky self swallowed up by her enormous smile.  Hugs, kisses and laughter.  Thank God.

 So, we did what any insane new parents would do,  and ran for the guest house!  Instead of the crying that I feared,  she was happily chirping "Ciao" to her friends and Nannies.  I acted as her car seat/seat belt. 
We had been thinking that we would just bring her back for a few hours,  and then bring her back to the care center for bed.  But in the car, with her snuggled up warm and close to me, we realized that if we brought her back after hanging out for the day,  then we would be putting her through 2 potentially emotional goodbyes.  So we decided we would play it by ear,  but were leaning towards keeping her overnight.

When we got back to the room we read a few books and looked through her photo album.  We gave her some applesauce.  Some crackers... she was definitely nervous,  but we got some slow smiles and snuggles.

She had a bath.  There isn't a bath at the care center.  She. Loved. It.  The only toy she actually liked were these little stacking bowls with holes in the bottom of them.  She stayed in the bath for so long.  We played with her.  We sat quietly watching her.  We took her braids out and washed her hair.  We let the water run and she was perfectly content.  So were we. 

After her bath we got her dressed in the adorable batik shirt that I found at Goodwill for $1.99 Thankyouverymuch and the smallest little capri jeggings I've ever seen.  Oh,  I died from the cute. We took her to the lobby for some pizza.  (She mostly ate crackers and coconut cookies,  and a roll.)  It was the 3 of us, Dani, and another couple who were there for court as well.  It was fun and she was in a good mood,  curious and engaged.  We went back upstairs to play for awhile.

It was all going splendidly... Then I accidentally took a nap.  It happend when you haven't slept much in a couple of months and you finally lay down,  watching your new baby exploring her new world.  Contentment.  Peace.  Sleep.  That, too, was going splendidly. 

I woke up to the sounds of Rob and Sitota playing soccer and laughing in the courtyard.  Now,  she was 2 months shy of her 3rd birthday,  and she looks around the courtyard,  and puts herself square in the middle of 2 plant pots to tend goal.  Laughter and happiness drifted in through the window.  I just listened... and facebooked... They had such fun.  It was the first time that she really connected or bonded with Rob.  It was all good.

When they came in to come upstairs and the women who worked in the guest house started talking to her.  They were full of smiles and animated in their conversation.  And Sitota started gravitating towards them.

And away from Rob.

She was... a little freaked out I think.  She'd had enough of the crazy white folks who didn't speak her language.  So she panicked a bit.

She settled down a little as long as I was holding and walking with her.  If I sat down or tried to put her down,  she cried.  I thought....  maybe it's too much.  Maybe we should bring her back.  Rob encouraged me to play it out a little.

So we turned the water on :-)  She really settled down when I let her play in the sink. She loved the water.  She came back after that,  and we had a lovely dinner.  We ordered out,  and she had a bit of injera & shiro and we had something vaguely resembling lasagna...  and then she and Rob played the "Daddy na!" game which I hope I will still remember when I am 643 years old.

That laugh?  I mean, seriously.  It is completely infectious.  Delicious.  Pure love.

After dinner,  we read a few books and Sitota's eyes were getting very heavy.  So we changed her into her pjs,  snuggled up for some books and some prayers and she fell asleep with her Daddy writing on her face...  the same way her sister and brothers used to fall asleep when they were sleep reluctant toddlers.

And then we stared at her.

And then I took a trillion pictures of her sleeping.

And we looked at each other.  Our first night together.  Finally.  Dear God, finally.

It would be sweet if the story ended there, right?  NOPE.

She slept with me.  I was nearly asleep when I heard a weird noise in the room.  I was reading with a headlamp, and it took a few minutes to figure out that the torrential rainstorm was no longer happening just outside the window...  our ceiling was leaking in multiple spots. 


I had visions of the entire roof caving in.  Obviously, we had no buckets...  so we put out dry diapers to absorb the water,  and started packing.  Around midnight,  we were settled into a new room on the floor below.

Sitota slept through the entire move :-)

Sweet sleep.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Day 3: Wednesday

Before I do the day 3 recap,  can I just say how cool my kids are?  Clay has raised $1010.00 to put towards Sitota's airfare.  His goal is $1500.  He is just so awesome.  He's selling cranes and origami.

Most of my recap is going to be pulled from the email that I sent when I returned to the room on Wednesday night...  I tried to clarify some things and correct some grammar... but it's still a mess.  That's ok...  it was a messy day.


It's kinda weird to journal this stuff to you guys...  but...  it is what it is...  I know at least a few of you wanted updates about how things were going.  Parts of this are pretty heavy and I am just trying to spit it all out so...  you know...  stop reading it or whatever-  or share it with your kids or...  remind me of it when I bitch about the weather...

Today was hard and didn't go as planned.  We spent the day with Tam and Dani,  our guides and translators from my 1st trip.  Our time with Tam and Dani was wonderful. They are so willing to answer our questions and help us to understand their culture-  its beauty and its challenges.

Tam and Dani took us to Kolfe-  the boys government orphanage for boys age 8ish-20ish.  In 2010 I met a boy that I've kept in close contact with.  D. is about 24 years old and has partial paralysis in his legs.  He uses crutches to get around and he has a sponsorship to attend university.  He's studying medicine.  He had just came home from college a couple of weeks before (a 2 day journey), so the timing was great and I was looking forward to seeing him.  He is very well respected among the boys and is somewhat of a leader.  Our time at Kolfe was too short...  even though we stayed too long-  and it's impossible to leave there without being completely... moved, for lack of a better term.

The boys were happy to talk with us-  and our friends helped us to ask lots of questions-  nothing heavy-  who likes soccer?  what movies do you like to watch? what do you do for fun?  what do you like best about school?  we gave out a million hugs and took a bunch of pictures and showed the kids each one.   We at least brought some smiles and laughter into their day.  But how many times did a child tell me as I hugged him hello or good-bye, "Oh, Mom,  I love you so much...." or  "I will pray for you..." Mostly, they call all of the women that come Mom or Auntie.  How many shoeless kids and shivering kids did we hug? (it was cold any rainy this morning-  maybe 50 degrees).  We met 2 kids with epilepsy- 1 of whom had just had a seizure.

I brought about 80 lbs of clothes and shoes for the care center-  but we decided the kids at Kolfe were in greater need.  Enough people go through the agency care center that at least they have shoes and clothes that keep them covered and warm.  The support for Kolfe is different and a story for another day.  I don't know enough about it to tell it.

D. told everyone for days before we got there, "My family is coming."  (He has no delusions that we're bringing him home- he's 24 (he thinks-  but he's not sure) but because I email with him back and forth and check in on him and encourage him...  he has adopted us as his family.  I worry about how it makes him feel that we are adopting this perfect little girl.)

On the wall of D's room there was a hand written message...  Megin=hugger Yup,  my name on the wall of an orphanage in Ethiopia.  D.  Calls me his "sweetie hugger" and once wrote to me, "Remember when you hugged me?  No one ever hugged me like that.  Thank you."  And so,  when we were there,  there were a LOT of hugs.  A lot.
We brought D to lunch-  and another woman who helps him out had sent me some new shoes and professional clothes for him.  We brought him a couple of new Maine T's and a new fleece blanket and a book he needs for school (entitled Diseases), a headlamp for when the power is out and he needs to study,  whatever-  a duffle bag... a duffle bag full of things-  and a little $ from the other woman who sent all of the new clothes, and an itty bitty bit from us (like less than I spend on a couple of pizzas when I'm to lazy to cook....)-  and what is the email I came home too?  Not thanks for the lunch and the stuff, and can you get me some....   no....  "Hello dear mama and sweeti huger Megain , how is today for u? I'm so glad and very happy .Oh thanks God to help me for see and got great hug from Mama . If u can come and hug me . Say hello Rob.i miss u a lot. EWEDSHALEHU"

Ewedshalehu means I love you.  Yeah-  his written English isn't the best,  but all he really said was,  thanks for the hugs and I love you.  I was wrecked, seriously... but back to the day.

So after lunch we went to the care center-  we were hoping to grab Sitota and bring her back to the room for awhile.  When we first got to the center I got an early hug and some snuggling time with Sitota-  but she seemed a little off.  I thought maybe she didn't expect to see Dani and Tam or something...  then she got a little mad about something and ran to the Nannies for comfort (totally appropriate and understandable)... but she didn't "come back" so to speak. In speaking to the nannies,  we learned that she had been looking for us earlier when some other families came to see their kids.  We weren't there.  No us.  Punk was "off" because of that,  and it makes sense.

As a matter of fact I had a Mama moment with her.  She looked right in my eyes and I was very close to her and anytime I tried to talk to her or touch her, she would kind of yell/grunt.   I was saying goodbye for the day, and she sure knew it-  but she had no love for this Mama.  She stayed with me though,  when I grunted back at her and kept close eye contact and said to her...  "You can be as mad as you want,  I love you... " and maybe I said in 100 times.  And the grunting got quieter.  And the nannies didn't butt in-  which was HUGE. I turned to walk away and got teary and when I got to the gate to get in the van,  Rob noticed she and her Nanny were walking over.  She clutched her photo book, but the grunting was done.  More great eye contact when we said we loved her and would be back tomorrow-  and my friends translated but didn't get too involved. No hugs, no kisses,  but maybe optimism?  Who knows what was happening in her little head?

Back in the room that night, I was feeling a little down about a few things that happened, and then I looked through some photos that my friend Dani took. I hope I will forever remember this moment and the 15 second right before the photo was taken- when my newest Punk came charging at me across the courtyard with her arms open wide and flew into my arms.  She had a spectacular smile that completely undid me. And she let me hold her in a tight Mama hug. My favorite kind of hug. 

Looking at the photos reassured me that while some parts of this adoption trip will be the hardest thing we've done,  every step will be worth it.  I had perfect faith.

Also,  we introduced her to the itsy bitsy spider...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day 2 (Tuesday)

Tuesday morning started in the lobby of the guest house,  where Rob accidentally witnessed the moment when a couple met their child for the 1st time.  I came down a few minutes later.  What a special time.

That morning was our court appointment.  Rob and I, one other couple, and a mom and her niece joined us.  Nerves were high.  We walked into the waiting room and waited (and waited) for our agency's representative to show up.  The room was crowded.  We saw other couples that we had met on the plane.  We waited.  And we waited.

And finally we were called into a small room,  all 6 of us,  and the 2 representatives from our agency.  The judge was young and lovely.  Her English was impressive.  She asked us simple questions...
  • Have you met your child?
  • Do you still want to adopt her?
  • Do you have children at home?
  • Have you started to prepare them for the adoption?
  • Will you teach your child about their Ethiopian history and culture? 
And then,  looking up from her papers she said something like, "Everything is in order.  Your adoptions are approved.  In the eyes of the Ethiopian government, you are parents,  forever.  Congratulations!"

And I whipped my head around, shocked.  I expected for a few days to pass before we passed court.  I very nearly said, "Really???"  Instead,  I walked into the hallway,  and cried like a baby.

We rushed back to the guest house to change and pick up our other families,  then rushed over to the care center to be with our daughter.  We were so excited to spend the day with her and her friends.

What a day we had.  The kids and nannies sang songs.  We looked at Sitota's photo album a bunch.  That night I wrote, "It is 5 pm,  we are home from another wonderful day with Sitota.  She's got the best little voice,  loves "trot trot to Boston,"  water bottles, spicy Ethiopian food, and she's getting used to us."

We started signing "more" with her, and she picked it up quickly.  She watched our hands carefully as we signed please, more, eat, cookie, and water.  She knew something was going on.

Rob played soccer with the older boys in the courtyard.  Oh, those boys.  Eyes that melt you,  and arms that hold you tight when they come in for a hug.  "I love you, Mom.  Thank you,  thank you."  They are charming and fun. Rob and I loved the way they hammed it up for the camera.  Everyone's at a different stage of processing,  so we can't share the photos.

When it was time for us to leave for the evening, I asked the director to explain to Sitota that we were leaving, but we would be back tomorrow.  She looked right in my eyes with a sad little face and said "nay."  Which means, "come,"  and she wrapped her arms around my neck.

And then I died.

Such an incredible gift from my sweet girl.  It was humbling to see how joyful the director was at Sitota's response.  She was so glad to see a bond forming.  No where near as glad as I was,  but there was serious joy in her eyes.

My joy was quickly curbed when I walked through the door and saw one of my friends trying to compose herself after saying goodbye to her infant daughter.

My heart fell...  I pushed down my instinct to wrap my arms around her,  and let her be.  Then I decided distraction was the only course of action,  and I put my (figurative) inappropriate pants on.  As she climbed into the van, I sassily announced that I would be as mean as I could to her,  because the last thing I would want in those shoes,  would be kindness and compassion.  Then I might have called her ugly.

I don't think I really did.  Because she's gorgeous.  But I did start a round of poop jokes, and tried to keep the conversation going.  We split for dinner, and then gathered in the lobby chatting and laughing and whatever until it was time for them to pack up.

While we were sitting there laughing and bonding,  we went over everyone's schedule.  It was Tuesday night.  More people would leave on Wednesday night.  Then more on Thursday night... until Rob and I were the only ones left.  Suddenly, I began to panic- overcome with fear...

How would I survive leaving Sitota without this "therapy" session?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Remembering our court trip: Day 1

Before we depart to get Sitota, (soon, oh, please, soon...)  I want to remember and reflect on our August trip.

We left Boston on Saturday afternoon, and arrived at the guest house on Sunday night.  We got a few hours of sleep and went downstairs for breakfast.  There we met some other people who would prove to be huge sources of comfort from that point forward.  The "other families."

We climbed into the back of a van, maybe 12 of us,  (including 2 girls who were on their way back to the care center because their parents were heading back to America to await their Embassy date).  As we rode the 30 minutes to the care center.  I had ants in my pants,  so anxious was I to fast forward.  It took so long.  A long 30 minutes.  We stopped on the side of the road and bought a goat for lunch.  We rode with the very-much-alive goat in the way-back of the van.  It was completely surreal.

Finally, we pulled up to the iron gate that separated us from Sitota.  Our new friends had already been with their children.  They literally cleared a path for us (and our goat friend) to get into the care center. 

1 year and 10 months had passed.  I am not sure I was breathing as I ducked beneath the many clothes lines that criss-crossed the courtyard.  I didn't know where to go.  I greeted the nannies and finally one of the women with us said, "she'll be in here."

And I looked up. Through the window,  through the steel bars, and into Sitota's sweet but uncertain face.

The door opened and I knelt down before her.  And she looked at me.  She closed the distance between us.  And she kissed me.  I swear I died a little bit right then.   My careful restraint left me.  I dumped my bags and my jacket and I finally held my punk.  I walked with her, I rocked her, I rubbed her head and stared in her eyes and I kissed her temple a million times.  And she let me.

I have no idea what I said.  That I missed her and that I loved her and that I was her Mama.  Rob was right there at my shoulder and we were in our own little world.  I was completely oblivious to the goat (AKA lunch), being prepared in the courtyard.  I was oblivious to everything.

I don't know how to explain the fact that Sitota came right to me.  Maybe the nannies bribed her.  Maybe she thought I was someone else.  Maybe...  well,  I don't know.  But she couldn't have remembered me from nearly 2 years earlier.  It couldn't have been a sweeter moment.  Burned into my memory, for sure.

Soon after,  we offered her the cute little doll and baby blanket we'd brought for her-  but she pushed it aside.  We brought out the photo album we made for her.  Page by page we went through.  Pictures of me of Rob of the 3 sibling punks.  Pictures of me holding Sitota when she was only 11 months old.  We went through them time after time.  She ran to show her friends.  She looked with the nannies.  She wouldn't put it down.

She was friendlier with me than with Rob that 1st day.  She was fairly cautious.  The nannies wanted so much to encourage the bond that they bribed her.  "Give your Mama a hug and I'll give you some candy."  Bless them,  they wanted to be helpful.  We were able to assure them that we were 100% ok with her hesitancy.  We tried to be careful not to push her,  and we drank in what she was willing to give.  We were just so happy to be together.

I think that night we went out for a traditional Ethiopian dinner.  I think we skyped with the 3 kids at home.  It was a near perfect day, goat and all. 

I know I didn't sleep much anticipating our court appointment the following morning, and replaying every interaction with my daughter.

Monday, October 08, 2012

2 Years

Tomorrow marks 2 years since I first met our youngest daughter.  I look back on pictures,  and it just seems like a dream.

Of course,  I look back on pictures from 2 months ago when we were with her,  and that seems like a dream, too.

Rob and I kept fairly quiet about the adoption right up until we were submitted for court back at the end of July.  I guess in part it was self preservation.  We have been through the ringer a bit since October, 2010.

But now,  at the end of a weekend of family celebration, and on the eve of the anniversary of meeting Sitota,  I feel like documenting some things.  I should mention that it's been an exceptionally long time since I've blogged about anything,  and I might have a lot to say.  And my grammar will be off.

Since being submitted for court,  Facebook has been instrumental in keeping family and friends up to speed on our progress.  Immediately and rather intensely,  people started responding to posts.  Some people I expected, sure...  but a bunch of people that I never expected were linking into our story.  They were supporting and encouraging.

In Ethiopia I emailed our nearest and dearest with updates.  We met other families.  OTHER FAMILIES in the same place at the same point.  Different stories brought them to Ethiopia...  to adoption... but we quickly connected and the support from those connections was and continues to be... fuel.  When I drop low,  these are the people I reach out to-  who propel me back up.  They know.  We can whine forever and they will tell poop jokes and quote bible verses and simply say, "Yes,  I know."

I kept posting on FB from Ethiopia.  And we were high on every moment we got to be with our daughter.  And we were exploding with wanting everyone to know it.  And when I posted this picture:

people liked it and commented on it and even shared it.  And every time I shared a photo or posted something when we were in Africa there was a swell of support-  captured in comments and "likes."  We saw people connecting in one way or another with our story.  And we felt encouraged.  More than that, compelled to continue sharing.

And then we came home.  And I continued to process on FB.  Jetlag and remembering but soon PROGRESS! and more progress... and people kept clicking.

And I went to the brick and mortar school one day and other moms were asking me about our trip,  and asking if we had news and their expressions were excited and their eyes were emotional and their words were empathetic.

And packages arrived.  Gifts with notes, "I'm so moved by your journey."

And then things stalled out.  Progress halted.  And I whined.  A lot.  And FB felt it. 

But our families and our friends swelled in support.  Emails and photo bookings (fundraising) and checks.  A "Celebrate Sitota" party that included questions and long emotional answers and generosity that bubbled up and overwhelmed me.  The room got painted, the furniture assembled.  Phone calls. Texts. Emails. More texts.

And words and actions made me believe that this was a story that was supposed to be told.  That people opened up to hearing about it.  That along the way people were anxious to check facebook-  to hear news- to see progress.

I spent this weekend with most of the Carew side of my family.  We were celebrating the marriage of my eldest nephew, and his wonderful bride.  Sitota and 1 of my nephews were missing-  and we did miss them,  but we celebrated our family in a way that we haven't in a long, long time.

Aside:  I had this image of my father sitting the the back corner of the room.  Rejoicing for my nephew.  Rejoicing for our adoption.  Rejoicing for the celebration of our lives that manifested in a bunch of people with no dance moves shaking up the dance floor,  and a game of pickle with a dinner roll...  his glory.

The weekend wasn't about us-  but it was.  The bride and groom chose to shine a spotlight on Clay's Creations for Africa.  Instead of wrapping up jordan almonds for the guests,  they gave Clay a very generous donation.  And they displayed his cranes beautifully in the entryway to their reception.  It took my breath away... excuse the crappy phone photo...

Over the past 3 days people asked questions and wanted to talk about Sitota.  And when we hugged goodbye they said things to me that brought the heat to my eyes.  And they held on tightly.  They knew, I guess,  what I needed.

And the check, quietly slipped into a jacket pocket, and the nephew who looked at me and said very deliberately, "I think what you are doing is amazing," and the other nephew who said,  "Bring my cousin home" and picking up of the hotel tab, the many many many words and symbols of encouragement have landed me here.

At home.  With 3 of my Punks nestled into their beds,  and another sound asleep 6,718 miles away. 

And with words pouring out and tears streaming down.

Utterly thankful for this trip,  and for all of the people who hold us up each day.