Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Distance does make the heart grow fonder

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to accompany my daughter Lauren on a youth group trip. I was away from home for three days, the longest I've ever been apart from Samson. I don't like being apart from my kids like this and I did worry what this would mean for my relationship with Samson.

I called home a couple time to check in and talked to Steve and each of the kids. Everything seemed to be going just fine. However, Steve did mention that Samson was a little out of sorts. I knew this trip would be hard on him but it was also very hard on mom to hear this and not be able to hold and comfort my little man.

When Lauren and I arrived home, the garage door was open and Samson was standing there in a full Barney costume, stuffed with pillows. When he saw me, he began to cry and tried walking toward me but stumbled and fell, rolling around in his costume.

I went right to him, picked up my wobbly, pillow filled Barney and just held him tight.

He continued to cry as we held each other as tight as we could manage until I could free him from his costume.

I kept asking him, "Did you miss mommy?"
No answer. But I told him how much I missed him and loved him.
Then I asked him, "Do you love mommy?"
No answer. Not even eye contact. But we continued to hold each other tight and his tears eventually turned into laughter. He was then happy but still no eye contact.

Later in the day, I asked him again, "Did you miss mommy?" Still no answer. Still no eye contact.

Then on Monday, after I was home for two days, unsolicited, he turned to me with his beautiful smile and said, "I love you Mommy! (long pause)...and I missed you!"

Man do I love this boy!!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Maybe you shouldn't let a three year old

   manage a kite on his own...

unless you want to watch the kite fly through the air when he decides he's tired of hanging onto it and lets go;

unless you want some exercise running after the kite's string as the wind lifts it higher and higher in the air;

unless you want to watch the kite go through an evergreen thinking for a second that there is hope of rescuing it;

unless you want to watch the kite be carried through the evergreen to the power lines;

unless you want to watch the kite string get caught in the power line while the kite continues to fly high;

No, it's probably not a good idea to let a three year old manage a kite...

unless you want your blood pressure to go up while watching the kite fly over a very busy road as the string is still attached to the power line, praying that the kite doesn't take a nose dive right into an on coming car or motorcyclist, causing an accident;

not unless you want to call the local power company and wait impatiently until they get to the scene;

not unless you want to watch nervously the employee from the power company be raised in the bucket to untangle the kite string from the power line and whip the string across the road hoping not to hit a car;

not unless you want to watch your husband dodge traffic to fetch the kite that landed on the roof of the assistant living place.

Luckily nobody got hurt and the kite seemed to have survived as well. But enough drama for one day!

Friday, August 27, 2010



117 Drawn From Water T-shirts sold!!

We are blown away and very encouraged by this number!

If you haven't purchased yours yet, go to their STORE and purchase your very own. I have one in each color and they have become my "uniform" for the summer.

Not only do these T-shirts strike up conversations and help spread the word about this amazing organization but hey are light weight, great for the summer but also great for layering over a long sleeve shirt in the Fall and Winter seasons.

Oh, and I'll let you in on a little known secret:  a little bird shared with me that there is another item coming to the store soon for only a limited time!
More details to follow!! I'll share once I know all the details but what I know so far, I guarantee you will love it!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another new endeavor

I have so much to blog about, that I don't know where to begin. A lot of changes have happened in our family over the summer, lots of decisions have been made and still need to be made. I have so much to share but for this post, I'll share how Steve's work world has been changing.

Several months ago, Steve was approached by a friend who owns a banner printing business. This friend was interested in taking Steve on as a partner to grow the business. After much prayer and consideration, Steve is now transitioning into his entrepreneur position from his CFO position.

When our family returned home from Ethiopia last August, our friends welcomed us home with this Banner placed in our front lawn:

(P.S. Ignore my attempt to take our last name off the banner through Paint.)

Being part-owner in a business has always been Steve's dream. We know there are risks involved in "going on your own" but we just felt like the time and opportunity were right for Steve and our family.

So, here is a shameless plug for Steve's new endeavor:

If you are looking for a banner, for your business, reunion, birthday, any kind of celebration, flags (Ethiopian? hint! hint!) or whatever, go to

They ship everywhere in the US!!

(Print a Welcome Home banner for your friends!)

Monday, August 16, 2010

One Year Ago - Our Family of Six (cont.)

First of all, sorry for not posting my recaps of one year ago in consecutive days. I was so proud of myself for recalling many memories of the events of Samson joining our family our first days in Ethiopia. But then failed to continue.

I have a good excuse - I have been away from my computer for four days, chaperoning a youth event out of town. I did plan to have the rest of my posts complete and scheduled to post automatically while I was gone, but time got away from me.

This post will be a recap of our time after Samson joined our family on August 11th to our homecoming.

On Wednesday, August 12th, we hung out with our children at the guest house. Then, during the afternoon naps, a few of us parents renting a taxi and went shopping for the second time. Our agency took us shopping one of the first days, but we only had a small window of time and I felt rushed.

Our first shopping trip, I spent more time bargaining with the merchants than actually looking. Thinking back, it would have been a much more productive shopping trip if I would have just paid what ever price they quoted me. Everything was so inexpensive to begin with and what I saved in bargaining amounted to only a couple dollars.

During our second shopping trip, we stopped at the Leper Colony gift shop. I did not mind paying full price for their beautiful items. I bought table linens, bedding, leather and cotton woven purses, t-shirts and other miscellaneous items. Then, the taxi brought us to the same market we shopped a few days earlier. It was here that I purchased more bags of coffee and some other small items.

Random pictures:

The guest house we stayed in served as the care center at one time. During the farewell ceremony, the kids put their hand print on this wall.
His first morning waking up to our family:

Cooking classes with the guest house cooks:

On Thursday, August 13, our family prepared for our flight home to the US. But before we left, our guest house manager walked a couple of us to another orphanage - AHOPE. It was here that I met my friend Bonnie's beautiful son. He joined his forever family several months after our visit:

Back at the guest house, we said our last goodbyes to many new friends, loaded the bus one last time and proceeded on to the airport. We had an interesting experience at the airport and I wrote about it here. Because of this experience, we are now involved in this.

Our time at the airport got even more interesting after we learned that they were repairing a crack in the wing of our plane coming from Khartoum. We spent an extra 6 hours in the Addis airport waiting for the plane with the repaired crack, which made us miss our connecting flight out of Amsterdam.

Despite our unexpected delay, we remained fairly positive throughout the flight home. The kids, including Samson, were amazingly cooperative and never complained.

After over 30 hours of traveling, we landed at the Minneapolis airport and were greeted by family and friends:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

He Joins Our Family

This day was the Farewell Ceremony at the Care Center.

We all sat in chairs along the outside wall in the main gathering  room. The older children sat in rows of chairs in a room overlooking us. Then, one by one, the nannys paraded down the staircase with our children dressed in traditional Ethiopian clothes. The older children chanted the names of each child as they descended the stairs.

When it came time for the nannys to hand our children over to us, Samson resisted once again. His nanny handed him off to me and he began to cry and was inconsolable at first. I held him tight and whispered ishi ishi (it will be OK) over and over again in his ear. I also told him "I love you" in Amharic. He also wasn't feeling well. Many of the children at the Care Center had colds and runny noses. At one time when I was holding him, his snotty nose wiped across my teeth. I was continuously wiping his nose so that would not happen again.

This is a picture our agency took of our family, not sure at what point of the ceremony but it looks like we are a little more excited than Samson is about this event.

Samson's crying didn't last long, he soon settled down and appeared to be at ease with our family.

The Farewell Ceremony included prayer time, beautiful singing from the older children and heartbreaking goodbyes. The nannys really bond with the children and care for them and love them very much. Not surprisingly, saying goodbye was not easy for them.

The Ceremony also included a traditional cake cutting event by the oldest boy and girl being adopted in the group. Samson got to cut the cake with his special friend Meazi. (Hi Meazi!! We've enjoyed your mom's blogging!!)

Loading on the bus to head back to the guest house:

This is one of my favorite pictures of my kids:

We could not take our cameras inside the Care Center but as our bus pulled away, I quick snapped one of this balcony. If you look closely, you can see the potty chairs lined up inside the (not code) wrought iron rails. This is where the toddlers had "potty time". The first day we met Samson, he blew our family a kiss from his potty chair while we were getting ready to pull out with the bus.

We not only celebrated this day as our first day as a family but also Samson's half birthday. So that evening, we got out the bubbles and balloons and partied in our room until late at night. By this time, Samson had relaxed a lot and was taking it all in.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

He visits us in the guest house

It's been fun digging up all these memories from a year ago. It's amazing how much I've forgotten until I look at our pictures or read other fellow travelers' blogs.

Today, our kids were delivered to the guest house to spend a short time with their adoptive families. The bus pulled into our courtyard and the nannys walked off one by one with each of our children. Samson looked tired and confused. Our family went out into the courtyard to greet him and when he saw us, he looked really nervous. And when the nanny handed him off to us, he screamed. It was all I could do to hang on to him - he fought so hard to go back to the nanny.

An employee from the guest house was standing close by and waved her hand back and forth, her way of encouraging us to not just stand there but to leave quickly and take him to our room.

Even though his reaction broke my heart, I don't blame him for being scared. He had already gone through 3 transitions at this point in his life. He most likely began to trust someone at each transition and now he was being ripped away from what was familiar to him, yet another time.

So, we brought him to our guest room and almost immediately upon entering our room, he stopped crying. He relaxed a little, got down to explore the room a little and began interacting with our family within minutes.

We experienced our first diaper change with him and then headed down to the dining room to feed our kids.

Then, outside to play with the toys in the courtyard.
(The man in the picture is our guest house guard. We actually never spoke to him but he somehow left a lasting impression on our family. =)

I believe we helped deliver them back to the Care Center and then headed out for a day of touring and an evening of dinner and dancers at a traditional restaurant.

Pictured here is one of the doctors and us touring a women's hospital that our agency runs and operates in Addis:

Touring a stadium that our agency built:


Part of our traveling group at the restaurant: 
Yummy injera, dora wat and other dishes to sample:

The dancing was incredible! The man in the center came out and individually danced with many who were part of our traveling group, including Steve and Pete. We have it on video!

 Tomorrow morning we go back to the Care Center and our children leave with us, leaving the Care Center one last time.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Trip to Hosanna

This morning, Ato Girma knocked on our guest room doors at 5:00 a.m. We arose, got dressed and had breakfast. I asked Lauren to help prepare peanut butter sandwiches for our trip because we were not stopping anywhere to eat. Lauren blogged about our Hossana trip here.

We left our guest house at 6:00 a.m. and headed south out of Addis Ababa. The views in the countryside were breathtaking, even with the heavy haze in the air:

We tried our best to capture the scenery from our windows but a picture isn't the same. Steve took this picture and I blogged about it here:

After the birth family meetings,

 our bus driver drove us to a new school under construction by our agency. The school opened last fall. 200 children attend the school and are fed 2 times/day. Most of the children are able to attend because of our agency's sponsorship program.

We met many local children who came by to greet us. Some were caring for younger siblings. Many of them were barefoot. For the most part, they all looked happy. One group of kids was playing with a piece of styrofoam and I wrote about it here.

On our way back to Addis, we stopped along the roadside and toured a traditional hut. This family was so gracious and kind to open their beautiful home. The local authorities, however, were not so kind about it.

This was a full day. Full of emotions, anticipation, grieving, touring, site seeing. It was an evening best suited for unwinding, resting and preparing the next day's events, including Samson's first visit to our guest house.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Getting to know our son

Yesterday, it was very hard to leave Samson behind at the Care Center. When I gave birth to each of my daughters, I stayed at least a night in the hospital with them. After we left the hospital, they were each stuck to me because I nursed.

Seeing Samson for the first time, was like the birthing part of the adoption. Even if you haven't given birth, you can imagine how hard it was to leave him soon after meeting him. I could never imagine leaving a new born in the hospital.

We returned to the Care Center this morning and none of the five of us could get enough of Samson. We all fought for his attention. Steve and I kept having to remind the girls that it was most important that he began to bond with us, so it was best they let us have the most contact with him. But, as you can imagine, this was not easy for the girls to stand back and observe.

I would say, we all got equal time with him. In fact, at times, the nannys were confused as to which one of us was his mother. At one time, a nanny picked him up, said "You go to your Emaya" and haded him to Olivia! We still joke today about how he had four mothers travel to pick him up.

On this morning, we brought bubbles and balloons for the toddlers to play with. The kids had a ball. They ran around screaming and chasing bubbles. There was one toddler girl in particular who asked for endless hugs and kisses from our family. She loved the attention she got from the girls and always had the brightest smile on her face. When she kissed our cheeks, it was the longest kiss I have ever received. She was so sweet!

While we were entertaining the kids, the nannys would encourage Yunnie (his name in the Care Center) to go to his Ababa and Emaya (sp?). Samson kept his distance and refused to get too close to us but he was still having fun, running, laughing and popping bubbles - he just wasn't running close to US. When ever he would get close enough for one of us to lean over and talk to him, it was like we caught him off guard and he would run to the other side of the room.

One thing I will never forget is even though he kept his distance from us, there was one time that he showed me he was paying attention and desired to protect us. Each time we visited the Care Center, I brought a yellow canvas purse - I bought the purse special for the trip because it had an over the shoulder strap. I always left my purse on the floor in the far corner of the toddler room while we played with the kids. One day, each time a toddler started making his or her way over to my purse, Samson would run over to them, yank the purse from them and either bring it to me or bring it back to the corner.

I put the purse away after we returned home and just began using it again a couple weeks ago. When Samson saw my yellow purse, he said, "Mommy! This is the purse you had at the Care Center!" This kid is smart!

I remember how I hungered to get closer to my son, to understand his personality better and to count his toes, find his scars and birthmarks and to just discover his little body. He appeared to be healthy, well adjusted and physically able to do most things. But I was eager to learn more about him. For most of my curiosity, I would have to wait 2 more days until his first visit to our guest house and the first diaper change.

But here we were at the Care Center and it was time for the toddlers to go potty. The nannys lined up all the potty chairs in a row, stripped the diaper and pants off each child and sat them on the pottys. It was quite the sight watching as the toddlers sat there - some finished right away and were hauled off to nap time and others took forever to go. Samson was one who took forever but we didn't mind because it meant more time we could spend with him.

As he was sitting on his potty, he continuously kicked his tennis shoes off and put them back on. I got down on my hands and knees and helped him put them on once and that is when I got to see his toes for the first time.

I know this sounds weird, but there was something about getting close to him in this way that it just hit me this is really my son. In just a few short days, we will be boarding a plane to take this child back with our family.

When I met him the day before, I was in shock and a little numb. But at this moment, I was less in shock and now overwhelmed with the idea that this was MY son. We went through a lot on this journey, we came a long ways and soon, God would be making this journey complete. There were times during our wait that I thought we would never get to this point, that we would get discouraged by the long wait and exhausting, endless piles of paper work or something would happen to keep us from our son. One of the neatest things about our journey is that God moved mountains to make it possible for our entire family to travel and experience this together.

But now, I will no longer have to look at a picture of my son and dream of having him home some day. For goodness sake, I was holding MY son's foot in my hand. This was real. I no longer had to dream. God is good!

When we returned to our guest room that night we had to shift gears mentally and prepare for the most difficult part of this journey to come. While our family discussed the next day's events, I was reminded of how much Samson had to lose in order to join our family. This evening, our family put out our best clothes for a day long journey to our childrens' original orphanage south of Addis to meet special people who were a very important part of our childrens' first days, months and years of life.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

One Year Ago, Metting our Son

I did not sleep all night. I stood by the window looking at the Care Center almost the entire night. If I wasn't standing by the window, I was sitting up in bed stretching my neck towards the window. During the night, I heard dogs barking and I also used the bathroom outside our guest house room once. There was one mosquito in the bathroom and that was enough to make me paranoid and escape back to my room.

Just before 5:00 a.m. I heard chanting over the loud speaker from the nearby Orthodox church. The sun began to rise, which was a sight for sore eyes. I got up and decided to quietly gather my stuff and take a quick shower before my family awoke. One by one the rest of the family woke up and prepared for the big day. As you can see, however, some of us slept way longer than the rest of us:

Preparing the morning of the big day: Not that great of the picture but we didn't take many that morning.

After a yummy pancake breakfast at the guest house, our agency drove us to their office for orientation and paperwork. I don't remember much about this meeting because all I could think about was how far we had come on this journey and how close we were to meeting our son.

After our orientation meeting, the bus driver drove our group to the Care Center for our first meeting with our children. Upon arriving at the center, we were asked to turn our cameras over to the guard at the gate because no cameras were allowed. Once we checked in our cameras, we exchanged our shoes for a pair of rubber shoes they provided for us outside the home.

All the families were seated inside in a sitting area on the main level. A social worker explained that she would call one family at a time and one by one we would be followed by the photojournalist, Sammy, who will video tape each of us meeting our child(ren).

After the first couple returned with their baby girl, I was fighting back tears.

Avery then began expressing a displeasure with all the new smells. She was feeling weak and ill. I suspect she was experiencing altitude sickness as well. I was hoping and praying that she would not get sick. But just as the social worker was approaching our family (we would have been about the 3rd family called), Avery vomited all over.

I brought her to the bathroom and tried to wipe up as much as I could with toilet paper. Fortunately, just before we left the guest house, Steve had decided to throw in an extra shirt in our back pack for himself just in case he needed it. So, instead of the shirt Avey carefully selected as the one she wanted to wear to meet her new brother, she was wearing an over sized red, men's T-shirt that looked more like a dress on her. But it was better than the alternative.

Once Avery and I returned to the sitting room, we found our social worker waiting for us.

Then, we marched up a couple flights of stairs, walked into a room full of toddlers, turned the corner and there he was. There was our son sitting up against the wall playing with 2 - 3 other toddlers.

He was wearing a red striped shirt and a jean jacket that fit him kind of awkwardly. He also had tennis shoes that were too small with Velcro that would not close. Our family all gathered around him on the floor. He appeared to be happy but he also had a glossed over look to his eyes, trying not to make eye contact with any of us. Looking back, I think he had some clue as to why we were there but he was trying to not over engage in us.

(In this picture you can see Avery's new "dress" and her holding a Kleenex over her nose.)

After rolling a ball back and forth with him, Steve picked him up like a proud new daddy and we joined the rest of the families in the sitting room downstairs. Samson could run and kick the ball well. He looked healthy and obviously had put on some more weight since our last social report on him. I remember thinking how I thought this must be all a dream. I mean really?! Is this OUR son? For sure?

I don't know how long we were able to stay this first visit but I remember how hard it was to leave him.

Friday, August 6, 2010

One Year Ago, Part IV

We arrive in Ethiopia as a family of five late evening on August 6th, 2009. Our agency's guest house manager, Ato Girma, picked us up at the Bole airport along with other families part of our group and transported us to our guest house. As all the families began to turn in for the night, Ato Girma points over to a very well lit up building and says, "That is the care center".

Our family had two rooms in the guest house. I had a view of the care center from my room. Even though I was completely exhausted and should have fallen asleep easily, I could not sleep that night. I was full of anticipation of meeting my son and spent most of the night watching the care center from my guest house window.

The morning could not come fast enough.

View of the Care Center from our guest house:

Our guest house room balcony: