Monday, December 20, 2010

Attachment - Post 3 - Messing with 2 of my Favorite Things

Eating and sleeping -- two of my favorite things! Also, two of the most common problem areas for newly adopted kiddos. Change is possibly a comin' to our house. :-(

This is my bed. (Ignore the work table at the end of the bed. Although, as an adoption side note, it was there when our social worker came to do our home study. Apparently, Daniel excitedly exclaiming, "my dad and me are building a robot!" overrode her possible concerns about the table full of electronics in our bedroom because we received a favorable home study!)

Anyway... I LOVE my bed. Seriously. Nearly every night when I climb into this bed and cover up, I say (out loud), "I love this bed!". And not because I am exhausted (although I usually am), but because it is an awesome bed. And it's not just me. Eric does the same thing.

Eric and I shared a tiny little double bed for years. It barely fit in our bedroom with about a one foot wide path around it for us to walk in and attempt to open our dresser drawers. When we did the addition on the house, I had my 'must haves' - walk-in closets, large windows facing the sunset in our bedroom, ceiling fans, etc. Eric had only one 'must have'. It was a bedroom for us that was big enough for a king-sized bed. And so, our bedroom is now quite possibly the largest room in our house. And, our bed is awesome!

With our 2 biological kids, we were sticklers for sleep programs when they were old enough. We let them cry it out. We didn't enjoy the process and I distinctly remember sitting outside Mackenzie's door crying along with her. But, we insisted that they learn to fall asleep on their own. Solving Your Child's Sleep Problems by Ferber was my go-to book. And, quite frankly, we've always been really happy that we did. Both of our kids are GREAT sleepers now. Daniel has his moments where he still gets up and wanders into our room at night, but I generally take him right back to his bed and make him sleep there. (Remember, I love my bed and I love my sleep. Children tossing and turning and kicking me and laying all over me, not so much.)

Thankfully, we haven't had quite as many rules regarding food. We are not a family that requires all food to be kept at the table. Nor are we a family that is terribly controlling about the amounts that our kids eat or when. I breast-fed both kids on demand. No schedules. No limits. And, everyone was happy with that (except me when they seemed to ALWAYS want to nurse the second that my food was delivered when we were out at a restaurant, but that's a whole different issue).

Anyway, as Eric and I attended our mandatory adoption training classes, we learned all about attachment parenting and about what to expect when we bring Markos home. We learned about the common problem areas and they are eating and sleeping.

With regards to eating, many of these children have suffered hunger and thirst that we truly have never experienced and couldn't possibly understand. As a result, many will eat enormous amounts when they first arrive at your home. They have not always learned that there will be another meal in a few hours. They think they need to eat as much as they possibly can because who knows when they will get to eat again. Many children will also hide and hoard food. They will stash food in their rooms or shove their pockets full, again, because they might not have food later. Some will eat until they throw up. They have not learned to stop when they get that full feeling because they've never really had that full feeling before.

Other children will struggle with eating. The foods are different from what they are used to. Many have sensory aversions or poor motor coordination resulting from unpleasant feeding practices in the orphanages. Although I really believe that the children in the care center where Markos lives are loved and cared for amazingly well, I have seen their lunchtime. Regardless of how loving the nannies are, there is still the problem of 5 or 6 nannies trying to ensure that 40 kids eat. Kids who are suffering from malnutrition and who desperately need to eat. So, the nannies do force some of the kids to eat. They put huge bites in the kids mouths in a short amount of time. Just another negative orphanage necessity, I guess.

Like I said, we haven't ever been a terribly organized, scheduled sort of family when it comes to eating, so this area won't be too problematic for us -- or at least, it won't be too different for us! With all of Daniel's food allergies and eating issues, we're used to meal times taking forever. We're used to pickiness. We're used to having "grazers" for kids. So, allowing Markos to keep healthy foods with him at all times, to sleep with a bottle of water if it provides him with some security, to eat a lot or a little until he feels more safe is fine with us. No biggie.

Now the sleep thing, that's a whole other issue! We're prepared. We'll do what we have to do. But, as I said, I love my bed. I love my sleep. This may require a lot of prayer and supernatural strength from God. ;-)

Many of these children have never slept alone. They have not slept in the dark or in a quiet place. Their anxieties increase as they get tired. They may have experienced times where they were not safe at night. Some newly adopted kiddos from our agency have reported to their parents that wild dogs used to come into their village at night. Many have spent nights alone as young children. Many have lost parents, so how can they be sure that when they wake the next morning, their new parents will still be there. Some adoptive parents have shared that their new kiddos would literally refuse to sleep and would come into their room at night and just stand by their bed and stare at them all night. They would wake to find their child standing by their bed just watching them, afraid that they might leave. (Um, yea, that would be a tad disturbing to wake to in the middle of the night, every night!)

We are somewhat hopeful that because Markos will be sharing a room with Daniel, he will feel a little more safe. However, we are also prepared to allow him to sleep in our bed if necessary, or to move a mattress into our room, or to sleep in his room with him for a while. Whatever it takes for him to feel comfortable and safe. It won't go on forever, and thankfully, we do at least have a king-sized bed now, so our new tiny little peanut should fit just fine in there with Eric and I. We'll just hope he's not a squirmy sleeper like Daniel!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mixed Emotions this Christmas

I've been feeling a little sad lately. I really wanted Markos home with us before Christmas. I wanted to see his face light up like my other kids' faces when he walked down the stairs Christmas morning. I wanted to see his eyes twinkle as he looks at the lights and trees and decorations galore. But, he won't be here. He'll be in an orphanage on the other side of the world, not celebrating Christmas on December 25th. They celebrate Ethiopian Christmas on January 7th. I'm not sure how much or what celebrating they do in the orphanage, if any.

I'm glad I did the majority of our Christmas shopping before we went to Ethiopia at the end of November, because after seeing the things that I saw there, it's been hard to go out and shop. Hard to literally wrack my brain to think of something, anything to buy for people. Things that they don't need, might not like, might not even use. Why am I buying this STUFF?!

It's been hard to keep fielding the questions, "what do you want for Christmas?", "what do the kids need for Christmas?". NOTHING!! Seriously, the answer is nothing. They NEED nothing. I NEED nothing. I want nothing. How could I want for more after seeing the extreme poverty in Ethiopia. We've got what we NEED: food, water, a place to live, safety, health, access to medical care. Half a world away, there are millions of people who don't even have these basics. That's what I want for Christmas, for them to have the basics. And for my son to be home with us so he can have the basics and so much more.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Attachment - Post 2 - What is it and why is it a big deal?

Attachment is a special form of emotional relationship between a child and a significant person or persons. Attachment involves mutuality, comfort, and safety for both individuals in the relationship. Bonding is any activity, action or behavior that helps establish or maintain a relationship. Attachment develops after repeated experiences of an infant having their needs met by a loving, reliable caregiver who is emotionally attuned to the infant’s needs.

With our biological children, this process began in the womb and continued as soon as they were born. They would cry. We would jump. If their diaper was wet, we would change them. If they were hungry, I would nurse them. If they cried, we would comfort and attempt to soothe them. With orphaned children, however, this process is interrupted somewhere along the line. In an orphanage, they cry but no one responds. When they were hungry, there was not always food to feed them. When they cried, their momma or daddy wasn't there to comfort them. You get the point.

Because these adopted children have not developed this trust, this security, this feeling of safety, they are affected socially, emotionally, psychologically, and biologically. When they join their new forever family, regardless of their age at adoption, a parenting style that promotes attachment and fosters lifelong bonds must be embraced. This is done by the new parents becoming the child’s primary providers, especially during the transition period.

The child must learn that when they have a need, their new mommy or daddy will meet it. When they are hurt, their new mommy or daddy will care and will help them. When they are hungry, their new mommy or daddy will give them food. When they are scared, they can trust their new mommy or daddy to keep them safe. This takes time. It takes effort.

The parent needs to meet their child’s physical and emotional needs as much as possible. Food should be associated with comfort, so parents are instructed not to stop bottle-feeding or encourage independent feeding. Instead, it is advised that they “regress” the child. If adopting a young toddler, they are encouraged to go back to bottle feeding. If adopting an older toddler, to hold the child in their lap and feed them by hand. Allowing the child to sleep in their parent’s bed, sleeping in the child’s room with them, or putting their mattress in the parent’s room, until he feels safe at night is encouraged. Carrying the child, holding hands, or baby-wearing - anything that promotes closeness and bonding - is recommended. Essentially, in every way possible, as often as possible, the new parents should meet the child’s needs so that the child will learn to trust in this new relationship.

Because many orphans have been in situations where they have had many different caregivers, they learn to indiscriminately seek care from whatever adults happen to be around. They will “shop” for a new family - smiling and seeking attention from whoever happens to be near. Because of this, it is advised that visitors are restricted during the initial transition time. Additionally, physical contact will be limited and indiscriminate friendliness will be discouraged. For the most part, hugs and kisses will need to be reserved for mommy, daddy, sister and brother at first.

We know that when this cute little boy of ours smiles and holds his arms out for Grammy or Pappy or Nannie or some visiting friend to pick him up and hold him, they will melt and want nothing more than to snatch that little cutie up and snuggle him. But, this can be damaging to the bond that we, as his parents, will be trying to develop. If Markos falls and bumps his knee, we need to be the ones to hold him and comfort him, to bandage the scrape, and kiss the boo-boo. If he is hungry or thirsty, he needs to know that we will provide for him.

This will not be forever, just until attachments are formed. Once the immediate relationships are built within our home, expanding concentric circles of relationships will extend out from our family unit. Grandparents, cousins, aunt & uncle.....close friends and other relatives....other friends and neighbors. Again, you get the idea.

We know you’ll all love Markos and want to come visit - much like when Mackenzie and Daniel were born. But, understand that this situation will be different, so please don't be offended if we politely ask you to keep your visit short, if we won't allow you to give Markos food or to pick him up or hold him when you visit. It won't be forever. Rest assured, someday in the future, I'll be asking you to babysit. :-)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Attachment - What you need to understand

Although we don't have "official" travel notice yet, the countdown is on. There is still a chance that we could receive word on Monday or Tuesday that we have been submitted for the December 28th embassy appointment. That is very unlikely, but it could happen. The 1st embassy appointment in January has definitely been canceled due to Ethiopian Christmas. So, the most likely case is that we will leave on or around January 19th to travel for the January 25th embassy appointment, returning to the US with Markos on my 40th birthday! What an amazing birthday present! In that case, we leave in 39 days to go pick up our son.

In the meantime, there are things that our friends and family need to understand. Things about our son. Things about our parenting him. Things that are DIFFERENT from what you know about "good parenting practices" and that are different from how we parent Mackenzie and Daniel.

I know that you're all in the midst of busy Christmas preparations, so I am hoping to just post a few short posts that you will have time to read over the next few weeks before we bring Markos home. This is the first. To get you thinking about what Markos will
be going through/have gone through, please read the following story.

A Different Perspective Print
Immense Loss; Walk a Mile in Baby’s Booties

Imagine for a moment…

You have met the person you've dreamed about all your life. He has every quality that you desire in a spouse. You plan for the wedding, enjoying every free moment with your fiancée. You love his touch, his smell, the way he looks into your eyes. For the first time in your life, you understand what is meant by "soul mate," for this person understands you in a way that no one else does. Your heart beats in rhythm with his. Your emotions are intimately tied to his every joy, his every sorrow.

The wedding comes. It is a happy celebration, but the best part is that you are finally the wife of this wonderful man. You fall asleep that night, exhausted from the day's events, but relaxed and joyful in the knowledge that you are next to the person who loves you more than anyone in the world…the person who will be with you for the rest of your life.

The next morning you wake up, nestled in your partner's arms. You open your eyes and immediately look for his face.

But IT'S NOT HIM! You are in the arms of another man. You recoil in horror. Who is this man? Where is your beloved?

You ask questions of the new man, but it quickly becomes apparent that he doesn't understand you. You search every room in the house, calling and calling for your husband. The new guy follows you around, trying to hug you, pat you on the back,...even trying to stroke your arm, acting like everything is okay.

But you know that nothing is okay. Your beloved is gone. Where is he? Will he return? When? What has happened to him?

Weeks pass. You cry and cry over the loss of your beloved. Sometimes you ache silently, in shock over what has happened. The new guy tries to comfort you. You appreciate his attempts, but he doesn't speak your language-either verbally or emotionally. He doesn't seem to realize the terrible thing that has happened...that your sweetheart is gone.

You find it difficult to sleep. The new guy tries to comfort you at bedtime with soft words and gentle touches, but you avoid him, preferring to sleep alone, away from him and any intimate words or contact.

Months later, you still ache for your beloved, but gradually you are learning to trust this new guy. He's finally learned that you like your coffee black, not doctored up with cream and sugar. Although you still don't understand his bedtime songs, you like the lilt of his voice and take some comfort in it.

More time passes. One morning, you wake up to find a full suitcase sitting next to the front door. You try to ask him about it, but he just takes you by the hand and leads you to the car. You drive and drive and drive. Nothing is familiar. Where are you? Where is he taking you?

You pull up to a large building. He leads you to an elevator and up to a room filled with people. Many are crying. Some are ecstatic with joy. You are confused. And worried.

The man leads you over to the corner. Another man opens his arms and sweeps you up in an embrace. He rubs your back and kisses your cheeks, obviously thrilled to see you.

You are anything but thrilled to see him. Who in the world is he? Where is your beloved? You reach for the man who brought you, but he just smiles (although he seems to be tearing up, which concerns you), pats you on the back, and puts your hand in the hands of the new guy. The new guy picks up your suitcase and leads you to the door. The familiar face starts openly crying, waving and waving as the elevator doors close on you and the new guy.

The new guy drives you to an airport and you follow him, not knowing what else to do. Sometimes you cry, but then the new guy tries to make you smile, so you grin back, wanting to "get along." You board a plane. The flight is long. You sleep a lot, wanting to mentally escape from the situation.

Hours later, the plane touches down. The new guy is very excited and leads you into the airport where dozens of people are there to greet you. Light bulbs flash as your photo is taken again and again. The new guy takes you to another guy who hugs you. Who is this one? You smile at him. Then you are taken to another man who pats your back and kisses your cheek. Then yet another fellow gives you a big hug and messes your hair.

Finally, someone (which guy is this?) pulls you into his arms with the biggest hug you've ever had. He kisses you all over your cheeks and croons to you in some language you've never heard before.

He leads you to a car and drives you to another location. Everything here looks different. The climate is not what you're used to. The smells are strange. Nothing tastes familiar, except for the black coffee. You wonder if someone told him that you like your coffee black.

You find it nearly impossible to sleep. Sometimes you lie in bed for hours, staring into the blackness, furious with your husband for leaving you, yet aching from the loss. The new guy checks on you. He seems concerned and tries to comfort you with soft words and a mug of warm milk. You turn away, pretending to go to sleep.

People come to the house. You can feel the anxiety start to bubble over as you look into the faces of all the new people. You tightly grasp the new guy's hand. He pulls you closer. People smile and nudge one other, marveling at how quickly you've fallen in love. Strangers reach for you, wanting to be a part of the happiness.

Each time a man hugs you, you wonder if he will be the one to take you away. Just in case, you keep your suitcase packed and ready. Although the man at this house is nice and you're hanging on for dear life, you've learned from experience that men come and go, so you just wait in expectation for the next one to come along.

Each morning, the new guy hands you a cup of coffee and looks at you expectantly. A couple of times the pain and anger for your husband is so great that you lash out, sending hot coffee across the room, causing the new guy to yelp in pain. He just looks at you, bewildered. But most of the time you calmly take the cup. You give him a smile. And wait. And wait. And wait.

--Written by Cynthia Hockman-Chupp, analogy courtesy of Dr. Kali Miller

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ready to Get Off This Crazy Ride!

Wow! This is one crazy ride - this International Adoption thing! (and more often than not, my face has looked like Daniel's in the above picture!!)

On November 22nd, we went to court and were told, "Markos is yours." Awesome!

On November 28th, we heard rumors that there were troubles with licensing renewals of the orphanages in the Southern Region of Ethiopia. Very scary!

On December 1st, we received official word from our agency that there were, in fact, delays and that we would be affected, that nothing would be able to proceed with our adoption (or most other people's either) until after license renewals were complete AT THE END OF DECEMBER! Frustrating and upsetting!

On December 2nd, we heard news that another Holt families' referred baby daughter got sick and passed away in Ethiopia before they had a chance to meet her or hold her. Heart-breaking!

This morning, we officially received word that the orphanage license had been renewed already!! So surprising and exciting!

Then, this afternoon, we heard from two Holt families that are just returning from their court dates. Both of their babies -- one boy and one girl -- were hospitalized while they were there and remain in the hospital. So sad for them!

This is why the waiting is exhausting. The 'ups' and 'downs' seem extreme when they're all beyond your control, when there's nothing you can do, and when you're so far away. But our God is faithful and I'm trying hard to trust Him more and more.

To trust Him to care for Markos when we can't.

To trust Him to strengthen friends who are also on this journey when their 'downs' come.

To trust Him to work out every detail, to oversee the paperwork, to plan the perfect timing.

To trust Him to grow my faith so that I can trust Him.

In the ups and in the downs.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Psalm 107:1

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

WHAT?!! Are. You. Kidding. Me!?!

I am very, very frustrated right now. I know this is all in God's time, I really do. And, I know that His timing is perfect. But, I am still very frustrated and trying hard to remain calm and not get too upset.

When we were just home from Ethiopia, I received an email from another family who was in Ethiopia for court. She was asking for prayers because they did not pass court. Seems that there was some issue with the orphanages' license expiring a few days before her court date. I felt terrible for the families that were affected because I just couldn't imagine walking out of that court room and not having heard those words, "Markos is yours."

Now, information has finally made it's way from Holt to all of us parents in process and here's the deal. The intake orphanages that Holt uses (they do not run the orphanages, they help to 'support' them so as to avoid any conflicts of interest) are primarily in the Southern region of Ethiopia. Their licenses were set to expire so they were in the process of renewing their license, however, the Southern region decided to do a mass internal audit of all the orphanages in the area and is refusing to renew any licenses until the process is complete.

Holt assures us that they do not foresee any problems with the license renewal, it's just a matter of time, waiting for the government to finish the audits. However, until the license is renewed, the judge is refusing to issue any court decrees. So, despite the fact that the orphanage still had a license when we went to court and the fact that the judge declared that Markos was ours, because it usually takes a week or so for the official decree to be issued, we are now stuck in the mess waiting along with all the other families.

I know - I don't get it either. As Eric said, "what part of 'Markos is yours' don't they understand?"

I just can't believe that we received our referral on June 11th and we possibly won't bring him home until February! That's 8 months! I shouldn't complain too much because I know there are families who went to court a few days ahead of us who are now also caught up in this mess who have been waiting even longer. It just stinks that we were caught in the change from 1 trip to 2 trips, then we were caught in the LONG court closures, now this!!! Come. On!

Anyway, sorry for the downer post after all my excitement about our trip. Maybe that's why this is hitting me so hard. I was on such a high after our trip, and now I've been knocked all the way back down, lower than I was before.

Please pray that the orphanage license is renewed as quickly as possible so that we can proceed with getting Markos home. I hate thinking that we left there saying that we would be back for him as soon as we could, and now it might be 3 months before we can get back to him! That's a long time for a 4 year old to wait and understand that we ARE coming!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Court Trip - Post 10 - A LONG Trip Home

Our first flight from Ethiopia to Frankfort, Germany was pretty uneventful. Eric and I were both starting to feel kind of rough, but we thought we were just tired. After all, we had left Ethiopia at 11:25 PM and landed in Frankfort very early in the morning. We had about a 4 hour lay-over, so we found the McDonalds that we had seen on the way over to ET and parked ourselves at a comfy table (comfy might be a bit of an over-statement, but it was the best we could find!). Eric played games on his phone and I journaled some about our trip.

We were so confused from all the time changes, that we rarely knew what time it was during the entire trip. This stop was no exception. However, at one point, I went to walk around and looked at the departure board. The local time was listed so I knew that we had two hours left to wait. When I went back into McDonalds, Eric snapped out of his game-induced trance and said, "what time is it?! We still need to get our boarding passes." I assured him that we had 2 hours, but he wasn't convinced. He gathered up our stuff and started hustling us through the airport. As we hurried, an announcement came over the PA system that we needed to report to our gate. He was further convinced that he was right and we needed to hurry. I was confused (and annoyed) because I knew we had 2 hours. When we arrived at our gate, there was a line forming to get boarding passes, while FIVE extra security people were standing at a separate counter next to the line we were in.

What in the world?! We were only about 10 people back in the line and it took us 50 minutes to get our boarding passes. When we were at the counter, they quizzed us about our bags and our trip. They got on the computer and tracked down exactly where our bags were. (at least we knew THEY knew where they were!) While we were in that line, they continued to make announcements about the "extra document check" at our gate. Hmmmm. Eric has traveled internationally a LOT, and he said he has never seen that before. We listened as they grilled people about their passports, their tickets, how much money they had, why they wanted to go to Canada, how much they paid for their tickets, why they hadn't booked a return flight. On another day, I might have been nervous, but this day, I was just annoyed and tired. "GREAT! Just what we need, another line to stand in! I just want to sit down!!" Eric was getting annoyed with my crappy attitude and I was already annoyed with him booking through the airport and not believing me that I knew what time it was! ;-) Yep, it was time to be home!

It seemed that there were a majority of people on the flight who were from other countries. There were two men who were traveling from some African nations who were really questioned. They were allowed on the flight, but were pulled aside again when we arrived in Canada. There was another man from Bosnia or Estonia - we were a little fuzzy by then. They really, really grilled that guy. They asked him about his English, he said he spoke whatever other language. They pulled out his papers and started asking him about the information on it, "what is this number?". "My driver's license number", the guy answered. "Read this to us," they commanded. He seemed to struggle to read the information on his form, written in whatever other language. Another security person came over. The guy said something that I didn't catch. They pulled out a piece of paper, "well, then, write the letter D". On and on this went. We did not see him board the plane and did not see him again after we moved up and he was still being questioned.

We have no idea what the deal was with the extra security and added "document check", but we figure that the poor flight attendant's were already on guard and aware of whatever the situation was so they were probably THRILLED when Eric got sick mid-flight and I informed them that it was ok, that we were just returning from Africa and I was sure it was something that he ate. :-)

We were sitting in a 3 seat row. Of course, some guy we didn't know had the aisle seat. Eric had the window seat and I was in the middle. He started to give me 'the look' -- the 'uh oh, this isn't going to be good' look. Then, he started to sweat, then shiver. I kept looking at him and saying, "do you want out?", "are you sure?", "maybe you should go to the bathroom". He just sat, motionless. Finally, when it was inevitable that he was going to throw up, we got out and just stood in the bulkhead area. Problem was that it was a BIG plane so there was still a whole big section of plane behind us and we were kind of 'on display' where we were. Eric was standing there with a hoodie on, with the hood pulled up over his head and his barf bag in his hand, but there was always a line for the bathrooms and he didn't want to just go in there and hang out waiting. I went back to talk to the stewardess to see if they would let us stand back there in the open area so he'd at least have a little more privacy. On the way, a nice lady approached me (no doubt having seen Eric standing there looking very ill) and informed me that there was a bathroom in the back and it was open. Thank God! It was right off the open area where I wanted to stand. The stewardess said that they were getting the drink carts ready to go out but as soon as they moved out of that area, we could stand there. Eric didn't make it that long, but he went into that back bathroom and I squeezed into the corner so they could get their drink carts by.

The stewardesses were very nice. They WERE concerned about the whole Africa/illness thing, but when I explained that he had eaten a steak, medium-rare, and that we were pretty sure that was the problem, they relaxed. She said that they are required to be on the look out for any communicable illnesses during the flight. She kept checking with us to see if we needed anything. I said, "do you have Diet Coke?". She laughed. They did! yahoo! FINALLY! She said that she knew we were from America because us Americans love our pop. :-) That we do! She gave me a Ginger Ale for Eric. When I checked on him, he looked very bad. He was literally covered with big drops of sweat. I toweled him off and gave him a little bit of the Ginger Ale. This was going to be a LONG flight!

On the bright side, because I stood so much, my back didn't hurt hardly at all on the way home and I didn't even take any muscle relaxers! I was so tired, I was afraid that if I did, I'd pass out! After Eric finally recovered a little, we ventured back to our seats. The rest of the flight was a little touch and go, as we hit turbulence (of course!) for the last 20 minutes of the flight, just at the same time that they served dinner -- chicken fajita roll things that smelled....BAD! Poor Eric, every time a smell wafted his way, he'd get a panicked look on his face and cover his face with his sweat hirt. Oy.

We made it to Canada, had another layover, then made it home to Pittsburgh around dinner time that night. Eric didn't get sick anymore until we were home. I started feeling rough and getting the shakes when we hit Canada, but I never got sick -- thank goodness! We were both SO HAPPY to climb into our comfy bed that night!!

The kids were at my parent's house. Since their school district was still on strike, they were able to go down early for Thanksgiving. It was nice for Eric and I to have a night at home to recover and sleep before jumping back into life at home. We unpacked, repacked, and ran a few errands the next morning and hopped into the car to drive to Maryland to celebrate Thanksgiving. We had a LOT to be thankful for!!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!

Court Trip - Post 9 - Packing Up and Heading Out

Because Jolie and her friend, Stephanie and Mike, and Eric and I were flying out that evening, after our shopping, we quickly returned to the guest house to pack up and get ready to go to dinner. We made arrangements to all go out to dinner one last time together to an Italian restaurant called Avanti. It would be rushed, but we could do it.

It was a very nice restaurant. Very relaxing atmosphere. A large flat-screen TV hung on the wall above our table. There was a fire burning in a fireplace on it. Someone remarked, "oh look, they built a fire for us." Funny. We ordered drinks and appetizers. It was hard to be in an Italian restaurant ordering pasta without getting a salad, but we were trying to heed the warnings about avoiding raw veggies that had been washed in the water. Unfortunately, Eric saw that Filet Mignon on the menu and decided not to heed Kendra's friend's advice to avoid the beef because it is NOT U.S.D.A. grade beef that we are used to eating. Not only did Eric fail to heed that warning, but he also ordered his steak his usual medium-rare. Oh boy.

Our food was delicious. Eric's steak was not bad, but he said it really didn't taste like steak. Uh oh. We all laughed and talked about our families back home and about our adventures in Ethiopia. The portions of some of the meals were enormous. A few of the guys tried local beers. I enjoyed my Mirinda. (again no Diet coke, *sigh*) When the bill came, we again couldn't refrain from doing the conversions to U.S. dollars. I think my meal cost a total of about $3. Brian remarked that he could take his 401K now, and they could move to Ethiopia and live on it for the rest of their lives.

We finished eating just in time for our driver to arrive to pick us up to take us back to the guest house to grab our bags and head to the airport. Things went well at the airport. Poor, sweet Jolie caused a hold up at the baggage check. Apparently, her Scrabble tiles looked dangerous on the x-ray. Plus, she had arrived in Ethiopia a week early and traveled south to explore her daughter's birth country more. She had picked up a rock in her daughter's village to give to her when she is older. The security tech nearly wouldn't let her take it through, until she burst into tears and launched into her story about how she's adopting and she traveled hours and hours down south to get this rock, etc., etc. He eventually let her through with it, but we don't think it was out of compassion. He rolled his eyes and just motioned for her to go through. We laughed about it in line. That perhaps anytime we get stopped, we should just burst into tears and launch into our stories. :-)

Aside from that little hang-up, everything went well. We had some time, so I scoured the airport, still in search of a Diet Coke. We found a place that had Coke Light, but they were sold out. So, I got my last bottle of Mirinda to drink. When we were boarding our flight, somehow we got between an older gentleman and his wife. The wife was in front of me, the husband behind Eric. Eric said to him, "you can go ahead", and he looked at Eric kind of funny, so Eric asked, "she is your wife, isn't she?". The older guy joked, "I've never seen her before in my life." and Eric played along, "well, she looks like a nice lady. You should go up there and talk to her." He asked, "you think?", and Eric said, "oh yea, she looks like you'd have a lot in common." At this point, the lady piped up and said, "yes, about 50 years worth!". We all laughed and began talking. They asked where we were from and why we were in Ethiopia. We told them of our adoptions. Then, we asked them where they were from and were surprised to hear that they were from Ethiopia now. But, they were returning to Florida to spend Thanksgiving with their family.

Turns out that the man was a retired Orthopedic surgeon. When he retired, his friend contacted him asking for his help starting an Orthopedic practice in Ethiopia to serve the Ethiopian people. He agreed to go and help and ended up loving it there, so he and his wife packed up and moved to Ethiopia a year and a half prior. He told us of how he bought a car from the U.S. Embassy there and he now drives. His wife assured us that she does not! He cleared loved what he was doing. He told us of how he was happy to see his family, but that he knew that he'd only be there a few days before he couldn't help but think, "I wonder what I'm missing. I wonder what they're doing there without me." and every time he left, he couldn't wait to get back!

So sweet. And, so understandable. It is so amazing how our God blesses us more than we can ever bless others! As our friend Peter always says, "You can't out-give God."

Court Trip - Post 8 - On The Streets

When we were finished eating lunch, we headed out again to do some more shopping. The driver took us to a row of shops near the post office. Traffic was a little worse (if that's possible). It was Monday. People were back to work and school was in session. Vans drove around loaded with sweet little children in their matching uniforms. Children walked down the streets in groups -- the lucky ones -- who got to attend school. We noticed that their "uniforms" seemed to be by age groups. The 7/8 year olds all wore a green sweater vest. The older kids all wore a red sweater, etc. They were all happy and skipping along. They knew they were blessed to be able to attend school. How I wish my children could see and understand how blessed they are!!

At one particularly horrendous intersection, with cars, vans, and trucks going in all different directions, I was in the back row of seats in the van and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the very top of someone's head, going out INTO the middle of traffic. My heart lurched and I exclaimed, "Is that a little kid?!" (because it was so low to the ground that I thought it had to be a TINY little kid!). Amanda looked out the side window, looked back with a devastated look on her face and replied, "No. It's a crippled man."

We looked out the side window and were shocked. Never have I seen anything like it in my life. Both of his legs were completely bent, like he was squatting as low as he could, but they bent in a strange way so that he was walking on the sides of his feet, with his hands behind him -- like a sort of twisted crab walk. He was weaving his way through the crowded, crazy streets. It was heart-breaking and amazing at the same time. How had he survived to this age in that condition? What caused his deformity? Was it something easily treatable or correctable if he only lived someplace where he had access to medical care? What strength of spirit drives someone in that condition, in that poverty, in that state of life to carry on, to go out and do whatever he can to survive?!

There was no shortage of things to marvel at on the streets in Addis.

We saw meat hanging in the open, dirty air.
There was, at times, amazing beauty -- trees covered with beautiful lavender blooms, exotic colorful blooms, smiles on faces that would light up a room. There was life! But, there was also death, decay, and destitution -- a dead dog just laying in the middle of the sidewalk decaying, people laying and living on the streets, deformed and crippled men and women laying on the street corners begging to survive. I saw a woman laying asleep on the street with her bare breast hanging out of her shirt, her nursing baby sitting next to her awake and alone.

Beautiful trees tucked amidst the shacks.

Gorgeous countryside

With children running out to chase the van and beg for food.

The people were always beautiful though! They had on rags, but they also had smiles on their faces and a twinkle in their eyes. Friends - men, women, boys, and young girls - were so loving to one another. Men embrace one another. They hold hands. Boys and teens walk with their arm slung around their pal next to them. I had read about it in my travel guide, but it was so heart-warming to see. A very conservative country - Ethiopia outlaws homosexuality. Men and women do not ever display romantic affection in public. But same gender affection is common. Friend to friend, brother to brother, sister to sister, they are close. They care for one another and love deeply. A true community.

Workineh and our driver

Men on the streets of Addis

I saw so many grown men, dressed in tattered clothes, stop to have their shoes shined by the adolescent boys trying to earn money for food or for their families. I kept thinking that surely they didn't really have the money to have their shoes shined, but I suspect that many of those men grew up doing the same for their families. They knew what those boys were facing and they wanted to help them.

While we shopped at the row of stores, my other saddest experience in country occurred. A young boy, probably 8 or 9 years old, approached me and said, "shoe shine, miss?" I said, "no thank you" and kept walking but he followed. "Please Miss. Please. Shoe shine?" I looked around and it was crowded. There was a man selling maps on the streets, another 2 selling jewelry, another selling watches and hats. I couldn't. If I did, they'd all come. I couldn't create another near incident! "No thank you, honey." He looked like he could cry. "please Miss," he begged, "the other kids, they get to go to school. I no go to school. I have to do this. Please. No business today." My insides were being shredded. I had to get away before I burst into tears. "I am so sorry, honey. No thank you." I started to duck into the nearest store before I lost it, but not before he lowered his head and said, "it's ok, Miss. God bless you." Ugh. There it was. The final blow. I felt sick. I tried to get myself together. I fought back the tears and tried to catch my breath as I thought about how my sweet Markos, IF he survived, might have been doing this same thing in a few years in order to survive. Thankfully, when I left the store, the crowd had dissipated a little but he was still there. I quickly handed him a pack of peanut butter crackers. His eyes lit up just a tiny bit and he said, "thank you, Miss! thank you!" Oh, how I wish there was more that I could have done for that sweet one!

Eric gave a Nutri-grain bar to a mother holding her infant daughter as she begged, "please sir, food for my baby." and we watched as she really did give the whole thing to her daughter. I wondered what or if she ate that day.

But again, once the word gets out that you have food, that you have money to spend, the beggars come from everywhere. Our driver had gone to round the remaining shoppers of our bunch up. When he was gone, the beggars surrounded the van. They begged. They pleaded. They put their hands in the windows, and after the windows were closed, they began to try to get them open. Quickly a man, dressed in all green, carrying a club came. He yelled at the children and the beggars. They scattered as he picked up a rock to throw at them. We don't know if he was a policeman or a security guard for the shops, but he stayed with us until our driver returned.

As we drove, we saw funny and marvelous things, too. All the men, especially, were amazed by the scaffolding that surrounded all the buildings under construction. It was bamboo poles tied together.

As I have said before, there seemed to be no rules of the road at all. We saw hilarious things tied to the tops of cars or piled into the back of trucks.

One of our favorite pictures of things piled onto the top of a vehicle.
We also saw trucks filled to overflow with giant burlap sacks of potatoes and men just standing on top of them. We only saw one car seat for children in one car. (it was probably some American visiting there!)

And, I was surprised to see VW Beetles everywhere. At first, I was cracking myself up by hitting Eric and exclaiming, "red one!", "blue one!", etc. (because our children insist on playing the 'punch buggy', 'slug bug', or whatever you call it, game ALL THE TIME, thereby driving us NUTS!). I didn't want him to miss them too much! ;-) But, after a while, there were so many that it just became annoying. I took a few pictures of some of them just so when I showed the kids the pictures, I could say "blue one!" and hit them as they looked at the pictures. :-) ha ha!

We also passed little shops all along the roads. And, we saw some open air type "markets" where people just spread their goods out on the side of the road on a blanket to sell them. We saw potatoes, tomatoes, tennis shoes, shirts, bags, just about everything you could imagine. But, I was glad that we didn't shop there. Seemed far too chaotic for me! Like our malls on Black Friday!

Ethiopia was definitely someplace where you saw everything. Shocking, devastating, beautiful, amazing, heart-breaking, the same day, in a matter of minutes, sometimes in the same moment! It was exhausting, the most crazy emotional roller coaster you can imagine! But, I can't wait to go back. I wouldn't have traded that time for anything!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Court Trip - Post 7 - Kaldi's, Shopping, Leprosy and JOY?!

After we all said goodbye to our darling children, the emotionally-drained bunch of us piled into that van again and headed out to lunch. We went to a coffee house called Kaldi's. It was seriously the Ethiopian version of Starbucks -- except the coffees there cost about 50 cents! :-) We got burgers and fries. Not sure exactly what, but the burgers had some serious fillers in them. Something green. Maybe onions? But, they were good. And the fries were great! Still no Diet Coke for Eric or I, but I grew to like something called Mirinda. It was like Orange Fanta or Orange Crush.

It was a somewhat subdued lunch. I think we were all hitting a wall of exhaustion - emotional and physical - plus we had just said goodbye to our kids for some unknown period of time. Could be 6 weeks. Could be 12 weeks. We have no idea when we'll get to go back, but we're hoping no later than January (and still praying for a miracle December date).

Our driver returned a while later to take us shopping.

Our first stop was the Leprosy Hospital, work center, and gift shop. Oy! So much for hitting an emotional wall! The building was beautiful when we pulled up, but the second we stepped out of the van, the worst smell hit you. I heard later that the Leprosy Hospital is very close to Korah - the trash dump outside Addis where men, women, and children live - the outcasts of society. The Lepers. The sick. The disabled. (for those who are interested, there are groups like Project 61 and Ordinary Hero who are working in Korah)

This is the Birhan Taye Leprosy Disabled Persons Work Group and gift shop.
When we entered the work area, there was a man sitting outside (you might be able to see him if you zoom in on the above picture). He has 2 partial fingers remaining on each hand. He smiled at us, and laughed and talked to his friend by his side while he worked. He was making beautiful rugs to sell.

Inside the first room, there were 2 men using old-fashioned looms to weave beautiful fine linen. They had partial hands and partial feet as well. But, they worked non-stop and appeared to be very content. Further inside, there were four women. They talked amongst themselves while they worked spinning wool into thread.

One of the women captured my attention. She was very old. She sat, hunched in the corner. She had no fingers or thumbs left on either hand - just a small indentation where her thumbs used to begin. She used them to hold the thread while she worked, happily chatting with her friends. All of these men and women. Lepers. The outcasts of society. Missing fingers, hands, feet. But Working. Content. Smiling. They were a true picture of JOY. Not happiness based on circumstances. Joy from something outside of themselves. They weren't crying "oh, poor me". They defied their physical condition. They weren't claiming they couldn't work. They were happy to have work! They were beautiful. They were strong. They were smiling! We were in awe of them.

I wanted to take pictures because they were amazing, but I didn't want them to misunderstand why I wanted to photograph them, so I didn't. I did, however, find this slideshow online about the center, which contains pictures of many of the same people that we saw.

We went into the gift shop there and decided that we would buy as many of the things there that we wanted to buy while we were in Ethiopia as we could, in order to help to support this amazing program. We ended up buying four beautiful scarves, and a gorgeous tablecloth with 8 matching linen napkins. The scarves are for Daniel, Mackenzie, Eric and I. The tablecloth will be put away to save as a wedding gift for Markos and his future wife.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.

Psalm 90:14-17

Court Trip - Post 6 - Hugs, Pictures, Lunch, and Goodbye

After court was over, our driver took us back to the guest house so we could all change clothes. Once we were all wearing something a little more comfortable, we again piled into the white van and drove to the care centers to say goodbye to our children. The driver dropped Eric and I off first at Care Center 3. He blew the horn and the gates were opened for us. We started to walk into the court yard area just as Markos was being brought out of the care center building into the same area. He ran to us and gave me a big hug. (ahhh, heaven!) Then, he leaned back to look me in the face and, with a big smile, said, "machina". (pronounced ma-key-na, Amharic for "car"). heehee. I told you he really loved that car! Not sure if he was happy to see us or just happy to get that car back again! But, either way, we didn't care!

The three of us went into the same big empty room that we were in the previous day. We played with the balls, car and punching balloons again. But, first, we sat down with Markos and showed him the family album we made him with pictures of us and the kids, our house, our yard, his bedroom, and other extended family members. I tried to get him to repeat names, but he would just smile and nod his head. I attempted to say, in Amharic, things like "Markos bedroom", "Markos brother", "Markos sister", "Markos family", "Markos America" to try to make sure that he understood that we were, in fact, returning for him to take him to America. Mr. Independent insisted on holding the book himself and flipping the pages himself. Ai yi yi. Flashbacks of Daniel at that age are running through my head...

When we finished looking through it (at record speed), he tucked it under his arm and attempted to play while holding onto it. Once he realized this would be too difficult, he went over and hid it under the shelf of the TV stand in the corner. He would play for a while, then go over, sit against the wall and pull it out, look at a few pages, tuck it safely away again and play some more.

Here is the only other picture I can show you from our time together on day 2:

You can't see his face, but trust me, he was laughing and smiling behind that punching balloon (or kicking balloon as the case may have been!)

We exchanged bracelets. If you don't know what I'm talking about, read it here. Then, a guy came in to install a new DVD player to the TV that was in the corner of the room. Markos was enthralled with watching the installation. People were in and out which was a little distracting. Then, nannies came in and pulled out large sheets of plastic and covered the floor. We weren't sure what they were doing, until they started setting up 2 long rows of plastic tables and plastic chairs.

It was LUNCHTIME and we were in the room in which the kids eat. Once they were finished setting up the tables and chairs, a nanny called Markos to come and wash his hands. We watched as all the kids lined up outside to wash their hands for lunch under a hose in the court yard. Markos was allowed to go first, so he quickly came running back in, ran to me, gave me a hug, and sat at the end of the row of chairs in front of me. Directly behind Markos was the cutest little girl, with the most darling little smile that you've ever seen. She ran straight to Eric and gave him a big hug and sat in the row of chairs directly in front of Eric. So sweet. One by one all the kids filed in and filled the chairs. I counted 39 kids. The nannies were playing Barney (in English) on the TV and the kids were thrilled.

We listened as one of the nannies gave the kids a lecture on not touching the new DVD player. I had to chuckle when she singled out a few kids (mostly boys) and tapped them on the head with a rolled up piece of paper in her hand and asked them if they understood. They all responded "ishi" (OK/yes). Markos was one of those singled out for the extra warning, of course! I was not surprised given his apparent love of all things electronic with buttons to push!

Once the lecture was over, the children all prayed together in Amharic. So, so sweet. Then, as they ended with a hearty "Amen!", the nannies began carrying in plates of injera covered with a pile of chopped up spinach-like stuff and a big pile of yellow lentil-like stuff. I was shocked at how much the children ate. They were each given a large, dinner-sized plate, completely covered with a piece of injera bigger than the plate, that was rolled up on the sides. As they finished the stuff on top, they were given more of the yellow stuff to eat with their remaining injera.

Markos ate like a champ. As he ate, he would occasionally turn to me, smile, & put his hand out for me to squeeze. Of course, poor Eric was having his heart broken next to me because that little girl kept doing the same to him throughout the meal. I think if he could have snagged her up and taken her with us, he might have!

Sadly, in the middle of their meal, our driver came and knocked and the window and told us we had to leave. Our goodbye wasn't what I would have wanted it to be. We pretty much were just able to kiss Markos' head and hug him while he ate. No big squeezer hugs or tears -- just a rushed goodbye. Maybe it was better that way.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Court Trip - Post 5 - God is Good, All the Time

We were all up, bright and early, ready for court. Thankfully, we woke up early because Eric had accidentally unplugged his phone and turned it off the night before in order to recharge our video-camera so we had no alarm! I woke up so early that I actually managed to get some hot water! YAHOO! This was going to be a great day!

Hot water is very hard to come by, apparently. The first morning, Eric and I both got freezing cold showers -- very, very, very quick showers! Makes my teeth chatter to think about how cold that first shower was! I tried to tell Eric to get up quickly so he could possibly have some hot water the second morning, but nooooooo....he had to sleep longer. Frigid shower for him!

We all dressed up, as we were instructed to do. We wore shoes that didn't make a lot of noise, (or, at least, we planned to tip-toe if we didn't.) :-) We enjoyed another nice breakfast at the guest house before the Holt driver arrived to pick us up. Surprisingly, he was on time. (We were warned ahead of time that Ethiopians aren't in a rush and this is a rarity!)

When we arrived at the court house, we sat in the van, waiting for the lawyer to arrive to walk in with us. While we waited, a few of our group ran across the street to buy a bottle of water. Eric asked one of them to buy him a Coke Light if they had it. They managed to find Coke, not Coke Light, but when they brought it, they reported, "I hope this is ok. They wanted to keep the bottle." Turns out this wouldn't be the first time this happened while we were there. Glass is worth more when it's recycled than plastic, so the shopkeepers insisted on keeping the bottles when you bought a soda. They would pour it into an empty water bottle and give it to you or if you were in a restaurant, just keep it when you were finished. (uh, yea, again, no wonder we got sick.) But, when you need some caffeine, you need some caffeine - especially when you don't drink coffee!

We were all very anxious and nervous about court. The Holt families were amongst the first to arrive. We filed into a waiting room surrounded by chairs and all sat on the side furthest from the door to the judge's chambers. The room quickly filled with more people than chairs.

While we waited, we saw a couple across the room. When a man approached and there were no chairs left, the husband said something to his wife (who was dressed very conservatively, with a scarf covering her face) and she quickly got off the chair and sat on the floor to give the chair to the man. Again, I thought, "hmmm. Now, there's something you don't see in America." (thank goodness!) ;-)

The first family was called. They were from another agency. In a matter of minutes, they exited the room and the next family (from the same agency) was called. As they passed, the entering family asked the exiting family, "well?", and the exiting lady replied, "I don't know what the outcome was" as she shrugged her shoulders and looked concerned. This kind of freaked me out a little, as I have heard from nearly all Holt families that have attended court that the judge has always ended the hearing with "he/she is yours". Was there some problem with this families case? Did they NOT pass for some reason? Was there a chance that we wouldn't pass? Was there a chance that we wouldn't hear today and would have to wait to find out? As I sat and contemplated such things, the second family was finished and happily exited the judge's chambers with big smiles on their faces. "We passed", they reported. They were the only two families from that agency, so the first family asked the attorney, "did we pass?". "She said that they are yours", he replied. "oh, I didn't hear her," the woman answered with relief.

In the meantime, the first Holt family was called. In what seemed like only seconds, Brian and Mariah returned to the waiting room with smiles on their faces. We all gathered around to ask our panicked questions -- "how was it?", "what did she ask?".... They reported that she only asked about 5 or 6 questions and that she really pretty much just wanted yes or no answers, that it wasn't bad at all, that the worst part of the whole thing was that you could barely hear her. At first, I thought Brian was kidding, but he assured me that he was serious and that whoever hears the best, better sit as close as they can to the judge. Eric and I agreed that he hears better than I do so he would sit closest (and just for the record, he might HEAR better than I do, but he definitely does not LISTEN better than I do) ;-)

One by one, each Holt family returned to the waiting room with smiles and relief on their faces. Finally, Eric and I were called. We were the last Holt family of the day to be called. We went in and Eric sat closest to the judge. Brian wasn't kidding! When we first went in, I know the judge said something. I could see her lips moving, but I seriously didn't hear a single peep. It was very fast and very painless -- just a few questions, all of which were on the list that the attorney had prepped us with. We gave our short answers and, after ensuring that we realized this was irrevocable and permanent, she stated, "Markos is yours."

We left the room and all the Holt families happily got up to leave. Brian informed us that he had timed us and we were only in the judge's chambers for 72 seconds. So strange for all those months and months of paper-chasing and waiting and more paper-chasing and more waiting to culminate in 72 seconds!

As we filed outside and piled back into the van, Mariah asked if anyone sang. She was hoping for some praise songs. No one was willing to belt out some tunes alone, but the driver turned on the CD player in the van. And, we heard,
"God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in this heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time..."
A perfect song. (and I'm not sure, but I think, possibly, the only song that the driver had on that CD in his van.)

But God IS good, all the time!

Court Trip - Post 4 - Meeting our Babes & Celebrating

After our sightseeing on Sunday morning, we returned to the guest house for some lunch - yummy little pizzas...lots of pizzas - and anxiously awaited the Holt driver picking us up for orientation and our first meeting with our children. He arrived around 2:15 or 2:30 and we all piled into the van. Our first stop was the Holt offices for orientation and a meeting with our attorney to prepare us for court.

We were introduced to some of the people at Holt Ethiopia (whose names I don't have handy & can't remember). We were given the do's and don'ts of meeting with our children. Do take all the pictures that you want of your own child. Do NOT take any photos of anyone else's children. (darn) We also sat through a short presentation by Holt's legal advisor. He gave us the run down of the do's and don'ts of court. He also gave us 2 pages of possible questions that we needed to be prepared to answer, and then 2 of the ladies from Holt went around and quizzed each family on the one page. (oh, the pressure!) ;-) Because it was a Sunday, and most of the staff were off work, we did not tour the Holt offices at this time. We got to get back into the vans and drive off to Care Center 2 -- the infant & younger children's care center next to the Union Hotel. When we were first told this is where we were going, I asked if they had brought Markos to CC2 for our meeting, or if they'd be taking us to CC3 -- the preschool care center. The lady from Holt informed me that I was mistaken and that Markos was at CC2. Eric and I were a little worried, because we knew that he had previously NOT been at CC2, so we thought he was moved again and the fewer transitions, the better for the kids.

Care Center 2, by the Union:

The inside of the gate at CC2:

The play area off the main lobby inside CC2:

The stairway inside CC2 where the nannies bring the kids down to meet their new families:

Upon arriving at CC2, the lady from Holt talked with the head nanny who was there at the time and discovered that we were correct and that Markos was not, in fact, at CC2. So, she called for a driver to take us to CC3. While we waited, we have the privilege of seeing all the other families unite with their kiddos for the first time. What a beautiful thing to witness! Only a few tears (from the children), many more tears from the parents! Of course, as we are not allowed to post pictures of our own kids, we also aren't allowed to post pictures of others kids, so no pictures to show you. Since Eric and I didn't have Markos yet, he was able to videotape the whole thing for the other families so that was nice. Such sweet, sweet unions.

Mariah & Brian were the only ones picking up an infant, but were still caught off-guard when the nannies just brought their little one down without any warning and he was wearing a purple sleeper.

Kendra & Dic united with their 2 year old little girl. Daddy's girl ran from the nanny and threw her arms around Dic who was trying to videotape while Kendra sat by and fought back the tears, patiently waiting for her turn to give her little girl a squeeze.

Stephanie & Mike were adopting 2 year old twin boys who had some super big smiles when they were handed some little wooden cars.

Amanda & Justin were also adopting siblings -- a 2 year old boy and a 3 year old girl -- who both ran from the nanny and threw their arms around them. Brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

Heather & Tyler were adopting a toddler aged boy. He was darling - just taking everything in - very relaxed and sweet.

And, Jolie was adopting a little girl. She was the serious, thinker of the kids. She wasn't upset and didn't seem scared, she was just serious. She sat and stared for some time, just checking Jolie out. Very funny to watch.

Then, they told Eric and I it was time to go meet Markos, so we headed off to CC3. I posted a few "teaser pics" and shared a little about our meeting here, but can't post anymore pics, unfortunately.

He was really adorable. A little shy when we first met up with him in the court yard area, but he warmed up quickly inside the room where we were playing. He loved the car we gave him and played with it almost the entire time (or at least, ran around with it in his hand while he played with the balls & balloons). He was allowed to choose a friend to come and join us, so the 4 of us played for a few hours. It was a lot of fun. He is extremely curious & independent. He is an awesome kicker. After watching some of our videos, my dad was joking that the Steelers could really use him. There is just so much to tell, that I don't know where to begin really.

He laughed and talked to his friend, but he didn't talk to us at all. He did seem to understand English a good bit, but we never heard him speak it. His friend, on the other hand, seemed to know a fair amount. In fact, his friend was so adorable and excited for Markos, that everytime someone would walk by the windows, he'd yell out, "Markos America!". When the nannies would walk by and would see us with him and knew that we were his family, they would poke their heads in and congratulate him, kiss him, and hug him. The love between the nannies and the kids was so very obvious and beautiful.

They brought Markos' favorite nanny in to talk to us and answer any questions that we had. We also met with the pediatrician for a short time. We discovered that Markos had pneumonia a few months ago, but he's finished the treatments now and is fully recovered. Aside from that, he is very healthy.

After a few short hours, the Holt lady peeked her head in and told us it was time to go. She took Markos outside and talked to him. She explained that we were his family and that we were going to take him to America, but that we couldn't take him yet, that we still had to do some paperwork and that we would come back to take him later. I hope he understood.

We returned to the guest house and all quickly freshened up (or spent some time crying tears of joy alone in our rooms...), and then we had the driver for the guest house take five of the couples who were there to dinner at an Ethiopian Restaurant to celebrate. We went to a place called Yad Abyssinian.

We laughed because we had to go through some security to get into the restaurant, having our purses checked, etc. This was funny because to get into Ethiopia through customs and such, we weren't asked a single question. Regardless, it was a lot of fun. We ordered the sampler platter (I forget what they called it), and of course, some of the guys just HAD to try the goat so we got some of it, too.

Stephanie & Mike having their hands washed before our meal.

Dinner is served:

And, here's the goat:

Justin, Amanda, Heather & Tyler:

Brian, Mariah, me & Eric:

We aren't really sure what that was that Eric ate (yep, don't know why Eric got sick...):

The entire time we ate, there were traditional Ethiopian singers and dancers on the stage in the middle of the restaurant. At one point, I recognized the music from a previous Holt families' videos and knew it was a dance where the dancers come out into the audience & pull audience members to come up on stage and dance with them. Of course, I was shrinking back in my seat (and thankful I was back in the back, near the corner!). Eric thought he'd be funny and he had his hand over Mariah's head, pointing for the dancer to pick her. Instead the dancer came and tried to get Brian to do some weird shoulder dancing thing. He tried, but it just made the dancer (and the rest of us) laugh. I have it on video, but will spare Brian the humiliation. (you can thank me later, Brian)

All in all, it was a wonderful, emotional, exhausting day. I don't think too many of us had a hard time falling asleep after we returned to the guest house and hopped online for a few minutes (when the computers would work). Tomorrow morning, COURT!