Sunday, March 16, 2008

Trying this picture thing...

(Sorry for the lack of posting--surprisingly, it's taken a lot of my time to both learn to be a mom of two and work full-time! Posts coming more frequently, I hope.) Starting chronologically with preparations for our trip: some of the 100+ pounds of donations that we brought to Ethiopia, courtesy of you wonderful people! Most of it went to AHOPE, which is the orphanage for HIV+ children.

We're off to Ethiopia!
In Washington, waiting to board the 15+ hour flight to Addis Ababa:

We've arrived!

Our room in the guest house:

Saturday, March 8, 2008

We are home!

Thanks to Shanna, who posted all of those blogs for me while we were gone--I couldn't post to Blogger while in Ethiopia, which I'd forgotten until we got there. I e-mailed her those entries and she put them up for me. And, as she said, she got to cry first ;-)

It was an incredible trip. We wrote an extensive travel journal and will be sharing some of it, but tonight I'm a little tired. We got home yesterday around 5 p.m. Patrick and Melkamu fell asleep in the car; Melkamu woke up until about 7:30, when he fell asleep while eating dinner with a pea in his hand. Both boys (and how much do I love saying "my boys") woke up around 2:30 a.m. and were up until around 4 a.m.--Patrick had missed dinner, so he had some cereal and a glass of milk, while Melkamu needed a change, a bottle, and plenty of cuddling. Then they slept again until about 6 a.m., when we all got up for the day. Melkamu took a quick nap from 9-10 a.m., then he, Patrick, and I went to synagogue.

As we were driving, I was feeling pretty smug that I'd managed to get both boys ready and out only a few minutes later than normal. Then I realized that I hadn't brushed my hair.

At least it was clean.

Melkamu and Patrick are pretty happy with each other so far. Melkamu thinks Patrick is the best person in his world and wants to imitate anything that Patrick does. While reports that we received of Melkamu talking seem to have been quite exaggerated (I suppose he could be talking in Hadiyissa, but it sounds exactly the same as when Patrick babbled as a baby), he does say "Broh!" whenever he sees Patrick--we think he's trying to say "brother", as we often ask "Where's your big brother? Where's Patrick?" Patrick, for his part, likes Melkamu a lot. He's not entirely sure what to do with him, but gives him lots of hugs and is very happy to have a little brother. He thinks it's very funny when Melkamu imitates him. And he covers his ears whenever Melkamu screams, as Melkamu has a scream that could probably shatter crystal. Thankfully he's easily soothed.

It's quite late and I'm getting tired, but there will be more details and lots of pictures to come.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Family of Four- Together at last

We're getting used to having another child so far! We got custody of Melkamu for good yesterday after a very, very touching goodbye ceremony at the care center. His nanny cried and we cried. They put his handprint on the wall of children who have been adopted. It was all videotaped and we'll have a copy of it--I can't fault CHSFS for anything video-wise, since they have been amazing at documenting Melkamu's history for us. Tomorrow we'll get a copy of his Life Story video (which is the one that has the interview with his birthmother) and a separate video about Ethiopia and his time after coming to the care center. We'll share the second one with people, but the first one is for him.
Melkamu was pretty shy and reserved for most of yesterday, until we were done at the Embassy (very, very simple and his visa application was approved!). Since then, though, he's really become the boy we read about in all the reports. He is smiley and laughs a lot, and he loves to cuddle up with us. Bedtime went pretty well last night. He has figured out the sippy cup and bottle, so we're doing some bottle-feeding for bonding purposes. He has been doing great at making eye contact with us in the last day or so, which is a big improvement over the first few days. Last night, we were giving him a bottle and were going to give him a bath afterwards, but he fell asleep. So I put him in the crib and he slept there for about half the night. When he woke up crying, Jason brought him into bed with us and he settled right back down. He woke up crying quite hard one more time, but as soon as I said "It's Mama," he opened his eyes, saw it was me, stopped crying, and put his head on my chest. I could be wrong, but I would swear he said "Mama" as he sighed and fell asleep again. Jason thinks it was Patrick and Melkamu does babble "na na na" a lot, so it could have been that--but you can guess what I'd prefer to think!

He's a very good eater, though he doesn't like eggs or oatmeal. He's eaten everything else we've given him.

I've got to go, as Jason's upstairs and Melkamu's trying to type (since I kept him from making a break for the door), but I have to say this: right now, I've got a cuddly, drooly baby on my lap. There is another baby whimpering in the arms of her mother behind me, and a laughing, giggling toddler running around with his daddy outside. This is the most amazing thing that I've ever done. I can't wait to get back and introduce Melkamu to all of you, and share some of the hundreds of pictures and videos that we've taken.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Melkamu visits the guesthouse

Today we got to bring Melkamu to the guesthouse for the morning. We went to his room and played with him for a bit. He crawled to me as soon as he saw me, which was wonderful, and I teased several laughs out of him. Then we brought him back to the guesthouse, which was a very frightening experience for him. He was extremely clingy and fearful of most everything. When we brought him back to the care center at naptime, he lay down and looked shell-shocked. He didn't cry, but he tracked me out of the room with his eyes like "I just don't get it...why are you leaving?" I am so glad we don't have to do that again, but it makes me hate (even more than I already did) that I've got to be back at work again on Monday.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

More from Ethiopia

Today was a very different day than yesterday. We didn't get to see much of Melkamu, which was hard because we won't get to see him tomorrow (we will be in Hossana meeting his birth mother). We were taken to the care center office at about 9:30 and walked down to the care center to see him, but had to be back at the office by 10 for a meeting--that didn't start until well after 10:30. It would have been much better if they had scheduled them differently, or called us at the care center when it was our turn, because that turned out to be the only real time we got to spend with Melkamu today.

We went down again after our meeting to see him at about noon. They had just finished lunch and most of the kids were down in their cribs for naptime, but Melkamu wasn't in the room. We were told he was in the toilet, which we assumed meant that he was being changed. So we waited and waited. At 12:20, we realized that we had to get going to the office to take the van back to the guesthouse. We had put our shoes back on when he was brought down--it turns out he was being videotaped having a bath! I am going to love having that footage for him. He saw us at the bottom of the stairs and immediately reached out both arms for us, so we went back up to give him hugs and kisses. He was so fresh and clean, and so sleepy! He was quite confused when I handed him back to his nanny so soon. I hope he's OK when we get there on Monday!

The meeting was very emotional. CHSFS makes a video documentary for each child who is placed, giving as much information as they can about the birth family and birth place. If the child has living relatives, they are interviewed; if the child was abandoned, they interview the person who found him or her. While I won't go into the details, because they are for Melkamu and whomever he chooses to share them with, I will say that Melkamu's birthmother is a beautiful woman and he looks a lot like her. And I will also say that this video alone is making me rethink my stance against using CHSFS again in the future--it is such an amazing treasure for Melkamu. I cried from the second it started. We will be meeting his birth mother tomorrow.

Patrick wasn't with us for this meeting, as it really is Melkamu's information and sharing it doesn't apply to a 4-year-old. He spent the time with Blake, the 15-year-old son of another couple. Blake is a wonderful boy and we could hear Patrick's laughter and happiness from the second floor!

We went shopping this afternoon. First we exchanged money at a small grocery store, where we were given 10.18 birr per US dollar. Every time I heard a price, I had to keep reminding myself to knock off a zero, so 350 birr was $35. I also had to keep reminding myself that we brought this money specifically to buy things here, and that we likely won't be back for a very long time so we should do it. Jason found the most gorgeous mask carving and a couple of animal carvings for the boys' room. I won't say what else we got, as many of our purchases were gifts, but I will post some pictures when we get back.

The market was the first place that we'd really encountered beggars, and the sheer poverty was staggering. It was hard to know what to do or how to do it, and very hard to turn people down when they are begging for "just 1 birr". I will write more about these things later.

This evening we went to a hotel for traditional Ethiopian food, music, and dancing. The food was wonderful but I am very glad that we were familiar with good Ethiopian food before we got here--it might have been a big shock otherwise! I chose the "spicy" versions over the "not spicy" and was warned repeatedly, but the doro wat was almost exactly the way it is made at Meskerem--spicy enough to tingle the lips but not enough to hurt! It was wonderful...until Patrick tried a piece of fried zucchini and I told him what it was. He promptly threw up all over himself. Fortunately, he'd only been drinking a lot of lemonade (Crystal Light added to bottled water, don't worry) and so there wasn't much to come out. He hasn't been eating much since we got here--I am very glad that I brought granola bars, raisins, and nutrigrains or he'd be starving! He felt better after we cleaned him up, and lay down with his head across my lap while we listened to the music and watched the dancers do different tribal dances. I feel like I say this a lot, but it was amazing! I videotaped part of it because it couldn't be properly captured with just pictures.

It was a very, very long day and we were exhausted when we got back. Thankfully there was hot water available (this morning there was NO water available), so Patrick and I took a shower and he fell sound asleep with Jason. I've barely slept--maybe an hour and a half tonight total. I'm nervous about meeting Melkamu's birthmother. I don't know how we can adequately convey our gratitude for her entrusting us with her child, that we will raise him to be proud of his Ethiopian heritage and culture, and that she will never be forgotten by any of us.
I'd better go get ready. We leave at 5 a.m. and it's 3:54 now.