Monday, April 27, 2009

First Ice Cream

I was feeling a little caged-in yesterday. The guys went out to church in the morning, and I stayed home with the Chicken Pox Princess. By the evening, I was definitely feeling housebound. Not so much that I had been, as with Gareth home I had gotten out by myself a couple of times over the week-end, but more in anticipation of the fact that with Gareth's return to work, I would be unable to leave the house with the kids until Rosie's pox have subsided. And, if the boys come down with them, then this could go on for another 3 or 4 weeks.

So, I suggested to Gareth that we have a little family outing before he headed back to work. We couldn't go anywhere inside with Rosie, but Braums does have an outside eating area where we could be alone and not risk spreading the pox.

The boys love ice cream, and they were more than happy to show Rosie how it was done.

Not that she needed much encouragement! She loved sherbet. She did not love the drips on her pants, but after some coaching she got the hang of licking around the edge to catch the drips.

I never thought to warn her about not waving her cone around, but she learned that lesson the hard way. Told you the girl could glare and pout with the best of them! Here she is glaring at Daddy for laughing about the fact that she just bonked herself in the forehead with her ice cream cone.

So much fun! All of these firsts make for special memories. And thankfully the pox are least noticeable on her face, so she hopefully won't hate most of these pictures when she's old and cool!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Day 2-Out and About in Addis Ababa and Gotcha Day!

Right, Little Miss Chicken Pox is resting, so I have a few free minutes. Having met Rosie on Monday, our Tuesday schedule was to go shopping in the morning, eat out for lunch, and then to go to the Transition Home to bring our children back to the hotel with us that afternoon.

To be completely honest with you, I really did not like Addis Ababa at first and wasn't really sure I wanted to go back out on Tuesday. Addis has most of my least favorite elements in a city. It is crowded, loud and (to my eyes) dirty. Add to that poverty on a level that I had not experienced before, and I felt really overwhelmed. This was the view from our hotel, and it was typical of the vast majority of what we saw in the city. Loads of tin shacks, all of which lie in very close proximity to each other. But, I went ahead and got myself together, packed a bag for the day, gathered my thank-you gifts for the nannies, the donations that were going to the Transition Home and headed out for the day.

Driving in Addis is definitely an experience. Part of the road are paved, but frequently you will come to large sections of road that have been ripped out and you just go anyway. If you head off of the main roads, it will be onto dirt paths, and frequently you find roads partially obstructed with mounds of dirt or ripped-paving. Our bus driver was amazing, and on several occasions we took routes I would have sworn that a bus that size couldn't go without tipping over.

People share the roads with the vehicles, and there seems to be no concept of giving way to vehicles, even if they are 20 times bigger than you are!
Most of the roads do not have lane markings, and vehicles just go wherever. On a couple of occasions we did see stop signs or traffic lights, but those were given no regard either. I asked a national about it, and his response was, "We have a democracy. That means we can go where we want to". A few of the large roads did have lane markings. At rush hour, we were on a 4-lane road. At one point in time, we counted 12 lanes of traffic using it! Horns are the most used part of Ethiopian vehicles. You honk if you want to greet someone, you honk if you want to complain about someone else's driving, you honk if you want through to go somewhere, you honk if you're going to turn, you honk to tell pedestrians not to go yet, or if you want them to go.
Yes, we did take the bus down several side-roads not much larger than this one. No, we didn't hit anyone. I'm still amazed by that. Add in the herds of goats, and you really do have an adventure.

The cattle being run down the road were more impressive, though. Once, we even saw a cow asleep in the divider in the middle of a busy main road. In preparation for Easter, thousands of chickens, goats and cows were being brought into the city. The chickens were destined to become sacrifices for the Orthodox, the goats to be dinner, and the cows to be part of the special Easter customs, which involves gathering friends and family for a 6 a.m. slaughtering, followed by the feast!

There are little shops all along the roads, and I had lots of fun looking at them. Especially all of the fruit stands.Clothes shopping, anyone? Or maybe you'd care to have a burger and a wedding cake. If you didn't own a shop, a strip of sidewalk, or just a blanket over the rubble at the side of the road, would work for setting out the things you had for sale.

In the midst of all the chaos, could you sleep? This was a sight I never did get used to-the homeless, who would sleep wherever, whenever. If they had a coat, they would put it over them, but we saw plenty of others just lying on the grass beside the road with nothing to cover them at all. In the rain, you would see homeless women squatting by the roadside, holding a shawl over themselves and their children.

What I didn't photograph, were the beggars. When the bus would be sitting in traffic, we would almost always have people begging at the windows. And, they were at the shopping areas, too. Following you along, hands stretched out, calling you Mother or Sister-the old ladies who would mime that they were hungry, young children who would rub their bellies and hold out their hands, mothers who would pull back their shawl to show you their nursing baby, the cripple who could barely hobble to the bus, the young man who was leading a blind sibling around, the leper with no legs pushing himself along on a skateboard, and all of them wanting money. I had made the decision based on others' prior experience not to hand out cash, but took bags of granola bars,fruit leather, candy and trail mix. Sometimes this was gratefully received, but sometimes there was just annoyance at the lack of cash. Yes, some of the kids were very pushy, and they would take what you had offered, stuff it up their shirts and then demand more, pushing aside others who were waiting. But overall, there was a dignity that even the poorest carried themselves with, which made the thought of photographing their misery seem wrong, somehow.

As Tuesday wore on and we were out longer, I began to enjoy Addis more. Not that the poverty was any less shocking or overwhelming, but there are beautiful aspects to the culture, too. Ethiopians are very loving to children, much more so than here in the States. The sight of every adult coming to a stop to ask their name and to give kisses when little ones were around was so much fun. The culture is very relational. I loved the people watching, especially watching people greet each other on the streets. I am sure that not everyone in Ethiopia knows everyone else, but to the foreign eye it sure can look like it. Overall, people were very friendly, and most of them looked out for the ferenge(foreigner), although I did not appreciate the guard who used a stick to drive away some of the street kids I was talking to and buying gum and kleenex from! Most of the kids knew at least a little English, and they loved to try it out on you. Some of the older ones actually spoke better English than some American teenagers I know!

Here is the market in the "Post Office District" where we shopped for souvenirs. The shops held a little bit of everything: carvings, drums, traditional dresses, scarves, silver jewellery, traditional Ethiopian crosses, t-shirt, coffee sets, purses, and books. Out on the street there were men trying to sell maps, belts, baskets and street kids selling gum and kleenex. One of the younger boys I met whittled sticks to make "toothbrushes". I bought lots of gum and kleenex and toothbrushes that I didn't need, but I was impressed with those people who were out actively trying to support themselves.

We had lunch at an Italian restaurant. Italy occupied Ethiopia for a period of time, and their influence can still be seen in the food. Yet another different aspect of Ethiopian culture, is the relaxed attitude to time and schedules. It was a common theme, that it could take half an hour for your drink order to arrive and another half hour for your meal to arrive. While this could be frustrating when you were operating on a schedule, I also appreciated this more laid-back attitude. Meal times in American society are more and more pressured and shortened, and it is nice to see the social aspects of meals enjoyed without the rush to get out so someone else can be seated, or to rush off to your next appointment.

After lunch, it was Gotcha Day!-off to meet our kids and begin life as a forever family. When I got off of the bus, there was the most gorgeous little girl waiting for me! Her nanny had gotten her ready for the day, dressing her in the outfit we had sent to her in one of the outfits we had sent in her care package and including the little sunglasses that had been stuck in the care package at the last minute.

This is Rosie with her nanny, Zanesh. I am so grateful to this lady. She was obviously very fond of Rosie, and Rosie adored her. I credit much of Rosie's smooth transition to the work that Zanesh had put in to preparing Rosie for her new family. Zanesh had Rosie's photo album out and spent a few last minutes with Rosie interpreting some basic information for me as I told Rosie that Daddy was at home with Noah and Nathan and was waiting for us to come home to him. Many of the nannies cried as we prepared to take the little ones they had cared for away with us, but Zanesh only expressed excitement for Rosie that she was going home to her Daddy. I attempted to thank her, but words and even a gift seemed so inadequate. How could you ever sufficiently thank the person who has selflessly cared for children she loves, knowing that eventually they will be taken far away?

When it was time to board the bus, Rosie was excited to go. Halfway on she had a little panic about getting on, but as soon as she was sat on my lap she was fine. We went back to the hotel, where Rosie had a bath standing up. She was terrified having never been in a big bath tub, so we settled for a standing up bath and hair wash. Then, we spent a long time rubbing on lotion, which she loved. And when she saw her new clothes I thought she was going to burst! Such a girly girl. We got her clothes on, tried on her new shoes, and then set out to fix her hair. She insisted on wearing both hairbows. I tried my best to convince her otherwise, but she was adamant that she needed one on each side of her head. So, we went with it, and Rosie went to dinner looking like this:
Once again, I was in awe of the Ethiopian's love of children. The hostess came to ask Rosie her name and to kiss her. Then the waiter came to love on her. He asked if it was okay to ask her what she wanted to eat. And, Rosie, who very much knows her mind, promptly ordered herself a "chicken cutlet". While we waited, she had a Sprite, then a glass of warm milk, some cheerios I had packed in her bag, a bag of fruit snacks, then 2 slices of bread and butter. When her chicken came she couldn't eat it all, but when my sandwich arrived and she spied the fresh slices of tomato, she ripped my sandwich apart to get to the tomatoes.

After dinner, we went back to our room, enjoyed some more bonding time with the lotion, worked on a puzzle together, did some coloring, and then cuddled on the bed for a few minutes before putting her into the crib that had been brought up for her. She settled right down, and was asleep with in 3 minutes.

Having not really slept much since leaving the USA, I thought that I would finally be able to sleep now that Rosie was with me, but then found that my mind was so active processing everything that had happened and my heart was so full of wonder at this little one who would so readily accept me as Mommy, that sleep eluded me for most of another night.

A Pox Upon Our House

My apologies for the lack of posts to those who are waiting to hear about the rest of our time in Ethiopia.

The week was going great, and I finally felt like I had everything caught up and a schedule working that meant that I could get all of the work done and keep up with 3 kids, when the pox showed up for a visit.

On Thursday night, Rosie had 2 tiny blisters on her back. No big deal. But Friday night at bathtime, her entire back was covered. On Saturday morning it had spread to her legs and neck and chest. Today, she is covered everywhere. Face, in-between fingers and toes, mouth, in her ears and up her nose. So much fun!!!!!!!!

She is still a sweetie and very affectionate, but she's definitely not quite herself today. She isn't really eating, although I have coaxed a banana down her. Thankfully, she is happy to drink, so we are pushing lots of fluids, giving some Tylenol, and taking the chance to play in the bathtub lots and lots. She is definitely high maintenance today!

So, hopefully I will back to posting about Ethiopia soon, but in the meantime I'm off to entertain the small itchy one!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Meeting Rosie

Despite the 31 hours travelling and sleeping tablet, I slept very little Sunday night. It was hard to sleep knowing that I was in the same country as my daughter and would meet her in just a few hours.
When daylight finally broke, I got up and began to put together a bag for the day and then went to have a shower only to discover that the power had gone out and the generator hadn't been powered up yet. So, after a quick shower, I got dressed and was then pleased to find the generator running so that I could dry my hair.

We had a quick breakfast upstairs and then met Robel (our in-country guide who is a super amazing guy) and drove to the Hilton to meet Duni (the in-country coordinator for a couple of hours of paperwork and then lunch. Lunch was probably good and the Hilton was fabulous, but all I could think about was getting to the Transition home.

Finally, we were on the bus and headed to our kids. We had agreed beforehand that the Kulp family, who had been waiting for 6 months to pass court, should meet their child first. When we arrived, Duni went into the home to bring the first baby out, only to come back out a couple of minutes later with news that their little Micah was asleep. So, they went in to meet him with Robel going along to take pictures. From there, we were scheduled to go by last name alphabetically to meet our children. The Bartels were waiting, only to have Duni come back to say that their little girl wasn't there, that she had been taken for a medical along with the Rovang's daughter and my Rosie.

So, I stood there and watched as other families began to meet their little ones. Then, I heard a vehicle pull up and stop outside the gate. The gatekeeper went out, and I heard little voices. I hollered to the other families that I thought our kids were back, and sure enough, a line of little people began wandering in through the gate. Mom kept asking if it was Rosie, and I kept saying no. She would ask if I was sure, and I kept telling her that yes, I was sure. Then all of a sudden, there she was. She walked through the gate, I knelt down and she came right over to me. From the photo album we had sent, she knew who I was and called me Mommy. It was the most beautiful sound in the world. I handed her the stuffed bunny I had brought for her, spent a couple of seconds stroking her hair and then held out my arms. She jumped right into them and wrapped her arms tight around my neck. All of the hard times and waiting were over and that moment was just such sweet release. It was so hard not to just sob, but I didn't want to frighten her.
Thankfully, she kept her arms tight around my neck and couldn't see just how hard I was having to work to hold it together. After a couple of minutes when I could breathe and see again, I pulled back where we could look at each other. She loved playing with my hair and would alternate that with rubbing my face and kissing me. I
went to find a shady spot to sit, and she had a great time looking in my purse. I had brought some toys, and she found the balloons right away. She had a great time trying to blow them up. When she couldn't, she stuck it in my mouth. So much for trying to avoid transferring any nasties that she might have had! I just couldn't refuse. We spent a while playing balloons, and then one of the other Moms handed her a lollipop. She unwrapped it, gave it a good suck, looked at me and realized I didn't have one and promptly bit off half and stuffed into my mouth. Then, dragging out my water bottle, she had a good drink and wanted to give me a drink, too. I decided that the bonding was worth any risk involved and just let her praying that God would protect me from whatever nasties there were.
I got out my pictures from home, and she immediately grabbed them, pointed out Gareth and began to kiss his picture, saying "Daddy, Daddy". She did the same with each of the boys' pictures. After she had finished her lollipop and my bottle of water, she hopped up and grabbed my hand and off we went. She took me and showed me where she slept, took me to her classroom and pointed out her abc's and then sang them to me, and then we wandered into the home to see the babies. By this point in time, all of the injections she had had at her medical were catching up with her and she was more than happy to be carried around. She had a horrible case of conjunctivitis with lots of blood and pus, and she loved it when I got out some nice cool wet wipes to clean her face and eyes. She found my journal and ink pens and we spent a long time writing our ABC's. It was almost time for us to leave, when she got a panicked look on her face , said "Shinty" (need to potty), grabbed my hand and took off at a run. Back to the back of the property, where the rooms that house the older children are. Opening one of the doors, I was hit with the unmistakable smell and sight of a squatty potty, around which was evidence of some very poor aim. There was no toilet paper to be seen, and no soap at the sink. She had terrible diarrhea and obviously had bad stomach cramps. She looked so distressed and to be honest, so was I. Everything that I had heard from families who had travelled earlier was what a wonderful place the new transition home is. And, they are right. The children who come to the transition home are very fortunate. The nannies obviously love them very much, they get plenty to eat, medical attention, and schooling. But, what I hadn't heard was that the older kids sleep on thin mats over plywood bases on rusty bunk beds 2 or 3 to a bed and that hygiene standards still operate at an un-American level. I consider myself to be fairly well travelled and know that most countries don't crave an American level of hygiene and cleanliness, but it still came as a bit of a shock to see my daughter in those conditions. When I finally thought that she was through, I got out the gloves and wet wipes and cleaned her up. The look of gratitude on her face made me cry all over again. By the time I had her cleaned up, she no longer looked upset and she spent a long time kissing my face when I was through.

By this time, I could hear the bus and knew that it was time to leave. I so did not want to go. How could I turn around and leave her, having just got her? But, that is how the schedule works, so praying that leaving for the evening would give her a chance to process everything that had happened so far, I left her my journal and pens with a big hug and kiss and the promise that I when I came back the next day it would be forever.

Moffatt, Party of 5

I am going to post about meeting Rosie, but first I wanted to just throw in an update on how we're all settling in.

Rosie is doing amazingly well. Psalm 68:6 tells us that "God sets the lonely in families", and as we waited to see how old our referral would be and what our little girl would be like, we prayed repeatedly that God would bring us a child who would be the perfect fit for our family and who we would be the perfect family for. He has done that! Gareth and I continue to be amazed at just how perfectly Rosie fits into our family. She is cute enough and out-going enough to not be over-shadowed by the boys;indeed, going out has taken on a whole new dimension as now there are three little ones with me who all attract the attention of strangers. She is very like Nathan in her love of teasing and tickling and pestering, and she is very like Noah in her love of giving and getting affection. Her favorite joke at the minute is to point at one of us and shout "Ferenge" (Amharic for foreigner), and then laugh hysterically at herself. Every hour or two, she stops what she's doing and finds each of us for a hug and a kiss. She also loves to say "I love you" in Amharic.
Rosie seems to not have had any issues with time changes and sleep patterns. She sleeps for 2-3 hours in the afternoon (which is a God-send for me, as by mid-afternoon I need a little peace and quiet). At night, she sleeps for 10-12 hours, depending on whether or not the boys can stand to not wake her up as soon as they wake up. Amazingly, there is no problem with her going to bed and sleeping in her own room. I was prepared for the fact that she might be frightened to be in a room by herself, but after the first night, she sleeps through without so much as a whimper.
She is doing great in the foreign food department, too. We have discovered that she DOES NOT like rice and is not a big fan of string cheese or chocolate, but otherwise she eats everything. Sometimes she is a little reluctant to try, but as soon as we were home I instituted the "3 bite rule". She has to try 3 bites of everything on her plate, and with the exception of the rice and string cheese, she has had her 3 bites and then carried on to polish off the whole plate. She has a real hunger for protein and is making up for any lack of protein in her diet in Ethiopia. She also loves fresh fruit and vegetables. Yesterday, we caught the boys feeding her their carrot sticks during their picnic. Nice try!
Lest you think she is too good to be true, we have also had several meltdowns. She doesn't like to be told no, and if she gets angry she knows how to glare and pout with the best of them! Fortunately, she is settled well enough now, that she no longer rejects being held or refuses to look at us if Gareth or I need to tell her no or stop her from taking things away from the boys.
The boys are doing great, too. I'm so proud of them. They adore her, and look after her so well. Rosie still doesn't really like to share toys, but they have been very tolerant of her and are helping her so much. Last night while we stood in line at Sam's Club, I turned around and caught all 3 of them just hugging and kissing on each other for ages. They love to show her how things are done, and Nathan reminds her often to chew with her mouth closed! Noah is very protective of her, and keeps a watch on her almost constantly. Rosie loves to boss the boys around, but currently it's all in Amharic so they don't mind.
At church on Sunday, several people remarked that Gareth looked about 3 feet taller than normal. He is such a proud Daddy! Rosie is very much her daddy's girl. She adores him, and it's pretty obviously mutual. She loves to get dressed and then to go show him how she looks. Yesterday, I caught him eating peanuts because she wanted to feed him, and Gareth hates peanuts!
As for me, I'm great. I finally feel like I'm catching up from the jet lag. I am having to adjust to a whole new noise level in the house and the fact that I now have 3 children who want my attention all at once which means 3 children trying to talk at the same time in 2 different languages, and my windows are constantly filthy as Rosie just has to rub her hands all over them, but that is a small price to pay for the joy of watching the kids together and learning to be a family of 5.
We went out to eat after church on Sunday, and when the hostess called for "Moffatt, party of 5", I just couldn't stop grinning. It was the best sound ever!
Being a family of children aged 5,4 and 3 is definitely going to be busy and very loud, but we are so happy to be together.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Ethiopia Chronicles-Journey to Ethiopia

Our trip to Ethiopia started on Saturday morning. We left the house shortly after 5, for a 7:15 flight out of Tulsa.

Just look at these faces. Leaving them to start the trek to Ethiopia wasn't easy. Noah is a sensitive soul at the best of times, and his tears made it really hard to say good-bye and walk through to security. Nathan took it in his stride, just backing up for his favorite backwards hug. In the end, I asked Gareth not to stay and watch us go through security, as Noah was getting more and more upset, and I was having a harder and harder time not sobbing myself.

Our first flight was to Dallas and from there we flew to Dulles in Washington, D.C. We had several hours to hang out in Washington until we could check in at the Ethiopian Air desk.

Checking in was chaos! We were there 5 hours ahead of our flight time, figuring that way we could check in early and not need to stand in line. No such luck! There was a huge crow
d of Ethiopians obviously eager to fly home. The concept of standing in line didn't seem to be something Ethiopians do. There were just people stacked everywhere, and all of these hundreds of people seemed to have at least 5 suitcases. Also, everyone seemed to know each other. Someone knew would show up, see someone across the crowd that they knew, and soon dozens of people would be kissing and shouting at someone else for more kissing and greetings. We managed to check in after the lady in charge finally started making people line up and quit just barging into a place in the queue.

When we arrived at our gate to board the flight, it was much the same. People everywhere, and to the outside observer, it seemed that somehow all of these people knew each other.

The flight was packed to capacity. I've never seen so many people and so much luggage on a plane. The plane itself was small and very closely packed seats. Even sitting sideways, my legs were touching the seat in front of me and too long to stretch them out underneath the seat.

The flight was just over 15 hours. We flew from Dulles to Rome, where we had a change of flight crew and re-fueled. No getting off the plane, and as they brought on a cleaning crew to sweep the aisles, you couldn't even take the chance to stand up.

There was no air-conditioning on Ethiopian air. Having always flown internationally in cabins that were quite cool, I went dressed for an overnight international flight, but quickly found myself wishing I had opted for short sleeves and capris! There weren't even vents so that you could blow air on yourself. All around us though, the Ethiopian nationals were wearing multiple layers, putting shawls over their heads and wrapping up in their airline blankets.

The elderly lady that sat next to us could have been a photograph straight out of National Geographic. With tattoos around her face, traditional clothing, and her head covered in a shawl she was quite a picture. She had a beautiful face, and I would have loved to have taken her picture. Unfortunately, I couldn't even talk to her to get to know her, so didn't feel like I could try to ask to get her photo. Evidently, she wasn't from Addis Ababa, as the flight attendants couldn't understand her either. I don't think she had flown very often before, as she couldn't figure out how to open the packets our meals were served in and she locked herself in the bathroom and couldn't figure out how to get out for ages. We did a lot of looking at each other and smiling. Eventually, she must have felt fairly comfortable with me, as she leaned over and took a nap on my arm.

My immune system got it's first good workout on board. The bathrooms were not very clean, and there was an unmistakable odor around it. At one point in time, I saw someone come out of the restroom and say something to the stewardess, who put on plastic gloves, filled a metal bucket with boiling water and disappeared into the restroom. I wondered if it happened often for them to have a bucket waiting for such use. Then, the next time they passed drinks I recognized the bucket. It was the one they put ice in !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Flying for 15 hours without a break is no fun, but there was plenty of great opportunities for people-watching. There were lots of babies on board, and they got passed all over the plane. The Ethiopian culture is very affectionate, especially toward babies and children. Everyone hugged and kissed them, and quite often you'd look over to see a baby being handed back across rows for everyone to get a cuddle and the opportunity to feed them something.

Mom didn't fare quite as well as I did, having never travelled in such tight quarters or for such a long time. She got quite claustrophobic and had a panic attack. Neither one of us really managed any sleep on the flight, and it was so good to finally touch down in Addis Ababa. The entire flight erupted in cheers and clapping when we landed.

Having got off the plane, we went through immigration and paid for our visas. Then, it was on to baggage claim. We had been warned to look out for men insisting on helping with our bags for money and that they could be very persistent. I had decided that as we had lots of suitcases to handle, I would try to get some birr (Ethiopian currency) right away so that I could just allow them to help us and not worry about trying to refuse.

Unfortunately, I hadn't been able to order birr from my bank or buy them in D.C. So, I decided to just gather my bags and not have help. Mom and I had gotten all of our bags onto a card and were heading for customs when a man in an AirTrans uniform with an ID badge grabbed our cart and insisted on seeing our baggage tickets. When I couldn't immediately produce them, he began throwing our suitcases off of the cart. I protested, and he put them back on and took off with our cart. I started to protest louder, and he didn't stop. By this point, I had the idea that he wasn't actually employed by the airport and so began telling him to stop very pointedly and at high volume. He stopped, and then began to demand 100 birr (about 10 dollars). I told him I had no birr, and so he asked for 20 dollars. I refused to give him that much, but did give him a couple of dollars, but also gave him an earful about being rude, throwing my suitcases off my cart, and not leaving people's things alone even when they said no. Last I saw him, he was busy yanking a purse off another lady's shoulder insisting on seeing her baggage tickets.

After that, customs was a breeze. Then, it was through to the arrivals lounge. It was packed with hundreds of Ethiopians waiting for the arriving passengers. It actually took an armed guard to clear the crowd to make space to let us through.

We had been told that we would be met by a driver holding a sign for America World. Eventually, we found him, and he got us safely to the van. But, as we drove, we realized that we were being taken to a hotel, not to the guest house our itinerary had listed. The driver couldn't tell me anything, so we had to wait to get to the hotel to call our in-country representative. It seems that the guest house had their water shut off, so we were moved at the last minute to the Addis View Hotel.

As it was late night when we arrived, there wasn't a lot to see on the drive that night. But, there was no missing the conditions of the road. Very bumpy. One minute you'd be driving on a paved road, and the next, you'd be driving where the road had been torn out, but not replaced. Traffic was very heavy, even late at night. And, people were everywhere.

From when we left our house on Saturday morning, to our arrival in Addis Ababa on Sunday night, we were travelling for 31 hours non-stop. After disinfecting the bathroom, we had showers and fell into bed. It was after 11, but the crowds on the street were still going strong. Thankfully, my doctor had included a week's worth of prescription-strength sleeping pills for the trip. I fell into bed, grateful to be horizontal and excited to sleep so that I could be ready to meet Rosie the next day.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you all about meeting Rosie.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Just A Teaser

We are home and safe, and the jet lag has officially hit! So glad that Gareth will be home with us this week.

Rosie was such a trooper on the trip home. I'm so proud of her. She was brave and took it all very much in her stride.

It will take ages to tell all about the last week, and I won't try tonight. Instead, I'll leave you with just a few pictures of thetrip home as a teaser. Then, as we get rested and settled in, I'll work on posting more about our time in Ethiopia.

Thanks so much to those who prayed. Your prayers were needed and felt.

Love, Sarah

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Sarah, Rosie & Grandma are at there Dulles departure gate - will be boarding for Dallas in about 20 minutes and home in Tulsa in about 6 1/2 hours....

Long flighs were long, Rosie slept quite a lot which helped but was frustrated towards the end. When Sarah called Rosie and Grandma were playing chase at the Gate and doing a lot of giggling...

I really need to finish these last few rooms and get the boys fed & dressed and make a list of all the places we need to go before the airport!!

I could be a very busy boy!

The ordeal continues

Eventually left Rome not quite 2 hours late... forecasting to be in to DC about a hour late (9:00), less than a hour after this post (Since I got up at 7:00 Central).

So they should be well in to their descent by now. It is that tempting time when it is "all nearly over" but still seams to take an eternity to be on the ground.
The will have been on that aeroplane for about 17 hours now and I know if I was there I would be feeling terrible and more than a little grouchy. Please pray for all my dear travellers that they will experience special grace to carry them through.

If it is like when I came in to the USA for the first time as a 'Legal' they will have to clear immigration and then go to a second step to get more paper work done. It took less than half an hour for me, but it was a nerve wracking time because even though you have a visa, you are not "in" until the immigration official says you are!

Once they collect their luggage, they will have to find the American check in, because there is no partnering arrangement with Ethiopian... they may even have to change terminal. The plan was to travel with only 2 cases on the way back so that should make it easier... I just wonder if Rosie will need to be carried... that would not be good for Sarah's back!

Well I'm just rambling now waiting for Nathan to wake up so we can have breakfast. I checked of about half the items on my cleaning check list last night so I have a bit of work this morning & then need to get the boys out of the house to keep it nice!!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

On the way home...

Just a quick note (from Gareth)

Sarah & Rosie are in the air. Flight departure from Addis was delayed 1 hour to 23:30 from 22:30! ... and is scheduled to be 1:30 late in to Rome so won't arrive in Rome until after it was due to depart! Unless they make up time across the Atlantic, they will be in to DC about 9:30 I guess. Still enough time to make the connections to Dallas & Tulsa, but a miserable flight all the same.

Please continue to pray that Rosie sleeps & Sarah does too.

Over and out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

When can this be over???

I don't know how many more postings there will be from me as it is only 3 days until Sarah gets home... I spoke to her this afternoon for about 15 minutes and she is more than ready for this to be over.

Today they went to the embassy so Rosie now has a visa, or soon will have so that is great, but everybody is really tired now and that is starting to be a real strain.

Tomorrow (Thursday) will be their last full day in Ethiopia. In my last post I may have got Thursday and Friday swapped around, so I am not quite sure what is on the agenda. Perhaps it is the orphanage visits. Anyhow, Friday morning is free time where the families have to choose what they all want to do. Then they will need to get ready to fly home starting Friday night (ET time)

Some families are looking to try to fly out Thursday night, and while I'm sure Sarah was tempted, she pointed out that as there are then 2 US flights to match up, so it was probably too much effort to rearrange.

Still something that y'all can pray for is that Rosie would sleep quite a lot of the long flight from Addis Ababa to Washington DC (15 hours) as that will make it a lot easier for everybody else! They depart from Addis at 10:30 pm ET time so I'm sure everybody will be at the end of their tether by boarding, yet alone take off!

For those who don't consider themselves to be y'alls perhaps you could then pray for Rosie's settling in here. She and Sarah have got of to a great start as it appears that Rosie is a girly girl, but she wasn't so impressed to be told "no" (What 3 year old is?) and that will be a whole lot harder for us to work through once we don't have an interpreter!

In case I don't get to post again, here is a good one to go out with.
It's been fun.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Monkey Business Continues

I thought that I was getting the hang of this being a parent thing... I was ready to take the boys to their sitter this morning and still had time to sit down for a few minutes.

At time to go, I called for the boys to get their crocks & get in the van. I had to go back for Noah's bandanna, but got to their sitter just about on time. I opened the side door of the van to have Nathan say "Daddy, I forgot to put on my shoes!", and sure enough there were no Nathan shoes in the van!

Obviously I am not proper Mommy material yet!

Sarah now has access to a computer so some of the more recent posts on her Facebook page are genuinely her, not me posing. Rosie is now full time in Sarah's care and won't go back to the transition home. She has a bit of conjunctivitis (sp?) so Sarah is treating that. And as there is chicken pox going around in the Transition Home, we are praying she doesn't display symptoms until she is home (or preferably not at all!) since she probably shouldn't travel with contagious diseases!

It sounds like Mommy & Rosie are very much in love so I am excited to see them home and see if I can share some of the love!

I hope to get a phone call tomorrow for more in depth details.

Short update from Sarah...

(No Monkey as this is in her own words :-) )

I managed to get into my yahoo account. The power is currently on, unlike yesterday.
Sorry I got cut off and didn't get to say good-bye. 10 minutes went too fast. I miss you and my boys so much. Noah sounded so little on the phone. Had quite a long cry afterwards. Had most of the lobby crying while I talked to you.

Rosie is great. She's so pretty, even more so in person. She was very affectionate and wanted to show me everything. She loved the markers and balloons. She also loved the little mirror in her storybook and would pull my face down to hers so that we could be together in the mirror while I said "Mommy and Rosi". She likes my hair and we spent plenty of time stroking each others' heads.. She was insistent on sharing her sucker with me. Pray I don't catch anything, because I just couldn't refuse.

Her nanny asked if Rosie would have a Daddy. I got our our family picture, and she was thrilled. She spent quite a while with Rosie and I interpreting for me, telling Rosie about her Daddy waiting for her and her big brothers.

She's very smart and wanted to show me how she could write her abc's, and then she said them for me. When I started singing them she was so surprised, but we had a great time singing them together.

She wasn't feeling good at all yesterday afternoon. She had been to the clinic and had 4 injections. She walked so tender and kept wincing and rubbing her thighs and pointing to show me. She also has a runny nose and an eye infection. Right before we had to leave, she also had some diarrhea. Please pray. Anxious to get her back to the hotel tonight and cleaned up and see how she is. There is a chicken pox outbreak at the TH, so we'll have to see if she ends up with that.

The travel group is big and very lively. Feel somewhat out of my league, but am enjoying it. Mom is definitely out of her comfort zone, but I think she's having fun.

We're going to do some shopping this morning, then spend the afternoon at the transition home. Rosie comes back with us tonight. Planning a quiet night in the room with a good bath, dinner at the restaurant upstairs, and then a quiet evening coloring and maybe painting toenails.

I'm going to try again for a cell phone today. If I get it, we'll call you this evening. Hopefully I'll get you before too late. I'm not really sleeping much. My mind is just too busy and full. You wouldn't get the picture of what it is like here, even if I had enough time to describe it. It's fun and heart-breaking and very confusing. So glad the boys didn't come, even though I miss them. Wish you were here.

Love you, Home soon,

Monday, April 13, 2009

More Monkey Business

Hurrah! Sarah called today!

It was a painfully short call as she only had ten minutes purchased through an international operator and even that was probably cut short by the battery going flat on the cordless phone (darn technology!)

However, important news was transacted... all arrived safe and sound, though the flights were long. Mom suffered a bit but they are now safely back in the hotel after the first whole day in Addis Ababa.

Sarah has been to the transition home and has now met Rozie face to face. She says that she is beautiful - but no surprises there! She said that Rozie was happy to come to her and wanted to share her lollipop and her drink... & how could she refuse! So we just have to see what illneses she comes down with as a result!

We managed to get a short chat in with the boys too, which I am sure she appreciated - but was difficult for both of us!

Sarah said that she hoped to be able to get a phone card or a rental cell phone tomorrow so that we could talk some more before she came home, so hopefully more news later. But as it is such a large travel group (11 families) I'm sure that the in country support team are stretched!

Tomorrow they go to the Transition Home again, and this time bring Rozie "home" (back to the hotel) with them.
Wednesday is a couple of trips to the main feeding orphanages where Easter parties are planned. Sometime in there is the big paper work party to fill in the visa applications and then Thursday they go to the American Embassy. Friday is a free day followed by travel to the airport to catch a 10:30 flight back to the USA. Put like that, it doesn't sound so long!

We might just make this!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I see no monkey business....

Saw this image & couldn't resist it!

Things are still going okay on the home front... it has been like Piccadilly Circus here (Excuse the British phrase), the girls next door have knocked for Noah and Nathan FOUR TIMES in two hours... Apparently they don't understand "I'll send them out after nap time."!

Sunday morning and all are still living and breathing... Sophie the cat is feeling hard-done-by as she spent the afternoon locked in the attic, quite a bit of the night locked in the garage and now it is raining hard! Usually she would have laid on Mommy for a few hours in the night or gone out bunny killing so she is missing out on both her favourite past times.

Sarah is due to land in Ethiopia in 2 hours, by which time we will be at church, so I don't expect to speak to her till Monday.

The boys are both very excited by their Easter baskets, particularly the little bunnies on tricycles. They are busily engaged in imaginary play. Nathan killed a tornado by running it over with his bunny-cycle... Noah explained that you can't kill a tornado with a bicycle... they are sent by God to test if we believe in him!

For all the trials of the sometimes incessant chatter, maybe I do miss out on something by being out of the house most of the day!

Hope to have news of the travellers tomorrow.

In case Sarah gets to see this, we miss you and love you... Still finding hearts and stars! Love, your boys.

On the way

This is Gareth here...

I've been given the password and the admonition "NO FUNNY BUSINESS WITH MY BLOG MISTER!!!!!!!!!!!!" (I may have miscounted the !)

I'm just back from taking Sarah and Mom to the airport. They had a 7:15 flight so we were up at 5:00 to get ready. There were a few tears (mostly Noah, but Mommy and Daddy were not far behind).

So they are in the air now heading for Dallas... I've fed the boys (McD's) and tidied up the house (in case Sarah gets to read this in ET). Now I'm trying to get Nathan in to play pants so we can go play outside!

I may get to speak to Sarah in Washington DC before she heads out across the sea so I'll update you on how they are progressing. Don't know how we will get in touch once she is in Addis... I may just have to make something up!

Please pray for Sarah and Mom as they travel - over 32 hours door to door! Fortunately hives are better, but not cured.

Hopefully more later.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Okay, well I don't actually leave for about 19 hours, but that will come really soon! We leave our house at 5:30 for a 7:15 flight to Dallas, then to Dulles, and then an 8:30 evening flight to Addis Ababa via Rome. From our house to the Guest House in Addis should take 31 hours if everything goes smoothly. Yikes! I've done a 27-hour flight once before. It was brutal!

The hives are slowly improving. They look better and aren't quite as itchy. Hope they keep improving, as I can't imagine not losing my mind if I have to sit for 31 hours while my skin is on fire.

We will arrive in Addis on Sunday evening (they're 8 hours ahead). The itinerary for the rest of our week looks like this:

Monday-Breakfast at the Guest House, then an orientation meeting and lunch at the Addis Hilton. In the afternoon, visit the transition home and spend the afternoon getting to know Rosie. In the evening, visiting a traditional Ethiopian restaurant, complete with dancing.

Tuesday-Breakfast at the guest house. Sight-seeing and lunch out. Return to transition home to spend afternoon with children. We're planning an Easter party, egg hunt, and will spend time delivering care packages and getting photos for those families who are waiting for court dates. This is the day Rosie comes home with me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Planning for a quiet evening at the guest house getting to know Rosie and just being together.

Wednesday-Quite morning at the guest house. Leave for the Embassy after lunch for Visa appointments. In the afternoon, doing some shopping, then dinner back at the guest house and another quiet evening. (I'm going to try to avoid doing too much so that hopefully Rosie and I can concentrate on getting to know each other and avoid the stress of over-stimulating either of us!

Thursday-Breakfast at the Guest House, visit Kids' care Orphanage for the morning, lunch out, then visit Gelgela Orphanage for the afternoon, back for a quiet evening back at the guest house.

Friday-Our travel group (I think we're up to 11 families) will vote as to what we want to do today, sight-seeing or shopping, etc...We will then check out at 6:00 for a 10:30pm flight out of Addis. We will arrive back in Tulsa around 5:30 Saturday night.

I'm sure that the whole family would continue to covet your prayers. You could pray specifically:

1. For rest during the journey. From our house to the guest house in Addis Ababa will take 31 hours, if everything goes according to plan.
2. That the hives will continue to improve. The Dr. feels that they are most likely an allergic reaction, but we have no idea to what.
3. That all of our luggage will make it through. I have 3 huge suitcases of donations for the orphanages and am so excited to be able to deliver them.
4. For Rosie. As excited as we are and as much as we love her and can't wait to meet her, this will be an incredibly huge change for her. Please pray that God will give her comfort and courage and the ability to understand what is happening.
5. That God will show me exactly the best ways to comfort Rosie and begin to build a bond with her.
6. For health and safety. One of the little ones in the Transition Home was diagnosed with typhoid fever on Monday, so we are praying that it does not spread.
7. For many opportunities to share the love of God in practical ways with those we meet.
8. For Gareth and the boys while they stay here.

Gareth will update the blog as often as I am able to get a phone call through to him, and as soon as we're back and recovered enough to function, I'll work on posting my journal and some photos.

Oh my goodness! This is for real!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Rest of the Story

One of the great pleasures of this adoption, has been the friendships I have begun to build with other families who are also adopting from Ethiopia. Not usually one to be into the latest technology, I have now become an avid fan of Facebook and blogging and my beloved Yahoo!groups.

Having a group of people who are having the same hopes, dreams, frustrations, set-backs and questions you are is comforting. We have proven to be a great support group for each other, praying for each others needs, cheering each other on when we pass court and looking forward to finally being able to meet some of these families when you travel together to bring your children home.

As each new group of families prepares to travel, they coordinate taking care packages for families who wait, and most of them have a blog which the rest of us "stalk" shamelessly waiting for information, hints about when the next batch of referrals might be coming, and in anticipation of the day when it will be our turn.

One of the families that went before us was at the transition home when some newly arrived orphans were being brought from the orphanage. This is Karen Wistrom's description (their blog is of that day:

A short time later, Rachel and Barret pulled into the courtyard with 5 children in the back seat. Rachel looked a little distressed, and as she got out she asked for help from the nannies. One child had thrown up in the back seat and another was crying in fear. (By the way, Rachel and Barret are truly 2 of the most outstanding people with a passion for children and for Africa. They are devoted to these kids!!! Rachel is so calm and she empathizes with your feelings and emotions and goes out of her way to make this experience as smooth as possible. And she is just as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside. You can't help instantly connecting with her and genuinely loving and appreciating her!!!)

So these 5 orphan children step out of the vehicle and they cluster together in fear. They are in a new place with no family and they are scared. Several started crying immediately and it was just heartbreaking. I was able to take one little girl into my arms and she melted into my shoulder and just sobbed. Another little girl cried louder in fear of me until a nanny scooped her up and brought her inside. A little boy held his sister to him and whispered his name to me and then the tears started flowing from his eyes. I grabbed him and his sister too and just wept with them and held them. Two of the children did not speak Amheric and could not be consoled. Finally Fortuna figured out that they spoke "Tigris" (?) and she was able to communicate with them. Meti (the little mother) came up and consoled and talked to each one and slowly the other children approached and touched or said some soothing words to them. I got the impression that the other kids could remember feeling this very same way.

This was truly the most heartbreaking situation I have witnessed here yet, and within about an hour, most of the new kids had already started playing with the other kids and climbing all over the grown-ups. Jay had one of the new kids on his lap much of the time. One of the new little girls was still silently crying big tears as we were preparing to leave, but she was snuggled securely on a nannies lap. These 5 kids (3 girls and 2 boys) were between the ages of 3 - 6 and the families that receive these referrals in the coming month or so will be blessed. I was blessed to have been here as they arrived and to be able to offer some comfort.

I wept as I read that post. It has haunted me ever since. My heart broke for those children. I could imagine nothing more terrifying than to be pulled away from everything you know (even if it was a life of starvation, abandonment, or the death of your parents) and brought to a completely foreign place, especially if you arrive there to find that no one speaks your language.

For me, adoption is a happy thing. It is something that I have wanted to be a part of for years. Rosie is the culmination of years of praying and dreaming and waiting. But, it is important that I not forget that there are two sides to adoption. One is full of happiness, second chances, a new family for someone who has none, and holds great promise for the future. But, those second chances and my joy comes at a great cost to someone else. Before there was the joy of a new addition to our family, there was the heartbreak of a father who died, and a mother who had to accept the reality that she was dying and unless she gave her child up, than her child would die too.

Rosie's future is bright. She will be fed and loved and cared for and will not have to grow up knowing only poverty, starvation and the pain of watching both of your parents die. But, that doesn't mean that those aspects of her life are any less real or a part of what she has come from.
Each child who enters the transition home comes with their own unique story of loss. It is something I was aware of and didn't take lightly, but Karen's post made it so personal. I have thought of those children often, and have wondered how they are, how they were adjusting, and who their families were going to be. I have prayed that God would comfort them and show them His plan for their lives, even when it all seems so senseless.

Last night, when I logged onto my Yahoo chat group, I had a post from the Wistroms. They, too have wondered about and prayed for those children. And as this last batch of families have passed court and been able to share photos and names of our children online, the Wistrom family has now been able to see each of the children they met that day become part of a family.
And, they wanted me to know that Rosie was one of those children. In fact, each of those 5 children that the Wistroms met that day will become part of a forever family next week when the families that I am travelling with arrive in Ethiopia.

How fitting that the child whose story broke my heart that day and who I have prayed for since is my own sweet Rosie. I can't wait for next week!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Check It Out

For those of you who have looked at the blogs I follow, then you will probably have read about Abbey and the Riggs family.

What you may not have realized is that they publish a great online magazine, which I enjoy. This month, I made it into their online blog directory.

Anyhow, it's a great resource, and you ought to check it out. Go to and enjoy.

Monday, April 6, 2009

No Dummy

Noah is very verbal (big understatement). Actually, I think precocious is a word that was made with Noah in mind. He is very social and out-going, confident even with adults and has a vocabulary that astounds us regularly. A vocabulary that is in CONSTANT use. He even talks in his sleep.

Nathan is much more laid back. He can amuse himself and play well by himself for long periods of time. Sometimes it is tempting to think that Nathan isn't as advanced as Noah is, but get him by himself and he will quickly disavow you of that notion.

Last week was rough. I was so busy trying to sort out I171 stuff, that everything else went on the back burner. By Thursday the boys were fed up, and so was I. So, on Thursday night while Gareth took Noah to a birthday party he had been invited to, Nathan and Mommy went on a date. At his request, we went to Golden Corral so that he could have carrot cake for dessert, and then I took him to the mall to go to the play area. He talked my ears off!!!!!!!!!

On Friday morning, he was still feeling talkative. Noah tried to interrupt him, and Nathan told him to "go away and quit interrupting me. I'm having a conservation with Mommy".

The conservation went something like this-
Nathan: Mommy, I want to get some money. How much money would I earn if I sold Bierre (his favorite stuffed bear)?

Mommy: Oh, Nathan, you don't want to sell Bierre. You love Bierre and would be so sad without him.

Nathan: I know. That's why I'm going to sell him to you. You can buy him and give me the money, but I can still have him whenever I want.

Obviously, he's no dummy! Unfortunately, it does seem he might have tendencies towards a career as a used car salesman or maybe on Wall Street. Guess I'd better start working on that.

Friday, April 3, 2009

We Have It

I got a phone call from USCIS. Yes, there is a real human being behind the website and chaos!

It would seem that the problem is sorted. We are told that an I171 is in Ethiopia with the proper age range. It will expire 3 days after we're due to travel home, but they are working on getting an extension there. For now, we'll travel on the one already there and this will give a week and a half to allow the new extension to get there a bit more slowly.

Yeah!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for praying! I'm off to finish those travel plans. Rosie, here I come.

Bringing in the Big Guns!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

No word from USCIS. I know that the extension was approved yesterday, but they wouldn't answer my question as to how long "back end processing" would take and then how long it would take to get to the National Visa Center.

The paperwork HAS to be in Ethiopia by this Wednesday for us to be able to get a visa. All paperwork has to be delivered one week before the appointment.

I really hate "going above" the proper chain of command, but at this point feel like I have no options left and USCIS was a little helpful, but not enough to fix the problem. So, we're going for broke. Senator Inhofe, Senator Coburn, and Congressman John Sullivan have all been contacted. Congressman Lucas from the 3rd district knows about us as well and has offered help to Congressman Sullivan if needed.

The phrase "Sic' em girl" arrived in my inbox earlier and all I could do was smile.

A relative once told me that my picture was in the dictionary next to the words "Mamma Bear". Well, that's exactly as it should be. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for my kids and Rosie is no exception.

While I was pregnant with Nathan, I was terribly worried. My mom could tell you of many phone conversations where she laughed at me as I cried (Thanks Mom!) because I couldn't imagine loving Nathan enough because I loved Noah so much. Then Nathan arrived, and I was in awe that the love for Noah didn't diminish, I just had a completely new amount of love for Nathan. And it works that way for Rosie, too. Gareth could tell you that every trip we've had away from the boys overnight has ended in my tears. There haven't been very many nights away from them, but even when they're with grandparents I miss them and want to be there for them. It's that way with Rosie, too. I can't explain it, but God has seen to it that there is a love for her in my heart that runs so deep that I can miss someone that I've never met and long for her to be with me. If getting me to her and her home with us means taking on the USCIS and learning to call in the Congressional Cavalry, then so be it!

Look out government bureaucracy! Mamma Bear is missing a cub and she's not in a mood to be messed with.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What a week-and it's not done yet

Update to today's post: Just got an e-mail that our extension was approved. Not e-mailed or express mailed and still sitting in Oklahoma City for "backend processing", whatever that is, but at least approved. Flights bought for next Friday. Will be busy tomorrow trying to convince the powers that be to expedite it all the way to Addis Ababa. I'm exhausted!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, so if I had to create a nightmare week, I could never have imagined this one. Here's a brief overview:

Monday-We have legal custody of Rosie but still no extension to our I171 (the paperwork that says we're allowed to obtain a visa for Rosie). Still optimistic, I e-mail our social worker and at her recommendation I e-mail the US Citizenship and Immigration Services explaining the situation and asking that they please expedite our paperwork and e-mail our approval to the National Visa Center. I receive an e-mail telling me that protocol does not allow for e-mailing of the form, so it will have to go in the mail.

Tuesday-I awake to an e-mail from Citizenship and Immigration saying that they have looked at our application for an extension but are unable to process it without a small mountain of paperwork, including a correction to Gareth's child abuse background check because it has a typo. Our social worker has never had anyone else require this for an extension to be granted, but we go to work and by mid-afternoon and a couple of small miracles we have all of the paperwork being overnighted to the adjudications officer.

While at Fed-Ex/Kinko's getting our marriage license shrunk to fit an 8x11 piece of paper and then faxed the elderly lady helping us begins to look at me as if I might be a criminal. After all, why else would I be faxing official documents to a social worker???? So, I cheerfully explain to her that this is hopefully the last hurdle in bringing home our daughter from Ethiopia. And honest to God, she had the nerve to ask me if I was bringing home a kidnapped baby! I didn't lose it and kindly explained to her that we had chosen our adoption agency very carefully and that the Ethiopian government had a very thorough system of checks which ensure that the children that were adopted were truly orphans. She then looks at my boys, who had been called in from playing outside to run to Fed-Ex and asked them if their Mama couldn't afford to buy them any clothes because she was buying a sister. Now, I must confess, this ticked me off A LOT! Still, I didn't lose it, and instead smiled and told her that 4 and 5-year old boys were hard on clothes so that when they were playing outside I let them play in old clothes. (I thought I was doing pretty well, because I had made sure that their hands and faces were clean and their hair was combed before loading them in the van!) She smiled wickedly and told the boys to make sure that Mommy bought them some better clothes before I brought any sisters home.

My social worker (who I'm sure has angel wings hidden under her shirt) overnighted all of the paperwork to USCIS along with an overnight envelope for them to be able to overnight the approved extension to the National Visa Center. I e-mail them to let them know how the paperwork will arrive and asking them pretty please to use the overnight envelope we have provided. No response.

Tuesday evening-I am tired. I am struggling not to worry. The washing machine repairman who has been scheduled for a week doesn't show up. I call Sears, who informs me that he is running late and won't make it today. They'll reschedule me for next Friday. I don't lose it and ask to speak to a manager. 30 minutes later, a lot of really bad elevator music, and I manage to get a promise of a washing machine repairman for Friday afternoon. I call Gareth and tell him I am exhausted and can we please grab dinner out? He says sure. We agree to meet at a restaurant recommended by a friend. We arrive and to my horror it's mostly very modern Chinese cuisine with lots of tofu on the menu. We leave and go to another little Chinese restaurant we had seen. Having ordered, we make it down to the cash register to notice a sign that says "cash only". We cancel our order and end up eating a burger at Steak-n-Shake. Arrive home to find that the cat has killed a bunny and brought it into the house. Oh, and I have now come out in a rash that Gareth is convinced is stress related. Gareth tells me that he was told that within the next couple of weeks 20% of the staff at his work will be unemployed with more to follow if more contracts don't happen.

Wednesday-No news. Using their tracking system I can see that Citizenship and Immigration did not use the overnight envelope we provided them. Our agency is asking for confirmation that I am happy with the flights they have reserved for us and a credit card to purchase them with. Again I e-mail USCIS, again no response. At choir practice a friend congratulates me on being a Mommy of 3, I put my head in my hands, and don't quite succeed at not crying as I explain what is going on.

I arrive home to find that there is a message from Sears telling me that they need to cancel my re-scheduled appointment for a repairman and they won't be able to see me until next Friday. Speak to another manager, didn't lose my temper or cry, and have hopefully convinced them that as the original cancellation was not my fault that making me wait for another full week is unacceptable.

Thursday-The itching is now unbearable! I make a Dr.s appointment. Still no news, but if I want the tickets I need to pay for them today. The flights are almost full and if I don't book now I probably won't get them.

The boys wake up and a very excited Noah arrives to say, can I use your potty. Then as an aside he tells me that his brother is in the bedroom keeping guard over the baby rabbit behind their rocking horse!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, Gareth decided to open the cat flap that I had used to lock the cat out before he left for work, and she had decided to bring a friend in and hide it in the boys' room. Quite a long while later, I have caught the bunny and explained to the boys why we can't keep it. I have confirmed that it is unhurt-if it was hurt there's no way it could be that fast!!!!!!!!!! I allow the boys to say good-bye to it and go out in my jammies to release it.

Now, on to breakfast and a quick shower. Then, a quick e-mail to USCIS explaining the need for information and begging for help. Off to the doctors, thank goodness, it's only a virus-not stress induced. Although I am warned that stress will aggravate it. One very large steroid injection later and prescription-strength steroid cream prescription and I'm off to the pharmacy and then home.

Still no news. No itching either, but I may sit lop-sided for a while!!!!!!!!!!!!

After a chat with my social worker, I have called Senator Tom Coburn's office and asked for help. I'm currently waiting on a phone call to hear whether or not they can/will help us.

In case you're concerned, I haven't lost my sanity yet. (It's been a close-run thing at times, and I worry that the next time the Sears people call me I may well cry and convince them that I am indeed a crazy woman and they aren't safe to come fix my washing machine!)

Actually, I am feeling fairly relaxed at the minute. Listening to worship songs and lullabies and trying to rest in the knowledge that God is good and He sees a picture much bigger than I can.

Thanks to all those who have prayed and are praying!