Friday, January 28, 2011

We're Home

Well we made it home! We thought we were going to miss our flight from Dubai - Los Angeles, but they held the plane for us and had an escort waiting. We were lucky! We got pretty good sleep on the plane, and a great night of sleep last night. I think we are lucky and don't have to deal with any jet lag. We let the boys skip school this morning (they only had school for 2 1/2 hours anyway), and so we are having a pajama party. :-)

On the plan ride I was able to get focused. I have a lot of stuff I want to do before our next trip from getting my car washed to finishing our taxes and organizing all of our house closets. I've made myself super busy and it will help the time go by quickly. I still tear up when I talk about Alemitu, but I'm good. I'm focused.

I mentioned we had met some really good friends, Hollie and Brian. They sent me some photos today and so I thought I'd post them on our blog. Enjoy!

Hollie & Me

These 4 families all stayed at the Ethiopian Guest House
(EGH has 4 different houses by each other)
We had just pass court.

In the van after passing court.

Eating lunch at EGH with Brian

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Today is a hard day

Our time with Alemitu was wonderful. Since day 2 when she discovered freedom of moving on the floor, she likes to play on her tummy and move all around rather than cuddle for long periods. Don't get me wrong, she still loves to cuddle though. The second half of the visit, she cuddled the entire time. She slept a little on both of us. She also said goodbye the same way she said hello -- she puked on Adam. (I think it is because of that wet cough and her gagging on mucus.)

Saying goodbye was really, really hard. Going 5 minutes without crying the rest of the day has been just about impossible. We are at the airport waiting for our flight. Thinking about her in anyway at this point easily brings tears. I just have to keep telling myself how our pain is so minor compared to her grandfather's pain. I have to keep telling myself that the nannies love her so much and she is so well taken care of (two baths this morning alone because of getting herself dirty). I have to keep telling myself that the US Embassy had a huge meeting on Monday that will probably make return dates quicker. I have to keep telling myself that she will be home really soon. Maybe, just maybe, if I say that stuff enough I'll actually believe it.

I cannot thank everyone enough for all of the kind words. Thank you for the bottom of our hearts.

I am hoping that in 5 1/2 weeks, "In Jesus' name, she will travel the world."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gotcha Day

This has got to be one of the most amazing days of our lives. At this point, I really can’t find the words to describe how we are feeling. I think it will take me a while to process everything that happened, but for now, I will share the story.

We slept pretty well last night. I woke up a few times and sat at the top of the steps for a while in the middle of the night. We have the top floor to ourselves. It was 2 a.m. and I had just finished typing yesterday’s blog. It was funny to hear the other families moving around at that time too. We were all restless before the big day, but yet, we all slept the best we had since we have been here.

Speaking of the other families, we have met some amazing people that we will be our lifelong friends. All of the traveling families are just amazing people. We have been staying at the guest house with another family, Brian and Hollie, and we have enjoyed their company so much. Adam said tonight that they will be forever friends of ours. We are counting on being back here at the same time for the embassy date, and we are already making plans to stay together.

When we arrived at the transition home around 8:30, we were all wearing casual clothes. We were expecting to have court in the afternoon, and after my puke experience on Saturday, we weren’t taking chances. Within two minutes of arriving, we were told that we must leave right now. The judge called and we had to be at court right now. Court is 20 minutes away. We all just jumped into the bathrooms like we were family and quickly changed our clothes. We hopped into our van (thankfully the guard had told them before they pulled away), and away we go. We are suppose to meet up with the other van carrying the families from CHI’s guest house. We are stopped for a little while, and then we drive. We pull over a few minutes later and the driver walks around back – we have a flat tire. Crap. We don’t have a choice but to keep driving. We meet up with the other van on the road, and their driver is pointing to our flat tire. Nothing we can do but keep rushing to court.

A few minutes later, we pull over on the side of the road to a place with old stacked tires. The driver gets out to change our tire, but they decide to put air in it just to get us to court. A few minutes later, we are off again.

We arrived at court and went up a ton of stairs. We were circling the broken elevator, and we were all about to die. This altitude is getting to all of us. We finally reached the top floor and we had to wait in a hallway for several minutes. We are surrounded by other Ethiopians who are waiting for court. We are then ushered into a room where all 10 families are standing in the center. On all walls of the room are other Ethiopians sitting down waiting for their time in court. It was awkward because we knew that some of those people were the birth families.

We were ushered into court in several groups. The first group did not pass because the birth families could not make it until Monday. That was heart breaking. We were the second group. The judge is a beautiful, young woman – and she was wearing jeans!! She asked us 6 questions and we could only respond “yes” or “no”. Afterward, she said, “Okay I will get your report this afternoon. You are done.” So, did we pass? That paperwork wasn’t there from MOWA but our court time wasn’t scheduled until 2 p.m. We weren’t really sure, and we aren’t sure that the paperwork actually made it there, but Alamez (director’s wife) assured us that we passed. She said to us excitedly, “Yes, yes! She is yours!”

After court we waited for our ride (they were getting a new tire), and we headed to CHI’s guest house for our birth family meeting. What an amazing experience. We arrived and once again we are standing and staring at the birth families. We don’t know who is who. We have one translator. It was hours that went by before we were done. All of us were trying to guess who their birth relative was, and they were doing the same for us.

Adam and I were one of the last families, and Alemitu’s grandfather came up to us. He gave us a big hug and kisses on the cheek. His name is Tagese which is Allie’s second name. When we were able to sit down with him, we had to work with a translator that spoke his language into Amharic, and then our translator who translated Amharic into English. We asked if he had any questions for us and his first question was to ask if Alemitu is healthy. He was so happy to hear that she is healthy and happy. We showed him a Shutterfly book that had pictures of her as well as pictures of our family. He smiled huge as he looked at her pictures. His favorite picture of our family was the boys on Papago Mountain. There was something about that picture that he loved.

He told us that he was so happy that she has brothers. When we asked what he wanted Alemitu to know, he said that he wants her to know about her grandfather. He wants her to know how much he loves her, and that he hopes we love her just as much. He said that he doesn’t just have one grandchild, he has more children because we are his family now. We are all family. He allowed us to take pictures and we promised to have his picture in her room. Alemitu has three grandfathers.

Ethiopians do everything with a purpose. They don’t name children because they like the name, there is a meaning behind it. We were not sure who named her, but we knew her name meant “she is of the world” or “she travels the world”. We asked how she got her name. He said, “I named her Alemitu because in Jesus’ name I want her to travel the world.” My heart melted. At that moment, her name officially became “Alemitu” forever. She is “Alemitu Tagese Fischer”. She is loved by her grandfather so much. (Tagese – Tuh-Guess-EEE)

After we finished our meeting and got our questions answered, we sat by each other for another hour or so. During this time, he is showing other birth families Alemitu’s photo album that we had given him. He is so proud. He smiled so much. He raised his hat to us on several occasions. Ethiopians keep their composure. To see such happiness and expression meant the world to us. About 30 minutes into this time, he pulled out a little book that was in his pocket. You could tell this little notebook had the most important things on it written down and maybe some ID. In one of the pages was a tiny piece of tissue paper that held a 1 inch by 1 inch black and white photo of Alemitu. This is the picture he carries with him at all times. At this point, I had to excuse myself. I went into the bathroom of the CHI guest house and just broke down. I regained my composure and then returned outside.

After our meeting (which we recorded by the way), he had his translator write a letter to Alemitu in Amharic. Then all of the birth families got in a van and they went to the transition house to visit with the children one last time. After that, they had a 12 hour trip on dirt roads back home. We were not able to attend the meeting between the grandfather and Alemitu, but all of us families wanted pictures. We were told that wouldn’t be possible. Adam gave my camera to another family that had their own driver. Their driver is best friends with the guard at the transition house. They rushed over to the transition house, dropped off our camera with the guard, and then they left. We didn’t know what, if anything, would happen but we were so excited to see pictures of the birth families and the children when we returned to the transition house later in the afternoon. The birth families all posed for a photograph. Alemitu now has a picture with her grandfather – her smiling, proud grandfather.

Today was one of the best days of our lives. We went to see Alemitu in the afternoon and had a great time. We got a group photo of all the traveling families and our children as most of them are leaving tonight. We came back to the guest house for dinner and participated in a traditional coffee ceremony. Tomorrow is our last day here. I am falling in love with Ethiopia.

House of Hope pictures

Here are some photos of House of Hope.

A couple more pics

It's official

Monday, January 24, 2011

Another great day in Ethopia

Today was another great day. We had gone to bed at 9 last night. By 5 am, we were both wide awake. Adam went downstairs to work and I stayed in bed catching up on Facebook. :-) It was a nice, quiet morning. We had waffles in the shape of a heart for breakfast.

We go to the transition home and Allie lights up when she sees us again. However, about 15 minutes into the visit she shows us how she can cry a little. It was simply just a few seconds at a time, but sometimes she produced these huge tears. She was biting on anything she could find. We could tell that her teeth were really bothering her. I was a little worried because she just wasn't her happy self, but when I looked around, all of the kids were so tired. Most of them were fast asleep or just kind of in a daze. I am sure this is all so overwhelming to them. We laid her down on a blanket. She loves to be on her stomach. Within a few minutes, she was in a deep sleep. She was just exhausted. She slept most of our morning visit (along with the other children).

We ate lunch back at the guest house (in the dark because we had no power), and then we went to the market for a quick shopping trip. We bought her a pretty Ethiopian dress that she can wear when she is a few years older. Adam also bought a camel bell. It is a hollow turtle shell with a stick in it. He said we'd hang it on Clementine. Um, I don't think so. At the market we were definitely swarmed by children who were asking to shine our shoes, sell us a map, or were simply asking for a few dollars. We had candy on us and so we were able to pass that out to them.

After lunch, we went back to see Allie. Oh the drive is definitely something you must experience at least once in your life. We did see one intersection with a stoplight – but it was more of a suggestion really. Most intersections have roundabouts with many lanes all coming together at once. At one point today, I thought we were going to drive up on the sidewalk to get by.

Alemitu was so much happier this afternoon. She was showing off how she can squeal/scream with excitement. She also showed us how she can army crawl. We had no clue, but out of the blue she just started scooting herself forward. By the end of the afternoon, she was on all fours rocking back and forth.

We are grateful that Allie has adjusted so well to us, but at the same time, we know we need to pay extra attention to her ability to attach/bond. Having her cry when she leaves a nanny is a really good thing. Alemitu loves everyone. When we bring her back home, we are definitely going to have to work hard during our nesting period to make sure she understands that we are her providers. She definitely favors us over strangers, but she loves to give everyone smiles and she loves to talk to anyone.

Later in the afternoon we were able to watch Allie get a bath. Oh wow. The nannies here are very much like the nurses at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. They know how to do things much more efficiently and quickly than we ever will. The nanny bathed her so quickly, turning her all sorts of ways. That sponge with the bar soap fit in places I never thought it would. Let’s just say that Alemitu is a very clean baby – everywhere. She had no problem with the bath, even when water and soap were running down her face and in her eyes. It was amazing to watch, and the other families had the same “oh wow” reaction as we did when they got to watch their children be bathed.

When we were first given Allie’s referral pictures, a few people said that she looked like me. We thought maybe they were being nice. This afternoon, one of the families said that they can’t get over how much she looks like me. Another woman sitting nearby (who is African American herself) quickly said “Yeah, my husband said the same thing!” Her husband then said that he thinks Allie looks a lot like me and if I put her hair in a faux hawk then she really would. While it doesn’t matter to us if she looks like us or not, it did make me feel so good to hear this

We have also decided to possibly make a name change for Allie. Opinions are welcome. Since we have been here, she is definitely “Alemitu”. That is what we call her, and we are really starting to love that name. To us, she is definitely Alemitu. Today I had my first thoughts of possibly keeping her name. The problem is that we still have the same concerns regarding her having to pronounce it for everyone; correct the teacher on the first day; be discriminated against on resumes when job hunting, etc. Adam thought of a good idea. There are so many people who go by their first and middle name (i.e. Mary Jane) – why can we do “Allie Mitu Fischer”? That way her first name is still “Allie”, but it would make perfect sense for people to call her “Alemitu” as well. You pronounce it by saying “Allie – Me – Too” with emphasis on the “Me”.

Saying goodbye to Allie for even just a few hours has been getting harder. I have no idea what we are going to do on Wednesday night. After we said goodbye tonight, the 4 of us families staying at the Ethiopian Guest House went over to the HOH2 (where the rest of the families are staying) to have dinner. It was a great night getting to talk to everyone. We had the most amazing salad, that I’m going to start making at home. It was simply peeled cucumber, onions, and some orange bell peppers with Italian dressing. Very, very good.

Tomorrow we have court. This is what we know: Court is in the afternoon. Court has been changed to 10:30. Court has been changed to 2 p.m. Court is whenever the judge finishes her paperwork and calls us over there. We were told to be at the transition home at 9, 8, and 8:30. We were told that we can play with the kids and then go back to our guest house for lunch. Then we were told that we need to be there early and wait for the judge’s call. We were told that we will have the birth relative meeting after court. Then we were told that they are driving a long way and may not have time to meet with us. Then we were told that the plan is for them to come to the transition home and we meet with them with our child. All of this information came just yesterday afternoon. Basically, we have no idea what is going on. So I guess when you think of it, say a prayer – we might just be in court at that time.

Tsegay said that we need three things to pass court: (1) consent to judge; (2); birth relative consent to judge; and (3) that important little paper from MOWA. Number 1 is easy. Number 2 is also set – all birth relatives confirmed to their social worker on Sunday evening that they are attending. We just need to get that special little paper from MOWA on time. If that happens, Alemitu will officially be ours and we can post her pictures everywhere!

Okay, that’s all for now. I typed this once before and lost it when we lost internet earlier. I just woke up and I’m sitting in the bathroom re-typing it so I don’t wake up Adam. It is 2 a.m. here. I’m hoping to catch a few more hours of sleep and then get ready for one of the longest days of my life! Adam has some pictures ready for the blog showing Allie's home. When he wakes up in the morning (evening your time), he'll send them over to add to the blog.

Thanks again for all of the e-mails, texts, comments. They mean so much. I really enjoy reading them all!

Praying for a “pass” tomorrow,

No news for now--Internet is down

Just heard from Sabrina that the internet is down at their location. Not too uncommon there, apparently. Everything else is fine, just can't get onto the web. As soon as they are up and running again, we'll post the latest news.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ethiopia Day 2

First of all, I should mention that our regular phones work!! So I am able to get texts again. So send as many as you want because they are free! I love them all, I just won't reply much because it is 50 cents to send.

Also before I talk about today, I forgot to mention something else from yesterday. At the end of our time at HOH, we were able to feed Allie. Considering I still had puke all over me, Adam sat down with her. She was eating some type of potato mush. He starts feeding her and the nanny mentions something to Tsegay (the director) in Amharic. Tsegay says, "Adam, the nanny would like to show you how she feeds Allie." We all laughed and Adam handed Allie back over to the nanny. It reminded us of the times the boys were in the NICU and we were definitely not in control. The nanny takes Allie and just shovels that food into her mouth with perfection, and then she hands her back. It must have been driving her crazy to sit there and watch Adam slowly feed Allie bits at a time. Oh yeah, and they gave us a glass of water for Allie to drink. Yep, our 7 MONTH OLD BABY can drink from a glass. Amazing.

Anyway, back to today. I have to admit that yesterday was slightly overwhelming. The language barrier was difficult. Our tiny, tiny room was hard. When I got puked on and I had no way of cleaning myself up nor did I know how to get my clothes washed was hard. Trying to figure out how to call a driver to take/get us was difficult. Not knowing how to eat dinner or go to the market, etc., was also overwhelming. Adam feels like he isn't out of his comfort zone enough. Yesterday, I felt really, really out of my comfort zone. Today, I woke up feeling great. Everything felt natural. The language barrier wasn't hard because the guide at the guest house speaks great English. We were also with other families and not trying to figure everything out by ourselves. I felt at peace when I woke up. When we had Allie today, it felt so natural. Nothing was overwhelming. Today was a great day.

Our day started at 4:30 a.m. when we were woken up by the Islamic church. In Addis, Sunday is the day of prayer and rest. From 4:30 until after we left at 9 a.m., the Islamic church had singing and praying over the PA. In addition, there were dogs barking, cats meowing, rooster crowing, and what we thought were monkeys making noise. Evidently it wasn't monkeys but I have no idea what it was instead. The FAA doesn't regulate plane noise/speed in Addis, so it sounded like planes were flying right outside our window. Thank you Tylenol PM. Although I kept waking up for the next few hours, I was able to go right back to sleep. The family staying here with us was not so lucky, and they just flew in late last night so they are dealing with jet lag too.

We had scrambled eggs and fresh squeezed pineapple juice for breakfast. We then went to HOH to see Allie. It was just so natural. We held her and played with her for hours. There were 6 other families who got to see their children for the first time. The room was crowded but it was so neat to see all the babies and get to know all of the families. We stayed there until about noon. Allie was great the whole time. We learned that her favorite things are her two middle fingers. She sucks on them so hard. Tsegay said she has always done that. Allie smiled so much. I even got her to laugh a few times when I whispered in her ear. She is a really, really happy baby. At noon we were going back to the guest house for lunch, and it was hard to give her back to the nanny -- even for just 3 hours. I don't know how we are going to leave on Thursday.

We get back to the guest house for some yummy pasta, really good salad, and a fruit smoothie. The staff at the guest house wait on us hand and foot. They just want to please us. The food is really good, too. The other family had to take their son to the doctor, and they came back at lunchtime. It was interesting to hear about their visit to the doctor. The equipment is straight from the 1940s. Kind of scary.

The guide at the guest house walks us over to the market. We get some snacks and drinks. The weather is in the 70s but he said that it is hotter than normal and everyone is inside because they are so hot. The weather feels great, and the breeze is nice. We definitely notice the high altitude. No matter if we walk slow or run, going up 3 flights of stairs to our room is difficult. I need a few minutes for my heart to stop racing and for me to catch my breath. When we walked to the store, it was uphill and you could really feel how difficult it is to breathe.

At 3, we headed back to the guest house. When the nanny brought in Allie, she just smiled huge as soon as she saw us. Every time we look at her, she just smiles big. We played with her for another 3 hours. She started to get tired and we heard her whine a little for the first time. It is the cutest little high pitched whine. She will let out one little whine, wrinkle her brow, and flash you the saddest brown eyes you have ever seen. Then, that one little whine turns back into a smile. She talked and talked and talked. I think she was putting on a show for everyone in the room. She also demonstrated how she can take off her sock and put her toes in her mouth. Yummy. At the end of the day, we laid her on the couch. She showed us how she can roll over on her belly really easy. She rolled over and just laid still. I started rubbing her back and she fell asleep in no time. A 6, we woke her up and gave her back to her nanny.

After we came back to the guest house, we had an Ethiopian dinner. It was tibs (sp?). Basically it was beef with sweet onions and peppers. Then we had rice, potatoes, and bottled Sprite/Coke. We talked with the other family here for about an hour and then we headed back to our room to call it a night.

I can't wait until we get to see Allie tomorrow. She doesn't feel new, she feels natural. It is neat to see how much more she is smiling and talking when we thought she already did a lot in the beginning. She is definitely a happy little girl.

Thank you for all of the well wishes. I read them all and they make me smile!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

We're in Ethopia!!

Unfortunately, our phones still don’t work, and we are unable to contact AT&T. The good news is that the internet works great at the guest house.

We had a good time in Dubai. We are really glad that we got to do the city tour. It was raining in Dubai, and I guess it only rains there twice a year. We had to pay $8 for internet which only last 30 minutes. Hope you liked the pictures Jim posted yesterday and today. The buildings in Dubai are amazing! The houses/mansions/palaces are just shocking. It was also shocking to see that it was a real looking desert. It was neat to fly over it and see what a “real” desert looks like rather than Phoenix.

The hotel was a different story. It was pretty run down and we had two small twin beds in our room. It was almost impossible for me to try and get a hair dryer. The staff wasn’t that nice. We had vouchers for their restaurant, and while we did try the food, we definitely went to bed pretty hungry. We were tired so it didn’t matter much. There were no issues on our flight to Addis. It was 4 hours long. We easily made it through customs and immigration, and our driver from the guest house was waiting for us.

It was a nice drive to the guest house. The driver was so excited we were there. He said that he became a Christian when a missionary (from Indiana) lived here. He gets so excited to see people come to adopt because he knows that in some way God has been whispering to us and we are listening to his whispers. He was really, really excited. He said that on judgment day, it doesn’t matter how many bibles we have or how many times we attended church — but adopting our little girl is going to matter.

We had about a 15 minute drive to the guest house. The landscape of Ethiopia is really beautiful. It is in the mountains and it is normally in the 70s year round. You will see nicer buildings next to metal shacks. Driving is interesting. Lanes? What lanes? Speed? Who cares. Oh yeah, and watch out for the sheep, goats, cattle, horses, and people on the streets too. Yep, you can be driving fast as cattle are running on the road as well. Honking seems to be used as often as the brakes, gas, etc. Adam and I both saw people pulling a sheep along the road with one of its front paws. The person would pull the leg out straight and use it like a leash. The sheep looked like it was in pain. We also saw two men carrying a sheep down the road upside down. From our room, we hear dogs barking, rooster crowing, and a cat meowing. Being in Dubai was just simply a different country. Ethiopia is much more different.

At the guest house, we are in one tiny room. It fits one bed. There is no desk or chair or dresser. Just a bed and a closet. We have a private bathroom that is down the hall. The staff here is very nice although the language barrier can be a little difficult at times. We had spaghetti for lunch. We missed dinner and so we are eating crackers right now for dinner. We can’t go out by ourselves and we are the only ones here right now. 8 more families arrive tonight, and I think that will make it a little easier.

Adam had a first today — while we were waiting on the driver to take us to HOH (Allie’s home), we sat down by the small TV. The cook was watching TV and it was Ethiopian Idol. Adam has never seen American Idol, but he can now say that he watched Ethiopian Idol.

Well that’s all for today — oh wait, you mean you want to find out about our daughter??? Oh well,okay. :-)

We arrive at the HOH and were told to go upstairs in the waiting room. Keep in mind that we are the first family to arrive so we are completely on our own. One of the nannies brings in Allie. We were expecting her to cry — everyone was. She didn’t. She stared us down. She went right to me and then she kept looking at Adam and his camera. She reached out and to grab the camera. Then she grabbed Adam’s hand and held on tight. It was so special as I was holding her and she was holding Adam’s hand. It is common for an infant to only want to bond to one parent. Allie is not that way. She loves to be held by both of us, and she is fascinated with Adam.

She smiles a lot. She talks a lot. She sings too. We were with her for over 3 hours and she never cried. The nanny handed her to us and left. We didn’t see anyone else for hours. The director’s wife came in to give us water and bottled coke. There was a big language barrier and she was telling us that we cannot come on Sundays because they are closed. We were disappointed. After about 2 1/2 hours of us being there, Allie was singing and talking a lot. Her and I were face to face and I was mimicking her singing. Then she threw up all over me. A ton. She wouldn’t stop. All over my shirt, arms, and all down my pants. All on the couch and the floor. Everywhere. With the language barrier, it was so hard to get help. The nannies wouldn’t come help us. Adam found a towel for me to try and wipe the chunks off. I went to talk to a nanny, but the nanny just changed Allie and walked away. We had no idea what to do. I couldn’t sit or hold Allie. I stunk. I was so wet. About 20 minutes later, the director pulled into the HOH. He came upstairs and he speaks great English. He was immediately concerned about Allie and went to the nurse to see if she is on medication. He learned that she is completely healthy and this is the first time she has thrown up. (She does have a wet cough though.) She was happy before she threw up and happy after, so we hope that maybe she was overstimulated or something. He said she is not used to being held this much and is normally in a crib. When Adam asked what the schedule was, he assured us that we can come any day (even tomorrow) and stay for however long we would like. We can get there at 9 in the morning. He also said that our court time is at 10:30 on Tuesday.

Both the director and his wife were shocked that Allie never cried with us, but then they also said that she is an extremely happy baby. She just smiles all of the time. She is teething and so everything went into her mouth. I am glad we had brought some teething toys for her. Her favorite toy was the camera though.

Allie is perfect. She is still a little small. She wore a 0-3 month outfit (she is 7 1/2 months) that was definitely too short on her, but fit her around the body fine. It seems as though she fits better in 6 month clothing. I am guessing that she will be wearing 6-9 month clothing for a while when we bring her home.

It was so surreal and it was such a quick drop off. I am glad that it was just us there today because we really got to bond with her. Adam got great pictures and video and it is killing me not to be able to show it to you. It was a great day though.

We love you!

A few more pics from Dubai


It rains here twice a year. Wouldn't you know we pickes one of them to be here :-)

Palm Island

Friday, January 21, 2011

Some pictures from our layover in Dubai

Not a sailboat, the Burj al Arab hotel

Atlantis hotel and casino

Our room at the Burj (just kidding)


We made it to Dubai! The plane trip was really easy especially considering the plane was barely full. I think everyone had a row to themselves almost. It was really nice and we got a lot of sleep. As soon as we got on the plane we adjusted to Ethiopia time. We were hoping to stay awake until 2 p.m. Phoenix time (midnight in Ethiopia) and then fall asleep for the "night". Considering we barely go any sleep the night before (45 minutes), I think we lasted until 1 p.m. and fell asleep for over 5 hours. Not too long after that, Sabrina slept another 3 hours and Adam slept 1 1/2. We arrived in Dubai mid-afternoon and that is what it felt like to us.

After getting to the hotel, we decided to take a city tour that our travel agent recommended. It was great! We were able to see the entire city in 2 hours. It was really interesting to learn how fast Dubai has grown. I think the guide said that in 39 years Dubai went from camel to Cadillac.

After the tour, we had dinner at the hotel and now we are getting ready to go to bed. Tomorrow morning our flight leaves at 8:30 to head to Addis Abada!!!!!! I really, really hope that we can meet Allie in the afternoon.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Leaving . . . On A Jet Plane . . .

In 12 hours, we will begin our journey to see our daughter!! It seems as though we will have internet connection at the guest house we are staying at, so I am hoping to keep everyone updated through the blog each day. If I can't, my father-in-law will.

I think I am feeling every emotion possible right now (except anger). I am so excited to see Allie. I am so overwhelmed when I imagine what this next week will be like because I can't picture anything about it. I have never left the US before, and I have no idea what to expect. I am sad to say goodbye to my boys for the next 8 days. I am tired from getting my 3rd cold in 2 months. I am anxious to see Dubai. I am terrified of the long flight. I don't do well on domestic flights. I can't read, watch movies, etc. I sit and stare because of what I call "personal space issues" or "not being able to breathe" and Adam and the social worker call it "claustrophobia". Whatever it is, I'm having panic attacks the past 48 hours thinking about the flight, but I am grateful that my doctor prescribed some calming anti-anxiety medication. I am nervous that the medication won't work and I'll be breathing out of a paper bag at LAX tomorrow. I am worried that I'll pass my cold on to my daughter. I am hopeful that I'll get to see my daughter when we arrive on Saturday rather than have to wait until Sunday. I am so happy when I picture Allie smiling at me and not just as a camera. I am feeling loved by all of our family and friends who are so supportive. I am full of emotion right now. I think that it is a good thing.

The first leg of our journey begins tomorrow at 4 a.m. when we head to Sky Harbor Airport. We'll fly to LA, and then we will fly to Dubai. It will take us 44 hours to get to Ethiopia (22 of those are on a plane). I will try and update the blog when we get to Dubai.

During this next week, can you please pray for our safety? Please pray for the safety and comfort of Wes and Calvin. Please pray that we will begin to bond with Allie. Please pray that we will pass court the first time on Tuesday (it is very common to fail the first time). Please pray that if we do get to meet a relative of Allie's, that we are able to get answers to questions that will help her as she matures and questions her background. Please pray for comfort and peace for Allie's birth family.

We love you all!

Monday, January 10, 2011

10 Days To Go!

10 more days!!!

I thought I'd update you a little on our travel plans. On January 20th, we leave super, super, super early for LA (sorry Jim -- our chauffeur). From LA, we take a 16 HOUR flight to Dubai. Adam and I have always wanted to see Dubai with the huge islands that can be seen from space, 7 star hotels, and I think the biggest shopping mall in the world. We arrive in Dubai at 1 p.m. and we don't have to leave until the following morning. The airline puts us up in their hotel (it is a Dubai airline), and so we hope to get out and see the ocean and get a bite to eat. As much as I would love to tour the city, our airplane clothes aren't exactly appropriate for most places there, and I don't think we are going to have too much energy. However, we are still really excited to spend a few hours there, and also excited to spend the night in a hotel before finishing our trip the next day.

The 2nd day of traveling (technically the 3rd) is going from Dubai (Saudi Arabia) to Addis (Ethiopia). We arrive around noon. There is a chance that we will be allowed to visit with Allie that day for the afternoon session. I really, really hope so! It is at the director's discretion, and we won't know until we arrive and call him. During most days, we will see Allie a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon. We will be on our own for lunch and dinner, but we have heard there are some good restaurants by our guest house (and a place that sells bottled Cokes).

Where Allie is living

Our guest house is not affiliated with our agency's guest house. Because there are 9 other families traveling at the same time, our agency's guest house was full. We were disappointed at first, but now we are really excited about staying at the Ethiopia Guest House. Many adopting families from our agency have stayed there and they rave about the place. It has wireless internet (very rare). The Guest House also provides light lunches and dinners -- in addition to the nearby restaurants. We have requested a room with a private bath (versus a shared bath which most of the rooms have). The guest house provides us with a large bottle of water each day, a free massage, a guard when we walk too far for their comfort, and a cell phone for us to have during our entire stay. We will also have our own phones, but it is nice to have an extra. We will have transportation arranged by our agency to/from the House of Hope (where Allie lives) and to/from court. There are 2 other families in our travel group that are staying at the Ethiopia Guest House. Another nice thing about this guest house is that we have more freedom than staying at our agency's guest home. This guest house is in a better location, and the staff will drive us to the market, etc. so that we can do some shopping and sight seeing. We really want to see the place where our daughter is from.

Ethiopia Guest House

Court is on the 25th. It is so common to NOT pass the first time. The reason is always a simple paper, but it will take a few weeks to get another court date. We won't have to appear again in front of the Judge, but by pushing back the court approval several weeks, we push back our visa exit interview by several weeks, which means we push back Allie's arrival by several weeks. :-( So please pray that we pass court the first time!

Our agency told us today that our court date is the same as the birth families' court date. The person who relinquished the child must appear before the Judge and give consent. If all goes well then we will have a chance to meet with Allie's birth family (with a translator) to learn/ask about Allie's family as well as talk about our family. We are aware of Allie's story; however, we do feel that it is her story to tell when/if she ever decides to do so. So I won't be giving out any details concerning her birth family and the situation; however, we do ask for prayers as this meeting is expected to be one of the most emotional times in our lives. If this meeting does not happen, then we get another chance during our second visit when we visit her original orphanage.

Once our adoption is approved, we HOPE to bring home Allie in the first half of March. :-)

During our stay, we plan to be able to use our cell phones. We plan to be able to update Facebook and have someone (if not us) update this blog. We should be able to receive texts (for free), and it will be cheap to send them out. If all goes according to plan (Ha!), we hope to be able to update everyone on our trip each day. 10 more days!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

meet calVIN

meet our son calVIN. Confused? Okay, this picture was actually taken 4 1/2 years ago and it is one of our favorites. We laugh so hard every time we see it, so I thought this was a perfect opportunity to show it again . . .

A few weeks ago Wes was trying to tell something to his brother. He kept saying "Cal! Cal! Cal!" Calvin ignored him. When I told Calvin to answer Wes, Calvin calmly explained that Wes was calling him "Cal" and he doesn't like that name. He wants to be called "Calvin". We have talked several times over the past few weeks, and he still tells me everytime that he wants people to call him Calvin. It evened bothered him that his grandparents were still calling him "Cal" and so he told us this weekend that he asked them not to do it anymore. He is very serious about the name change, and so we are taking it seriously too. I remember when my parents let me change my name to "Dawn". They didn't question it at all but just respected my wishes, and my family started calling me 'Dawn'. (My name change only lasted a few hours before I was annoyed with it and changed my name back to Sabrina.)

Calvin told me that he likes the name "Cal", but he just likes "Calvin" better. He also said that we can still call him "Cal Pal" sometimes, but he still likes "Calvin" better. No problem. The best part . . . when I asked he why he likes "Calvin" the best, he responded "Because it rhymes with Alvin". Oh, okay.