We've been blessed with the addition of our four year old daughter from Ethiopia. We fell in love with Ethiopia and want to honor the gift of our daughter by continuing to embrace her amazing homeland. Join us on our journey as we become a family of six through international adoption and as we work to support the beautiful country of Ethiopia.
OK...It's fianlly time to start writing about our little Grace Hiwot and her transition to our family. I feel like I need to pinch myself, because it is hard to believe she is actually here and doing so well. I sat and watched her play in the bathtub last night, and thought to myself...adoption is so cool! Here she is...I can't believe she's really here. I stared at the same face that we had looked at in pictures for so long, and she was actually a real-live person sitting in my bathtub. We did it! We made it through the entire process! I can tell all of you who are considering adoption or struggling with all of the paperwork and waiting, IT IS ALL WORTH IT! So, here is our little firecracker in a shirt that describes her perfectly...She IS kind of a big deal...She is adjusting to our family so well. She is loving, funny, cuddly and she keeps amazing us with all of the things she can do. It is so fun to see what she is capable of. She has this entire knowledge base that we haven't even tapped into yet. It is funny to think that we don't really know what she has experienced and what she knows about. She is such a little peanut (not even on the charts for height), yet she constantly surprises us with her abilities and skills (like being able to twirl a jumprope so well that her 13 year old sister can jump in it...). The girl could swing with her sister all day long. She loves to be outside. She is doing a great job of sleeping (thank goodness). Here she is napping with her "babies." She says, "One, two, three babies..." before she will go to sleep she wants all three babies in bed with her. So far, she doesn't play with them during her nap, she just snuggles into bed with them and goes to sleep. She is great at imaginitive play. She will feed and diaper the babies, tell us to "shhh" when the babies are sleeping, etc. Eating is our one challenge. She likes to eat, but expects her food to be ready right when she wants it. I think this is because when she saw food at the orphanage, it was already prepared and in front of her. She will whine when she sees that food is being prepared and wants to be held (while she fusses) until it is ready - holding her makes the food prep pretty difficult, so we are working on increasing her patience...
It is also fun to watch her try to eat new things. This picture is her first taste of ice cream. She wasn't too sure about it. We picked what we thought would be her favorite flavor - banana cream pie...the girl will eat bananas all day long. Bananas are her number one food of choice. She doesn't seem too interested in sweets. She loves spicy food - hot sauce is a hit with her. So, all in all, we couldn't be more happy with our transition so far. Grace is a doll and we are so blessed that she is with us!
I am excited to write about our last two days in Ethiopia...because I can't wait to start blogging about our little Grace Hiwot! She is doing so well. But, in an effort to keep documenting the trip in order, here we go... Thursday was our embassy day. We didn't need to be at the U.S. Embassy until 2:00, so we decided to use the morning to do a little shopping for our agency's new orphanage (LIA - Love In Action). We received some monetary donations from friends who wanted to help out in some way. Our agency is starting their own orphanage in Addis and they needed many items to get the orphanage ready. We decided to focus on cribs, matresses and bedding for the toddler room. Doug and JT went with Endris (the director of LIA orphanage) to do some crib shopping. While the guys went shopping, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Hiwot and Tedi in our hotel room. They were so cute together! Listening to them talk to each other in their native language was priceless. I was able to videotape some of their conversations...so cute! Grace Hiwot painting her nails for the first time. She loved it. She is definitely a girly girl. First time playing with Play Doh. It was a hit! Furniture shopping in Addis is an experience...who would have thought that these beautiful cribs came from a store like this?
We were able to provide six cribs, matresses and bedding for the orphanage.
Next, it was time to get dressed and ready for our Embassy appointment. We were excited and anxious for our appointment. We had to make sure everything went well, because we needed our paperwork and Visa to be approved and ready for pick up on Friday...our flight home left Friday night. We knew that most embassy appointments are just formalities and most people do not encounter problems, but it is still a little intimidating to meet with government officials in a 3rd world country. Who knew what could have come up or gone wrong?
Dressed and ready for our appointment.
Playing with the curtains in the hotel room was so much fun!
Here we are getting ready to leave the hotel for the embassy. We were not allowed to take our phones, cameras, etc. into the embassy, so this is our last photo of the event. The appointment went well. We waited about 1 1/2 hours for our turn. We were able to meet many other adoptive families and it was really nice to hear their stories and visit with them.
One neat story from our trip to the embassy: When we arrived at the embassy, our driver was parking our car on a side street (alley). There was a group of boys who noticed us and came over to our car right away. They saw that we had several bags of donations in the back of our car (we were planning on bringing them to the new orphanage after our appointment). The boys spied the soccer balls that we had. They immediately began to say "one ball, one ball, one ball..." We thought they were saying "one birr" so we tried to give them some money. They said "NO!, one BALL!" We were running late for our appointment, so we told them that we needed to go and didn't have time to sort throught the donations right then, but that if they were near our car after our appointment, we would give them a ball." They were so sweet and when we returned to our car TWO HOURS later, they were still waiting for us. They were so excited to get a soccer ball to play with!
These seven boys were so nice. They were so grateful for the small gift of a soccer ball.
After leaving the embassy, we were off to visit the new LIA orphanage. The building is in the process of being updated for kids to arrive. The cribs we bought were already there and being assembled.
The new LIA orphanage. I can't wait to see how the site is transformed. I am sure it will be a wonderful facility. The director Endris has such a heart for orphans and was very excited to show us around.
Endris with some of the donations we brought.
Thursday turned out to be a wonderful day. We had a successful embassy appointment, were able to visit the new orphanage, and had time to relax and play with the kids.
On Friday, we were set to visit the Hope agency office one more time to pick up our (very important) paperwork. The director was supposed to have all of our children's documents (including visas and passports) as well as a sealed manilla envelope that is critical to bringing adopted children into the U.S. I was a little nervous and knew I would feel much better once those documents were in my hands. It was Friday, and not getting them that day would mean having to stay in Ethiopia until the next week...
All of our documents were ready and we received the infamous manilla envelope. Whew...now we could spend the rest of the day sight seeing. We asked our drivers to take us to the top of Mr. Entoto. We also asked them to take us for a drive outside of Addis so that we could see some of Ethiopia's beautiful countryside.
Driving around without seatbelts or car seats was quite a change. That coupled with the wild driving in Addis was a little scarey. Doug kept reminding me to hold on to Hiwot very tightly :)
Well, after an amazing day of seeing some of the beauty and culture of Ethiopa, it was time to pack up and leave our hotel. We needed to be at Bole airport 7:30 p.m. or our 11:30 p.m. flight. We wanted to make sure we were on time so that we could get through customs, etc. without any problems. I was so excited to get home to our kids and to begin our new life with little Grace Hiwot, but, at the same time, I was so sad to be leaving Ethiopia. I had tears in my eyes as we drove to the airport. The traffic was crazy and we were stuck for awhile. It gave me more time to look around at the city that we had grown to appreciate and respect. I kept wondering how long it would be until we returned to our daughter's birth country.
Hanging out at the airport late at night...she's a trooper and stayed awake until we boarded our plane.
What a cute traveler!
Here is our little sweetie chewing gum. We had worried about how to combat the pressure change on the plane, but apparently she is a seasoned gum chewer...who knew?
Grace Hiwot's first photo on American soil (after an outfit change, of course).
Little did she know that her whole world would change when we landed in Green Bay about an hour later. She was about to be shocked by a wonderful crowd awaiting her back home. Our friends had our yard and house decorated and waiting for her.
Finally a family of six! We had such an incredible journey to our daughter. What blessings we have received in Grace Hiwot and her amazing country of birth - Ethiopia. We never could have planned such an amazing experience...we had never even planned on adopting a three year old girl in Africa...but... "A good plan yields what you had hoped for, but a great plan yields what God had hoped for you."
Day 4 was so much fun! We finally had our little girl with us, and now the real fun began. It was so awesome to wake up with Grace Hiwot with us. She is such a trooper! She was smiley and brave and happy from the moment she woke up.. She loved looking out our hotel room window. There is so much to see on the streets of Addis Ababa. I wonder what she was thinking that morning. Grace Hiwot looking out of our hotel window.This is the view she spent time checking out...there were a lot of (very noisy) dogs that she liked to watch. She would see a goat or two as well.
Of course, there were many interesting people to watch.
The streets of Addis are full of little shops like this "butcher shop."
It is the rainy season in Ethiopia right now, so it was often cloudy and the sky was often gray.
The sheer number of people on the streets in Addis was mind boggling. I wanted so badly to learn about all of their stories. It was so hard to imagine what their lives were like, and yet it was clear that we saw what life is like for them. I find myself thinking about Ethiopia a lot now. My mind keeps going back to the images that we saw everywhere we went. I hope I never forget them - I want to remember and be inspired by these amazing, resilient people.
Shoe shine stands were everywhere. It is so interesting that people who have so little take such pride in having clean shoes.
At first JT and I thought this man was carrying bamboo of some sort. Our driver laughed at us and explained that it was sugar cane.
More goats on the streets...
So,on day 4 we headed to Hope Orphanage to do some of our required paperwork. It was nice to visit another orphanage. It was heartwarming to see more beautiful kids and to offer them a little bit of our attention (and a few dum dum suckers and stickers). All of the kids at Hope were already referred to families, so it was really nice to know that the kids would be joining there families as soon as they "passed court" and had their embassy appointments.
We met with the Hope staff - they were very helpful and professional with us. We needed to go over our paperwork and talk about our upcoming embassy appointments. We visited Hope for about an hour and then headed to Faith Orphanage. Faith was also a nice orphanage. There were about 150 kids living at Faith. It seemed huge. There were so many babies there! The orphanage was a large, newer building with many floors. We were able to tour the orphanage and see many of the baby rooms. We are not allowed to post photos from our visits to the orphanages. I wish I could. I would love to share the children's beautiful faces with everyone. We were told that about half of the kids at Faith are already referred to families and the others are still waiting to be adopted.
We were lucky enough to spend a little bit of time with the older kids at Faith. They had such pure joy as they learned how to throw an "American" football and as they jumped rope and enjoyed stickers. Once again, the kids were so well behaved.
After visiting the orphanages, we all enjoyed lunch at Island Breeze Restaurant. The food was excellent. The restaurant owners are from the US, and they make sure that all of the food is safe to eat (washed veggies, etc.). The restaurant owner is an Ethiopian man who was born in Ethiopia and moved to the US as a little boy. He has moved back to Addis (with his American wife) to help out his family. I would recommend Island Breeze to any of you who are traveling to Addis. It was a nice change of pace to be able to order pizza, burgers, etc. Hiwot had her very first French fries at Island Breeze.
After lunch, we decided to split up the group a little. The dads took the kids back to the hotel to nap and hang out and the ladies went shopping for soveniers. We were lucky enought to have one of our wonderful drivers with us, so she helped us to get the best prices at the local shops. She was such a good bargainer, that she would not let us buy anything that was not a good deal. Unfortunately, I had to pass on a few things that I really liked, because she told me "NO...do not buy it here..." and then I felt like I couldn't disagree with her.
We shopped for a very long time. I ended up buying a lot of really nice things. I wanted to buy a number of gifts for Hiwot to give her each year on her "gotcha day." Unfortunately, some of my favorite things got broken on the flights home (jobena coffe pot, etc.). We were doing such a great job of shopping, that I forgot to keep up my water consumption and I think I ended up getting a little dehydrated. The altitude in Addis is really high and I was worried about it when I started the trip. I was very conscientious about drinking lots of bottled water and I had been feeling great. With all of our shopping, I sort of lost track of my need to stay hydrated and it ended up catching up with me that night.
We made it back to the hotel. It was fun to see the kids again and the dads were doing great. We all had dinner at the hotel. I was starting to not feel too well at this point. As the night went on, I felt a little worse. It was a long night, but Hiwot did great. We played with some toys, read some books, and we even got to Skype home with our three kids in the US. It was so nice to be able to introduce our kids to their little sister. It did make me miss our kids back home though. It was pretty incredible that we were able to Skype and see our kids who were on another continent!
Day 5 was our "sick day." I was not feeling great and we suspected that Hiwot was not feeling too great. She kept poking at her ears. We knew that it would be horrible to fly home with an ear infection, so we wanted to take her to see a doctor to make sure she was alright. One of the other families also wanted to take their little girl to the doctor, so we decided to have one of our drivers take us to a hospital that was recommended to us.
I was pretty comfortable with the idea of having the kids looked at by a doctor, but as we pulled up to the hospital, I sort of freaked out inside. I started thinking "what am I doing taking my child to a hospital in Africa? Maybe there will be more risk/sickness in those doors than out here..." It turned out to be a pretty nice hospital, although we did see some very sick looking people waiting to be seen...we saw an elderly lady who appeared to be VERY sick. It was very sad. We were told that not many people can go to the hospital because of the cost. How sad. Because guess what? The total bill for our "emergency" appointment with a pediatrician AND the amoxicillin that we ended up with was $10! We couldn't believe it. We paid our $6 to see the doctor (who was very nice and spoke English) and we were in. We felt a little strange because our driver did the talking for us when we were at the hospital. He went right up to the reception desk and apparently told them that his friends needed to be seen right away. They pointed at watches and said things that we didn't understand, and then we were off to pay our bills (before we could be seen). After seeing the doctor, she confirmed that our little one had a double ear infection and that she would need some meds (another $4 or so). Up we went to the hospital pharmacy and we were ready to roll.
After the hospital adventure, we decided to go out for lunch at The Lime Tree Restaurant. I would also recommend The Lime Tree. Good food, internet access, and desserts looked good too, but at this point I was not eating. All I wanted was some Sprite....it was a long day, food did not appeal to me in any way.
I love the soda bottles. Hiwot was feeling great even with her ear infections. We loved watching her eat traditional Ethiopian food. She loved the injera and ate it with such skill. She would rip the bread with one hand and scoop up so much of the shiro or wot with it. She still loves to dip and scoop up her food if she can. We have some injera that we bought at a local Ethiopian restaurant, and she loves to use it to eat with. I wonder when she will stop being interested in it...so sad that some things will fade with time.
So, all in all, days 4 and 5 were very productive...paperwork and medical care, check! So now we could focus on more important stuff like our upcoming embassy appointment and seeing as much of our daughter's birth country as we could fit in.