Subscribe to Follow my Blog Via E-mail!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

We Passed Court!

A lot has happened in the past week here in Thailand, and I'll need a few blog posts to include it all!  In summary, we had 2 amazing families come and visit us, so we were quite busy for the past 7 days showing everyone around Chiang Mai and the surrounding area!  In addition, Ron has been getting ready for a shoulder surgery in Bangkok tomorrow, studying Thai and doing some observations with the Thai military!  I've been working on school work (ALMOST done with my Master's), volunteering at the orphanage and slowly progressing with paperwork for a job.  That said, I FINALLY have time for updates, followed by more "Dear Aidan" posts!

Over Thanksgiving last year, I was at a breaking point with our adoption.  I was literally crying everyday, not sure of what was happening.  It had been about 3 months since our referral and still no court date.  A lot of our wait was attributed to the paperwork mix-up from the orphanage and in all honestly, our wait was still short, looking back.  But at the time, I was a MESS.  Poor Ron (I say that a lot, but he's been a trooper with me) was beginning to feel helpless in consoling me.  When we were discussing Christmas plans, we knew we wanted to travel somewhere.  After discussing our many options of travel in Southeast Asia, we realized that there was one place we would want to be for Christmas above anywhere else- Ethiopia with our son.  We contacted our adoption agency, Adoption Avenues, and we were told that "Yes," we could travel to meet our son without a court date.  Two days after Thanksgiving, we essentially had our plans made and flights booked.  You know you have a GREAT husband when he buys you tickets to go to Ethiopia for Christmas :)

We realized that making an early trip meant that we may need 3 trips to Ethiopia instead of 2: 1 for traveling, 1 for court and 1 to pick Aidan up.  We realized that this would be a large additional cost for plane tickets.  However, we try to live as inexpensive as possible and would rather spend money flying to spend time with our son than having cable TV or a nice air conditioned house (we have AC, we just rarely run it).

After we booked our tickets, we found out that our Regional MOWA letter- the initial letter that approves our adoption from the orphanage Aidan was at, was signed.  This meant that our case could be submitted to court!  On December 10, 2012, we were submitted to court, which was a huge step in our process!

When we arrived in Ethiopia, the country director, Mr. Alemu, told us that Aidan's birth mother had her court hearing on January 8, 2013.  She already gave up custody of Aidan in April when she first relinquished him.  However, it is required that a court hearing is held for her to legally give Aidan up while she understands that he's being adopted.  This was another huge step and was one we weren't expecting while we were there!  Mr. Alemu then went on to say we MIGHT be able to have our court date by the time we left Ethiopia on January 12th.  Although this was a slim chance, there was a chance our case might be expedited in the courts.  The thought of this was exciting, but we didn't get our hopes up!

When Aidan's birth mother first relinquished Aidan, he was extremely thin and small.  It is evident that she could barely feed Aidan, and most likely herself.  The orphanage director said she was extremely impoversihed and young.  Keeping this in mind, it's not a surprise that she hadn't been around since she gave Aidan up in April.  She was probably looking for food, work and places to live.

On January 7th, our agency, who was susposed to bring Aidan's birth mother to court, was unable to find her at the address she had listed in April.  This wasn't a huge surprise.  So on January 8th, she wasn't at her court date.  The judge listened to our agency in their plea to at least hear Ron's and I's case while we were in Ethiopia.  After a long discussion, she agreed.  To other adoptive families, I'm not sure how often this happens.  We are grateful the judge was willing to work with us, but I wouldn't recommend traveling to Ethiopia without a scheduled court date in the hopes of an early court date because there are too many unknowns!

Normally in Ethiopia, when the adoptive parents have their court date, it is after eveything else is complete.  Then, the court hearing lasts for about 5 minutes.  If you pass, which almost all families do, the judge grants you legal custody of your child/ren, right then and there!  But this wasn't our case...

On Wednesday, January 9th, Ron and I went to court.  Our court hearing was at 1:30.  We arrived at court and waited in a room with 5 other adoptive families: 3 from the US, 1 from France and 1 from Italy.  One by one, they were called into the court room.  About 5 minutes later, they reappeared as legal parents with smiles on our faces.

When we were finally called in, the judge explained that we would not be Aidan's legal parents that day, but only after the case was closed.  We stated that we understood and that we were very grateful for her having our hearing today.

We were then asked the following questions:
"Have you met your child?"
"How much time have you spent with your child?"
"Do you like your child?"
"Do you have other children at home?"
"Do you know other families that have adopted from Ethiopia?"
"How old are you?"  "How long have you been married for?"
"How long did the process take you?"
"How will you work to keep Ethiopian culture in your son's life?"
"Have you taken classes on adoption?  What have you learned?"
"Do you understand that once your case passes court, your adoption is irreversible?"

After that, she notated in our file that we had "passed," but on the contention that the birth mother's case be cleared first.  Our agency was assigned a second court hearing on January 23rd, two weeks from our first court hearing.  On that day, the birth mother would either be at court OR if the police were unable to find her, their written report explaining such will be done.

In Ethiopia, for cases when the birth mother cannot be found (keep in mind, this is common in a world with little internet, phones, phone books, etc.), the local police are mandated to do a "search."  For this, they put adds in newspapers and on the radios asking for the location of the mother.  If after a week she is not found, they write a report stating such, which the judge accepts.

During the police search, they actually found Aidan's birth mother!  On January 23rd, she appeared in court and legally gave up Aidan's custody.  Then, the judge officially passed us in court and cleared us as his legal parents!

Last Wednesday evening, Ron called Mr. Alemu in Ethiopia.  We were told, "Congratulations!  You passed court!  You are now parents!"  We then thanked Mr. Alemu and screamed!  We hugged and jumped up and down before calling our parents, congratulating them on officially becoming grandparents.

It was quite an amazing day!  Ron was extremely celebratroy and I could tell how relieved he felt.  I knew deep down that everything was going to be ok- it had to be ok.  Aidan is the most perfect son for us and everything happened according to a plan much larger than us!

So now, Ron and I are legally Aidan's parents.  His legal name right now is "Bedassa Ronald Garberson."  It will stay this way until we're back in the US and can legally change his name.

To celebrate, Ron and I went to an extremely nice hotel on Monday evening for dinner.  Le Mandarin has a 5-star French restaurant.  Ron made reservations for us on a private balcony overlooking the hotel's rice paddies.  We spent 2 hours enjoying each others' company and our 5-course gourmet meal.  It was the perfect way to celebrate becoming Aidan's parents. 

Through all the ups and downs, I couldn't be more grateful that Ron and I went through every step of the journey together.  It really has brought us even closer together and has made our relationship stronger than it ever has been.  We have a true respect for each other, and a new sense of gratitude and understanding.

I have included some of this information in Aidan's journal, but I left out a lot as well.  As Aidan grows, he will slowly learn more and more about his story, and always at an age appropriate level.  I decided to write this in a separate post to allow Ron and I time to discuss things with him as he grows.  I'm sure you can imagine the emotional and complex conversations we will have with him regarding his story.  Aidan will always have a sense of loss- that of his biological mother, and have countless questions regarding "Why?" and "How?"  I now feel more confident that Ron and I can answer those with grace and ease knowing more of his story.

Aidan's biological mother will always be his guardian angel, our Ethiopian angel, and a woman I truly love.  My heart breaks for all she has endured and her life circumstances.  I do know that she loved Aidan more than one could imagine- she chose to give him up in order for him to have life.  She is an incredible person and one I look up to for strength.

But to conclude, WE ARE PARENTS!!!!!  For many couples, they must go to a hospital to become parents for the first time.  For Ron and I, we traveled half-way around the world to the amazing country of Ethiopia, went to court, and waited a LOOOOOONG 2 weeks in order for that to happen!  Not the most traditional way, but in all honesty, would you expect something different from us?  :)

So what's next?  Well, our agency is working on getting Aidan a new birth certificate with us as his parents and his new name.  That takes about 5-10 days to complete.  Then, they will submit documents to Ethiopian authorities to get Aidan an Ethiopian passport: another 5-10 days.  Finally, Aidan will have a medical exam performed at a children's hospital for the US Embassy.  Once all of that is completed in another 2-3 weeks, our case will be submitted to the US Embassy in Addis Ababa for review.

Once they have our case, we will be submitted into their system.  They will look over our adoption documents and also schedule an interview with Aidan's birth mother.  This is a bit repetitive, but they want to do their own investigations as well.  FINALLY, our case will be cleared and we will have an interview scheduled.  That's when we fly back to Ethiopia to get Aidan!  We'll go to the US Embassy for a brief interview and then wait 2 days for his US Visa to be processed.  As soon as we get that, we're home free!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dear Aidan: Day 7

Friday, December 28, 2012

Dear Aidan,

What a day!  I can't believe we spent an entire day in Ethiopia without you with us to share it with!  Although it's only been a day, I've realized 2 things.  1: I truly, utterly, completely love and adore you as my son.  There's something about being with you that makes me feel more complete and happy.  2: I truly, utterly, completely love and adore the country of Ethiopia.  It is an amazing country and we are blown away by everything- the landscapes, people and culture!  Who knew Africa kept such a precious secret in its horn?

This morning, Dad and I woke up very early, around 5AM for our flight.  I thought that our flight was at 8:00AM.  Dad and I figured we would leave the guest house be 5:30, be at the airport by 6AM, and be all set to go 2 hours before our flight.  Well, I re-checked that morning when Dad was showering and our flight was leaving at 7AM!  OOOOPS!  I ran upstairs and told Dad, who jumped out of the shower!  We quickly got dressed and I went without a shower that morning.  After we jammed the last few things in our suitcase, we hurried down stairs.  Luckily, our driver was early and he somewhat sped to the airport!  We arrived around 5:45AM and were able to check-in at an express lane for our flight.  As soon as we cleared security, it was time to board our plane.  We made it!  We did not need caffeine this morning as we had plenty of adrenaline racing through us to keep us wide awake!

About 45 minutes later, our Ethiopian Airlines flight landed in the oasis of Bahir Dar.  Bahir Dar is northwest of Addis Ababa, and is located at the southern end of Lake Tana, Ethiopia's largest lake, and the second largest lake in Africa.  Lake Tana is famous because it is the source of the Blue Nile, which joins with the White Nile River in Sudan to form the Nile River.  The lake is also home to many islands and incredibly old monasteries scattered about.  During our trip planning, we decided to spend two days here to see the sights!

At the airport, we had a shuttle from our hotel, Papyrus Hotel, waiting for us.  Inside the van, there was a hotel guide that was willing to help us out with our daily plans.  We talked with him and arranged for a private boat to see the monasteries on the lake for the remainder of the morning.  When we arrived at the hotel, we quickly checked in and went to our room.  The hotel was very nice and our room had a large bed, internet, TV and a warm shower with high water pressure!  Dad and I quickly changed as it was signifcantly warmer here than in Addis.  It's funny because the 2 cities are relatively close but because of Addis' elevation, it is much cooler!  The warm air felt wonderful!

We met our guide, who then rented an Ethiopian-style tuk-tuk for us to take to the boat dock.  There, we loaded into our boat and met our captain.  We started across the lake (well, part of the lake as it takes about 6-hours to boat across) to a peninsula.  There was a famous monastery that was about 1,200 years old.  Along the way, we saw many endemic birds.  There were also many canoe-like boats made of papyrus reed.  These boats are handmade and the locals use them to transport everything on the water.  Today is Friday, which meant tomorrow is market day.  All of the boats were loaded high (which made them very low in the water) with firewood from the peninsula.  The men then spent 6-8 hour paddling their goods for the market to town.  It was quite the site, and I'm sure quite the workout!  But those men were going fast!

Once we reached the peninsula, we hired a guide for the monastery.  We walked along a beautiful trail for about 15 minutes up to the monastery.  Along the way, we were looking for monkeys, but didn't see any!  There were also many locals selling religious items such as bibles and paintings, as well as historic items.  There were many coffee ceremony stands as well.  To be honest, Dad and I didn't know what to expect with the monasteries.  In Europe, monasteries are often large stone buildings.  However, when I searched for pictures online of these monasteries, mud huts appeared.  The first and largest monastery looked like a very large mud hut from the outside, but with an aluminum roof.  We were told that the original straw roof was replaced a few years ago because the straw was becoming too heavy for the historic structure.  The outer wall was made of mud, straw and blood!

Inside the circular structure was another large wall.  It was like a hut within a hut.  Inside that hut was a large square room.  Only the monks are allowed to enter the room where precious holy items lie.  On all 4 outer walls of the hut were old paintings of Biblical stories.  These paintings were all done with natural pigments from plants and flowers.  It was incredible to see how vibrant some of them were, especially the blues!  All of the paintings were simple in technique and showed stories.  Many of the stories were about the Virgin Mary.  This surprised Dad and I as we thought there would be more stories about Jesus.  When we asked, we were told that Orthodox Christians have many holy books, including the Book of Mary.  They revere this book!  We later found out that King Zara of Ethiopia (ruled a few hundred years ago) was almost obsessed with Mary.  As such, he made all female Ethiopians tattoo or cut a cross on their foreheads for her.  Today, this tradition of scarring/tattooing female foreheads, as well as the worship of Mary, continue in Ethiopia.

Christianity came to Ethiopia in about the 4th Century, and it was one of the first countries to become Christian.  The first Bibles were written in Ge'ez, the ancient language of Ethiopia (similar to our Latin).  All of the old Bibles were written in Ge'ez and masses/ceremonies were given in Ge'ez.  However, only the monks and priests knew Ge'ez, so none of the villagers understood the Bible or the preachings.  The paintings were done as a way for the locals to learn about the Bible.  When looking at the paintings, many of the people have two wide open eyes.  These are the believers in God.  There are some people in the paintings where only their profile is seen and they may or may not have an open eye.  These people are the non-believers, or people who haven't been enlightened yet.  Learning this made understanding the stories much easier.

After we finished looking at the monastery, we went outside.  There, we found large drums made of cow and goat hide.  The drums were used before cell phones as a means to communicate.  People could be called to worship or for a meeting with the drums.  There was also a bell made of two stones that was used for the same purpose.

In a small museum, we saw many old Bibles written in Ge'ez, as well as some crowns that were at least 1,000 years old.  Most of the crowns were made of silver, but some of gold.  On the roof of the monastery and other buildings  were crosses with 12 smaller containers circling it.  Each small plate/lip held an empty ostrich egg.  Dad and I still aren't sure what the purpose of this was, but it seems important nonetheless.

In Ethiopia, there is a large system of trafficking of religious items.  Many tourists and people overseas buy the ancient paintings, bibles, crowns and other religious artifacts.  There is a push from UNESCO and the World Bank to help Ethiopia itemize their important antiques and document them.  For now, each museum or monastery holds onto their own- with little or no protection from theft.

Once we finished touring the monastery, we walked back down to our boat.  Along the way, we stopped at many of the vendors to see what was for sale.  Dad bought a small book written in Ge'ez with pictures that was leather bound (no, it wasn't an old Bible).  I bought what I found out to be an old Ethiopian lunch box!  They are round baskets with a lid covered in leather.  There are straps for wearing on your back and locals used to carry their injera with them for the day!  I got a fantastic one for about $20.00!  I love it!  Dad is not the biggest fan!  We also saw local baby carriers and I'm kicking myself we didn't buy one!  They're made of leather and are for mothers to carry babies on their backs.  The best part about them is that there are long threads of leather with cowry beads going to the ground.  These are so that when the mom walks, the beads and threads jingle like a soft wind chime to help the baby stay relaxed and sleep!  How clever is that!

Once we reached our boat, we had a 15-minute ride to the next monastery.  The next monastery was very small and had the same layout- a hut within a hut with paintings.  We saw many more priests at this monastery.  Although there were 3 more monasteries to see, one monastery did not allow women, and the other two were even smaller than the last.  As each monastery cost $7.00/person to enter, Dad and I decided against going into the last few.

On the way back to Bahir Dar, we went to the east portion of the lake to see the outlet of the Blue Nile.  There were many reeds along the bank and it was beautiful!  The best part about it was that we found 3 hippos eating in the shallows!  So Dad and I can now say we saw Ethiopian Hippos at the source of the Nile River!  

Back in town, Dad and I ate at a restaurant on the water.  It was very nice to sit on the shore of the lake and relax.  We had a delicious meal of beef, injera and fish.  The fish here is wonderful!  To be honest, I never thought I would eat fresh fish in Ethiopia, but I was wrong!  

After lunch, Dad and I walked back to the hotel.  It was around 3PM and we were feeling a bit tired.  It actually felt that both of us were beginning to get a cold, which we wanted to fight.  We took a nap and ended up waking up at 8PM!  I guess we needed our sleep!  And it's no wonder- we hadn't been sleeping well through the night since we've arrived (well, I hadn't been sleeping well and because I kept waking Dad up, he hadn't slept well either). 

Dad ate dinner at the hotel restaurant- yummy pasta, and I stayed in the room to check e-mails.  When Dad came back, we watched a little TV and got ready for bed!  For some reason, I was still a bit tired.

We arranged to go to the Blue Nile Falls tomorrow with our hotel's guide.  We'll have an early morning and I'll need my sleep!

I hope you had a great day today, Aidan Bedassa!  I know you were well loved and played like crazy!  It makes me happy to know that Dad and I are falling more and more in love with Ethiopia.  I cannot wait to show you the pictures and tell you the stories as you get older

Sleep well little angel.  I love and miss you very much!  I cannot wait to write more tomorrow!

Love always,
Your Mom

Sunday, January 20, 2013

You Know You're An Adoptive Parent When...

I'm not taking a break from posting my journal from our travels, but I do want to mix things up a bit!  I have seen these lists for many things, but I haven't found a good one for adoptive parents.  This is just a start!  For those of you in the process of adopting, or that have adopted, please add to this list via messages below!

1.  The thought of 147,000,000 orphans in the world makes you cringe, cry and feel empowered and depressed all at once.  It will keep you up at night and wake you up early in the morning.  It's a figure you can never get out of your head and is one you wish would go away (or at least drastically shrink)!  It runs through your veins and moves/shakes you daily.

2.  You don't have children by "accident."  Your children/child was hoped for, prayed for, waited for, cried for, begged for.  Everything about your child was "chosen!"

3.  You absolutely love the fact that your child looks NOTHING like you!  You love your child's different eyes, hair and skin.  The differences make your child your own, not the similarities.

4.  You have traveled half-way around the world AT LEAST once to meet/bring your child home.  Although you didn't have a day of labor, you had a day (or two) of travel, lay-overs, crammed spaces, recycled dry air, crowded places and jet-lag instead.

5.  You know what the words HomeStudy, Dossier, CAN clearances, authentication, certification, Hague, non-Hague and Embassy date mean and can define them readily and rapidly when asked.

6.  You know the requirements for your HomeStudy and country's Dossier just as well as you know your ABCs.

7.  You don't have a growing belly.  Instead, you have a very large pile of very precious papers in an even bigger binder that keeps growing and growing AND GROWING!

8.  You become a very good researcher (almost an obsessive researcher, a stalker in fact).  You research and read blogs, websites, profiles and agency pages daily- often multiple times a day.  You are looking for anything that will give you a clue about when the next major step in your journey may occur!

9.  You realize that your adoption agency director/liaison/contact thinks that your e-mails, phone calls and constant check-ins with questions are annoying and that you are very, very, VERY inpatient.  But, that stopped bothering you months ago!

10.  You become fast friends with others that are adopting.  You realize you share a common bond that will never diminish.  You're each others' source of support and laughter during this process.

11.  You have loved your baby for months before ever holding them.  You know everything about, and yet nothing about, your little one when the time comes to meet.

12.  You're brave, strong, determined, loving, compassionate, relentless and motivated.  You can pull yourself up on the worst of days and keep going for another day, week, month, sometimes year...all for that moment when your time finally comes!

13.  Other people think you're crazy and don't understand what you're doing or why.  But you stopped caring what other people think the day you started this journey!

14.  You check your e-mail and phone constantly.  Your heart stops every time you have a call or e-mail from your agency.  You never know what it will say or if "this will be it!"

15.  You cry, a lot.  You've come to realize that this is a normal part of the process and have stopped fighting it.  You just let the tears come!

16.  You surprise yourself.  Just when you feel your emotions might get out of control, something from within reels everything back and you're ok.  You're actually ok and things are going to be just fine!

17.  You are a very good budgeter and money saver.  You have learned to save pennies here and there realizing that there's a much better use of that money.  You have managed accounts and made the impossible happen- you funded and financed your adoption!

18. You have redefined family in your life.  Family isn't based upon genetics, looks or relations.  It's built on love...STRICTLY on love.  And because of this, you have an incredibly beautiful family!

19.  You're willing to be adventurous and learn/try new things, all for the sake of your child.  You gag down parts of a traditional Chinese food meal (eel, jelly-fish, etc.).  You cringe at the taste of cheap Russian vodka.  You struggle pronouncing Amharic words.  You ask about styling 4b hair and you try, re-try and re-re-try those styles and tricks again!  Through all of the embarrassment and struggles, you succeed, for your child!

20.  You're not done.  You're never done.  Even when you finally bring your child home, there's another fundraiser to have to help an orphanage or friend.  There's another letter to write to answer a new family's questions.  There's another donation to send or blog to read.  There are more clothing and toys to request and prayers to send.  In fact, for many of us, there's another adoption (or 2 or 3) to get started on!!!!!  After all, refer to #1 :)

Again, please add below!  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dear Aidan: Day 6

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dear Aidan,

As I write this, I know that it will be my last journal entry for 10 days that is centered around spending time with you!  It breaks my heart knowing it will be 10 more days before I can hold you again.  However, tomorrow morning, Dad and I are off to explore northern Ethiopia.  Although we won't be spending time with you, I hope you forgive us and understand why!  In coming here, we want to learn as much about Ethiopia as we can so that we can share stories, memories and adventures with you as you grow.  Our hope is that these stories will suffice until you're old enough for us to bring you back to Ethiopia to create memories of your own.  I love you more than anything- every little bit of you!  With that comes loving the country you're from and its history and culture.  We need to experience more of Ethiopia so that we can fully experience you!

This morning, Dad and I went on another walk around the neighborhood- that last walk for awhile.  We did our normal route, and it felt so good to get outside.  It always does!  We love the exercise, fresh air and meeting new people.  Along the path we take, there are at least 20 people begging.  On the first day, Dad and I didn't pass out money.  However, we quickly noticed that the locals would stop and pass out money, no matter how little they themselves had.  In seeing that, Dad and I realized that the people begging on the street were in dire need and that it was ok to give money and food to them.  Unfortunately, this isn't always the case in other countries.  As such, Dad started carrying 1 birr coins and bills (about $0.06) for us to pass out.  Many of the people are blind from what looks like severe eye infections.  In Ethiopia, it is evident that the country is trying to be more handicap friendly, but there are limited resources.  There are billboards up throughout the city regarding blind people.  We know that it is a major issue here.  Whenever Dad and I gave people money, they would clasp our hands, thank us, and then offer some kind of blessing.  They were all so sweet and the roughness of their hands tore my heart.  Although they couldn't see me, I hope they felt my compassion through my hands.

The guest house was a bit lonely this morning since the 2 families left yesterday.  However, Ms. Zaela was there to liven it up, which was wonderful!  She is so cute and friendly, and it's wonderful to see how much she loves her new friends at the guest house: the chef, Hereg and the security guards.  I think they love having her around, too!  I know we did!

When Dad and I return from our walks, I shower and get ready first.  It takes me a little longer to get ready than your Dad, so he used the time to "work out" in our room.  Our room wasn't that big, and we didn't bring any weights with us (that would have been way too heavy for a plane).  However, Dad used chairs to do dips and our suitcases to use as weights.  It was very funny to see how discombobulated the room was when he was done, but he made it work!  There are a few gyms we have seen around Addis, but they're not within walking distance.  I think our room gym has worked well enough for Dad!

When we were at the foster home, you were brought out in blue capri pants with butterflies and a blue shirt!  It was very cute, but very funny to see!  The nannies at the foster home do a great job of caring for all the babies everyday and keeping them in clean clothes.  There isn't much of a clothing gender preference and anything goes.  Most of the time, your outfits matche in some way.  Although we laugh about it, it makes me stop and think.  In America, our children don't just have 1 outfit, they have enough clothing to mix and match to make a gender-specific outfit.  Children in Ethiopia do not have that.  They very often have 1 outfit that they wear until it is extremely too small or too worn.  The nannies therefore, I'm sure, were raised not caring too much about what a baby is wearing.  As long as they are clean, clothed and warm, that's all that matters.  This lesson hit home as in America, there is such a frenzy for stylish children's clothes.  I hope to continue to remind myself trends, brands and style truly don't matter at the end of the day.  I hope that if I find myself fretting about what you're wearing or what brand it is, I travel back to your pictures and stop myself to see what's really important- a baby that's warm, happy, healthy, clean and fed.  Nothing else should rival that!

How sweet is this picture, by the way?  You truly love your Dad and I have loved watching you two bond!  There is nothing quite like it!  I love your Dad so much more now after having met you!

You continued to entertain us at the foster home.  Zaela spent some time playing with you today and it was very cute to see.  She was very encouraging and gentle with you.  She truly loves her baby sister, but I think she enjoyed playing with you as you are a few months older than Amari and can do a bit more.  

When we got to the foster home this morning, I waited for you at the bottom of the stairs.  When the nanny brought you down, you recognized me and reached for me.  Once you were in my arms, you smiled.  This moment was priceless as it showed you recognized me, trusted me and liked me!  I know you look forward to your days with Dad and I because of the attention and love that you receive!

Dad and I really wanted you to work on your crawling, so we kept moving your rings to crawl across the floor.  Every time you got close, we moved the rings back a little more.  I know you were thinking, "NOT COOL, Mom and Dad!"  We can tell you're getting faster and stronger.  Before long, you'll be actually crawling across the floor instead of army crawling!  You can also pull yourself up on furniture such as chairs and tables or your Dad and I.  It's so funny to watch you try to pull yourself up and over Dad when he's lying down.  It takes you awhile, but you can do it!

Today, we were planning on going to your original orphanage, Biftu Orphanage, at lunch to see where you lived for a few months.  However, we were told that the orphanage director was in Harar, a city east of Addis Ababa, for a holiday.  As such, we would have to wait until we returned from our adventure north.  We decided to go the the museums in downtown Addis instead.

For lunch, we had some of the most delicious fish I think I have ever had!  It was fantastic!  The chef at the guest house sure can cook!  After we ate, we loaded into the car with the McCoys.  We first went to the National Museum of Ethiopia.  This was a fantastic museum that housed many treasures of Ethiopia.  In the basement, we saw fossils of many human relatives and finally saw Lucy!  Her skeleton is so tiny!  I love how proud Ethiopians are that human kind originated from this region!  There is a LOOOOOONG history here!  We also saw many exhibits displaying other ancient animals and fossils that existed in Ethiopia.  On the first floor, there was an exhibit showing ancient archaeological finds from Ethiopia, many thousands and thousands of years old.  There were also more recent treasures, such as crowns and thrones from Kings and Queens within the past 2 centuries.  There were also royal robes, almost all of which had lion fur on them.  The lion is a strong symbol of Ethiopia, so you truly are our little lion!  On the top 2 floors, we saw traditional tools and dress from the countryside.  There was also an exhibit of Ethiopian art.  It wasn't a large museum, but it was wonderful to learn more about Ethiopia and its culture!

The second museum we went to was the Ethnological Museum.  This museum is in King Haile's former palace, which is now located inside the University of Addis Ababa.  Remember how earlier I wrote about there being many blind people in Ethiopia?  Well the University had signs all around promoting diversity and acceptance.  There were also many blind students.  It makes me happy to see that people with disabilities are getting opportunities for education in Ethiopia.

Inside the museum, we learned about life in Ethiopia in 3 stages: Birth/childhood, adulthood and death.  The museum focused on how different tribes and ethnic groups in Ethiopia celebrate different things relating to these life events.  The museum was very well-done and informative.  Dad and I learned a lot!  I think the most interesting fact we learned is that Orthodox Christian Ethiopians "fast" (are vegan: eat no animal products) for 250 days a year!  Meat is a luxury here and great celebrations occur when the fasting is over!  At the end of the museum, we saw King Haile's bedroom and office.   It was a beautiful palace and I am glad work has been done to maintain it over the years.

After the museum, we returned to the foster home.  We enjoyed playing with you for the last 2 hours before our trip.  Today, your entire personality came out and we experienced how active you really are.  You don't want to sit still!  When I was feeding you your bottle, you wanted food, but wanted to play, too!  As such, you sat on all 4's to drink so that you could still play around.  It was hilarious!  Your dad said it was a good thing I had experience bottle feeding calves as that's just what you looked like (but MUCH cuter, which is hard to do)!

When 5PM came, we were sad to say good-bye.  I cried a little bit, but I knew that you were in great hands.  The nannies love you and it wouldn't be long before I see you again!  In fact, many of the nannies have nicknames for you!  One nanny calls you, "Kimmie!" which is short for "Kimaya," your first name at the foster home.  Another calls you "Bedu" short for Bedassa.  It makes me smile knowing that they're around you enough to have nicknames for you.  Dad was said leaving as well, but we would see you in 10 days!

When we arrived back at the foster home, we packed our things for the trip north.  We left 1 suitcase and carry-on behind and locked it up.  We didn't need as much for our 10 day trip.  Dad and I have become very good at sharing a suitcase for travels!  Once we were packed, we changed into dinner clothes.  We said our good-byes to the McCoys, who are flying back to California tomorrow night.  It's sad to think that the last of our crew is leaving!  They were so sweet the entire trip and we loved having Mrs. Lisa there for support as she had done the Ethiopian adoption thing before!  Our driver drove us to a restaurant near the airport called Yod Abyssinia.  This is a traditional Ethiopian restaurant with dancing and singing.

One of my students from American Pacific International School is from Addis Ababa!  She was in Addis visiting her mom and sister for Christmas.  Honey and her family met us at the restaurant for dinner.  It was so nice to see her in her home country and meet her family!  They were so much fun!  They ordered traditional food for us on injera.  Dad and I also tried our very first honey wine.  It was a bit strong, so Dad drank most of mine.  During dinner, various performers sang and danced.  They were extremely talented.  At the end of the evening, there was a challenge dance.  The professional dancers challenged people in the audience to dance.  Many of the locals easily rivaled the dancers in their skills, including our driver and Honey's sister.

Your dad was challenged to dance, but because he was a foreigner, they brought him on stage.  I hate saying this, but the honey wine proved to be very useful for this dance.  The dance was rapid and crazy, and Dad had to follow along.  Believe it or not, he actually did it and looked decent at the same time.  After almost a minute of fast dancing and leg moves, the audience clapped and Dad received hugs from the male dancers!  I think they were impressed with how Dad moved and could almost keep up!  He was an honorary Ethiopian tonight!  You would be proud!

We said good-bye to Honey and her family and thanked them for inviting us.  It was a wonderful evening and a great start for our journey northward.  We were driven back to the guest house and finished packing.  It was almost 11 by the time we went to bed!  

I hope you're sleeping well sweet Aidan!  I know tomorrow we won't be with you, but we'll be with you in your thoughts and you'll be in our hearts.  I'll continue to document every part of our journey for you.  I hope to see Ethiopia through your eyes and make memories for you.

I love you so much and I'm sorry we're leaving you.  As I said before, I think the outcome will be worth it!

All my love,

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dear Aidan: Day 5

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dear Aidan,

As I write this, I hope that you are wrapped up in your little bed in a sea of blankets, sleeping well.  We had yet another busy day and I know you are tired!  I wish that you sleep well so you're well rested for tomorrow!

I think I say this everyday, but today was another fantastic day!  It was very busy, but wonderful!  I think, well, I know, last night was the worst night of sleep I've had since we first arrived!  For some reason, I can't sleep through the night here.  Dad and I went to bed yesterday around 8PM.  Around midnight, I woke up thinking, "It's got to at least be 4AM!"  When I asked Dad what time it was and he said, "Midnight," I exclaimed, "ARE YOU SERIOUS!" I proceeded to wake up intermittently throughout the night, some times an hour apart, some times only ten minutes later to ask what the time was.  Needless to say, I need to work on sleeping more!  I think it's just that I'm so excited for mornings and my chance to see you that I just want the morning to hurry up and arrive!

This morning, Dad and I met with Mrs. Bridgette and Mr. Matt at 7AM to go for a walk.  They hadn't explored around the neighborhood much, so we had a great time showing them all we had discovered!  We felt like the local tour guides on our little route!  When Mrs. Bridgette flew to Ethiopia to meet Keira, it was her first time flying!  Dad and I were both incredibly impressed with how open, eager and adventerous Mr. Matt and Mrs. Bridgette were in Ethiopia!  They have an amazing story in that they were led to Ethiopia to adopt and were willing to take many more "firsts" than many other families needed to in order to adopt.  

During our walk, we stopped by the local school again to show Mrs. Bridgette and Mr. Matt.  Mrs. Bridgette is a 5th grade teacher, and she absolutely loved seeing the school!  While we were there, we met a local teacher who was straightening the classrooms.  It was wonderful to see how happy the local teacher was!  They posed for pictures and exchanged big smiles!  We were able to give the teacher a bag full of pens to give her students.  On the way out of the school, children were just beginning to trickle in.  

When we returned to the guest house, there were some children outside.  Mrs. Bridgette was able to pass out the rest of the toys she had brought to give away.  The children seemed to swarm out of no where for a toy.  A simple toy here is like gold to the children.  They cherish it.  I hope that is something Dad and I will always be able to remember, and hopefully instill in you.  You don't need much in life to be happy.  The people in this neighborhood don't have much, but yet, they are some of the most loving, polite, happiest people I have ever met.  Dad and I want to focus on that- relationships, connections and giving, over the material things in life.  I know that's hard, but it's something we'll keep trying at!

Today was another big day for the families!  The McCoys and Hayes' had their court dates, and it was the Milams and Wilcox's last day.  It was a day of excitement and sadness thrown into one!  For the past few days, many of the people at the guest house were sick.  There was definitely a stomach virus going around.  Dad and I were grateful we had brought our JuicePlus+ with us and were taking it everyday!  It helped prevent us from getting sick and supplemented our diets in fruits and veggies that we definitely weren't eating enough of!  I can't wait to have you try the gummies once you have some teeth!  Luckily, all of the families were feeling better and we had 100% attendance at the foster home!

This morning, you were a bit sleepy, but quickly drank your bottle.  You only stop to cough if you're drinking too fast.  If not, there's no stopping you until it's gone!  Have I told you that you take after your Dad in that sense?  I can only imagine how much you'll eat as a teenager if you keep up this appetite!  I already cook enough food for 5 people when it's just Dad and I eating!  I guess I'll start having to practice for a 10-person amount of food :)

You continued to amaze us with your curiosity.  You truly are one of the most entertaining babies I have ever seen.  You love your rings and think tasting them is a fun game.   You love pulling my hair and grabbing your Dad's nose (which will never get old as I still laugh EVERY time)!  You think it's funny to put your hand or fingers in our mouths while we make funny sounds.  You love throwing your books around and looking and colorful pictures.  Your favorite toys so far are either your giraffe chew toy or your lion stuffed animal.  You LOVE chewing on your giraffe- I guess that means you'll have teeth coming in soon!  And you LOVE burying your face into the lion.  If you have nightmares about lions attacking you, I apologize!  Dad and I are always rubbing the lions' face against yours because it makes you smile so much!  

I also had you stand in your Dad's shoes today, which was very sweet!  Your feet are so little compared to his!  But you're growing and I know before I know it, I'll be wishing I could have the days back when you had baby feet!

This last picture is one of my favorites!  I think you realized that I love you to the stars and back, and then some!  Maybe you've realized I'm your Mom and that you'll NEVER have to be alone again!  I love the way you're looking up at me!  You are my perfect son!

Dad and I needed to change your diaper today, which was quite the adventure!  You are such a wiggle worm!  Sitting still is not your forte!  You do not want to miss a minute of play time!  It took both of us, but FINALLY we had you in a new diaper after you shed a few tears (I'm sorry)!  The funny part came when we put your pants on!  Dad help you upright in the air and I tried putting your pants on that way.  It took about 30 seconds but I was SURE each leg was in the right pant leg.  You suddenly squirmed and somehow, both legs were in the same pant leg.  Dad and I (and the other families) laughed and laughed.  I know that sounds mean now, but it was so funny!  When we put you on the ground, you looked like a mermaid with your legs together.  You being typical Aidan didn't miss a beat, and you instantly rolled over and started squirming across the floor- both legs still stuck in the same pant leg!  It was hillarious! 

As always, the morning session with you flew by!  The nannies came to feed you lunch and we went back to the guest house.  After lunch, Dad went with Mr. Alemu to the US Embassy to see if he could talk to someone about helping him get a visa.  I stayed at the guest house and waited.  Around 3:00, Dad returned, but with no luck.  He definitely tried to help, but there were set rules in place he couldn't get around!  We were a little late returning to the foster home, but when we did, it was wonderful!  The McCoys and Hayes' had passed court and were proud parents of Amari and Harper!  We were so excited for them!  In 2 days, 4 new couples had 4 new babies!  

Although all of the families enjoyed our time with you little ones that afternoon, it was difficult because we knew the inevitable was coming.  Today was very difficult on all of us because we hadn't watched a family say good-bye to their babies yet- only hello.  Although only the Wilcox's and Milams were leaving tonight, we were all dreading 5PM when it was time for them to say good-bye.  When 5PM did arrive, we were given a few extra minutes holding you.  It was incredibly difficult to watch both families hug their babies and say good-bye.  Although it is only good-by for hopefully 6 weeks or so, it is still very difficult.  We all waited months to meet you, and when we finally do, we have to say good-bye.  Adoption is truly a roller coaster ride of emotions, but worth every tear!

I told the other 2 families that we have to say, "Good-bye" in order to say "Hello" again!  That's very true in this process and I know that will get me through our last day with you.  Saying "good-bye" means that you passed court and there's just 1 more part left- clearing Embassy!  After that, you're home free!  

By the time the Wilcox's and Milams said good-bye, we were all in tears.  Just like we all cried when we watched each other meet our babies, we cried when we said "Good-bye!"  We saw each other at the best of days and the worst of days, but all shared the same journey,

Once we were in the cars, we headed to a restaurant called Island Breeze.  It's a restaurant in downtown Addis Ababa that serves western food- hamburgers, pizza, chicken, etc.  On the way, it was fun driving through town and seeing the sites.  Dad's favorite part was the fruit/banana stands!  He's in heaven here!  Dinner was very nice and the perfect last night for the group!  All 5 families went as well as the drivers and Hereg!  It was like our big Ethiopian family was eating a family meal!  We toasted to new friends and new families and enjoyed our meal!

After dinner, we returned to the guest house to say our good-byes.  The Wilcox's and Milams were off to the airport, and we were incredibly sad to see them go.  In such a short period of time, we became great friends.  Our adoptions bonded us in ways that will always connect us.  We hope that we can all get together often in the future and that you can be great friends with Eli and Keira as you all 3 grow!  We hope we can have Ethiopian reunions!

Once inside the guest house, we went upstairs to bed.  It was a very emotional day for all involved and we were exhausted.

Sweet dreams sweet Aidan!  I cannot wait for more time with you tomorrow and to bond even more with you, my son!

Love Always,