Apr 29, 2010

Diamonds Are NOT My Friend...Part 2, Day 1 with Kaleab

I use to laugh and tell my mom that in order for me to settle down and get married would require a trifecta: 2 karats and the perfect man. She told that to Le when he announced his plans to ask for my hand. I got what I wanted.

The third gift I brought Kaleab was a wooden cross necklace. I chose it because I didn't want anything too fancy. I didn't want it to be taken from him on the street. Months before we left for Ethiopia, I started wearing it. I wanted him to have something tangible that had hung close to my heart. When I took it off and put it on him, he smiled and said thank you. But he never took his fingers off of it.

After the pandemonium over the photo album, the care givers ran the other kids out so we could hear one another talk. Kaleab had changed positions and moved to sit right beside me. I noticed that he kept fidgeting with a bracelet on his wrist. I thought it had come untied. I took it hard when I offered my hand to help and he shook his head no. One of the workers said he wanted to take it off. He wanted to give it to me. As he tied it around my wrist, I turned my head so he didn't see me and I let two tears gather in my eyes until they were gargantuan. It was too much. He told me in translated Amharic that they had made the beaded salvation bracelets that day and had learned all about Jesus' love for us. And my son, gave it to me.

From the moment we arrived in Addis, I stared into every ten year old boy's face, searching for my Kaleab. I know it's stupid and extremely Hollywood, but I knew that I would see him while we were driving. Leaving the care center and entering our car, we were surrounded by street kids. In the dust and the halos of filth that covered these children and we were bombarded by a sea of hands and grubby faces asking for candy and money; I lost sight of my son.

As we pulled out of the care center, my son had crossed the very busy intersection with no lights, no crosswalk and no crossing guards. As our car drove away from him, I rolled down the window and screamed his name. He turned and waved at me. And smiled. Hollywood had nothing on Addis Ababa. My rock star lived here. And he was at least curious enough about me that we would see each other again in the next few days.

I sat back in the car and touched my beaded salvation bracelet. I told Le I needed a new trifecta in my life: none of it involved diamonds.

Apr 28, 2010

Here Goes...Part 1 of Day 1 in ET With Kaleab

I've thought about these posts a lot. How to put them all together, what words to use, what words would say it the best? There are no words. There are no collective thoughts that will accurately reflect all that I felt during those days with my oldest son. But here it goes:

Kaleab has been in my life since May of 2009. Everyone in my life who knows me well, knows that I have prayed about what my role is to be in his life, that I would love to bring him into our home and adopt him. Arriving in Ethiopia, I was more nervous about meeting Kaleab than I was about meeting Alazar and Ruta. I knew the role God had set me in for Alazar and Ruta's lives, but with Kaleab, I still had no answers. I was dying to get them.

I had replayed our first meeting over and over in my mind for months. I think I changed clothes at least three times that morning before we left the guest house. I laughingly told Le that I felt like a teenager on their first date. What if he didn't like me? What if I didn't look anything like my pictures? What if he thought we were crazy travelling across the earth to disrupt his school day and meet him?

Le kept asking me if I wanted to have our first meeting on video tape. I didn't. I knew nothing could capture it as well as my own memory. And if he ran off screaming at the sight of us, I didn't need that reminder either.

As we pulled up to his care center, I kept looking around for any sign that children were close by. We were on a very busy street, with no crosswalks, no lights, no crossing guards. Our car stopped in front of a blazing yellow building advertising the National Beer of Ethiopia. Were we even in the right place? To the side of the eyesore structure, was a dirt path, leading up a small incline. Fifteen steps later, we reached a sheet metal gate. One rap on the door and it swung open, greetings from a security guard and we were in. I was officially breathless! I no longer could remember how our meeting played out in my fantasies. I could think of nothing, just knowing I was feet away from the rock star in my life made me giddy. I was going to have to consciously not hug him to death.

And then...there he was! MUCH shorter than I imagined and much more shy than I had thought. He was at my side. The eyes were his, the face belonged to the boy from my letters, but there was something missing. Was this even him? I knelt beside him and said his name . Then his lips separated from one another and revealed his sparkling white teeth. That gave him away. And it was there in the dirt, I hugged my son for the first time, careful to let him expend enough breath to inhale again and so I continued to hug him.

The staff led us inside and while he was too shy to hold my hand, Kaleab never let me out of his sight. During the coffee ceremony he sat beside me and while I tried to keep from staring at him, he kept sneaking side long glaces at me. And when our eyes met, I was treated to that smile again.

I kept wanting to reach out and just hold him, squeeze him, photograph every second we were within proximity, kiss his face and declare my undying love for my boy, but I didn't. As much as he was curious, he was cautious. And I respected his shyness and just waited for the smiles.

I had brought him three very small gifts: an Oklahoma t-shirt, a wooden cross that I had worn for months before we left and a small photo album of us.

I gave him the t-shirt first. He smiled. My heart skipped a beat.

I didn't realize that pictures caused such a stir, but when I handed them to him, they were immediately whisked away by another boy and I'm not sure Kaleab has seen them all before they were disseminated through the entire care center. He didn't grab or scream for them back, he just simply smiled and let them be enjoyed by everyone, although he kept a very watchful eye on them.

During the pandemonium, one of the directors of his care center came and sat next to me. "He's not like the other boys, you know?" The puzzled look on my face gave me away. "What do you mean?" He laughed and said "well, the other boys are wild and don't have discipline, but not Kaleab. He is quiet and sincere and is a good boy. He is special." I smiled back the tears. "I knew he was, but I just thought I was biased because I'm his mom".

The worker just smiled back "No. Everyone knows he's special." Ahh. Confirmation from a 3rd party that my son is amazing. They could have just asked me. I could have told them.

Our first pic of mother and son together! Isn't he the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?

Day One....To Be Continued!

Apr 20, 2010

Give Her The Choice!

I have been in love with the man of my dreams for almost seven years now and I am proud to be his wife. I remember in vivid detail falling in love with him the first time we met. And while he still ribs me about my attention to detail, I remember it all. His eyes. His smile. The way we felt in one anothers arms. Warmth from our first kiss. Our first intimate moments.

And while I, like any other hopeless romantic, would like to believe that I had no choice in falling in love with Le, but I distinctly remember also choosing to say to our first date, leaning in when he talked to me and meticulously pondering every detail of my face, hair and outfit before each time I would see him probably means that I played a role in our dating process.

You see, while I believe God brought us together, I also know I consciously let myself fall in love with Le. It was one of the greatest decisions of my life.

I recently joined my fellow Warrior Girls in monthly supporting a girl who has been rescued from the sex trafficking industry. Sex trafficking is not something I've ever put a lot of thought into. Honestly, I had hoped that if I didn't think about it, it would go away. Truth is life never works like that, the more you ignore something, the more it seems to pop up at the craziest of places.

The more I began to pray about our traffic victim, I thought back to Le and I's courtship and how beautiful it all was to me; treasured moments that I keep close to my heart. But what if my first encounter with a man would have been violent and abusive and I had been sold up to 10 times a DAY! How much different would my life be? Where would I be? Would I be dead?

Not being able to choose your circumstances in life is hard. You can't choose your parents, your surroundings or situations surrounding you. But as a woman, we should at least be able to control our own bodies, to make our own decisions about what happens to us on the most intimate of levels. Every 2 minutes, another two girls are sold into sex slavery. If you think that this doesn't happen and doesn't happen here in America, OPEN YOUR EYES!

This Mother's Day, a Rockin' woman at junkposse has offered her talents to help support Children's HopeChest in rescuing women who have been trafficked in the sex industry. $34 of every necklace you purchase, will provide for treatment for a woman rescued. Go here, and do it soon, because tomorrow is your last day! Give a woman her life back! Give her the choice to choose whom she loves!

Apr 19, 2010

The Last Days & Our Homecoming

Our last few days in Ethiopia were memorable ones. We played. We laughed. We cried. And we began to know that this time together, however how hard and dark, was coming to an end. There was another path to walk and we were going together. The kids even began screaming "AMERICA" every time we started to pack. We spent Sunday together. In our pajamas. I don't think we ever fully got around and did much of anything. It felt great. Monday was traumatic, gorgeous and impossible to tell you about yet. I will get there. I promise. It's Kaleab's day. And even now, almost a month later, the tears well and I can't speak. But I will get to that. Soon. I promise.

Our day on the couch:

Tuesday was our last day. Le and I had come up with a brilliant plan to keep the kids awake all day with no nap since our flight didn't leave until 10p.m. and then perhaps they would sleep on the flight from Addis Ababa to Dulles (which was 16 1/2 hours). We spent the day playing in the yard at our guest house, packing and just enjoying the sun. The kids did great with no nap, except that when we packed up the car to head to the airport, they both fell asleep on the way.

Our last pic together in Ethiopia. Man, we look OLD and TIRED.

Right before they fell asleep in the car on the way to the airport, as I stared out the window, I started to cry. And I couldn't stop. For almost 30 minutes I let it out. I sobbed because we were leaving. I cried for my children's situation that brought us together and I cried for how I was going to explain to them later in life what adoption is and how God designed our family. And most of all, I cried for my Kaleab. When the car pulled into the airport, I turned and I said goodbye to this city that I had wrestled a million emotions for two weeks and I apologized. For my ignorance, for my lack of understanding and for knowing that this would not be our last encounter. I would be back. I had to be back. My daughter and youngest son were from here. And my oldest son still lived here. And you can't be at war with a place that you love.

The airplane ride from Addis had always been my concern. I was terrified that our kids were going to suddenly inherit my fear of flying. But all was for not. Ruta thought it was the coolest adventure of her life and as the plane lifted off the ground, she let out a "WHEEEEEE". 45 minutes later, my children were both asleep. And they slept non-stop until we landed in Rome. Alazar SCREAMED when I took him to the bathroom and shut the door. Folks, I mean, every person in the airplane was staring at us. I tried several times to take him and he was throwing his lungs into it every time the door shut behind us. I had Le, a random Ethiopian woman and a man we had never met try to take my son to the bathroom. I changed him into a diaper and told him in my broken Amharic to just go and mommy would get him a clean diaper. But no avail. 15 hours of not peeing! Finally, a stewardess spoke to him in Amharic and she discerned from his screaming that he was afraid the toilet was going to suck him in because of the sound it made.
I was devastated. I had taken my son and now his terror of toilets was going to cause a urinary infection. So I did what any mother would do. I grabbed my son, wet wipes, hand sanitizer and off we went. I closed the door without him knowing and showed him how the water made no noise in the sink. He laughed at our reflections in the mirror and I again, assured him that I was right there, I was going to take care of him. I wouldn't let any toliet suck him in and if he didn't want to pee there that was just fine. So I taught my son to pee in the sink instead. Judge me if you must but I promise that my son's bladder thanked me and that sink had never been so clean after I was done with it.

When we landed in Dulles, I teared up as we landed on American soil. We spent our five hour layover in customs and immigration and had enough time to grab a quick bite before our next flight to Denver. The kids slept the entire 4 hour flight to Denver. When we de-planed, Ben and Amy Savage had just flown in from Cincy for a visit and they met us at the terminal. I cried when I threw my arms around their necks! They are fellow adoptive parents from Ethiopia and are some of our dearest friends. Two more of our posse who live in Colorado Springs met us at the airport too. My dear Brandi and Vince were waiting with open arms.

That boy fell in LOVE with him some Ben Savage!

We literally had only about 20 minutes together before we had to jump back through security and run to our terminal. And the Andrews clan was RUNNING! The flight to OKC was only an hour and I was determined NOT to miss it. Landing in my home city was so powerful for me. I kept swearing to Le that our plane passed over our house. I teared up in Dulles. I cried in Denver, but when I saw my family and friends and I knew we were home and I got to the feet of my mother, I fell to my knees in tears. It was just so beautiful! So many of our family and friends turned out to see us, but when I turned and saw my sister (who lives in Phoenix) standing by my dad, I threw my arms around them both and just began to sob.
Our airport homecoming deserves its own post, but for now, I will leave you with my mom's first pic with her grandson. Our journey came full circle that day...infertility told me a lie that we couldn't have a family. And God's love told us that only HE defines a family!

Apr 16, 2010

Day 10: Dreamland!

Saturday was a free morning and we took advantage of it by just being lazy...I really don't think we made it out of our pj's before lunch. We had to be at the Bejoe house by mid-afternoon to meet the rest of our travel group for one of our only 3 outings with the kids. Everyone piled into the bus and we drove for about an hour and a half to a crater lake outside of Addis Ababa.

The scenery outside the city was so slow and tranquil that I really questioned whether or not we were even still in Ethiopia. Everything was green and in bloom and MUCH slower than in city.

The kids enjoyed the ride but since there was so many of us, I held Alazar and Ruta was stuck sitting on Le's lap. She was less than thrilled but I thought for their first long car ride, they did amazingly well.

The crater lake had a restaurant/hotel built on it called Dreamland and what a dream land it was indeed. The back drop for dinner was breathtaking!

Here's a glimpse:

We had a great time and for the first time I began to feel like we were a family; not just as if Le and I borrowed two kids for a couple of weeks. We had our picture taken out on the deck:

One of the women in our travel group is a fellow blogger who I had only met once prior to us leaving for Ethiopia. I fell in love with her immediately. She is amazing and we run on about the same speeds, so having her in Ethiopia was a true blessing. But what made it even better is that her daughter, Lilah is in between Ruta and Alazar in age and the kids were all at the same foster care home with Gladney. This was a HUGE relief for me. Because while I was fretting about being judged by all the people who could contain their infants securely in their arms, Gayla and I were exchanging notes and tips while chasing three toddlers. The company made me feel like less of a freak and having someone else to compare notes with was exactly what the Good Lord knew I needed. One of the most amazing things about Gayla and her amazing, growing family, they live about an hour and a half from us!!!!!!

Gayla and Lilah Abeba:

Ruta and her friend Abeba sharing a meal at Dreamland:

The newly assembled Gower family:

Let's just say that Alazar may have already found his future wife: (note that he already knows to follow her every move:)

Apr 13, 2010

Day 9: What Ifs & Promises

We got up on Friday morning and I was a basket case. We had to be at Gladney's offices by 11:00a.m. because we were meeting Ruta & Alazar's grandfather. I had put a lot of thought into meeting him and what questions we would ask him. But as we sat in the room together and he stared at my children, there wasn't a lot I could think of to say. I just kept fighting back the tears. Here sat a man who had lost his own child and decided to give them a better life. But I didn't feel like the better option. As Ruta climbed in and out of the chair and Alazar tried to stick a sucker in my hair, I searched this man's eyes for conformation that we were anything close to what he had asked God to provide.

And I doubted it.

The meeting was beautiful and between Le and I, I think we took amazing notes for trying to keep our emotions in check and still parent two tired, hungry toddlers.

Before we left, I had the social worker take our picture as a family of four. It was the first time someone had snapped a pic of the four of us (wow, I look stressed) :
We had enough time following the meeting to get the kid's lunch and drop them off at the guest house in order to make it to Kolfe for our government orphanages tour. I had been waiting for this part of our trip for a long time. I know so many amazing women who sponsor, adopted from and simply have fallen in love with Kolfe, that I had a lot of packages, letters, hugs and kisses to dispense.

The first face I spotted was Erin's Biruk. I almost cried. He was so shy and it wasn't until I explained that I knew Erin, that he actually would stand near me. I dropped all kinds of love on this boy. How could you not....look at that smile.

Then there was Amy B's. sponsor son, Aylalew. DARLING!!! And he was more shy than Biruk! He sent a letter back with me for his sweet sponsor mama.

We spent almost two hours hanging with the Kolfe boys, watching them play soccer and touring their compound. It literally took my breath away to leave. I wanted to mother them all. I wanted to sing them each to sleep and read them a bedtime story. They were each so beautiful, with their own amazing story and I wanted to just be in their presence awhile longer. My heart kept seeing them and picturing my own son. What if this had been Alazar's fate? What if our paths had not be connected? What if these boys never knew the love of a mother?
As we drove away, I laughed at myself for thinking that I could do anything to mother these boys. I was pretty sure that I couldn't parent the little one that the Ethiopian government had already given me. But as I had stood in the midst of so much blind optimism, I promised to let up on myself. Ruta, Alazar, Le & I had a lifetime to figure each other out. My God was still on His throne and HE had called me to Ethiopia, at this time, for a purpose and I was not going to be dismayed by letting the devil continue to remind me of my failures. God doesn't care about my failures or my strengths, He simply calls me to be obedient. It took meeting a group of orphans to remind me.

Apr 11, 2010

Days 7 & 8

On Wednesday, we took a tour of Gladney's foster care houses, had a coffee ceremony and then had lunch with the other families in our travel group. I had read a lot of parents' trepidations about the coffee ceremony and about their children being whisked away by caretakers and brought back an hour or so later. I'll admit, after having to be with my son 24/7 for the last five days, I was worried about caretakers giving his angelic looking face anything that he wanted. Why? Because I had to live with him. I knew that part of the coffee ceremony was changing the kids into cultural clothes. Trying to avoid a melt down (mine or Alazar's) at all costs, I tried to avoid the dressing of our kids and had bought outfits for them both at a store when we were out shopping the day before.

I dressed them both before we walked over to the care center.

Ruta in her new dress:

Alazar hamming it up:
Halfway through our tour and my son still securely in my arms, I was sure that I had foiled the caregivers and that we would sneak through the coffee ceremony unspoiled, we were found out. Ruta and Alazar's special caregiver came and found them and changed their clothes! ARGHHH!!!! They never left our sight and they weren't gone for more than 2 minutes a piece, and despite all my fears, they were not spoiled beyond recovery.
They returned in the most amazing cultural outfits ever:
On Thursday night, we had a cultural dinner with Gladney staff and the rest of our travel group. Gladney suggests that if your adopted child is not at least 4 years old to not travel with your child in public. After being in-country, I couldn't agree more. Ruta was the only child in our travel group who was old enough to attend the event and Travis invited us to bring her.
So after much debate, we got a sitter for Alazar and headed out to dinner. Ruta was ecstatic to be going somewhere without her brother and I wondered as we drove in the car to the restaurant when was the last time, if ever, my daughter had ever been without the responsibility of her little brother.
You can see what an amazing time we had just by looking at her face. I'm not sure if it was the dinner, the singing, the dancing, being without Alazar, or having her first Mirinda, but my baby girl was given back her childhood that night and for the first time in five days, it felt like we could exhale together without incident.

Apr 7, 2010

Day 6: The Sun Came Out

Every ride has a bump or two along the way, but there were days in Ethiopia that I could have sworn our ride was only on an uphill, gravel road. My son's favorite word is "Abeyow", which means, "I don't like it". And in Ethiopia, I literally heard this word at least twenty times a day. "Abeyow" breakfast, "Abeyow" about lunch, naptime, me hugging him, me talking to him, me correcting him, the dog that lived at Ayat House, Le correcting him and mostly just "Abeyow" in general. I took it a lot more personally than Le did. There were moments during the day that I too started using "Abeyow", sometimes in response to my son and sometimes just for laughs, to Le. He failed to see the humor.

Another Ethiopian cultural nuance that I was unaware of: the shrugging of the shoulders. When being openly defiant or not wanting to respond with words, or THE word (Abeyow) in Alazar's case, shrugging the shoulders is a sure fire way to pout and piss off your mother. Nothing makes you want to pull a kid's hair out like placing lunch in front of them and after being inundated with "Abeyow" for three days, to not even be dignified with a word; simply a shoulder shrug.

Le and I thought it was adorable that even from the first day the kids were with us that they started calling us "mama" and "papa". It wasn't until two days later that of "special" titles were tarnished when a caregiver told us that "mama" and "papa" in AMharic is similar to "ma'am" and "sir". I was hearbroken. My kids weren't calling for their mother, they were calling a maid, a cook, a house keeper, a crazy white woman who cries all the time, or a random person on the street.

But day 6 was different. We settled into a routine. A pattern. Things began to slow down. Less fits, more openness, more love, less tears (mine and theirs). THANK YOU JESUS! Imagine my delight when I lifted my soon out of the bathtub and he screamed "MOMMY". Not "mama", not "ma'am", not "hey you", but "MOMMY". I laughed out loud and he enjoyed my reaction so much, that he turned it into a song. I still call it the Mommy song. And this song continued until almost lunchtime.

Post bathtime, mid Mommy song:

Playing in the yard:

Le and I knew that we would either get out and see Ethiopia or forever regret it. So we called a caregiver and had Yemamu take us to Korah leper colony for the afternoon. If you ever travel to Addis, this MUST be a stop. Korah is the largest leper colony in Africa and houses 75,000 people. THere is a hospital close to the colony that treats HIV, TB and leprosy. Leporsy in Ethiopia is seen as a curse. If you have it, you live in Korah. Period.

This man makes rugs by braiding rope together. The amazing thing is....leprosy has eaten his fingers.

As we walked into Korah, I was bombarded by school kids. These boys ran towards us and singled me out and played with my hair, my necklace and kept pointing to my shirt saying "mickey mouse". They were poor, hopeless and forgotten, but they had no idea. The more we walked through Korah and visited these people, I suddenly knew why Jesus spent most of his time on earth with the poor. He was welcomed. I can't tell you how many high tea lunches and black tie events I have entered and felt nervous, judged and out of place & that was having an invitation! But walking arm in arm with four children hanging off of each arm, being smiled at and hearing shouted "hellos" are way, I've never felt so accepted, so loved, so invited.
I literally expected to see Jesus turn a corner, wave and say "hi. Welcome to my neighborhood. Let me show you around."

We visited families who had NOTHING. Just a sheet metal shack, their love of Jesus and coffee. Everyone we visited offered to make us coffee. The girl in the blue sweater in the picture below is a student at the school in Korah. The only Christian church in Korah pays for her school fees and her lunches. She wouldn't eat any other way. We followed her home to visit her family. She has 3 other siblings who were not as fortunate to go to school beacuse Korah church didn't have the money to send them all. They don't have the money to feed them either.
I can't even imagine.

Apr 4, 2010

Days 4 & 5: The Regrets & A Rhythm

Becoming a mom is hard. Becoming a mom in a foreign country, to foreign language speaking children, without family, Internet connection or phone service is just down right laughable. We discovered very quickly that the angelic, spoiled brat at the care center was none other than our son. While I have travelled around the world and experienced many foreign cultures, I have never travelled to a foreign country to bring home a child. So all of my survival skills were all for naught.

I knew a lot of things about Ethiopia, child raising, and psychology before we left Oklahoma City. I took all that information and must have left it in Addis airport because I couldn't remember ANYTHING we had read or learned. I responded by instinct. And I found a WHOLE lot of my mother coming out of my mouth.

One of the things I regret about Ethiopia was my own expectations. No matter who you are, there are things you anticipate, expect, desire. Unfulfilled expectations are hard to handle and can turn to doubt. Alazar clung to Le those first days. I knew this was possible. But after staring at a face and falling in love, I sincerely wanted my son to at least not scream when I came near him. So I pouted about it; I knew I shouldn't, but it must have been in one of those books I left at the airport, so I did it anyway.

I let the devil convince me that I was a horrible mom and that Le and I had made a wrong turn somewhere and we were really supposed to be enjoying two weeks on a Caribbean beach, instead of adopting two kids. And trust me, there were days that I believed him...every single word of it. I found myself counting the minutes until nap time, then recounting until bed time. The sound of their feet brought dread into my heart, it meant they were coming for me, another day of torture. The sound of their voices meant they needed or wanted something; a lot of which I couldn't understand.

One thing I came to learn about Ethiopian culture was that children are to be seen and definitely NOT heard. Under the age of five, they are given anything they want to keep them from crying. We tried time-out but when even people who worked in our guesthouse was rescuing Alazar from us and disappearing to give him bread or treats, you can see how effective our parenting would be those first days. I finally just stopped getting pissed about it. I wasn't there to change their culture and they only had a few more days to spoil him, then he would be with us. And this mama don't play...especially not on her own turf.

Le & I relied on each other more than ever and during those first, dark days, I fell in love all over again with the man I married almost 6 years ago. We were like a tag team in a wrestling match. He knew when I needed a break and I felt when his frustration would rise too high. My ten minute, semi-warm shower was my only true escape each day. In those moments while not cussing the plumbing, I cried. I let it all out. I cried for my failures. I cried for my own sins. I cried for my children and I cried to have my own mom. But in those times, I felt God more than I had in a long time. And the more I called out, the more He answered. I called out to my Father and asked for forgiveness and asked to be a better mom, a better wife, a better follower and yes, I even asked for a little warmer water! And slowly, ever so slowly, we began to figure it out. And a rhythm began. It wasn't pretty and it wouldn't produce a chart busting hit, but it was our rhythm and for now, it was working.

Ruta discovered my camera and LOVED taking pics of herself:

Preciousness in the midst of his terror:

This boy LOVES his daddy:

THIS is what made it all worth it:

Apr 3, 2010

Day 3: Meeting Alazar & Ruta

I knew Le and I would need sleep and jet lag definitely kicked in by our 2nd day, so we slept great the 2nd night in Ethiopia. Travis called and said Joanna would be at the house by 10a.m. to take us to meet Alazar and Ruta. While we were waiting, I took one last pic of Daddy and I before we were to be a family of four:

For months we had anticipated what it would be like to meet our children and I had dreamt about it enough that I thought I would be able to relive every moment forever. But the two minute walk to the foster home took one second and the next second our children were walking down the driveway towards us. Le and I held hands like two teenagers who wanted to say so many things but couldn't find the words. I held in the tears. I saw them in Ruta's eyes. She held them too. Alazar went right to Le and Ruta timidly stood near me.

We watched Le and Alazar play ball for a few minutes and all I could do was whisper in her ear that I loved her and that she was beautiful. Her eyes were scared, relieved and full, but I'm not sure of what.

Our 1st picture as mom and daughter:

The first picture of Daddy and his son:

The first picture of me and my son:

Our first picture as a family of four:

We sat in the grass and played for about thirty minutes together before the social worker arrived to judge the situation and ask Ruta how she felt about leaving with us. I was prepared for her to say not yet and for us to come back for several days just visiting. But the minute they asked her, she went upstairs and retrieved a plastic bag full of pictures and notes that I had sent her over the last four months. She placed the baggie in our backpack and the social worker told us she was ready to go and didn't want to stay at the foster care center anymore.
We passed out candy to the other kids and got lost in the hubbub of meeting 30 toddlers for the first time. I tried to take pictures of as many children as I could recognize, but I got lost staring at Ruta and Alazar. They were real and present and very much aware of what was happening. About 30 minutes into our visit, I looked around and couldn't find Ruta. I searched and searched the foster care house and finally stepped outside to the yard. She was sitting by herself, next to the gate and holding Le and I's backpack. My girl was ready to go. So go we did. Me carrying Alazar and Le holding Ruta's hand. Our lives were different, forever different and as I inhaled my son for the first time in my arms, I drank in the moment and thanked my Father for bringing us together. We were no longer the Andrews' duo, we were the Andrews', family of four.

Apr 1, 2010

Day 2

Le and I slept in and just let ourselves rest. Travis met us at the guesthouse about lunchtime and we talked about the kids. We were laughing with Travis because he was telling us that there was a little boy at the toddler house that was such a handful because he was the youngest of 30 and he is babied ALL the time and Le and I kept saying "please don't let that be Alazar". Travis couldn't remember the boy's name, so I stopped asking questions, for fear that he would remember and that the boy's name would be Alazar.

He told us that our embassy date had been moved up from Thursday to Monday and that they wanted to place Ruta and Alazar with us TODAY!

I kind of freaked out. Le and I had purposefully planned our trip so that we would have several days of travelling and exploring Ethiopia before meeting Ruta and Alazar so we could get a sense of the country. And...there was another orphan I wanted to meet first...Kaleab.

We convinced Travis to let us have one day in country before meeting our children so we could grocery shop, distribute some humanitarian aid and meet Kaleab. We left the house about lunch time and Travis hooked us up with a Gladney staffer to go with us to Kaleab's carepoint, Children's Home Ethiopia. Yemamu, our Gladney staffer was a GOD SEND! You will hear a LOT more about him during our time in-country, but for now just know that he is wonderful.

I am going to end this post now. I know that many of you are wanting to know how meeting Kaleab went, but I really feel as though I have to separate our travels in Ethiopia and Kalaeb for the time being. There will be a series of posts about Kaleab after I tell you about our trip to Ruta and Alazar. This is the part of the trip I need to explain fully and completely and he deserves an entire series of posts just about us!