Monday, June 28, 2010

13,000 words ...

4 uninterested, unwilling, distracted kids
+ 1 highly motivated mom
+ 1 slightly uninterested dad
+ 1 amazing photographer
+ 4 packages of bribery rewards (candy)
+ 1 small miracle of finding 6 white (non-stained) shirts
+ 1 hour
= a baker's dozen GREAT family pics to learn more about this amazing photographer

Friday, June 25, 2010

Welcome Home Little Man

A friend just sent me the pics from the long wait and then finally our arrival at the airport (thanks Shiloh).

Airport fun ... I mean, what else does one have to do for 2+ hours on a Friday night? Most of the pics of our actual arrival are blurry, but really that's not such a bad thing ... how long had it been since I had showered? Quite a while...

poor Anna is so stinken tired and confused

great fun pushing Dwight around in the wheelchair

The Airport Lounge - everyone except the guy in red - apparently he was in shackles and the guy in black was his "escort." Who picked this safe place for the kids to play? :)

The plane has landed ... almost home

Monday, June 21, 2010

Trip Journal - Day Ten

Have I mentioned we have the greatest friends ever? Not only was my mom and sister and kiddos waiting for us at the airport (super late), but we had a ton of great friends and their families waiting as well. I had grand intentions of having a video camera ready as we walked off the plane, capturing the first precious moments of our friends and family meeting Joseph. That was when our intention was to arrive home in the afternoon. When it ended up being closer to midnight, I thought surely no one would be there, and I honestly couldn’t muster the energy to drag out a camera/video camera and still wrestle baby and luggage. But, despite the many many delays and late hour, there they were. It was so wonderful to see our family, friends, and the kids, even though they were terribly exhausted. Timothy apparently really wanted to be the first one to meet baby brother, because he practically blocked the gate for all other passengers, insisting on being up front. I love you and thank you … Mom, Erin, Shiloh, Christy, Davis family, Murry family, Spencer family. I think there was something like 10 adults and 13 kids holding signs saying “Welcome home Baby Joseph.” (so, so sorry if I forgot someone – it had been over two days since I’d slept)

We warily collect our luggage, show off our beautiful baby a bit, thank everyone for coming, and then sleep walk to the car. We arrive home just after midnight. But, Ethiopian time, it is 8 a.m. and Joseph is WIDE AWAKE. Aunt Erin graciously volunteers to stay up and play with him while we get an hour or two of sleep. Then, we hear him fussing, so one of us (I don’t remember who) takes over. Travis and I then trade off two hour shifts through the night. I have NEVER been this tired … EVER. I hope I never am again.

Funny first moments I want to remember …

* Joseph HATED the car seat. This is really a preview of him hating to be strapped into anything (car seats, strollers, high chairs)

* He was completely freaked out by the texture of our carpet. We set him down to crawl, and he would look at the carpet, lift up his hand, stare at it, start to crawl again, only to repeat the whole process over. It was really cute. There were only wood floors at the orphanages with occasional rugs. Our carpet is pretty thick and long.

* Timothy said on the way home “I’m not tired a bit. I can’t wait to get home and play with my new brother,” all the while he was literally holding his eyes open with his fingers. Less than 5 seconds later he was snoring.

* Joseph was enthralled by everything, looking around, taking everything in. He was particularly interested by the ceiling fan.

(welcome to your new room little man)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Trip Journal - Day Nine

Is it Thursday or Friday? What time zone are we in? I really have no idea. We have made it through the overnight flight from Addis Ababa to Amsterdam. We were seated in the lap of luxury, bulk-head seating and Joseph had a little basinet that strapped to the wall in front of us, AND, he slept almost the entire flight. Cannot ask for anything more.

Boarding our flight from Amsterdam to Detroit was the longest, most absurd, crazy thing I have ever witnessed. First of all, everyone on the flight was taken into a separate little questioning area by a security officer, and questioned quite extensively about their flight, their luggage, where the contents of their luggage came from, who packed it, what’s in it, and on and on. Second, we were flagged three or four times, taken out of line, passports and boarding passes checked and rechecked. Why? I still don’t know. Third, the frisky pat down! After going through the metal detectors, everyone was individually patted down by a security officer, outside as well as inside clothes. She stuck her hand up my shirt, felt around my bra, inside the waist line of my pants. She even patted down Joseph. I was really hoping she’d stick her hand in his diaper cus he certainly had a surprise waiting for her, but I was ungratified in this sinful desire :) I hadn’t seen news in about ten days, and at this point, I am really wondering if something devastating has happened on a plane or in our country. Because of the increased security (it took about three hours to board) as well as the fact that our incoming plane had to divert around a new volcanic ash cloud, it is now certain we will miss our connecting flight from Detroit.

As relaxing and luxurious as our flight from Ethiopia to Amsterdam was, I would have to say we had the opposite experience from Amsterdam to Detroit. The plane was full, Joseph was awake and wanting to wrestle. Oh, and did I mention he pooped eight times on this flight? I’m starting to worry we may run out of diapers.

When we land in Detroit, the immigration officer opens the all important “brown envelope,” (yes, I was able to restrain myself and not open it) and says the incredible words “Yoseph, welcome to the United States.”

We rush rush rush with the completely unrealistic expectation that perhaps our plane from Detroit to Kansas City was super delayed and by some miracle we may make it. Or, the next available connecting flight leaves in 30 minutes and so we hurry. Expedition unnecessary. When we get to the Delta ticket counter, they inform me that all connecting flights to Kansas City are full, and we must wait 8 HOURS for the next available one. I am so exhausted (we have been up about 48 hours at this point), I miss my kids, I miss my bed, I want to go home. Poor Delta lady, poor travel companions, poor husband – I start crying – not the cute tears welling up in the eyes, controlled crying, but the uncontrollable, sobbing, snotty, ugly kind of crying. So, what do you do in the Detroit airport for 8 hours, completely sleep deprived, with a baby? Beats me! I did take about an hour nap on the floor, and we ate lunch (and drug that out as much as humanly possible) at Chili's. When FINALLY it is time for our evening flight (but it is really like 8 a.m. next morning to our bodily clocks), it is delayed because of weather. We were delayed again on the runway. I could go on and on, but I will stop whining now. When we finally arrive in Kansas City, it is almost 11:00 p.m. I knew my mom would be there, and I was hoping by some miracle the kids would be awake. Little did I know …

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Trip Journal - Day Eight

Anticipation is in the air. We get to begin our journey home tonight! Everyone is so excited, wishing the hours away. Don’t get me wrong – we have LOVED Ethiopia. It has changed me and my perspective of the world. But, are missing the kids at home so so much and are excited for them to meet their baby brother. Our time here was hard, wonderful and absolutely unforgettable. Actually, when I sit and think about it, it has a lot of similarities to our time in the hospital delivering my other babies. Like Ethiopia, it was painful, filled with anticipation, hard, a lot of work, bad food, lacking a lot of other “home” comforts, but at the same time, filled with emotion, longing, love and totally worth it in the end.

So, we hang out in the hotel, waiting for the evening hours when we can head to the airport. In the meantime, a few of us ladies were slightly disappointed by our shopping excursion yesterday. So, we get together, hire a driver, bring along our soldier body guard Andrew, and plan a few stops to take care of some much-needed purchases. Yesterday was another Holy Day, so the Leprosy Hospital was closed. In Addis, there is a lepers colony & inside a store where they sell their wares in order to support themselves. Honestly, it was so amazing all the stuff they make by hand. I could have made this one shopping stop all week and been content. Also, I had kind of a hard time dropping a lot of money inside the traditional “stores” yesterday while starving, begging mothers and children greeted us outside the door. Spending money at the Leprosy Hospital actually made me feel good rather than guilty and crummy. After this stop, Tsegaw dropped me and a couple of the other moms back to the Hilton and I paid for a glorious 30 minutes of internet time. I miss Renny, Zoom and Raven so much at this point. It was the middle of the night for them, so I knew I wouldn’t get to talk to them, but longed to see more pictures and an update from my mom on how they were doing.

Our flight doesn’t leave until 10:30 p.m., but we get to the airport around 7:30. I usually find this 3 hour advance for international fights ridiculous. This time – absolutely necessary. The airport was extremely crowded, and the lines were so long. We finally get checked in and boarding the plane was uneventful. How will our little one do on the 8 hour flight to Amsterdam? Did I mention we opted to save approximately $1000 and not buy him his own seat?

(this lady was so excited to have her picture taken, after I finally understood what she wanted...)

(Mr T was mesmerized by the trash collectors)

(This cute little guy pooped all over Mr T today. We all got a pretty big kick out of it and tried to get a pic, but Mr T was uncooperative)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trip Journal - Day Seven

Today the Holt Care Center had a farewell ceremony for all the little ones going home with their new families. First the nannies take each kid and change them into their traditional Ethiopian outfits. I am SO excited when someone tells me we actually get to keep this outfit! Sister Martha (head nurse) began the ceremony with very touching words, reading the story of Moses from the bible. It still astounds me that the nurses and nannies can rejoice and grieve with real emotion when kids leave the orphanage in Ethiopia for their new lives in America. I would have expected them to harden their hearts by now, having to repeat this ceremony every two weeks, a constant influx of kids in and out. But almost the opposite seems to be true. Despite my deeply embedded cynicism, I really believe they love these kids and love/hate to see them go. Ryan volunteered to read the bible passages and prays for our group of parents/kids as well as for continued endurance for the staff. Now, each kid gets a turn to “cut the cake”, one of those awkward tradition/photo opportunity things. In an attempt to not seem ungrateful or unappreciative, I, once again, have to choke down some coffee during the umpteenth traditional coffee ceremony this week (have I mentioned I hate coffee?).

Today is also the day set aside for shopping. So, kind of anticlimactic, but more convenient for scheduling purposes … right after the farewell ceremony, we leave the kids at the orphanage one last time, as the parents go shopping though the city. Unfortunately, today is another holy day, so the main shopping stop I was looking forward to (leper’s hospital) is closed. So, instead, we make a couple of rinky dink stops, where we attempt to crowd approximately 20 people into stores the size of my bathroom. I’m pretty sure the owners were some sort of cousins or commission payers to the drivers because everything seemed somewhat overpriced (by Ethiopian standards) and the stores were tiny. I really want to bring home as many souvenirs as possible to share with Joseph in the future. I mean, who knows how long it will be before we return? But, I am having an internal struggle between that desire and all the begging moms and children we are met with outside…

We stop for lunch along the way, I’m suspecting at somebody’s cousin’s restaurant (cynicism, I know). I ordered a club sandwich, which took about two hours and was horrible (mostly because it was almost all onions and I hate onions, not to mention the strict warning NOT to eat raw veggies). Tamara ordered a ham sandwich. Over an hour later they brought her a hamburger because they were “out of ham.” HA!

After a long exhausting day (usually I’m not easily worn out by shopping), we head back to the care center and collect the kids for the last time. It was unreal, walking out the door with Joseph. I thought the nannies would repeat all the goodbyes, but it seems they got that over with at the farewell ceremony. So, it was just an anticlimactic, un-ceremonial walk out the door. I kept looking over my shoulder, thinking someone would stop me, but no one did… He’s ours. We’ve done this before, a time or two, although a slightly different method.

Hope we've got this all figured out ….

Monday, June 7, 2010

Trip Journal - Day Six

Today’s the day we get to take custody of Joseph. Whata day! We have enjoyed spending time with him at the care center, but it wasn’t the same as having him all to ourselves. For some reason, it was also more exhausting playing with him there – like being in the church nursery for hours on end.

It was very exciting, humbling and a little bit scary as we descend the steps of the care center. As we step outside with him for the first time, we are reminded that Joseph has had zero exposure to the outdoors. He is all ears and all eyes as we walk next door to our hotel. Everything - trees, gates, birds, cars - catch his eye. We spend some emotional moments on the front steps of our hotel, each family snapping pictures. Eventually we make it up to our room, and Joseph is off to explore. He gets his first "real" bath. Due to lack of water, lack of electricity to heat the water, etc., kids in care only get "spit" baths/wipe downs. I thought he'd love a splashy, warm, submersed bath, but I was wrong. It was only by some crazy peek-a-boo that I was able to get the smile in the picture below. Most of the bath was spent screaming.

Our appointment at the US Embassy is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. This is the much anticipated day where we receive official permission from the United States government to issue our new baby boy a US Visa – aka, permission to bring him home. I have to say – I was very unimpressed with the US Embassy. From the road, there were no clear signs indicating what this plain, tin building was. There were no soldiers (at least that I could identify). There was no steel plating, no 6” bullet proof glass. No impressive high-tech gadgetry or spy stuff anywhere to be seen.

We waited in a small room as, one by one, they called our names over the crappiest overhead speakers you’ve ever heard. When “Dietz Family” was finally called, everyone from our group erupted in cheers. This was either everyone’s general acknowledgment of our awesomeness, or, perhaps more likely, because we were the last family to be called from our group and they all were forced to wait on us – who knows, really. So, after the applause died down, we headed upstairs for our “visa interview.” I was a little nervous. What if I answer a question wrong? What if I forget one of the answers? Turns out the lady behind the glass (much like a DMV window) was very pleasant (unlike the DMV). Before we know it, we have an all important brown envelope that is Joseph’s ticket home. Woo Hoo!!! On a side note – we have been told about 25 times NOT to open this brown envelope. The seal MUST not be opened except by the immigration official in the U.S. What is it about my personality that wanted nothing more than to crack this puppy open, just because everyone has told me not to?

A weight has now been lifted. All things official seem to be done. Now to take our son back to the hotel, get to know him more, love on him and call him ours.

Things we discovered about our son today:
1) He LOVES TV. I doubt he has ever seen TV before. I got out of the shower and he and Travis are sitting on the bed next to each other, eyes glued to the TV watching some mobster show.
2) He HATES to have his diaper changed.
3) He talks in his sleep, little baby coos and moans. This pretty much can last all night long and is a beautiful sound.
4) He has no experience eating anything with texture. We gave him some baby puffs and yogurt melts. He seemed to like the taste, but could not keep the food in his mouth.
5) He sleeps through the night. Woo Hoo! At least he did tonight. Fingers crossed for nights to come.
6) That Moses basket that the hotel staff brought for us to use. I thought "no way is that going to work." But, he slept like a champ in it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Trip Journal - Day Five

Another early morning, pack back into the vans to head back to the city. Although the countryside was amazingly beautiful, it will feel really good to get back to “civilization”, or at least running water, electricity (hopefully) and a shower. On the way back, we stop at the Durame Medical Clinic that Holt built and supports. The clinic was something to behold. It kind of looked like an abandoned strip mall in the worst part of backwoods Texas you have ever seen. We got the tour before it was open, so there were very few people there. When the director told us that they generally see 200-300 patients per day, I was shocked. It was primitive, but I expected this. But, it was so incredibly small, I have no idea how that many people could have fit in the gates, let alone receive medical attention. The labor and delivery room was shockingly small, primitive and dirty. Where is the anesthesiologist with the epidural?? HA! And when I think of Joseph’s birth mom delivering him at home, in a much more primitive, dirt-floor setting than this, all the while being sick… Oh how my heart breaks!

Our drive to and from Durame was a little like Mario Cart, but instead of dodging and racing other cars, it was a game to outwit, swerve and maneuver around the goats and donkeys. If, going down the road, there is a choice to drive towards a crowd of goats or a crowd of people, we always headed straight for the people. The logic – people were smart enough to get out of the way. Goats were not! At one point in the city, Tamara told our driver “Watch out for those white people. They don’t know to get out of the way!” Too true!

After a very long drive, we’re back to the smoggy city. Best part – we get to go see the kiddos again this afternoon, and Joseph clearly remembers us and has been looking forward to our return.

Tomorrow we take custody of Joseph. While this is so very exciting, it will also mean no more city outings unless we want to leave him at the orphanage. Because of cultural misunderstandings and suspicions, our agency highly discourages parents from taking their newly adopted kids out into public. So, we take this last opportunity to hitch a completely overpriced cab ride to the Hilton. Walking into the Hilton was like taking a deep breath of familiar air. We sat down to an overpriced dinner, but felt comfortable enough to eat fresh fruit and dairy (the fruit alone was worth $30/person). We had been warned repeatedly not to eat any fresh fruit or dairy. Ryan warned me, as I was eating my third bowl of fruit, “YOU’RE GONNA DIE” but I was fine. The best part about the whole evening – the Hilton’s internet works and I get to see pictures and hear news about my kids at home. I am really really starting to miss them and, at this point, my phone hasn’t worked in three days!