Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thoughts on parenthood, and Today's events....

Okay, so I know our posts have been a bit more sporadic, but we are the new parents of twins…..Need I say more?  Okay, maybe not, but I will.  We’ve had Alex & Eliana full time with us for about 2 weeks now, and it has been quite the roller coaster.  But, I dare say that we might just be getting into a routine.  Exciting, right?!  We think so.  We’ve managed to get them to take naps around the same time, which is a miracle in and of itself.  Their personalities are really starting to blossom, which is awesome.  As Wes stated previously, Eliana is quite the scrappy little girl, full of spunk.  She is not at all gentle, but is always quite joyful.  She even seems to laugh and smile when she is hitting Alex over the head with their plastic hammer.  Okay…maybe that’s not a good thing.  We’ll keep monitoring this behavior.  ;)  Alex has calmed down a good bit, and seems to be coming into his own.  He is much more gentle, but much faster and stronger than Eliana, so he can crawl across the room in record time.  Of course, he still doesn’t like going to sleep, but his sister has decided to obtain this lovely quality too.  I guess that’s why we can get them to sleep around the same time.  All in all, we are making plenty of mistakes, having minor triumphs, and we are basically just winging it.  Isn’t that what most new parents do?  We are trying not to be too hard on ourselves. 

Alex is trying to breach the baby barrier.  He's happy about it.

Something new that has occurred in my world is my attitude in the mornings when the twins wake up….and it’s not really a good thing. I have always been able to have a fairly good attitude when I wake up in the mornings.  I’ve never been super grouchy early in the morning or late at night.  Well…that’s all changed.  Unfortunately, when I wake up at night, I have a hard time getting back to sleep.  This unfortunate situation has greatly affected my morning attitude.  Now that I get up to change and feed babies in the middle of the night, I lose a lot of sleep at night.  So then I wake up sleep deprived, and I am supremely grouchy.  I find myself getting ticked at the twins for waking up at 7am every morning.  I mean seriously, don’t they know that I need my sleep?!  You’d think that by 8 months old they would have a better understanding of their mother’s needs.  Right?!  I’ve had a stern talking with both of them about the situation, but they just look at me with these innocent doe eyes, looking all cute and smiley, acting like they don’t understand a thing I am saying.  I will have to figure out some appropriate disciplinary action for these two. 

On to today’s events….

Our friends Bex & Josh just recently arrived here in Addis a couple of weeks ago, and also have their little Mercy girl with them.  They just passed court on Tuesday, and are enjoying the same full time parenthood that we are, here in the same guesthouse.  Today, all 7 of us made our way to the monthly Bazaar at the International Evangelical Church.  Wow, it was Ferenji (foreigner) heaven!  There were people from all over the world there, buying cultural goods from various NGOs that gather there once a month.  This church even had green grass in the courtyard!  I never knew what a difference grass and flowers could do for the air quality, but when you live in very polluted city, you notice the difference.  It felt nice to be there today.  I even mustered up some courage to speak in Norwegian to a man I noticed in front of me, with a Norway branded bag.  I was seriously proud of myself when he responded in a different dialect than I speak, and I actually understood half of what he said!  And in very un-classic Norwegian style, he was super friendly to me and even wanted to introduce me to his son and daughter-in-law, and new grandchild.  Hope you’re proud of me, Mamma! 

The NGO Bazaar. grass.

Josh, Bex and Mercy. Beautiful family!

Gorgeous little Mercy!

After the Bazaar, we headed to lunch at Metro Pizza, a new little gem of a restaurant that we just discovered.  Fabulous pizza, and a really trendy atmosphere.  We loved it!

From Metro, we dropped Bex & Josh and Mercy Bear off at our guesthouse, and then headed over to our orphanage, since they were having a birthday party for some of our favorite girls.  It was so special to be a part of this.  I have to say that when I am at this orphanage, it is the one place I really feel connected to Ethiopia.  There no one is asking us for money, or taking advantage of us, or conning us….we are simply friends sharing a common bond.  It is really beautiful, and it makes my heart feel good.  I feel like more than a ferenji.  I feel like a friend and sister.

Our favorite people in Ethiopia... nannies and children at our orphanage. We love them so much!
It had been a week since we had been there, and they had a new arrival….a little boy.  The nannies who were there today were unsure of his age or circumstances.  All I can say is this is the first time I have seen a baby look like the pictures I used to see of Ethiopia in National Geographic when I was a child.  I remember even trying to do a pencil drawing of a picture I saw in the magazine, of a little boy who was starving.  This little baby boy at the orphanage is so emaciated.  When he cried, all the skin on his face became wrinkles, and he looked like an old man, because he had no fat on his body at all to fill out his cheeks, or any part of his body.  His little ribs were excruciatingly visible.  The skin was sagging on his arms.  He has little tufts of hair on his head, patchy because of little scabs that were spread all over his scalp.  He is so frail.  I sat there and held him, kissed his face, and even fed him a little from a bottle.  He occasionally let out a little whimper.  And then the tears just started falling.  I cried and cried over him, all the while praying for Jesus to reveal himself to this little one.  I guess the nannies felt bad for me, because they kept saying, “It’s okay.  It’s okay.”  The nurse said, “He needs pray and love.”  I nodded my head in agreement.  Oh how I long to see this little miracle healed and filled with joy.  His eyes were so sad.  We are just praying that light will fill his eyes soon, and his body will be filled with nourishment and healing. 

Just another day in Ethiopia…..And no matter how difficult it can be sometimes, I am grateful for every day.

More of the people we love.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Play by play with the Mullins Twins....

A Post from Wes.

It has been nearly a week since there has been a post, and to our faithful readers we say we’re sorry to have kept you waiting. It has been a tougher transition than either of us thought. If you add up all the adoption stresses, court delays, crying babies, lack of sleep, pediatrician visits, and personal sickness then you would get a taste of our last week.

Here are Highlights from Day 1 till now:

Day 1: It is a very surreal feeling to be taking Alex and Eliana from the orphanage. It is more like an extended visit where they will stay with us for an entire day. Both of them slept great during the day, naptime was so easy. They acted just like they did in the orphanage. But things took a different turn when night came. Eliana was crying and it was taking some soothing to get her quieted down. As we were getting them ready for bed, I was lying on the bed with Eliana on my stomach and Nina was changing Alex. I started singing to Eliana and I saw Nina leave the room for a second (to throw away the dirty diaper), but it didn’t register that Alex could roll off. I kept singing but out of the corner of my eye I saw feet fly up in the air as Alex face planted on the floor. The bed is about 15-18 inches from the floor so it could have been much worse.

He screamed and cried real tears. The parquet floor left and imprint on his forehead and he had a cut just under his nose. I knew this day would come, just didn’t know it would come on the first day. I told Nina later, “Well, we got that out of the way.”

Day 2: (From my Journal) We brought them home yesterday. It was an awesome day. Alex is growing really attached to me. Also today he cried when Nina left the room.

Day 3: (From my Journal) This is more tiring than I thought, well not really but I am not used to not sleeping. I am so on edge with the worry that they will fall out of these shallow cribs; Alex already climbs up on the sides. I have installed pillows and blankets on the floor (around the crib) in case he gets heroic. Ha!

I have changed dozens of “crappy” diapers, there have been a few epic ones, ones that have been up the back, coming out the sides and dripping down the legs. But I really don’t care. I love being a Dad.

It has been wonderful to have them recognize us, even in a crowded room. (I was playing basketball while Nina was holding him, and Alex was smiling and laughing at me. I was at least 40-50 ft away and he rarely took his eyes off of me.) Right now I am too tired to write too much. Going to bed.

Day 7: (from Journal) The reason I haven’t kept up with my journal, parenting.

I love them to death but they are wearing me (us) out. Right now they are sleeping, which with Alex is always a gift. Alex is at war with sleep. It is a daily combat zone when he gets tired. 2 days ago he turned into a possessed child, kicking and screaming, slapping and yelling just to keep himself awake. He did it today too, but I prevailed.

So I am going to institute a new strategy to face the bizarre-Alex (sleepy Alex); I am going to let him play until he wears out…as long as I (we) have the engery. [he just woke up, so journaling is on hold for a while].

[…] I am back; bathroom break. Who would have thought that bathroom time would become a commodity (commodity, get it? know commode?...never mind). The times have changed. […]

[…] We just put them down for round 2 of naptime. Naptime is a wonderful event.

Day 8: An exhausted Daddy

I was at “War” last night with Alex. He didn’t nap much and he wasn’t going to go to bed. So I sat on the floor with him for about 3 hours, 3 hours after Eliana went peacefully to bed. [Remember my plan to wear him out? I was putting it in to play].

During one of those hours he played with a plastic case, for the entire hour. He would just turn it over and over in his hands as if it held some undiscovered truth. My plan was kind of working, he was rubbing is eyes and yawning but he refused to close his eyes.

Nina came in and picked him up and tried to rock him to sleep. She had just woke the sleeping giant or crossed in to enemy territory. I didn’t know a child could cry so fiercely and not be in unbearable pain or scared out of their minds. She rocked and rocked and rocked and rocked to no avail; this boy has an iron will. Funny thing, the whole time his eyes were closed. Nina went for reinforcements, a 6oz. bottle of formula and the big bad Hulk transformed into a precious, sleeping little boy.

To add to the frustration he is no longer eating rice cereal or baby food. He will only take his bottle and then only some of the time (I think we did the switch to Amercian formula too fast, so we went and bought some Ethiopian formula to mix in, that has helped a little). There is a small bit of rejection that comes when your child won’t eat when they are hungry or sleep when they are sleepy. It makes you feel like that you can’t even meet the most basic needs of your children.

What magnifies your ineptitude is the plethora of comments and advise, it seems everyone has an opinion and those opinions are conflicting and illogical at times. But hey, what do I know? This is my first rodeo…maybe they are all right and I should do everything. Just really frustrated right now.

Day 11: Our sick little girl

Eliana has been battling congestion since she was in the orphanage. It has grown worse over the last few days. We took her to the Brook hospital to see a pediatrician. The facility was great, sorta upscale for where we have been before. 100 birr a piece (about USD $6.50) for both Alex and Eliana. We thought that we would have them checked for parasites while we were there as well.

Everything checked out okay. The doctor gave us a presciption, 15.75 Birr for the meds (not even a dollar). Now that I like.

[…] this is turning into a lousy day. My allegories have kicked in and they have come with a vengeance. My head is about 3x the normal size, at least it feels that way. I have an unending supply of mucus dripping down my throat and running down my nose. Nina has it as well, such a bummer.

I think the toll of stress, lack of sleep and climate change (it is getting hotter here because of summer) has added up to both of us becoming susceptible to this attack.

Day 12: The night from Hell

Last night was horrible. I was so close to having a mental breakdown. Both Nina and I are suffering from symptoms and this has made sleep much harder for both of us.

Both the twins went down at 7:00pm and Nina had fallen asleep on the bed in our other room (at about 11pm), so I went to check on Eliana. I was going to let Nina sleep in the other room as long as she needed to.

I walked in to the room and she was having a coughing fit, nearly choking. I thought that she was having an allergic reaction to the medicine. I race to her side and pick her up, gently patting her back. I brought her in to the other room, Nina woke up, and we stayed for a few minutes. When we all decided to go to bed and I laid Eliana down she started crying. It started at 12am and it felt like it would never end. We tried letting her cry for a couple minutes to see if that would work, but no dice.

What happened next was a culmination of 12 days of this non-stop routine. I couldn’t get to sleep for her crying. I can’t breathe because of my own congestion. A few times Nina got up and rocked her to a slumber, but as soon as she laid her down she started the shrillest cries ever. They cut straight to the heart, and they were saying, “Meet my need! Why can’t you meet my need?!?!” I sit straight up with my head in my hands just freaking out, not sure what to do; Nina takes Eliana into the next room and stays there. I go to the roof top to clear my head. I am there for about five minutes and I hear the Lord say, “Your son Needs you.” So I went back down, crawled into bed and went to sleep.

[…] I woke up the next morning with my right eye so full of gunk that I couldn’t see out of it. And it took me a few minutes of hacking and coughing just to breath…this sucks.

Here are some things you should know:

We think we know why there are behavioral changes in Alex and Eliana, i.e. eating and sleeping habits. There is some grieving and protesting going on. It makes total sense. They were docile the first few days and then the gloves came off. Which is a very common theme in the adoption world. So we are not complete failures at this parenting thing. Ha.

Today I took Alex in the bed room because he was being extra crunchy-tired boy and I said we are going to sleep. So I built a fort on the bed, I call it For Miki (they called him Miki at the orphanage). I let him scour the perimeter so he would see there was no way out. He pulled up on Daddy’s legs smiling and laughing and dancing. I said, “Son, you aren’t fooling anyone. Everyone saw the yawning and the eye rubbing so just give in.” After a few minutes I started singing. It was like some one flipped the quiet switch. He just put his head on my chest as I sang him to sleep. Then Daddy crawled under the covers beside of him and we took a 4 hour Daddy and Alex nap. Good times.


We thought that Eiana was all girl: petite, delicate, sweet, etc. Well, she is not that at all. She is not even the cuddling type. Sorry Bestemor, but she is not all girl. Just ask Alex, who daily gets a dose of her blows. One day it was a plastic hammer to the head, 3 times in a row, and she was smiling and giggling the whole time. The next day she grabbed handfuls of his hair. But I must say that she loves kisses and tickling.

She smacks you hard in the face or brings her legs to your chest or chin with a scissor-like motion but with great velocity. She has no idea what kind of force those little hands and feet pack. We (Nina) has had to correct her many times in this area, as Nina has also had her hair pulled and has been smacked in the face. The bad part is that Eliana is just smiling and laughing as she does it. There doesn’t appear to be a gentle bone in the girl’s little body. Also, Eliana is starting to pull up on her crib and other things around the apartment, so that is good.

We are getting a real taste of their personalities. When we tell Alex “no”, he looks at you and will try again but after a few “no’s” he will go way or just stare at you to see if you are going to look away so he can proceed with the prohibited items. Eliana just bursts out in tears. She gets her feelings hurt when she gets corrected. It is going to be cool to see how their personalities evolve and change.

It is hard to take this but as close as we got to Alex and Eliana at the orphanage we still have to gain their trust with their lives. We were only there 3 hours a day. No matter how much we knew that we were their parents, to them we were just visitors and their Nannies were the ones who were going to meet all of their needs. This is why all the protesting and behavioral changes are occurring now. Once that truth clicked in my mind I was/am much more at peace with things now.

You should now be up to speed with the Mullins Family. Thanks for stopping by.

p.s. We got our court decree, so now it's just a matter of our agency getting everything to embassy, so we can get approved for an embassy appointment. Pray for our agency staff here, that they can get all the required documents they need in order to get us home. :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Family Pictures....

Okay, so yesterday you met the twins, and because so many have requested it, I am sharing some pics from the first day we met our miracles.  It was such a special day that we will never forget.  Truly amazing.

All pictures by the amazing Cara Dee Photography!  We love you, Cara Dee!

  First sign we saw as we got of the plane in Addis Ababa.

Eagerly waiting to hold them. We could see them across the courtyard in this picture. 

 Couldn't resist sharing this picture, because I love that Alex is looking up at us. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011


.....Eliana Tizita Mullins and Alexander Mikiyas Mullins!

Yes, the greatly anticipated post is finally here! We have passed court, and are now the proud full-time parents of Eliana and Alex.

We have had these two little ones for several days now, and it has been awesome. I would be lying if I said I wasn't tired. Wow. Wes and I are exhausted! But it is the most beautiful exhaustion we could ask for. It is so worth it.

The day we left the orphanage, the nannies cried. It was so bittersweet. Fortunately, we've been back since, and we will be going back again many times before we leave.

It felt amazing and surreal to bring these two little miracles home with us. As we were climbing into the van to go back to our guesthouse, I could hardly believe we were finally going to be with Alex & Eliana 24/7. I just didn't seem real. After 5+ years of waiting to bring children into our family, this was it. This was the miracle of all miracles. Simply amazing.

Once we got back to the guesthouse, we gave them both baths. Not because they were dirty, but because we were just excited to give our children baths for the first time in our care. They loved the water. We used the sinks in the bathroom, and they just splashed and splashed. We dried them off, put yummy smelling lotion all over their beautiful brown skin, and just soaked in the goodness of it all.

I have to say that overall, these two are some of the happiest babies I have known. They are so easy to please.

Alex is all boy. He loves to get into everything. He is much stronger than Eliana, so he can crawl pretty fast, and can pull up to standing and grab things off of shelves. He apparently hates sleeping, so no matter how tired he is, he will fight it. He will rub his eyes, lay down on the ground, but sleep is not an option. Fortunately, this translates into about 11 hours of sleep at night. Score. He laughs all the time, and he is absolutely attached to Wes. He is ALL daddy's boy. I am second in line, but I don't mind. He laughs a lot, and is full of mischief. Love him to death.



Alex's first bath

Desta & Alex

Eliana is all girl. She is petite and delicate. She has the most awesome smiles, as she is still fairly toothless. She has a hilarious little face she makes when she thinks something is funny. She is SO easy. She just sits in her little spot, and laughs and coos while she plays with her toys. She takes good naps during the day, and is a fantastic eater. Everything makes her smile. And when she sleeps she is either curled up in a ball, or has both arms spread wide out while her legs are spread out in an all out split. It is SO cute! She still wakes up a couple times at night, but a little formula put her right back to sleep.





Eliana - photo by Cara Dee Photography


They both like to bang each other on the heads with their hands or toys, and they both think it is hilarious. They are both crawling, so there's no leaving them alone for even a second. We are definitely kept on our toes all day. worth it.

And now we wait. We have to wait on paperwork from court to go through. We have to wait for our obligation letter to come back from the U.S. Then we have to wait on our embassy date. We are just praying it will go quickly. We love Ethiopia so much, but we are eager to get home also to have some good time together as a family in our own surroundings.

Thank you again and again for all your continued prayers. You have no idea how much we have felt them. Simply amazing.

Signing off for now to got change some diapers....

Nurse & Eliana

Nurse & Alex

Mine & Wes' hands on Eliana's little chest

Desta & Alex

Nannies, nurse & twins

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Final Verdict on our Case...

Okay, so I know so many of you have been waiting on pins and needles
to hear on the final verdict for our case today.

I think I will just go ahead and tell you, and give you the rest of
the story after.




Yes, it’s true.  We went to the orphanage this morning, thinking we’d
hear something while we were there.  But 1pm came, our driver picked
us up at the orphanage, we went back to our guest house, went for
lunch, got back to our guest house again, and still nothing….This did
not make me feel good, but I still had hope.

My parents and Wes went downstairs for a bit to have coffee in the
lobby.  I laid down on our bed, and just rested for a bit.

We had met up with a family that had court today, and they told us
that court was delayed until the afternoon, so we figured that the
same would be true for us.  A little more hope….

After laying in bed for a bit, Wes came up and decided to rest for a
bit too.  But after just a couple of minutes, at 4:04 pm our agency
rep called us.  My heart started to race.  I was so nervous.  I could
hear her over the phone say to Wes, “Why haven’t you called me today?
Do you not care about your case?”  Yeah, she was kidding.  A good
sign.  Besides…we didn’t call because we didn’t want to be a pain.  We
knew she would call us when she knew anything.

Finally she told us that MOWA had written positive comments and
approved our case.


Thank you all so much for praying.  We know it absolutely helped!
We are rejoicing today, and in just a couple of days, those little
ones will be with us full time (They are saying Monday.  Happy
Valentine’s Day to us!).  WOOOOOHOOOOOOOO!!!!

It’s a good good day here in Ethiopia.

Hope and knots in the waiting....

Today is the day.  Today is the day they decide if they will approve our court case.  I’m not going to lie.  My stomach has a few knots in it.

I was going to wait to write a post until after we heard news of MOWA’s decision on our case, but I decided I wanted to have a record of my feelings before that happened.

Honestly…. I’m nervous.  I’m a bit scared.  Let me rewind to yesterday’s events.

Yesterday we were at the orphanage when we got a call from our agency rep here in Ethiopia.  She said she was going to come by the orphanage to talk to Wes and I.  She wouldn’t tell us what she wanted to talk to us about, but we knew that she had just been to MOWA to speak to them about our case.  I was terrified.  I was holding Eliana at the time, and I was seriously restless.  I just kept kissing her head, pretty much comforting myself in the process.  During the wait, one of the nannies told me she was leaving.  Apparently she had gotten a new job
(at least I hope that is what I understood).  She was crying, and saying goodbye to everyone.  All the nannies had tears streaming down their faces.  Oh how my heart ached!  After she left, I walked into the twins’ old room (they just moved all the babies from our room into the same room as the toddlers a couple of days ago).  I set her down next to me, and played with her as she just cooed and smiled.  In the midst of the play, I felt sick to my stomach.  I was running a hundred scenarios through my mind about what she could possibly want to talk to us about.  Why couldn’t she have told us over the phone?  Did something go wrong with the twins’ paperwork? Did the birthfather show up and want them back?  Were they going to tell us that the adoption could not be completed?  These were just a sampling of the questions that were going through my head.  And while I am not typically a pessimist, I was already trying to prepare myself for the worst outcome.  I was trying to tell myself that no matter what, God was in control.  No matter what, God knew what was best for Wes and I and the twins.  No matter what, I would still love Him.

Our agency rep arrived.  She is such a refined and beautiful woman, who walks with great poise.  Her hair always looks just right, and she dresses in the latest fashion trends every day of the week.  She’s gorgeous.  As I saw her walking across the courtyard, I made my way outside, with Eliana still in my arms.

She smiled big and greeted me with the typical three times cheek kiss. Okay, perhaps that smile marked a hint of good news….a hint of hope.

We sat down in the manager’s office and she said, “Well, I don’t have the best news, but it is not terrible news.”  I immediately felt relief.  Wes and I both did.  When she asked us how we were doing, we both said we were nervous because we thought she was going to give us terrible news.  She told us it was nothing like that.

She proceeded to tell us that MOWA was now requiring a new document. It wasn’t one they had asked for before.  It was simply one they recommended people have.  Apparently all the agencies were in upheaval because of this new requirement.  They wanted a separate document that stated we were aware that we needed to give 3, 6, and 12 month post placement reports, and yearly reports thereafter to be done by us.  It didn’t matter that our homestudy stated that we were aware of this. It didn’t matter that we had already paid for the post placement reports. They wanted a sheet of paper that was notarized and authenticated.  Ummm….yeah…a little difficult to do while we are here in Ethiopia.

So from there we headed over to DHL immediately, to send a document over to Kentucky, to have one of our friends work on this for us.  The hope was to have that document filled out, and sent back to us within the next week.  Of course, once we got there, it was closed for lunch (ah Ethiopia….).  So we decided to just go to lunch and try afterwards.

After a $3 filet mignon at Cloud 9, we headed back over to DHL.  As I started filling out the address label, our agency rep called.  Wes popped out for a second as I stayed there in the DHL office.  A minute later he popped back in and said to cancel the mailing. Apparently, MOWA wanted something else now, and our rep said she would get back with us once she figured out exactly what that was.  She was obviously irritated (not with us, but with those asking for these new documents).

So, with yet another bump in the road, we headed back to our guesthouse.  Who knew what would come next.

We decided to sit down in the lobby and have a cup of coffee (they have a coffee ceremony every day in our guesthouse down in the lobby). We just sat there for a while.  Wes sat at a table writing in his journal, and I sat in one of the comfy chairs in front of the television.  The Accidental Husband was on.  I had never seen it, but Colin Firth is one of the stars, and he does not get the girl in the end.  Colin Firth should always get the girl.  I digress….

Our agency rep called once again as we were down there, and said she was going to come over and talk to us again.  More uneasy anticipation.

After waiting for about a half hour, we decided to head back up to our room until she got there.  We both lied down and tried to rest for a while.

She finally showed up, and we headed downstairs.

She looked frazzled. Very unusual for her. She had been working hard for us all day, and she was not happy with the outcome thus far.  All she could tell us was that she felt like she made some positive headway, but there would be no way to know until the next day (today). We could only wait and hope, and in the meantime, we would need to email our homestudy agency to see if they could get anything together for us showing proof of our prepayment for our post placement reports, and whatever else might offer additional support for our case.

We did what we could, and then decided to spend the rest of the evening trying to have positive attitudes, and calling our facebook friends to pray for our case.

We ended the evening ordering some pizza from Ice Blue, and then played some Phase 10 down in the lobby with my parents.  We laughed and enjoyed the evening.

And here we are now.  It is 9:30 on Friday morning.  We are getting ready to head over to the orphanage as we always do, and we will spend some time with our children.  In the next couple of hours we should hear a final verdict on our case.

My stomach’s a bit queasy, but I am okay.  We are all okay.  And no matter what, God is still good, and He is in complete control.

Stay tuned….

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Meetcha Day for the Grandparents...

On Saturday my crazy supportive parents arrived in Addis Abeba.  They are here for 2 weeks and are soaking up every moment.  If there were a prize for most enthusiastic grandparents, I think they would win it. One thing is for sure…I could never complain about lacking support from my family throughout this adoption.  They have been amazing.

On Sunday morning Wes, my parents, and I first went to another orphanage and shot a Meetcha Day for another family with our agency. It was simply beautiful.  And for 3 hours we just got to hang out and spend time with all the children there.  It was such a blessing.

After that, we had lunch at Cloud 9 and then headed over to our orphanage, so my parents could meet their grandchildren for the first time.  And wonder of wonders…Alex was sleeping (yay!).  So Eliana was grandchild number one to meet the grandparents.

I walked her out as Wes had the video going, and the waterworks began…on my parents’ part.  ☺

I handed Eliana to my mom, and both her and my dad just cried and cried as Eliana just shined her big beautiful smile.

After about 5 or 10 minutes, Alex had woken up, so grandchild number two was walked out (actually, Alex & Eliana are grandchildren numbers six & seven).  More tears fell.

It was a beautiful afternoon, and I am so thankful for my parents and all their amazing support.

*unfortunately, I don’t have any pics of them with Alex without his face showing, so I can’t show you those yet.  But hopefully in just a couple of days I will be able to!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Passing Them By...

February 6, 2011

Every day here, you pass people who are begging for food and money. Some look as if they haven’t showered in weeks. Some are lame or obviously sick. Some seem to just be along for the ride, hoping to catch a couple of birr from some unsuspecting westerners. One day as our driver was taking us to the orphanage, I remember seeing a person lying face down on the ground on the side of the road. At the time, I wondered if he was sleeping, or if he was sick, or perhaps even worse….it made me think of the story of the good Samaritan. I wondered if I would be one of the ones to pass the man by, or if perhaps I would at least stop to see if the man was okay. I didn’t want to pass him by.

Yesterday, my wonderings were tested.

Wes and I had just finished lunch over at Cloud 9, and were on our way over to the grocery store before heading back to our guesthouse. As we were approaching the store, we saw what looked like a man convulsing on the sidewalk. People were passing him by, one by one. We walked up to him and then crouched down beside him. It wasn’t a man at all, but a young boy. It looked as if he was having a seizure, and a greenish-yellowish foam was pouring out of his mouth.

Talk about feeling helpless. Up until the moment we walked up to him, people were walking over him and around him. No one even tried to stop. And here Wes and I are, crouching beside him, wondering what in the world to do with him. We had no idea how to help him.

Of course, once two white people in Ethiopia stop to help a sick person on the sidewalk, they become an immediate sideshow. That was Wes & I. The first two men to stop were simply curious. We were asking them if there was any help to be had for this boy. They just motioned to us that the boy was probably mentally unstable. Yeah…not very helpful. Wes moved the boy further over to the inside of the sidewalk. He was still convulsing, and was not coherent at all. After a couple of minutes of the crowd growing around us, two men kneeled down beside the boy and started lighting matches right by his mouth and nose. I was alarmed because I was sure they were going to burn him. I asked Wes what they were doing, and he guessed they were trying to get the boy to come out of this state by getting some smoke in his lungs so he would cough and catch his breath. Weird….but it worked. The boy started coughing, and then he started breathing a little better. We sat him up against a wall. He was still shaking, but it looked like he was coming too. He was at the very least, slightly coherent, and as people were asking him questions, he began to answer back a little, while still staring blankly at the ground.

In the midst of all the questioning Ethiopians, Wes had gone in search of food and money (we had none with us). So there I was, sitting next to an obviously sick boy, surrounded by curious passersby. Some of them were asking him what his sickness was. Somehow “yellow fever” started circulating, a sickness I know nothing about. Then someone said something about him going to the “poor people’s clinic”, which apparently is one of Mother Teresa’s homes. Still no clear answers.

At one point, a guy walked by and put a package of cookies in my hand and then just kept walking, and disappeared down the sidewalk. I opened up the package, and starting giving the boy one at a time. He tore through them. And then a beautiful thing happened…an older woman, perhaps 45 or 50 years old, came with a large dish of Ethiopian food (injera & lentils). But before she would let the boy eat (as he was still dirty and still shaking), she began to wash off his hands. Then she placed his broken sandals carefully back on his feet, and even washed off his hair and the back of his neck. He was filthy, and yet she treated him like her own son, with great care and great tenderness. Seriously, it was absolutely beautiful to watch.

He ate that food as if he had never eaten before. A little more light began to come into his eyes. He wasn’t smiling, but he was speaking some. He told me his name was Addisselam. And then the craziest thing happened….an Ethiopian guy joined the crowd (that’s not the strange part!)….but he had a perfect American accent. He began translating for us, and long story short…this guy had just returned from about 20+ years in the States. He stuck by our side for the rest of the day.

Wes, Ash (the Ethiopian-American guy’s name), Addisselam, and I hopped into a local mini-bus taxi, and headed over to the Korean hospital (where most westerners go for medical care). On our trip over, we learned that Ash had lived in Kentucky, and even worked at our favorite Ethiopian restaurant, Queen of Sheba. How crazy is that?!

Throughout the taxi ride, Addisselam sat beside me in the front, and just stared straight ahead. He wouldn’t really look at me, and he still looked pretty zoned, although you could see he was regaining his strength and lucidity.

Once we arrived at the hospital, we had to wait for about an hour. During that hour we learned that he had no family. He told us that he was 14 years old, and that his mother had died about 10 years ago, and he didn’t know anything about his father, except for the fact that he had also passed away. He lived mostly on the street.

Finally we got in to see the doctor. The doctor told us that our young friend was just extremely hungry, and his body had shut down because he hadn’t eaten in several days. He said that he could do blood tests to see if there was something more to the seizure-like episode he had had, but he really believed that it was due to hunger. He suggested we instead use our money to buy him some dinner and a soda to get some sugar into his body.

So 50 birr later (yes, that’s about three U.S. dollars for an ER visit!), we left the hospital and headed back home. Addisselam and I sat in the front again, and as the music played over the radio, out of the corner of my eye I could see his head bopping back and forth to the beat. I put my arm around him and tapped him on the opposite shoulder. When he realized it was me just playing with him, a big smile spread across his face. Wow. What a beautiful smile.

We finally made it back to Bole Rd. near our guesthouse. We bought him a big bottle of orange soda and he refused to let us buy him any more food because he still had leftovers from the sandwich we bought him earlier in the day when he first had the episode.

We gave him 14 Birr. Apparently he rents a bed to sleep on at night for about 7 Birr a night (that’s about 45 cents). I tried calling several people I know here in Addis, but nobody had any immediate ideas about a place where a street kid could find help. We are still working on it.

I would like to say we were heroes, and saved the day, but at the END of the day, there wasn’t much else we could do but help him eat and rent a bed. SO frustrating. We tried meeting with him again today, to attempt to find him a better place to stay, but he never showed up.

Wow. It was a crazy day. And after all that, once we said goodbye to him, we had several children just like him walk up to us asking us for money and food. I have no answers for the questions and feelings that came up throughout everything we experienced yesterday. We felt so powerless, and so helpless. The only thing I know is that I am SO glad that we didn't pass him by.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Conflicting Emotions...

Today has been an emotional day.  As we’ve grown closer to the nannies, and as we grow closer to our babies, conflicting emotions are starting to sprout. 

Today I was in the twins’ room with Desta, their favorite nanny.  She was changing Eliana’s diaper (don’t worry, I do it too!  She’s just a LOT faster than me!), and then she asked me when we were taking Alex & Eliana.  She said, “One month?  Two month?”  I said, “No, in a few days.  We aren’t leaving Ethiopia for maybe another month or so, but the babies will leave the orphanage in a few days.”  With that she suddenly looked down at the ground, put her hands over her eyes, and then just left Eliana laying there, and left the room.  She was crying.  Then I started to cry.  It was awful. 

This 20 year old girl has watched over our little ones for the last 6 months, day and night.  She never stops playing with them.  She loves them so much.  And at this point, I’m pretty sure they love her more than anyone else (including wes and i).  When she comes into the room, their eyes light up, and big smiles spread across their faces.  In some ways, it is difficult to watch this on a daily basis.  I want so badly to be the one that makes them light up.  But at the same time I am so very grateful that they have been so cared for and loved throughout their time at the orphanage.  I can almost feel the ache she must be feeling, knowing that soon these children will no longer be a part of her daily life.

Beautiful Desta.  Alex & Eliana's favorite nanny.

As soon as Desta walked back into the room (after wiping away her tears), it was my turn to make an exit.  Tears were coming fast and furiously.  I walked out into the courtyard where Wes was sitting and chatting with another adoptive father (and our new friend!  We love you Kevin and Christina!).  I sat down on the bench next to him, pulled my glasses off,  and just started bawling.  I told him what had happened, and how I didn’t know how I was going to be able to take Alex & Eliana away from the people who have loved them so much every day for first several months of their lives.   It’s not that I don’t want to have them with me.  I’m so excited to have them with us 24/7.  It just hurts so much at the same time.  Does that make sense?

We weren’t sitting far from the manager’s office, and all of a sudden I hear, “Nina?  Nina?”  He walked out and wanted to know why I was so upset.  I think he was worried somebody had done something to me, or had upset me in some way.  I explained to him why I was crying, and he immediately understood.  He said that they loved the children so much, and that it was hard when they had to say goodbye.

Yeah, I love this place.  I love this journey.  But no matter how many times I have seen the gotcha day videos, or read blogs about these kinds of experiences, there is nothing that can prepare you for the gamut of emotions you will feel once it is your turn to experience it.  It is beautiful.  It is hard.  It is joyful.  It is painful.  But it is all so so worth it.

p.s.  Our case has been delayed once again.  This time only four more days.  It’s just how it goes here in Ethiopia sometimes.  There’s no point in freaking out about it.  If you do that, you’ll not only make yourself depressed, but you’ll make others depressed too.  I definitely don’t want to do that.  So with that said, we are doing really well, all things considered.  All you can do is go with the flow, and than ask God what He wants to teach you in the meanwhile.  There is so much to learn!

p.s.s.  For those of you with children at our orphanage, you may have heard that they are closing this location soon.  BUT…..let me reiterate that this will NOT affect any adoptions.  It is simply a budgetary thing, and has nothing to do with their license or anything else. All is well, and your babies are ALL well cared for.  They will simply be in a new location close by.  With all that said, and the main thing I ask prayer for is that the staff get to keep their jobs.  The children are fine!  ☺

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Up on the Mountain and Such...

Yesterday we did our first bit of sight seeing. It wasn’t anything big, but it got us out of the city. We had one of our drivers, Surafel (thank you, Sumer!), take us up to Mount Entoto. It’s a quick drive just outside the city, and at the top you can see all of Addis Abeba. We got out at one point, and just took a few shots with the camera. As we were standing up there and soaking the view in, many people passed by. We saw groups of people training for long-distance running (they must gain some super lung capacity here because of the high altitude). We had a couple of boys stop and talk to us who were carrying large bags on their heads. I asked one of the boys what it was for, and he said he was collecting kindling to sell down in the city. They were picking up dry leaves and little twigs. They looked to be anywhere from 10-13 years old. Apparently they walk all the way down the mountain to go sell those in the main city. We gave them a couple of granola bars, which they LOVED. We also saw the very common sight of women taking the long trek down the mountain carrying big heavy loads of mostly branches, also to sell in the city. You could tell it was a very heavy burden to bear. Apparently they make very little money from doing this. It’s quite sad actually. We gave several of them 10 birr, and they allowed us to take pictures. Aren’t they beautiful? Oh how I wish that burden could be lifted from them (in more ways than one!).

One of the boys collecting kindling.
These two are brothers working together.
Tree overlooking Addis.
Donkeys making their way to the city.
Amazing women with a burdensome job.

In the afternoon we headed over to see Alex & Eliana. As usual, they were sweet and content the entire time. They even had a little diaper-free time in their room. Let’s just say there was plenty of mopping done during that time. Just before we were about to leave, I was taking my usual couple of shots for the day when all of the nannies starting asking for pictures with our babies. Every single one of them wanted pictures of themselves with Alex & Eliana. They were having a blast posing with them. Just as I was wrapping up, and the twins had already been put back in their room, Desta, Alex & Eliana’s favorite nanny, motioned to me to come inside for a second. She was very excited. When I walked in, both Alex and Eliana were sitting side by side in one crib, just quietly playing with their toys together. It was SO sweet. You can tell Desta is madly in love with our babies. I don’t even want to imagine the day we take them from the orphanage. It’s going to be Niagara Falls for many of us.

Some of the wonderful nannies at our orphanage. Oh how I love them!

They love to laugh.
I can’t believe it’s February now. In six days (February 7th), we will find out if we pass court. Please be praying! Once we pass we will be able to have Alex and Eliana with us 24/7. AND we will debut their beautiful faces online for all to see! I can’t wait! As for Wes and I, we are doing great. Life doesn’t feel too different here. It’s just a little more difficult to get around since we don’t know all the best restaurants and hang-outs yet, and well…it is a slightly different culture. ☺ All in all, though, we can’t really complain. We have plenty of food to eat, we have a good bed to sleep in, and don’t really lack much. That’s not to say I don’t look forward to going home (whenever that may be). I miss my friends, and I miss the comforts of my own culture and home. But I feel like God is just taking really good care of us. For that I am SO thankful.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Nasty….

A post from Wes (from January 30)….

Tomorrow starts a one-week countdown to our court ruling, well to see if MOWA (Ministry of Women’s Affairs) has put positive comments on our case. We will have at least another 7 or 8 days of being 3-hour parents. So I ask that our blogging community be in prayer for us as we Hold Fast to His promise this week. He has brought us here; we are following the Our Shepherd as He orders our steps.

Today we got the chance to bless a couple, Steve and Amanda Bishop, with taking video and photos of their Meetcha Day. It was a very rough start to our morning, as our driver was a bit late. Dinknesh, the Illien liaison, had told us it was better to be early and we ended up being 30 minutes late. But…everyone else was a little late. The meeting didn’t’ start till 10:00am and we all met up and were all right on schedule.

Tsion orphanage has a lot of older kids and was located in a part of Addis that we had not been before. It may seem weird but it was much hotter there than on Bole or at our Enat Alem orphanage. When we arrived we were ushered in to the Director’s office, he wanted to make sure which family was meeting their children today…I guess our video camera and our Canon 5D camera were a bit confusing to him. After they sorted out the details that Amanda and Steve were the parents-to-be, we went to the front porch.

They ushered all the children out on the porch and lined them up. Now, I am not a professional videographer but I was making do with our small Canon HD handheld. The problem was I didn’t know which of the children was supposed to be the Bishop additions. Then I see two children break away and hug Steve and Amanda and I got my shot. It was something great to see in person and I hope it translates to the HD recording. I have no doubt that Nina got great shots, shots that the Bishops will have to relive this day for many years to come. There is nothing that can take the place of images of meeting your children for the first time.

We stayed with the Bishops for the next 3 hours to capture all that we could, so that no special moment would be forgotten. It was a 3-hours flurry of gifts, IPhone home-movies, photo albums, and broken English and even more broken Amharic (on our part, both the Bishops and the Mullins…we tried, as we got out our translation books and went to work. They loved us trying, and we got lots of laughs from the Children and Nannies). In a weird perchance, Steve actually got in to a conversation with one of the older boys who knew a little Spanish. An American from Utah, visiting Ethiopia, conversing in Spanish is just bizarre…but hey what ever works, right?! It was really cool just to see Steve and Amanda just loving on all the children, they seemed right at home. Steve had a group around him in a circle and Amanda had a circle around her. We were so happy just to be a part of it.

We ended the day in the courtyard kicking around a soccer ball; it was a nice way to wrap up our time. Oh, and I showed one of the older boys how to dribble a soccer ball like a basketball…I turn every ball into a basketball, it is the greatest sport ever invented!

Then we had lunch at Lime Tree, which is an awesome place to get good Pizza and a Good Cheeseburger. Also they give part of their earnings to help feed children, so it is a good meal and a good cause! After that we went to see our little ones at Enat Alem.

It was weird seeing them so late in the day, at 3:00pm instead of 10:00am. Alex and Eliana were a little crunchy (your welcome Brandon and Lisa) today. They were so tired and so fussy. After a few minutes Desta, one of Alex and Eliana’s favorite Nannies, fixed some Rice Cereal. Alex flat tore it up. I mean I was shoveling it in and he was slurping it down. It probably took about 3 minutes for him to eat his portion. Then Desta took some of Eliana’s (she is having trouble eating it, she needs really small bites) and after that fixed him some more. It was like the Rice Cereal Monster.

But we have BREAKING NEWS!! Alex is getting his two top teeth…and Eliana is getting her FIRST!!! So the Crunchy-ness and fussing was probably due to teething.

The cutest thing that happened is that Alex cried to come to me today, a few times, the bad news is one of those times Nina was holding him. He is definitely a Daddy’s boy.

The other News is that Both Alex and Eliana had really bad Duces today! That is they went number 2, well it was more like 1 ¾! It was so funny!! Eliana was sleeping and we had laid Alex down to try and get him to shut his eyes, so we gave him a bottle. Then I hear the “Glurrr, spurrrrrtt, Glurrrr, ppbblt…” and it went one for a while. It was a guaranteed gross-out diaper change. Then as if in harmony Eliana wakes up and I hear the same noises coming from her bed. Alex was pretty bad, but Eliana was down right epic!!! It was so bad she needed a bath!! Ahh, sharing poop stories over the Internet; I really feel like a true parent.

We ended that night with some Ramen Noodle and Pepsi! And yes I did eat another Snicker’s bar…what am I supposed to do? They are sitting right on the shelf in plain sight. I would like for everyone to know that I did last almost 2 weeks before I ate the first one.

Tomorrow we are going hiking and then in the afternoon, going to punch the clock at Enat Alem, for our 3-hour shift. One more week! ONE MORE WEEK!

Wesley Out!

The children all got bracelets and little geckos made by
Steve & Amanda's children in the U.S. They loved them!

Apparently, some puppy pets do exist! This one was at the orphanage. Although this cute pup's poor mother was left chained up, growling at passers-by.

I followed one of these rules. Can you guess which one?

This boy and his brother really wanted us to come back the next day (they are so sweet! And they need a family!). They loved playing ball with Wes. Most Ethiopians aren't too familiar with basketball. Wes will use any kind of ball to teach the game.  :)