Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy 1st Birthday Mikias!

I am so far behind with updating this blog with so many of the things we've had going on the last few weeks (meeting with the Norris', Thanksgiving, Mikias' birthday party, etc.), but I definitely wanted to make a point of wishing our little boy a Happy Birthday. It's so amazing to think that we posted a 1/2 Birthday message on here just six months ago...and we hadn't even met Mikias yet!! What an unbelievable 1st year this has been for Mikias. It's hard not to think of what he was doing and who he was with one year ago during the first hours of his life. We feel so blessed to now be his parents.

We celebrated a little bit tonight with Mikias...and as you can see from the videos and picture he celebrated a lot!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

It isn't hard to figure out what we are most thankful for this year. Mikias has added so much to our lives that it is difficult to think about what we did before he was part of our family. For that, we are grateful.

Of course, I am also thankful for "our new normal". Recently, I returned back to work. Although it was extremely difficult to take Mikias to daycare for the first time, I have learned once again why I am working. It has been fun being back with my students in my classroom, despite the ridiculously difficult new Algebra curriculum that all of my 8th grade students are expected to take. Benjamin and I have worked out a decent daily schedule which still allows for plenty of Mikias time. It has still been a bit of a balancing act, but for the most part has seemed to fall into place.

One thing I would like to expand on was my experience with taking Mikias to daycare. Wow, I was not prepared for that one! We had been so focused on attaching to him that it didn't occur to me how difficult it would be to "let up and let go" a little. I do believe as I walked away the first day, I didn't even make it to the car without sobbing. My conversation on the phone with my sister went something like..."I dropped Mikias" (and I was trying to say at daycare, but was crying too hard). She responded "why are you calling me, call a doctor!". Of course, she soon found out I didn't physically drop Mikias but had taken him to daycare.

After some encouraging words and some better days at daycare, Mikias and I soon adapted to our new routine. Now, he enjoys going and I love peeking in on him right before I pick him up. It is in those moments before he sees me, where I am most proud of him and most grateful to his birth mother. First, because I am amazed by Mikias' resiliency. In his first year of life he has adapted so well to a variety of situations that I know there is nothing in his lifetime he won't be able to face. Second, I am so thankful for the opportunity to be part of his life. I have never felt love so deeply before which again makes the argument that "blood' has very little to do with family. Finally, I am so appreciative towards his birth mother who has so selflessly and even more difficultly "let up and let go" so that our son has a chance for a good life and we have been given the opportunity to peek in on him as he goes about his daily happenings.

For these reasons and many more it is indeed a happy thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Walking man

Our boy is definitely on the move now. It was kind of odd to see him waddle in to the kitchen tonight when we were making dinner. He's still a bit unsteady, but I'm guessing he'll be an expert in no time.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Halloween and the turtle

I just had to post a couple pictures of Mikias dressed as a turtle for Halloween. We took him to a few neighbors' houses, but mostly just to show him off. He was definitely more interested in watching all the other kids in the neighborhood in their costumes. Joanna's parents and Rick & Caroline came over so Elizabeth and Sarah did a little Mikias was able to play with his cousins all night.

It was an up and down week for day care. We took Mikias 4 days this week and things improved every day. Actually, today he was there for the entire day and did very well...he even took a nap!! This is a big deal because the caregivers couldn't get him to take a nap there all week until today. He has been fine all week when I drop him off but it seems like he's just so used to having someone give him 100% attention all day (either from Joanna or me), that it was a little hard to adjust at first. Joanna is back to work on Monday so hopefully things continue to improve.

In the last couple days, Mikias has been taking a few small steps on his own. His record is 7 so far, but I'm sure he'll be running all over the house in no time!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Autumn Happenings

I am lagging way behind in providing updates on here. It seems that we've been very busy lately. The last few weekends have been pretty booked up for us. A couple weeks ago, the three of us went up to my grandparents' house (they no longer live there) in Gaylord. It was a very relaxing weekend. It was nice to get away from home for a few days. Basically, we just hung out, played, watched movies, and did some hiking. Every time we go up there I wonder why we don't take the trip more often. There will probably be snow on the ground next time we are there, but I'm happy we were able to enjoy some fall weather too.

Last Saturday, we got together with some of my friends (and their children) and went to a Harvest Festival at a local farm. Although we arrived a little late in the day, we were still able to jump on a hayride and see a lot of the farm animals. I think next year we'll definitely go a lot earlier in the day so we can take advantage of all the activities. It would be cool if we could make this a yearly tradition because it really was a lot of fun.

And then on Sunday we went with Caroline, Rick, their two girls, and the Karwan parents out to a cider mill/apple orchard in Armada that had a lot of activities for kids. Mikias definitely liked hanging out with his cousins. It was amazing how warm of a day it was considering it was mid-October. Overall, this was a very fun (and very long) day.

Needless to say, I think we've fully exposed Mikias to a complete "autumn experience".

In other news, Joanna is about one week away from returning to work. She took Mikias into his daycare on Thursday to try it out while she went to a few meetings at school. Unfortunately, Mikias did not have a very good day. He was fussy the entire time Joanna was gone and the caregivers had a hard time getting him to eat. I'm sure this is just because this is an unfamiliar environment, so hopefully things get better. We plan on taking him a few more times next week for a shorter amount of time to get him more comfortable.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Monday, October 8, 2007


Last week, Thursday, Mikias and I drove across the state to Battle Creek. We met up with other AAI families who are adopting, or have adopted, from Ethiopia. Many of the faces were familiar as we had met some earlier in the year. However, these faces were also all a glow as many of them are now waiting on court dates and the go ahead to bring their children home.

One face in particular was very exciting to see. Seth Kidus, Deanna and James' son, was part of the crowd. It was very fun to watch Mikias and Seth play next to each other. Although they did not run into each other's arms, it was still exciting to know that the two of them have a connection longer than either of our families do with our son. Seth is only 3 weeks older than Mikias and we are hoping that this past meeting is only the beginning of a continuation of a relationship that started many months and miles ago.

In other news, this past weekend, we went down to Fort Wayne to visit Alison and Tom. It was fun watching Mikias interact with their dog, Motts. It was also very funny how the words used to communicate with a dog and a crawling infant can overlap. There were many times where the two of them were crawling around or chasing each other. Good times had by all!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Baptism Day

Mikias was baptized on Sunday. What a great day it was. Everything worked out so wonderfully...from the church service to the family party. It just seemed like everything fell into place perfectly. Most of our family and friends were able to come to the church service. It was very cool to have everyone in church with us. Actually, I think half of the congregation at that service on Sunday morning were there for Mikias. Our friends Heather and Jerome are Mikias' godparents. Both Joanna and I wore the traditional Ethiopian clothing that we purchased in Addis Ababa in June. Mikias also wore a traditional outfit. It was important to us to incorporate the Ethiopian culture in the day's celebration.

Afterwards, we had everyone back to our house for lunch. Luckily, we had very good weather on Sunday so everyone was able to hang out in the backyard and enjoy the afternoon. We were able to have Ethiopian food (injera, etc.) for lunch thanks to the Blue Nile in Ferndale. Joanna talked to the cook there and, even though they don't typically do catering or carry-out, the cook went out of his way to make a bunch of food for us. It was awesome. When we went to pick up the food on Saturday I thought that there was no way we'd be able to eat all the injera (there was a huge pile of it). But, all of our family and friends really seemed to enjoy the food because we didn't have much left at the end of the day. Of course there were a few leftovers but Joanna and I have already finished that off. We also had special cupcakes made for the occasion with the Ethiopian flag colors.

For most of the day we just hung out with everyone and watched all the kids play in our backyard. Overall, we were so happy with how everything went.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Not too much new in our world. Mikias is still crawling all over the place and occasionally takes a stroll using his "walker". I've been negligent in getting gates put up, so he is really requiring a lot of attention when he explores things on his own. He's had a runny nose all week. We thought it was because he was teething, but then I got a runny nose too...and I'm pretty sure I'm not teething. So, we've both got mild colds. Joanna has been able to avoid it so far.

Other than that, we're doing some prepping for Mikias' baptism on Sunday. We're planning on having all of our family for lunch after church. Luckily, it's going to be a nice day. We don't have a good cold-weather party house. Not enough room inside. One of these days I'll get to finishing the basement and the problem will be solved.

A few weeks ago, a reporter from our local paper came out to interview us about the adoption process. Our adoption agency was in touch with them. With November being National Adoption Month, the agency wanted to see if the paper would be interested in doing a story on us. The article was just published last week. It's ok...although I'm not thrilled about being quoted in reference to Angelina Jolie and Madonna. Of all the things they asked about, they choose to put this in the story! Oh's the article.

Parents Choose Adoption Option - Oxford Leader

Thursday, September 20, 2007

On the move in a whole new way

Just wanted to share a quick video of Mikias from today. He's really progressing fast! He just crawled for the first time a few weeks ago. He went back and forth across the room like this quite a few times.

Mikias' teeth have really been bothering him for the past week too. He's getting close to breaking through a few more. He has been waking up a lot in the middle of the night so I think he's in a bit of pain...nothing some Tylenol can't help. Hopefully, that will be over in a few days.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Night Out

This past weekend we finally took our parents to The Blue Nile, an Ethiopian restaurant in Ferndale, to thank them for all of their help since we've been home from Ethiopia. Actually, our intention was to do this before we traveled in June, but things got too crazy and we never made it. On Saturday we went and everyone really enjoyed the food and atmosphere. Joanna and I had gone to this same place on New Years Eve this past year, but this time we noticed so many little things around the restaurant that reminded us of our trip. Unfortunately, the owners were in Ethiopia for the millennium celebration so we weren't able to talk to them. My aunt and uncle babysat Mikias so it was good to have an adult outing. Overall, it was a very fun time.

Here is Mikias' latest trick. He's certainly keeping us busy now!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Happy New Year - Y2K all over again

Today the McKinney Family welcomed Ethiopia to the year 2000! Who knew we would celebrate the millennium with our son. Story

Wikipedia - Ethiopian New Year

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

On the move

This past weekend we took the long trip down to West Virginia to see my grandma and introduce her to Mikias. Actually, we were long overdue for a visit down there anyways and luckily we didn't have any plans for the weekend. I don't think I've ever seen my grandma so excited about something before. I think she was anticipating our arrival all last week and went out of her way to make sure we had everything for Mikias once we arrived. Joanna and I were a bit concerned about the long drive (6 hours), but we tried to time our drives with Mikias' naps and that seemed to work well. Joanna did spend some time in the back seat entertaining him for a while.

It was a very relaxing weekend. We took a few walks and did a bit of swimming (especially Mikias!). Other than that, we just hung out, played, and napped all day long. It was kind of nice not having all the "responsibilities" of home hanging over our heads.

While we were there, Mikias decided he would crawl for the first time! He has been on the verge of crawling for about a week now, but he finally figure everything out and crawled across my grandma's kitchen. Needless to say, we really need to a little baby-proofing around our house now that he is out exploring everything.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

These kids go way back

Tomorrow is travel day to Ethiopia! Not for us of course...but for the Norris family. We met Deanna and James back in May at a dinner for families adopting from Ethiopia. At the time we had both just recently received our referrals. So, now, after a long summer of waiting, Deanna , James, and their daughter Taylor are leaving tomorrow to pick up Kidus.

Kidus and Mikias go way back. From what we understand, they both started out at the Adera Orphanage in Debre Zeit and then were brought at the same time to the Adera Orphanage in Addis Ababa. We actually had the pleasure of meeting Kidus when we picked up Mikias in June. The picture below is of Mikias and Kidus hanging out in Addis.

We actually were able to get together with the Norris family this past weekend. I hope we were helpful in answering some questions they had about travel. It's so exciting that the next time we see them we'll be able to reunite the two boys. We wish them the safest of travels and hope that they enjoy the experience of Ethiopia.

We know that so many people enjoyed reading this blog while we were in Ethiopia. Here's a link to the Norris' blog. Hopefully, they'll also be updating this during their trip.

Monday, August 20, 2007

How did August 10th become August 20th?

WOW! The days are moving along! It is hard to believe that the summer of 07 is almost over. Sigh!

The McKinney family is moving along just as quick as the summer. We have been enjoying our days together and most recently had a "welcome shower" for Mikias. Yes, the celebration continues. Benjamin's parents and Aunt put together a nice gathering in honor of Mikias' arrival. It was fun to have Mikias at a baby shower for him. He was passed around, hugged, kissed and loved the whole time. He received many nice gifts which included his entire winter wardrobe. Did I say how cute these little boys clothes are? We really appreciated the effort put in by Benjamin's family for this day. It was, yet again, another day to remember.

This past weekend we took a short, but much needed, family vacation. Being that our first trip of the summer involved getting our family, this one was much more relaxing. We spent the weekend Up North at Benjamin's grandparents house on Heart Lake in Waters. We hung out around the house, took a family nap, read, played basketball, went to the park and Ben & Mikias took a dip in the lake. Mikias loved the water. He laughed and splashed the whole time. It was so much fun!

Friday, August 10, 2007

For the past 11 days Benjamin was on a road trip for work. During this time Mikias and I packed our days. This was my strategy for "dealing with" the absence of Benjamin. We visited cousins Elizabeth & Sarah, played with friends Ethan and Caleb and had a slumber party with pals Collin and Rylie. We had frequent visits with both Grandmas and Grandpas. We saw great-grandparents. We hung out with my friends. We went to church just the two of us. We went out to lunch. We shopped at Target (more than once). Today we went to a park where approximately 50 parents and students met Mikias. So, although it was difficult not having Benjamin here, we did well and I gained some valuable confidence along the way. Attached are some snapshots that capture the week.

In other Mikias news, Benjamin and I are just amazed how far Mikias has come since bringing him home almost 2 months ago. When he first came home we weren't even able to put him down by himself and now he is at the point of almost crawling. He is just working on getting that last leg out from underneath him. The newness hasn't worn off one bit. We still find ourselves saying "he is so damn cute". At the same time we are eager for the nights in which he makes it all the way through asleep. In the meantime, we just enjoy!

The following are links to a few stories that our adoption agency covered on our experience should you be interested. The Ethiopia program has gained substantial interest and we are fortunate to be able to help others as they begin their process. We are scheduled to speak at an informational meeting at the end of August. It is amazing what doors open when you open your life.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Away from home...and missing it

First of all, our short camping trip over the weekend went very well. It's amazing how well Mikias takes to the outdoors. Once we got him to sleep, we simply put him in his stroller and he slept the entire time we were sitting around the campfire. He even did a great job sleeping in the pack-and-play in the tent too. Of course he did wake up a few times during the night but that has become normal for us. One thing I do know is that we need a little bit larger tent...there wasn't a lot of room to spare. We went camping with some of my friends from high school in honor of Rich's 30th birthday (sorry that I had to mention that, Rich). They all have kids now too and it was cool to see them all interact with each other. We actually got a really good picture of the kids that I'll have to post later on. The reason I can't do it now is....

I'm on a trip for work right now and not at home with my family. I'm in Phoenix and will be driving around the Southwest US for the next 1-1/2 weeks testing vehicles in hot weather...yipee. This really kind of stinks. Actually, the work is very interesting and I do enjoy it, but right now I'd much rather be home. It was crazy how much harder it was for me to leave for the airport Monday morning when I knew that I was leaving Mikias. In the back of my mind I'm thinking that maybe he won't recognize me when I return or that I'll miss some real big milestone while I'm gone. I already know he'll have more teeth when I get back. I also feel bad about having Joanna completely take on Mikias 24/7. It definitely makes it a little easier when there are two of us around. I guess the good thing is that this is the only work trip I'll likely have this year. I had four trips last year.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

On track

The last few days we've been able to turn the corner (hopefully) with Mikais' sleeping schedule. The past three nights he's been able to go through the night without us having to feed him. This is definitely some good progress. Of course, we're still getting up to sooth him a few times a night but it hasn't been too bad.

On Saturday we took Mikias to get blood drawn for some tests that were recommended by our pediatrician and the adoption agency. We thought we'd be in and out pretty quickly but it turned out to be a bit more of an ordeal than we were expecting. The nurse that was drawing his blood had a difficult time locating a good vein to use. She tried digging at his left arm with the needle for a couple minutes before giving up and moving on to the other arm. This was very hard to watch since Mikias was screaming at the top of his lungs the entire time. Luckily there was a bit more sucess with the other arm. Hopefully we won't have to do that again any time soon. It was 10 times worse than watching him get his shots.

We also had a lot of Joanna's family over on Saturday to celebrate her mom's birthday. It was fun having everyone over. We're still in the honeymoon phase where people don't mind driving all the way out to our house to see us. This will probably wear out fairly soon and we'll have to take the Mikias show on the road.

Today we set up our tent in the backyard in preparation for next weekend's camping trip. We wanted to see if we could fit the pack-and-play and our sleeping bags. It looks like it will work! I can't wait to see how the boy likes camping.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A lot of firsts

I realize that it has been way too long since Joanna and I have posted anything on here. I often look at all of our postings from a month ago and think that there is no way that any given day now will ever compare to all of our experiences in Ethiopia. I guess maybe that's why I've been absent from this blog for a few weeks. But, the reality is that our life has definitely been interesting lately. There are so many new things that have become part of our everyday lives. Late-night feedings, changing diapers, play time, naps, and walks around the neighborhood are the norm now. I guess that means we're parents!
It has been so great introducing Mikias to so many of our family members and friends. We've had a lot of visitors in the past few weeks and Mikias is really great with handling all these new faces. It's been especially neat to see other children interact with him. We are so grateful for all the people that have stopped by our house or called to check up on us. Actually, during the first couple weeks we were home these little visits or conversations were the best. They gave Joanna and I a little bit of time to chat with people and discuss our trip...and (to be honest) gave us a chance to take a breath while someone else held Mikias for a few minutes.
It's funny how even the most mundane everyday tasks seemed to have a little more excitement to them. For instance the "first time we took Mikias to church" or "the first time we took Mikias grocery shopping" or "the first time we took Mikias through the car wash". Also, we've taken him to a wedding and we've got our first camping trip planned in a couple weeks. It's kind of like we're introducing Mikias to our lives. He's always so good and takes all the new experiences in stride.
Overall, everything is going great. Our routine is much more manageable. We're getting slightly more sleep. Mikias is healthy and happy...and growing quickly. We're all having a lot of fun.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Home By 7 Months

I remember before we received the court date, Benjamin and I were hoping that we would have have him home by his 7 month. We do! It is today!

The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a blur. We still have many moments where we look at Mikias and then at each other and can't believe he is really here. When you have an idea in your mind for so long, it is hard to change that idea into a living being. Well, until he cries.

He is gradually getting adjusted. We have been able to get him off his every 2 hour feeding from the orphanage to a more normal (for us) every 4 hour suck-a-thon. We think his ear infection is gone. His snots definitely are. He is not going to bed at 2 in the afternoon anymore. While all of these are good things, it is also weird to know that some of his characteristics of Africa are leaving. It is comforting to know he is more on our schedule but at the same time sad knowing that his "Africa time schedule" is gone. He no longer regularly sees people whose skin matches his. I no longer smell Africa on him. Instead, we are beginning to define a new normal for him and us which includes still trying to figure most everything out.

I am enjoying this time of transition but am saddened by already forgetting things of Ethiopia. Our pictures show some things, but can't replace vivid images. Our clothes have long been washed (yet, not put away) erasing the smell. However, I still can't bring myself to wash his socks from the orphanage. Every once in awhile I still open the plastic bag and smell a pretty distinct scent. We still have a chair of "stuff" we brought back and can't find the time to put somewhere. Yet, this is also comforting to have so I can pick things up and imagine where we were at when we purchased it.

I hope we raise him well. I hope we can replay enough of Ethiopia into our lives that he feels connected to his birth country. And although I know he will soon be a typical American toddler, I hope we can instill enough into our lifestyle for him to be defined as an Ethiopian American toddler.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Settling in

The last couple days have mostly involved Joanna and I trying to get Mikias into some sort of schedule. We're still trying to adjust his eating and sleeping to something a little more manageable. We think he's still adjusting to the time change a bit too. Today we think we were pretty successful in spreading out his feedings and minimizing his lengthy naps. We'll see if everything works out tonight and he sleeps a little more consistently.

Yesterday Mikias had his appointment with the pediatrician. Being first time parents, this appointment was extremely helpful to us. Overall, Mikias is in very good health and is progressing developmentally quite well. Unfortunately, because of his ongoing cold, he now has an ear infection. This is the likely cause of some of his fussiness. Some antibiotics should take care of this.

Since his arrival in the US on Saturday, Mikias has been gradually meeting some of our friends and family and getting to know them a little better. It has also been great touching base with some people to begin telling our stories and sharing some of our pictures and video. We hope to continue to do this in the coming days and weeks.

It's felt a little strange to us pushing a stroller around the neighborhood or having a car seat in our vehicle. The feeling is a bit surreal. This whole experience has been almost like a dream. What an adventure it has been...but this is only the beginning!

Monday, June 18, 2007

We're back

Everything on the trip back from Ethiopia went relatively well. Of course we were packing our stuff at the guesthouse up until the last possible minute, but we got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. While we were checking in for the flight we noticed a lot of other Americans that had Ethiopian children with them. It turns out that there were five other couples who were traveling together to pick up their adopted children. They were all working with an adoption agency in Minnesota. That made us feel a little more at ease that we would be enduring this marathon flight with other people in the same situation.
In a nutshell, Mikias was awesome on the 17 hour flight from Addis to Washington DC. We were so lucky that we had a bulkhead seat with a bassinet. He slept a lot and when he was awake he was very content and playful. We made sure he was feeding on the ascents and descents and it worked like a charm. He was fussy a few times, but it was nothing that a couple laps around the plane didn't take care of. He got the attention of a lot of the passengers...probably because he is so darn cute. When we arrived in DC we thought that a 4-hour layover meant we'd have plenty of time to walk around and grab some lunch. We were definitely wrong. We had to go through customs, collect our luggage, go through immigration, recheck our luggage, check in for our next flight, go back through security, and find the gate. This left Joanna and I with about 5 minutes to eat a quick snack and left Mikias a little overwhelmed. When we got on the plane bound for Detroit he let loose. The a/c wasn't working on the plane and it was like an oven. He was drenched with sweat and I was soaked too. He screamed at the top of his lungs for the first 30 minutes of the flight. The a/c started working again and he finally fell asleep...whew.
Seeing all of our family and friends at the airport on Saturday afternoon was unbelievable. They all had signs and flags. It was very emotional. We dressed Mikias in a traditional Ethiopian outfit to meet everyone. It was great that so many people took the time to drive all the way to the airport to see us for only 30 minutes or so. It was cool because there were so many children there...nieces and nephews and family friends. All the kids were so excited to see Mikias and welcome him to his new home. One of my good friends took video of the whole thing so I'm anxious to relive it through that. After collecting our luggage (except one piece that I still haven't received yet), our parents drove us back home.
Once we arrived home we discovered that our family had signs waiting for us there too complete with a "Finish Line" on our driveway. More importantly, they had cleaned our entire house and prepared several meals for us. This has helped a ton. Mikias seemed to be really overwhelmed by everything and we had a hard time settling him down once we got home. Joanna and I were really sad about this because we realize how unfamiliar everything is to him...the people, the surroundings, the language, the smells. We were going through our suitcases trying to find anything (a toy he had played with in Ethiopia or clothes he had worn) that would help him feel a little more secure. Joanna finally walked around outside with him for a while and that seemed to help. Of course the 7-hour time difference was probably having its affect on him too.
Since we've been home our moms have helped out by staying the night and allowing Joanna and I to get some much needed sleep. It will still probably take a few days to get our bodies back on schedule, but we feel a lot better. We're still trying to get Mikias on schedule too, but that has been a bit more difficult. We have an appointment with the pediatrician tomorrow so hopefully they can help us figure out formula and feeding and all that stuff. We're still using formula we purchased in Ethiopia but that is quickly running out. His sleep schedule is also a bit messed up but I'm sure that will straighten itself out in the coming weeks.
For now we're still trying to unpack and settle in to our new family life. It is for sure much easier to do all this here than it was in Ethiopia.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Goodbye Ethiopia, Hello USA!

Today starts our long trip back to the States. We are very excited to be heading home. Of course we’re a little anxious about the plane ride, but we’ll probably be just fine.

This morning we finally met Kurt, our adoption consultant, who arrived at the guesthouse late last night. It was kind of a strange feeling telling him about our stay in Ehtiopia and giving him some tips since he was the one we’ve turned to for answers during this whole process. This is his first time in Ethiopia and his first time meeting Alemu. He is here to visit new and existing AAI-affiliated orphanages and he will also be escorting a child back to the US next week.

After a lengthy conversation with Kurt this morning, Alemu took us to the US Embassy to pick up Mikias’ passport. That was a very quick visit. We were also given a sealed envelope that can only be opened by US Customs in DC when we arrive. This contains copies of all the final adoption decrees and other “official” papers. We sure hope all the correct documents are inside! Following the Embassy, we did some last minute shopping for gifts. Our intention was to get 18 gifts for Mikias’ first 18 birthdays. We did pretty well although Alemu could not assist with the negotiations so we’re not sure we got the absolute best deal.

We will now spend the afternoon packing and getting our things in order for our departure tonight. We need to be at the airport at 7pm to check in for our 10pm flight. We’re not really excited that we have to be there so early, but it is a small price to pay for starting our trip home.

Thank you everyone who left words of encouragement in comments and emails to us. They have definitely helped us during this trying but rewarding week. We look so forward to sharing all of our stories and experiences with you. Our next post on here will likely be from home!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Success at the Embassy

Last night was better than the night before. Mikias slept well except for a 2-hour span from 2am – 4am when he was wide awake and crying. It seems like his nasal congestion is really giving him problems. Ben ended up holding him upright for an hour, so he could get some sleep. Hopefully, we can get this cleared up before tomorrow night’s flight. We’re very anxious about that flight. We just hope he doesn’t end up screaming for 17 hours all the way back to the U.S.

This morning we were able to talk to both of our parents on the phone. Alemu had given us a cell phone that we purchased some prepaid minutes for. So, the grandparents were able to hear Mikias for the first time. It was mostly crying for Joanna’s parents, but Ben’s parents got to hear some laughing and squealing. For us it was great to hear some familiar voices, if only for a few minutes.

Our only event for today was to attend our Embassy appointment at 1pm. Getachew (our power of attorney here in Ethiopia) took us for our appointment and we were a little late getting there because of some traffic. We were required to bring Mikias along too. This was the first time he has left the guest house compound since we brought him here from the orphanage on Friday. The whole process was pretty easy actually. We had to present some of the documents that we had filled out. Some immigration forms and U.S. tax returns were also required. After this we paid the visa fee and then had a short interview. Really the interview was only a few basic questions and took just a couple minutes. Success!! We were very excited that this went so smoothly. We just have to return to the Embassy in the morning to pick up Mikias’ passport and we should be good to go. Alemu told us later that he was a bit concerned about our appointment today because this is the first adoption AAI had done where the birthmother was known. He wasn’t sure if this would cause any issues. I’m glad he kept his concerns to himself and that everything turned out well.

This afternoon has been uneventful as we’ve spent the entire time around the guesthouse. We are beginning to pack our things up a bit. We also had the opportunity to present gifts to Getachew, Gizesh, and Hiwot for the help they have given us for the past week. Tonight Alemu is picking Kurt up from the airport so we expect to finally meet our adoption consultant this evening. It’s funny that we have to fly halfway around the world to meet him.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to also do some last minute shopping, but we’ll probably spend most of the day “prepping” ourselves and Mikias for the plane trip back home.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Not a normal day at all

After we posted last night, we thought we had had a very nice and balanced day. That changed. Last night Mikias woke up at about 2am and we could not get him to stop crying. He would not take his bottle. He doesn’t know how to use a pacifier. (We have been able to get him to suck on an empty bottle nipple a few times.) It was awful and all we wanted to do was call someone (home) to find out what to do. Eventually, it got pretty bad and so Alemu suggested that we take him to the clinic.

Earlier in the week, when we picked Mikias up from the orphanage he did have a runny nose. So, all along we have suspected that some of his colic behavior was related to this. We noticed last night he couldn’t take the bottle because he couldn’t breathe. On top of that he was dead tired and really hungry. This is the point where we weren’t having fun anymore. It was difficult.

So, last night at 4am Alemu drove all of us to the local clinic. Our conversation prior to leaving went something like this “Bring all of our Ethiopian and US dollars, we are going to a developing country’s clinic.” It was not a good feeling. We were able to see the doctor pretty soon after we arrived, and he basically told us that Mikias was really congested. Luckily, his congestion is mostly in his sinuses and not his chest. We talked to the doctor about our concern about the flight home. In Ethiopia they do not give decongestants to children under one. The best he could tell us to do was to mix salt and water and place the drops into Mikias’ nose to help break up the congestion and then use the aspirator to clean it out. (We like this alternative better than the house maid who sucked out Mikias’ nose and spit it out - no, seriously)

After all was said and done, we were finally able to get him to breathe easier. We fed him a bottle and he fell asleep. This was somewhere around 6am. We were so exhausted mentally and physically at this point. We commented about how if we were at home we could just call our moms. It was difficult to be cut off from that.

After 2 hours of sleep, we heard banging at our window. Alemu was outside. He had received a phone call from the orphanage saying they had found the birthmother and that she would be at the orphanage until 10am. Of course, we sprang from the bed, threw some clothes on, ate on the run and began the 40 kilometer drive to Debre Zeit. We had to leave Mikias with the house care, which was also difficult. We have developed a relationship with these women and trust them though.

As we approached Debre Zeit, we tried to take video of the area. This is the area where Henock was born and lived at the beginning of his life. It was very similar to most of the villages we have seen this far. However, viewing it was different. It was hard not to think about what Mikias’ life would have been like when you know he is at a guest house in Addis preparing to come to the States with us.

Meeting the birthmother, Tizita, was an absolute wonderful and a moving experience. We were able to videotape our more than 20 minute conversation with her and felt a connection right away. She was able to, through translation, answer for us and more importantly, Mikias, questions about her life, her family and her situation. We also told her about us and gave her the opportunity to ask us any questions. We are extremely grateful for this conversation. At one point, she did tell us that we had her and the Lord’s blessing and that she considered us her family…unbelievable.

We were able to tour this orphanage as well. This was the orphanage that Henock was brought to by Tizita. It is connected with the one in Addis where we originally picked him up. Leaving Debre Zeit was difficult. Leaving Tizita was also difficult. We embraced for a long time. As we went to leave, she came back to the car and hugged me again. I will never forget that moment.

On our long drive back to Addis we were able to stop at another orphanage that Adoption Associates works with. We had saved half of our donations to deliver here and had packed them in a hurry this morning. This orphanage is relatively new and is much bigger than the other two we have seen. There were so many children. One section housed children ages 2 -10 and the other infants up to 2. We spent some time visiting the children and talking with the director. He was extremely grateful for all of the donations. He said at one point, that he found it “very encouraging”. Obviously, this was another wonderful and enriching experience.

Once we finally arrived back at the guest house it was nearly 2:30pm. We were more than exhausted. It was an extremely draining day. Thankfully, the women watched Mikias for a few more hours so that we could get some sleep. After our nap, we were/are still pretty exhausted, but had such a fulfilling day that we can’t complain. We were able to play and care for Mikias tonight and have already fed him twice. We are hoping all will go smoothly.

We hope tomorrow will be quieter. It is Embassy Day and one that will end with an entrance visa to the USA for Mikias. We received his pretty darn cute passport and birth certificate today, so we are on our way.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Another day in Addis Ababa

Today was a very well balanced day. Not too rushed like some of the days have been. This morning started out a little rough (again). Mikias’ woke up at 4:30am and refused to go back to sleep. He was in a very good mood but both of us were so exhausted from the all the excitement of the last few days that we were not much in the mood for playing with him that early in the morning. We finally got him to go back to sleep around 7am so we slept as well…right through breakfast.

Most of the morning was spent at the guest house just hanging out and relaxing a bit. Alemu and Ben took a quick trip to the Ethiopian Airlines office to confirm our tickets for Friday’s flight. We were able to secure a front seat with a fold-down bassinette for Mikias. Big sigh of relief. The best news came when Gizesh (a guest house worker) turned the faucet in the bathroom and water came out!! This immediately made the rest of the day much easier. We will never take water for granted again.

This afternoon we hit the town with Alemu again. He took us to another market area because we were interested in purchasing some fabric. This market was much less chaotic than the Merkato and we got some great deals (with Alemu’s help of course). We discovered that children had been yelling “white person!” in Amharic at us as we drove down the street. Alemu finally clued us in on that one.

Then we stopped at the University Museum at Addis Ababa University. This was a great experience and we highly recommend this to all families making the trip here for upcoming adoptions. We learned a great deal about Ethiopian history and customs. The tour guide we had was very knowledgeable. This helped us understand a lot about the country and we hope to share some of this with Mikias when he grows up.

We made it home before today’s large rainstorm. This seems to occur in the afternoon every day now. We spent some more time at the guesthouse enjoying Mikias. We finally got our first family picture taken today. We realized that no one had taken a picture of the three of us since we got Mikias. Also, Joanna learned how to wrap Mikias to her back (see picture). This is a very common way to carry babies here. Gizesh and Hewot were able to help Joanna out a lot.

This evening we went with Alemu to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant about 20 minutes from here. It was fantastic traditional food and entertainment. We have had injera (Ethiopian bread) a few times in Michigan, but that was nothing like the injera here. This was much better. Throughout the entire meal there were various dances performed that represented the various regions of Ethiopia. Some of the dancing was simply unbelievable. We ended up recording quite a bit of video.

We are still trying to meet Mikias (Henock’s) birthmother while we are in the country. The orphanage director is trying to locate her but was unsuccessful today. We are hoping that she is located and we can meet her before we leave. When we do meet her we will travel to Debre Zeyt, just south of Addis. We will also have the opportunity to visit the orphanage in this town where Henock was originally brought. This all may happen as early as tomorrow.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Merkato Madness. No water, no problem

Today was an interesting day as well. The new twist on things is that we woke up this morning and learned that there was no water at the guest house. Apparently, the surrounding area has been without water for a few days, but we just learned of it today since the guest house has a large water reserve tank that we were using. Ironically, there was a very large rainstorm today that allowed the house cook and maid to collect and then boil for everyone’s use. Alemu said that this has never happened since he has lived here…just our luck I guess. Our hiccup was Mikias deciding to pee all over himself and we had no way of giving him a bath because it was before the rainstorm. We improvised and those of you who will see our video will see firsthand the humor in this situation.

Nonetheless, we had a great day. In the morning, Alemu took us to the Merkato which is the largest open-air market in Africa. It was wild. It was basically like the market we visited yesterday multiplied by 20. Many more people, congestion, and sellers. We were interested in buying some clothing and little gifts, so Alemu took us to several vendors. Luckily he was there because every transaction involved some sort of heated argument about pricing. I think we ended up with some good deals thanks to Alemu’s negotiation skills. We only walked out on one vendor. Walking through the Merkato was quite an experience. Dodging cars, buses, donkeys, and people carrying huge sacks on their heads was stressful. Also, many people would just yell “You!” or “I love you!” at us. Maybe this was the only English they knew or maybe they really did love us. Many people would also try to get in the line of our cameras so they could get in our pictures. At one point, we walked around for 15 minutes with our video camera rolling at eye level just so we could give some sort of perspective.

After our Merkato escapade, we went to a local grocery store to stock up on formula and other items we’ll need to get us through the week and flight home. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the guest house. We were able to spend a lot of time playing with Mikias and settling our room down a bit (it looked like a bomb had gone off in there). As we said, there was a huge rainstorm in the afternoon. This is the beginning of the rainy season in Ethiopia that will last a couple months. Mikias was absolutely transfixed by all the rain falling from the sky.

This evening after dinner we began discussing with Alemu our upcoming Embassy appointment. Our visit to the U.S. Embassy on Thursday provides the entrance visa to get Mikias into the country this weekend. We need to provide documentation and forms for this process. Our discussion this evening left us both a little frustrated. There seems to be a disconnect between the AAI office back home and Alemu. We were under the impression that Alemu was going to help us complete some of these documents, but now we are left calling the Embassy ourselves in the morning to figure out exactly what we need. We’re sure it is just a miscommunication and that we’ll be able to get things straightened out.

We’ve probably got another busy day ahead of us tomorrow. We just hope the water comes back on at sometime to make our lives a little easier.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hanging around in Africa

Today was definitely an interesting day. First of all, last night with Mikias went much better than the first night. We’re a very efficient bottle-making machine now. If there was an Olymipic event that included mixing water and powder as quickly as possible after being awaken from a dead sleep I’m sure I’d be headed for a medal. It has been interesting trying to learn how to care for a baby while in a very foreign environment. Last night was good up until 4am. Mikias woke up and we gave him his bottle, but he refused to go back to sleep. He was in a very happy mood though, so we ended up just playing with him for a couple of hours instead of sleeping.

Alemu arranged a trip for us to a monastery that was about 2 hours (country roads) outside of Addis. He suggested that we not bring Mikias because we would be making several stops. So, Mikias had his first babysitters today (that didn’t take long). Gizesh and Hewot, the two women who work at the guesthouse watched him today. It was a little difficult leaving him, but we’re also in Ethiopia to gain knowledge of the culture and customs to share with him later. Seemed like the right thing to do. Of course having to explain Mikias’ care to these two women was interesting especially because of the language barrier and our lack of certainty.

We left at 8am and picked up two of Alemu’s nephews and one of his friends who came along with us. Once we drove out of Addis into the countryside we were just amazed. The landscape is beautiful and very mountainous. We stopped at a weekend market in a village along the way. This was a very cool, but intimidating experience. We obviously stuck out…if not for our “whiteness” then definitely for the “interested” crowd of people following us around. It was a bit nerve-wracking having people watch your every move. We walked around a bit and saw practically everything (donkeys, shoes, chickens, batteries, flour, nails, etc.) for sale. The market was somewhat of an organized chaos. After stepping around donkeys, over chickens and breaking away from the weird following, it was a relief to be back in the car.

From there we continued on to the monastery. It was located off the main road about 4 km on a dirt road which took us at least 15 minutes to travel. This again was a bit intimidating because we traveled through a very poor village filled with beggars and interested people waving and yelling at the car. Once we arrived, we spent some time viewing in and around the building including a 15 minute hike up a mountain to a cave. The elevation aided in making this a challenge.

On the 2 hour drive back to Addis, we stopped and had a late picnic style lunch. This essentially included us sitting in a manure-filled field alongside the road, swatting flies and choking down sandwiches. This was all witnessed by a few of our closest local friends (children) who surrounded the blanket to watch us eat. Alemu informed us that they most likely had never seen a white person. We have been carrying around little packages of candy wherever we go, so this was an example of where we gave them out. They were appreciative as noted by them chasing our car down the road as we left.

Once returning back to the guest house, we spent most of the time playing with and feeding Mikias. We’re hoping to get him to sleep a little longer tonight but who knows how that will turn out.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Our first night with Mikias

“Knowing more” would have been helpful last night as we tried to figure out a feeding schedule for Mikias. We were told at the orphanage that he was fed formula “Nan” at the level of two for his age every 2 hours. Of course, Alemu hasn’t been able to find it at any of the local grocery stores so we are off on our own. We have been creating a schedule mostly dictated by Mikias’ cries and our own intuition (if you can call it that). We were also told that he was given cereal, but we don’t know in which form. As you can see, we are filling in a lot of blanks.

We hardly slept at all last night partly because Mikias needed our attention and partly from still not being on a regular local schedule. Okay, and partly because fixing a bottle out of a thermos gets a little old. All complaints aside, we gave him his first bath today. (Funny story to follow about how to give a bath in Ethiopia) This afternoon we went to the National Museum here in Addis and saw “Lucy” (the oldest human remains). We also went to St. George Orthodox Church and learned our Ethiopian religion history. As exciting as those latter two things were, we mostly just stared at each other in shock and kept saying “we are in Ethiopia” and what did we just do.

Addis Ababa is like something neither of us has seen before. Every time we leave the guest house we stare wide eyed at what is around us. The streets are filled with people and cars and even some animals. There are small blue vans everywhere. These are the local taxis and can have nearly 20 people jammed on them. I am sure our pictures won’t do justice to what we have seen. WOW!

Tonight Alemu took us to a pizza place. This was a nice break from all the food we have eaten thus far. It is good, just different. (Joanna’s stomach is not having fun, yet.)

Okay, we are dead tired and need to go to bed. Thank you for your thoughts!

And of course, here are a few more pictures of the boy.