Monday, April 27, 2009

8 x 2

One month ago today we departed on an 8-day journey to Ethiopia to pick up our son. Four days ago we arrived home after another 8-day "journey" with our new son through the most difficult days of our lives. Of course, neither of these journeys will ever be over for us and they will definitely be something that define our family forever. I wouldn't expect to ever experience a month for the rest of my life that would have such dramatic highs and lows. We feel so fortunate to be looking back over the past couple weeks knowing that Taye continues to make amazing strides. Coming back to our house on Thursday kind of felt like a "do-over" of our arrival with him on April 4th. I almost forgot that we had him in our house with us for 11 days before heading to the hospital.

Now that we've begun to digest the situation a bit more, we've been able to reflect a bit on the last couple weeks. Of course, most of our reflection seems to lead us back to April 15th. We've discussed how the timing of everything seemed to lead us to the best possible outcome imaginable on that day. From our decision of when to go to the pediatrician and when to go to ER, to the amazing coordination it took to get Taye the hospital he needed to be immediately. Any one of these things could have gone differently and very bad for us...and it's hard not to dwell on that...but we are grateful beyond words with how everything was handled.

As for Taye right now, he continues to do well. We're obviously a bit paranoid about the large soft spot that now exists on the side of his head, but it doesn't seem to phase him too much. He's been on the ground rolling over and only a few times has it been painful for him. We're getting more comfortable with handling him, but we're very aware when Mikias gets near him because there's that fear that he will fall on him or play too rough. So far so good! There was some concern that he would have anxiety about being upright and would feel off balance because of the brain shift, but he hasn't been bothered at all. What a trooper this kid is! Joanna commented that he is the strongest person she knows...and he's only 7-months old.

It seems now that we're starting to deal with some of the things we were working on a few weeks ago again...getting on a good eating/sleeping schedule, finding ways to comfort and soothe him, etc. There are so many considerations with attachment and bonding that were (obviously) thrown out the window while we were in the hospital, so we've been making an effort in that area too.

This week is extremely busy. We had an appointment with the pediatrician on Saturday. Tomorrow we see the ophthalmologist to re-check areas of concern in his eyes. On Wednesday Taye gets a follow-up CT scan and an MRI (with anesthesia) and then sees the neurosurgeon in the afternoon. I think his stitches will be removed this day too. Then on Thursday begins regular PT and OT appointments...these will start as twice per week and may be increased. Needless to say, Joanna is off from work all this week. Hopefully, we can gauge from all these appointments what our schedule will be and work from there.

I'll work on getting some more pictures of the boys up here so everyone can see how good Taye is doing. We continue to need your prayers as we travel through the recovery process and come to terms with the trauma we experienced. I know that coming so close to losing our little boy has been a drain on us mentally, physically, and emotionally, but every day has been better than the one before. And it's hard not to feel hope and happiness for the future when Taye flashes us one of his big smiles!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Moving forward...and moving rooms

As of this morning, Taye is officially out of ICU and in the regular pediatric area here at Beaumont! Last night, Taye slept great (lucky Joanna). This morning, the resident doctor came in and said that Taye would be moving and the move was already done by the time I arrived at the hospital around 10:30. So, all of the things we've accumulated during the past week in his room had to be moved just a short distance down the hall. Needless to say, we're thrilled.

Also this morning the neurosurgeon (who had done Taye's surgery) did an evaluation and thought he was doing great. In fact, it sounds like we may actually be heading home within the next couple of days should things continue to positively progress. Taye will have to come back in a month or so (depending on his progress) to have the portion of skull reinserted. That will mean more surgery, but we're very pleased to have this surgeon on Taye's case...he is excellent. And he's been genuinely interested in our story, even to the point of having public relations at Beaumont talk to us about our experiences. In fact, they're coming in the morning to interview us.

Taye continued to do great today. He had a couple of "appointments" today with the physical therapist and occupational therapist. We were able to discuss with them what to do when we go home and what to concentrate on to help Taye regain strength and control. They were incredibly helpful. They had him sitting up in a chair (something we'll continue to work on with him) and he actually seemed to enjoy it. Because of his injury and the subsequent brain shift, being upright can be scary for him because he constantly feels off balance. It's relieving to see him continue to do little things that he did before the accident...his nonstop motorboat sounds, shaking his head, etc. I really missed those little things in him during the past week. And, of course, he continues to smile at us and we love that!

This afternoon, on the recommendation of the neurosurgeon, we took Taye for a wagon ride around the halls and out to the children's play area here. He seemed so stimulated looking at all the new "scenery". His eye movement is getting really good and that was very obvious during the ride.

This evening in our daily talk with our pediatrician, we discussed a few things that needed to be done / looked at before heading home. Joanna and I still need to achieve a better comfort level with a few things, but overall we're ready to head home and begin the next stage of Taye's recovery. Tonight my dad and I are at the hospital. Hopefully, things go as smoothly as they did last night. But, even if I'm awake all night there's consolation in the fact we may not have too many more nights in the hospital.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


When we first started this blog, never did I think we would use it for support surrounding a long hospital stay with one of our children. It certainly has become an instrument for recording the daily happenings, a therapeutic release and an online support network.

Benjamin and I have worked out a routine where one of us stays with another family member through the night here at the hospital with Taye, and the other with Mikias somewhere. So far, this routine appears to be working and reminds me daily that our family is our rock. Last night I slept in my own bed for the first time since the accident, and it kind of felt like a sign that we are moving past "something" to return to "something" more like what we had imagined when landing in Detroit just 17 days ago. I have to admit that I can't wait for the first time all four of us are able to sleep in our home again.

In any event, today was quieter than yesterday's entourage of doctor "appointments". Taye had a difficult night of sleep. Perhaps, I should say Benjamin had a difficult night of sleep as Taye just wanted to play for a few hours in the middle of the night. Fortunately, one of his grandma's was here to help with that. Anyhow, the morning was a bit difficult as Taye had to stop eating by 4am to be ready for sedation so some "eye doctors" could take some pictures of his eyes. Somehow during all of this, Taye's IV leaked and had to be changed which was an unexpected hiccup to the morning.

The eye pictures revealed that he has some retina hemorrhaging in both eyes. We are still getting answers to what this means, but this revelation did prompt a full body x-ray to determine if there were other such bleeds or breaks in the rest of his body. Unfortunately, this also prompted the child advocacy representative to come to us for conversation. Certainly, she was following protocol, but let's just say this was not our favorite part of the day. At some other point, this will be a great topic to post about. Now, is not that time. (Okay, maybe just one thing...if there was only a child advocate for 4.8 million Ethiopian orphans...)

Interestingly enough through the aforementioned full body x-ray, along with blood and urine tests, we may actually start to piece together a medical history for Taye. Doctors are certainly trying to understand why such a small incident caused such a large problem. We are trying to eliminate the idea of any predispositions or simply recognize something that would be helpful as Taye continues to grow and develop. Honestly, at very least, it would be nice to speculate some answers. As an added bonus, we might be able to get a closer indication of his actual age as we currently are working on an estimate. Lousy way to find out, but information nonetheless.

Anyhow, the rest of the day was lower key. PT (physical therapy) did come in and continue their evaluation of Taye. He is doing so well. He is starting to feel more comfortable in the upright position, which is an improvement. It did appear that he attempted to roll his body and his head didn't appear as "heavy on his shoulders".

Our goals for the day were for him to 1) keep his formula down despite a small sedation - which he did, and 2) have a "Happy Time" awake, which he did on more than one much so that goal #3 of sleeping for 2.5 hours straight is just only now in process. It's 10:22 and if we make it to 10:50 we are "3 for 3!" Overall, it has been a good day!

Things around here are starting to lighten up. We smile (especially when Taye does-and yes we do say smile now!). We joke about stupid hospital things and we certainly hug Taye and Mikias a little tighter. Even though it would be better to not be in this position, small steps each day make us thankful for all that we have been given.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Today has been an extremely busy day after a night with a bit of an interuption due to difficulty sleeping. At the moment, Taye is sound asleep after a full day of doctors.

The Schedule as it played out:

8 AM - PT evaluation
9:15 AM - CT Scan
9:40 Doctor's Rounds on PICU floor
10:20 Neurology Rounds
10:45 EEG Begins
12:00 EEG Ended
1:00 - OT evaluation
1:30 - First Opthamalogist Evaluation
3:15 Neorosurgeon Evaluation
4:30 Second Opthamologist Evaluation

Overall, Taye has done amazing. He made it through the CT scan this morning without anethesia, which was huge. The results indicated larger swelling than the last which has been explained to us as "to be expected". It did indicate more clearly that he did suffer a stroke (which has been the lack of bloodflow we have been talking about) and we have been exploring the effects throughout the rest of his "appointments" today.

We still feel encouraged by what all of the doctors have been saying. Even as new therapists and doctors enter the picture, the tone set still remains as rehabilitative. Our best conversations come from the neurosurgeon who is optimistic in his progression. He is the doctor who removed the hematoma so we feel he has had the birds eye view. It does appear that whenever we are finished with this hospital stint, we will go home before having the second surgery to replace the portion of his skull temporarily removed.

We still have a "road" ahead of us mostly being created by the numerous hands laid upon Taye today....but we are happy to be on that road.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Shh...Babies Healing

The title of this post is perhaps my favorite sign that I pass regularly as I walk around the intensive care unit. The word healing brings so much hope and we have been told repeatedly that when Taye is sleeping, he is healing. In fact, his heart rate has recently dropped into the 120's when he sleeps (which is a good thing as he is relaxed). When he was first admitted, we had moments where 208 would flash on the screen and of course bells would go off. In any event, when Taye sleeps, he is healing and I think we are too.

Honestly, Wednesday is a day I would like to forget. I do feel after we get to a place where we are comfortable with our seemingly new normal for the moment, we will have to heal with the difficutly of Wednesday. But, for now, we focus on our "day to day" and the strides that appear to be made on a small scale each day.

Last night Benjamin (and my brother) stayed the night with Taye. He awoke for feedings and then went back to sleep with relative ease. When I arrived this morning, Benjamin was rocking Taye and they both looked quite content. My first feeding with Taye resulted with interaction that included Taye grabbing for my hair and even a small smirk. Others may call it a smile, but for protective reasons, I think Benjamin and I prefer to call it a smirk until we are assured that both corners of his lips do in fact reach upward. In any event, the interaction which clearly included eye movement and some small reaction to us stimulating him, resulted in all of us tearing up. This was indeed our small baby step for today.

We have had numerous family and friends bounce in and out of our room during the past few days. Those who have come by for a second time, comment on his progress, which is very encouraging. His eye movement was noticably different today. Additionally, towards the later part of his afternoon, Taye clearly lifted his right leg. His right big toe now holds the coveted "glowing red-oxygen marker", so we speculated the light was attracting to him, therefore encouraging movement. It certainly is attractive to Mikias as he reaches into Taye's bed to touch his toe. Today, Mikias held Taye's hand. So sweet.

Mikias has been doing really well. He has been staying with my sister for most of the days. He loves it as he is able to play with his cousins. Today he had a visit to the fire station with his Uncle Rick, so his day was great. Just recently understanding the transition from one child to two, Benjamin and I have been pretty sensitive to Mikias during this time. Fortunately for us, we have a huge support of people who have been able to ensure that Mikias spends time with each of us each day both in and out of the hospital. I do have to put a plug in here for the hosptial children's garden/play area. This massive room has allowed us to spend some valuable time with Mikias while feeling only a moment away from Taye.

Overall, today was a good day. We decided to write the goals on the board today after he did them. As Jill pointed out, it gives us that good feeling when you write something on a list and are able to check it off. So today, he moved his eyes more, had a small smirk, reached for things often and lifted his right leg more than once. CHECK!

Tomorrow morning Taye has a CT scan with a long EEG later in the day. We anticipate tomorrow to be a bit busier than the weekend in terms of tests and follow up, but also hope for additional small moments of baby steps towards healing for all of us...but especially our little Taye Sintayehu McKinney.

Let is be known, how much we appreciate the many thoughts, prayers and support that we feel as we move through our days.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday's steps forward

Today we made a little more progress. Taye slept great through the night, partly because of the new seizure meds he's on. At around 5:30 he woke up and seemed hungry so I gave him 2oz of formula and then another 2oz an hour later. Since he was able to hold that down with no problem, we were able to feed him fairly regularly throughout the day. Also, today was his noisiest day by far. He has found his voice again and by the time Joanna arrived this morning he was voicing his displeasure for everything happening to him. It was actually good to hear him wail a little bit. The entire day basically consisted of him eating, fussing, and sleeping. He's been a little hard to get to sleep now but it seems like he prefers to be rocked in the rocking that's what we've been doing.

Taye had visits from a couple doctors today and some brief evaluations. Things were a lot quieter since it is the weekend. The doctors continue to be encouraged by his progress. We're still looking at some issues with motor skills in his right leg. But, we accomplished the two goals we had for the day: 1. Keep food down and 2. Move more. Hopefully tomorrow will bring some more tiny steps forward.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ups and Downs

I definitely feel that today required a lot of stamina as it was full of ups and downs. While the morning and portions of the day provided good signs, with a good removal of Taye's breathing tube, the afternoon and evening provided some challenges.

For most of the day, Taye's breathing remained steady and calm. Every so often he would begin to become agitated and would move around a bit. Even though it is difficult to see his grimacing face, it was selfishly helpful to see his body move. It was noticeable today that his left side of his body is the stronger side, however his right arm was pretty active today as well.

We both were able to hold him today, which was awesome! We had the opportunity to try and feed him as well. It was a little strange because he had difficulty taking the bottle. He wasn't able to suck with ease, but somehow he ended up taking 4.5 ounces. However, a few hours later he woke up abruptly and threw the majority of it up. A small setback. We were reassured that this happens and we (mostly me) needs to keep remembering he is recovering from a trauma and a surgery.

In any event, the high point of the day is that, at one point, Taye had his eyes open and appeared to be seeing and hearing our voices. He struggles to look to the right side, but he certainly had some movement that was reassuring. He even moved his right leg up at one point, which was the first time it had moved in awhile.

The hardest point of the day was around 9pm, when Taye experienced a seizure that dropped his oxygen level. It is alarming to have everything seem status quo and in an instant, need to be attending to something.

The day has been long. I have needed many reassuring conversations with nurses, practitioners, residents and doctors. The staff has been amazing and have been very helpful in answering many of our questions and addressing concerns. The tone set by all has been hopeful with a recognition that time is needed to determine more things and set a course of action.

Thank you again to all the thoughts and prayers that have been sent in our direction. We greatly appreciate all the visitors and support from family and friends.

A good morning

This morning Taye was taken off the ventilator and he seems to be doing well. They stepped him down gradually and then completely removed his tube and he's been breathing on his own ever since. Since that major tube is now not in the way, Joanna was able to hold him. This made us feel so much better and he looks so much better without that ugly tube in his mouth.

Also, we had a brief visit from the neurologist this morning. He was encouraged by Taye's progress. His right arm has been moving a lot so that's a good sign. In a little while we'll try to feed him with a bottle. The medical staff here doesn't think the feeding tube will be necessary and that he can take the bottle right away.

More news to come as we work through all this. Thanks for all of your messages and comments. They help more than you could ever imagine.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Please pray for our little boy

I'm not sure how many people the news about Taye has reached so far. We've done our best to call as many people as we can but this blog is the best way to reach everyone.

Yesterday morning, while I was watching Taye at home he accidentally rolled off our bed and hit his head on the carpeted floor. After some drowsiness and throwing up I took him to our pediatrician. He checked out normal and was very alert and happy while we were at the doctor. After returning home, things seemed to take a turn for the worse. He continuously fell asleep and woke only to throw up. We then took him to the emergency room at Troy Beaumont Hospital thinking that we were dealing with a concussion. After some initial tests checked out normal, they recommended a CT scan...immediately after the test everything changed. The doctors came urgently into our room and told us there was a huge emergency. The CT scan showed a large hematoma (blood leak) in Taye's brain. They gave us a very, very grim outlook for him. They immediately went to intubate him and indicated that he needed brain surgery as soon as possible. Unfortunately, there was no neurosurgeon at that hospital. They ordered a medevac helicopter to transport him to Royal Oak Beaumont. This was the worst feeling Joanna and I have had in our entire lives. As we waited for the helicopter and prayed over Taye, my dad baptized him in the ER. Then he was whisked away in the helicopter, while we followed in a vehicle.

By the time we arrived here, he was already in surgery. After about an hour, they came and said that they successfully drained the blood and found the source of the bleed. He's been on a ventilator and sedation meds ever since. It was a long night for Joanna and I to say the least. This morning, another CT scan showed that the brain (which had been very compressed by the blood) was back to a more normal size. Also, it showed some areas of the brain which may have been damaged. There are some good signs though...he's moving his arms and legs (the left side more than the right), he does have a cough and gag reflex and his kidneys seem to be working properly.

The hematoma was large enough to significantly push the left side of his brain and shift everything. We just found out tonight that there was some damage to the left side of his brain as a result of this pressure and shift. It's just way too early to tell exactly what this means. The initial indication is that there will be some lagging motor skills on his right side.

Tomorrow is a big day as they will be removing the breathing tube from Taye to see if he can breathe on his own. We're optimistic that this will go well. Through this entire ordeal he has shown a lot of fight and spunk. Tomorrow will probably be a rough day since Taye will be more awake and aware of what is going on and will be pretty agitated. But, it will be good if we can get another tube removed from his body (today he had two removed - a drain tube from his skull and a urine catheter).

As for the cause of this, it's been called by most doctors a "fluke". There is no way that a small fall like that on to a padded surface should have done this. It appears that the fall caused a small fracture in Taye's skull exactly at the point an artery was inside. The artery was nicked and caused the bleeding.

If you're hearing about this for the first time here, this story may seem unbelievable and surreal...Joanna and I felt exactly the same way as we were in the middle of the chaos yesterday. Right now we'll continue to need all the prayers we can get. Prayer has got us a long way in the past couple days and we feel blessed that we've made it this far. The road ahead will likely be long but we continue to hope for positive results.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Family of Four

Since arriving home, we have slowly been unpacking and enjoying our newest family member immensely. Much of our family has been over to spend some time getting to know Taye. This has been so much fun. Taye is doing remarkably well in his first weeks with us and since arriving to Michigan. I can only imagine what must have been going through his little mind, as we take him on this long airplane trip to come home to this house where this little kid who looks like him only bigger and faster is running a terror. Yes, Mikias acknowledges that he has a little brother and can be very sweet with him. However, at points, it appears to be in the form of running a matchbox car across his body.

While Mikias views Taye as a mountainous terrain for his trucks, we are viewing Taye as already climbing mountains. When we first met him, we noticed right away that his development appeared to be a little "behind". Clearly, he had little strength in his lower body and his head often would flip backward to investigate the ceiling. He did have the ability to roll over right away and would pop his head right up. In a very short time, he is already holding his head a bit firmer and seems to understand how to place a little support on his legs. We have created a plan for his eating as well. After talking with our pediatrician, we feel confident that Taye will continue to grow and develop into his own version of that toddler running around our living room.
At some point, we would live to revisit a few photos and stories from our trip abroad, but in the meantime are settling into being a family of four.

Here are few pictures from Taye's time with us so far...

What is snow?

Silly faces with cousins...

While Mom and Dad took my new brother to the doctor, Uncle Steve let me eat snow!

I love my cereal!

More cousins...

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


A few months ago, when it came time for Joanna and I to choose a date in September to be Sintayehu's birthday, we chose the 17th. The number 17 was significant to us because Joanna's grandma died on this past July 17th (it was also her birthday).

Before leaving for Ethiopia a couple weeks ago, Joanna's grandpa became increasingly ill. As we arrived at the airport in Detroit this past Saturday, we learned from our family that grandpa had passed away just moments before. Maybe he was waiting for us to be safely home before passing.

We hope that Taye will have a special connection to these fantastic great-grandparents that he never met. And we know that grandma and grandpa love our new little boy and our entire family very much. We'll miss you grandpa.

Grandpa and Mikias - July 2008

Sunday, April 5, 2009

We're home

We arrived home safely yesterday afternoon. What a whirlwind of activity starting with our Friday in Ethiopia...

Friday morning we all (with the exception of the boys and Mom Karwan) went to the Merkato to do some shopping, but mostly just to experience the atmosphere of the largest market in Africa. Joanna and I had spent quite a long time here with Alemu in '07, and we were anxious to show our parents what it was all about. This time we had two guards escort us through the market because of safety concerns...makes you wonder how unsafe we were in '07...oh well. Overall it was a good trip. We only stopped at one vendor to purchase baskets, but we took advantage of it.

Following lunch we had to concentrate on packing our things. We had stuff strewn all over our room and needed to get it all under control. In the afternoon, we had a traditional coffee ceremony at the lodge that Alemu had arranged. Luckily, he brought along Gizesh who we had met in '07. She was able to see Mikias and we were able to visit a little bit despite the language barrier. We also were able to see Getachew, the man who does much of the court and embassy work on behalf of AAI in Ethiopia. We got to know him quite well in '07 and we were glad that we had a few minutes to catch up. Again, it was great that we were able to make these connections with people we had met before. It makes us feel more connected with Ethiopia that we have people there that remember us and whom we consider friends.

After dinner, the entire group loaded up and made our way to the airport. I'm sure we were quite a sight with all of our luggage and kids navigating our way through the ticket counters and baggage screenings. Our flight was delayed leaving Addis, so we had a little more time than we would have liked sitting in the airport. We finally took off around 11:30pm to begin the long, long trip home. The plane ride was brutal and seemed to take much longer than our trip there. There wasn't a great opportunity to get any significant amount of sleep since we were now dealing with both Mikias and Taye. Taye started eating much more than we planned for and we got worried that we'd run out of formula before we got home. It turned out all right. He was also agitated and had some trouble sleeping. There was a certain spot on the airplane by the doors where he would fall asleep. So, Joanna and I spent a long time standing up there with him trying to get him to sleep. After 17 hours in the air we finally arrived in DC completely exhausted. But the fun had just begun.

Since we were late arriving, we had even less time to go through customs, collect our baggage, go through immigration, re-check our bags, get our boarding passes, go through security, and get to our gate. The baggage took forever. I think they must have had one guy unloading the whole plane because it was so slow. By the time we hit immigration, we were getting a little worried that we wouldn't make it. We tried to send Mikias with our parents ahead to get through the gates but that didn't work since he wasn't on their itinerary. So that left Joanna and I with the two boys and a ton of luggage. By the time we hit security we were literally running through the airport. But, we made it!!

We arrived in Detroit on time and were greeted by many family and friends. How good it felt to be home after that travel experience. There were several families at the airport that we've gotten to know through the Ethiopian adoption process. It was great to see all the Ethiopian kids there to greet their newest friend.

Check out this video of our arrival at the airport. At the beginning, you'll see some of the other families that we traveled with arriving too. Thanks so much to the Kubiks for putting this together so quickly!

Last night, Joanna's sister, Caroline, helped us out a ton. She stayed with us and helped with the boys through the night and did a zillion loads of laundry. It helped tremendously to have her here. Thanks Caroline! Other than that, since we've been home we've just been trying to settle into a routine with sleeping, eating, etc. I'm sure it will take a while to get readjusted.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Embassy Day

Last night, Sintayehu was very, very easy. He slept great. We fed him before we went to bed and then only once in the middle of the night. I woke up at 7:30 and looked over to his crib to find him just lying there contently. I told him that he could make some noise to let us know he's awake. Actually, we were a little concerned that we hadn't heard him cry yet, but he has cried a few times today so we're feeling better. Sintayehu has been a pretty easy baby so far. We're making an effort to get him in a sitting position to build some strength he's lacking, but overall he's good. He's been eating like crazy and has easily finished off 8oz bottles every time we feed him. We've also given him cereal a couple times.
Today was much more laid back than yesterday, but we were still able to fit a good amount of activites in. This morning we gave Sintayehu his first bath in our sink here. He didn't mind it too much, but it wasn't the easiest process even with the additional hands we had to help out. Following the bath, Joanna, Mom Karwan, & Dad McKinney went to do some additional shopping near the same location we shopped a few days ago. Joanna was able to pick up quite a lot of great items that we'll be stuffing in to our suitcases. Meanwhile, Mom McKinney, Dad Karwan, and I spent the morning running a daycare out of our room here at the Sadula Lodge. Actually, two of the three children here were mine, but we also took care of Jim and Dawn's new son as they went out to grab some last minute souvenirs. Actually, everything went really well. Joanna returned just in time to handle an extremely messy diaper…perfect timing!
After all the shoppers returned, we all gathered with our new children to make the trip to the US Embassy here in Addis to submit paperwork for the children's entrance visas. This was a pretty boring, long process. It was kind of like sitting in a Secretary of State's office for two hours…not a lot to do. There were many, many families with adopted children at the embassy and they were all there for the same purpose. Finally, after two hours our name was called and we were able to pass through the interview quickly. This was the last step in getting the adoption finalized so that Sintayehu can enter the US on Saturday when we land in DC. Tomorrrow, Alemu will go and pick up Sintayehu's packet and passport from the embassy and we should be good to go.
This evening, our friend Hiwot stopped by the lodge to pay us a visit. Hiwot was the cook that worked at Alemu's house when we were here in '07. Joanna has stayed in contact with her and she agreed to visit us. So, we had a nice conversation with her and her aunt in the dark (the power was temporarily out). We're hoping to make a few more connections like this tomorrow before we leave. Hopefully, we can swing it.
Tomorrow should be a good last day in Ethiopia. In the morning some of us will head to the Mercato to do some shopping/sightseeing. Also, there is a traditional coffee ceremony planned for us in the afternoon. Other than that, we'll be busy packing and prepping for the long flight home. It's hard to believe that we've been here nearly a week.
One last thing…Joanna and I will be spelling Sintayehu's new first name Taye. The pronunciation will still be "taa-yeh" or "tie-yeh" but the spelling is different than I originally posted. The spelling without the h seems to be the Ethiopian way, so that's how we're doing it. We're a little concerned that in the US it will be pronounced "tay", but we'll deal with it as it comes. Of course we don't have to do any official name change until after we're in the US…so we could change our minds and go with something like George…but he really doesn't look like a George to us.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What a Day

Today has definitely been one of the most full, emotional days we've ever had. What an experience it was. The day began with Alemu picking us up around 8am for our trip to Debre Zeit. An hour later, we arrived at the orphanage for a meeting with Mikias' birthmother. Right when she saw us she showered us with hugs and kisses and was genuinely happy to see all of us…especially Mikias. We spent quite a while at the orphanage talking, playing, and looking at a picture album we gave. We were able to take tons of pictures and video of the meeting that will definitely be valuable in the years to come. Then we learned that all of us were going to get a drink at a local café/juice bar so we all piled in the car together. It was a surreal experience looking in the back seat and seeing Joanna, Mikias, and his birthmother sitting side by side. At the café, there was a small playground that Mikias loved. We all played for a while, had some mango juice, and were able to have a few more small conversations. We dropped Mikias' birthmother off on our way back to Addis and part 1 of our day was complete. We are so thankful to have had this experience and consider ourselves very lucky to be able to share this with Mikias someday. This 1.5 hours this morning made it worth bringing Mikias all the way back to Ethiopia. We're so glad that all the details worked out.
After arriving back in Addis and decompressing a bit from the full morning, our group met at 2pm in front of the hotel to get our rides to the orphanage. It was obvious that everyone was a bit nervous and tense as we loaded into the cars. This was entirely different experience than before since there were seven other families with us and we weren't alone. It was actually very comforting (and exciting) to be able to share this experience with all of these other people. We arrived at Enat Alem orphanage and we were all waiting in the courtyard taking pictures and prepping ourselves. We were then told that we could come in to the room and get our children. So we all headed in scanning all the cribs looking for our children. I was worried we wouldn't be able to spot Sintayehu from the pictures we had seen, but when we found him sound asleep in the third crib we looked in, there was no doubt it was him. We hesitated a moment since he was sleeping, but after waiting about 5 seconds we scooped him up. What a cute little guy! It was so awesome because all around the room you could see other families finding their children and lifting them up. It was suddenly very noisy with all the talking and laughing and crying. Everyone was taking pictures of everyone else and we were all so happy for one another. Sintayehu didn't really fuss at all and we even got him to smile a few times within those first moments.
Afterwards we spent some time talking to the nurse and caretakers about Sintayehu's schedule. We then all gathered in the courtyard for a traditional coffee ceremony. Meanwhile, a lot of the other children in the orphanage came out and a lot of people in our group were playing with them. Sintayehu took this time to spit up on me a few times. It seemed like everytime I held him he spit up but Joanna always came away clean. Oh well, I certainly didn't mind. We also fed him his first bottle as we were waiting for the coffee to finish. The experience at the orphanage was simply amazing.
After a quick trip back to the hotel, we were reunited with Mikias and our parents on the front steps. The entire group waited for us so we could have our reunion with our family before they came in to the hotel. I can imagine that it was quite a sight with all of these families returning with new children at the same time. For the next few hours we all hung out in our room getting to know Sintayehu. Sintayehu kept surprising us. We had him on the floor playing and then he suddenly rolled over and stuck his head up and started grabbing for things. We really didn't know what to expect since we're not exactly sure what he can do yet…I'm sure we'll find out soon enough! Mikias has been pretty good around him so far. He hasn't gotten too close to him, but they've been playing near each other and I think that's a good thing. Joanna got Sintayehu to laugh out load and then stick out his tongue which we all thought was hilarious.
Tonight we had dinner with all of the other families here in the lodge. Sintayehu had a bottle while we were eating dinner and has now been sleeping for 4 hours. That's pretty good. I'm sure he'll wake up starving soon. We finalized the paperwork we need for Sintayehu's embassy appointment tomorrow afternoon. That should go pretty smoothly. Other than that, we're just basking in the excitement of the day. I don't think we'll ever have many days better than this.

Introducing Tayeh

We wanted to post a quick picture for those back home.  What an unbelievable day!!  We'll post later and hope to include some more pics.