Tuesday, May 22, 2007

One year ago- memories

Well, I was on a role there, posting a measly two days worth of pics and stories of our trip last year this time to Ethiopia. What happened? Life I guess. And a trip to NYC. Then Elias got sick. And Lulo is here. I actually spent quite a while describing our last several days in Ethiopia when I hit a wrong button and erased the entire thing. I was so frustrated about it that I just couldn't muster up the steam to write it all again. So... here are just the highlights of our trip, my strongest memories that linger in my mind today...

- We brought several toys with us to give to Elias. I really fretted over what he would most like to have. What was the winner? Bottle caps! We carried bottled water with us everywhere so we always had these great little magic toys on hand. He LOVED them and had at least 3-4 with him at all times in his fist and pockets.
- After that first day of crying, Elias woke up and smiled and then even laughed a little! It was the most wonderful feeling to finally see him happy and to think that maybe we hadn't just wrecked his whole little world. (Which obviously wasn't true but I was starting to think that way with how sad he was at first).
- Elias' first haircut was in Ethiopia at a hair salon, done by women (a team of 5) whom I suspect had never cut hair before. The scissors were duller than a plastic knife so they had to really hack at his hair. After it was all over (and we drew quite a crowd) we gathered around the grass strewn on top of the tiled floor and drank coffee together.
- Vomit. Lots of it, everytime Elias ate something.
- Diarrhea. Lots of it, all day long.
- Our day at AHOPE, an orphanage for children with HIV was life-changing, eye-opening. I'll never forget those sweet voices that gathered around us to sing their little hearts out. We had a great time at an amusement park with the youngest children, and we packed into a van with 22 of the kids and rode over an hour in a small van to get there, singing all the way.
- A trip to Sodere hot springs that I am SO glad we did. We saw a completely different way of life outside of the city. And best of all, Elias laughed and smiled for over an hour in the pool. He had gotten pretty weak by this point (lots of lingering illnesses, stress from this sudden new family and life, and he wasn't eating anything anymore). It was an exhausting and exhilirating trip.
- The old woman on her knees at the edge of the road in the middle of nowhere, dust blowing all around. Only after we drove by did I realize that she was begging for money. It took a long time to forgive myself for not asking the driver to stop and turn around.
- Raw meat hanging in the open windows of shops along the road. The Ethiopians eat it just like that- raw. Ugh.
- Meeting Elias' biological grandmother, uncle and aunt who cared for him for the first 11 months of his life. Their love for him was so tender and sweet. I honor the selfless, sacrificial love they have for him.

The memories of our experiences in Ethiopia have nestled into a special little spot in my mind. I love to visit there. Some days I make just a quick visit and smile warmly. Other days I stay a little longer and leave with tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart. Ethiopia is a place like no other. I have a constant feeling of unfinished business and pray often that God would show us what else He has for us there.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

One year ago today:May 8, 2006 PICTURES

One year makes a HUGE difference! Here are some pictures comparing this day last year and today. And then a few of our pictures on our first day with Elias last year. (See the other post from today for the story).

First Family Picture 5/8/06

Family Self-Portrait today, 5/8/07

First time feeding Elias, 5/8/06

Eating with Elias today, 5/8/07 (We had injera to celebrate. Yum!)

Picture with caretaker who loved Elias

Arrival home to the Guest House

Walking with Dad, asleep in the carrier

First bath

One year ago today:May 8, 2006 STORY

We awoke early, as many people do, to the calls to prayer. The time seemed to crawl by as we waited a few hours for Gail, the director of the orphange in Ethiopia, to come and pick us up. My mind had already logged a thousand miles about this day and it was strange for it to finally be a reality.

I'll never forget the sensation I had when Elias was placed in my arms for the first time. I could feel his little body through his thin, worn clothes. He was so small.

Shortly after we arrived home after our trip I wrote about this day on our temporary website. Here are those words again...

We walked into the room where Elias had lived the last four months and my eyes quickly scanned the room trying to distinguish the son I only knew through pictures from the other twenty babies in the room. A caretaker was playing with him on the floor. She handed him over to me and it felt so good to finally hold that little body in my arms. I was savoring the moment, but then I quickly realized that Elias had started to cry and was reaching his arms out to the caretaker who had been playing with him before. And that's when it hit me. While adoption is this wonderful miracle and exciting thing, it comes about from tragic loss. And that's not really the very warm and fuzzy feeling I was looking for. I looked around at all the beautiful children surrounding me and my heart broke for the stories that brought them there. I looked at the caretaker but she was making a quick exit from the room. Through the windows I saw her wiping away tears. My heart swelled with love and appreciation for her and the way she had cared for and loved my baby. She was the one we had seen in pictures, tenderly holding Elias. I had prayed for her everyday that God would give her and the others a special love for Elias. And her tears showed me just how much God had answered that prayer. So there I was a blubbering mess with such a contrast of emotions exploding in my heart. So happy to be holding Elias yet deeply sorrowful for the loss he was experiencing yet again.

We took Elias back to our hotel and started doing all the things that parents are supposed to do. Changed diapers and clothes, fed him food, played with him and held him a lot. But his sadness didn't go away. In fact it seemed to worsen. At first he was just kind of distant and tired, but when a few hours passed, he actually started to cry. He could hear the Ethiopian women outside our door speaking Amharic, and that only made it worse. “What have we done?” was my only thought. Dad put on the baby carrier and Elias got all snuggled up next to his chest and we went for a walk outside. That seemed to calm him and the rest of the day he seemed better. Actually he just wasn't crying, but his soul still seemed a long way off. My prayer was that we would see him smile by the end of the week.

Despite the rough start, the tingles I had been waiting for finally came. We put him to bed and I sat next to his crib and just watched him through the bars. My heart suddenly swelled with this huge feeling of love like I had never felt before. Thank you Jesus for this sweet son you've given me! I wanted to hold him so desperately and touch his face and run my fingers through his curls. Chase wasn't in the room so I quickly picked him up and held him close to my chest, which woke Elias up of course and he started to cry. Chase rushed into the room wondering why he was crying. I just nonchalantly said that he needed his mommy, that's all. I held him like that on my chest for a long time as he slept. What a feeling a total bliss.

Monday, May 7, 2007

One year ago today:May 7, 2006

We arrived in Addis Ababa late in the evening. Exhausted from the 30 hours of travel yet strangely full of energy at the same time. We were SO busy the days leading up to our departure- completing a huge remodeling job in our attic, Chase finished up his research for his residency, I wrapped up things at work since I wouldn't be going back to that position, we packed 4 bags totaling approximately 260 pounds, got Elias' room ready, etc. It was a crazy time! All the activity made everything seem so surreal.

As soon as I sat in my airplane seat on the first leg of our trip, I burst into tears. The emotion and enormity of the adventure we were embarking on came flooding into my heart and mind and I just fell apart. In a good way. I had prayed to be emotionally connected to everything that was going on and having a good cry crowded out the stress and ushered in the mommy excitement I needed.

Here is my journal entry, 36 minutes before we landed in Ethiopia... Wow! Are we really almost there? The reality comes in waves. I've been watching and holding these beautiful Ethiopian children during the flight and I can't wait until it's my own son in my arms.

Elias, we've loved you for so many months now. We loved and prayed for you before we knew your name. And each day since we saw your picture we've fallen more in love with you. And more in love with our Father who gave you to us. Our thoughts and dreams and daily activities have all been focused on you, and they will be forever now. Tomorrow we meet!

Our 270 lbs of luggage was a big part of our trip. We were carrying so many supplies for the orphanages and were so thankful that it all arrived!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

"Poppy Pants"

Has anyone ever heard of this? Me either. Until Elias said it to me one day recently in a dressing room. I put on a pair of capris and he kept saying, "Mommy! Poppy pants!" What? I was confused. Later that day we were home folding laundry, and each time I picked up Chase's boxer shorts he said, "Daddy's poppy pants!"

We've since figured out that he calls all shorts, "poppy pants". No idea why. Yes, he does have a "Poppy" that lives in Texas, but I don't think there's any connection there.

Anyway, I've decided I quite like this new term and I hope he never grows out of it. Because after all, he will always stay my little boy who loves to snuggle in my lap and talk about poppy pants, right? :-)

On another note, next week marks ONE YEAR since our trip to Ethiopia to get Elias. Wow! I plan on reliving each of our days there and blogging about it so that you can re-live it with me. I wrote about our trip after we got back only briefly on our little website that our friend Megan set up for us, but mostly I was too consumed with taking care of Elias and emotionally exhausted to get to do much writing. So I can't wait to finally get it all written out.