Thursday, July 31, 2008

Settling In

Our transition to a family of 5 has been amazingly easy. Partly that's because we're already used to having no time for ourselves, losing sleep at night, and doing things with one hand, but I think it's even more because Ember is such an easy-going baby. She's so content -- well, right up until the moment she's ready for her bottle. Then she busts out with some crazy screaming and sweating and feet kicking. But that's about it. Even when she's ready for a nap she just takes her index finger and rubs it sideways over her mouth while she uses her other hand to rub her face with a blanket. Within minutes she's snoozing. It's wonderful, let me tell you! She requires no tricks -- no white noise makers, no swaddling.

And the boys are doing pretty well with it all. Beck just adores her and treats her like a little pet. Yogi is less interested, but has starting giving her toys occasionally and yesterday asked if he could hold her.

I think the hardest part so far is around 8:30pm when I'm exhausted from the busyness of the day, but realize that yes, this would be the best time to wash the kitchen floor. And this is why our bags are still splayed open in the basement waiting to be officially unpacked and put away.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Addis Ababa

Addis. The air is thick with pollution and the spicy sweet smell of eucalyptus wood smoke. You're as likely to see a sophisticated professional walking down the street with a briefcase as you are a peasant wrapped in a dirty gabi running a small herd of oxen. Or goats. Blue and white mini-bus taxi cabs jammed with people behind steamy windows careen down the streets next to miniature cars 50 years old and still running. Our SUV stops and children or disabled people or just poor people rush to the window saying, "Birr, money, money, birr..." People everywhere walking, carrying impossibly large loads on their backs or their heads, pushing wheelbarrows full of tomatoes, or firewood, or old shoes. Dirty feet in broken rubber sandals, mud sidewalks. Tiny walk-up corrugated metal stores selling spices in plastic bags. Or meat. (That's a horsehair fly swatter the meat seller has in his hand there.)Scenes that didn't make sense. An ancient sewing machine with a man sewing dozens of burlap sacks together - right in the city.The view of the neighborhood across the street from our 4 star international hotel window.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sunday, July 27, 2008


The adoption week was full of celebrations with the folks at the Thomas Center. On our second day - the embassy day - they provided a feast that was cooked right there at the center. We ate it in the family room and it was very tasty!

These next photos were taken at a good-bye ceremony in the early evening on Wednesday. Two of the three families left on Thursday so this was our last time to be together as a group. When I saw this event on our schedule for the week, I had no idea it was going to be such a big deal, but they even had a gentleman sing and play his guitar for us. Abdissa gave a sweet speech about the importance of children growing up in a specific family, they gave out presents for each member of each adopting family, and of course, there were drinks and food.

All the children attended as well. They sat in these chairs waiting patiently for the food!

Here you can see the guy with the guitar. My hair looks very strange in this picture, but this is what happens when you're trying to grow it out and you don't bring any styling products to Ethiopia with you!

The event from above.

Right after the event at the center, they took us out to dinner at a fine Ethiopian restaurant called Hibir. I'm wearing the traditional Ethiopian shirt they gave me at the celebration beforehand.

And here's a photo of our meal. Every few people shared a round "table" covered with injera which is like a big round grey sourdough pancake. Then they plop little piles of stew-like mixtures on top. There are no utensils; you just rip little pieces of the injera and dip it into one of the piles. This was the best Ethiopian food we had on our entire trip and even though I'm not a big fan of the food there, I did enjoy this meal!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Just Lovely

Before I continue on with the travel photos, I just wanted to say how nice it is to be home! Just in the past few days my life is starting to feel "normal" again. I have even started my regular evening walks - only now Ember gets to stroll along with me. And it was on my walk the other night that I found found myself getting almost teary as I looked towards the North Cascades under an endless, clean blue sky. The air was perfectly warm and fresh, the neighborhood gardens in full bloom, the trees heavy with leaves and gently moving with the tempo of the breeze. Ahhhh, it was beautiful. And I feel so lucky to live in such a place.

I plan to share more details as our story unfolds, but Ethiopia was a tough trip. It was an adventure, it was incredibly interesting, it shifted my perspective, it was so much, but it was not lovely. When we were flying home and finally, finally spotted land as we neared Dulles airport, I did break down and cry. I have never before felt so in love with America, with "home", and so grateful that I get to live here.It's good to be back.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Thomas Center

Here are a few photos taken over the course of the adoption week at the Thomas Center - the transition home and administrative center for our agency in Addis. This is the place where Ember spent her few four months.I really loved the staff there and the kids were so cute!

As you can see, laundry is a big issue here. They hand wash all the clothes outside in a corner of the courtyard - clothes for about 14 babies and about 14 toddlers and kids.

These first two photos were taken from a balcony on the 3rd floor that looks down onto the courtyard.

At play!
This was inside one of the two rooms for the kids. They had a toddler room and a room for the older kids. The kids were gathered around so we could hand out a little gift bag we had prepared for each of them. They were so excited, it was really heart-warming.
This is inside the baby room which had 14 cribs in it. The nannies wore those nice white outfits and the lady at the little desk was doing something with medicines. The amazing thing was that it was pretty quiet in there. It seemed like the babies were either sleeping soundly in their cribs or getting a bottle with their nanny. The mattress in the front was used for "quiet alert" time, I guess. There were always a couple of babies laying on it when we visited.

These are the 3 nannies that ran the show! Ember's primary caregiver was the one on the left.

Sinks outside in the courtyard. I just thought this was a cute picture!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


The morning we met Ember, a driver from our agency picked us up from our hotel. I asked him what Ember was like and he responded, "She's very happy! Smiles a lot!" I thought that was a good sign!
There were two other families also there to meet and pick up their children on that same day. They coordinated it so that all 3 cars arrived at the Thomas Center (our agency's transition home) at the same time and some of the staff met us in front with our babies and a bunch of flowers.
It was actually kind of hard to find a decent photo of me (not that you're looking at me in this picture!) since I was so overcome with emotion and in most of the pictures have big tears dripping off my face. The woman who handed us Ember is Selihome - Abdissa's wife.

After the initial meeting we all went upstairs at the Thomas Center for some snacks and time to bond a little. They also gave us some basic feeding information, cell phones to use during our adoption week, and a schedule for the week.

Here's Chris with baby Ember.

And finally just a photo of one of her first bottles with us back in the hotel! It was a good start!

The Latest

Sorry to bore you with all the sickness reports, but here's the latest! I'm better. I'm not feeling 100% yet, but still better than I have since we got home so it feels great! We still haven't unpacked our suitcases, but at least I'm vertical and Chris is able to go to work. Unfortunately, the first meal I was able to hold down was the first meal that Beck threw-up. That was Sunday night and he's still vomiting. And that's another thing: the boys still want to eat even though I keep telling them their tummy isn't better yet and that they'll probably have to vomit. It's pretty nasty. Anyway, Chris is the only one left who hasn't had this stomach flu. I think he's a little nervous, but maybe he'll luck out this time.

Our little angel biscuit, Ember, is doing well! I'm not sure if she just has a sunny, easy disposition or if the difference is spending her first few months in the institutional-like setting, but she is happy doing whatever. She's sleeping well and happy when she's awake, interested in everything, giggles and smiles a lot. My boys were so high maintenance, this feels way too easy! I especially like taking her outside because she seems completely fascinated with the trees blowing in the wind. Her eyes grow wide and she just stares. I know the feeling!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wiped Out

I just dragged myself out of bed to let you all know that we are very sick here. Even my niece, who is staying with us to help with the transition, has been throwing up for the past 24 hours. Yogi started feeling bad last night and so far has barfed 3 times today. I think we caught something on the flight home. At least I hope it's that and not Yellow Fever or some other scary disease. I had a very high temperature that wouldn't drop - even with Tylenol - for 2 full days. I thought I was feeling better yesterday so I had some food. That turned out to be a big mistake and I'm paying for it today. Ember seems to be doing better in terms of her wheezing. She still has a terrible cough and will only eat 2-3 ounces of formula at a time now. In spite of all that she still has her signature big smile!

I want to thank you all for the kind comments that you leave here! It really does make my day. It's kind of like finding Easter eggs out in the grass. Each one is a little surprise and big delight. Once we get back on our feet I hope to catch up in my blog neighborhood and make the rounds to see how you're all doing! I promise the photos are coming!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rough Start

We are having a rough start here. Our nausea is finally gone, but now we have head colds and hacking coughs. But really, that's nothing compared to what our little Ember is dealing with. Her wheezing hasn't diminished and we went back to the doctor yesterday. She also has a very bad cough which is causing her to vomit when she's having a bottle. It's bad. I feel so sorry for her. I mean here she is surrounded by all new people and places and experiences and she has this to deal with. There was no mention of reactive airway issues in her medical file so I'm not sure if this is a first and hopefully one time problem or if she'll end up with asthma.

Otherwise the doctor says she looks great! She noticed how alert and interactive she is and her weight looks just fine. She's in the 8th percentile on the American growth charts for weight and they expect that she'll grow a lot in the first 6 weeks.

Here's a photo of her taken at the airport in Dulles while we were waiting for our last connection. We gave her a little sponge bath and a change of clothes.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

We're Back!

Hello, hello! After 37 hours of travel with a baby on our laps, we made it back to Seattle last night. Man, that is one long trip. By the way, for those of you who don't know yet, our baby girl's given name was Emebet so we decided to play with that and named her Ember. Anyway, we hit the ground running this morning with a trip to the ER for wheezing. Ember came down with a cold which developed into a cough, which this morning had turned into wheezing. We decided to play it safe and take her in before it developed into something more serious. She got the usual treatment of albuterol puffs and some oral steroids and was sent home before lunch.

We're tired, but worse than that, Chris and I are both quite nauseous. Since we have no other symptoms and we both came down with it on the same day after so many hours of air travel, we're hoping it's motion sickness. Really hoping.

I have so many stories to share. And some advice too, but for tonight I'll just say that our beautiful Ember is just the sweetest, happiest baby. She is so alert and so full of big smiles. And I can't tell you how happy and relieved I am to have our family back together. I missed our boys terribly. Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow and have the energy to write more. The whole experience was so amazing I'm not really sure where to start!