Sunday, July 31, 2011


If you read this blog in a feed (or however you say that), I hit publish on the last Rwanda post too soon, accidentally, before I had finished writing. So you might want to come to the real blog and read it. Or you might not. But at least now you have the option. Knowing is half the battle, and all that. :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rwanda Rewind: HOME!

This is the last installment of the retelling of our Rwanda adventure. It's with a sigh of relief that I finish it. Glad to be done with the trip; glad to be done with writing about it. Ready to be home in real life and on the blog!

HOME!! That word never sounded so sweet. When our plane landed, I could not get off it fast enough. Kelsey had taken the boys through security with a special pass so they could actually meet us at the gate. I missed them SO MUCH on this trip--could not wait to get my arms around them. All three of my children in my arms--the stuff of many dreams.

The boys waiting for us to deplane:

Several people on the plane spoke to us and found out what was happening. That lady smiling on the left of the picture got off before us and told the boys we were coming. Then she stayed to watch. :) Here we come!
The moment I waited for:
Finally together.
Could not stop hugging them.
Meeting baby sister at long last.
First family photo: (thanks Kels!)
On the train, headed for baggage claim.
Family and friends were there to meet us. Such a wonderful homecoming! (Because we switched our return date from a Sunday afternoon to a Thursday, many people couldn't make it. We appreciate the thought!) Loved the posters!!
Meeting Nona for the first time!
And meeting Nan:
My dear friend Kelly, who prayed this baby home (and kept me sane!):
I love how Cory and Sam are hugging in this picture. They sure missed each other (the boys were in FL while we were in Africa, so they didn't see each other for a month).
Lindy and Addie, me and Laina, Liz and Penny: the girl "greats" and mamas:
And all the greats:
I was SO HAPPY to see my boys. Have I said that yet?
Heading to the car.
I think Jeremy was a little happy to see them too.
Jeremy flagging down the car. He looks rather festive. :)
When we got home, our mailbox and our front porch were decorated with girly balloons!

I can't even look at these pictures without tears in my eyes. Finally being home with our daughter after two years of waiting, weeks of travel, so many ups and downs, so many emotions and thoughts, so much learned and fought, so much grace. I find it hard to put into words. We let the kids play on the rug together and marveled. We put Laina down in her crib for the first time and rejoiced. We fell asleep, exhausted and jet-lagged, and woke the next morning (and many times during the night!) to our new normal. We fed Laina breakfast. We got three kids dressed. We turned the page to a new chapter entitled: finally a family of five.
And all we can say is thank You.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rwanda Rewind: The Journey Home

On our way home! A 17 hour flight never looked so good. We got to the airport early in hopes of snagging the bassinet seat for the babies (Laina and Jeb), but there weren't any available (although later I found out that most of the people sitting in the bassinet seats didn't have babies. Grr.)

While we waited for our plane, we saw a woman dressed in the same habit as the sisters at Laina's former orphanage. We started talking to her, and found out that she is Rwandan, and was returning from a visit to her mother. She knew Sister K and several of the other sisters at the orphanage. How amazing is that? She held Laina, and spoke to her in Kinyarwanda. Oh how I wish I could have understood what she was saying. I hoped that Laina could, and that she was soaking up the last time she'd hear her first language spoken for a while.

The sister blessed us for what we were doing (we're the blessed ones!) and told Laina and Jeb to be good. What a sweet way to end our time in Africa.
(travel buddies)

(us and the Bowers getting ready to board)

Although we didn't get bassinet seats, both us and the Bowers each got a whole center row to ourselves (another provision of God and thanks to the flight attendants that moved people just to make that happen). We were on the second-to-last row of the plane, and they were behind us. I love being in the back of the plane (not that I love being on a plane at all). It seems more private and like you have more space. Plus, you're closer to the bathrooms.

So we had three seats for the three of us. It worked out so well. Laina fell asleep on me, and I got her lying down in the middle seat. She slept that way (and sometimes on me) through the night and even through the re-feuling in Rome. She took a good nap, too. All in all, she slept for ten of the seventeen hours. And having her awake for seven of them was enough for me. What a long flight.
(I took this one for the boys who are always talking about jumping on or eating clouds)

We made it! As soon as we touched down in DC, Laina became an American citizen. Her first act as such was to cry so loudly and long while we stood in the customs line that they let us go ahead of everyone just to get us out of there. Good going, chica!

After a nap, she felt much better. After some fresh food, we did too. Here's our American citizen, sitting (propped up) proud!
Our flight to Atlanta was short and seemed long. The gentleman next to me talked to Laina until she fell asleep. He asked about our journey and then compared our long absence from our boys to how he feels upon greeting his dogs after he's been away for the weekend. (How do you respond graciously to that?! I'm sorry. Children and pets are not the same thing. But he was nice regardless.) I tried to read and couldn't. I couldn't do anything but sit and fidget. So close, so very close to my boys, to finally being together, all of us.

I always thought that the moment we first saw our daughter would be wonderful, but not as wonderful as the moment we were finally all together. I was right.

This is the part we had dreamed of for two years.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rwanda Rewind: Ethiopia

(yay! Ethiopia!)

We arrived in Ethiopia half-asleep early Saturday morning. We loaded all the families' stuff on the tops of several vans and headed to the guest house. There we happily discovered that we had been assigned to room with our dear friends the Stengels. Laina and Addy spent happy hours rolling on the floor together,
and Adrienne, Dillion, Jeremy and I hung out and talked most evenings after the girls were asleep. What a blessing they were to us during the last, long days away from home.
(the Stengels being stalked by a lion at the Lion Zoo--our last day in ET)

After dropping off our stuff, we all went to the kids' medical appointments, where we sat outside in the African sun (it was surprisingly pleasant out!) and tried not to fall asleep while waiting for our babies' names to be called. The doctors weighed and measured Laina (15 lbs! A whole pound gained since the hospital!), and asked us a few questions about her development. They checked her vaccination record. Done. They would deliver the report to the Embassy later on in the week, and we'd proceed to get the visa and go home.

We went to lunch at a place called Amsterdam. It was pretty good, and the restaurant was very interesting (inside, outside, tents, roofs, second story dining, patio dining). Then we tried to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime could be had.
(every time I tried to get a picture of Addy, Laina tried to steal the spotlight)

Sunday morning, we went to church. Although I missed most of the message (out in the lobby with a fussy baby, along with at least one parent/baby set from most of the families traveling with us), I did get to sing "Might to Save" and "The Stand" while holding my baby girl. Those two songs were special to me throughout the waiting time. So many times I sang them and thought about my daughter, and now, I was standing in Africa singing them with her in my arms. Thank You Jesus for that special gift.

After church, we went to a restaurant called Lucy something-or-other, which is connected to the museum that houses the Lucy remains. Laina choked during lunch, making my heart stop, and right when I finally got the tiny pieces of bread out of her mouth and she breathed again, a man in a suit who had apparently been making his way over to us when he saw what was happening, put his hand on my shoulder and said, "in Jesus name!" And then he picked up her bottle and stuck it in her mouth, telling me to give her a drink.

When lunch was done, we headed to the Lucy museum. My nerdy anthropological self was delighted.
We saw all the archaeological stuff (Ethiopia is home to a lot!), and then some historical artifacts, and some beautiful artwork (a lot of which was political in nature. So interesting!) I loved it. Especially because our contact in ET was incredibly knowledgeable about ET history and culture, and how it as a country fits into the world today, and where it is possibly heading in the future. Did I mention I love this stuff? One of the most interesting facts we learned is that Ethiopia uses a different calendar than much of the world. So while we were in Ethiopia, we were in the year 2003. Time-telling is different too, but I can't remember exactly how, except that it makes a lot more sense than our way. We also talked about communism, conservation, culture, and the Nile River.

(there she is: Lucy)

(isn't that beautiful? Thanks to the Stengels for these pictures!)

Much of our time in Ethiopia is mixed up to me. We went to the Embassy a few times. We prayed that a certain item of paperwork that they were giving us trouble about would be accepted. It was. We took visa photos of the kids in a really hot room (all of us in there at one time, plopping babies down assembly-line style with the photographer snapping away). We encountered much more visible poverty than we had seen in Rwanda, and we had our hearts broken. But there was a strength in Ethiopia, too. And there was beauty.
We planned and celebrated a surprise second birthday party for Avivah McLennan (Adrienne and I were proud of ourselves for finding presents, a banner, and a party hat!).

We wandered up to the rooftop of our building and watched the Father paint the sky.

We took in the sights and smells of Ethiopia as well as we could in such a short time. It got under my skin, that's for sure. I was fascinated by this country and her proud people. And by the mannequins that were held in place by nooses around their necks. They were all looking in the same direction off to the side and I knew that any moment they were all going to simultaneously turn their heads and look the other direction. With their nooses. Creepy. But I digress. Here are some cows!
And we took a group picture.

On Wednesday morning, we had our visa appointments. We heard that there was a strong possibility that we'd be getting our visa that day. After some discussion and prayers, we and one other family decided to try to leave that night. Yes, we booked our tickets home before we had the visas in hand. After some more drama and craziness, it appeared that it just might work.

We were going home! We had to get back to the hotel and pack, but we had wanted to see the Lion Zoo before we left. With only a few hours before our flight, we decided to throw caution to the wind.

We went to the Lion Zoo.
(look at this one closely. That baboon is yawning and you can see his fierce teeth!)

It was small and the animals were in small cages. They were up close and personal though! People were feeding candy to the baboon. And the flowers were gorgeous!

After the zoo, we headed back to the guest house. We packed and took quick showers. Laina and Avivah got their pictures taken in their matching dresses (Alison and I got them independently of each other).
(do I see a best friendship in the making?)

We were really going home! I couldn't believe it. We missed the boys so much, and we were going to see them soon. I think if we had had them with us in Africa, I would have been happy to stay much longer, but as it was, I was anxious to see my people. But amid the joy, there was sorrow too. We had to say our goodbyes to the people who walked this road with us. The two families leaving that night were the first two to go. It was the beginning of us all going our different ways, after having shared some of the most difficult and wonderful moments of the adoption journey with each other. I was sad to leave them, and sad to leave Africa. But it was time, after over three weeks, to go.