I feel like we are so very behind in the "updating people we love about our lives" category!! It has been a crazy few weeks!! I think I am going to write in categories :) The first important piece of information is that on June 9th ( I know...more than a month ago...BAD BAD BLOGGER!) we got the phone call we had been waiting for....about a courtdate in Ethiopia! We were told that we were to be in Ethiopia for court on Friday, July 15th. You read that right....we had exactly 5 weeks to plan a trip to the other side of the world. I will fill you in on all of the details about mundane words like "court" and "embassy" and "m.o.w.a" at the end of the post....but I am thinking that what everyone really wants to hear about might be our time with our soon-to-be-son!!
We left the US late on Monday the 11th and arrived in ET on the morning of Wednesday the 13th. Addis is 10 hours ahead of Colorado so we had a slight time change to adjust to! We had an hour or so to put our stuff down and shower before they came to pick us up. Truth be told, I had felt like throwing up for about 3 days straight. I was so nervous/excited/anxious/happy/sad (to be leaving the kiddos in CO) that my body combined all of those emotions together into a state of persistent nausea. Good times, good times. I still felt that way on the drive to Sele Enat (the orphanage where "T" currently lives)....although to be fair, the driving and fumes may have contributed some to that feeling at this exact moment in time....driving in Addis is NOT for the faint of heart. I have literally never seen anything remotely like it.....there are no lanes and 4 lanes of traffic will suddenly combine to 1, while at the same time avoiding hoards of people and herds of sheep and the occasional random donkey. It is a sight to see....but more on the driving later :) We were told by a man working for our agency that T had been asking every week for months when his mom and dad were coming....he said that he had been waiting anxiously to meet us. I know how he felt....this meeting had been a long time coming....the months of waiting have taken a toll on my heart and my mind. There have been days where I have felt simply weary for no apparent reason....and I know that it was the wait sitting heavily on my heart. We pulled up in front and waited at the gate. We waited anxiously while our driver held an animated conversation with the nanny who opened the door....out of their 3 minute conversation we caught his name and that's about it. We were led over towards the open door of a room and suddenly there he was. He came running out of the door with a huge grin on his face...and then he got shy. He had been sprinting and when he got to us he stopped and stepped back and his grin became more timid. I bent down and motioned him towards me. He came with his hands behind his back and his head down and he let me hug and kiss him. He looked at Nathan and then accepted his hug. He was sweet and shy and I am sure more than a little overwhelmed. All of the kids and their nannies were sitting on the bottom bunks covered in fleece blankets talking and singing.....it was way too cold (at 60 degrees) for playing outside, you see :) We followed T into the room and decided that a quick way to break the ice would be to begin handing out the goodies in our bag. We handed a bag of candy and bags of small toys to T one at a time and the nannies reminded him to say "thank you"....he would give a small bow, a tentative hug and offer a "thank you, mom" and "thank you, dad" that would melt my heart. And then he got to be the hero. He was the kid with the mom and the dad and the treats to share. It was a sweet moment for us to know that he knew that he was no longer alone. His parents were here. We had come just like he had been told we would. His sweet spirit became apparent immediately. We had been told that he loved cars and we should be sure to take hot wheels. He handed them all out immediately....and I mean ALL of them. This was par for the course. During the four days that we got to spend with him he kept the sweatshirt and the shoes that we gave him.....everything else he handed out immediately. He handed out every car, every piece of candy, every jump rope, every silly band, the hat we brought him, the necklace we brought him (which he got back out our urging....right before he started taking orders from the other kids for more necklaces....which we bought and brought with us the next day). So that was the first thing we learned about our boy....he has a generous heart and a sweet spirit. He was disturbed if he had something that the others didn't and immediately requested "more for everyone". He looked at his pictures quickly but the others wanted to look at them so he quickly gave away his album :) We got to spend about 3 hours a day for 4 days with our son. We spent our time playing soccer, climbing trees, eating, chasing, jumping rope, playing with cars, blowing up balls, and sitting quietly. If you were me, you also spent time playing lots of hand clapping games (you know...the ones with the rhymes and the intricate chants in Amharic that they wanted you to learn immediately) and getting your hair braided.....I will just say that braids DO NOT look nearly as good as me as they do on the Ethiopian girls....enough said.
Twelve hours. We got to spend a total of about twelve hours with our son. We learned that he is generous and that he has a sweet spirit. We learned that he is athletic and (unbelievably) good at soccer. We learned that he misses his cousins.....this one was heartbreaking. We learned that he does not like potatoes....which resulted in us being fed every potato to cross his plate that week :) We learned that he is funny and goofy....and my mother's heart was relieved to find that all he has seen and endured in his short life has not stolen his ability to be silly. He has friends and we saw that he is a good friend. He was worried about the kids who do not have parents and wants us to adopt them or find parents for them.....this was a hard one. FYI: I am on the hunt for parents for the sweetest 12-year-old boy in the world. T loves him and wants him to be adopted....just putting it out there. We learned he can be mischievious....should fit right in. He likes to play games on my phone....again.....he should fit right in!! He likes to run and play and he laughed when his dad messed up in soccer games :) He always wanted to be sure I was watching and cheering for him and would come find me if the little girls had monopolized my time for too long. He became comfortable with us and sought out hugs and kisses and praise. After that first day, he greeted us every morning with a running leap into our arms. He is tall and lanky. He's about the same size as Eli but probably 20 pounds lighter....tall and skinny that one. He has lost another tooth since the most recent picture we have of him. He has grown and changed so much over the last 6 months and I hate how much we have missed but cannot dwell on it. Saying good-bye was hard....impossible really. I can't really talk about it, yet....and I probably won't be able to until it is something in the past. At this exact moment it is still something that I can tangibly feel every minute and it just hurts. I can honestly say that I have never been so heartbroken. Leaving your child in an orphange is something no one should ever have to face....we need to remember that when speaking of birth families as well. The thing about pain is that we can't feel it anymore once it is behind us. We can remember it but God gave us the gift of not being able to actually feel it anymore....and even the memories can become more dull as time passes. I am still living in the pain...it is not in the past and it has not dulled, yet. Please forgive me if I seem on edge or if I can't articulate too many details about our trip that would not have happened without the support we have received from so many. Good-bye is too raw right now.
So....what does the future hold, exactly?? Several things have to happen before he can come home. A courtdate was the first in a series of important events. We went before the judge in Ethiopia and testified that we had met T and that we wanted him to be our son and that we were aware it was a done deal once she signed the papers. Unfortunately, we did not "pass" court....yet. There is an entity in Ethiopia known as MOWA (the Ministry of Women's and Children's Affairs). They are the people who actually read our dossier (all of the paperwork that we compiled) and T's paperwork and make sure that everything is in order. They then write a letter telling the judge (who does not actually read our paperwork) that everything is in order and she should make a favorable ruling for our adoption. In order to pass court 3 things have to have happened.....birth family testimony (T's aunt came to court July 5th and gave her consent for the adoption...this was a huge prayer request answered), adoptive family testimony (this was the anti-climatic 2 minutes that we flew around the world for), and a MOWA letter has to be present. MOWA is having some internal issues (this has been going on since March) and they are way beind on their letters. Our letter will come....we just don't know when. And so we wait. We try to find peace and to be patient....but every day that passes is one more that T just knows we haven't come back for him. He has seen parents leave before and then come back but that only provides a marginal amount of comfort. As soon as our MOWA letter arrives, the judge will sign off on our case. And then we wait for our adoption decree and T's birth certificate and passport to be issued. Once we have those 3 pieces of paper, we can be submitted to the US Embassy and we wait for them to give us an appointment. At that point, I fly around the world again and bring our son home. So...in summation, what happens now....is alot of waiting. We think that our earliest actual shot at an embassy appointment is 7 to 8 weeks. A miracle could occur and it could be earlier....or that could be entirely too optimistic....but it is what we are hoping for. We will keep you posted :)
I also just want to re-iterate one more time exactly how grateful we are for all of the love and support we have received from all of you these past months. I do not have words to tell you how lifted up we have felt and how loved we have felt and how much we have needed that to get to this point. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We will never forget the role that you all have played in giving us our son.