Our group will be meeting Thursday, August 13 at 5:00 at our home. If you are thinking about adopting, in the process of adopting, or already have adopted, this is the place for you. This is a great group to ask your questions about adoption as there are families who have gone through the process and have a wealth of experience to share. It's a great support for those in the process of adoption. We know what you're going through and are here to hold your hand, cheer you on, and to let you know that you are not alone in this journey. It also is a SUPER support for families who have adopted. Children get to play while parents connect... need I say more? Leave me a comment if you would like more info, and I hope to see some old and new faces!!!
I would like to introduce to you a new t shirt company, fnacotton!!! It is a business created by Marcus Grisham and a friend of his. Marcus goes to the same church as us, is an incredible person (his wife is pretty great too), and the Grishams have just decided to adopt from Ethiopia!!!! Kevin is wearing the "Old School" shirt and he loves it!!! Check them out at http://www.fnacotton.com/!!!
Yesterday Pastor John, our pastor at JRA, spoke a message about adoption, and it was simply wonderful. I don't think I've ever heard a message on this before, and he did a super job. I have posted the link to his message below, but I have to comment on one of the things he said. He mentioned a conversation he was having with Andy Braner (see the Journey link to the right). Many of you know that the Braners have adopted a baby girl from Rwanda and are about to adopt another little boy from there as well. Pastor John asked Andy if he was concerned about attachment issues. Andy's response was that he has attachment issues but God chose him anyway. WOW!!! What an HMMMM moment for me!!!! That is so true!!! Did Christ decide not to choose or adopt me because of my lack of attachment or His concern that I wouldn't attach someday? No, and even despite my attachment issues, Christ chose me anyway. WOW AGAIN!!! I'm not quite a "peach" as PJ would put it, and I am so honored that Christ did adopt me.
Why does the summer always go by so quickly? That is something that is commonly heard in the circles I run with, and as much as hate to talk about it, summer always does go by too quickly. We have had a blessed one, that is for sure. As to be expected, K Kauai was a blast. Rae was quite the hit, and I felt like I was with a celebrity as everyone was very much drawn to her infectious bubbly personality. Besides our week at Kauai, we have thoroughly been enjoying the carefree days of summer... picking berries, going on hikes, playing in sprinklers, building a tree house, a little home decorating here and there, and laying by the pool. School starts one month from today and I am looking forward to packing in as much "carefreeness" in as possible. We are going on a few more hikes, visiting with friends (our travel buddies to ET, the Whitakers, come next week), pool time, and for me, a visit to my bestie, Jamie Jo, in CO. I hope you all are enjoying your summers too!
We had an action packed weekend last weekend filled with beloved friends! I have had plans for several weeks to have Hally's best friend, Maggie, over as she has recently moved to Colorado and was visiting this week to see her grandparents. Her grandparents could not get her until Saturday, so we got to STEAL her for one evening. Hally, Maggie, and Emmy were so happy to see each other and they had a BALL with one another. The Haggos family also came Friday to spend the weekend with us. The kids had a great time playing while Coni braided all the girls' hair and she even taught me how to make beef tibs (?). They also brought injera, dora wat, and a lentil stew. It was entirely and completely YUMMY!!! I am hoping to be able to both braid and cook Ethiopian in the near future!!! On Saturday when Maggie's grandpa came to get her, he brought over an abandoned baby deer that he had taken in. It was so adorable and definitely a highlight for the kids' weekend!!!
Two years ago our sweet baby Rae was born. I cannot tell you how blessed and fortunate I feel to be this child's mom. She is amazingly charming, smart, bubbly, and just a FUN little girl. When we were preparing ourselves for Rae's arrival, I had no idea of what a blessing we would receive. Thank you LORD for this wonderful BLESSING called Rahel Scout!!!!
Okay, adoption blogging community. . .I have a wonderful opportunity!!! Andy spoke to our staff during our staff training week and he talked about adoption at one point and how you can help without being an adoptive parent. Anyway, to make a long story short, one of our staff girls got inspired! She is head of something in her sorority at OU and she gets to decide where their "charity" money goes this year from this certain fund raiser she is putting together. Last year they raised $9000 and this year her goal is ten. Well, she has gotten permission to raise the money for an adoptive family in Norman, Oklahoma. NOW SHE JUST NEEDS THE FAMILY!!!!
So, if you or anyone you know is from Norman and are adopting and need financial help, please let me know and I can get you hooked up with this sorority. They will pick one family to help.
It has been such a long time from my last post! Hally, Brady, and I made it through another school year, and it was a great one for all of us. Brady actually cried the night of the last day of school as he was proclaiming that he would miss his teacher. We were so blessed by the quality of our kids' teachers this year!!! It feels so great to be on break. I love spending time with my family and being able to have the energy to do "things" around the house. We also have great plans this summer which include building a tree house, painting the living room, building organizational shelves and cabinets in our closet (can you say hallelujah), and possibly doing some "fixing up" in the kitchen. We are also surprising the kids with a trip to K Kauai on the 19th. I cannot tell you how excited I am about this. We went last year and had the time of our lives!!!! So far, we have been to the pool twice and Rae really loves it. Thankfully she got her cast off last week, so she is good to go for WATER summer fun!!!
Last week Shanon, our fab social worker, came over to do our 3 month post placement visit. Can you believe it? It actually hasn't been quite three months, but I wanted to make sure we got the ball rolling. Our visit was very revealing for me to realize just how much has happened in just a little amount of time. When Rae first came home, she ate a lot (I mean packed it down), wouldn't make good eye contact when she was upset, and liked to run up to strangers and be held. These are all signs of a child who isn't attached to someone or possibly a child who is grieving a loss of some sort. Well, Rae is now a picky eater, will make eye contact with me when she is upset and is just a little more discriminant about who she lets pick her up... I count this to her just being a very friendly child by nature. I know we aren't out of the woods yet concerning adjustment and attachment, but boy we are off to a good start!!!!
On Saturday morning, Rae and I were coming around opposite corners at the same time and slightly bumped into one another. Rae fell back on her bottom in a way that was very common for her or any typical 22 month old. She surprised me when she started to cry (she's typically pretty tough). Hally helped her up and I was shocked to see her wobbling and not putting weight on her right leg. Kevin and I looked her leg over. She didn't have swelling and was able to move her toes and knee around. Kevin, who sees lots of sport injuries, thought she pulled a muscle, so I decide I wouldn't panic. All that day, she refused to try to walk, but seemed otherwise in a pretty good mood (as long as I was holding her). The next day, Hally's 9th birthday, when she still wasn't walking I began to get concerned. I stayed home from church and called the doctor just after Kevin left. Our pediatrician thought I should take her to urgent care to get her checked out. I grabbed Rae and my purse and headed out the door. Noticing an empty garage and no keys to my husband's truck, I realized that I was stranded until Kevin got home. Finally at 1:00, I packed up Rae in our car and set off for urgent care. Three hours and a box of tissues later (and during Hally's party), I got the report that Rae had indeed fractured her tibia. The next day we took Rae to an orthopedic doctor, and he explained that she had a "toddler fracture". My nerves slowly start to even out as he explained that this type of fracture is very common for her age even though she didn't have much of an impact to seemingly cause a fracture, and that he puts casts on toddlers and young kids for this about once a week. Rae is now sporting a grass green cast for the next 4 weeks. On the brighter side, she will just be ready for the pool by then. On the funny side (kind of), we have our first social worker visit since Rae has been home tonight!!! On the sad side (again), Brady has been home the last two days recovering from strep.... ugh!!
I promise my next post will be a lot happier. We have so much to be happy about!!!!
On May 9th, I am helping with an America World Adoption Seminar that will be held at my church in Ozark, James River Assembly, from 10-12. If you are reading this, and you would like more information about adoption from Ethiopia, Rwanda, China, India, Russia, Ukraine, or Kazakhatstan, then please come. You can register by calling 888-one-child.
Last week, I went back to doing one of my favorite things in the world which is teaching children with special needs. Each day I work with these amazing children is a reminder of how much can be accomplished and the hurdles that can be overcome with just a little bit of faith and encouragement. I have learned from my school kids that nothing should be taken for granted, and how blessed I am for the healthy children I have. Some of the kids that I work with or have worked with have major life threatening health conditions and severe learning difficulties that make simple everyday tasks a major feat to accomplish. Their attitudes towards these challenges are inspirational. As I went back to work on Monday morning, though, a bit of the sweetness that I savor with my job had a hint of bitterness. Oh, the sweet little 21 month that I left at home with my amazing mother was on my mind heavily. Thankfully I had such a busy day that it was hard to dwell on what I was missing at home. By the end of the week, I began to heavily reminisce and mourn the experiences I have had in the last 2 months. I could almost smell the burnt air in Africa that might make some people nauseous, but brings a smile to my face. I missed seeing smiling kids running through the streets, beautiful trees and bright colored flowers. I even missed the crazy car rides we took where it seemed we would inevitably hit someone, something, or be hit ourselves. I missed taking my daughter for a walk around the block in her stroller, hearing her bellow out momma, late morning bubble baths, seeing her face light up when I would walk in the room when I was only absent for a few moments. I had it bad and still do. I am thankful that God has given me the best two months of my life filled with glorious and rich memories. Today I cling to those memories but press towards the future as I know that God still has some of my best memories before me yet to be experienced!
A couple of weeks before we traveled to Ethiopia, we were asked to be interviewed by church staff. The subject was Wednesday Night Prayer, and we were asked on camera how it has affected our lives. If I were asked one on one how prayer has changed me, I think I could go on and on, and the listener would have a hard time getting me to stop. But on this occasion, I froze and seemed like the most uncool Christian and JRA member around as I had a hard time formulating my thoughts into words. I was able to utter out that I thought Wednesday Nights had an awesome impact on my kids (this is literally all I said). This little blurb I made, made the final cut for theannouncement the church made to encourage more people to go to church on Wednesday evenings. As I was sitting in church this morning and it was playing on the jumbo screen for all to see I felt a little embarrassed to see myself uttering those simple words, and it didn't help that Andy was pointing at us and whispering to those around us that we were on the screen!!! In the midst of this, I couldn't help but make the connection during the clip that God has answered so many prayers concerning my kids. At the time when we did the interview, I was thinking of the awesome Wells and Rankin families (children's pastors) and the incredible team they have. The creativity that God has blessed them with is really quite unbelievable and the impact it has had on my kids is eternal. Beyond all of that, though, God revealed to me that when I said "kids"at the time I was only thinking of Hally and Brady. But now that we have Rae and have experienced so many answered prayers concerning her, I couldn't deny the affect prayer has had on all our kids. When I think of all the prayer cards we filled out, the requests our children made in Sunday School, our morning petitions to God, the times my kids raised their hands for prayer requests during kid's church, and the countless friends and family members who I know have been praying, it made me realize that God had listened to our prayers. There couldn't be a child more perfect for our family than Rae, and she doesn't seem to mind us too much either. Now I can see that little phrase I made that prayer has had an amazing impact on our kids, though small in content, spoke volumes of the goodness of the Lord and the faithfulness He will display if we would simply call on Him.
Well, it was a super shower and so many people came! Thanks so much for stopping by (this is Jamie Jo blogging again, but I know that Kelly would be saying the same). Here are some darling pics of Rae and Kelly for you to enjoy!!!
Kevin went out one day to exchange money while we were in Addis. While out he was taking photos of the city as he was wanting to capture everyday life in Ethiopia. A man having his shoe shined caught his eye, and he decided to take a shot. The fellow, to Kevin's surprise, hollers out as he was taking the picture, "Where are you from?" in perfect English. Kevin, a little taken back, tells him he is from Missouri. The guy bellows back that he is from Texas. It really is a small world!!!
There are a few topics that I have been wanting to write about in reflection of our trip. One topic is Kevin. I cannot get over how my husband never ceases to amaze me. The day we met Rae for the first time, I found myself staring at him. At the time I was surprised that he didn't ask me why I was looking at him so much, but as I reflect I can see that he wasn't paying attention to me. This is exactly what caused me to stare. He was totally enthralled and wrapped up in captivating our daughter's attention and affection. I knew that becoming Rae's mother would be very easy for me as I thought this was a "mother trait", but I didn't realize how instinctual it would be for Kevin as well. Watching and observing Kevin that first day was magical and priceless. He had that mysterious and wonderful glow that was infectious and magnetic. I will never forget it.
Even as wonderful as that day was, what I experienced with Kevin there after was beyond a magical moment. It was unconditional patient loyalty. As soon as we left the transition home, Rae did not show interest or tolerate anyone's affection but her mothers. As much as Kevin was wanting to love and hold her, he accepted her rejection of him without any impatience or being hurt. He only made comment that he was glad that it was him she was rejecting and not me. This is my Kevin though. Always ready for the long haul, moving steady, and remaining on course. This has always been Kevin throughout any situation we have been in, and once again God has been faithful to my husband. Within a week of being home, Rae was accepting Kevin's affection and love. She is now happily a daddy's girl!!! She squeals and runs to the door when he comes home from work and delights in any attention her daddy gives her. Kevin is definitely one of my heroes and I am so glad to be doing life with him.
Life with Rae the last few weeks has been better than I could ever had imagined. Everyday she gets more and more confident, assured, and attached to her new family, friends, and surroundings. On our first Sunday together she spent a lot of time on my lap. Brady and Hally were able to play with her as long as I was a short distance away. Hally and Brady are great older sisters and brothers to Rae. Brady loves to hug and kiss on her and brag about her while he is at school. Hally was able to hold Rae on Monday. Even though it was for a short time, Hally was so ecstatic and so proud. She started to let Kevin hold her a short time after that. She now is spending most of her time playing and being silly, and only occasionally wants to be held. This changes if we are out in public. Last Sunday, we went to church, where she was very bubbly, but would only sit in my lap or be held by me. We went back to Sunday evening church where she was able to hear praise and worship (we were late in the morning). She absolutely loved the music. She almost bounced herself out of my arms, as she was so excited!!! During the evening sermon, she would tease Kevin by reaching her arms out to him, go to him, but only for a second or two before she wanted to return to me. After service she got very brave and let Hally walk her around the atrium area.
Rae is also very much developing communication skills. She has always said something that sounds like the word auntie. Whenever she saw something she was interested in, she would say, "aunite, auntie", point to your face, and then to whatever it was she wanted you to see. We found out in Addis that she was saying "hey you"!!! At the beginning of the week, she started saying momma. She doesn't really realize what this means and that it is unique to me(she has called others this as well), but she does know that I get really happy when she says it to me. She is now saying daddy, Hally, and our dog's name Jo Jo (sounds more like doe doe when she says it). She repeats a lot of words especially when looking at pictures and picture books.
Eating. Rae does a lot of it. She can really pack it down and can eat about the same size portions that I eat (maybe even more). We went to the doctor and according to their charts, she is in the 8th percentile, but I can't imagine her staying there for long. She really isn't picky either. There have been very few things that she won't eat.
We are really pinching ourselves over this really smooth transition so far. Even our best expectations for this time has been exceeded. Thanks for the prayers and thank you to God for this unexpected blessing!!!
The only word I can properly use to describe this day is exhaustion. Not just physically exhausted, but mentally and spiritually exhausted as well. I feel like my senses were so filled up in the past week, that on this last day, it was all coming to a grand finally of sweet overload. Our travel group had ambitious plans of making several last minute stops to different places we wanted to see and do, but only ended up making one final stop. The place we ended up visiting was to a coffee factory/shop. You can't go to Ethiopia and not learn about the birthplace of coffee can you? We saw how meticulously the beans were sorted over and over again. The beans went through several sorting machines, and just when you thought the beans had been sorted enough, they again go through another sorting phase. The last sorting phase is a feast for the eyes. We were escorted into a large room with three or four long rows of tables. Beautiful women draped in gorgeous colorful scarves, that covered their noses and mouths, squeezed side by side up and down the tables as they sorted the beans by color. Several of the women looked up quickly and exchanged a quick smile before getting back to their tedious task of sorting. We ended the tour by buying coffee in the shop area. After this tour is when the Whitakers and our family knew that this would be our last visit in Addis. We all did our final traveling preparations and relaxed until the time came to depart for the airport. We had to say our goodbyes to the Joner family hours before our departure, and then said our farewells to the Whitakers in DC. These were not sorrowful partings, but more like a we'll be seeing you soon kind of farewells. I am thankful that God had picked such great families for us to travel with and I will always value our time we spent together in Ethiopia. We were quite early in arriving at the airport, but that didn't seem to be a big issue as we were occupied in making conversation with other adoptive parents who were congregating in the airport and doing last minute shopping. Yes, there is great shopping in the airport (great for spending remaining birr), and the prices are not that much more expensive as the markets we patroned a few days earlier. I was almost laughed right out of one shop I was in as I tried to barter for a cheaper price of an item I was interested in. Okay so there are shops in the airport, but no bartering!! Can you blame a girl for trying?!!!
Before I knew it, we were loaded on the airplane and headed home. During our flight home, I developed a new admiration for my little brave Rae. She is such a strong little girl. She had been through so much in her short little life, and now here she was on her momma's lap as happy as she could be heading home. She was an absolute dream coming home. Our first flight was 17 hours, and she was perfect. We had a 4 hour lay over in DC, a 2 hour flight to Chicago, and then a 2 hour layover there. Again she was perfect. Our last flight to KC was a different story. As soon as we got on the plane, Rae released all pent up feelings of exhaustion, uncertainty, and anxiety. Even though she was exhibiting characteristics and actions that should have been terrifying to me, I had been given a grace and an understanding for her that surprised me. I almost could hear myself telling her to let it out and that she deserved this moment of frustration. And I was fiercely ready to defend her to anyone on the plane who might have even given me so much as disapproving look. Thankfully, I decided to not make eye contact with anyone (so I wouldn't have to repent later). As soon as the wheels touched the pavement in KC, it jolted Rae to where she immediately quits crying and falls into a peaceful rest. This is when I start to let down as well. Kevin and I decided to wait until everyone else got off the plane as it was the least we could do for these people who had to endure a plane ride full of wailing (and I knew my parents who were picking me up weren't due to pick me up for another half hour). I really felt like I was in my own personal little tunnel as I was walking off the airplane towards the waiting area. My skin felt numb and there was a faint pounding in my head that reminded me of the lack of sleep I have had within the last 48 hours. I am really feeling like a zombie as I blankly stare at who knows what when I reach the airport waiting area. I hear pounding and I have to really ask myself if the pounding in my head has somehow increased in intensity. I come to my senses enough to realize that it is coming from the the plexy glass that was separating the main lobby from the secured lobby of the airport. There before my eyes were the faces of two angels, Melissa and Jamie Jo. There they were with Todd and Andy clicking pictures and holding balloons and signs cheerfully describing the anticipation of our arrival. I melted instantaneously, but tried to keep it together as I covered my mouth and tried to hold back tears. It was a failed attempt. My step quickens and I fall into their embraces. What a great surprise!! The airport that we flew into was a good 3 hours from where we lived, so I was not at all expecting to be greeted by anyone but my family. They will never know how much this homecoming meant for me, and I will never forget this memory. A few moments later, I see my children, mom, dad, brother, sister in law and niece walking down the hall. I spotted them first and hollered out to them. My son bolts in our direction and seems conflicted on who he should greet first. Before we know it, we are all in a mad frenzy of hugs and kisses. The embrace I shared with my mother was therapy for us both. My pain was her pain and she had labored this journey just as if it were her own. It was at this moment, on Valentine's Day, that I remember the verse God gave me right before we got our referral....
Relax, everything's going to be all right; rest, everything's coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way! Jude 1:2
As I awoke to this day, I had begun to notice the same sounds on this early morning as I have heard all week long. A call to prayer broad casted throughout Addis, roosters crowing, dogs barking, the cleaning lady sweeping the hotel stairs, and big diesel trucks roaming the streets of Addis can be heard faintly in the backdrop of my sleepy dreams as they transfer to the reality of a brand new day. There are a million things that are new to me about this city, but the things that will make an imprint on my memory for eternity are the fact that there were trees everywhere. Usually in big cities, trees are scarce, but in this huge city with a population of several million people, there are so many trees. I will also remember the hospitality of the people here. These people really took a hold of Jesus's words when He said to serve one another. It seems to come so effortlessly to them and so apart of their culture that it is almost expected to put other's needs before your own. On this morning I was humming the tune "greater things are yet to come and greater things are still to do be done in this city". Now that I have been, seen, and tasted this beautiful country, I will never be rid of the burden I have for her. At the beginning of the week, all I could think of was how I wanted to get home and was counting the days of our departure. Now, tears welled up in my eyes as I looked across this beautiful city from my hotel balcony window thinking that my days here were coming to a close. The thought of seeing Hally and Brady soon are one of the comforts in leaving this beautiful country.
I was very excited about this day particularly as I knew we were going to visit several of the city's orphanages. We all got ready and met in the hotel lobby where we again loaded up the hotel's mini van and headed to our first orphanage called Gelegela. As soon as the home gates were opened, children could be seen running frantically trying to get a glimpse of the foreign visitors they had grown accustomed to seeing periodically. We all looked each other over and after exchanging waves and smiles, we began to make our tour. Forget everything you know about orphanages when you are visiting this place. Images of Oliver asking for more please to an overbearing heartless caretaker and the tune "a hard knock life" would have come to mind if you said orphanage before visiting Gelegela, but this place was a happy place. The children were happy and well taken care of, and you could feel that they had a sense of belonging and purpose in this haven they had been giving from a prior life of who knows what. Make no mistake, though, that this is not where these children belong for the long haul. They need homes desperately. They need mommies and daddies to hold them when they cry, cheer them when they accomplish a hard task, and to encourage them to reach their dreams. Gelegela is providing a short term need with excellence and the children are thriving. There are millions and millions of orphans in this tiny country just twice the size of Texas. This facility cares for less than 100 children. There are more children that need to benefit from this haven. About half way through the tour, we met the most amazing woman. She was the director of the orphanage who appeared to be around the age of my own mother. This women had the face of an angel. And to the one's she has been in contact with, I can only imagine they felt she was an angel. She proceeded to tell us her story and vision for the impoverished of Ethiopia. I will not share the details of her story as it is hers, but I will tell you that I was in sobbing tears by the end of her story, and will be forever changed and motivated by her testimony. Michelle, thankfully, was our group's spokeswoman and thanked her for sharing her story and for all the work she has done. The director was ever so humble and gracious and said something I would never forget. She said that she was nothing, had no education past 5th grade, and that God delights in using the foolish to confound the wise. There was nothing foolish about this women, and I can only hope to be and do a portion of what this women has done. We finished the tour by handing out treats to the children and giving the orphanage donations (which included the tees from James River Kids.... isn't it cool to think that kids in Africa are wearing "Got That" shirts?!!!!). There was one particular little fella who stayed really close to my side. He absolutely stole my heart and Kevin's....
The visit to Kids Care was also unforgettable. The same feeling of happiness that exuded from Gelegela was also present in this facility. We met Duni's mother at this establishment, and if you ever wondered where Duni got her fearless determination wonder no more as it is definitely hereditary. Rae was quite content on my lap as we watched Jason play jump rope with girls, Scott spin a basketball on his fingers, and Kevin taking pictures like mad of willing and excited children. We all left with a greater sense of gratitude towards the people who had been caring for our children and a feeling of awe and wonder as we witnessed many of God's commands set in motion.
Kevin and I were surprised to have passed the night away without waking up at least once. We were awake long before Rae opened her eyes for the first time that day, and I had to wonder what she was thinking when she did awake this day? She let out a few whimpers and I pulled her on the bed to my chest. She seemed quite comfortable and safe in this position. Kevin tried to get her to smile and play, but she only buried her face deeper into my chest. I was still in the state of wonder and awe of this precious child I was holding and was trying to learn every detail of her features. That was when I noticed that a few of Rae's rubber bands that were in her hair had broken within the night. I thought that I could put off doing her hair for a couple of days, but that was not to be. Thankfully Rae was very patient with me when I made my first attempt at doing her hair. The hardest part was definitely taking out the remaining bands. At one point I had to use Kevin's pocket knife to cut the ones that were in so tightly. All in all, Rae was perfectly patient with me and I feel like I ended up doing a pretty good job!
We spent the remainder of the morning getting ready and eating. Rae was buzzing about the room playing with Kevin right up until the time we had designated to leave for lunch. As soon as we leave the room, Rae makes it very clear that the only place she'll be is in my arms (and that is where she remained for the entire day while we were out). We ate at another Italian restaurant and then headed off towards the US Embassy for our consulate appointment. We went through several security check points, but all I could think of were past new's headlines where US Embassies were bombed abroad. Mix that with the fact that an US Ambassador employee had mysteriously died the day before we arrived, and then you have one nervous momma!! Everything went very well for us, despite my wild imagination, at our appointment, but I was very glad when it was over. We spent the remainder of our afternoon at the post office area shopping. We had such a good time interacting with the people and making our purchases. We ended our day at the hotel where we ate dinner and unwound from another busy day.
Duni had given us a real treat when she said that she wanted to take us to the site of where Kids Care wanted to build an elementary school. Duni had informed us that we were going there after we had finished filling out the massive amount of paperwork that morning at Kaldis Coffee Shop (Addis's version of Starbucks and if you are ever there get a juice spritz as it is DEVINE) in order to be prepared for our embassy appointment the next day. I have to say that when she first told us that we were going to the location, I was not so thrilled. Look at land? Really? I had no idea of the treat we were in for. The location is a little village (or suburb if you will) just outside of Addis. Currently, they have a kindergarten and early childhood complex that educates toddlers and 5 year olds. If a family wants their child to get an education past this age, then they have to commit to walking an hour each way to school. It isn't too hard to figure out that the need for a school here is huge. The school is painted in a bright aqua green and although it looks dilapidated, it somehow speaks out of its cheerfulness. The school was on break this week, so when we take a tour we find vacant rooms. The school is surrounded by a gate and children had started to accumulate outside its borders as curiosity takes the better of them. There were two little girls by the gate that caught my eye, and I signal to them that I would like to give them a piece of gum. Unlike the shopping experience a few days before, when the other children saw me do this, they did not run and try to get a piece too. I took it that they didn't want a piece but later realize that shyness was the culprit. At about this time Duni leads the group to the plot of land about 50 to 100 feet away from the early childhood complex that will be the location of the new school. By then we have quite the following of children, teenagers and even some adults from the village who are curious of our visit. The land is large and flat with not much grass our any type of plant or tree growth. To tell you the truth, I was having a hard time focusing on the school site as there was a small group of boys that looked like they were around 10-12 years old that stayed a close proximity of my side. I guess it was because they noticed I was carrying a cup of juice (the delicious juice spritz from Kaldis) that was almost gone that caught their attention. One of them points to the cup and says "juice?". I hand it to him and he takes a few quick steps back and immediately inhales quickly from the straw. He did this so fast that he made a huge slurping noise which caused him embarrassment and the other boys to crack up in laughter. I couldn't help but giggle myself. It reminded me of the kids I see everyday at school and how they too are quick to be embarrassed and giggle at small embarrassing moments. As we strolled back to our car, Duni asks one of two girls that are walking hand in hand their names and ages. The older was 12 (she really looks about 9) and the younger was a 5 year old student at the kindergarten building. Duni has a small conversation with them in Amharic and finds out the 12 year old indeed makes the hour long trek each day to and from school. Duni also coaxes the younger child to sing a song she learned in school. It had to be the sweetest melody my ears had ever heard. The little girl was very apprehensive about doing it, but visible strength took over her as she belted out the tune she probably had sung so many times before. The group roared in applause and praise when she was finished, and a huge smile envelopes the little girl's countenance as she lifts her head with pride. Duni explained that she sang a song about a naughty monkey who stole a banana, got in trouble for it, and then vows never to do it again. How precious was that? We ended our visit with sharing more gum with the children and waves goodbye. As the van pulled away, children continued to wave frantically and run along the side and back of the van. I kept my position facing the back of the van until all the children were out of sight. I had settled two things in my mind as we pulled away. One, I wanted to be a part of the building of this school, and two, I was going to choose to be as happy as these children who seemingly have nothing.
We then made a hour long journey to a restaurant and hotel called Dream Land. Again, I was wondering about how worth it would it be to take two hours of our precious time from Addis to visit this place, and again I was proven that I had no idea what I was talking about. Dream Land is situated at the top of what I can only describe as a bowl. In the pit of the bowl is a huge and vast lake. Evidently a volcano had made this lake and 3 others nearby that were very similar to the one we were visiting. The restaurant facilities are mostly outdoors. When you take your first step outside the indoor area of the restaurant, you can see for miles and feel as though you are on top of a mountain. Downward stairs lead to a lookout area patio. The drop from the patio to the lake was quite steep and the distance to the other side of the lake was vast. The images and scenery I was viewing were absolutely breath taking. With our zoom lens on our camera, we were able to see children swimming in the lake and herdsmen leading their flock for a drink. It had to be one of the most beautiful images I have ever seen.
As beautiful as it was at Dream Land, there were other thoughts pending my mind. Today was a historical day in the Blackwell family as it was the day that Rae would be taken to her forever home. So once again we made our way back to the transition home, and crossed through those magnificent silver doors. Rae was a lot quicker to come to Kevin and I on this day. We tried asking lots of questions about her to the nannies and get as much information about caring for her as possible. We also spent as much time as possible with the other children and babies that were waiting for their families to come. I really did not know but a handful of children and who they belonged to, but between the three families that were there, we made sure that every child got some attention and love. I do know that I cuddled and loved on baby Martin and Kulp. They were both such good and sweet babies. I also played with the Hall's little guy. He is something else!! He loves attention and is very social!!! I think I spent the most time with A. Semlow. She is such a spunky little sweetie. Wherever I went, she made sure she was within a short distance of my side, and if I didn't have anyone else in my arms, then she made sure that my arms weren't vacant for long. By the end of our visit, we were having kissing wars!! I so hope that she and her brothers are able to go to their forever home soon!!! Leaving the transition home was very emotional and bittersweet for all of the families. Nannies were saying their cheerful goodbyes to our children, but all we could think was that our children were leaving the only place they had ever known.
We all spent the remaining of the our evenings in our own rooms. Kevin and I tried to make the evening for Rae as comfortable and fun as possible. She was very somber and sweet. She ate, looked at books, tried on her new shoes several times, and stayed close to my lap at all times. Kevin and I could not get over the miracle that was in our midst. It didn't seem possible that she was finally in our care.