My Etsy Shop!


Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Day We Met Our Little Lady

We slept VERY little the night before meeting Zoe. Too much was running through our minds from the day's excitement and the day facing us. We knew we had to be up fairly early to eat breakfast and be done by the time Almaz came to do paperwork with us that would have to be sent over to the US Embassy ahead of us for our appointment later that day. We went down to breakfast with Dawn and Tim and we were all nervous and jittery and none of us slept much at all. We tried to eat a bit of breakfast and the rest of the travel group slowly dribbled in and it was fun to talk with everyone a bit more since the night before we didn't get to a lot b/c of their late arrival. We were all excited and nervous and no one ate much of anything. All of the sudden Almaz was there, just casually walking in the door to the lobby and saying hello. We could not believe that this was IT, we were really going to do this and all the praying, dreaming, longing, wondering, and worrying of the last year was for this moment. We filled out our forms, and of course Pat and I filled ours out incorrectly (surprise!) and we had to re-do them and everyone mocked us. All paperwork was then collected and at that point Almaz said “let's go!” Oh my gosh, I cannot describe the nervous-anxious-terrified-excited feeling in my stomach but I know most of the others felt the same thing. And there we were, leaving the hotel and going on “The Walk” that so many other AGCI families have gone on before and shown pictures of-it was like everyone has said, shorter than they expected and then all of the sudden, there is the famous All God's Children gate. Dawn and I exchanged some very nervous looks, I started to cry and Pat and I stopped to pray a quick but fierce prayer before we walked through that big red gate. We were at Hannah's Hope and got to see the one couple from our group who were adopting older boys meet them first. Oh my goodness, words cannot describe it-those boys came running to their new parents and threw their arms around them—everyone was crying and videotaping and snapping pictures of them for them. It was just amazing. The babies were all in the background and I was trying NOT to look at them because I didn't want to see Zoe until it was time to meet her and have her placed into our arms. One family was adopting a toddler and he came out next-SUPER adorable! He came out but got very wary when he saw the faces of his new parents and just stopped walking, started to back up, and eyed them suspiciously. He would not go to them, until someone gave them a lollipop to offer him-well, he was over his suspiciousness quickly!! We took pictures and video and cried some more-then I hear Dawn saying “Jody Jody! It is time-they are getting Jaxson!" I had promised her I would take pictures of their meeting and so she tossed me her camera and they were led to him where he was in a bouncy seat. It was so beautiful, just seeing their joy at finally being a family of three-a miracle right in front of us! I just kept snapping a million pictures and then someone said “Jody they are calling you guys-it is your turn!” I quickly shoved my camera at poor Sarah standing next to me an asked (commanded??) her to take pictures, to which she graciously agreed . Then all of the sudden we were being handed our baby and both Pat and I were crying and completely overwhelmed with what God has done in our family and the beauty of our new little girl. It is indescribable. We spent the next bit holding and smiling at and studying our newest Hilt--she grabbed tightly to Daddy's finger and did not let go!! We all kept taking pictures and video for each other and it was so amazing, miraculous really. There were adorable little brown babies everywhere, some with great clouds of silky curls, others with smoother jet black hair, and a few with no hair!! All of them just snoozing in the sun, so content. Too soon it was time to leave and rush back to the hotel to get our diaper bags and passports together since we had to be back at HH in less than an hour for our appointment at the Embassy. We scrambled to get stuff together-it had been awhile since we had packed a diaper bag for a tiny one!-and hurried back to HH to get our tiny ones and get in the vans to go to the Embassy. We were fortunate to sit right by the window so there was a good breeze that put Zoe right to sleep. She stayed asleep for awhile until we got into the actual waiting room where she got pretty fussy and we fed her a bottle for the first time-and she liked it! But wow, that girl can BURP! It was all dark in the room, I think to keep it cool, and some American channel was on the tv and lots of Ethiopian folks were there and looking at us kind of warily. We were to wait to hear our name called and then to go upstairs where we would answer a few questions, raise our right hand and agree to the oath they read, and sign some paperwork-and poof! They handed us Zoe's Ethiopian birth certificate and all her documents and we were done! We waited for the other families to finish and then we all got back into the vans to go back to the hotel to collapse, er, rest. Zoe fell right to sleep again on the ride home and then slept for awhile longer back at the hotel. We just looked at pictures of our morning, picked good ones to send back home to the girls and good ones to put on the blog for the folks back home, and we watched her sleep. She soon woke up and we gave her her first bath, which she sort of liked and sort of was nervous about. She got fussy at the end though and we thought she was ready to eat, but she just liked to be laid down on the bed so she could “talk” to us-lots of funny whirring squawking noises and looking into our eyes! She really liked her Daddy to be nearby and would fuss when we wasn't in her eyesight-which is understandable since this was her first day ever having a Daddy!! And he is in love with being her daddy, too-he said “I can't stop looking at her!” The rest of the day was just spent resting from the emotionally exhausting, but incredible day, hanging out around the dinner table with the other AGCI families and just enjoying the peace that had settled on all of us from finally being united with our children.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Some Good News

We got the results from Zoe's chest xray today and it shows no signs of pneumonia or TB so woohoo!! It looks like she has viral bronchiolitis which means we will need to keep up the breathing treatments for a few weeks-to which my husband responded "WEEKS?! are you KIDDING me?!"which I think is a quite appropriate response as we are both ready to smack that smile off that little penguin's cheeky face at this point-and wait for this virus to run its course. So, aside from doing the treatments on a decreasing (hopefully) basis for the next few weeks, we do not need to do any other significant medical intervention. Those breathing treatments though, well, they are like trying to put lipstick on a greased pig--that girl moves and wiggles and grabs the mask and tubing constantly and I am pretty sure we burn like 500 calories in 10 minutes. (Hence the aforementioned response from my hubby) The upside is she is getting a little smiley-er each day which I think is probably what happens when you are experiencing oxygen for the first time!! We are just so thankful God got her home with us in exactly His timing because she was really struggling and to think of what might have been if we had been a month or more later, well...we won't think of it. One other concern that has developed is her hearing-she seems to not respond to any sort of noise stimulation on her left side so we will be having her hearing evaluated in about 4 weeks. But enough of the concerning things--can I just share how in LOVE we are with her???? Her eyes just suck you in and then she sucker punches you with a sweet, slow, toothless smile. How did this little critter just jump right into our hearts and family so completely and perfectly in an instant? Only God-to Him be ALL the glory for this beautiful chapter of our lives.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tired Does Not Begin To Describe It

So we have been home a few days now-I think. I do not even know what day/time it is for the most part. We struggled when we first came home with dizziness and jet lag and tummy issues which were all pretty miserable, but normal. What has not been normal and was not expected is what else we have been doing in the last few days. Meet our new best friend around here, Mr Penguin:Mr Penguin is Zoe's new nebulizer with which we are having to give her breathing treatments every 4 hours around the clock in addition to a few other medications we need to give her every day. Remember how I said she had some chest issues we were concerned about in Ethiopia? We had a pretty tense night there our last night as she was wheezing and pretty much panting and getting very little air in the middle of the night and I felt completely helpless as I didn't even know who to call, where to go, how to communicate, etc-it was very scary. So I called on the Great Physician (repeatedly!!!!) as I sat holding my precious little girl and slept with her sitting up and He miraculously carried us through that night, but I was more than ready to get home and get her to a doctor as I knew this was not just an ordinary case of the sniffles. She was blessed to have a pretty good trip home which was great because again, I have no idea what I would have done if she had another wheezing episode on the plane. We got home and by bedtime (really by dinnertime) we were honestly delirious from exhaustion and collapsed into bed. I was awoken in the middle of the night by Zoe's frantic rapid and tight breathing/wheezing and just scooped her up, went into our bathroom and turned the shower as hot as it would go, shut the door and sat in the home-made sauna with her. I was thinking she probably needed to get to the ER but I was so out of it I couldn't figure out how to do that since Pat was sick in bed and my mom was downstairs in our guest room-yes, I know I could just go get her but I was SO. TIRED. I literally could not function and was just paralyzed so we just sat there in the steam praying and dripping with sweat till she at least slowed down the frantic panting and things seemed a little looser in her chest. We slept the rest of the night, with her glued to my side in my bed and me with one eye open. The next morning she seemed pretty pleasant, but still horribly junky coughing/rattling/wheezing so I took her to the after hours clinic where I was blessed with an angel of an on-call doctor. He was so nice and very concerned-he did say if we had another night like the one we had to get to the ER immediately (and that I really should have the night before but the steam was the next best thing, ugh) and he waffled back and forth about sending us on to the ER right from his office (a little disconcerting-I was feeling a little panicky by then) but decided he would just give me the meds and equipment and teach me how to do all the things they would do at the hospital so that hopefully we could get things turned around a bit and avoid the hospital if possible. So, I came home with 4 new prescriptions and Mr Penguin in his little igloo carrier. As well as a screaming baby who had had ENOUGH of being out and about at the doctor and pharmacy. I then McGuyvered up a little mist-tent in our room for her to help her have warm mist to hopefully keep things from tightening up too much when she sleeps-it is a full sized sheet that is pulled over her crib and down and around the vaporizer on the floor so the mist hopefully stays in her sleeping area and not dispersed all over our room:
We have our appointment for tomorrow already scheduled for her general check up so the on call doc told us to definitely keep that appt to follow up and there is a good chance they will do a chest x-ray and a few other things that sound equally enjoyable. We are looking forward to going because we need to know what is the next step and how can we get our baby doing better and a few other questions. Anyway, we are tired beyond words and just want to SLEEP. We have to set the alarm for every 4 hours during the nite too to do the breathing treatments until the doctor gives us the go ahead to change that. Sometimes I am so tired I do not realize I am asleep, standing up. I cannot even explain it. So anyway, I didn't get my last few days' posts up from Ethiopia since the internet/power was down-I am sorry and they are written and I may post them in the next day or 2 since I will not have a lot of time to write I do not think. And fro the AGCI folks reading this, I also got some time with the waiting babies and will let mommies and daddies know how that went, but right now we are just trying to even function!! So I will get with you, but please give me a few days to email you if you can stand to wait while we figure out exactly what we are dealing with with our Zoe. I will leave you with a cutie picture of her at her first bath last Monday when we got to bring her back to the hotel with us, and ask you to join us in praying that we can get our little lady well asap because she just seems miserable. Thanks!!

Little Miss Zoe Mahlet

Friday, April 24, 2009

We're Home

We are back, feel like we have been run over by a truck, Pat is sick in bed and I cannot stop feeling like I am still on a plane. As such, I will give you and update on the last bit of our trip when I regain conciousness-thank you all for coming along on our journey, your comments helped get us through the week!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shopping, etc.

The rest of the day after meeting our babies and going to the embassy
was pretty uneventful and relaxing-the babies and children all did
fairly well for the most part and we all just hung out at the hotel
and napped, had dinner, talked and then went to bed. Zoe did
GREAT-had a bottle around 11:30 and then went immediately to sleep and
didn't wake again till 5:30 to eat again. Of course she didn't want
to go back to sleep but it was ok because we had to be up to get
breakfast and get all the donations up to Hannah's Hope and get ready
to go on our big shopping day. We had to leave the babies at Hannah's
Hope which was nice because it gave them a little more transition time
with the special mothers (nannies) and us. And it was also fairly
cramped in the small shops and dirty in the market area where we were
shopping so it was best to not have them.

We had about an hour and a half to shop and look for whatever things
we wanted to bring home and we had our list ready so that we didn't
waste any time. Here in Ethiopia, it is customary to haggle and
bargain and so we spent a good bit of our time doing the "best price"
dance--going back and forth on how much they say they want you to pay,
we say "no way, too much, give me the habesha (native Ethiopian) price
not the firenji (foreigner) price", they say "this IS habesha price!",
we laugh and say "oh no it is not and it is too much and we will look
at another shop". The dance is nearing the end when you say no thanks
and walk to the door and they follow you saying "ok ok, this best
price" and will either give you what you offered or offer slightly
higher. All in all, we did pretty well and according to Almaz (AGCI
Director here), only paid about 50 cents more than what she would have
paid on a good many of the items we bought-we were happy with
that-there are a few things that we know could have been cheaper if we
were habesha, but we also knew we had the money and goodness knows the
Ethiopian economy could use it and it was STILL a good price, so it
was ok. Maybe I will try that approach next time I go to Target
though.... It was fun to shop and haggle, but also tiring. Street
vendors follow you everywhere with jewelry, belts, sunglasses,
maps-trying to get you to buy. Even children trying to sell us purse
sized packs of tissues. And there are "enforcers" who walk around the
marketplace with big sticks and they literally whack any children or
sellers that appear to be pestering us-we didn't enjoy that part at
all, but the kids and peddlers seemed to expect it and just ran away
from her sometimes even laughing.

After our shopping trip, we went to a place that serves Italian food
and is also an art gallery with paintings on the walls from local
artists. The paintings were beautiful and interesting and of various
styles and all of them were available to be purchased right from the
wall. We spent most of the meal talking and enjoying getting to know
each other more, and also debating which paintings we might like to
buy. Pat and I could not decide and we each liked a different one-Pat
liked a huge oil painting of some folks fishing by the water and I
liked an impressionist-style watercolor of 2 African women. I also
liked the one Pat liked, but he did not really love the one I liked so
after debating the whole meal, we finally decided on the big oil
painting Pat liked best as it will look great in our house. They take
it off the wall for you, un-tack the canvas and roll it into a
shipping tube right there and we will be hauling it on the plane with
us-it is like 5 feet long!! By the time we were done with lunch and
the drive back to the hotel, we were all exhausted. We all just went
our separate directions, some right up to Hannah's Hope to go see
their little ones, some to take a brief rest. We took a few minutes
to wash hands and faces and rest a bit-it was very hot and dusty today
and all the riding in the van gave us a fine coating of grime that we
wanted off!! We got cleaned up and headed up to Hannah's Hope to get
our Zoe!!

Along the way we ran into our little buddy Danny again, who is so
incredibly sweet by the way, and he walked along with us a bit and
asked "you Christian?" to which we enthusiastically replied "yes!" He
said "ok, you have this then" and pulled a little red Gideon New
Testament out of his pocket and gave it to us. We were so touched and
asked him if he reads the Bible and he just laughed and said "oh yes!"
We asked him if this Bible was his only one because we did not want to
take it from him, but he said he had 2 others and to please take it.
We also asked him if he tells his friends about Jesus and he
responded "oh yeah" with a big smile. I am telling you, that boy is
one smart kid and he wants to be a children's doctor when he grows up
and I think he will be a great one!!

Anyway, we got up to HH and we got to go into the house where Zoe has
lived for 5 months and see her bed and meet one of her special mothers
who was holding her and feeding her. We suddenly felt very intrusive
as this women obviously had a bond with Zoe and I could see her
hesitancy to give her to us. We made ourselves busy looking around at
the other babies and talking to them and seeing the other beds. It
was very emotional to look at the bed where she has slept every day
until now and it was humbling to see how much she was loved by her
special mother and to think of how hard it must be for them to say
goodbye to these babies to whom they grow attached, especially when
they are going where they will never see them again with a firenji who
they don't know. We finally got Zoe, said thank you repeatedly and
went back outside to play with the older kids some more. On the way
in we had handed out tiny cars to all the little boys and they were
now running everywhere with them, fighting over them, trading
them-boys are boys no matter where you go! We played there at HH for
the rest of the afternoon-it was wonderful to play with those kids as
they are super affectionate and silly and love to meet new (white!)
faces, but it was hard too, sometimes overwhelming, to think that
although they have an excellent home at HH, it is not the same as
being in their very own family. And while most of the children are
placed and just waiting, a few were "new" and learning the ropes and
needed/demanded a bit more attention. They LOVE to have their
pictures taken and were constantly posing and asking to see on the

The big hit of the day was when Tim passed out spider man masks to all
the boys (the girls all got beanie babies-and loved them!) and they
all put them on and went nuts webbing all of us! What IS it about
spider man?? He is mega-popular here!! They kept running around saying
their name then "spyy-dare-mon" in their thick accent behind their
masks and posing for pictures-hilarious!!!! We left at their dinner
time and just had a relaxing rest of the evening and night talking,
eating dinner (they made us french fries-hallelujah!! Dawn and I are
already planning out just what cheeseburger we are getting in the
Dubai airport where they have Burger King! None of the "burgers" here
contain any meat, interesting), and just talking with each other and
some folks from another group of adopting families who are also at our
hotel. The whole time Zoe just snoozed away, we woke her up to feed
and change her and she went right back to sleep. Let's hope it is a
repeat of last night as we are up early again tomorrow as we meet with
Zoe's birthmother-it was changed from Tuesday to Wednesday and we are
the first meeting of the day. We are a little nervous, but know it is
a great opportunity as well. Then tomorrow night, MORE cultural
dancing-and hopefully this time I will NOT be participating!!!

ETA: This post is a day behind b/c the internet was not working for
the last day and a half—our birthmother meeting did not happen because
she did not show up so that was not enjoyable-we just spent the day
playing with the kids at Hannah's Hope and catchin up on some very
much needed rest, as well as trying to calm our slightly angry
tummies. We are getting packed up and ready for the long trek back
home tomorrow. Our visit with our little guy from Compassion is
supposed to take place tomorrow so we are hoping it will work out this
time!! Zoe seems to have a pretty bad cough/chest congestion/wheezing
thing that has us eager to get her home to the doctor-please keep her
in your prayers!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wow, What a Day!

Today was UNBELIEVABLE! We slept waaaay later than we planned because
we had no idea what time it was and we were so incredibly tired. We
got up just before noon, yes, NOON! But it was so nice, we felt much
better and well rested. We were dressed and ready just in time to
join a traditional coffee ceremony and Easter celebration meal with
the hotel staff. Before Ethiopian Easter, the people fast for 55 days
in which they eat no meat or dairy products, and then after midnight,
they go to church to celebrate the Resurrection and then they break
this fast by feasting for the whole next day. We had a great meal of
doro wat (a VERY spicy Ethiopian chicken stew-wow, no sinus problems
here after that!!), iab (pronounced "ibe"-a white cheese sort of like
feta but milder), some browned and crumbled organ meat dish (yeah, um,
it was different), and beef (we think it was more like ox) that they
cooked in a HUGE skillet over an open fire that they built right there
on the floor of the driveway area where we had this meal. They just
propped the skillet on 3 cinder blocks and built the fire underneath
it and they just flip it and skizzle it around with a tiny spatula-how
they do not get burned is a mystery to me! All of this was of course
served with rolled up injera (in-jair-uh), the traditional Ethiopian
sour flat brad—kind of like a giant sourdough crepe. You eat on it,
use it as your utensil to pick up your food, and then at the end of
the meal you eat the piece your food was on that soaked up all the
juices from the food. Pat was pretty bold and adventurous with trying
all the foods, I tried them all but couldn't finish them (ox=VERY
chewy, couldn't totally get past that) and Dawn and Tim hardly ate any
and just smiled politely-haha! They are not really adventurous eaters.
After we ate we sat and chatted with the staff while one of the women
prepared the coffee ceremony, celebrated here often daily, similar to
how the English do tea, but also very different. Ethiopia is the
birthplace of coffee, it comes from the Kaffa region and here it is
called bunna (boona). For the ceremony, they actually roast the beans
in a tiny pan over hot coals that are put in a little can-type thing.
When the beans are done roasting, they bring the smoking pan around to
you for you to fan the smoke to you and smell it-it is STRONG! Then
they take the beans and hand grind them and somehow make the most
incredible coffee I have ever ever tasted, and I am not a huge coffee
fan but this stuff was WOW. Entirely different than what we drink in
the US, they laugh and tell us we just drink brown water there. You
cannot even see through this coffee at all, and they serve it in tiny
little cups and it was delicious. While they are grinding it and
working other magic to it, they put incense in another little can with
hot coals and it makes the whole place smell incense-y. (I am so
creative with my descriptions, aren't I?)

We finished up with them and went upstairs to relax a bit and check
email and we decided to go for a walk again. We went a different
direction from yesterday this time and without Danny and honestly it
was a little more scary because we didn't really know if where we were
going was safe or not. We got a bit swarmed by children and older
kids who got the greatest kick out of having their pictures taken and
we passed out a bunch of shiny stickers to them. But it was when an
Ethiopian man pulled up in his car, got out and asked what we were
doing we felt a little bit nervous-mainly because he said "you are
just walking around here? With no guide? You think that is good idea?"
which at that point I was really thinking "nope, not right now I
don't". Pat asked him, "well, is it safe?" and he said "oh yes, we do
not have any such problems like that here." So, I just prayed he was
telling the truth and we went off with a guy we met in that group of
people on the street (Tracy and Mom, calm down, I am obviously here
typing and am just fine-and it really is very safe here :) ) who
speaks English fairly well-his brother lives in Baltimore-and he took
us around the corner where they are building a new church. He showed
us the site plan for it and the foundation--it is modeled after the
ancient church in Axum-a place in Northern Ethiopia where it is
rumored that the actual Ark of the Covenant rests.

We enjoyed our walk and got back to our hotel just a few minutes
before the brother of an Ethiopian woman we know from back home
arrived. He was coming to get us and take us to their home for
another Easter feast-whew! First though, we got a treat we were not
expecting at all. He drove us all around Addis and showed us many
local sights and more the downtown area where there are actually lanes
on the roads-it was a nice little bit of familiarity! Then he drove
us up to the top of Entoto Mountain, from which you can see the entire
city of Addis Ababa and the outlying countryside that surrounds it.
It was the home of the palace of King Menelik, a very famous and
generous king in the late 1800s. At the top is a very ancient church
and many were there still in their Easter finery, blazing white
traditional Ethiopian dress. We were especially blessed because there
is a small museum up there and it was open and Moges took us to it
where we had a tour of just us and one other family where the guide
showed us amazing artifacts from King Menelik and Empress Titu's (the
king's wife) era. All their beautiful garments were there, extremely
ornate and elaborate, their crowns, all covered in real diamonds and
gold, ancient Bibles written in Ge'ez (the ancient form of Amharic,
Ethiopia's national language), even the king's former bed. It was
surprisingly about the size of a twin bed and very simple and the
guide explained that the king felt he could not justify sleeping on an
elaborate bed while people went hungry and so he preferred a simple
bed and feeding and caring for his people. This is the same reason he
went barefoot year-round except on coronation day when he wore
elaborate gold and diamond-encrusted shoes with very pointy toes that
curved upwards. We felt humbled to be in the presence of the ancient
Bibles, especially. It was amazing.

We headed back down the mountain to the home where we were having
dinner and it was a beautiful newly built home unlike any we had seen
thus far here. We were very warmly welcomed by the family and sat and
talked while the women finished preparing the meal-I offered to help
and they laughed at me and said "oh no! You are our guest!" We sat
down to dinner shortly thereafter and had a very similar meal to
earlier in the day, except this time they had made a small bowl of
doro wat minus the fire spices just for me and they also had 4
different kinds of bread and some other dishes-and this time the organ
meat scramble contained tripe, which I know because it had tiny little
bud things sticking all off of it and as I took a few bites, those
little bumps kept whispering at me "we are the inside of a ox's
stomach..." and I really couldn't get too many down. No worries
though because they just kept putting food on our plates and we kept
telling them no, it was too much but they laugh and tell you "Eat,
eat!" We had to stop though because we were FULL. So we sat and
visited some more and then they brought out MORE food, dessert this
time, a cake on which they had written "Welcome" in Amharic, and
second that had a smiley face made on it out of cocoa powder. The
hostess gave me the server to cut the cake so I did and handed a thin
slice to the oldest gentleman there to show him respect. He laughed
and said "oh she is serving us!" and I gave another piece to Moges,
our friend who had brought us there. The hostess then laughed and
pushed me aside and wouldn't let me serve them and cut me the BIGGEST
piece of cake I have ever seen. I said "oh no! That is way too much!"
and they all laughed and said "eat, eat!" some more. They are trying
to kill me I think. I did NOT eat all that cake, btw-it was just
tooooo much, but it was very delicious. One of the people there was a
17 year old boy who wanted to know a lot about American holidays,
especially Thanksgiving. He is getting ready to come to university
and he said maybe he would come to Virginia Tech so we could have him
over for Thanksgiving!! We told him any time!! At that point, they
began (yes, BEGAN!!) another coffee ceremony—these things are not
quick and it was already pushing 9 o'clock at night. We drank our
coffee and I again got laughed at for drinking it so slowly because I
was sipping it, they drink it all in one shot! It is like a million
degrees and very strong-they are crazy folks!

After the coffee, we took pictures together and said our goodbyes and
went out with Moges to go back to our hotel. Well, nope-he pulls into
a bar/restaurant where they have traditional cultural dancing and
music and says "Let's see what is going on here". At this point we
are remembering that African time is VASTLY different than American
time and that they just do whatever whenever until they don't feel
like doing it any more-there is no "schedule". And we are also
remembering no one really knows where we are and we do not have any of
the contact numbers for anyone from our group with us-again, Tracy and
Mom, it all turned out ok, see? Those people can MOVE, unlike
anything I have ever seen before-it is like their necks are not even
attached and they wildly swing their heads around and miraculously
keep on dancing without throwing up or falling over. The higlight,
for Pat videotaping, and lowlight, for me participating, was when one
of the male dancers pulled me up in front of EVERYONE and made me
dance with him, Ethiopian-style. Girls, Daddy has a good show for
you!!! We got to drink tej, Ethiopian honey wine served in rounded
beaker-looking bottles that tastes much more like whiskey than
wine-whoa, strong stuff! They pour you a TON and I drank about a
tablespoon since I rarely if ever drink alcohol. I felt it would be
bad form to be hung over when picking up my new baby daughter in the
morning!! Moges kept telling us "We will leave after the next song,
ok? Why so worried about time-it is no problem." But we knew we had
to get up early and were anxious to get back to the hotel as it was
about 11 pm by then. Finally, they did the national song/dance of
Ethiopia especially for us at Moges' request (he knows the owner) and
it was worth waiting for-the singer wore a headdress made out of a
lion's mane and the dancers did amazing things-if you were a
chiropractor you could make a killing here!! Moges told us they only
do it once a day because it is so hard on their necks, but they did it
again for us since we missed it before.

We have been incredibly humbled today by all the special treatment we
have received-God has blessed us so richly over and over on this trip
and the Ethiopian people are incredible gracious. We finally made it
back to our hotel just as the rest of our poor tired travel group
arrived from the US-close to 11:30 pm!! I felt so terrible for them,
they were exhausted. But I doubt any of us are going to sleep a lot
tonight because tomorrow we finally get to do what we came here
for-meet our babies!!! We will have met them already by the time you
read this-can't wait to share another day of unbelievable blessing
with you all!!

First day in Ethiopia

We got into the Bole (pronounced "bo-lay")airport in Ethiopia without
incident, were able to get our visa quickly and get to baggage claim
where we did our best to fend off the overly aggressive "helper" who
asked for a TWENTY dollar tip from Tim for lifting SOME of our
luggage off the spinning around dealy—we told him no, but he was
persistent and a haggler so I think when it was all said and done he
ended up with about $15 in "tips" from us because he was relentless!!
We got through all the baggage silliness and saw Yohannes, a
worker from our hotel holding up the "AGCI Family" sign we have seen
so many times on other peoples' blogs-it was finally OUR turn!
Yohannes is a very sweet, friendly tiny guy who took us to a driver
and they loaded all of our things into the van and we took a nice ride
to our hotel-Addis is teeming with people!! Yohannes told me about
many of the sights we passed and explained why there were an extra
large number of goats all over the streets today-this is Easter
weekend here in Ethiopia, a MAJOR holy-day that does NOT include
bunnies and plastic eggs! The people here buy a goat or an ox and
slaughter it themselves and have it as their Easter feast (kind of
makes ordering a Virginia ham look easy, eh?) He told me about how
sometimes multiple families will purchase one animal for all of them
to share. There were also chickens everywhere, beautiful, colorful
chickens, tied by a string on their legs to rocks, signposts, whatever
to make them not fly away. The people walk around carrying the birds,
upside down, by their legs while they are still alive so their rainbow
feathery wings are all flopped open and sell them to passersby. Not
quite like Tyson's shrink wrapped packages in the US-haha! During this
fascinating ride to the hotel, we were greeted by 2 children begging
through the window. I dug through my bag and got out the package of
boxes of raisins since we had no Birr (Eth currency) yet and I thought
that was better anyway because it was actual FOOD for them. However,
something must be up with those raisins because they too eyed them
suspiciously and walked away and no other children came begging after
that. Reminded me of the year we gave out apples for Halloween....
Anyway, we soon got to our hotel and watched the workers haul our
almost 65 pound suitcases up the steps on the back of their necks!!
We got settled in a bit but kind of felt like we were dragging from
being caught in a time warp for days and just sort of relaxed for
awhile. Unfortunately, we soon got a call from the folks at
Compassion saying Sultan could not make it today and maybe we can
reschedule for later in the week but we are not sure if that is going
to be possible. We were majorly bummed out, but we made the best of
our day by walking all around the part of town in which our hotel is
located and we were joined by a sweet little boy named Danny who is
11. He lives across from the hotel and spends a lot of his time
sitting out there waiting for us families to come out so he can help
us with anything or show us around-and maybe make some extra money
doing so! He took us all through some back alleys where there was way
less traffic, and way less pavement-the streets here are just dirt and
rocks, sometimes with paved areas that just abruptly end. They make
the roads in Pennsylvania where I grew up look like luxury highways!!.
In these alleys were all homes that have high walls all around them,
and the walls are made of rocks, bricks, stones, mud and yet they have
wildly ornate gates that serve as an entrance to the compounds. We
saw several foreign embassies just quietly tucked into those
alleys-they were not at all fancy ad you would never have known they
were an embassy if there was not a little sign by the gate. We took
pictures of lots of the gates because they will make for a beautiful
photo display back home! Anyway, we ended up at Kaldi's Coffee, the
Ethiopian replica of Starbucks (sign is even the same green circle
thing). But, it was MUCH cheaper and yummier than Starbucks!! No
offense Starbucks but for all of us (5 total) to get ice cream and
fancy milkshakes, it was like 12 dollars so you gotta up your game!!
We had fun talking with Danny there as well as with some children we
met on the street. They wanted money, which at that point we didn't
have any with us, but we took pictures of them and let them see it on
the back of the camera which they thought was great fun. The girl just
got all shy and giggly and blushed every time she saw her picture on
there, but would ask "more?" It was cute. The people are so beautiful.
I asked them if they knew who Jesus was and told them He loved them
so much-that He is the same as the God who created their beautiful
smiles. Unfortunately, I think it was a little lost in translation
because they would giggle and look at each other like "what is this
crazy white lady saying? We don't speak her language!" So I will just
leave the understanding of it to the Lord! We finally headed back to
the hotel where the brother of an Ethiopian friend from at home in
Virginia was waiting for us in the lobby of the hotel. He was very
very nice and told us we had to come to the easter dinner at his
sisters' the next day-"no make plan, ok?" he said. We are REALLY
looking forward to experiencing one of the most special holidays in
Ethiopia at the home of an native Ethiopian. We made our plans with
him to come back the next day to pick us up to go to his sister's and
left us with nothing to do tonite. We thought about going to bed
because we were REALLY tired, but instead we went out to dinner with
Tim and Dawn and the sister of another AGCI friend (Autumn) where we
had pizza and yummy Italian food -it was a nice change of pace from
all the spicy food on the plane, but it was still not quite like pizza
back home. The restaurant where we went was far away on the other side
of Addis so we got to see more of just everyday life here. This city
is filled with people who are always just walking walking walking but
I am not sure there are going where. And they hang out of the bus
taxi things and just walk down the center of the road and I am
surprised they do not get squashed by all the crazy driving! We saw
lots of live goats tied to roofs of cars and they were still alive
just looking around and had no clue they were on their way to be
dinner-poor goatie goats....All in all it was an amazing day of just
soaking up life here, but we are exhausted and going to bed. Tomorrow
we celebrate Easter where we were also invited by the hotel staff to
eat their Easter meal with them and to a coffee ceremony-so excited!!
One more day till we meet Zoe!!

(I am attaching pictures to these posts of some of the things we saw
yesterday so if they do not show up, can you tell me in the comments
so I don't try to attach more next time?)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

We're Here!

<b>Short Version:</b> We are here!! in Addis Ababa, checked in to our
hotel-yahoo!! Our trip was long but good and we are glad to be in one
place for a little while. We put together an account of the first
couple days below if you have time to read it, go ahead and if not,
tune in tomorrow when will share about our first day here!

<b>Long Version:</b> After a long bunch of traveling we have arrived
at our destination-Addis Ababa, Ethiopia! I will give you the rundown
of our trip so far-it was long but so much fun. Well, the beginning
was not so much fun. We got to Roanoke Airport a little before time
to leave and the wonderful girl at the ticket counter happily waived
our fees for the overweight luggage carrying donated supplies for
Hannah's Hope. Then the hard part-we had to say goodbye to our girls
that we were leaving behind-suffice it to say it was one of the
hardest things I have ever done. I know they will have a great time
with friends and family back home, but it was terrible to walk away
from them and know we would be SO far away. But when we heard the
announcement "would Pat and Jody Hilt please report to the gate 2
immediately-the plane is closing in one minute" we had to move it move
it!! My sister and her family were also at the airport so the herd of
9 kids in total all waved and yelled "goodbye!!" and off we went! We
waved to them at the window while we were getting on the plane (tiny
airport-you walk out on the pavement and up the tiny fold-down steps
onto the tin can, er, plane) and then realized we were waving at the
wrong window when we saw 9 kids plastered to another window all waving
at us—and we did not feel one bit dorky about that AT ALL, knowing
they were all laughing at us back in the terminal-haha! Anyway, our
plane drove out and then we had to sit for quite a bit waiting for
clearance from Dulles, where we were headed next, because according to
the pilot, it was "rush hour" and there wasn't room for us to land
yet. We finally took off, landed at Dulles and it felt like another
world-so many languages spoken and skin colors and cultures all
around-it was amazing! We had a short layover there, got on another
tin can, er plane, and then sat and sat and sat on the runway for
about 30-45 minutes till the pilot finally came on and told us we had
to park for awhile longer till JFK gave us clearance because it
appears it was also rush hour there, too. It is so fascination to see
all the different cultures of the world! No sooner had he made that
announcement and parked us that the plane started back up and he told
us JFK changed their minds and we were off! It was a pretty short
flight until we got to New York and where we had to circle Long Island
for 30 minutes, which was neat the first time, and maybe even the
second time, but oh my, not all the times after that!! Just when we
were getting ready to head to Philadelphia b/c we were almost out of
fuel, we got clearance to land and we did and then the fun began. Pat
and I were totally lost in the back halls of Terminal 7 in JFK for 45
minutes-had no idea where to go and apparently they do not believe in
putting up the giant directories like most airports so we could only
find where to go IF we were going somewhere in Terminal 7, which we
were not. And also they apparently do not believe in being helpful to
lost folks either-except for the one nice man who finally told us
where to go and we love him-thank you nice United ticket counter man!
At this point we had talked to Dawn and Tim on the phone as they were
also in JFK (they are a fellow AGCI couple and friends of ours, for
those just tuning in to our blog) but we just couldn't get tom them.
Finally, we followed the nice United man's directions, got on the air
train bound for Terminal 4. On the train we met another lost soul, a
sweet dark brown little old man, who was trying to find Terminal 1 and
didn't speak english and who pleaded with us by tugging on our sleeves
to help him find "numero uno????" We did our best to show him his stop
on the train map and showed him how to watch the digital sign that
told which stop it was and told him to look for when it said "1" and
then get off. I sure hope that sweet little man is not still riding
that train around JFK... Anyway, we FINALLY made it to our Emirates
area and found Dawn and Tim, phew!! We got our info checked out for
our next leg of travel and went in search of dinner, which consisted
of overpriced and underwhelming airport food. Yuck. By the time we
were done, it was time to go to our gate for our looooong Emirates
flight to Dubai. The group of passengers on our plane were so
beautiful-long black hair and golden brown skin on the women, who also
sported glittering bangles and flowy swaths of colorful fabric saris,
men with jet black hair, children with coal black little pigtails and
golden bracelet, one even with sets of jingly bells around each ankle.
And us-pasty and bedraggled. Our flight on Emirates was WONDERFUL-we
rode the biggest newest plane in the world, an Airbus A380—this thing
had multiple floors with beds and lounges for the 1st class
passengers (not us, btw) and a billion movies we could watch on our
own personal tvs as well as video games, maps, tv shows, etc. They
fed us dinner on the plane about midnight our time which was kind of
strange for us-but it was super yummy middle eastern food and super
rich chocolate mousse and it made up for the gross airport dinner.
They made the whole plane dark and then the ceiling turns into a
simulated night sky with tiny little pinprick "stars"-it was so cool!
They fed us "lunch" at 4 am (eastern time for us back home) and then
"breakfast", spicy lentil stew with rice patty thingys and coconut
chutney-almost exactly what we eat for breakfast back home-at about 8
am EDT. The food was all delicious but oh my goodness we were sick of
eating and my body was angry at me for the spicy-ness and yelling
"please find some maalox!!" I did not find any. My body is still not
happy about that fact. And the lack of sleep on the plane because I
could not find a way to sleep that didn't make my back feel like it
was on fire. Anyway, we arrived in Dubai about 7something their time
and loved the airport with palm trees growing right in it and all the
immigration employees who wore traditional Arab clothing of all white
gowns and head coverings on the men and all black billowy gowns and
head coverings with colorful sparkly accents for the women. We were
definitely NOT in the US anymore! We had to go through security to
leave the airport and something in my backpack caused some sort of
suspicion-still not sure what it was as I was never told, just made to
go over to a table with a beautiful Arab woman who, at the direction
of the uniformed man there, said a little harshly "give me your
passport" and proceeded to take our every single thing in the back
pack, including every cosmetic in the bag, etc. She was particularly
interested in the boxes of raisins I had and even flipped through my
Bible pages-maybe she found something good in here! :) Anyway, I guess
they were ok with whatever was concerning them so she carefully packed
them back, leaned towards me a little and quietly said "sorry" with a
little smile. I think she pretty much just has to do whatever she is
told to do and felt a little bad. I wasn't bothered by it, as long as
I wasn't in trouble for something! The next thing on our to do list
was get the baggage checked for our morning flight out, which took
some doing because eleventy five people needed to read and approve our
letter stating we were carrying over supplies for the orphanage, but
they finally did and waived all the fees again-yay God! At that point
we caught the shuttle to the hotel where we got to eat AGAIN, even
though it was like 10 something at night there, and I have no idea
what time back home. But we figure we are just going to eat when we
have the opportunity and trust the source because we don't know how
often it will happen!! Pat and I took a walk outside the hotel just
to see some of Dubai and it was warm and very tropical feeling and
every few minutes the smell of some exotic flowers would drift by-it
was a nice change from all the traveling. We then had the awesome
privilege of going to bed in a bed! And taking a shower! Ahhhh, so
nice...We got up super early, like 5 am, and got dressed and ready to
go, ate breakfast and headed back to the airport to catch our flight
to Addis-finally!! The airport was MUCH busier and more crowded than
the night before and this time we got through security without
incident, oddly enough, with the exact same bags and content as the
night before—I must have not looked suspicious today, or maybe I just
smelled way better after that shower!! Anyway, we got checked in and
had a few minutes so we bought a few souvenirs and then heard our
flight being called and she said "last call, the gate is closing". So
in our best effort to create a scene from the amazing race, we took
off to our gate, got there all sweaty and Tim and Dawn came up asking
why we were running-they hadn't heard the announcement, just saw us
running (they were on the floor above us, it was like a shopping mall
type area) and took off too-crazy Americans!! But the man at the gate
was super friendly and nice and we got on no problem, had a great
flight where we met a nice lady from Michigan but who lives in Uganda
working for the UN doing emergency response-it was really cool to talk
to her! That leg of the trip zoomed by since it was only about 3.5
hours to Addis and, after being fed on the plane AGAIN which contained
more spicy lamb things-oh my gosh, my tummy cannot keep up this pace,
I will be in my room rocking in the corner with a pack of saltines by
this afternoon-we heard the announcement: "We will begin our descent
into Addis Ababa now". Oh wow, the butterflies began in earnest for
both of us at that point and we landed, looked at one another and said
"we are HERE-in ETHIOPIA!" The dream of the last year was finally
coming true-and we were both ecstatic and scared to death.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Our God is a GREAT BIG God

What a day-a whirlwind of last minute packing, checking, cleaning, crying, answering the phone, answering the phone, answering the phone, and crying-and answering the phone. It has rung off the hook today, with all manner of blessings from friends and family who are calling to wish us well and tell us they are praying for and love us and cannot wait to meet the newest girl in our family. And in the midst of one such conversation with my husband's elderly grandmother who was just giddy with joy over having another great granddaughter, my husband walks in the room (while he is supposed to be finishing the girls' baths so I am wondering what is up) and says, "uh, there are like 15 people outside our door who are here to pray for us". I looked at him like "whachoo talkin 'bout Willis?" because well, what WAS he talking about? We had a great time of prayer with our group last night from church and they "sent us off" so I thought he was just being weird, because you know, sometimes husbands do that (occasionally, I have heard anyway...) So he says "no, I'm serious-get off the phone" and I'm all giving him the "it is your GRANDMOTHER!" hiss and the 'eye of how can I just ditch your grandmother on the phone, you call yourself a southern boy'. So he tells me it is his friend from work and their small group and they want to pray for us before we go-um, these people have never even MET us!! and there they were, in my living room, hands and hearts outstretched to God on our behalf. If that doesn't show you what kind of a God we serve, well then, nothing will.

Zoe baby, you are one loved little girl, and we cannot wait to tell you all about it in person! See you SOON!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Coming Down the Home Stretch

Ok, most of the bags are packed, the Things' suitcases are packed, the notes are typed to everyone taking care of our Things, the dog and cat are arranged for, and the bag weighing is going on in earnest. Tonite we have the awesome privilege of attending a get together put together by our house group at church for us where they are going to have a time of fellowship and prayer for our family before we leave on Thursday. They invited anyone from the church who wants to come and we are blessed beyond measure by their caring for us. They also had a little surprise shower for us last week on our normal house group night, and we were TOTALLY surprised, had no idea at all. It was so sweet, there were lots of tears, but good ones and we felt so supported. They gave a us a beautiful baby book for adopted kiddos (which we had been eyeing already!!), a new set of baby monitors (and not a moment too soon-our 10 year old ones' charming "buzzzzzzzzzz" is less than enjoyable), a BEAUTIFUL little dress and shrug hand knit by one of the fabulous ladies, and some beautiful flowers and a super yummo cake. Then they rounded things out with making us prayer eggs-they each wrote a prayer for our family on a slip of paper and put it in a plastic egg. Then they each picked a random one and read them to us-that is when the tears really got going!! But luckily, the kids of the group helped me not to become a blubbering mess by one of their prayers: "I pray for the mom and dad to not get attacked by any wild animals while they are in Africa." Oh I LOVE kids, seriously-life would be SOOOO boring without them, wouldn't it? I'm so glad we are adding another one to our family!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Luke 24 1On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here;


Happy Easter!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

We're Outta Here!

We are on our way to our sweet little girl! We will be hopefully posting updates as frequently as we can for you all to be part of our journey with us. I am going to try to have pictures too, but not sure if the internet connection at our hotel in Ethiopia will allow that. Please use the comments below as a "guest book" so we know you are along for the ride with us-all the comments will come to us via email and we can check that daily. To leave a comment, if you have never done it, just click on the "COMMENTS" words below the written paragraph and then follow the directions in the dialog box that pops up. If you comment under "anonymous", please sign your name in the comment box so we know who you are. It is so special to us to know we have friends and family praying for and checking in with us from across the world!!! WE ARE GOING TO AFRICA, Y'ALL!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An Equally Long Saturday, But We Have Compassion!

We spent this past Saturday at the International festival that Virginia Tech does every year. We are so blessed to have such an amazing international community right outside our door, literally, and to take our kids to this festival every year. This was the first year it was nice enough to have it outside for like the past 5 years, which was a double bonus because then they cram it all inside this room and then the combo of international smells can get a little (read: a LOT) overwhelming and it is VERY crowded (read: cannot walk or move and hyperventilate from claustrophobia). The pictures show just a few of the different booths: Africa, Barbados, France, Japan.

And here are just some random shots of the diverse crowd (I love seeing all the different cultures together), some guys from Ghana gettin' their street groove on, and me digging an Albanian chicken kabob:

We ended the day by listening to this awesome group of African musicians and dancers-they were amazing!

Finally, we have some GREAT news about our upcoming trip to Ethiopia!! (if the packing and scrambling around doesn't kill me first-oy!) We are big fans of the organization Compassion. If you are not familiar with them, well, you need to be. Click on the Compassion banner on the right side of my blog to go see what they are all about and how you can sponsor a child and how they are changing the world, one kiddo at a time. Anyway, we have been Compassion sponsors for 15 years and we have sponsored 5 different children, currently sponsoring 4. Last Spring when we were considering adopting and our interest in Ethiopia was growing, we decided to sponsor a little guy from Ethiopia. Well, (drumroll please...) we get to meet him and hang out with him next weekend!! He lives pretty far away from where we will be in Addis Ababa, but we have been working with the incredible Compassion folks and they will be transporting him to us so we can meet him face to face. We get to bring him gifts and spend the afternoon/evening with him. I cannot believe we have this opportunity and I have ALWAYS wanted to meet one of our sponsored children but really never thought it would happen because the sponsor tours they offer were not really in our budget. We are beyond excited to meet him and feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity-we are arriving in Addis a day earlier than we need to be there for our adoption so that we can have that day to meet our Compassion child. We got all of our official documents today confirming and explaining how we will conduct the visit and I ended up in tears at what an amazing thing Compassion does and how humbled we are to be a part of it. Like I said, if you are not currently aware of what they do, you need to be so just click on over and find yourself a child whose life you can truly change, for the cost of dinner and a movie. You might just find your life is changed, too.

A Long Friday

Between packing and regular house stuff and generally running around like a chicken with my head cut off, stopping every few moments to say "we're going to Africa! and bringing home a baby! ack!", I don't have a long time to sit and type up something clever and fascinating like I usually do (ha!) so I will give you bunches of pictures instead punctuated by witty banter, 'k?

On Friday at my girls' school, it was the culmination of 'Readers are Leaders' week and so it was Dr. Seuss day where they got to dress like their favorite Dr. Seuss character. Here are my 2 before leaving the house, one of whom was suddenly THRILLED about wearing her costume:
And here is the other half of the "Things" who is my Thing 1's friend at school who looks eerily similar to her:
They opted for the understated blue streaks rather than this more authentic look that another boy in their class pulled off:
The kids were all great-lots of Cats in the Hats and Things and Cindy Loo Hoos and Sallys. It was cute!! The rest of Friday was consumed with trying to find plane tickets (what?! yes!), trying to work out a visit with our Compassion sponsored child in Ethiopia (more on this next post) and driving 2 hours away to buy a new sofa and then driving 2 hours back and then cutting myself on the staples on the new sofa and also dropping the GIGANTIC new sofa on my foot as we were trying our 3rd attempt at bringing it into the house up the back deck steps because whoever built our house apparently has something against having furniture as there is no easy way to get it into the house and rooms in which you want to use it. However, we were victorious and here is said new sofa, on which I collapsed immediately at midnight when we finally got it in the house and commenced crying which may or may not stop until we are on the plane to Ethiopia.
Please pass the tissues. It's going to be a long 9 days....

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I'm NOT aprilfoolsing you...

We PASSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Our agency just called Jody on her cell to give us the AWESOME NEWS!!!  Praise the Lord!  Jody will post more details when she gets home later this afternoon, but her blog-less husband is attempting to share the news right away until she returns and can do our announcement properly for Blogland.