Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Gambella Boys

Our friend Julie sent us some pictures of our boys together at the care center.

This photo was taken the day before we met Eli.
Their boy, Desmond Ujulu, is also from Gambella, but has been at the care center for longer than Eli.  And although they no longer share a common language, it seemed as though Desmond had taken Eli under his wing.

He was really watching out for the new kid from his home region.

Desmond sharing his toys with Eli.

We are so thankful for sweet, sweet Desmond.

They look like they could be brothers, don't you think?

Thanks for these photos, Julie.  I really needed them.  I pray we're both back in Ethiopia soon to bring these darling boys home.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Not news to anyone, I know. 

I'd been warned that the wait between court and Embassy was the hardest, but there's no way to really understand how much your heart will ache until you're here. 


Waiting to hug your child again.  Waiting to see his (ever elusive) smile again. 

Waiting to help him settle into his new life; for us to settle into our new life.  For us all to be a real family, not just one on paper.

Adoption's not for wimps, that's for sure.  And I've realized I'm a bit of a wimp. 

We've had Eli's bedroom ready for months and I always felt happy when I walked by it.  The room seemed to project hope and optimism.  Now, even though he's yet to sleep one night in his bedroom, it somehow feels . . . empty.  Like he was there and now he's gone.

I know that makes no sense, but feelings aren't always logical.

Three weeks ago today the Ethiopian Federal Court made us parents.  I've tried not to think too much about our child who is more than 8,000 miles away.  I've tried to keep myself busy.  And it's worked, kind of, but only for short spurts of time.

Because mostly I just miss our boy.

Eli Lingo, xoxo

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fresh Corn Tortillas . . . Finally

You know how sometimes you live your life for years and years doing something one way, and then suddenly you realize you have to do it differently?  Immediately?

Brad and I make soft tacos all the time--fish tacos, shrimp tacos, steak tacos.  And I always complain about the stupid tortillas falling apart.  Every brand, from fancy artisanal tortillas to your standard supermarket brands.  They all stink, in my opinion.

Then I saw this post on one of my favorite food blogs, 100 Days of Real Food.  And Bon Appetit had this article.  And I got it.  The universe was sick and tired of my complaining.  It was time for change.

So on Sunday I happily headed out to my favorite store in the mall--pretty much the only store that gets me into the mall--Sur la Table, to buy a tortilla press.  And the store was gone.


I stood there staring at the spot where my beloved store used to be, trying to convince myself that there was some explanation other than the store was just gone.  Like maybe I forgot that it's actually on the other level. So I went to check.  And of course it wasn't there.

I tried other stores--Williams-Sonoma, Bed Bath & Beyond, and even Cost Plus--without any luck.  Defeated, I went home and did some more whining.  On facebook.  And friends sent me back out to another location across town, assuring me that my beloved store was only temporarily closed to move out of the mall and across the street.

So, short story long, I got my tortilla press on Sunday.  And the full set of Zoku quick pop maker, tools, storage case, and recipe book.  When I got home I asked Brad how likely he thought it was that I'd leave Sur la Table with only a tortilla press; he laughed and gave me the "zero" sign with his hand.

My verdict?  The universe was right.  I needed to stop complaining and start making tortillas because they're super easy and so much better than anything we've found in the store.

I just used the recipe on the back of the package, although I probably should've heeded some of Lisa's suggestions. Particularly the one about letting the pan heat for a good 10-15 minutes. You want that sucker hot, Hot, HOT.

With some grilled fish, guacamole, shredded cabbage, thinly sliced radish, fresh cilantro, and hot sauce, it was the perfect quick and easy meal.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Farewell But Not Goodbye

June 12, 2012

Well, our last day was just as hard as I thought it would be.  And just as wonderful.  Man, Eli has totally stolen our hearts.

As we did yesterday, we slept in a bit and headed over to the care center about mid-morning.  Our agency had photocopied Eli's file for us and we reviewed parts of it we hadn't seen the other day.  When we fist decided to adopt, I had this certain image of an "orphan."  As it turns out, real life is a bit more complicated.  I'm glad our agency shared all of this information with us so we can share it with him one day.

The little orange squishy thing we brought yesterday was pretty much destroyed.  Good thing we brought a few more.

Hi, mom!

I love these squishy things!

Daddy and Eli blowing bubbles.

Our sad little boy laughing, just a little.

We brought the portable photo printer with us to the care center, and Eli was fascinated watching photos we took then come out of the printer.  We took several pictures with the care center staff and gave them some prints.  

We also took one last family picture and printed it for Eli.  

The nannies at the care center take really good care of the kids and they don't allow our visits to disrupt their routine.  After we'd been there for about an hour, one of the nannies announced it was time for Eli's bath and she took him away.  When he came back to us he smelled so sweet that I just wanted to gobble him up.

And while we were in his room, we got a glimpse of a little mischievous sparkle in our boy, which really lifted our hearts.

When we left him, I felt really sad and deflated--like all the life had been drained from my body--but amazingly did not cry.  I think if it felt like Eli knew we were his new parents it would've been harder to leave him, but I don't think he ever really understood who we were. Just some nice people who came to visit him, perhaps.  We miss him terribly, but I'm not sure he's missing us right now.  And I'm glad about that; he's had enough upheaval in his life already, without adding losing us to his list of hurts.

Optimistically, we'll be back by the end of July to bring him home; realistically, it could be more like August.  And if we have problems with our Embassy review . . . well, I don't even want to think about that.

After we left the care center we had lunch at Lucy Restaurant again, then went back to the hotel to pack and rest up for our long trip home.  Our flights were again uneventful, and this time we were able to pack everything into our two checked bags, one backpack and one rollerboard.  So no fretting about lost or stolen camera equipment for me.

After almost a week of buying meals and delicious coffee in Birr, where one of the best macchiatos I've ever had cost about $1 US at our hotel, hanging out in the Frankfurt airport for several hours was a bit of a shock.  Lattes for two and apple pastry for one, $20 US.  A few snacks and chocolate for the plane, $20.  One sausage with sauerkraut, a pretzel and two beers, $20.

Oh, but those Germans do know their sausage, kraut, pretzels and beer.  Even the airport vending cart Germans.

After 27 hours of talking about Eli, napping, talking about Eli, watching movies, and talking about Eli, Brad and I made it back to Denver.  And other than napping and watching movies, we've been doing the same thing ever since.

Eli Lingo, xoxo.

p.s. I wrote this series of posts each night when we were in Addis. The Internet connection allowed me to draft in Blogger, but uploading photos just wasn't happening. And I know photos is what you all really want. Photos of Eli.

And while it's brought me a lot of joy to go through our photos and publish these posts each morning, remembering our precious days with Eli, it also leaves me with an acute sense of longing for Eli that's hard for me to shake.

So I'm stepping back from our time in Addis for a bit, to let my sense of loss settle back into a more chronic state with more emotional distance. Because otherwise I don't know I'll make it through this wait until we can return to Addis and bring him home.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Boy and His Dad

June 11, 2012.

Our visit on Monday was pretty awesome.  We slept in, had a little breakfast and then headed over to the care center.  When we first arrived, we asked to see Eli's file and our agency's staff helped us review the paperwork.  Most had been translated into English, but a few bits were still in Amharic.  We learned more about his background, which will hopefully help us help Eli understand his past and how he came to be our boy.

Then we had some one-on-one time with our guy, which was great.  Brad had brought his iPad, and we showed Eli some of the videos we'd taken of him during our trip.

And we gave him a few photos we'd taken the day before.  He seemed to really enjoy seeing videos and photos of himself.

Then we played a little Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds--ah, the universal appeal of silly video games.

The soccer ball in Eli's lap is one of two we brought.  It was amazing to see how near-constant play and the rough surface of the courtyard wears out these balls so quickly.  We made a note to bring a few more to leave with the care center when we return to bring Eli home.

The basketball at the care center is a little big for four year old hands.

But the junior-sized soccer ball worked pretty well.

We found this squishy ball in the dollar bin at Target, and it was a bit hit.

Eli and Brad played a little catch with it.

Eli kicked it around.

Shot some hoops with it.

And brought it on the slide with him.

We'd also brought this flying thing with us, another dollar bin find, which was fun until it ended up on the roof (oops).  Hopefully the rain will wash it back down into the courtyard.

It seemed that as our time with him was ending, Eli sensed we were about to leave.  He didn't cry, but his mood definitely shifted.  The nannies were preparing lunch, so I tried to coax him over to wash up.  Each day it's turned out that our visiting time has ended with a meal, so perhaps he was making that association.

I gave him a big hug, which he accepted but didn't return.  He gave Brad a fist bump and we were off.

We had the hotel driver drop us at Lucy Restaurant, where we had lunch and then toured the Ethiopian National Museum.  The Lucy exhibit was really interesting, but more entertaining was the group of schoolchildren who seemed to be having loads of fun practicing their English on us and then giggling up a storm.

Then it was back to the hotel to while away our time until dinner, sleep and our last visit with Eli the following day.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Boy Who Waits for Us

June 10, 2012.

Brad and I decided to get out of town on Sunday, to see some of the Ethiopian countryside. Our agency only allows us to visit Eli for two hours each day, which leaves a lot of extra hours in the day.

So we had Fekadu take us northwest of Addis to the Blue Nile River Canyon.

It was a beautiful drive, and we saw some pretty fun things.  Like this pick-up truck (next to our white van), which apparently was a crew of people shooting a music video for a local pop singer.

And these baboons; they were fun.

We hiked down to the "atractiv" Portuges Bridge, built in the 16th century, where you can go "sweeming."  That would've been fun.

If there was water.  (Apparently, during the rainy season, the water comes almost to the top of the bridge.)

But what I really wanted was kid fun.  Specifically, one particular kid.

Our trip to the Blue Nile took a bit longer than we'd expected, prolonged in part by a lengthy traffic stop on our return to Addis.  The police in the countryside flag down vehicles to check paperwork and verify the number of passengers on board don't exceed the maximum.  At one such stop on the way back to the city, the officer requested a permit we didn't have.  There was much confusion and many heated words exchanged, and we could see the officer's companion (not in uniform, not sure what his role was) pulling a little rule book out of his pocket and waving it around.

The officer finally let us go with a warning.  Not sure what paperwork she was requesting--paperwork that none of the other police officers had requested--but I was glad our driver didn't get a ticket.  My lawyer's "spidey sense" was not feeling too good about what that might've meant for our driver, from a due process standpoint.  Or for us, from a getting back to Addis standpoint.  I credit Fekadu's skilled persuasion; perhaps he should be a lawyer, too.

When we returned to Addis it was kind of late and everyone was tired and hungry.  And I was cranky.  We stopped for a (really) late lunch, which I knew was the right thing to do because it had been a long time since any of us had eaten, but I was distressed about the time.  And then the restaurant brought everyone's food but mine.  So I waited.  And waited.  Fekadu's friend who was with us that day tried several times to get the waiter to bring my food, but my guess is they just plain forgot to make it.  When it finally arrived I saw my chicken kabobs were barely cooked.  "Thank goodness I'm still taking Cipro" I said to myself and dove in.  We had our sweet boy to go see!

It was 4:00 by the time we arrived at the care center, which caused our visit to be pretty short.  And I'll be totally honest, it was a hard day at the care center anyway, being the only visiting family.  All the kids were starving for attention and there was only Brad and me to give it.  We loved playing and laughing and just generally hanging out with them; they are such sweet, sweet kids.  But it's exhausting.

Eli was content to just sit on my lap the entire time, while the other kids climbed all over us. The other kids who weren't off playing soccer, basketball and volleyball with Brad.  I never knew Brad could simultaneously play three different sports.  Talented man, that one.

Eli checking out some photos we brought, taken the day before.

And Brad never had the chance to pass the camera to me (or to Eli, haha).  I'm a little sad that we have a day at the care center with no pictures of him and Eli.

Four days into forming our new family, Eli may not have really understood Brad and I were his parents but he seemed to understand we were there at the care center to see him.  And he may have been waiting for us to visit.  When the gate to the care center was first opened that afternoon, Eli was the first of the kids to poke his little head out.  And when he saw it was us, he walked right out to join us.

How I wish we could've just taken his little hand and walked away.

Soon, I pray.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Getting Warmer

June 9, 2012

Our third visit to the care center seemed like a real breakthrough.  When we arrived it was a bit chaotic; it was Saturday, no school, so all the kids were there.  And there were three of us visiting families.  I sat on the steps in front of the room Eli shares with several other boys and he hopped up onto my lap.  He melted (just a little? maybe?) into my arms and stayed there for the better part of an hour.

He still watched all the action going on the courtyard, and a few times hopped off my lap to go get something.  Like when Julie was handing out lollipops.  But then he'd make a bee line directly back to me and climb back up.

And a lot of the action came to us while we were sitting on the step, which he also didn't seem to mind. He just seemed happy to hang out with mama.  My heart was soaring.

He loved those ziplock bags, to stash his stuff!
And Eli took a few pictures of Brad.  We definitely have to bring him his own camera when we return.

I think this is a great picture that Eli took!

Eli's daddy has nice legs!

I've been so worried about bonding and attachment--and I realize we are a long, long ways from anything resembling a secure attachment--but the fact that he was seeking me out when there were other adults there (and with lollipops!) was very encouraging.  All kids love Brad, so most of my worry has selfishly been about me.  That I'd be standing alone on the sidelines while Brad and Eli bonded.

He and Brad played some more soccer, but it was a little harder with more kids in the courtyard.  I'm still not sure Eli understood what's going on, but he wanted to play with Brad (and only Brad) and he wanted to cuddle with me.  He seemed to like us.  And he seemed to prefer our company to the other adults and kids.  I'm no expert, but I think that's something to hang onto at this point.

He was still so very quiet.  He sang a little bit again while he was sitting in my lap, but didn't speak to us or any of the other kids.  It must be so hard for him, not being able to communicate with anyone around him.

At one point, not long before we left for the day, Eli took a break from playing soccer and went into the bathroom.  When he came out his eyes were full of huge tears.  I tried to ask one of the nannies if perhaps he didn't feel well by rubbing my tummy and shrugging my shoulders, but I'm not sure she understood me.  She saw he was crying, and asked him something, but it didn't seem like he understood her.  And she wasn't able to help him.

So he and I went over to sit on the step again, and his tears dried.  A few minutes later the kids were washing up for lunch and it was time for us to go.

It was so hard leaving him that day, even though we knew we'd be able to see him again the next day.  I recall wondering how I'd handle it when we had to leave and not come back for a few months.  We were assured it's not that hard on the children when we leave; they've had so much upheaval before we ever came on the scene, that our disappearance is nothing new.  But that breaks my heart anyway.  What child should ever become so accustomed to loss and people disappearing?

We left the care center and Fekadu had us over for lunch at his home, which was really fun.  His mom prepared us a delicious meal and coffee ceremony.  And then he showed us his photo albums; such great memories he shared with us.

When we drove through the gate at Fekadu's home, I saw he has two dogs.  I love dogs, and as we got out of the van I leaned down to scratch them behind their ears and asked what were their names.  Fekadu responded, quite incredulously, "they're dogs, they don't have names."

Well, they do now, at least to me -- Dog Number One and Dog Number Two.  (Dog Number One is the bigger of the two, obv.)

Fekadu thinks I'm crazy, but I think it's a nice compromise of cultures.