Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ben Coming home from Ethiopia- Post 3

Here we are, safe and sound and finally in Washington on May 26th, 2011. After the previous days events, just being where the weather was happy and the flights were on time was the best news in the world.

We could look worse after 3 hours of sleep.. here we are leaving the hotel in Washington..


To the casual observer, one would say "Who cares that that sign says that the flight to Addis Ababa is on time?" However, to a woman who spent the majority of the previous day with real fear that our travel plans would go to crap, this was exciting stuff.

The big plane and first day in Addis

We did a much better job of arranging our flight schedule this time rather than last time. After having to make the connection in Frankfurt, Germany between 2 long flights, we chose to go on one mother long flight so that we couldn’t get in late and get stuck missing a flight someplace in Europe.

This turned out to be a good call as we and our luggage made it on time to Addis, once we cleared the tornados of Kansas City of course.

The bad news? The flight was long. Of course it was. It was 13 hours. The good news? Most of it was during regular day light time when our bodies were used to being awake. Other than having minimal sleep in Washington due to our late arrival from Kansas city, we were otherwise happy ladies watching movies and reading books. Boring at times, but could have been MUCH worse. About 7 hours in, at about 7pm body clock time, we decided we should drug ourselves and try to sleep, because we were planning to machine our way through all of Friday in Addis without napping so we could reset our body clocks. This master plan sort of worked? Turns out mom and I both suck at sleeping sitting up. We both slept maybe 1.5 hours or so? By 11pm body clock time, the sun was coming up over Africa and the coffee and breakfast were being served. By 12:30am body clock time, we were beginning our exciting decent into Addis and the day was starting over again, as it was 8:00am Friday morning in Addis.

Luckily we were so doped up on 1.5 years of pent up adrenaline that nobody cared. We climbed down the steps to the ground and were taken by bus to the airport. We waited in line quite awhile for Mom’s visa but had no problem getting it. I was able to exchange our “drug dealer” esq about of money easily while she was in line. We passed customs with flying colors and spotted our luggage moving by rather quickly. We then entered the “line”- and by “line” I mean this big blob of people all pointing different directions which the airport ladies assured us was “the line” but really looked much more like random spaghetti from above… so we were like.. whateve we’ll be flexible. Eventually our luggage got scanned and we walked out into the sea of people where our Holt driver was waiting with sign in hand. All loaded in the van, we bounced through Addis for a few minutes, past the fantastic Italian restaurant we enjoyed last time, took a right again at the sign for the Cuban embassy (ironic) and drove a few blocks to the door of the Jemimah Guest house.

After exchanging the usual pleasantries, we were sent up to room 34 which neighbors the room Ted and I had used when here in December. It’s actually bigger with more windows. We even have a small patio out the side where you can see the mountains, the poverty, and watch some cows should you choose to.

By this time it was about lunch. We opted to stay at the guest house and enjoyed some traditional Ethiopian food. I haven’t done much Ethiopian food lately because I was a wee bit depressed, so now we can be excited about it again! There were 2 other Holt families around for court, so we decided to tag along with them to visit AHOPE, the Leprosy hospital, and also the coffee place.

For those of you that have read “There Is No Me Without You” by Melissa Green (and if you are close to my family, I very much wish you would because the culture, history, and general info about how adoption started in Ethiopia is VERY personal to me….) you would recall that AHOPE was referenced often. This is where the HIV positive babes and children go when there is no one else. This is the forgotten OF the forgotten. It doesn’t get any lower on the planet earth than being a child with HIV in one of the poorest countries in Africa. We were so blessed to be given a visit; to sit and do puzzles. The little gal that chose me as her partner was rather good at it too. HIV is still very taboo here as the education of how it is transmitted is not known by all people… therefore if you have the forbidden disease you are an outcast. Of course, the baby room did me in. There was a little baby there that had come in HIV+ and likely born from an HIV+ mother and was on deaths door. After a few months there he was improving and was getting the much needed triple cocktail of HIV drugs needed for children. Still, it is heart breaking. These are the kinds of things that take your view of the world and rip it in half… thus the starving HIV children of Africa are the babies holding your pant leg. I dare you to not change.

After a little sniveling and mental notes for advocacy we reluctantly climbed back into the van bound for the Leprosy hospital. I had been there on our last trip so this was not as difficult this time. We walked by the ladies visiting who were missing different parts of their original healthy bodies and proceeded to the gift shop to purchase some of the items made by the patients. After we dumped some birr for more Ethiopian wares, we drove again to one of the main coffee shops. Mom and I opted to wait this one out while the court folks picked up some last minute stuff.

Our windows were soon full of women with babies asking for food or birr. Its just something you don’t forget.

Once we returned, we went to dinner at Avanti with one of the couples who had passed court and was flying out that night and also with our friends the Robinsons who will be joining us on Tuesday for embassy and also picking up their baby boy. Avanti is SO fancy and so wonderful.. it’s kind of a must see when you are at the guest house. I highly recommend the gnocchi and their wine selection is fantastic.

After being fully stuffed with fantastic pasta of awesomeness, we returned back to the guest house to dope ourselves up in attempt to sleep. This was easy, as we had pretty much been awake for 2 days. I took 1 dramamine and was mouth open drooling before Mom came back from her shower. That’s about all I remember 

Ben Coming home from Ethiopia- Post 2

Leaving Kansas City- harder than you would think!!

First off, we left on May 25th, Ben’s first Birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEN!!

Well, women don’t forget labor. I didn’t go through labor with Ben, but his first Birthday tested my sanity. It started out well though…

So I was awake early. I had the weather channel on around 6am and could see there was weather moving through causing delays. I hoped that it would be moved through later as I did not need to be in Chicago until about 3p that afternoon. As we packed and organized and rapped things up, I continued to check my flight status and all was still showing on time.


At 10:30am I got an email that my flight had been cancelled. I immediately got on the phone with Erle (our trusted travel agent for most Holt traveling families and who I used before). Erle worked his Erle magic and got me on an alternate route that would take me through Memphis later in the afternoon and get me to Washington late that night.

BUT… then tornado Armageddon just HAD to start in Kansas City. My friend Paula arrived early to take us to the airport, but we spent the next 2 hours sitting there a little stunned as a tornado touched down south of downtown Kansas City and slowly worked its way north towards the children’s hospital where my husband was running the ER… so if you can picture it.. in that moment I’m sitting there going “My husband is in danger and I can’t get to my son”. After the tornadoes had moved a bit and we were sick of listening to the tornado alarms we got in the car anyway to head for the airport.

Look how brave we look.

Once at the airport, I was instructed to go to the United ticket counter and have them simply transfer my tickets that were already booked with Delta which was the only option available at the time. After waiting in like, United said “Okay you’re all set” so we re-loaded the car and drove to the other terminal. We waited in line again.. and then stood there for 20 minutes while Delta tried to find me. Delta says I don’t exist. I get back on the phone with Erle who says that my stuff wasn’t transferred properly. At this point, time is ticking away due to the tornadoes and we had already sent away our ride.

We are back to waiting for the transit bus for all of our luggage to ride BACK to United to stand in the line… this is where things started to unravel. The line was going nowhere and I was running out to catch back up flight. While waiting for United, I got on the phone with United. United on the phone said (very nicely by the way so they get half a point for that) I paraphrase “Very sorry… blah blah blah.. in this situation.. blah blah blah.. it needs to be done differently… blah blah blah.. when you get to the front of the line tell them to simply print your ticket. I can see it in my system. You can use that to check luggage back at Delta.” (which I have to catch a bus back to get to). It was at this time when half of the people processing “stepped away” from the United line and the first class lady wouldn’t take anybody that wasn’t first class. That left 1 GUY working, who had been working with the same family for over half an hour and there were still people in front of us. When first class lady continued to take first class, we and others in front of us were like “can’t you just take a couple to move the line?” and at that point we got yelled at very rudely by this woman. I was going to miss my 2nd flight plan and time was running out to get me to Washington. At that point, I did… I finally broke down and cried. For what it’s worth, Mom was pretty impressed I made it that long given the reason we were traveling. It was at this point that I got BACK on the phone with my travel agency and talked to one of Erle’s peers to see if there were any other options. ANY. OPTIONS. Not much I wouldn’t do at this point and cost is not an issue. They were able to find me a late direct flight from KC to Dulles that was on United which would make them much more likely to work with me with space on it.

It was at that point that the red sea of United airlines customer service finally parted and we made it up to the gate. I presented my case, and the guy had me on the direct flight about 2 minutes later (as I was already missing my 2nd flight at that point anyway). We gladly handed him luggage.

There were two glasses of wine promptly downed at that point and I ain’t ashamed of it.

The first flight was supposed to leave close to 6pm. We got checked in.. we waited. Delayed an hour. Okay… we can work with that. I just need to get to Washington by 10:30am the next day so “delay” is fine. Then it became a 2 hour delay… whateves… then it became a 3 hour delay… whatever. Just DON’T CANCEL THE FLIGHT. Finally, after attempting to get out of KC for 12 hours, we finally caught our break at 10pm at night and were on the plane. The rest was travel in the way it was supposed to be. Luggage obtained, shuttle taken to Best Western where we napped for 3 hours and got back up to head back to the airport 

Ben Coming home from Ethiopia- Post 1

Written May 25, 2011

After our embassy approval to travel that we received on May 9th, things got a little frazzled at our house. Although I had spent a lot of time preparing for Ben after we had thought we had passed court in December, I had to put in on the shelf for a long time for sanity reasons. Looking at and thinking about things just made the uncertainty more difficult to handle. So in the flurry of things, I tried to tie up our life as a family of 3. This involved some silly little projects (such as updating all photo albums to be current up to the day) and getting Lucas’ 3 year old pictures taken. We also needed to buy some specifics for Ben for his development stage and prepare other supplies for the trip itself. I went through his clothes for the 3rd time to get ready for a big baby as well.

On the Monday before travel, Lucas was packed into the car early in the morning to make his accent to Iowa to be dropped off with my Dad and step Mom. He was excited to spend time with his Grandpa so this helped with the transition and no crying on his part. There was of course, a few misty-eyed moments on my part because it means my “baby” that I had waited for and obsessed about for so long is now my big boy and a new little baby is coming. Lucas talks about baby Ben, but we don’t think he has a concept for just what this means in his life. For the first time, he will have to share Mom’s attention.

Once Lucas left with my Dad, I had some Indian food with my best friend from high school in Des Moines and headed to Perry to spend the evening preparing Mom’s packing stuff and chatting with Randy. I had been awake so long the night before that I was able to get some good rest which was much needed. Mom and I left early in the morning with my Mazda 5 stuffed with pushy toys, a double stroller we had been storing there, and my Mom bound for Africa.

I’m very glad that I gave myself an extra prep day because I ended up using every piece of it. We had a packing party and uploaded Ben’s video of pictures to the internet. We ate. We spent Monday at Walmart on all the last minute things. We watched the Biggest Loser finale which is obviously super important…. And there was champagne. Ted and I were both awake at 4:30am just due to nerves and he kissed me goodbye on his way out the door to the hospital.

It was officially Mom and me and an empty house that we were ready to leave!

I didn't take enough pictures of the packing, but I did need to brag just a little bit about my level of organization :-)

Tying up the loose ends

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We're Getting a Groove....

So I haven't written in almost exactly a month! On one hand that actually doesn't seem as long as it feels like as so many changes have happened, most of them good and progress.

So, YES, there will be posts on our time in Ethiopia. I even went back and re-read the journal that I typed as we were on the journey. I'm SO glad I did that! I highly recommend it for any other traveling families. Bring the laptop and use a word document and sit in your hotel and just TYPE. You can cut and paste it into your blog with the pictures later. Truthfully, had I not done that, I don't think I would have 10% of the record that I do of Ben's first few days with me. Everything up until the plane ride is cataloged and well.. you know its been what its been since.

So. How are we doing? What has changed since those first 2 weeks home where we all stood on the ledge of sanity every given hour?? I'll try to sum up the feelings.

Here are the challenges. Don't worry, there are many more positives happening now! This will NOT be that depressing!

1. Lucas has started having nightmares every 2-3 hours every night... usually just waking up screaming. Luckily, it doesn't take long to calm him, but it does involve me jumping up from bed pretty much every night and running through the house before he wakes up the neighborhood. Thus, my quantity of sleep is not that bad, but I really never sleep more than 2 hours at a time and it manifests itself in other areas
2. Ben is still clingy. Of course, given his trauma that is okay!!! It's just, well, exhausting when I'm home alone. There is still no sitting and playing with his brother in the living room while I put away dishes or something. There is no going potty for me when he is awake. If I want to accomplish something quickly, I just have to know that he will scream in panic and that is just that.
3. Lucas is 3. He is strong willed. He is vocal. He is fast. He is a normal 3 year old. I think most of his current behavior issues are normal, with a little heat turned up by the baby brother changes. Many of the most normal activities we have done 100's of times in his life can be an epic battle now. Such as wearing shoes, leaving the house, or having lunch. These days, when he misbehaves and disrespects or acts out physically he starts losing treasures and we have seen some success in that department, although it gets really old fighting the battles ALL. THE. TIME.
4. Ben is big. He is eating like a tank. He weights 1lb less than Lucas. He does not hold on, and when he is in upset baby mode he throws his head back and starts swinging. This is normal, but that is 30lbs of brunt force for me to control at any given second and sometimes it hurts.

See you survived let's hear some awesome things!
1. Ben SMILES. Big, giggly, "I JUST LOVE YOU!!!" smiles. The boys crack each other up. They are conspiring against me already.
2. Ben eats cheerios. To the casual observer you think "Of course he does. Why do we care?" Because I can give him a handful in his high chair and turn around and WALK AWAY to unload the dishwasher.. or pick up something, or make him some oatmeal without automatic screaming.
3. All Ben's stuff from the International adoption clinic came back clean. The guy still scratches at his skin all the time which we're working on, but we are intestinal and skin bug free along with other big whammys in his blood work.
4. Pretty much 90% of the time we get some precious nap overlap so I can breathe and eat. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord. Happy Dance. It's happening right now!!!
5. We were blessed by the ladies of Deerbrook Covenant Church with a shower that gave me a new stroller that was much needed so I don't always have to carry a child on my back in the heat. We also got a wagon (hooray!) and clothing, toys, wipes, and other necessities. I feel very loved.
6. Did you see our gorgeous new family pictures and Ben's 1 year photos? If not, I'll have them up here soon
7. As noted above, some small family projects are slowly getting done. I have all the photos from the trip delivered, family pictures done and being dispensed, health issues addressed, Ben's baby pictures taken and being dispensed, and a list of other things I feel I can slowly start working on.
8. Ben's Cert of Citizenship came last week! It went to our old address rather than the updated with with USCIS which is unforunate, but we finally got it through the forwarded postal system. Social security card here we come!
9. I have found small and simple ways to relax quickly when necessary and I feel like I am taking care of myself so that we can go on without getting so burned out that I question my own sanity, health, and overall existence. Cuts back on the crying and increases the love and patience I want to have for my children. Yeah, bubble baths, I'm talking about you and your amazingness.. with a little shout out to date nights... and the most glory to the sustainer of mother's who love our God. If it weren't for some quiet times of prayer and devotion I would have gone off the deep end in one way or another. Sometimes I just have to remember that He values me and my work for these little people.

Onward and upward. Psych it up. Ponytail up. For rest time will soon be over and there is more day ahead full of wonderful and exhausting things that are all mercies and gifts from God if you (and by "you" I am really preaching to ME) choose to see them that way.

In the words of Lucas as he repeats what I say all the time "Alwhite Sibwey boyz, whets do this!!!"