ETHIOPIA part one: when we met.

Profuse apologies for not posting these on time-internet was questionable while we were there and, well, since getting home we’ve been starting to adjust to our new normal. ;) But we want to record these before we forget. Here’s the first couple of days as recorded by Jeff while we were there. More to come..

Where can we even begin? How do you tell the story of a trip that’s 2+ years in the making? I guess it started at 4:30 in the morning with an extra early wake up call…

We had finished packing a couple days prior and just had a few last minute checks the night before, e.g. triple checking the weight of the bags using a shipping scale borrowed from a dear friend… Lauren made a game of seeing how close to 50lbs we could come without going over! (Final tally: 2 bags at 50.0 lbs, 1 at 49.5 and 1 at 49.0… NOT TOO SHABBY!) We got moving really quickly as we were on a mission… the boys woke up pretty well for that early hour and we were packed and in the car by 5:15 heading to the airport (a big thank you to Aunt Ash for transportation!).

We got to the airport by 5:40 and were checked in without too much incident. Security went swimmingly as well and we thought we were in such good shape (here’s where the ominous music would start to play…). Not 2 minutes after we arrived at the gate, a USAirways employee notified us that our plane had been “downgraded” – in other words, they replaced our plane with a smaller one and we no longer had seats! They needed 16 people to volunteer to take a later flight or we were pretty much out of luck. Of course we started scrambling and I started calling and emailing our travel agent (at 5:20AM her time, I’m such a nice guy). I begged the airline to help us get to Washington Dulles on-time or we would have to wait another entire day before we were able to get to Ethiopia. They assured me that things would work out and they would get us on the flight… after many prayers, and miraculously many volunteers to give up their seats, we made it on & were en route to DC, albeit quite late.

The boys enjoyed their first flight and we got into DC with what we assumed was little time to spare. I waited for our gate-checked baggage while Lauren and the boys hauled it to get to our next flight. I sprinted to catch up with bags in tow and breathlessly arrived at the gate only to find out that we were misinformed by USAir about the time of our flight to ET… it wouldn’t even start boarding for another 40 minutes! That gave us time to settle a bit, grab a much-needed cup of coffee and some bagels for breakfast. We finally got to board a VERY NICE Boeing 787 Dream Liner and sit back, relax and prepare (as much as we possibly could) for a 12.5 hour flight to Addis Ababa.

There really wasn’t anything to complain about on the flight… yes, it was long and yes, we didn’t sleep that much (or at all in Lauren’s case), but the boys were great, the food wasn’t bad and we had plenty of entertainment to keep us all occupied. We landed in Addis just before 7am local time (midnight in the US), boarded a bus that took us approximately 200 yards to the airport and headed to get our visas and clear customs. Once that was taken care of, we grabbed our bags off the carousel, scanned them and left the airport in search of our transportation! We met our wonderful guide Yonas and got into the van to head to the Guest House. Our driver “Johnny” was terrific in helping navigate the wild traffic and roads to get us to where we were staying. There are really no traffic rules (or lights, or stop signs) in Ethiopia – it’s quite the experience. We wanted to get to the TH and see Tsinat as quickly as possible, but also wanted to settle down for a few minutes, change out of our funky travel clothes and freshen up a bit… I mean, you want to look halfway decent for your first meeting with your daughter, right?

After a little over an hour, we jumped back in the van and took off towards the Transition Home. It’s about a 15-20 minute ride, but it seemed like it took FOREVER to get there. The boys enjoyed looking out the windows and seeing different scenery than back home; Lauren and I were each lost in our thoughts as we prepared ourselves for the moment we had been waiting for… when we would lay our eyes on our beautiful little girl in person! Of course, I tried to distract myself with meaningless conversation and questions to Lauren about when we should exchange our money for local currency (to which she replied: “Seriously?!?! THAT is what you’re thinking about right now? J). We arrived, coordinated with Yonas and Johnny about photographing and videoing our meeting and waited. We were literally moments away from a whole new world. I knew that nothing would ever be the same once we met… and in 2 seconds my heart would be wrapped around her little finger. We waited at the front steps, and then Yonas asked us if we were ready

She came around the corner with a HUGE smile on her face that could solve half the world’s problems, ran over to us, straight into Lauren’s arms… I wish I could say I remember the look on Lauren’s face, but it was just at that moment that my “allergies” kicked in and the tears streaming down my face kept the vision slightly blurry. She came to me and I picked her up and squeezed her so tight so that she would know that I’ll never want to let her go. INCREDIBLE… that’s the one word I can use to describe it. Well, that and PERFECT. The boys took to her immediately, hugged her as she picked them each up and then we all got together for a quick picture. It still seems surreal… I can’t begin to explain the joy that was in my heart the moment I saw her embrace Lauren. It felt like something broken inside was mending… like an emptiness, an aching that we felt while we were waiting began to fill and heal. No words… all emotions… absolutely incredible.

Now, I would be remiss if I made it seem like this is going to be easy. T speaks just about no English, and at this point in time isn’t overly enthusiastic about learning it or trying it other than when we try to have her say her brothers’ names. I know that is going to be unbelievably challenging and I know that she is going to grieve a lot, but meeting and spending the first day with her was priceless. Did I mention that she loves gum? Because, holy cow! She does! She loves it but also absolutely loves sharing it with all of the kids at the TH… and she loves playing games (on our phones). The first day was interesting in a way because we were definitely feeling each other out a bit. We had broken into her routine and were a big distraction not just to her, but to all of the kids (especially since there hadn’t been a family who visited in over 2 months). Yonas had talked to us about how busy the TH used to be with 8-10 families there at once… I can’t imagine how that would have worked logistically. I thought in my head that it was MUCH larger than it is in reality… so the idea of that many other families there sharing space would be difficult. I guess that’s one blessing of being there by ourselves!

We spent the morning with her and then went out to lunch at a nearby restaurant. That was the point in time where we truly realized just how exhausted we were. We wanted nothing more than to fall asleep right there, but wanted to get back and spend some more time with T before calling it a day. We decided to head back for just a little bit and try to spend more time together before we would go back to Yebsabi and crash. She loved showing off her brothers and they loved getting doted on and feeling like they were a part of such a fun group of kids. Too soon it was time to head back to Yebsabi but our bodies were telling us that we needed rest ASAP. Upon our arrival we crashed HARD for about 3 hours, woke up and had dinner, then went back to sleep. The boys didn’t really complain as they were just as beat as we were. Day 1 was in the books: it was wonderful, eye-opening and life-changing… and we knew that it was just the beginning.

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Being prayed over on stage during one of the services at our church the day before we left

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8 bags, some backpacks… full of TONS of donations! Thank you so much everyone!

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Their first flights were to AFRICA. Nbd. They were amazing travelers – we were so thankful!!

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The morning we met our girl – these three took to each other instantly.

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four, soon to be five.

We’re busy little bees over here packing & organizing & sorting donations (WOW y’all are awesome – the kids and staff at the orphanages & TH are going to be so blessed by all these donations!  They are much needed!).

A couple of weeks ago, Elizabeth from Almond Leaf Studios took some photos for us to document our last time as a family of four.  Can’t believe we’ll be a family of FIVE soon!!! Check out some of the photos in her blog post.  Love my guys!

Elizabeth is a contributor for Inspire Weddings & Marriage, the magazine I’m a part of, and we just love her!  So grateful for these pictures.  Can’t wait for there to be a fifth in our family pics!

THREE DAYS!!!

 

COURT DATE!!!

In all the excitement, I totally forgot to post it here… but if you haven’t seen or heard, WE GOT A COURT DATE!!!!!!!!

Our agency called on Friday and let us know – we will be in court to make T legally our daughter on APRIL 10th!!  Friday was a blur of comparing flight options and figuring out our plans – but we got some great flights booked (thank you Jesus) and we leave on Monday the 7th!  One week!! We will be meeting our little girl for the first time on Tuesday, April 8th.  WOW.  We will also get to spend Jeff’s and T’s birthdays together in Ethiopia!  The boys are going with us and we’re all so excited.  

So we’re in a packing frenzy and trying to get everything sorted out – would love your prayers!  Here’s what you can pray for specifically as some have asked:

  • that the Lord would prepare us emotionally – Jeff and me, and T.  Just so many emotions and we’re excited, anxious, nervous… overwhelmed… also, T hasn’t been doing great lately, so just pray that our time together would give her the precious glimmer of hope that she needs! Pray for her health as well.
  • for safe flights and that the boys would do well on the long trip (I really think they will, but it can’t hurt to have extra prayers!)
  • for all of us to stay healthy the next few weeks and especially while we’re in country
  • for a sweet time of bonding while we’re there, and for the opportunities we’ll have to love on other kids/babies as well.
  • for her heart when we leave, that she’ll trust we are coming back – and that we’ll be able to return soon to pick her up and bring her home for good!

Thanks so much, dear friends!  Cannot believe that after nearly 7 months, the time has finally come! WE’RE GOING TO ETHIOPIA!

pieces of the pyles 3.26.14

No court date yet, but we expect to hear it any day!!!

I feel like I’ve read some REALLY good adoption blog posts lately.  Wanted to share a couple for anyone who’s interested…

THIS POST.  Written by my sweet friend Marissa – if you want to get a picture of what older child adoption will probably look like for us, read this.  Also, it’s just a really sweet reminder that even though we’re totally unqualified and unprepared (no matter how many books we read!) to parent this girl, we just need to LOVE her, do our best, and trust that only God can heal her and he is faithful.  Sister, you did an incredible job writing this!!

Why orphan care must be more than international adoption.  What we are learning, where our hearts are, and where we keep asking God to guide us in what he wants us to do about it. Good stuff, but not easy.  Here’s her follow-up post as well.

This short film had me in tears… it’s about a child in foster care, but so many of the themes are similar.  I know T (and we) will struggle with a lot of these issues.  It’s 12.5 mins long but very well done.

We went on a little family getaway weekend together a few weeks ago to a friend’s cabin – mountain cabin, fire, smores, hikes, happy family. It was really nice to get away and enjoy these little guys (and some date nights next to the fire after they went to bed)!  Can’t believe we’ll be a family of five before too long – as hard as it is to wait, we’re trying to make the most of our sweet time as a family of four.

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Fraternal twins, identical sleepers.

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If you’d like to get involved…

Hey friends!  We have been told to prepare for a court date that will likely be sometime in April (ahhh!!), so we’re starting to make packing lists and preparations!  When we go, we have the privilege of helping out by taking donations for the transition home (where T is living) and orphanages.  They count on donations from traveling families to help care for these children while they’re there, so we’d love to bless them in a big way!

If you’re interested in helping, here is a list of needed donations.  We’d love to collect as many as possible and take them with us on this coming trip and/or the next!  Thanks SO much for loving on these precious children and their caretakers from afar :)

Current Priority Transition Home Needs

  • Vitamin D drops
  • Coloring books
  • Crocs for children and nannies
  • Shoes and Clothing (gently used are ok) for children ages 3-14
  • Foam/Rubber (lightweight) soccer/playing balls for toddlers
  • Diaper cream, specifically with zinc oxide (Desitin or Boudreaux’s)

Orphanage and Transitional Home General Donation Needs

  • Clothing and shoes for children ages 8-14
  • Warm clothing-sweatshirts, long-sleeved shirts, etc.
  • Bath towels for children
  • Antibacterial hand gel (40oz containers available at Wal-Mart for $5 and personal containers)
  • Small sized diapers
  • Baby bottles and nipples
  • Vitamin D drops
  • Unscented baby wipes ***please note, unscented/sensitive skin wipes are the only type used***
  • Toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • Scrubs for nurses and nannies
  • Crocs for nurses and nannies
  • General first aid items
  • Powder-free gloves for nannies and TH doctor
  • DVD and VHS children’s videos-especially Christian videos and/or ones with singing/dancing
  • Crocs for nannies
  • Toiletry bags (small) for children’s personal hygiene items (one per child needed)
  • Puzzles for young children
  • Toy cars and trucks appropriate for toddler aged children
  • Iron drops
  • Diaper rash ointment (A+D preferred)
  • Paper towels
  • Children’s clothing (new or slightly used); Boys and Girls; sizes 0-8 years. Clothing needs include day clothes (especially pants), pajamas, underwear, and shoes.
  • Diapers for up to 30 pounds
  • Toys to stimulate babies such as colorful objects, rattles, etc. that are appropriate for babies up to 2 years
  • Unscented baby wipes ***please note, unscented/sensitive skin wipes are the only type used***
  • Powder formula with DHA/RHA
  •  A + D Original Ointment, Diaper Rash and All-Purpose Skincare Formula
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Candles
  • Children’s Notebooks
  • Enfamil or Similac Lactose free formula*

*the following Generic Brands with identical nutritional value to Enfamil & Similac are also acceptable: Parents Choice formula from Wal-Mart, Target’s generic Formula, Kirkland formula from Costco

-Soy based or other special formulas are also acceptable as long as they are one of the brands listed above.

Medications/Medical Donation Needs**

  • Multivitamins
  • Tri-vi-sol (o to 6 months)
  • Poly-vi-sol (6 months to 2 years)
  • Chewable multi-vitamin (2 years to 9 years)
  • Adult multivitamin (9 years plus)
  • Tylenol (acetaminophen) – Infants, Childrens, & Suppository
  • Syringes for giving medicines (5mL)
  • Plastic and Latex disposable gloves
  • Baby nose saline spray
  • Neosporin
  • Mouth and nose masks
  • Benadryl liquid/elixir
  • Permetherin for scabies
  • Lice kits
  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss

**Please check the expiration date on all donation items as expired items will be discarded upon receipt and cannot be used.

6 months {really} waiting.

It’s hard to believe, but on the 11th we marked six moths-half a year-of waiting to meet our daughter since our referral. Before PAIR, many families were home with their kids by this point! BUT-this month we rejoice because we got our PAIR letter and are moving forward! We’re getting closer to traveling! We celebrated with an Ethiopian feast.

We can’t wait to hear our court date!

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PAIR LETTER!!!

It’s real!  It does exist! And WE HAVE IT!

On Tuesday, March 4th… our 8th wedding anniversary… we got the best gift – a call from our USCIS officer saying our PAIR letter had been issued!!! The BRI was on Feb. 28th, they cleared us the same day and mailed out our letter the next day, Saturday March 1st.  SO fast, I cannot believe it.

We have been on cloud nine!  We scrambled to certify our dossier documents (drove three hours to Raleigh yesterday, played at Marbles children’s museum while we waited on them to get certified, overnighted them to our agency, had lunch with a friend, & drove home!) so we can get our COURT DATE!

God is faithful – and we finally have our letter.  We’re getting so close to seeing sweet T’s face!

<<celebration dance>>

Thank you for all your prayers during this HARD wait since October.  We have truly felt them.

…come onnnnn, court date!

5 months {really} waiting

So, I totally forgot it was the 11th this time.  I was in the kitchen, chopping up veggies for the meal I’d planned for dinner, when I realized it was our 5 month date.  Turns out, I was already cooking an Ethiopian meal just because we’d been craving it!  Love how that happened.

We have certainly had our doubts and questions lately with why it’s taken so long.  Other families are starting to be submitted for PAIR, and some are moving very quickly (hallelujah!!) while others are getting stalled like us.  It doesn’t make sense.  But, we have felt so much more peace this month, even without much news.  We are so thankful for our friends who are praying for us.  Our discipleship group spent a while in prayer for us, and felt like God was telling them to pray for peace and patience – and we feel that. We’re so grateful.

Our BRI is on the 28th – it will happen while we sleep Thursday night/Friday morning.  We’d love your prayers for her birth relative’s travels for the interview, and that we’d quickly receive good news that we’re getting our PAIR letter and moving on to the next step!

We know God is faithful and he will bring our girl home at just the right time.  We rest in that!

{finally} an UPDATE! BRI!

The embassy received our file and have screened it!! They have given us a BRI (Birth Relative Interview – in Ethiopia; we don’t travel for this) for February 28.  We were bummed it is so far out (we requested the 11th and the birth relative was ready to travel that date), but Embassy is booked solid through the end of the month.  However, we’ve been stalled for so long we’re trying to just rejoice that things are moving again!  Our agency did request that they consider us if there is a cancellation, as we’ve been waiting in the process for so long at this point.  It’s not very likely that will happen, but it would be quite a pleasant surprise!

So, here’s the timeline of what we still need to happen:

  • the US embassy in ET to receive and begin processing our file
  • they will most likely schedule a BRI (Birth Relative Interview) *they also requested MORE documents.
  • they will approve our case and issue our PAIR letter
  • ET will receive our PAIR approval and and can issue our MOWCYA approval letter
  • {we will get the PAIR letter and get it state certified & mailed to Ethiopia, along with a few other updated dossier documents we have sitting here waiting}
  • WE WILL BE GIVEN A COURT DATE
  • Jeff & I will travel to Ethiopia to meet our daughter & pass court!!! We can officially share her name & PHOTOS then!
  • We will leave her there and come home to wait for her visa to be processed. I can’t even think about this.
  • All four of us will head back to ET/we will officially clear Embassy & get her visa, we’ll spend a little while there, and bring her HOME!!

We’ve heard rumors that ET court is closing until Feb 24th, which would be a big bummer as they’d be pretty backed up when they re-open (and hopefully we’ll be requesting a court date not too long after that!).  We’ll see.

Our emotions have been all over the place – we are fighting, but it’s getting harder and harder not to let ourselves get down.  Last weekend I went to a great women’s retreat where I heard Jen Hatmaker (love. her.), and it spoke right to me (and in the middle of her session, she showed a video of them picking up their two Ethiopian adopted children – from our same agency – so the video was at the SAME transition home our T is in right now! Oh, tears).  I have never felt my faith being tested this much.  I’ve decided that the enemy SERIOUSLY must not want this girl in our family, which just gives me more motivation to fight those feelings.  I’m more convinced than ever she’s supposed to be ours and that God must have a ridiculously amazing story for her life.

We got a ton of new pictures & videos from a sweet friend today (who’s visiting her daughter, one of T’s best friends) – if you’re local just ask if you want to see them, you know we love to share! ;)

I know Who goes before me
I know Who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a Friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in your hands
I’m holding onto Your promises
You are faithful

snOMG 2014

Charlotte got its “shut down the city for an inch or two” snow day last week!  Rare and fun.  I love the south.  We had a great day with Jeff at home, and Aunt Ash, Grandma, & PopPops off work too – we all got to play in the snow, do some sledding, and enjoy a relaxed day.  Why school was out for 2 days, we’ll never know… but hey, it was fun while it lasted.  I love snow days with the boys – they were SO excited.  And it was so nice to be able to send them outside in the backyard together some while I sat next to my space heater & drank coffee too. :)

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