Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Becoming the woman I loathe

You may not realize this because Colleen is usually a genuinely sweet and kind person, but in her private moments she was a vocal critic of women who hired nannies and housekeepers, especially if those women were stay at home moms. My how the tables turn.

After less than a week with Meron and Emnet, Colleen and I both knew 100% we needed a day Nannie. I did not even flinch. So those of you who know me can appreciate how serious this need is. It is the ultimate necessary expense. Nannie started yesterday.

So last night, on my commute home, I called Colleen's Mom to ask if she had visited that day and what she thought of the new Nannie. My mother in law replied "I didn't get to spend much time with the Nannie because the cleaning lady was making too much noise." Mind you, a cleaning lady had never been a topic of discussion in our house.

Later last night I told Colleen "Your Mother made the strangest remark today." and repeated the above story. Colleen had that total "I been busted" look on her face. I said "Colleen. Of course you realize you have become the woman you always despised." Between her laughter and her tears she said " I know. I know. I just can't believe it."

I love my Jeans

One of Meron's friends, Lily, gave us a bag of used clothes. Among other things was a pair of jeans decorated with dozens of rhinestones down one leg. Meron was immediately in love with these jeans. Never mind that they were about 12 inches too long in the leg. She rolled them up so she did not trip on them and has worn them for about 4 days straight. Remember what a clean freak she is? Meron made the exception for these jeans. She is obsessed!!

So, today Meron spills some water on the jeans. She was having a fit because, on the one hand, she knows the jeans are wet and uncomfortable and she has to change, but on the other hand, she cannot bear the thought of not wearing these jeans. So she paces back and forth back and forth, trying to figure out what to do. Her little wheels are turning. Finally, after about 10 minutes of this, she gives in.

Meron goes into the far corner of the bedroom and tries to surreptitiously change her pants. She does not want Emnet to know because she is afraid Emnet will hide the jeans on her. Meron rolls the rhinestone jeans up in ball and hides them under her pillow to dry. About an hour later, she checks on the jeans, and realizes they will not dry this way. Now totally flustered, Meron remembers seeing her mother use a blow dryer to dry her hair. Meron spends about 10 minutes trying to explain to Colleen what her idea is. Finally, in exasperation, Meron runs to Colleens dresser drawers and begins a systemic search for the blow dryer.

Colleen finally understands what Meron is up to, dries the jeans, and Meron immediately puts them back on. Safe from Emnet, the mean jean hider.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Oncolat means 'egg' in Amharic. I presume eggs were rare and valuable for our girls, because they cannot get enough of them. The girls are constantly asking for eggs, three meals a day. They will sit on the stairs and kick their feet in rhythym chanting 'Oncolat! Oncolat! Oncolat!" I buy the 18 packs of eggs two at a time.

This morning I made Meron a three egg omelette. You'd think that would be plenty for a 4 year old girl.

After serving Meron, I cracked an egg to cook for Emnet. As soon as Meron heard the egg crack, she started wolfing her omelette. Seriously, she practically slid the thing off her plate and down her gullet in one motion.

And you could see the wheels spinning in her panicked little head. "oh my god. oh my god. I have to clean my plate before that egg is cooked, otherwise Emnet will get the whole thing to herself. Can't allow that. Can't allow that."

My cousin Camilla

Sunday we attended a baby shower for my brother and his fiancee. Yes, I know, cart before the horse. But that's for another blog. This is the first time the girls will meet many of their extended family.

Emnet handles it great. Sticking her tongue out at everyone, hiding her cute face behind her mothers shoulder, and generally flirting her butt off with everyone. Meron was much more timid, and I had to take her out into the lobby for a little seperation from the madness.

Our cousin Camilla, a cute and precocious five year old, decides this is a good opportunity to meet Meron.

Camilla: Hi. You're my cousin. Are you really from Africa? My Mom says you're from Africa.
Meron: Blank stare that says "I have no idea who you are or what you're saying. "
Camilla: Why won't you talk to me?
Me: Camilla. Meron does not speak English. She does not know what you're saying.

Now Camilla is staring at Meron's skin, so I invite her to touch Meron.

Camilla (holding Merons hand and flipping it over): Well, why is her hand really dark on one side (the back) and almost white on the other side (palm)?
Me: That's the way God made her.
Camilla: Did God make her hair like that, too? (referencing the 10,000 braids on Merons head)
Me: No, a hairdresser at the beauty parlor did that.
Camilla (to Meron): How do you say "Dog" in your country?
Meron (thinking): You're killing me here.
Me (to Camilla): She does not understand what you are asking her.
Camilla: Oh come on. Everyone knows the word for dog. That's an easy word. I learned it in pre-school.

Mercifully, Meron notifies me she has to go pee, giving us a graceful exit opportunity.

Later in the day, I spy Emnet lying on the floor on her belly, feet flipped up over her butt, and her chin in her hand. She is flicking her tongue in and out. Facing her is Camilla, trying to catch Emnet's tongue with her fingers. I haven't mentioned that Emnet has a gigantic tongue. Seriously, she can lick her eyebrows. She is the Ethiopian Gene Simmons. It was just too funny watching Emnet flicking her tongue all over the room and Camilla trying to grab it.

Wash my shoes

On Saturday afternoon we took the girls for their first walk outside. FYI, we live on a gravel road and a little bit of thawing occurred. The walk was great, we return home, have dinner, play a few games and go to bed.

Fast forward to Sunday AM. We are rushing to get the girls dressed and out of the house to attend a variety of family events today. Meron goes to put on her shoes, sees gravel on the soles of the shoes, and will not wear them. "Nupioa, chamma koshasha!!" she says. (these shoes are dirty and I refuse to wear them)

So I took the shoes to the sink and gave the soles a once over with the spray nozzle. Total time elapsed = 15 seconds. Tears shed = zero. Tantrums thrown - also zero. This is a good trade.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Meron Fashionista

Today one of the women I work with gave me two lovely fleece vests for the girls in their favorite colours. The girls tried them on and loved them. They were prancing around the house all beaming and proud.

Then Meron looks at me, all serious, and says "soo lay ah kah sah kwo". I have no idea what this means. Meron keeps repeating it more insistently, and with greater displays of disgust, like 20 times this goes on. Then Meron gently cradles my face in her hands, looks me in the eyes really sweet, and says " soo lay ah kah sah kwo". As if showing me some love will make me understand. I try to get Meron to move on, but she just won't let it go. Finally, I ring Belle on the phone and ask her to interpret.

Meron was saying "You forgot the pants to match the coat." How in the world does an orphan who had one set of clothes her entire life learn to think that way? I swear it is genetic with women.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Emnet meets shampoo

I haven't described how fastidiously clean our girls are. They want to bathe like four times a day. They are constantly washing their hands and asking to brush their teeth. Meron loves to do the dishes. That is our evening bonding activity. And both girls want to change their clothes several times a day. Meron will not wear athletic socks that have any stains on them, even if they are fresh from the laundry. In fact, Meron has this little chant that she sings "Koshasha koshasha". Which loosely translated means "These freaking things are filthy".

So now you get the picture.

Fast forward to today. This afternoon Emnet wanted to take another bath. Colleen was tired and said "No". Emnet soft pedaled it and waited for Colleen to turn her attention elsewhere. Then Emnet snuck into the bathroom, pulled the shampoo, and coated her head with it. Then Emnet went to find Colleen and ask for her bath again.

Emnet meets sugar

We were doing a great job of keeping the kids away from sugar, then Grammy went hogwild one day. PopTarts, cookies, sugary cereal, etc. Meron did a good job of lightly sampling a few items. Emnet pigged out so hard she could hardly chew her food.

Then she zipped around the house talking to herself in a high pitch and fast cadence. It was hilarious to watch, but then it didn't stop. She was like the energizer. And she had this dilerious grin on her face like she was high on something. It was unsettling.

That night. Colleen and I packed up the sugar food and put it in the trunk of the car.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sunday Feb stuff day

We used this weekend to try out some new stuff with the girls.

Seeking ways to entertain them, we decided to show the video we took while in Ethiopia. Not a good idea. Meron got this really serious look on her face, then started pulling at her hair. Then she got a little angry and started to cry a little. We turned the camera off and found something else to do.

The girls refuse to go outside, so we are looking for ways to introduce them to cold. We gave them each a freeze pop. The girls were so cute. They were very interested in the sweetness of the pop, but could not understand why it hurt their hands. They held it in their right, then passed it to their left while they shook their right hand to warm it up, then vice versa. Then finally they went to their clothes box and pulled out some gloves. Then finished the pops.

Later, our neice Maura filled a large saucepan with snow and brought it inside for the girls to play with. They girls immediately got into a snowball fight in our kitchen.

In the afternoon, we invited some Ethiopian neighbors to visit. They spoke Amharic to Meron, which kind of freaked her out. Then they asked Meron if they could braid her hair. If you could have seen the look of relief on Meron's face. It was like "Thank God somebody with some style sense is here to rescue me from a life sentence of bad hair days." You would imagine somebody who lived the life if deprivation that Meron has lived would be just a little less fashion conscious and maybe a little more pragmatic. I swear its genetic with women.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Meron Tests the Limits

Today Meron decided to see how many different buttons she could push - some in an innocently fun way and others in an evil way.

First the fun. Meron took all the elastics out of her hair. Her hair goes crazy when she does that. She looks like a black Einstein - or like Don King the boxing guy. Anyway, she's sitting their rubbing vitamin E and conditioner into her hair when she suddenly hands her hairpick to Colleen's Dad.

David looked at Colleen like somebody had just handed him a live grenade. Colleen told him to get busy. So for the next 15 minutes or so David picked away at Meron's hair while Meron sat luxuriating in being groomed by an older man. It was adorable.

Then it was lunch time. The girls refused all the stuff they normally eat. They say this word "Enubio" - and they say it really snotty with an attitude. Loosely translated means "I refuse to do it". So we tried new foodstuff. Come to find out, they will eat tater tots, pizza, and ice cream. Are you sure they have never been to America?

Later, the girls had bowls of popcorn with a few cheezits on the bottom. Emnet does not like cheezits, so she passed a few to Grampa. Grampa made a big fuss about thanking her and how much he appreciated the Cheezits. Meron observed this, and it occurred to her that she had just been one upped by her sister. So Meron springs off her chair and into Grampas lap. Then she proceeded to fish every cheezit out of her bowl and hand fed them to Grampa.

In the afternoon, Meron wanted to use Colleens cell and was being too rough with it, so Colleen took it away from her. Meron went into a rage, tore off all her clothes, and started running around the house like a crazy lady. Colleen very calmly acknowledged Merons behavior and then ignored her. So Meron upped the ante by squatting putting just a little spot of urine in the middle of the kitchen floor. Then Meron stood up, all proud, pointed out her puddle to Emnet, and started encouraging Emnet in Amharic to do the same.

I mean, geez, where do they learn this stuff? Colleen put Meron in the naughty corner for an ice age or two.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Merons meltdown Monday Feb 12

This was the worst day with the kids by several light years. Meron was just out of control. A crazy violent kid. She was throwing everything she could get her hands on, slapping and punching us, tipping furniture over, stripped off all her clothes, and screaming so forcefully I though she would burst her arteries. It was downright frightening. We could not reason with her because of the language barrier and we could not strike her because, well, we just don't do that. Basically we just restrained her when we thought she might hurt herself or somebody and we let her scream herself out. I'll tell you, the kid has endurance.

We seriously wondered whether this timid little child had been medicated at the orphanage and nobody told us.

While Meron napped, we replayed the days tapes to figure out what was happening. We discovered the pattern revolved around food. For example, we gave her a serving of eggs rather than the entire skillet full of eggs snd that set her off. We gave her a half banana to share with her sister rather than a whole banana and that set her off. She saw a box of pancake mix and we did not make pancakes, and that set her off.

It occurred to us that Meron is still in survival mode. She does not realize that food is plentiful and she views every feeding as a need to gorge because she does not know when she will eat again. There were probably few days when Meron ate three meals. When she arrived at the orphanage, she was seriously undernourished. Even now, after three months of good feeding at Horizon House, Meron is in the 3rd percentile of weight for her age.

On Tuesday morning, shortly after she woke, we took Meron through the kitchen and opened all the cabinet doors. We showed her all the food, counted the eggs, counted the bananas, counted the bread. I could feel her relaxing in my arms as we proceeded with this exercise.

Then we took several small plastic bowls; filled then with a variety of stuff like cheerios, graham crackers, popcorn, raisins; and left them on the coffee table for the entire day. We did this to demonstrate to Meron that there is plenty of food within her reach and she can have it any time she wants. No more meltdowns.

One cute thing the girls do is ask for a banana every morning after breakfast. They don't eat it. They just carry it around as insurance against hunger.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

First Day in America

The girls woke us up at 1AM, which is about 9AM in Addis. They were probably wondering why we're sleeping in.

We fed the girls breakfast, and they ate for 4 solid hours, nonstop. Eggs, toast, bananas, rice, oatmeal, water, apple juice, apple sauce, tea. You name it, even a chinese fortune cookie. It was ridiculous!! Finally, a little after 5AM, we put them back to bed.

They awoke at 9AM and ate again.

We learned today how well Meron is trained. As soon as we finished eating, she brought all the plates over to the sink, pulled a chair over to the sink, and began to wash and dry the dishes. Could not believe my eyes. She even demonstrated water conservation by dipping the silverware into a cup of water, rather than permit the water to run. As you probably know, water is quite scarce and valuable where she comes from.

Then I was washing potatoes and carrots for a stew, and Meron jumped right in up to her elbows to help. She is awesome. Meron folded clothes for Colleen and she swept the floor.

We also learned what a fashionista Meron is. She discovered her closet, and changed her outfit about 5 times today, each time giving her little a sister a 'look what I have that you don't have' kind of face. I can't believe she behaves that way coming from where she comes from. It must be a genetic marker in women. Emnet was like "What do I care. My belly is full and I'm sitting in Mom's lap".

I went out to do some shopping, and when I returned, Meron was in my face demanding "Oncala!! Oncala!! (eggs). So I told her "Ow, Oncala" (yes, eggs). She smiled sweetly and said "Thank you Daddy". I about dropped my teeth, then I heard Colleen giggling in the next room. Apparently, she taught Meron to say that while I was out of the house shopping.

Meron and Emnet are both potty trained. Meron even goes by herself and we don't know she's in there until we hear the flush.

Adoption Trip Day 9 Say Feb 10

Our girls were a dream come true on the airplace. We purchased a block of three seats together for them, raised the armrests, laid the girls head to toe, and they slept almost the entire flight. We are so proud of them.

Landing in Dulles, we zipped through immigration without a hitch. Almost home free.

One funny thing occurred while I was waiting in line to get boarding passes. Colleen was sitting with the girls on a bench near a window. Meron put her hand on the glass, then looked at her hand in disbelief. Put her hand on the window again, then put her hand to her face. Then she started talking to Emnet in Amharic as if to say "You aren't going to believe this!!" We don't believe Meron had ever felt anything freezing before.

While waiting for our transfer to Boston, I bought the girls lunch at Wendy's. I bought like a sampler pack of everything because I did not know what they would eat. Wouldn't you know it, chicken nuggets and fries were the hit. They basically ignored everything else.

Finally, after landing in Boston and loading the kids into the van, we got our first meltdown. The kids had never seen a carseat before and they were scared to death of being strapped in by these total strangers in a freezing cold place. They basically cried themselves to sleep. I can't imagine the frightening thoughts going through their heads.

Adoption Trip Day 8 Friday Feb 9

As soon as I wake up, I know this is going to be one of the most emotional days ever. Saying goodbye to the staff will be hard, but at least we know we can visit here again in the future if we want, and we can mail things through Wide Horizons if we want.

I grab one of the guards and race to a photo shop to buy frames. All the staff want photos of our girls. Luckily I brought about 100 copies, so I have plenty of photos, plastic envelopes in which to place them, and frames for the guest house and big kids house.

Today I want to video the kids saying their pre-meal prayer, so Pete and I race to the big kids house for lunch. It is so sad seeing these kids for almost the last time, and knowing that I will be leaving them soon. Pete and I have to leave because our eyes are starting to tear up.

The farewell ceremony begins at 4PM in the big kids house. All the staff are dressed in traditional Ethiopian garments. There is festive food like cakes, cookies, and popcorn. Balloons for the kids. The nannies preside over a traditional coffee ceremony.

Then Dr. Tsegaye says a few words revolving around the theme that "children are a gift from God, regardless of whether they come to you through birth or through adoption". Then he thanks the families for their generosity. Then he officially transfers stewardship of the adopted children, one family at time, by kissing the children goodbye and handing the parents their official adoption and travel documents. THis is when it starts to hit home hard.

Next the children sing and dance a variety of songs in English and Amharic. The last song is the hardest. The children staying behind call out their adopted colleagues one at a time to dance in the center of the circle. They sing a verse in Amharic, then "Sister Meron, see you again. Sister Emneti, see you again." There is not a dry eye in the room, while these verses are sung.

And then its an official goodbye. Colleen and I wrote our phone and email on the back of several copies of our girls photos, and handed them to children who were the closest to our girls. Through a translator, we asked them to hold tightly to these photos, and give the photos to their new parents in America, who will then know how to contact us. We truly hope this happens.

Then its back to the Guest House for a quick dinner, and then to the airport for our flight home.

Adoption Trip Day 7 Thurs Feb 8

We visited the big kids house this AM. Meron came running out of the sun porch and across the courtyard to me. She had this great smile going and we played for awhile.

Then, suddenly, Meron was scared to death of me. She went into a panic, screamed hysterically, and curled into a fetal position. This was immediately after one of the Nannies said something to her in Amharic. I believe the Nanny said something about the guesthouse and that set Meron off. So we left to give Meron some space.

This afternoon we commandeered the van, Mulat the driver, and several of the nannies to take the older kids swimming at the Hilton. It was supposed to be Yohannes and Rowina, Abrahm and Rahel, Abdit, and Nathaniel. Lidet's mother said 'No'. Then we had, Tsehaye, this little stowaway hiding between Yohannes and Abrahm. Nobody had the heart to kick her out.

The kids had a ball in the pool, and Pete and I had a ball playing with them. They are so well mannered and well behaved. They really enjoy each other and they really appreciate having opportunities to do cool stuff.

I'm not sure the Hilton was happy with us bringing a vanful of orphans to their pool, with its deck littered with socialites and jetsetters. One snotty guard looked down his nose at us and asked who was going to pay the pool membership fee. Believe me, next time we are bringing six vans full of kids and we will plan to stay longer than an hour and a half. In fact, we may stay for lunch or dinner.

Back to the big kids house. This is the last night before we leave to come home. We have to get the girls to spend the night with us. Meron is just totally bummed, like a zombie. We take her into a den and start talking to her. No response. The social worker comes and speaks Amharic to her. No resposne. We offer her cookies and soda. No response. We are just heartbroken trying to imagine all the thoughts and confusion racing through her little head.

Finally the social worker suggests bringing in one of Meron's girlfriends, Rowina, to speak with her. Rowinia comes and tries to get Meron to sing or dance. No response. To play cards. No response. Finally, we ask Rowina to ask Meron what is wrong. Meron slowly looks up at Rowina, rolls her eyes, and says (in Amharic) "I am so bored in here. Why can't we just go outside and play?"

I was so happy with relief that I didn't even care. It's killing me to think I've known Meron for less than a week and she already owns me.

Adoption Trip Day 6 Wed Feb 7

This morning we went early to the big kids house to observe the morning routine.

The children form two lines, then the nannies proceed down the line dispensing a vitamin tablet, a face wash, and lotion. Then they pledge allegiance. Then they do a gym class which involves some dances and some games. Then as song about "this is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, etc" which goes on for about 7 verses and ends with "this is the way we go to class". and they all march into the class room.

Yohannes and Abrahm are great helpers to the nannies. They keep all the kids in line and the kids respect them. Y and A are not bullies at all.

We returned after class and broke out the jump ropes. The kids had a ball with them, and some of the kids can do some really advanced tricks. Around the corner Meron was getting her hair washed. She looked like Don King!!! It was hilarious. Then later her hair was braided with very fine and intricate design. Meron looked beautiful. She really is a beautiful kid.

While the kids took their afternoon nap, Pete and I went shopping for a goat. I knew a goat costs about $25, but the goatherder started me at $200. I finally convinced him I knew the real price and I bought the goat for $35 (the extra ten I paid him for entertainment value). The herder taught me how to walk a goat like a wheelbarrow by picking up its hind legs. Then he is complimenting about what a fine negotiator I am. Going on and on about how I drive good bargains, I am smart American, and I should be very proud of myself. After all that he smiles , grabs my wrist, and says "So. now you buy cow?"

This evening we went to get the girls to spend the night with us at the guest house. To get them used to us and all. Meron was having none of that. She went into full panic mode. Kicking and screaming at everything and everyone. The violence she displayed was almost shocking. If she wasn't so tiny and so otherwise timid, I am sure it would have been terrifying.

We gave up that ship and decided to try again tomorrow.

Adoption Trip Day 5 Tues Feb 6

Today Meron came running across the courtyard of the big kids house to greet me. I love her smile and her giggle.

We played with the kids for a few minutes, but our timing was bad as we arrived just before they are scheduled to go to class. Mental note for tomorrow.

Adoption Trip Day 4 Monday Feb 5

We set out for the return to Addis at about 6AM. Now we know why Wide Horizons does not permit night driving. The road is just as busy as in the day - clogged with donkeys, goats, carts, bikes, trucks, and people - but nobody wears lights or reflectors. It's like a video game in which these shapes pop out of nowhere at high speed. Total insanity.

Interestingly, we also saw two road killed hyenas with their eyes wide open and their teeth bared. Hideously scary beasts. And we saw a road kill donkey totally coated with vultures. We only knew it was a donkey because the birds on its head jumped when our SUV brushed past.

Finally back in Addis, today is US embassy day. We all piled into the van - Meron on my lap and Emnet on Colleens. As we ascended the embassy stairs, an Ethiopian woman in her 20s whispered to Meron "You are such a lucky girl." We sure hope so.

After the embassy formalities we all returned to the guest house. The nannies put on a video of the coffee ceremony dance and all the kids danced to it. They are so cute.

That evening Tsegaye treated us all to a traditional Ethiopian feast and dance. One dance was killer. Two ultra hot babes come onstage in these skin tight fire engine red dresses. The entire dance involves them whipping their heads and hair around in a figure 8 like pattern - really fast like their neck is a spring - while erotically massaging their breasts. Dear God. I would easily have won a YouTube contest with this if Colleen hadn't torn the battery out of my camera and beat me over the head with it.

Adoption Trip Day 3 Sun Feb 4

We awoke at 5AM today for the drive to the birth village in Awassa. On the road by 6. It is amazing how alive Africa is at 6AM on a Sunday Morning. The roads are clogged with people, bikes, goats, donkeys, cattle, chickens, dogs, trucks and busses. It is like a circus.

Our driver, Solomon, arrives in this huge shiny maroon land cruiser. It is totally pimped. Pete is especially psyched because he loves to go four wheeling.

Solomon navigates the clogged roads for the next 4 hours. He uses his horn about 30 times for each time he taps the brakes. One quick toot means "No way am I slowing down". One long toot means "I know you're bigger than me, but I won't back down". Solomon just barrels down these narrow roads, dodging and weaving, and missing untold obstacles by mere nanometers. It is harrowing.

We saw dozens of road kills - mostly dogs, but also goats and donkeys. I was laying down heavy odds that we would witness a fatality, but we did not.

Midway we stopped at a game park. We saw gazelle, ostrich, and warthog. The scenery was gorgeous and we explored an area of hot springs. I mean really hot springs, that burn to the touch.

Finally we arrive in Awassa at the office of our social worker and interpreter, then on to meet the birth family of Meron and Emnet. The route followed a fairly major paved and divided highway, then turned abruptly left on to a narrow, wet and muddy alley road. The family homestead is about 100 yards down the alley on the left.

It is a postage stamp size lot fenced in with scrap wood and tin. Inside the gate was an L-shaped building along the rear and right walls. Inside the courtyard was a cook shed, chicken pen, vegetable garden, water tub to wash clothes, and a few lines for drying. The Aunt lived in the room at the elbow of the L.

Inside was a tiny room, painted blue, with a high ceiling, stone floor, and one window that could be closed with wooden shutters. The walls were bare except for a few bible verses written in Amharic and a framed photo of the Aunt when she was younger.

The Aunt was seated in a plain wood chair and invited us to sit on a bench. We showed her the photo album we had assembled for her. She smiled when she saw Meron, and commented that she had filled out enough to be barely recognizable. She smiled when she saw the picture of Emnet on the potty, commenting that Emnet had become really smart since going to the orphanage.

The interpreter read the letter we had written for the Aunt. Her facial expression was some blend of tired, resignation, and relief as she listened. Colleen and I held her hands almost the entire visit. She was as graceful and dignified as one could be given the situation.

During the visit we met Uncle Yebeletal (brother of your father), cousin Petros (his son), and cousin Hamnet (daughter of the Aunt). We learned your Father was a grower of barley, wheat, and almonds - and your Mother was a homesteader focused on being a good wife and mother.

Our visit lasted about 30 minutes, but I could have stayed for hours. There are so many questions I wanted to ask because I believe M&E will ask me some day. The social worker asked me to be sensitive and limit my questions to a few simple ones.

We drove away with a feeling of sadness and pity for this poor family, and a feeling of relief that the visit had been as positive as it was. I took a GPS reading of the plot in the event that M&E ever want to visit again.

Adoption Trip Day Two. Sat Feb 3

We awoke at the crack of dawn to the sound of Mosque chanting. I forgotten that Addis is half Muslim and we would hear this daily.

Awesome breakfast. Very heavy on ultra ripe mangoes, which I love.

Next we are escorted up the hill to the older kids house. It is behind an unmarked concrete wall and iron gate. You could never find this place nor recognize what it is, and that is intentional for security purposes.

Now inside, it is quiet. We can see many kids inside a glassed porch across the courtyard. Colleen and I are about a nanometer away from bursting into tears. The anticipation is killing us and it is so emotional.

The social worker holds our arms to pause us and says "I just want to warn you, the girls are very tiny. Much smaller than the photos indicate. I am telling you now so you won't be surprised when you see them."

Finally, Nanny Esegedich appears with Emnet, hands Emnet to Colleen, and explains to Emnet who Colleen is. Then Meron. Colleen and Meron are both dressed head to toe in the same shade of pink. It is a hilarious coincidence. Meron flashed her beautiful smile and clutched at Colleen. Esegedich told Meron we are Emama and Baba. Meron smiled and nodded her head yes.

The girls are really petite. There is no doubt they are only ages 2 and 4. Their limbs are so thin, almost fragile. The girls relaxed a bit as we gently stroked their faces and permitted them to touch our faces.

We spent the rest of the AM playing with all the kids. Soccer, singing, dancing, etc. The kids are so lovable. The kids we are most drawn to (other than our own) are:

Lidet and Abaynish - two sisters aged 3 and 5 going to New Hampshire

Adbit - a beautiful girl of about 10, mildly crippled by Polio, and possibly going to Atlanta

Yohannes and Rowina - of course. We came close to adopting them ourselves, and I had already nicknamed them Jay and Nina. This is a wonderful brother sister pair.

Mimi - an adorable 4 year old going to Connecticut. A total spitfire. I hope her family is prepared!

Nathaniel - a great six year old who loves all things camera, electronic, and gadget.

Rahel and Abram - Another brother/sister pair that are beautiful, smart, fun, and athletic.

Tizita - an adorable little girl of about 3 years old going to the Syracuse area.

After lunch, Pete and I went to Merkato. I had not planned to buy, but found myself wanting to buy pieces of the girls heritage to put in their room and give them a bond to their homeland. Clothes, carvings, paintings, tableware, music CDs. Spend away!!!!!!! What I loved about Merkato was the herds of goals and donkeys barrelling down the wide streets and narrow alleys. It was total pandemonium.

Late in the day we went back to the older kids house. Meron ran to us and Emnet ran away. She kept looking back over her shoulder and laughing, so we hope she was just playing.

A brief description of the orphanage. It is clean with lots of adult supervision, good discipline, and routines. During one visit, a truckload of new orphans arrived. The poor kids looked so frightened. They were immediately given a bath and clean clothes. THen they had blood drawn for tests, then they had lunch.

I have to say, every kid at HH is beautiful and fun. There is not one child here that I would refuse to adopt.

Adoption Trip Day One

Our first taste of Ethiopia comes in the departure lounge of Ethiopian Airlines at Dulles airport. There are many women in shawls and veils, many young children, and one particularly beautiful young girl with beads in her lovely braided hair. Several Ethiopians thank us and give us their blessing for saving two of their children and keeping sisters together (that's actually what they say).

On the airplane now, over the cold dark Atlantic, I find myself totally staring at all the Ethiopian women and wondering which ones my girls will grow up to look like. It is fun to play this imagination game.

After 30 hours of travel, we arrive in Addis and collect 3 of our 6 checked bags.

Mulat and Eskedar met us at Bole and drove us to Horizon House. Sinadu had heaping plates of chicken and pasta waiting for us. There are dozens of photos of previously adopted children on the walls. We recognize some of them like Dawit, Samuel, Bill and Michelle, and the Mannion twins. Note to future travellers. Have the latest info on previously adopted children living in your area because the staff adore hearing about the kids they once cared for.

There are huge portraits of Brad, Angelina, and Zahara on the wall. This is the first we knew that Angelina used HH to adopt. Lo and behold, Colleen and I have booked the Brangelina suite. Sweet!! Huge room. Sliders to the balcony overlooking the entrance yard. Huge master bath with huge tub.

Sleep well. Tomorrow we meet our daughters.