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Welcome to our Adoption Blog! If you want to know about our story and why we are adopting please go to the sidebar down below to find the archive and find our earliest posts. We also are writing as Adoption Journalists for Red Letters Campaign.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day Five

Sorry to delay this post so much! I have been deliberating on whether to make a cool video to show you but since I want to bind this blog into a book I decided to just post all of the pictures instead. I promise to edit the video and post it in a week or so.



This was Monday, the day we met Olivia! We wake up around 6:30 am after being up several times during the night because we still aren't adjusted to the time change. We go downstairs for breakfast with everyone and are super anxious about going to Hannah's Hope. At 9:15 Almaz arrives and we start going through all of our paperwork. We also exchange some money to birr with the real Johannes, put in our coffee orders for coffee to bring home, and ask Johannes to pick up an Amharic bible for us. Then Almaz goes around the table and tells us a little bit about our kids and how she thinks they will react. She gets to us and says, "Shataye is the princess of Hannah's Hope and gets whatever she wants." Everyone laughs and says how she will fit in perfectly. Almaz tells how the day will go and what to expect at our Embassy appointment later in the afternoon. I just can't wait to get my baby that I don't really remember what she said..... I just knew that time was not moving:) Then we all get up and everyone was getting ready to make the walk over to the orphanage. I remember everyone talking in the lobby with Almaz and Tisha and I standing outside trying to get everyone moving:)

Trying to concentrate...




So Paul had the camera and I had the video recorder (the flip, which I love!). I was so nervous that watching the video now makes you a little sick! We walked around the corner and up the cobble stone hill and then we were at the gate. The gate that I have been dreaming about for 13 months, the gate that I have watched so many other blog families enter to get their precious ones wishing it was me, the gate of all gates outside of heaven:) Almaz told us the older kids would be going first so we all walked in and I was looking at the older kids when Paul said, "There she is!!" I was caught off guard when all of the sudden a special mother walked up to me with my little Shataye. She wouldn't come to me at first but after I offered her some fun toys she got on the ground and started playing with me. Then when I gave her some Gerber Puffs she let me hold her! She was so tiny and perfect. They brough out her little lamb which she apparently needs with her at all times.....great, another monkey to keep up with:) Paul and I spent time holding her and feeding her some snacks until she fell asleep in my arms. Almaz had warned us it was right before nap time and now I know that when she is tired she will just conk out anywhere! I held her for a little while and then took her inside and laid her down so that we could run back to the hotel to get everything ready for the embassy appointment. It was hard to leave her but I knew that if I hurried, I would be the first thing she saw when she woke up, which would make the transition back to me easier.

The walk




The GATE




Thats the baby house where Shataye lived.


Spotting Shataye.



This is the toy that was confiscated by the embassy.

Her Lamb.



Daddy's turn, stuffing her face:)

falling asleep....

the very last time

After we got back, she was still snoozing and I had to wake her to get on the bus. We took a longer way to the embassy I think to show us the poorer side of the city. I was too focused on Shataye to really pay attention to anything though. We got to the embassy and they took away our little toy that she loved because it had batteries (TIP don't bring ANYTHING with batteries). We sat in this little waiting room and she did not really like it because she didn't know us and she only had a 30 minute nap that she was rudely awakened from:) We were called next to last and I have know idea what happened at the window between Paul and the embassy man because she was screaming the whole time. It seemed to go well and I remember Paul telling me to raise my hand and say yes. I just do as I am told. We finally left, got our toy back, and went back to the hotel where she fell asleep for two hours on the bed. Then we met the other families downstairs for dinner and I found out that she loves table food. Then it was back upstairs for a bath and bed. I asked the desk to bring us a baby bathtub and the lady brought up a moses basket. I had to take her into our bathroom to try and explain what I wanted and she finally understood. Olivia was not a big fan of her first bath (which I failed to take pictures of because of the screaming......bad mommy) but she has loved them ever since. She was almost too big for the moses basket but the only way she wanted to sleep was directly on top of me and sweating. After she fell asleep, I eased her to the basket so that I also could get some rest. I sometimes toss and turn a lot so I am always afraid of waking my babies if they are in bed with me......we aren't against co-sleeping but it just isn't for us:) I was glad to see that she slept just fine in the basket right next to my bed. I remembering worrying about Jackson as I went to sleep that night, but now that both of my kids home with me I can finally get some real rest!


Paul also kept a travel diary so I will give you an excerpt of the embassy appointment since it better captures the moment:)

1:10 – On our way to the Embassy for our Visa appointments.

1:40 – Oh my, is this a bumpy ride, kids are bouncing everywhere. We are taking the scenic route because we pass the National Museum and the Lion Zoo after driving for like 30 min. Yesterday we got from the museum to the hotel in 10 min.

1:45 – We see some Addis life on our journey, it was interesting to see the women crushing the berbery pepper into a powder

2:00 – Arrive at the embassy.

2:10 – Go through the first metal detectors and then sit on benches to be called into the building.

2:17 – Enter the building, show passport and go through second metal detectors. Now they put our bags through the X-ray machine. Something in my backpack makes them go crazy, turns out to be the umbrella. Then the diaper bag goes through, this also makes a scene. This time it is the rhyme and learn baby book that gets confiscated because it has batteries. Like a child's toy is a security threat. It is complete bedlam in the tiny screening room at this point, since all the baby toys in our group are creating panic for the security people. All the while Obama and Hillary smile down on us from the wall.

2:30 – Finally through the screening room, we head outside and then inside and upstairs for our name to be called at a window.

2:50 – Shataye is exhausted at this point and begins to cry. Even the yogurt melts and cereal don't calm her.

3:00 – DeeDee takes her downstairs to wait.

3:15 – I head down to make sure things are OK. I find that DeeDee has calmed her by removing her shoes and putting them on lamby, her stuffed lamb that she has had a death grip on since we first met.

3:25 – Our name is called. Shataye is crying to Almaz has to take her. We answer some questions at the window and …

3:30 – We are done. Everything is official. Praise God.

3:45 – All families are done and we head back to the bus.

4:10 – We take the shorter smoother way back to the hotel.

New FDL

So remember our USCIS problems? Well I just got our new FDL in the mail today. Thanks USCIS, we have been home a week now. (with just a hint of sarcasm.)

Day Four Continued

After we went to the restaurant, Tatuk drove us around Addis and pointed out things like the prime minister's house (Tatuk doesn't like him), the president's house, Addis Ababa University, and other things. Then he took us to the Ethiopian National Museum. This is supposed to be where Lucy's (the oldest human-like creature) remains are but they are on tour in the U.S. right now. Ironic? Tatuk got us a guide and he explained the entire museum and it was a lot of good information and definitely helped me understand Ethiopia's rich history so much better. I even videotaped the entire thing to have for Olivia and myself when I need some refreshing. The whole tour took about an hour and a half. It was about 2 dollars to get in and I think our whole group payed the tour guide like 15 dollars. Tatuk then took us to the place where we ended up on our shopping day later in the week to try and get a watch for Mike and Karin who forgot to bring one (TIP: did I mention yet to bring a travel alarm clock?) We don't find one here but I get a little hat for Jackson and Tatuk buys Ryan some Ethiopian colored wristbands and headbands since today was his 8th birthday.


Ethiopian National Museum

This is a statue of a woman praying for a child. (pretty appropriate)

A replica of Lucy's remains

Haile Selassie's throne

We head back to the hotel around 4 and catch some sleep until dinner. We ate in the hotel lobby again and met the rest of the travel group except for Tisha and Monte who would get in later that night. Then we head back to the room for bed since the next day was the big day! I was so nervous but ready to get my girl!

Open House


I just wanted to send out an invitation to those of you who are local. This Sunday Olivia is going to be dedicated at our church then we will have an Open House from 1-4pm if you want to come by and meet her. If you don't know where we live send me a comment and I will give you the details.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day Four

4:30 am I am awake and can't seem to go back to sleep. I think I would have been able to if I wasn't so excited and nervous. There is electricity every night from 7pm until 5:00 am and every other day. So at 5:00am I hear the water heater turn off and realized the electricity just went off. I quickly wake Paul and tell him we better take a shower or it will be cold. I find out later that it stays warm for a few hours:) At 7:15 we go down for breakfast but it doesn't really get started until about 7:45. At about 8:30 we meet two other AGCI families, Scott and Polly and their two kids Amber, 10, and Ryan, who turned 8 that day, and Mike and Karin. They were all picked up by the real Johannes the night before and our stories about what Johannes said we could do today were very different. Shortly after our Johannes walks in and Paul gets up to talk to him about getting a taxi for the day. I make the remark that Paul is over talking to Johannes and Karin says, "That is not Johannes!" And of course it all comes out that their are indeed two Johannes that both pick you up from the airport. So we exchange our dollars for birr and decide to get a taxi and go out to lunch, see the city, and stop by the National Ethiopian Museum.

At 11:30 our driver Tatuk and his friend came to pick us up in two cars since their were 8 of us. (TIP: If you get to Ethiopia a day early I would so recommend doing this. It was so awesome to see Addis and go to the museum. I have Tatuk's number and he will really take care of you! He was so nice and wonderful. We agreed on 100 birr an hour which is roughly $10 dollars) We got to an authentic Ethiopian restuarant and it was sooo good! We had tibs, shiro, and doro wat alecha. The others were a bit cautious but Paul and I tore it up. We were so hungry and it was so yummy. We sat around the mesob, which is the Ethiopian woven table that everyone sits around and all eat off of the same plate. Oh and I think it was about 12 dollars for both of us.



Paul next to a sign that says What's Up? very random.



The Mesob

Tatuk's coffee and insense.

Polly and Ryan and Amber

The other driver and Tatuk





Ok I will do another post about the rest of Day 4 later:)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day Two/Three

July 11
Somewhere on the 16 hour flight and getting to Dubai we lost Friday so I am just going to pick back up on Saturday morning in Dubai. Paul was very nervous that we wouldn't wake up in time since I didn't pack a travel alarm clock (TIP: bring this! it is very important!) just my wristwatch which doesn't have an alarm. So he woke up at 5:20 and our wake up call was a good 15 minutes late at 5:45am so it was a good thing he woke up. So we packed up and I tried to straighten my hair when I hear a huge POP and smoke and fire start coming from my step-dad's fancy shmancy converter adapter thing.....oops. Paul came to the rescue and pulled it out of the wall with a bath towel around his hand before any real damage could occur.....well at least to anything besides the converter. I figured it was ok though since we still had the one for the computer and I could live with my wavy crazy hair for a week. We got on the hotel shuttle around 6:10 and made it to the airport and back through security with no problems. Actually, it was so easy that I really think America could take some lessons. We got to our gate and after sitting for a few minutes everyone stands up and gets in line, but there was no boarding call. Well, we haven't traveled internationally in about 10 years so we forgot that you have to go down to the holding gate so we followed everyone down there. When we got through, the Emirates man saw that we weren't sitting together. He very nicely changed that and handed me back my ticket that now said Business Class. I swear I almost fell over in shock. I was not really looking forward to another plane ride but now I was really excited:) (Yes it's the simple things that amuse me.) Business Class was so nice with the champagne and freshly squeezed orange juice that is passed around before all the normal people get on the plane. We had a really good breakfast (masala omlette with potatoes peas and onions) and my foot rest was oh so lovely.

At 11:00 am we landed early in Addis and being in Business Class made us first in line for a Visa in the coat closet, ahem I mean, Visa Center at Bole International Airport. Paul, of course, forgot my warnings about the baggage men and paid 15 dollars to move our bags about 100 feet and we got out really early since our flight wasn't even supposed to land until 11:30. So there we were standing with our expensive baggage men with no one there to pick us up. They let me use their cell phone (which they tried to get more money out of me for doing so) to call Almaz and she assured me that he was on his way and would be there shortly. About 10 minutes later I see a young guy with a sign walking up to the normal/economy class white people from our plane. I walk over and see that his sign says AGCI Family and wave him over. He introduces himself as Johannes but I find out later that he is not "the johannes" from AGCI, Almaz's brother, and our family coordinator. He is Johannes from Union Hotel, but I find all of that out a few days later so right now I am just assuming he is AGCI Johannes. Anyways, he helps us get all of our bags into the van and takes us to the hotel. The drive over was amazing and not as crazy of driving as I expected, but not U.S. driving for sure. There was a lot of smog and pollution though. Since we were not allowed to go over to Hannah's Hope until Monday we asked Johannes what he thought we should do. He told us (with lots lost in translation) that we should rest today and tomorrow he was working at the reception desk at the hotel and he would set us up with a taxi in the morning. Now we thought this was odd but maybe Johannes has a lot of jobs and works for the hotel as well, they are right next door to each other......I am going to blame this on 30 hours of traveling.

Union Hotel and Apartments, our new home

So we go to our room and start unpacking. I, of course, plug in the water heater first thing since I know that electricity is not the norm here and I want hot water. Then at 1:00 we were a little tired so we decided to take a nap. Paul woke up around 4:00 and attempted to wake me up every 30 minutes until 6:30 when I finally emerge, very reluctantly. The time change is weird like that. You think, oh I am a little tired so I will take a short nap when actually you have fallen asleep for the night. We go downstairs and have dinner in the lobby. I think Paul had the cheese burger which he liked and I had Ethiopian Beef Tibs and injera which was really good. We eat a lot of Ethiopian food here so I was dying to try the real thing. This wasn't really the real thing but it was close. We were the first family to arrive and I thought a couple more families were getting in that night or the next morning but it was hard to pick them out of the Holt (another adoption agency that uses our hotel) families.

Then I decided it would be best to call my mom and tell her that we had made it safely to the hotel because she is a worrier. The phone wasn't working so with limited English/Amharic we somehow bought a 13 dollar calling card from the front desk and used their cell phone to call home. Of course now you would think that when your daughter is half way around the world in AFRICA picking up your new granddaughter you might answer your phone, but no. So we spent 13 dollars to leave a message.....I decide to call it even on the hair straightener/converter mishap.

With nothing else to do we decide to head back up to the room and go to bed.


These are taken from our window and from Tisha and Monte's balcony.














Pretty Girl

Olivia Shataye Aarseth

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day One

So I want to be sure to document our trip so that I can hopefully turn this blog into a book one day....has anyone done that yet? If you know of a good place to bind your blog send me a comment!



Thursday, July 9th

At 9:00 my mom came over to pack us all into her car and drive us to the airport. I was pretty nervous about leaving Jackson but as I read with him in his morning devotional book I was again reminded of how God has us in his hands and he has worked out every detail.

More than the birds.

Zoe is looking at a pretty little hummingbird. Have you ever seen how fast a hummingbirds wings go back and forth? That keeps it in one place in the air. Then it uses its long beak to suck a sweet drink from flowers. God takes care of the birds and helps them find food because he loves them. But God loves you even more than the birds! So of course God will take care of you, too!
My Bible Verse:
Your Heavenly Father feeds the birds. And you know that you are worth much more than the birds. Matthew 6:26

My Prayer: Jesus, you love the birds in the air, So I know you will keep me in your care.



At 10:30 we make it to the airport and say goodbye. Jackson really wanted to ride on the plane but he was happy to be in GiGi's Beemer (BMW, his favorite kind of car). We get all of our bags checked in and they don't even bother to weigh them.....I am so glad that I decided to freak out about that all week. Again, I should just know that God has worked out the details. We sit for a long wait until our 12:45pm flight.

At 1:50pm we arrive in Houston. It was actually a good thing that we had a 4 hour layover since we had to go out of security, get on a tram to search for the emirates ticket counter, then go back through a really long line of security. At 5:00 we finally obtained an emirates boarding pass but were told they were out of hotel vouchers so we needed to get one in Dubai....this made me a little nervous. At 6:00pm we boarded our flight and sat in the bassinet row. Lots of extra foot room in this row but also next to 2 babies! I was hoping to only have to be with a baby on the way home:) They were actually pretty good though. I was really impressed with Emirates as they brought the babies puppets, baby food, a little bag of wipes, lotion, bibs, spoons, and all kinds of stuff. All of the kids on the plane got little backpacks full of toys and crayons and coloring books. They really take care of you. The food was good and the TVs had hundreds of movies, CDs, TV shows and video games. Paul and I played lots of video games on the way there:)




16 hours later we landed in Dubai where it was sometime in the late afternoon but 9 in the morning our time. The Dubai airport is incredible! It looks like Prince will jump out any minute and you will be in the middle of an 1980's pop rock music video. We made it through immigration and obtained our hotel and meal vouchers with no problems and find our way to the hotel shuttle. We walked outside and it was around 6 pm Dubai time and it was 110 degrees. I am used to Texas heat but WOW! it was so hard to breath because it was so hot! We made our way to the hotel, got checked in and went down for some dinner. We were happy to find Chicken Tikka Masala, our very favorite Indian food. Then we went up and talked to Jackson on Skype, took nice hot showers, and went to sleep. However, our room was right next to the elevators and I only heard DING all night long and since this was the Emirates hotel, people arrive at all hours for their layovers.





(Those huge columns actually have glitter all over them and there is about 300 of them in the baggage area. The columns in immigration are shiny silver and are every 10 feet )

Sunday, July 19, 2009

We are home!

Sorry that I haven't posted. I am really sick (although I wasn't sick at all in Ethiopia) and we came home to a air conditioner that leaked into the living room so Paul has been replacing the ceiling on top of being totally jet lagged. Olivia is doing really well except that she is terrified of the dog so she is screaming every time she comes near her. Jackson loves being a big brother but is going through the normal GiGi detox complete with lots of testing and temper tantrums:) We are good though but it may take me a while to find our new normal.
video

Thanks to everyone who came to see us at the airport! We were so excited to see you all!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Flight Information

They have arrived in Houston! It appears that their American Airlines flight #2020 is on time to leave at 7:30pm and arrive at DFW at 8:45pm on time - Gate A 15. If you are planning to be at the airport you might want to check again after 7:30pm to make sure it is still on time. They sounded great - exhausted, but great! See you there.
GiGi (aka Dee Dee's Mom)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Update

Hello everyone, this is GiGi - DeeDee's mom. I am in charge of Jackson while they are in Ethiopia, or should I say, Jackson is in charge of me! Wanted to let everyone know that they called this morning, it was almost 5 pm their time. Olivia is doing great and is a very happy baby. The special moms at the orphanage said she was the Princess of Hannah's Hope. DeeDee said Olivia had slept 11 hours the first night in their hotel and only got up once for a bottle! She likes to be held a lot so everything sounded like it was going very well. DeeDee and Paul both sounded great on the phone. They hope to be able to call again tomorrow and I will try to keep everyone updated when I hear from them. Please keep them in your prayers for a safe journey home.
GiGi (aka DeeDee's Mom)

Friday, July 10, 2009

We are in Dubai!

Hi everyone! We are in our hotel room in Dubai. For those of you who
are adopting families, we flew Emirates from Houston to Dubai and they
make you have a forced layover but they give you hotel vouchers and
meal vouchers during your stay and it was cheaper than flying
Ethiopian. Emirates is a super fancy airline and we absolutely loved
it. They have individual TVs for each seat with hundreds of movies,
music, and video games (that really helped the time go by!). I am
happy that we are able to have this hotel room to refresh before our
next flight! We are going to go downstairs and have some pizza in a
few minutes and then get a few hours of sleep before we have our
flight in the morning to Addis.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Return Flight

For those of you who are local we would love to see you at the airport
for our return. We get back on Friday, July 17th at DFW. American
flight #2020 from Houston (you don't have to wait for us to come
through customs since we will do that in Houston) at 8:45pm. I will
try and post in Houston to make sure we are on time.


We leave in about 12 hours! I can not believe the time has come. We
appreciate all of your prayers and support through this incredible
journey. Just a few more days until Olivia is in our arms!

Picture?

This is a test!

This is a test to see if I can blog from my email in Ethiopia.......hopefully I can figure out how to put on a picture as well.  We leave TOMORROW!!!!! I am so sad to leave Jackson though, please pray that I have peace about leaving my little man for 8 days!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy 4th!

Well, according to our original travel dates, we were supposed to leave for Ethiopia yesterday on the 4th but now I know why we had to wait until Thursday. We had an amazing day with lots of family time and getting to love on Jackson who will soon no longer be the center of attention.....It was really nice and very needed since I don't want to leave my baby for 8 days. We started out the morning at the neighborhood parade and I was a bad mommy and forgot the camera. You can imagine old cars, decorated golf carts, and kids on bicycles and in wagons with their flags and streamers. We sat with Jackson catching what we thought were smarties only to figure out after he ate a handful of them that they were bubble gum smarties......great. Then we headed home to pick up the camera and then off to my sisters where my family got together for a cook out and watching the boys in the baby pool.







Then we came home and took some naps, yep all of us. Then we went out to a local pizza place at the outdoor mall where Jackson indulged himself in macaroni and cheese. We walked over to cold stone for some ice cream and Jackson got to pick out his very own. He chose the blue cotton candy flavored one of course.



This is the face I get when I ask him to smile.....



eating ice cream with mommy.

last family picture with 3.

The outdoor mall was having a fun 4th celebration so we let Jackson hit the bounce house before we found a nice park to watch the fireworks from. He was pretty scared of the loud noises and curled up in Paul's lap but still liked it I think......He has been asking all day today to go and watch again tonight.



The park was down the street from the fireworks but a perfect place to watch from and not that crowded.





This is me sticking my arm out with the camera to take our picture......you should see the first 5 attempts.






So although I was disappointed to have our travel moved back a few days, I am so glad we got to spend this day with our boy! Now Thursday can not come quick enough. I can't wait to have my kids home together. Hope you had a great 4th!