Friday, January 30, 2009

New-fangled contraptions

In the few short years I've been toddlerless, they've certainly come out with a lot of new stuff.  I'm happy to report that we've found all of those contraptions are not necessary to entertain your toddler and we've got the photos to prove it!  Abe's favorite source of entertainment is, well, I'll just let the photos do the talking!

Gentle Reminders

Wallowing in self-pity.  That's what I have been doing the last few days.  Circumstances have been challenging and the combination of fatigue, isolation, and a good old sinus infection have had me second-guessing myself and the extra responsibility of a 5th child.  Wednesday night I went to bed totally distraught and ready to run away.  
But, as Annie says, "The sun'll come out tomorrow.", and it certainly has for me.  It's not that my circumstances have changed.  The challenges of adding a toddler and helping everyone "feel the love" are still very present.  BUT, my perspective has changed.
The Lord, in his very sweet way, has found ways to remind me of the truth, and I love it when he does that!  It started yesterday morning when the kids decided to pop in a CD while we cleaned up the breakfast dishes and I found myself dancing with Abe in the kitchen.  We Campbells have long been stress dancers and it was just the release I needed.  A song came on that I had never really listened carefully to before.  The lyrics of it caught me off-guard and I found tears streaming down my cheeks as I was reminded of how good God is.  I realized what a precious gift I was holding and how blessed I am to have traveled this amazing journey.   He also reminded me that this whole thing is so not about me and my to-do lists.  It's about making a difference in the lives of people and about doing his work- eternal work!
He also reminded me of his faithfulness as I put away our prayer jars.  A couple of years ago I started the prayer jars with my kids.  I wanted to teach them the importance of praying for others and I wanted a concrete way of making it happen.  So, we bought two mason jars and I labeled one "prayers" and the other, "praises."  We all add to the prayer jars by simply writing our request on a slip of paper.  We pull the jars out at breakfast each day.  Everyone pulls out a slip and prays for whatever request they draw out.  If we pull one out that's been answered, we thank God for it and move it to the praise jar.  Then, every few months, we take a few minutes to look through the praise jar and see what God has done.  It has been an amazingly easy and concrete way for my children to see the power of prayer.  Whenever they hear of a prayer need they are quick to insist that we put it in the prayer jar.  
In their own way, the prayer jars have sort of chronicled our adoption journey.  It started when the kids decided we needed a brother.  I was not at all open to the idea and I suggested they ask God if we should have a brother (of course I knew the answer would be NO!)  Here's the first slip:

Then, after a lot of heart work and a number of months, we came to the decision to adopt and we moved slip one to the praise jar and put this slip in the jar as we waited for our referral:

After referral came this slip:

And finally this one after our court date was assigned:

Now, tell me, how could a woman who spent 2 years praying for a child be so quick throw in the towel when the going gets tough?  Pretty pathetic, huh?  Fortunately, God sent me some gentle reminders of the truth.    

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Confessions of a Toddler Mom

Allright, I'm going to be totally transparent here and confess the fact that we are currently living in what I call "survival mode."  That is like my least favorite place to be.  I truly believe life is to be lived abundantly.  But, the abundance we currently have going on here involves piles of unfolded laundry, plastic bags full of dirty diapers, and boxed macaroni for supper. 
We're collapsing into bed at night and praying that tomorrow will be just a little bit smoother.
Slowly, we're making progress, but it seems to be two steps forward and one step back.  Praise God, we've done this before and I KNOW that it's temporary.  I KNOW that the issues of today will be the memories of tomorrow.  That doesn't always make the reality of it fun, but it's helping me to hold onto that thin thread that's connecting me to sanity at this point.

I wanted to update you on the prayer requests I mentioned last week, so here goes.

Abe is still screaming.  A lot.  We've found some techniques that help, but it's still an hourly issue.  We are really working on teaching him some key words and signs to help him communicate, but it's still a long road ahead!  We really need wisdom about how to address the behaviors we're seeing.  He screams anytime he's left alone in a room, even if it's just for a moment, so isolation is simply not an option right now. It's obvious that being alone is terrifying to him.  I can't even imagine all that is going on in his sweet little head!

Abe is sleeping all night- about 11 to 12 hours, so that is a huge praise.  He's not really a napper, which would be okay except for the fact that I have 4 other little ones who need some TLC.  That is probably my biggest prayer request right now.  So far, they have been real troopers, but they are getting increasingly fragile and they're tired of the frequent screaming as well.  Ryan and I want to be able to provide for all of them, but we're feeling spread a little thin.

Abe's skin is doing great!  The doctor was pleased when he checked it Monday.  His labs are coming back clear as well, so his physical health is great.  We are thankful for that!

I want to leave you with a few photos which portray the reality of my world right now.  The first photos are of our feeble attempt at a history lesson yesterday afternoon.  They show what Abe is doing when he should be napping.

This second set of photos are from this afternoon when I was putting laundry away.  My mom had taken the other 4 children out and once again, Abe was refusing a nap.  So, I left him in the schoolroom for a moment while I was emptying a laundry basket.  In the 3 minutes he was alone, he managed to find a fun size pack of M&M's I use for Isaac's reading lessons, chew it open, and get what I assume was his first taste of chocolate.  

Monday, January 26, 2009

What they don't tell you in Hague Training

Whew, what a day!  This was the day they didn't mention in our video training for the adoption.  We'll call it lab day.  It started out with me dividing Abe's first dirty diaper of the day into four separate vials.  Then, we went to the doctor and got a bunch of shots that Abe's records say he's already had and we made our pediatrician frustrated by refusing some others until he's a little older.  After the shot trauma, we spent the next three hours giving him large amounts of water and trying to catch the resulting wetness in an adhesive baggie-thingy.  After giving up on getting a baggie full, we gave up and went to the lab empty-handed so that we could get the 3 vials of blood drawn for all of the tests our doctor has ordered.  
Honestly, at that point I felt confident we were in an SNL skit.  One of the phlebotomists talked non-stop, suggesting we give the baby a toy, take the toy away, give the baby a cup, take the cup away, put the baby's sweater on, take the baby's sweater off, etc., etc., etc.  The other one talked less frequently but when she did, all she said was, "I love me some babies.  Umm, hmm I love me some babies."   It was all we could do to keep from laughing hysterically from a combination of fatigue, stress, and frustration.  Aren't you glad I don't have any photos of our bodily fluids field trip!?!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Match Made in Heaven

With one week under our belts we're beginning to feel a little more confident with things.  Abe seems to be adjusting very well.  He definitely seems to identify Ryan and I as mommy and daddy and he is easily comforted by the two of us.  We are still adjusting to the rigors of a toddler and we're getting a little bolder with establishing some boundaries for Abe, which he is responding to very well.  

We've managed to teach him to sign the word more, which has cut down on the high chair screaming.  We're working on please and all done as well.  We think much of the screaming is coming from communication frustration, and we're trying to equip him with more positive ways to communicate.

I have been feeling a little rough this weekend, which is a bummer.  I have been sleeping A LOT but I am still just exhausted.  I am taking it easy today in the hopes that when I start my first week alone tomorrow, I'll be back on my game.

I have a good friend who is mom to 9 children, 6 of whom are adopted.  Back when we were elbow deep in dossier paperwork, they received their 9th child.  She is a precious little girl who we love very much.  We prayed through several rough weeks during their journey to this little one, and she's very special to our family.  Her mother and I decided at that point that we would go ahead and arrange a marriage for Abe and Sarahgrace.   Okay, we know that's not very realistic, but it's a fun thought and they would make great in-laws!  Yesterday, they stopped by so that we could formerly introduce the two of them!  I'll leave you with a few photos of their first meeting, they seemed to hit it off!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bejoe House

Abby and Blaine (the receptionist) playing on the front lawn.

This post is more for all of you Gladney families than for those who want to know what's happening in the Campbell World, sorry!  I wanted to take a minute to post on the Bejoe House, where we stayed in ET.  We, like so many Gladney families, wanted to stay at the Ayat House.  I had read lots of posts about how wonderful it was and the cost and accommodations sounded great.   But, the day we passed court 8 other families passed as well, so everyone was scrambling for reservations at the same time.   The Ayat was taken (it's really just designed for 1 family, possibly 2 small families.)  So, we looked elsewhere.  
We were traveling with Abby, so we needed a 2 room configuration of some sort.  We considered the New Flower, but we really wanted a private bath and that was only available with the master. We considered the Ethiopia Guest House, but it appeared to be a long way from everything Gladney.  We finally decided on the Bejoe, and we're glad we did.  Because the Bejoe has only been operating as a guest house for about 6 months, there is very little info available, but here's what we experienced.

The pros:
  • The staff!  We fell in love with the cook and the receptionists.  They were all young adult women who were very friendly, spoke a good amount of English, worked diligently, and tried hard to serve any need we presented. 
    Abby with one of the receptionists and Marta, the cook

  • The location!  We could walk to the supermarket, bakery, photo shop, internet cafe, and several restaurants in less than 10-12 minutes.  It is located about 10 minutes from the airport and seemed to be central to almost all of the places we needed to go.  We felt very safe in Bole, where it was located.
  • The front lawn.  I know that sounds crazy, but when your cranky toddler is calmed by being outside, a lush patch of grass surrounded by beautiful flowers is very comforting. 
    This is Abby helping the gardener cut the grass!

  • The kitchen.  Breakfast was provided, and the kitchen was available to us any other time.  So most days we ate in for either lunch or dinner.  We had taken tuna, peanut butter, easy mac, oatmeal, and lipton soup pouches.  We also boiled a dozen eggs for Abe at the beginning of the week, stuck them in the fridge, and they were his source of protein all week long.  I would suggest you take dishcloths (maybe the disposable kind with the dish soap in them) for doing your personal dishes.  I only ever saw sponges in the kitchen for dishwashing and I'm funny about that.
  • The phone.  We tried a couple of different options for contact to the US, without success.  But the Bejoe staff allowed us to call direct from their phone for 12 birr per minute (about $1 a minute).  This worked perfectly for us and we just paid off our phone tab at the end of the week.
  • Other adoptive families.  Because the Bejoe can accommodate 4 families, we had the chance to meet several other families, and it made for good conversation during down time. 
The rooms were very adequate.  They weren't anything fancy by American standards, but I think they were very nice for that area.  The housekeeping staff worked hard at taking care of us.  We stayed in the downstairs double room set-up which meant we had two rooms with full beds and we shared a bath between our two rooms.  They provided a crib.  We also had satellite TV, so we were able to get English news, as well as a few other English TV stations.  The nice thing about being downstairs is that there was a ground level entry which kept us from having to schlep our luggage up and down stairs.  If any traveling families have additional questions, feel free to e-mail me and I can try to answer them for you.  I am including a few photos as well!  Have a blessed trip!  

One of our rooms
Abe playing in the living room- he loved the coffee table!

Abby hanging out on the gate wall, above the gatekeeper's house

An upstairs bedroom
Our downstairs bath

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The First Few Days

Well, we've made it through our first few days and overall, things are going well.  We are tired- I think it's a combination of jetlag, time change, new baby, and the emotions of all of it.  But, for the most part things are going as well as can be expected.  Everyone is continuing to be healthy and for that we are grateful.  
The children are getting to know Abe and they have moments where they think he's the best thing ever and other moments when they suggest we put him in his bed for a while :o)  They have all been surprised by how much work he takes, even though we tried hard to prepare them.  
We were blessed with about 6 inches of snow on Monday night.  That's a big deal here in the Carolinas.  It's been 5 years since we had a measurable snowfall, so we were excited.  It was an extra blessing for our family because that meant Ryan got two extra days at home, which was a huge need for us. 
Many of you have asked how you can help.  Really, right now we need prayer.  Here are a few of the ways we would request you pray at this time:
  • Pray for Abe's skin.  We saw the pediatrician yesterday and he was concerned as well.  We're treating him for eczema, impetigo, and scabies.  He's pretty sure there is a combination of the all three going on.  We will revisit it on Monday and possibly head onto a dermatologist.
  • Pray for sleep.  Abe is not sleeping past 4:30 and that can get pretty tiresome.  Especially when you have 4 others who are ready to wake up when he is ready to return to bed.  
  • Pray for Abe's tantrums.  He has terrible tantrums and we're not sure exactly how to deal with them.  It was different with our other 4 because we knew they were secure in our love and were well attached to us.  Now, we are trying to juggle TLC and security with not reinforcing negative behaviors.  We talked to the pediatrician and he was encouraging, but it's very stressful.  Abe is happy much of the time, it's just the moments he's not that are exhausting on all of us.
Thank you all for your support and encouragement.  For all of you Gladney families out there, I have a couple more travel posts rolling around in my head that I hope to write-up in the next few days, so don't give up on me yet.  If a picture is worth a thousand, then I'll finish off with about 10,000 of them.  I know that's what you're really here for, the photos!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Journey Home

Playing at JFK while waiting for plane number three!

Before we left, I had lots of worries about various parts of the trip.  For the most part, my fears were exaggerated.   Crying, fear, illness, and food issues were minimal.  However, the one part of my trip where my fears were warranted was the plane ride home.  It really was as bad as I had expected it to be. 

Our trip was broken up into three legs.  The first from Addis to Dubai was not too bad.  The flight was only 3 and 1/2 hours long and we had a bassinet.  So, Abe fell asleep shortly after take-off and then we laid him in the bassinet- no problem!  The lady in Addis assured us that we had a bassinett confirmed through JFK.  

However, when we arrived in Dubai, we went straight from plane one to plane two and when we got to plane two we found that there were 12 infants and only 6 bassinets.   Thus began the 14 hour flight flight from Hades.  Imagine with me... a 24 pound screaming toddler you've only known for 5 days aboard a plane that is COMPLETELY full.  You are already exhausted as it is 1:00 AM when you board the plane.  It was painful...I mean painful.  About four hours before we landed Ryan looked at me and said, "Let's open that emergency door and jump!"  

The thing is, Abe slept about 10 hours of the flight.  We actually resorted to giving him a small dose of Benadryl and I truly believed that helped.  So, when he slept, we just took turns holding him while trying to sleep (all 24 pounds of him).  But, the four hours he was awake felt like 24 hours.  We had put every trick we could think of in the bag: toys, snacks, bottles, cups, more toys.  But, it just wasn't enough.  We were exhausted and he was out of sorts and it was painful!

Then, when we finally got to JFK, it took about 2 hours to get through immigration and gather our luggage and schlep it from terminal 4 to terminal 8.  By the time we finally got through security for our last leg of the flight- I just wanted to rock in a corner for a few minutes.  Instead I resorted to some good old American cholesterol!  

For what it's worth, here are a few of my plane specific travel tips for future traveling families:
  • Pack several changes of clothes for the child- Abe went through way more clothes on the plane than he had all week!
  • Pack a variety of snacks and toys
  • Pack Benadryll
  • Be sure to have your child freshly diapered and changed before getting off the plane in the States.  We made the mistake of thinking we'd wait till we got off and the immigration process was painfully long for us, he was dripping wet by the time we were able to care for him.
  • If you have a late day departure, nap before you leave Addis- you'll need it! 
  • Keep reminding yourself that it will all be a memory very soon and that you'll never have to see those people who are shooting you dirty looks again!
The one part of our journey that was precious was our homecoming.  We had lots of family and friends waiting for us when we got off the plane and it made the yuck of the last 24 hours melt away that much quicker!

Our Welcome Home Committee!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Meeting Beteleham

Saturday 1/17/09

Today was a very special day for our family. As planned, we were able to meet Nahom’s (Abe’s) birth mom. She was so very young and it was really very sad for us. She is only 17 years old (so she was probably 15 when Abe was conceived) and she is truly all alone in the world. She has no living relatives, with the exception of Nahom. She traveled 2 days by car to be able to see him one more time. Then, she will spend the night here in the city and travel 2 days back to the city in which she currently lives. When she held him, quiet tears rolled down her cheeks and my heart just broke for her.

We spent about 25 minutes with her along with a social worker who translated for us. We took photos and some video so that he will be able to hear her voice when he is older. She had two photos of him that she had taken when he was 8 months old, just before she relinquished him. They were in a small plastic album that she obviously had carried everywhere for the last 7 months. She insisted that we choose one of the 2 photos to take with us. There were also several photos of herself, and she had us choose one of those as well. She was wearing the same clothing in the photos that she wore today and I can’t help but wonder if that’s all she has. In so many ways I wish we could do more, but unfortunately, that isn’t allowed to come from our hand.

She shared a little bit with us about their time together before she decided that she just couldn’t parent. It gave us some insights into some of the behaviors we’re seeing and we have a great deal of compassion for both of them. We promised to send lots of photos in our placement reports, and we also committed to praying for her. Ryan asked her if we could pray for her there and we did. The social worker did not translate during the prayer, but we know that the Lord heard our petitions, even if Beteleham could not fully understand.

The three of us went to lunch afterwards and our discussion was pretty heavy. Abby’s heart was as broken as ours, and we discussed the brevity of the situation. We have talked over and over again this week about how very privileged we are. Words cannot begin to describe the sights and sounds we’ve taken in this week and I pray that I can never forget what I have seen and experienced. We realize that to whom much is given, much is required and this week it has become even more obvious that we have truly been given much!

On a happy note, we really enjoyed our lunch spot today. If you are an adoptive parent, I highly recommend you try it while you’re here. It was a little cafe called La Parisienne and they had good cheeseburgers and divine pastries. I had a chocolate croissant for dessert and it was absolutely delicious. The one we ate at was in the Bole area and most any driver should know it!

We’re now finishing up the final packing and getting ready to head to the airport. We will be praying in the coming months about how the Lord would have us to be involved with Ethiopia and orphans in the future. We truly feel that he’s given us this experience not simply to provide a home for Abe, but also to open our hearts and our hands to the crisis here. It has been an amazing journey to this point and we look forward to seeing just what will come next!