December 22, 2009

Marley at 7 Months

Seven months my baby has been making all kinds of milestones. For one month, we have gotten to witness them. While I will never know what she accomplished in the first six months without us, I do know that the last four weeks with us, she is making great strides! When coming into our arms at just six months old she:
  • held her head up
  • reached for objects
  • smiled, cooed and laughed
  • occasionally rolled over
  • could pull up chest off of floor
  • said dada
  • woke 2-3 times a night
  • weighed 13.2 lbs.
  • has a mouth full of gum
  • could not bear any weight on her legs
At seven months old, she can:
  • pulls up her chest off the floor and holds it
  • screams and has the most hilarious laugh!
  • rolls over and over
  • scoots backwards
  • imitates (scrunches her nose and smacks her lips)
  • blows raspberries
  • sleeps all night
  • using those leg muscles!
  • loves the johnny jumper!
  • started eating food, she prefers (pureed of course!)
  • weights 14ish lbs.
  • still no teeth
And because you are here for the pictures and not

December 13, 2009

We've Been Home Two Weeks

Marley is just pure joy! What an amazing gift our Father has given us! The words cannot describe the amount of love, happiness and joy we feel. She is the perfect child that was meant for our family, and I am so glad that she has joined it. She is full of smiles, although at times hard to catch on camera. She spends most of her days in my arms, tummy time and now in a jumper that she just LOVES! She's eating more and experimenting with baby food. She's made several outings and made several people smile. We are still trying to not overdo it, it's really hard being a! Okay, stop laughing. She loves her bows and hats, really she does. Marley also got a great report from her doctor! She sleeps through the night!
We have been blessed with meals from great friends, and we are sooooo greatful! The transition from one child to two has been a very easy one. Miles absolutely loves his little sister. He is eager to get to her first thing in the morning and often reminds me that Marley is going with us when we leave the house. No, I don't forget her, but Miles seems to think that I would, too funny! He kisses her and lets her kiss all over him, that's a lot for a five year old boy!
Thank you all for your prayers over the last few years. Marley is truly so awesome and the transition has been beyond what we could have ever dreamed of!

December 7, 2009

Bringing Marley Home!

Finally, what you've all been waiting for...our photos from our trip. We've been home one week, and I have to say that Marley is truly a gift from God. A real life miracle and blessing way more than we ever imagined. She fits so perfectly in our family and it the happiest baby we have ever seen. There is no way that we could have orchestrated this any more perfectly. Thank God that our Father is in control, He really outdid himself on this one! Thank you God for answering our prayers and bringing this child into our lives!

December 6, 2009

Ethiopia Day 6

This is our last day in Ethiopia. We are so nervous and excited to visit the orphanage Sifen came from. She spent her first two months of her life there. We also have our huge lot of donations to take to Biruh Zemen Orphanage. We have to drop off Marley again at House of Hope. This time I'm not wanting to take her back to that crib she's been in for four months. I know they love the babies, but not like me. They won't hold her like me, feed her like me, nurture her like me. Two to Three hours, that's all I keep telling myself. The nerves are running all through me. I can't settle them. I'm trying to focus myself on documenting as much as I can for my little Marley. This is my one opportunity to learn about where she came from and the circumstances of her coming to us. What a responsibility, what an honor!
We pulled up to House of Hope and I walled up those stairs to put Sifen back in the arms of one of the nannies that cared for her for so long, yet I worry about her care. I wonder if she will miss me, will she wonder why she's back in the that room again? Will she be scared? I put her in the arms of a nanny and watched as she looked at me and then looked at the nanny. She seemed alright. As we pulled off in the van, I wondered how long the drive would be.
After about 40 minutes, and a drive through a more beautiful Ethiopia than Addis Ababa, we arrived at Biruh Zemen. Almaz, our translator, knocked on the gate and we walked into the compound like orphanage. We stood at the gate that she was brought to by her first mother, her Amaye. I wondered how her care was when she stayed here. So many things ran through my mind. Almaz and a staff member started getting into a heated discussion. Brandon and I were confused and taken back. Not knowing any Amharic, we waited for an explanation. We were told that the orphanage director was not there. She was told that we were coming, but somehow wasn't there. We didn't know what that meant and it seemed like we were just supposed to leave. I asked if we could look around and take video and pictures. They agreed. We saw the room Sifen stayed in. It brought me to tears. My sweet girl was once in this room, she spent her first months in this room. It was sad room. Although probably a better life than she would have had, yet a small room with the infamous handmade cribs holding about 4 babies each, just separated by painted plywood. The floors were swept clean, but stained with dirt. The walls were damaged with water stains and mildew. The sheets and blankets were old and stained. While their standards and priorities are not mine, she was cared for, just not by us. We toured the place and took pictures and video to share with our Marley one day. We then gave them the donations we had collected and they were overjoyed. The quickly took them all into a room and started going through everything. The children stood around us and we couldn't help but to give them fruit roll ups, which we quickly found was an favorite! Then it was time to go. What a sad ride back. I held back tears and stared out the van window, absorbing the town and roads where Marley's Amaye may have walked.
Back at House of Hope, I quickly made it up to the second floor and into the room Miss Marley was in. Thankfully, she was sleeping and I got to be the one to wake her and the first face she saw. Ahhhh, my sweet girl. Today we celebrated our children with a traditional Ethiopian meal with a coffee ceremony. What a great treat. Again, Brandon couldn't refuse coffee and I was loving it! They showed us the raw beans, and as we ate lunch, one of the cooks roasted ground and brewed the coffee. We drank it with popcorn, it's the tradition! What a wonderful time we had. We loved Tsegay and Almaz and the rest of the staff. Fikre and our driver, took us back to Melkam Guest House. As we rounded the corner from House of Hope, a man sitting on the corner shouted out to us, "Thank you for taking care of our children." What an emotional day.
Zeyede drove us to the airport, such a friendly man. We said our goodbyes to him and to Ethiopia and headed into Bole Airport to ready ourselves for the long ride home. Our flight home was long. It was not easy. But we are here, home on U.S. soil at last. Praise God!

December 4, 2009

Ethiopia Day 5

Happy Thanksgiving! We talked Almaz into taking us shopping instead of going to the museum. She was very eager to help us find bargains. We had to drop our children off at House of Hope for the shopping excursion. Sifen had been doing really well, so we didn't mind letting her visit with her nannies for a few hours. We arrived at a strip of shops. It really was all overwhelming. I wasn't sure what to buy and where from. We knew we wanted some traditional dresses for Miss Marley and I wanted one as well. Coffee was also a must! We walked around from shop to shop and Almaz worked her magic. It was quite amusing, actually, to watch her negotiate bargains. It was like an art for her, she really enjoyed it. She then took us to a coffee shop. Not like the coffee shops in America. This was the real deal. They had raw coffee beans and roasted them on location about 6 different ways. We selected the roast we wanted and had it bagged. Then we had Machiatto's while we waited. Ahh my favorite part of the trip!
In the afternoon, all the couples traveling treated a few of the staff to what we thought would be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the Hilton. It ended up being Ethiopian food, but it was nice to celebrate with them. We explained our holiday and that we eat until we can't eat anymore and then sleep. They were Ficker, our driver, said he would always remember us because he spent his first Thanksgiving holiday with us.

Ethiopia Day 4

Marley woke up early and has been a little fussy. I feel like it's ear infections. She rubs and tugs at both ears a lot. Poor baby. I have been giving her Tylenol a couple times a day. Since our schedule has been so full of tourism type activities, poor Marley is napping for about 2o minutes at a time and not having much of any routine. Things will change when we get home. I just worry about our flight home. She really is such a happy baby and her fussiness is obviously out of discomfort and probably also from being pulled out of her surroundings. This morning, early, Brandon got really sick. REALLY sick. Luckily, he began to feel better after lunch. Firsth this this morning we went to House of Hope to take pictures and spend time with all the children. We saw Ruhama first. She is my friend Missy's baby. I had many many children to visit, but Ruhama got priority, as she is just 5 days younger than Marley and I'm her Akist! I walked into the room that I have so many pictures of Marley in. I had the nanny change Ru into a t-shirt her family made for her. I talked to her her and held her for her mommy. There were so many babies there, I couldn't tell if all of them had been referred out or not.
There are four rooms that babies are in. Three rooms were for little babies, like under a year. One looked like it was for babies around one to two years old. I saw nannies feeding, changing and washing babies. I went into a room that had a gym mat on the floor and about eight babies having tummy time while a nanny folded what looked like about 200 cloth diapers. I always wondered if the babies had tummy time. I guess so.
After taking pictures and visiting with the babies, I went downstaris to visit withthe older children. I sat on a step as about 15 children crowed me with admiration. They called me Mommy as they brushed their fingers through my hair. They were very entertained by my straight hair and my skin. They stroked my hair and my arm. One girl tried to put a pony tail in my hair and then an older gilr took it from her and corrected her in Amharic on how to do it the right way. The boys were rubbing my arm as to say it was The smiled giant big smiles, some toothless. We gave them candy and playdough. They sang two songs. They seemed so proud to preform for us and we cheered when they were finished. The nanny then handed us our shoes, as if to say it's time to go. Too funny! I was able to take some video and pictures for many families.
The other travel families returned from the mountain tour and we left just minutes later to eat lunch again and go back to our guest homes. Our documents from the Embassy were ready, what a relief!

December 2, 2009

Ethiopia Day 3

Marley is adjusting to us very well. She wants to be held and currently prefers Mommy. A lot of adoptive children shows that the child tend to bond with one parent at a time. While she shows love and interest in both of us, she does seem to seek me out more. I am so happy, no elated. Don't get me wrong, she loves her Daddy! In fact he makes her laugh hysterically and she says Dada! She's not calling him Dada yet, but she loves to babble Dada! We can't believe it. We have learned that she doesn't like to be changed or undressed. Whoa, boy does she not like that. She does, however, like being held. We are so happy to meet that need!
Our agencies itinerary had us going to the Lion zoo in the morning and the Embassy in the afternoon. We really didn't want to go to the zoo, but figured a trip out would be fun. What a joke! It's crazy how unsecured those lines are. We walked around for about 15 minutes and that was it. Oh, by the way, if you ever go to this zoo, do not plan to take pictures unless you are prepared to pay for that option. And if you pay to take pictures, be warned that still pictures does not mean video. You will be chased down for taking video and demanded to pay an additional fee. It was hilarious and scary to watch this happen to some of our fellow travelers, but a funny story to tell.
We ate lunch at House of hope 2 again. This time the nannies came in and held our babies right outside the dinning room while we ate. I had heard of this and was somewhat prepared. It was difficult to let go, but she was just a matter of feet from me and it was nice to eat. After lunch and a quick siesta, we were off to our visa appointment. We were told to dress up in a long dress and men to be dressed as well. It's an appearance thing, they don't want to have us claiming we can financially support these children and then come to the Embassy appointment dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. I don't own a long skirt, so I wore dress slacks and a blouse. Brandon wore a dress shirt, tie and slacks. We fit in just fine. We did see some adoptive families in jeans and we are glad we chose to dress up slightly. By this time, Sifen was all dolled up with her dress and bow and in the sling. I figured it was a nice opportunity to dress her up too. Any opportunity for me to place one of those pretty big bows on her head!
Walking into the U.S. Embassy was not what I expected. After walking in to a secured gated area, we sat under a canopy with benches. It seemed like adoptive families had priority and were called in first. There were Ethiopians in line as well. We were called to go through security a couple at a time. The Ethiopians also waiting stared with curiosity and smiles. I heard Kongo a lot. Kon-Joe is Amharic for beautiful. We went through security and into a warm room with several other adoptive families from other agencies and Ethiopians. When our turn came up, an American man interviewed us, asking basic questions. Then he pointed out that there was a document missing. My heart sank. She's already in my arms and something else was about to delay her coming home? It turned out, after about 2 hours, that it's some new document that the Embassy is requesting for relinquished children. On our Embassy appointment, it seemed to be new to all the agencies there. They were all scrambling to get them. Our in country representative handled it very well and we were on our way back to Melkam Guest house for our second night with Sifen.

December 1, 2009

Ethiopia Day 2

Surprisingly, we slept good last night. At what we thought was 3:00 a.m., we both laid awake. "Are you awake?" "Yeah, you?" The excitement of getting to meet our daughter today kept us awake. Still confused by the time, we wanted to get up and get going. Then, the call to prayer started. We knew it was 5:00 a.m, and in about four hours,we would meet our little girl. It is still dark outside, but we are here and all dressed and packed to spend some time at House of Hope and to meet Marley. The fact that we are here hasn't set in. After all this time, we are really in Ethiopia and we are really about to meet this little one we have prayed for for so long. Tonight she will be with us. Tonight will begin the rest of her lives in our arms. Yeah, I said the rest. We don't plan on letting her grow up. Tonight will be her first time away from the orphanage and transition home. Tonight, for the first time, she will have someone to care for her every need. Tonight. I hope she likes!

She is in our arms forever! After the long wait this morning for 9:00 a.m. to arrive, we were finally headed to House of Hope to pick up our Sifen. Sifen is her Ethiopian name. It is pronounced Sea-Fin. The staff like to call her Sea-Fin-E, Sea-Fin-oo, or Sea-Fin-ish. They are all terms of endearment. Our driver pulled up to the famous green gates enclosing the compound that our daughter has been at for three months. He honked and a security guard opened those gates to allow us to drive in. He pulled in and we exited the van not knowing where and how we would be introduced to Sifen. We were walked up a set of stairs to a second floor room that was set up like a living area. There was another couple on one of the sofas with an little boy about 7 months old, sleeping on their laps. They had just been given there son and were waiting for him to awaken to meet him for the first time. We chatted briefly, my heart was racing. I wondered how it would happen. Then we saw a silhouette appear through the windows and in walks Tsegay followed by a nanny carrying my sweet girl all dressed up for us. I walked over, trying to contain my tears to avoid scaring her. I scooped her up and into my arms. They gave me formula directions but I didn't hear them.
She came into my arms as if she had been there forever. She smiled at me, cooed and then the grand slam, she laid her head on my chest! What a perfect gift! I've heard it many times before, but she really was meant for us, and we have just experienced yet another reminder that our God is in control and this was His timing! After about 3o minutes of adoring our new baby, we went into Tsegay's office to review our paperwork and visa interview procedures. Brandon did all the official stuff, while I sat there holding, kissing and loving on this child we have prayed for for over three years. Almaz, Tsegay's wife and worker at House of Hope, walked in during our meeting. We had met a very timid Almaz in St. Louis just tow months before. The Almaz in Ethiopia is full of personality. She immediately came in in to hug me and then turned her entire attntion to Sifen, or who she calls Sifeny. She clapped and chanted "Congratulations Day," in a very heavy accent to Sifen. She loved it and responded so well to Almaz. She obviously loves and spends time with all the children at House of Hope. After finishing our paperwork, we went back up to the meeting room and waited for another couple. We saw the older children at House of Hope in a classroom and lining up for potty time. They seemed excited to see us and we were eager to get to meet them. We got in the van to go back to our guest house and they loaded up two children that we going to meet their family for the first time. How exciting was that to witness! We ate lunch at House of Hope 2, it was amazing! It seemed like traditional Ethiopian food with a twist. We finished our evening admiring Sifen in our room. She only woke once at night to eat and when she did, she was cooing and babbling. Amazing.

Ethiopia Day 1

Tonight, we just arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We had a long flight, but after we got off that plane we hadn't remembered just how long it really was. It took us about an hour and a half to get through customs and get our visas. We had grabbed a luggage cart, unloaded our luggage off the conveyor and before we even noticed it, some big man took our luggage cart and pushed his way threw the x-ray machines. He walked about 50 feet with the care we loaded and then demanded $50, or most likely 50 birr. We heard about this before our travel and swore we weren't going to fall in that trap, but here we were in it! Soon Zeyede's sign that said Brandon and Elisa was visible and we felt some relief. He had his three boys help us with our luggage and sat us down to drink some coffee while we waited for two other families. The coffee was amazing. He bought both of us coffee. Brandon doesn't drink coffee, but it would have been rude to decline, so even Brandon drank it. He liked it...I may have a coffee buddy after all! After the coffee, we headed to Zeyede's van. There had to be some famous girl there because there were paparazzi type people following her. We got into the van and felt a bit intimidated the the foreign language. We are staying at Melkam Guest House. It's three stories high and is basically a house. As I sit here writing this, I am amazed that right now, just a few minutes away is Marley. I just packed my backpack hoping to have everything we need for our for our first day together. I'm not sure how we will know what time it is. When we asked Zeyede about the time, he chuckled and then gave us two different times. Something about sunrise it's 1 p.m., and when the sun sets it's midnight? I'm totally lost on that one!