Monday, December 5, 2011

Travel Journal Trip 2: Day 8 & 9

July 1-2, 2011

Homeward Travels

Dear Lil' Miss,

Where do I even begin?  These last two days of our journey home did not get any easier.

We were thankful that you slept well on our flight from Addis to Amsterdam.  However, between my claustrophobia and our shared concern for you...both your daddy and I were increasingly sleep-deprived.  We arrived in Amsterdam at 7:00am.  We had a 6 1/2 hour layover (I know...yikes, right?) so we decided to find out where our next flight would be boarding, confirm our seats, and then go make ourselves busy for a while.

There were electronic kiosks all over the place where you could scan your passport to check your flight and confirm or change your seats.  Once again, my passport wouldn't scan (we assume because of the stupid amendment I had on it when we got maiden name was causing lots of problems) so we had to find a KLM employee to help us out.  She was rather unhelpful and asked us to wait in line for customer service.  The kiosks SEEMED like a great idea...but it turned out they didn't do much...and screwed up more than they didn't.  We waited for AT LEAST a half an hour on one of the most uncomfortable benches ever (what genius thought a curved metal seat would be comfortable?) and then I finally stood and bounced with you near the window so that you wouldn't have a complete meltdown.  The call numbers were getting closer and closer and to keep ourselves entertained we tried to guess which employee would be helping us.  We kind of had a system figured out.  Two numbers left to go and then a new shift took over throwing our game off.  A tall, dark-haired man came in and called the next family to the desk.  He seemed grumpy and unhelpful and after several minutes with this family we heard him raise his voice and ask them to leave (even though they were being calm and polite in their requests...they were just trying to get their large family seated together on their flight).  And then he called our number.  GREEEAT.  He re-printed our tickets (since they were a little messed up aparently) but when daddy asked him to move us to bulk head he just flat out refused.  We told him that the Addis KLM staff had promised us bulk head seats on this flight due to them losing our luggage and not fitting us in bulk head on the way here....but he barked at us and told us it wasn't an option and that the Addis staff lied to us.  Awesome.  What happened to the customer is always right?  I bet the lady before would have approved it.  But not Mr. Cranky Pants!  I thought my tears would win anyone over, but I was wrong....and furious!  We gave up and left, and as tears leaked from my eyes, daddy tried to calm me down.  AGAIN.  (But to be fair...claustrophobic, anxious, and sleep-deprived, remember???)  We moved on.

By this point you were in need of a diaper change so we found a spot by our future boarding zone and I took you to the restrooms....although a diaper change turned into an outfit change upon closer evaluation!  =)  Although there was that nagging concern about you running out of clothes, (despite me carrying everything we owned for you in our carry-on) I am always more than happy to dress up my baby girl!  You had been in your pajamas up to this point, but being that it was now day, I put you in some striped leggings and a lime green shirt.  It had a matching cute cardigan, but your forehead was already beading with sweat...AND I was putting you back in the I decided you would be fine without it (although I'm sure your special mothers would have disapproved had they been there =).  When I brought you back to your daddy he was drooling at your adorableness!  Will the gawking at your cuteness ever get old?  WE certainly don't think so.

If you're going to be stuck in an airport for hours on end, the Schiphol Airport is not so bad.  Lots of shopping and lots of food.  As you know, the airplane food had not been agreeing with me (nor has it ever) so we decided to start our search for some food.  I carried you in the Moby (which I love more and more each day) while daddy carried our luggage (just our carry-ons).  After browsing the food selection, we narrowed it down by price and familiarity and went with McDonald's.  Not the most exciting thing ever....but MAN did it taste good!!!  We actually ordered lunch....partially because we had a small breakfast on the plane, but also because we had just wasted hours (seriously) figuring out our nearly WAS lunch time and we were STARVING!  Chicken nuggets, burgers, ice cream, soda....we ordered way too much again, but YUM!

Back at our gate, Daddy was trying to hook my laptop up to WIFI so that we could Skype our family back home.  That is my one complaint about the Schipol Airport....the internet is a pain in the butt!  You have to be in certain areas and it takes FOREVER to get a connection, even after paying.  We didn't have any luck in the boarding zone, but we were perfectly content making googly eyes at you and letting you move about.  An Ethiopian family (all ladies....a mom and her four daughters and their aunt), who we recognized from our flight here, were gazing in our direction as well.  I fought the urge to be self-conscious and we ended up in a lengthy conversation with them!  We found out they were returning to the U.S. after visiting family in Ethiopia.  The daughters all spoke very clear English and were very Americanized.  The youngest kept asking her mom for money to buy this and that and her mother teased in her thick accent that "this is what happens when your children grow up in America".  She didn't say it in a condescending way at fact it made us laugh!  During our conversation, however, there was a small Italian woman eavesdropping.  She kept making circles around us, obviously curious about our situation...but she was making me rather uncomfortable.  After a short while she butt into our conversation talking about Italy (not sure why...none of us were).  She was sweet, but nosy.   She would come up to you and get right in your face.  I kept making excuses to hold you close or turn you away from her...and when it came down to it, even walk away.  We kept to ourselves, with the excuse of feeding you a bottle, until she disappeared for a while...and then we started talking to the Ethiopian family a bit.  The mother asked to hold you, and we couldn't say no.  I mean, we COULD have...but we knew that this was Ethiopian culture...not to mention you were just LOVING her.  She held you briefly and then handed you right back with a smile and told me how beautiful you were.  Her daughters all agreed.

Daddy and I moved back to our seats to play with you quietly.  We both had a hard time knowing where to draw the line with letting people hold you...but agreed that once we were on this next flight, you were only ours to hold.  =)

I got a little (okay a LOT) antsy sitting there doing nothing and BEGGED daddy to take me shopping.  I knew we had just spent a lot of money on these two trips, but I couldn't just sit here for hours on end and then board another 10 hour flight.  One of the young girls agreed to show us where the gift shops were and even helped us find a toy plane for your big brother!  We wanted something to give him from you when we returned home.  Call it bribing if you must...but if there was anything we could do to convince him you were worth keeping (even though he had zero say on matter!)....we were game!  We got a laugh out of the two young girls with us as we looked around the gift shop.  There were so many Dutch souvenirs that they were loving and we knew we could find them just down the street from Grandpa and Grandma's house (for those of you who didn't know, we come from a small Dutch town)!  I'm sure many people find Amsterdam fascinating, but having grown up with such a Dutch family and in such a Dutch town, it felt like I had already seen it all!

When we wandered back to our seats just as the flight before ours was just boarding...and already the seats were starting to overflow with passengers obviously on our flight.  We decided to set claim to some seats for good now.  So from this point on, one of us stayed put with our luggage while the other looked around or went to use the restroom.

Time seemed to drag on forEVER.  When they started the security line, we were one of the first to jump up.  And officials actually grabbed us out of the line and PUT us in the front because we had a baby.  They were very helpful getting us through security...especially since you had just fallen asleep in the Moby (strapped to me).  They didn't even make me go in the huge scanner (which seemed mandatory for everyone else)!  They just had a woman scan my entire body and pat me down (which they did to everyone anyway).  Unfortunately you still woke up going through the security process with wide eyes.  Daddy and I found some window seats and let you stretch and you instantly calmed down.  We took turns running to the bathroom.  I combed my hair, washed my face, and brushed my teeth.  I still looked over-tired and ridiculous...but I felt at least a little better.  Daddy took his turn as well and of course came out looking ravishing!  How is it even fair that I am married to someone so good looking?!?  LOL!

After making it through security, the younger two daughters of the Ethiopian family came to sit with us and chatted our ears off.  On any other occasion I might have longed for a little space...but I knew I had 10 hours of silence ahead of me and I was DREADING it.  The little girl (who was maybe 7?) asked to hold you, and I handed you over.  I must have looked panicked though, because after about 10 seconds daddy said to her, "I think mommy wants her baby back now."  (Have I mentioned I love him??)  She quickly gave you back to me and you and I were BOTH all smiles!  I seriously wish I had snapped some pictures of these girls though!

They went back to their family after that and daddy and I took turns snapping pictures.  Another adoptive family came up to us and asked about you.  It was fun (as always) to exchange stories.  The Italian lady had her eyes locked on us again, but perhaps she had finally got the message as she finally kept a little distance between us.  The room started getting rather cramped and my anxiety was growing by the minute.  I had been hopeful (for a short while) that this might be a smaller flight, but there were now so many people crammed in the room that I was beginning to feel claustrophobic!  There weren't even chairs for everyone.

Double (TRIPLE) checking that we didn't forget the all-important immigration packet this time!!!

And had to take a picture of her picture because we knew that we had to turn it over to immigration.

When they began loading I could feel panic creeping in, and yet we moved to the front of the line and slowly made our way onto the plane.  We found our crowded seats and prayed we would have good neighbors.  You were awake for take-off which had me a ball of nerves again....but you didn't seem to mind at all!  I shoved a bottle in your mouth and you took to it with a smile and went right back to sleep again.  Such a little angel!!!  The flight was long...I don't know what to tell you.  Over-crowded, bad food, leg cramps, boredom, and tears.    Pretty much the norm for me.

You're a U.S. citizen now!!!  Welcome to America!!!
As we neared Minne- apolis, I got some energy back.  I was ex- hausted ...don't get me wrong!  But we knew this was going to be a short layover.  We were landing at 3:30pm and had an hour and a half to get through immigration and customs and hop on our flight to Seattle.  It was GO time.  You were wide awake for landing and didn't fuss one bit!  I think you sensed our excitement about finally landing on U.S. soil....and officially making you a U.S. citizen as we did!!!!  The flight was landing a little bit late (and was making us a lot bit nervous).  But as we fought our way through the crowd of people, we learned that nearly everyone had a flight they were trying to catch.  Thankfully we had quizzed the attendant on where to go once we got off and he had informed us that there was a special line for adoptive families.  When we arrived at the lines for immigration, there was only ONE person in our line!  THANK YOU JESUS!!  We breezed through, I cried tears of joy, and the immigration officer was VERY nice.  He showed us every picture there was of you in the packet, including one that must have been taken of you when you were released to the orphanage because you were SOOO TINY!  Even smaller than your referral pic!  He couldn't give it to us or let us take a picture of it though.  I tried to hide my disappointment, but I didn't do a very good job (when we received your Certificate of Citizenship though, that was your picture on it - yay!!!)  We got through in MINUTES (crazy, right?) and found our luggage RIGHT away and ran to go back through security.  We breezed through that as well thanks to more helpful security officers.

THEN the puzzle was finding where we had to go!  And of course, having not eaten almost anything in the last 10 hours, I was STARVING (and noticing a trend in this post, haha)!  There were a million restaurants and my stomach was growling as we passed every single one...but daddy insisted we find out gate first.  It felt like we wondered EVERYWHERE before we finally stopped to ask someone...and they sent us back in the direction we had just come...UGH!  You were awake and fussy and daddy and I were both dripping with sweat as we were literally running all over the airport.  We arrived at the gate we were told to go to and NOTHING!  We finally went to the desk and asked the employee and they told us (are you ready for this???) - our flight was CANCELLED.  NOOOOOOO!!!!!  How could this be?  Seriously....we had only a two hour flight from home and NOW we're stuck????  We were sent to the Delta desk to wait in line...again.  I sat on the floor feeding you a bottle with my stomach growling.  Daddy's back was tensing up more by the minute.  After a LOOOOOOOOONG wait, daddy got up to the desk and the Delta employee told him she couldn't help him and that he would have to use the phone (which was right there) and call the Delta hotline or something and they would help.  So he did.  They said THEY couldn't help...and instead of the employee saying "Sure!  Come back up here and we'll figure this out together"...they sent him to the back of the line AGAIN!  I was barking, and uttering some very not nice words under my breath (oooor perhaps it was very loudly...but you won't know for sure ;) and daddy was literally clenching his fists and I could see the vein in his neck protruding.  You fell asleep in my arms, and then my arms fell asleep.  And I stood there, rocking you in the airport and crying like a little baby.  At this point we should have been boarding our flight, and we were still waiting to find out what had HAPPENED to our flight.  I called my mom and my AGCI mama's to spread the word NOT to come to the airport, while trying my darndest not to have a meltdown.  (Thankfully my mom was at my house with the Lil' Man preparing for our return and was able to tell the rest of our family not to make the two hour drive to Seattle just in time).  Meanwhile I was STARVING and SO mad that we hadn't stopped to get food yet.  (Aaaand possibly cursing Delta under my'll never know;)

Eventually daddy came out of that line.  I didn't have to ask to know the news was not good.  We were on three standby lists for a flight to Seattle and were given food vouchers as well as hotel vouchers to stay the night in Minneapolis tonight.  Daddy gave me a pep-talk and held me (as I was holding you) as I sobbed.  But now it was time to put on my big girl panties and deal with it.  We put our grumbling bellies behind us and ran to the next gate that had a flight departing to Seattle.  As soon as we got there, we knew there was no chance we would get on...but daddy asked anyway.  Nope, booked.  We started towards the next gate...but this time I INSISTED on food first.  We did a quick stop at a Subway where daddy ordered a huge meatball sub for us (which the vouchers did not even cover...awesome, right?).  Then we ran to the opposite side of the airport to find the other gate, and one look at the billboard and we decided to give up and go home.  We were #16 on the list and we could already see a line ahead of us.  We decided what was best for you, was to go to a hotel and get some rest, and start over tomorrow.  So we headed BACK to the Delta Kiosk (on the other side of the airport...still sweating here!) and booked a flight for the following morning.  Then we headed to catch a ride to the hotel.  You were awake by this point, and my sub was still in my hand calling my name.

We stepped out of the airport and I gasped for a breath and immediately broke out in a sweat (again).  It was July Minneapolis...during a thunderstorm...and it was well over 90 degrees with insanely high humidity in just the parking garage.  We escaped back into the shelter of the airport while waiting for the shuttle.

It was maybe 10 minutes before it arrived...I hopped in, just to have another panic attack.  We were in America...driving...and we don't have a car seat.  It was one thing to be in a third world country without a car seat....but another thing entirely in the United States.  I strapped the seat belt around us both and you BURST into tears.  I hadn't heard you cry like this were FREAKING OUT!  And I don't blame was hot and unfamiliar even for me!  Daddy pulled you out of the Moby and you were DRIPPING in sweat. I insisted on putting you at least under the seat belt.  Thankfully once the AC started cranking in the backseat and we started driving you calmed down quite a bit.

By the time we arrived at the hotel it was raining and windy.  The storm was starting and we were desperate to get inside before the predicted hail kicked in.  We checked was a very small hotel, but the room was just fine.  Two queen size beds and a shower made me a happy woman (and I wasn't exactly disappointed about the TV either).  I was a little concerned about where you would sleep so they brought in a portable crib (pack 'n play).  It was hot in the room too so we turned the AC on high and we all undressed.  You in your diaper, and daddy and I in our underwear...all laying on the bed with the TV on.  You had an instant smile!  Daddy broke out the sub sandwich but it was over before it started.  Even with a toasted sub, the marinara sauce had made the bread completely soggy.  I picked out a meatball, and then turned to my baggie of chips to satisfy my hunger.  We decided to order food from the restaurant next door, but you had zonked out before we had even decided what to get.  So yes....I sent daddy out in hail, wind, and a thunderstorm to go get us food.  While he was out, I called my mom to check in.  It felt so good to hear her voice....and Monkey's...  They were making cookies together.  Even though Lil' Man had a sad voice and said he wanted mama home, (just break my heart already!) I was very proud of how brave he was being.

Daddy came back with an armful of food.  He ordered A TON, but we ate not even half of it.  Point is - we went to bed with full tummies.  You woke up for a bottle, and we quickly put some lightweight pajamas on you...but you were out again in no time.  I didn't feel comfortable having you sleep in a pack 'n play in this strange hotel, so daddy slept in one bed, and you and I snuggled in the other (can you tell I get nervous about co-sleeping?).  I laid on one side of you and padded the other side with pillows.  You were definitely able to roll over at this point and I was a little worried about falling into a deep sleep and you rolling off the bed...therefore, I didn't get a lot of sleep.  Not to mention you woke up a couple times crying for a bottle.  But thankfully daddy did so at least ONE of us was thinking clearly in the morning!  We woke up early so that we could give you a bath and each take a shower.  Of course we still didn't have any toiletries so I was stuck using hotel shampoo again (and even though we asked at the front desk, they didn't have any conditioner).  My hair was a DISASTER...and I didn't even have any make-up in my carry-on so I was REALLY feeling crummy.  BUT...we had our matching shirts on and I was excited about that!  I tried to style your hair all cute, but your hair was still in knots and the coconut oil was just not enough for your head of hair!  I was feeling EXTRA guilty about not grabbing the Tangle Teezer out of our "lost" bag in Addis....not that it would have done much good without conditioner anyway.  Daddy took all our stuff down to the lobby.  I had you and the diaper bag - and a huge smile on my face!  We were going HOME!  And I had to crummy as this situation was nice to have a little sleep and a shower under our belt before greeting our family and friends at the airport.  We ate a small breakfast - but it included FRUIT!  AMEN!!!  And then it was back to the airport!

This time we knew exactly where to go so it didn't take long.  You slept through the security lines, but low and behold we arrived at our gate to notice that our flight was now DELAYED!  You have GOT to be KIDDING!!!  When would our luck change?!?  We had to believe that God had a plan for these delays...but I still don't know the reason behind it.  Maybe we never will.  They gave us more vouchers and daddy picked me up a giganto coffee from Starbucks.  Although it didn't compare to Kaldi's, I was very grateful.  He also grabbed us some food from fast food place, but I wasn't really enjoying it despite his best efforts.  I was ready to be HOME...with REAL food!  Once again we had to place some phone calls to let everyone know we were delayed.  More and more people were saying that they wouldn't be able to make our homecoming...but I stopped caring.  As long as we GOT home...TODAY!  And I saw my little man...and slept in my own bed...and had my family together for the first time...THAT was all that mattered!

As we sat...bored...unable to get on the internet...I called my friend Karee.  She is little Yosi's mama and was in our travel group for trip #1 AND....she lives in Minneapolis!  I just had to tell her that we were in the same city!  Had they been home for more than one week and had we known about our delays...we might have made plans to meet up.  It had only been 5 weeks since we had seen them...but who knows how much longer it will be and I missed them already!  She told us how Yosi had been doing and gave us an idea of what to expect our first week home.  We were SO ready to get started!

EVENTUALLY our plane arrived at the gate.  Then they had to clean it.  Then they had to load the crew.  And THEN they let families with infants come up to the gate.  Thankfully they made the boarding INSANELY quick.  Had our flight gone out as scheduled that morning, you would have been sound asleep like we had planned.  But after a 2 1/2 hour delay, you were (of course) wide awake and looking a little freaked out.  This plane was the smallest yet, but I just reminded myself a dozen or so times how short it would be.

"We're going home...we're going home!!"

Daddy got your bottle ready while I wrapped you in a blanket.  Our row had three seats, and thankfully a really sweet lady was sitting next to me.  She didn't have a lot of stuff, seemed to like kids, and was rather friendly.  As our plane took off you were calm, but your eyes were darting back and forth.  You guzzled your bottle way too fast and it was gone before we had hit the proper elevation.  I was worried about your ears, but propped you up on my shoulder to burp you.  And then it happened.  For the first time ever.  You THREW UP!!  During TAKE off!!  ALL over me, yourself, your blanket, the back of our neighbor's seat (thankfully she had sprung forward and you missed HER)!  I was mortified!  Daddy quickly cleaned up the neighbor's seat with baby wipes and a burp rag and then started stripping you down to your diaper.  You were DRENCHED.  As soon as we had leveled out I ran to the bathroom and quickly changed you.  You were MUCH happier with that out of your system.  I brought you back to daddy and then ran back to try to clean myself up.  Puke in my hair, down my bra, and on every layer of clothing.  So much for matching shirts! So much for clean clothes!  Since the seat belt sign was still on, I sat back down and ordered daddy to get yesterday's clothes back out for me ASAP.  He thought I was being ridiculous....but I don't think he realized exactly how bad you got me either!

Daddy climbed out of his seat, grabbed his backpack, found my clothes (on the bottom of the bag, where else?), you exchanged hands once more...and I disappeared into the bathroom getting that "Oh hunny...I'm so sorry" look from the rows of elderly people grumbling behind us.  In the tiny little bathroom I was stripping off layers and literally rinsing them in the sink.  I would lift it up to my nose and smell...seeing if I could save enough of the shirt to be able to wear it at homecoming....but of course, it reeked beyond belief.  Instead, I took the loss and sealed it in a ziplock bag, and saved the laundering for home.  I put back on my dirty clothes from the day before and just dealt with it.  At least I smelled better....except for the puke in my hair.  =(

This flight was really hard.  Besides the rough start, you were just SOO over this whole flying thing.  You fussed the entire flight (and I don't blame you one bit).  Daddy said I was being just as childish though.  To be fair...he had much more sleep than I had the night before....but it was one of those times that I knew I was losing it and I couldn't stop the behavior...ever been there???  My claustrophobia had had ENOUGH and my anxiety level was maxed out!  Once we landed we PEELED off that plane as fast as possible.  Since probably the 5 rows on either side of us had all heard our story, they were cheering us on as we walked off that plane.  As soon as we got off, we let out a huge sigh of relief and parked our luggage at a small bench to change you into your homecoming outfit (you were in pajamas until now).  You had fallen asleep again, so I had to wake you up a little.  Forget wide-eyed and were completely shell-shocked!  I changed you into the onesie I had made, a tutu, babylegs, and a big pink bow on your head before we started towards our welcome party.  We walked down the familiar hallways (at last), down the escalator, onto the little train thing, around the corner...and then...


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Travel Journal Trip 2: Day 7

June 30, 2011


Dear Lil' Miss,

I woke up this morning knowing that today would be very bittersweet.  The best part of today was that you were in our arms (forever!) and that we were finally heading home to start our lives together.  The worst part of today was knowing that we were taking you from this beautiful country and all the beautiful faces of those who have raised you the past six months.  That and the fact that we had 26 hours of traveling to face had my stomach ALL in knots.  In case you haven't figured it out by now, I do not do well flying.  It makes me miserable (and makes daddy feel like he has another child to take care of).

Most of our travel group was flying out late tonight, and a few tomorrow even...but the S family was headed out this afternoon, so we offered to let them crash in our room so they didn't have to pay the extra fee for staying in your room past checkout.  We weren't leaving until after dinner, so we were already planning on keeping our room.

Clean-up crew

People watching

After our last breakfast as a group, the S family brought their luggage up to their room and paid their bill at the front desk.  They were SO ready to get out of were we...but they had been here an extra two days!    Most of our travel group came to crash in our room....after all, we had doughnuts and card games!!! =)  The guys sat playing rummi...or speed...or whatever else crossed their mind as the ladies entertained the kids, updated facebook, and compared how the nights were going.  We had some tea and coffee delivered to the room a few times to keep the energy going.

Our conversation was interrupted by some loud honking, which wasn't unusual since our room faced the street.  But when it continued for more than a couple minutes, I peeked out the window to see what was going on.  There was a huge traffic jam, and after I watched it for several minutes, I put together that cars were driving the wrong way down the middle lane!  It was SUCH a mess, not to mention hours of entertainment for our group (yes, I said hours) as we watched huge trucks doing twenty point turns in the middle of the road and tiny cars squeezing past it to drive the wrong way.  It was CRAZY!

Once we approached lunch time, the S family was preparing to head to the airport and the rest of us were deciding on whether or not we needed to eat something before heading back to Hannah's Hope for our goodbyes.  Everyone but the S family headed back to their rooms to get ready and pack their diaper bags.  It was about that time that Wass wandered through our door.  I was surprised to see him, given the time...but daddy was not.  Apparently over the last several days, they had been talking about hardrives and music and daddy had planned to upload all my music from my netbook onto his ipod.  You were napping at this point, but baby E was awake....and Wass is just IN LOVE with her!  Wass held her as daddy worked on the ipod.  Wass turned some Amharic music on his cell phone and showed off his moves for little E!  She was smiling and was just PRECIOUS!!!

Unfortunately, I didn't have as much music on my computer as daddy had thought....we had taken most of it off before our trip so that we could get the computer running as smoothly as possible (making Skype faster, etc).  But you know Wass was thankful for the little he did get!

You slept through the whole dance party

All too fast, the time approached that the S family had to head to the airport.  Daddy helped Mr. S get all their luggage to the lobby while I packed your diaper bag and got you ready to leave for Hannah's Hope.  Before we knew it, we were saying our first goodbyes of the day.  Thankfully, we know we will see the S family again someday (they are only a few states away)....but it was still hard to say goodbye.  The tears were already rolling down my cheeks...

As they were loading their stuff into the Hotel van, the rest of our group came down to head over to Hannah's Hope and got to say their goodbyes as well.  After watching the S family drive away, we hopped into the van with Wass.  I tried to soak in every detail on our last drive to Hannah's Hope, not knowing when and if we would be back to see it again.  My eyes sting every time I think about this potentially being the last time we see any of this.  This country is such a part of us now.

Back at Hannah's Hope, Almaz and Tsige instructed us to go to the class room.  Almaz talked with us a bit about her passion for adoption and her country and informed us on how we can continue to advocate for the children.  Her heart is pure gold - I only wish I could have gotten to know her more.  She also gave us a more detailed list of needs for the orphanage so that we could pass that on to others.  And then she brought out all the paperwork.  She had receipts for all of us (for tax purposes at home) and a huge envelope that we were instructed was the ONLY set of these documents...could not be NOT open under any circumstances...for immigration officials only once we arrived in the U.S.  They also gave us your visa and Ethiopian passport...which was just so amazing to hold in my hands at last!

Given that our time with Almaz had been so limited, we also took this opportunity to take pictures with her and thank her for all her hard work here.  It was the beginning of many goodbyes at Hannah's Hope.

Tsige looking at the photo album we gave her

During our photo session came a HUGE downpour (on our drive here we experiencing sunshine).  We stayed under the shelter of the classroom until the rain died down a bit.  Most of us (or maybe it was just me) had sandals on...not to mention we didn't want to get the babies soaked on the walk through the courtyard.  Once it was only a light rain, I threw a blanket over your head and we carefully but quickly walked through the courtyard.  My feet still got soaked in the puddles that had formed in mere minutes.  The courtyard was very slippery so daddy protectively held my arm the whole time to prevent me from slipping...especially down the stairs.

As we were walking, daddy asked Almaz if we could take some diapers out of the donations we brought since our luggage was lost and we were going to run out before our trip home.  She detoured us to the donation room as the rest of our travel group headed into the baby house.  My jaw dropped as she opened the door at the drawers and closets stuffed with supplies and donation bins stacked on the counters.  Tom helped us search the room for diapers, but when we couldn't find any Almaz asked him to lead us to the second storage room.  ...A SECOND ONE?!?

Tom grabbed you out of my arms and led us through the courtyard (this time it was sunny, but the ground was still slick) and to the back entrance to the baby area I hadn't even seen yet!  This storage room put the other one to jaw dropped once again.  Stacks of diapers filled the right wall...and then there were stacks of baby wipes, piles of baby soap, diaper creme, flax seed oil....this room was JAMMED full and I KNEW it was thanks to so many AGCI families stepping up to the need (and the many many friends of these families who donated).  After a Tom photo session (this guy adored you baby girl) he helped us find the right size and stuffed more than we probably needed into our backpack (although I was thankful for this later).  He gave you a big kiss and handed you back.

We slipped off our shoes by the front door before stepping into the baby room and were greeted with squeals of excitement!  Your special mothers swooped you out of my arms within seconds to smother you in hugs and kisses.  Daddy and I quickly broke out the cameras to capture the moment.  Oh - my heart just hurts thinking of how hard it must have been for them to say goodbye!

We gave them a little space and one-on-one time with you as we went around to take video and pictures for the parents state-side who were still waiting for their babies.  Pictures like these meant the world to me as I waited to hold you in my arms and I longed to repay the favor (even though I'm pretty sure I STILL haven't been able to email all the pictures).  ***Side note: if you had a baby there during this time, then please send me a photo of them so I can see if I do have some pictures to send you.

Wass came in to hang out with us all and was making your buddy Mihret giggle like crazy!  We captured as much of it as possible for her mama....I just knew she was going to LOVE it!!! =)  Mihret's little laugh was contagious and quite hilarious...we begged Wass to keep going!

Mihret's smile lighting up the room

All enjoying the cray Wass show =)

Then daddy asked Mekdes and Hirut (your special mothers) if they would be willing to record a message for you for later.  Whether a prayer, a song, or just words from their heart....we knew that anything they were willing to share would be so special to hang on to for you someday.  Mekdes started with a shaky voice and we had to encourage her to keep on going.  I wish I had any clue of what they were saying to you, but perhaps someday someone can translate it for us.  I already had tears streaming down my face thinking that this might be the last time you ever see them.  When Hirut took over, her voice was even more broken then Mekdes' was.  She physically started sobbing...all I could do was put my arm around her and cry with her.  I thanked them both and gave them big hugs....but it felt far from enough.

Wass informed us that it was time to go, so we squeezed in a couple extra photos and packed our stuff.  With a quivering lip and tear filled eyes I said my goodbyes to the women who held my baby for 4 1/2 months while I waited for the okay to bring you home.  Emotional doesn't even cut it.

Others were still collecting their things and saying their last goodbyes, but daddy and I followed Wass to the van to load our stuff in.  They had more coffee for us (we now had a total of 40 kilos from our two trips) so daddy helped load that in as well.  Since it had started to rain again, I stayed under the porch of the toddler house with you and Tsige.  While everyone else loaded their things, we snagged a few more pictures with Tsige and Wass.  We probably felt closest to them out of the entire Hannah's Hope staff.  They spoke the most English and we spent the most time with them.  And they are amazing people.  And impossible to say goodbye to...I hope it's not long before we see them again!

Danny, Tom, and Wass took turns shuttling each family under an umbrella to the van.  It had started pouring again, and despite out best efforts we all wound up soaked by the time we got there.  The rainy season is a little crazy here!  As Wass helped the last family into the van, I suddenly realized that we never got our photo as a family outside the gates of Hannah's Hope!  But with the downpour, I knew it wasn't an option either.  I started crying all over again even though I knew it wasn't the end of the world.  Just as we were about to turn onto the main road, Wass STOPPED the van and Selam, one of the special mother's hopped on to say goodbye to us.  She had been out for lunch during our last visit and had to say goodbye to all the babies and families!  So sweet!

Wass needed to grab something from his house and asked perm- ission to take a detour on the way back to the hotel.  Eager to see where he lived, we all agreed.  I asked if it was okay for daddy to go with Wass into his apartment, and Wass was fine with that.  Daddy took pictures for me, but I'm not sure Wass would want the inside of his house plastered I'll just save those for ourselves =)

I fought tears the rest of the drive home.  I was so ready to go, and yet I wasn't ready at all.  I wanted to be home as a family, but I hated to say goodbye.  I hated not knowing when we would return.  I hated taking you from this beautiful country and your people and your culture.  I held you tight and kissed your curly little head and prayed that I wouldn't forget...and I hoped that somehow you wouldn't either.

Back at the hotel, Wass said something profound (But can I remember?  NO!) as we gave him one last hug and thanked him for everything.  All I can remember was that each goodbye and thank you felt so pathetic in comparison to what they had given us.  I'd like to say that I watched Wass drive away, but in all honesty, I was focused on keeping you warm and dry.

Back in the room, we began to pack up our stuff.  It was so hard trying to decide what to take in our carry-on and what to check in.  And especially considering our delays on every flight combined with the lost luggage ...I was pretty much packing everything we OWNED for you in our carry-on.  That, of course, left little room for our things.  We jumped a little from surprise when our phone rang.  That didn't happen often, and we weren't quite sure what it would be about.  It was the front desk saying that the airport had just called to say they found our luggage.  WHAT?!?  NOW?!?  Daddy went down to the front desk to discuss with them how were supposed to get our hands on it at this point, being so close to leaving.

I put you down for a nap and continued to pack.  Daddy came back up with all the details figured out.  And with news that the airport claimed that they had called us yesterday to tell us they found our luggage.  Well that's funny - because we called you last night AND this morning to ask if they had found it yet and they had told us NO!  Ugh....but who cares.  IT was the plan to get it:  We were going to leave a little bit earlier for the airport, and as I went through security with our bags, he was going to run into the baggage claim and grab our luggage, then go through security with that one, and then we would check in together.  I wasn't very comfortable with the idea of going through security with you (hopefully asleep) and all our luggage by myself in a foreign airport where very few spoke the same language as me.  As we talked about it, others joined us in our room to wait out the evening.  Daddy discussed the idea with the I family, whose flight left just a little before ours (so we would be traveling to the airport together) and they agreed to go through security with me and wait with me until he cleared with the other bag.  I hated that it had to be that way...but what other choice did we have?

There was a somber mood and tired eyes taking over all of us.  I think we all shared the same emotions about leaving.  We played more card games (or the dads did), snacked, and ordered up coffee as we waited for dinner time to approach.  I got in one more opportunity to skype with your brother (and grandparents).  I could tell he was anxious for us to be home...but I was SO proud of him for being so brave while we were gone.  He was so patient and understanding - what a trooper!  I cried when we said goodbye - I knew we weren't going to be able to talk face to face until we were home and that was a good two days away.

All the families joined for one last dinner at the Riviera before parting ways.  Airplane food is no good as we all know, so we had to fill our tummies before leaving...even if we were all a little tired of our options.  Since I enjoyed the beef shiro I had the night before so much, I decided to screw the consequences of a potentially upset tummy and order it once more!  It's not that often you can eat Ethiopian food IN Ethiopia and I couldn't pass up my last opportunity for who knows how long.  It was sooooo worth it, and (thank you JESUS!)...I did not get an upset tummy (partially due to the handful of tums I downed after-the-fact).

In an effort to make this evening as smooth as possible, daddy and I decided to perform your full bedtime routine before leaving for the airport.  We bathed you, oiled you, and dressed you in pajamas before I bundled you into the Moby and fed you a bottle.  While I did that, daddy packed the last of our things (but not before I could slip into lounge pants and flats for the long journey home) and got them hauled down to the lobby.  As the staff loaded our stuff into the van, I walked through the dining room one last time and said goodbye to the staff.  You leaned your head back and gazed at the beautiful chandelier in the lobby (as you always did).  I couldn't believe we were about to take you home.  And I couldn't believe I was about to begin this 26 hour journey for the 4th time!!!!  (I am sooo done flying for the rest of my life!)  (No I'm not.)  (Yes, I am.)  I was on the brink of tears the rest of the evening as we stepped out of room #207 for the last time...said goodbye to the Riviera staff...and hugged and said our goodbyes to the W and L family.  Tears ran down my cheeks as we walked out the front doors and stepped into the hotel van.  There were two men in there I did not know, and the I family for the ride to the airport.  You were out in no time!  Daddy tried to carry on small talk with the I family, but all our hearts were heavy and we were exhausted.  I stared out the window trying to absorb EVERY part of Ethiopia and sat with tears streaming down my face.  I kissed your sleeping little head a bazillion times and promised to take you back to this beautiful place.

When we arrived at the airport, I was thankful that this time we knew the drill.  Last time it had seemed so foreign (as it was) and we had no clue where to go.  In order to make things go as smooth as possible, daddy paid an attendant to push our luggage for us and guide him through the crowds at baggage claim.  It was SO worth it!  He got us into the shortest security line and we breezed through it....and the airport security officials were so sweet and helpful with you.  They even helped me slip off my purse (which honestly just had our paperwork/tickets/passports) which you had fallen asleep on without you even stirring...AND helped me get my shoes back on so I wouldn't fall!  As soon as we got through, dad got me situated with our luggage over by a small bench (the ONLY bench...which was filled with people) and checked in with the I family, who got caught in a slower security line before running off with the attendant through baggage claim.  I nervously waited for the I family to finish up with security, and after they joined me I felt somewhat calm.  I kept my eyes on the crowed by baggage claim and watched for a 6 foot tall man in a green shirt to reappear.  =)

The I family were taking Ethiopian Air and we were taking KLM.  Since their line was significantly long, Lindsay stayed with me while Tim went to check in their luggage and confirm their tickets.  I silently prayed that daddy would be back before Tim was.  I hated to make them wait for us, but I knew it was better for my sanity (and they were more than willing to do it).  You tossed and turned a bit in the to skin contact was making you a bit sweaty...but thankfully you stayed asleep.  Since there were no clocks readily available to me, I was getting a bit anxious for your daddy to come back.  Lindsay was doing her best to keep me calm, but I was probably a lost cause =)  Eventually though, your daddy DID break through the crowd, with our long-lost luggage behind him!  I cried with relief...but more for seeing your daddy then for the luggage =)  We gave Lindsay a huge hug and thanked her for waiting with me and urged her to go ahead and join her husband (who was still in line).  Daddy heavily tipped the attendant....because of him daddy didn't have to go through security again (because he could vouch that the luggage never left the airport).  We quickly opened the suitcase to grab a few items - our homecoming shirts that I had made, some snacks, and although I wanted to grab some hair product for you...daddy begged me to leave it there.  It was already leaking and he promised that if the luggage got lost he would buy me all new stuff the moment we got home.  I gave in, grabbed a few new toys (to hopefully keep you entertained on the flight) and shut the bag again.  We rushed into the growing line for KLM as daddy tucked the goodies into our carry-on and then proceeded to fill out the immigration forms.

About half way through the line that was creeping at a snail's speed, a pregnant KLM employee (who we remembered from the last time we were here...she was the one who urged us to get on the shuttle since our flight was cancelled) informed me that we could change lines because of the age of our daughter.  Wow - how cool!  And...WISH we would have known that earlier!  We moved to the FRONT of the line and waited just a few minutes to be called to a desk.  Check in was fine, but I was frustrated that they weren't giving us bulk head seats.  Especially after our last two times on their airline we kinda hoped they would make up for it, but that was not the case.  I had to walk away from the desk to calm myself down (remember I hate flying and so I get revved up easily).  I was already dreading this flight...they are always crammed full and I thought we were at least going to have bulk-head seats for your sake...but now we were going to be crammed in the middle of the plane WITH a baby.  Awesome.  Once daddy had tickets in hand, he loaded our luggage onto the belt and grabbed our carry-on and we booked it to the immigration lines.  More waiting.  The amount of adoptive families kind of surprised me, but it was nice to have a couple people who spoke our language to chat with.  It made the waiting go a little faster.  We compared stories and let me just say....I am so grateful to our agency!  I mean, I don't want to bad mouth any other agency...but I just think AGCI is incredible.  Even more so after hearing what a lot of other families have had to go through to get their kiddos home.  A lot of stories drew up huge red flags for me...gave me a little perspective on the country's reformation of the adoption program.  It is so frustrating as you are going through it, but when you see how some other agencies are handling things down there, it's no wonder the Ethiopian government is increasing restrictions!

Eventually it was our turn at the little kiosk.  Daddy handed the official our passports and immigration forms and in just a few minutes we were on our way.  Nerves were kicking in now.  I should have seen this was all too easy...but I selfishly thought we deserved a smooth trip after what we had been through so far.  We went up the escalators to the next floor.  There are a bunch of shops, a few restaurants, payphones, and bathrooms...and then you had to go through another round of security before sitting in the boarding zone.  We decided to wait to go through security, because we learned on our last trip that there were no bathrooms on the other side.  And considering nerves make me have to pee....we decided to plant our butts on a bench right in front of the bathrooms.  Daddy sighed in relief for the first time today, but I was still a ball of nerves.  We sat people watching.  We were surrounded by mostly Africans (as expected).  There was a mission group standing not far from us, mostly consisting of teenagers wearing shorts, tank tops, and flip flops.  Some had low cut tops and others had their bellies showing.  I remembered feeling frustrated at the lack of respect for Ethiopian culture.  Most Ethiopians are very conservative, covering their shoulders and knees.  A couple American families were passing through security...I was sure they were unaware of the bathroom situation and would come to regret it later.  Daddy and I watched the huge clock above the security area and decided at what time we were going to get in line.  About that time, another American couple came and sat down beside us.  We struck up a conversation and learned that they were adopting too!  I don't remember which agency they were with...but they were from Seattle too!  They asked about you and how old you were at time of referral and how long it took to get to this point.  We learned that they were just headed home from their first trip and their son was just about a month younger than you.  We warned them about the hold ups a lot of families were having with Embassy at this point, but told them we would hope for the best.  Then we learned that their little man's name was the male version of your given name!!!  We were in shock...and THEN we had to compare pictures.  She broke out her cell phone to show us then and now pics.  I had my cell phone...but it didn't have a clear picture.  I asked daddy to pull out the packet Almaz gave us for the U.S. immigration because it had the youngest picture of you.  And this is where the panic set in.  As I was asking, I looked to my left and right to figure out where our "cherry" bag was that had the documents in them.  When I didn't see it I instantly got nervous and asked in my calmest shaky voice ever..."Babe, where is the cherry bag?"  All the while I was replaying the last hour or so in my head....immigration lines, check in lines, airport security...I couldn't remember having the bag at any point during this!!!  WHERE WAS OUR CHERRY BAG?!?!  Daddy stood up and scanned the room, making sure no one was running off with it.  He looked under the seats, behind the seats...there weren't many places for it to hide.  He asked me the last time I remember having the bag and I said it was at the hotel...I remember them putting it in the hotel van but I don't remember seeing it since.  He asked me if we could have checked it in downstairs with the rest of our luggage...but I had already processed all of that and was confident that our bag was still in the hotel van and was probably back at the Riviera right now.  I instantly started to cry - "That has ALL of baby's STUFF!  That has her IMMIGRATION PAPERWORK!!!"  Before I could blink, daddy was RUNNING back to the escalator.  I had no idea how he was going to get that bag back, but I knew we weren't going ANYWHERE until he did.  I started to hyperventilate thinking...I have no diapers, no formula...just a change of clothes and some toys in her bag.  Oh my word...they won't let her into the US without her paperwork!  We're stuck in Ethiopia until we get that bag back.  What if it's lost?!?  What if it is GONE...Almaz said this was the only copy of those documents.  They HAVE to have copies somewhere right?  How long would it take to get new paperwork together?  The sweet couple next to us (and I'm sorry, due to the stress of the situation I can't remember their names....and if you guys stumble across my blog, please email me so I can thank you a hundred times over!!!) asked if there was anything they could do.  I was amazed they were following what had happened because I swear that half of that information was all processed inside our heads (you know that couples can communicate telepathically, right?).  The husband got up and said he was going to go look for your daddy and see if he could help in some way.  The wife stayed next to me asking questions about you and our adoption journey.  I knew she was distracting me, trying to keep me calm.  I tried to focus on our conversation in order to prevent myself from hyperventilating any more.  And all those questions that had been stirring in my brain...I asked which she all had calm and reasonable answers to.  She was sure daddy was going to find the bag and we would make the flight just fine.  And she assured me they were going to sit with me until he got back.  Although I didn't say anything out loud, I knew that when the time came for boarding, they had to get on that plane whether daddy was back or not.  And predictable like my body is during times of stress, I all of a sudden had the urge to pee.  I tried to ignore it.  At this point I was sitting in a strange airport with a complete stranger with a baby strapped to me, an overflowing diaper bag, and a backpack that was probably twice my size.  Then my brain started stirring again (it really shouldn't do that).  What if he doesn't come back?  How would I find him?  Would I just go back to the hotel?  I'm sure the rest of the AGCI families are still there, some of them aren't leaving until tomorrow morning.  The Riviera would have ways for me to contact Hannah's Hope.  What if this sweet couple has to board and I'm here by myself and then I REALLY have to pee?  I can't leave my bags.  But I can't leave my bags with someone I don't even know either!  What if I wait, and daddy comes running back just in the nick of time and we have to run through security in order to board?  I won't have time to pee then!  I have to go - NOW!  I explained to the sweet woman next to me, "My husband will probably kill me if I leave my luggage with someone I don't know.  I have to pee SO frickin' bad though...if he comes back can you just tell him where I am?"  She agreed and then I booked it to the bathroom...which by this point had a visible trail of stench coming out of it (like in the cartoons?)...with a wide-eyed sleepy you staring up at me, a diaper bag strapped to my back and daddy's huge backpack slung over my shoulder.  I stood in the short line, gasping for air because of the sheer weight I was carrying.  When a stall opened, I shoved my wide load through, sat the backpack between my legs (kept the diaper bag on my back and you in the Moby) and somehow still figured out how to shimmy my pants down with one hand.  It was tricky, but I made it.  I burst through those doors again with some women staring at me funny and ran out the doorway to avoid the stinky air.  When I sat back down, you were starting to fuss.  I threw the bags back on the floor and squirted a handful of hand sanitizer in my hand.  Her husband had come back at this point...he had been unable to find my husband even though he had circled the top floor several times.  Seeing the panic on my face, he decided to give it another shot.  I don't know HOW I was not crying at this point.  You were fussing and I had nothing to give you but a stupid cow toy...but you were not interested.  I stood up and bounced up and down while patting your butt and that seemed to calm you, although you were still wide awake.  Her husband came back again...said he had looked  down over the the bottom floor, where we had check in, baggage claim, and security, and said he did not see him.  I looked at the clock and recognized that this was the time that daddy and I had agreed to go through security.  "You better get in line" I told them while nodding to the security area.  "We'll wait a couple more minutes" they both agreed.  Boarding time came and went and they still sat with me...assuring me that nobody was moving on the other side of the glass yet either.  I wouldn't eyes were peeled down the hallway for my 6'1'' husband, who would be a head above most here.  I kept praying that by some miracle your daddy would reappear and that bag would be in his hands and we would jump on that flight and have a smooth trip home.  The clock kept ticking and he was nowhere to be found.  My palms were sweating, my heart was racing, I was pacing, and I'm sure my hair was looking like a grease-ball from nervously running my fingers through it.  And then I saw daddy....a head above the rest, head bobbing up and down.  As he started to weave between crowds of people I saw a black bag with cherries on it bouncing back and forth from one wheel to another.  I started crying and gasped in a breath of relief.  He found it!  As he got closer he picked the bag up.  I gave him a huge hug, and all four of us grabbed our things and ran towards the security line.  I thanked the couple over and over and over for waiting with me.  I have NEVER been more thankful for a delayed flight!  When we had sat down in front of the bathrooms we had 45 minutes until boarding, and it had now been an hour since we arrived.  Thank you JESUS for letting us make that flight!!!  As we waited in line for security we just held each other.  You were squirmy, daddy was sweating, and my eyes were leaking...we were quite the little family!  =)  Daddy told me about the craziness it took to get our bag back.  We DID leave it in the hotel van...but after all the luggage was cleared out, our driver noticed it was there.  So he locked up his vehicle and waited outside the airport with the bag in hand waiting for us to come back for it.  When daddy ran down the escalator, he got stuck in line where this lady said she was trying to call the Riviera for us.  Daddy said that for about a half an hour he could SEE the luggage but they couldn't get it to him.  He couldn't go back through security after checking in for his flight, and they couldn't carry someone else's luggage through security.  Eventually they asked a woman in a wheel chair to claim that the luggage was hers and go through security and bring it to him.  Sounds completely wrong, right?  Wouldn't it make MORE sense for daddy to have left the airport and gone completely through security again?  Oh well...the point was that HE GOT IT...and then he had airport staff escort him all the way back upstairs but he was running so fast they could barely keep up with him, haha!  We of course opened it right away to make sure everything was there, and I kissed that immigration packet like six times!!!

After we got through security (AGAIN) we sat down to wait for our flight to be boarded.  Both of us shed some layers because we were all hot and sweaty now.  Since you were wide awake, daddy lifted you out of the Moby to let you play for a little bit.  You seemed relieved about that.  I started to cry because I was hoping you would be asleep for take-off so it wouldn't scare you.  Daddy just reminded me that we were blessed to be on this flight and assured me everything would be fine.  I let him, even though I knew that he couldn't do anything to assure that =)  I gave the sweet couple our contact information in hopes that we could stay in touch after our kids came home and do some play dates.  I'm still hoping an email pops up in my inbox one day! =)

They started boarding, and just like in America they asked families with young children to go first.  We jumped up, put you back in the Moby, and said farewell to our new-made friends.  But un-like America, every person in the room had stood up to get in line, little kids or not.  It was ridiculous how slow that line was, but eventually we made our way to our seat and got settled in.  It was cramped and stinky and we were all exhausted.  I just hoped and prayed we would all get some rest.  Daddy made you a fresh bottle and changed your diaper before take-off.  I took the Moby off and wrapped you in your blanket.  You were out long before take-off and we were off to a great flight!  As I watched the beautiful country of Ethiopia disappear out my neighbor's window, tears rolled down my cheeks.  I might have fallen asleep for a while, but in all honesty, I try to block the flying out of memory and hope I won't remember any of it.

Sweet dreams my love....we're on our way to your forever home!

Your Mama