Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Our Court Date

Today was the day for us to go to court. This is the day we have been waiting for a long time. It is the date that we have waited for Dove to call us and say “We have your court date. You can go to Ethiopia!” We got up early, had our breakfast and waited for our driver to show up. We took the 15 minute ride to the court house and met up with another couple we had met as they were going to see their kids the other day. We chatted for quite a while and then we were finally ushered in to the building.

There were no words in English so we kind of checked out each floor and kept getting sent away to another floor. We finally found where “baby court” was and walked into a 30x20 room (roughly) and we sat down as more and more people made their way in. We didn’t see any of the other Dove families and wondered where they were. We sat and shared with Brad and Elisa and learned their stories and shared ours.

After about 25 minutes a flood of more people came into the room along with the rest of the Dove families. We were 5 families in all. There were easily 50-75 people in this small room, most of them standing as there were only chairs along the outside of the room. We met our lawyers’ assistant and waited. As we waited we shared and talked with the other families and some other couples who were at our same orphanage from Belgium. The room was filled with about half white people and the other half Ethiopian. These were birth parents who were coming to testify that they were legitimately giving up their rights to their children. What a dichotomous moment. Joy and sadness filled the room at the same time. Tears were welled in eyes all over the room. Some tear because they were making the final legal effort to say yes, they were giving up their rights and some tears because this was part of the legal process to gain custody. The air was thick. Not just of emotion, but it was warm with all the breathing in that little space.

There were signs all over to be silent in many different languages, but the volume kept rising. Nervous tension, I think. After about 45 minutes of waiting and conversation at a peak a woman came in and banged three times on the metal door as loud as she could and there was sudden silence in the room. Whoops.

Our lawyer showed up and said we would soon go in, but we would likely be near the end because there was a big group of us. We all chatted and wondered what the result of each person who came out of the judge’s chambers was. Did they pass court? Did their MOWA letter arrive in time? We studied their faces, but couldn’t tell. There weren’t smiles, nor were there tears. I asked one man what happened and he said they didn’t have their MOWA letter and they were asked about 5 questions that required a yes answer.

Suddenly we discovered that there was some paperwork missing. Not good. Then our lawyer said, “Who is Williams?” Gulp. “That’s us.” He told us that our paperwork was not there, but that his assistant was running back to get it. “No problem.” I did not stress about it, thankfully. Our lawyer went in to the chambers and then came out again, then finally our paperwork arrived. We went in with 2 other couples, while the other 2 couples with our agency waited their turn.

The room was about half the size we were just in and there were 2 tables in it. Behind one were two clerks who were going through paperwork and behind the other was the judge. We had heard about this woman. Everyone said she was very beautiful and soft spoken. Both were true. She asked us if we had met with our children 2 times and if we understood that this was a forever decision. She told us it was important for us to learn as much about Ethiopia and its culture that we could so we could pass on what we learn to our children. Then we were done.

Kynzi had made a beautiful and very colorful drawing that she handed the judge and her face moved from quizzical to delight when she unfolded it. She said thank you and we walked out. We did not pass...there was no letter from MOWA. Our lawyer told us he hoped 10-15 days. We are praying sooner.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

2nd Visit with the Babies (and prayer request)

It was an early morning, as far as any real activity goes, as we headed out to meet with our lawyer today. They had lost power from the storm the night before and had not gotten it back yet. We sat in a fairly dark office with Sintahyu and he talked to us about our court appointment. He mentioned that our letter from MOWA had not arrived yet as the slow down to 5 a cases a day had slowed everything down. He imagined it would likely be 15-20 days before that would come to be. That would mean we would not get custody of the children right away. On top of that he told us we would only get to visit them once a week. WHAT?!?! That is not happening.

We are praying that we pass court on Monday! We will be in court at 9AM on Monday, so if you are praying, that is 11PM West Coast time and 2AM East Coast time. We don’t know exactly when they will see us, but it should be within the hour or so. We are praying a miracle happens and the letter arrives in time and we pass. Then we would get to take custody of the kids the next day. He mentioned that the day before they had upped it by 10 cases a day. We were unclear if he meant they are now doing 10 a day or 15 like our agency told us.

Now to the good stuff...

Today we got to see the kids again. This time we shared a room with 2 other couples. One couple was the couple we were trying to trade meetcha shots with the day before and the other couple we actually saw at the airport in Frankfurt. I remember sitting in the airport and Jeanne-Ann was pointing out four couples she was guessing that were adopting.

After some introduction and sharing our meetcha day experiences the nannies started bringing in the kids. We got another 2 whole hours with them. It was different sharing the experience with others. Not different bad, just different. Some of it was actually good. We shared with each other about what we thought of each others’ babies. They were all around the same age, which was pretty cool. I am not sharing names as I don’t have permission to share their stories, but I will say that these are some really nice people and I enjoyed getting some very unique time with them.

Back to our babies. Haakon was upset today and cried again, but it seemed to be a different kind of cry. Yesterday it seemed very much like he was upset because he was taken away from his familiar nanny and placed with a bunch of strangers with an odd pigmented skin. Something he likely had never seen before. Today the cry seemed to be more out of pain. He grabbed at his ear a lot and shook his head. Poor boy. I think he may have an ear infection. He did fall asleep in my arms and that was pretty awesome! That never got old with Kynzi and Karston and will never get old with Haakon and Nyah. As a matter of fact, it isn’t old now when the older ones do still to this day.

Kynzi had a great time getting Nyah to laugh. Those were some great pictures. I can’t wait to share them with you all! As soon as we gain custody of them I can show you. Believe me, it has been so hard to not share with the world what beauties these two are. Let me try to describe them as best I can. Haakon has almond shaped eyes with long eyelashes. He has a head full of hair. His hair is a tight, kinky curl. He has a bunch of spots on his face left over from his chicken pox. Because he has cried most of the time we have been with him, Haakon has a pathetic sad face you just want to kiss and make everything better for him.

Nyah is very expressive. She has many faces. She has a naturally mad-looking face to a beautifully dimpled smile. Her eyes are huge and at times she can look like she is startled like a deer in your headlights on a hot summer’s eve. She also has long eyelashes. She does not have much hair at all. On top it seems to be softer than Haakon’s, but she has a halo of hair on the back of her head that is pretty curly too. She has one or two spots left from her chicken pox as well. She has two teeth that have popped out on the bottom of her mouth. She is beautiful.

Two hours flew by and the nannies came to take them back to their rooms and feed them lunch. I didn’t want to leave them as I knew it would be several days before we got to see them again. We are praying you into our arms soon my sweet little children!!! Pappa loves you!!!!!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Meetcha Day! We FINALLY met our babies!

We are here!!! It has been a year and a half since we started this process and we are finally here. Let me tell you a little bit about our trip and then tell you about our first day in Ethiopia. So you know we were stuck in Frankfurt, Germany (if not, read all about it here). After our first canceled flight the day before we came with high hopes that we would get out the next day, with small fears that we wouldn’t. Those fears rose a bit after we got to the airport.

We sat for a while at our gate (2 1/2 hours early) and after some time noticed that no one was coming to the gate. Then a couple said something about the gate being changed. So we all walked across to the other side of the airport and got to our new gate. It was a small room downstairs filled with people. We were told immediately that although our flight was scheduled at 1:15PM we would have an update at 2PM as to whether or not we would be flying out that day. They seemed to have high hopes still though. 2PM came and went and at 2:45PM they told us they should have something at 3:40PM (odd time to say they would have an update). After the last update the wave of tiredness swept over our whole family and we fell asleep in our chairs. Jeanne-Ann woke me up and I felt like I was in one of those movies where there is haziness and lack of understanding of the situation around you. That slow motion sensed swarmed my foggy mind. I groggily walked up to the counter to check on something and at 3:45PM they announced that we would get on the plane at 4:30PM and the place erupted in cheers. I had been wanting to update everyone but internet cost about $10 per hour and I didn’t need it that bad. Then I saw the guy behind me in line checking facebook on his iPhone and asked if I could get on twitter for a moment. I was on and off in 30 seconds with a quick update to let everyone know we were leaving and then we headed for the plane.

It took some time to get everyone one and in the air but we finally lifted off. It was about 7 hours of in air time. We watched a couple of movies and then went to sleep as best we could, which was not much. It was a large plane that sat 2 then 4 then 2 again. We had a middle row of 4 to ourselves. That was nice. The bathrooms were down the stairs. We all thought that was pretty cool.

We landed at 3:30AM and walked through customs and waited a long time for our bags. Nine bags were underneath plus our carry ons. We looked a little ridiculous with all that luggage, but we had several of them filled with diapers and food, etc. For the kids as well as cases filled with donations. Much of it we will not bring back with us. Sammy and Balcha were there to pick us up and we headed for Weygoss Guest House. We got in and to our rooms on the 3rd floor (which is actually 4 flights of stairs as you have to go up a flight to get to the 1st floor). We have great rooms with a balcony, but more on the rooms in another post.

We slept for about 2 hours and then got up, ate some breakfast and called Sintayehu, our lawyer. He called back and told us we could meet the kids at 3PM. Jeanne-Ann was saying that this was good as we could relax for the day and take our time and then get over to Tokoul. Sintayehu didn’t wait 30 seconds before he called us back and told us we could get in right away! My stomach dropped and we called our driver and headed to the orphanage.

The drive was about 20 minutes or so and we saw a good deal of the landscape here. The people are beautiful and very friendly. As we pulled up to the dirt road Tokoul is on I immediately recognized it from the pics Josh and Bex had shown us as well as many a video we have seen on youtube from people’s “meetcha” days. This was it. It was happening. We were ushered in to the visiting room that was also familiar to me and we waited. The air was thick with anticipation. It may have been 10 minutes, but it seemed like forever! I wanted to have some friends we had met through Krista (former Dove employee) over facebook come and take pics and video and we were going to exchange that offer with them, but everything happened so quickly that we never got a chance to get online.

Then I heard them...the nannies around the corner. In walked the first nanny with Haakon Tarekayehu and then immediately behind her was another nanny with Nyah Tigist! They were real! They ARE real! It didn’t take .03 seconds before the tears broke through their natural dam. I held Nyah and Jeanne-Ann held Haakon. I squeezed her and kissed her. She is MY daughter!!! I have 2 daughters and 2 sons!!! This is crazy. My mind raced all over the place and yet all I could think about was these precious ones. Kynzi and Karston were in charge of video. They did OK. We will post those videos after we get custody of the children. Until we have custody we can not post any pics or videos of them.

After a while Jeanne-Ann and I traded and I held Haakon. These 2 children are so beautiful. Haakon cried pretty much the whole time. I think that is a good thing. He is bonded to his nannies and we are strangers. Nyah was very chill. She just kind of checked us all out with her big beautiful eyes. It was a surreal 2 hour period. Time seemed to just be all floaty. I can’t explain it any better than that. Kynzi and Karston each held them and loved on them a lot. It was awesome to see that. Karston has been over the moon excited to hold his little brother. Ha has plans to teach this boy how to play every sport in the world. Kynzi plans to mother these kids like crazy. I love how excited they are about their siblings.

We held them. We loved them. We cooed at them. We talked and sang and laughed and cried. So many emotions. So good for my soul. At one point I was holding Haakon and he fell asleep. Sweat formed as our skin touched. His forehead glistened and he slept. This felt so right.

After 2 hours of cuddling and pictures and passing them back and forth we heard the steps of the nannies around the corner and it was time to say goodbye. My heart was full and ached at the same time. I didn’t want to say goodbye, but I knew I would get to see them tomorrow again. The first thing we did when we got back to the guest house was look through all the pictures. We relived every moment and talked about it over and over. What a morning it was.

There is more to the day, but that’s it for now. I know many of you have been asking for updates and so I wanted to make sure I got you the best one in a looooooong time!

(PS. Pics will come later. Takes a long time to load)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 1 of our Ethiopian Journey

We are off. I can't believe it. As I write this I am sitting on our plane to Newark. Kynzi just moved up to sit with Karston so they can watch Gulliver's Travels together. My beautiful bride is sitting next to me.

We jammed a lot of friend time into the last few days. That was so fun. I thank God every day for the family He has put into our lives. All of our family lives so far away and He has blessed us with amazing people close to us.

I got 2 hours of sleep last night and have logged one on this flight so far. Unfortunately the lack of sleep is not helping my state of mind. I am trying hard to be patient with children who are also tired. It's going to be a long trip. Haha.

We had 9 bags we put under and everyone has at least one carry on. The next flight from Newark to Germany is the one I am praying about. I am flying straight to Frankfurt but Jeanne-Ann and the kids are flying to Stuttgart and then meeting me in Frankfurt. I am praying they can join me on my flight. Their flight from Stuttgart to Frankfurt is totally full and none of them are sitting next to each other. Not good. If they don't get on my flight I am praying for kind people to move and give them seats together.

The kids gave our flight attendants a box if chocolates and that had opened up conversations with them about our trip. I love that. I love being able to share God's story He has painted for us. You know me...i love to talk. The guy sitting next to us asked about our travels and was very excited to hear about our story. He is headed to Edinburogh to see his daughter graduate from college. His brother is with him and they will stay 2 weeks and play lots of golf. That's pretty awesome. His wife is joining them in 2 days. Very nice guy. I love getting to talk with people and hearing their story and getting to share our story.

It is strange to think that after 1 1/2 years we are actually making this trip together. I am so thankful to God that we all get to go together. That is huge! This will be something like we will likely never get to do again. What an adventure. No cell phones. No Netflix. No dvr. I think I will have to forfeit all my words with friends games. ;-) I'm pretty connected and this will be a good thing for me (I keep trying to convince myself).

We have several card games and various other games. I will be teaching my kids card games I grew up playing when I was in Norway. We brought a football so Karston can train for the fall and a soccer ball so we can play with kids in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood...I like the sound of that. I plan to train for hood to coast which is at the end of august. I have been praying I make an Ethiopian friend who is a runner that I can train with. How cool would that be?! I don't know what they will think seeing a white guy running around everyday (I said everyday...that's funny...a guy can dream).

Well, I think I will take another nap.

By the way, thanx to Daniel and Aelix we got allthe malaria pills we needed. And thanx to Steve for getting to our house at 4:15AM to drive us to the airport!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

How You Can Pray

We are FOUR days from departure! Count it...1...2...3...4!! Wow. People keep asking how you can pray. Well, here you go.

1) We just found out our fingerprints expire on August 16. I hope that would not be an issue, but we want to be safe. The soonest appointment that is available is July 6. Would you pray there is some way around that?

UPDATE: They snuck us in. We got our fingerprints. Thank you Jesus!

2) We leave Monday. The longest part of the flight I fly separately from the rest of my family. We would love to fly together.

3) Our court appointment is on June 20th. Would you pray we pass court the same day. It is happening less and less because of the slow downs. Passing would greatly increase our ability to return home sooner with our WHOLE family!

4) Although we look forward to our time away as a family, pray that the process goes relatively quickly. It would be really nice to be home and have some time off to get used to life at home with 6.

5) We want to grow as a family (not just in numbers) as we will have this very unique opportunity to be away and together in a way we are not likely to do again.

6) Pray for good health for us and Nyah and Haakon too.

7) Pray for the birth parents of our children. Today they will be standing before the judge in court explaining why they gave up their child. This will undoubtedly be a difficult day.

8) Pray we get everything we need to get done done. Not much time left here and LOTs to do yet! Weekend, I am thankful for you. :)

Thanx friends. I sure do appreciate you!
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