Monday, October 26, 2009

Stay Tuned...

Sorry for the silence, we are still here and still alive :) I have a couple of posts in the works for this blog... a few thoughts to share now that we're home. But, they are still in the works. I am also in the process of creating "Part 2" of the video that we shared with you in THIS POST. If you haven't yet watched Part 1, be sure to check it out! More to come soon...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ethiopia Day 10 - Welcome HOME!

Our trip home can be summed up in one word - LOOOOOOONG. The flight from Ethiopia to Amsterdam went great, but after boarding the plane in Amsterdam the pilot announced that due to some weather conditions we would be arriving in to Detroit late. This was bad news because we knew we had to make it through customs, and didn't have an extremely long layover in which to catch our final flight to Phoenix.

Once we made it to Detroit, we actually thought we were okay to make our next flight, but that must have been the jet lag getting to our heads :) We missed the flight by about 10 minutes! Ugh. Fortunately, there was another flight out leaving in 3 hours. Unfortunately, it was overbooked. So, we ended up being placed on the very last flight to Phoenix that night which was scheduled to depart at 7:35pm.

After seeing everything we could see in the Detroit airport, Micah (being the wonderful husband that he is) conceded to my wishes to get us a room at the airport hotel for the next 7 hours we were stuck there. I have to say, this was the best decision ever. We all enjoyed naps, showers, and room service for lunch! We tried to make the most of it, even though all we really wanted was to just get home.

The flight departed about 10 minutes late (due to weather again), and we finally arrived home to Sky Harbor airport just shy of 10:00pm. I knew Eli (along with my parents) would be there waiting for us, but I had no idea that so many wonderful friends would make the late journey to the airport just to greet us. We felt so loved and it was wonderful to see familiar faces.

A few photos from the welcome home reception at the airport... (thanks to Jeanetta, who didn't actually appear in a single shot but we SO appreciate her being there and snapping pics!)

Eli waiting excitedly with Grandma & Grandpa (my parents)!
Eli greeting Ryan and Terri, friends from Harvest (or as he calls them "Kaylee's mom & dad")Bonnie (my lovely sister), Melissa (thanks for updating my blog during the trip!), and Lee (our Pastor... and Melissa's husband, he he)
Brenda (Micah's sister), Grandpa, Bonnie, and Papa (Micah's dad), and of course Eli (our little Linus) with his beloved blankie
Terri, Melissa, Lee, Papa, Nicole (thank you for the cute stuffed animals - kids loved them!!), and Ryan
Do they see us yet??
Here we come!!
The Hutchison Clan, happy to have Kathy back home safe and sound!
My First Goal: Grab my little buddy Eli and give him a big hug!
Hi Mikayla!
I think she's a little tired, don't you? Who can blame her!
So glad to see my boy again.
All Together.
And Home.

Ethiopia Days 8-9

Day 8
"This morning we attended the Farewell Ceremony at the care center for all of the children who were heading home with their new families. It was a wonderful time of sharing, laughing, and oohing/aahing over all the children being adopted who were dressed in their traditional Ethiopian clothing. Mikayla looked stunning wearing her beautiful dress! The nannies served us a traditional coffee ceremony, complete with popcorn, and we also enjoyed cake from Kaldi's Coffee. Dr. Fikru shared a few words at the beginning in honor of the adoptive families, and said a prayer for all of the children who were leaving and the futures they have ahead of them. A medical team from the U.S. had just arrived (sponosored by Holt) and came to watch the ceremony prior to making the drive down to Durame for some volunteer work at the Holt medical clinic. All of the children (toddler age and up) were brought down to watch the farewell ceremony and enjoy some cake with us - they blessed everyone by singing some wonderful songs before we left (I think I may have a few on video... but still sorting through it). At the end of our time, each adoptive family had the chance to share about their time in Ethiopia and thank the nannies and Holt staff for their hard work in caring for the children. Micah was "nominated" to say the final group prayer before we all left, and prayed for the endurance of the Ethiopian staff in caring for the children, as well as all of the children currently in care - that each and every one of them would soon have a family to call their own. Beautiful."
Set up for the ceremony

Ethiopian Princess

Sharing something with a nanny...

Each child who was leaving had the chance to cut the cake

Eating it was the best part!

Being Silly!

Waiting with Mom

She already has dad wrapped around her finger

So happy together!
Travel Group 24: Ten families (our friends) now home together... forever!
"After eating lunch and playing back at the hotel for awhile, those who wanted to go shopping dropped our kids off back at the care center one final time to play and take naps until we returned. Mikayla was a bit upset about this, and we went back and forth as to whether or not one of us would just stay at the hotel with her, but in the end we knew it would be nice to experience one last outing in Ethiopia together as a couple and purchase some items we could bring him in honor of our daughter's beautiful country to share with her later. I think the nannies enjoyed having a few final hours with the kiddos too :) The shopping trip consisted of a stop at the Leprosy Hospital (definitely the highlight) where we purchased most of our goodies. The people there made everything by hand, and it was truly a miracle to watch them work! We also stopped at a few little shops, and a coffee store. The aromas in the coffee store were so strong that it was impossible to stay in there very long - I have never inhaled such STRONG coffee fumes in my life. By the time we arrived back to the care center to retrieve our daughter, she was happy and playing. We were glad we made the decision to take that last outing together." :)

Day 9
I didn't actually write in my journal on this day, as most of it was spent packing our suitcases. We came home with two LESS suitcases than what we brought over, thanks to everyone who sent donations with us! I spent most of the day doing the packing, while dad entertained Mikayla outside and in the hotel lobby. Kathy and I went to the bead store to make some final purchases (the pic of this was posted under Day 3) and enjoyed the cool, rainy weather. This was the first day since we arrived that it was rainy outside.
After the bead shop, we sent Micah out for a final run to the Chinese restaurant for take-out, and took naps in the hotel room. We actually encountered a truly special moment in the hotel room with Mikayla just after nap time. Due to the fact that our hotel room was on the right side of the building, and located on the top floor, our window directly overlooked Holt's Care Center next door. At one point, we noticed Mikayla (sunglasses on and all) just peering out the window and watching the care center. There was a nanny outside on the balcony at one point, and Mikayla just stood there quietly for quite a lengthy period of time... watching. It's almost like she knew she was leaving and wanted to have a final look. Who knows what she was thinking, but it was a special moment that we were lucky enough to catch on camera...

During the late afternoon, one adult from each family went to the care center a final time to retrieve the children's visas. It was surreal to actually hold my daughter's passport in my hands, as well as her visa paperwork that would grant her entry into the United States. We were also given back the family welcome albums we sent which was a nice surprise because I didn't think we would ever see it again. I am happy to have it so I can save it for Mikayla - it was the first thing we ever sent to her after receiving our referral. In addition, Holt gave us a DVD of the Farewell Ceremony and a DVD of some video footage of our trip. Very cool!

We headed to the airport around 6:30pm and battled through the craziness of Ethiopian checkpoints and security. By the time we boarded our flight (about 10pm) we were pretty wiped out. Mikayla was giddy with excitement about the TV screens located on the back of each chair :) We tried to explain to her that we were on an airplane, but have no idea if she actually knew we ever flew in the air. She probably just thought we were on a bus for a long period of time! It wasn't long into that first flight that we all fell asleep...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ethiopia Day 7

Our Day #7 in Ethiopia was a Tuesday, and I will admit that this day was a "low point" of the trip for me. The first half of our trip was jam-packed with activity and excitement, but the last half was spent having tons of down-time at the hotel. I was missing Eli terribly by this time, and since we had taken custody of Mikayla, I was just ready to be back home in my own comfort zone. I'm not sure what it was, but emotionally I just had a hard time snapping out of my negative feelings on this day. I actually felt much better by Wednesday, but I guess Tuesday was just Tuesday and I needed to have a pity party or something. :)

So here's the journal excerpts, as well as some pics... though it wasn't quite as exciting as some of the other days.

"Today was a difficult day in many respects. While it's great to have custody of Mikayla, we are now confined to the hotel. I tend to get stir crazy in situations like this and having a new daughter in the mix makes it quite overwhelming at times. Mikayla had a couple of "breakdowns" today where we had to tell her "no" in a couple of situations, and she retaliated each time by hitting Micah repeatedly. We noticed this is tendency that many of the children have from the care center. I am sure for her it's frustrating to not be able to communicate through the language barrier with us, and it's difficult that we can't explain our reasons for saying "no" like we can with Eli. It's like she is forced to trust us, and deal with it, even though she probably isn't quite ready to be trusting us yet. Fortunately, her meltdowns were short-lived and she was soon back to her cheerful self each time."

"Our appointment at the U.S. Embassy was quite simple, however, the timing was very bad since all of the kids missed naps. It took awhile for all ten families to have their interviews, but everybody got through without a hitch and the Embassy will have our kids' visas ready on Thursday before we fly out. Once we returned to the hotel, I sent Micah out to get take-out Chinese (yes there was an authentic Chinese restaurant down the street from our hotel) for lunch, followed later that evening by pizza for dinner! I guess we needed a little taste of home or something." :)

"In general, I am just feeling ready to be back home again. I'm looking forward to the farewell ceremony and shopping tomorrow, and I want to make the most of the last two days we have here. Ethiopia has truly been amazing, and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel here and experience firsthand a taste of our daughter's native country/culture. I'm just ready to be back home, with BOTH my son and daughter in my arms."

I think the Union Hotel doormen must love it when families from each travel group take custody of their kids, because they definitely had fun-filled days of kicking soccer balls, batting balloons, and making sure small children didn't fall off the ledge of the courtyard :) Ha Ha! They were wonderful guys and we enjoyed getting to know them.

There's no words for this - so stinkin' cute!
They would just watch cars go by for loooooong periods of time :)

Dad was tired by Tuesday as well.

Mikayla enjoyed coloring with Nana in the hotel room.
Hopefully you don't stop reading due to a boring Tuesday :) I promise it gets good again tomorrow. I'm also finally starting to go through our video footage, and can't wait to start sharing some of our special moments with video! Stay tuned...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ethiopia Day 6

Prior to leaving Durame, our group was taken to Holt's medical clinic. The clinic provides much-needed medical services for families living in the area. We toured the different rooms and even had the privilege of seeing a newborn baby with his mom (many babies are delivered at this clinic). The clinic offers routine health care for people of all ages, pre/post natal care, and minor surgical procedures. There is a full-time doctor who works at the clinic, and he guided us around the facility. It was obvious to see how critical a clinic such as this one is, and it was amazing to see the ways that they are able to help people with what they have to work with.

We arrived back to the Union Hotel around 2:30 pm, and our schedule indicated that at 4:00 we could go over to the care center to take custody of our kiddos! There was an excitement in the air for all families :) When the time came we headed over and enjoyed a happy reunion with Mikayla. We all stayed at the care center for quite awhile and played with the kids there, because we weren't quite sure whether or not we could just walk out the door. Ha! Eventually, someone confirmed that we could leave, so families started heading out. It was quite surreal to finally gather our daughter in our arms and walk out the door with her! Here's a few pics of us back in the hotel room... including her first bath sitting in a bath tub!

Pieces of my journal entry that night....

"Wow, Mikayla is actually here in our hotel room - so hard to believe :) It was fun to dress her in her new clothes and shoes. She knew that something special was happening. We spent a lot of time playing in our hotel room. She loved imitating Micah's funny faces and chasing him around the room on hands & knees. She is still very reserved and quiet, but comes out of her shell around us a little bit more each day. Right now she is tucked in her own little bed, right across the room from ours, and she's playing with her new dolls. She is also sneaking a peak at me every few minutes and smiles each time we make eye contact. She was very ready to leave the care center today, and pointed at the exit door while clinging to my neck after she saw another family leave ahead of us. Guess she wanted to make sure she got the point across! It is somewhat surreal to have her here... it's a strange mix of feelings that stem from being overjoyed and yet scared of the unknowns. At times I feel like I have known her all her life, and then other times I look at her and think "This is my daughter? Who is this little girl, I don't even know her!" That's just the raw honesty of the situation, and of course it will take time for all of us to grow in knowledge and attachment toward one another. I trust God will see us through the unknowns and hardships that will lie ahead of us. Mikayla is a gift from Him, and we can move forward in confidence that bonds and love will continue to grow. What a blessing to be sleeping under the same roof tonight."