all the earth's an exhale, warm and sticky, so we caper about in icy spray and drip dry into evening. we whisper-read between chilled shelves of library books, the rasp of pages turning like music. we sift through yard sale sheets and desks and casserole dishes. we plan out parties and sport pop-tart smiles and sugar rushes (thank you, grandma owens). and the soundtrack slipping behind it all is a mix of belly laughs and kidspeak and footfalls and it's a hint of eternity, i think, all this goodness swimming up summery and gold. and i can hardly wait, just can't wait for more.
it seems just a few blinks ago he was crazy about cookies and sir topham hat and he’d sob his eyes pink each morning when the preschool van fetched his brother and never once took him. and i'm still unclear on what i was doing, exactly, while he got so articulate and wry and tall, but here we perch on the razor edge between childhood and teenage angst, a divide sharp enough to cleave me through.
in many ways it's the whole point of the mom thing, to work ourselves into obsolescence. but when he stops needing a copy editor or cook or chauffeur, i suspect he may still need someone who prays. someone who hopes. who sees him honestly, but is wholly and irrevocably on his side.
z, you have a mum and a dad and siblings and a church family and friends who treasure you up tall. you have a clear mind, a heart that bruises quick for others.
and mostly, mostly. you have a God who loves you with a tenderness so fierce that he died so you could live full. love him back, my sweet boy. taste and see just how worth it all he is.
he calls me mommy, but his heart isn't much in it yet. it's early still, so though he bustles and romps his way happy through the day, we get the sense that he'd be just as fine with anyone sweet on him.
we're venturing out more, bit by bit, enlarging our sphere to include church and the library. he sticks by me okay, but when i'm a whole bunch of no fun, vetoing scribbles on his palms and shorts or the unplugging of computers, he peels away and scrunches silly faces at other mums and dads, seeking attention from anyone less liable to say no.
sometimes the distance drags heavy and i want to fast-forward to the part where he'd pick us out of a crowd, where he'd feel clear to his spine how we love him.
but then i'd miss this, the slow, scraping, grace-washed crawl toward being a family.
during eight o'clock tuck-ins, he'll echo back goodnight with his smile curving the word like a slip of moon. and it's not everything, i know. it's maybe the thinnest wisp of a beginning. but still it puddles slow and sweet, honey to this mama's soul.
the second trip to addis was something akin to drinking from a fire hydrant, so it's only fitting that i give you the entire shebang in one post. that, and i am large on children and scant on sleep these days. blogging has now hit the list of endangered pasttimes.
so: ethiopia, take two.
monday, 6.20: finally got confirmed airline tickets, the mister left for sr high camp, grandma picked up the older four kiddos in the evening. also general mayhem.
tuesday, 6.21: left at 6am to fly from here to dulles to frankfurt to addis plus many longish layovers.
wednesday, 6.22: arrived in addis around 9pm (a day earlier than holt required since weds arrival = save $1400). hung out with a number of families about to jet home with their small folk.
[lucy land guest house. view from my window, from the courtyard.]
[addis dawn from my balcony window.]
thursday, 6.23: the rest of my travelmates flew in throughout the day/eve, and i learned to cast on and knit.* we also found out that our schedule had changed and guess what? nothing vital was happening till sunday. luckily, my court-and-now-embassy-buddy lisa still had enough new york in her to call the holt staff and request that we at least be able to see our kiddos since we were, in fact, right in town. all these days early. per their request.
with the happy result that
friday, 6.24: following an orientation at the holt office, we spent the morning and afternoon visiting our children at the care centers. friday night, i learned to purl.*
[niana care center.]
[care center playroom, bathroom.]
[another shot of the playroom. i'm near smitten with the pillow covers.]
saturday, 6.25: art gallery/shopping in the ayem, where i purchased an entire $8 worth of art prints to the tune of I Am A Reluctant Shopper. (seriously, i had to send carin off with the remainder of my birr later in the trip just to get some gifts purchased. neurosis at its finest.)
we spent the afternoon with our children at the care centers, where m and i paged through his photo book several dozen times, scrawled letters, towered blocks, pushed makinas over the paneled wood floor.
[photobook, alphabet beginnings.]
[m's bedroom, shared with about a half dozen other children.]
sunday, 6.26: at 6am twelve of us piled into the holt van for a trek to ssnpr, the region where our children were born. it’s beautiful country; a quilt of green scrub, false banana trees, acacias, eucalyptus, red dirt and thatched huts, dotted with small tin towns along the way. so much of the flora reminded me of oahu.
[disclaimer: please excuse weird photo composition/tilt/quality--pretty much all scenery and street shots were taken through a window at 90km/hour. drive-by photography is tricky stuff.]
[we pulled over to photograph a valley, and children seemed to pour out of bushes and cracks of red earth. our group gave them what we had on hand: hard candies, power bars, bottled water.]
partway there, we stopped at shinshicho health center to see the hospital holt is building to serve families in this region. following a pasta/tibs lunch, we arrived in holt’s durame office near 2pm to meet with surviving birth relatives. the value of this potential meeting is incalculable: it provides transparency needed for ethical adoptions as well as girds our children with firm ties to their early lives and families.
[kids in a side street in durame.]
emotions clotted thick that day, and we ended the evening with a two hour drive to the hotel in awassa, where the dining staff kept us entertained with the number of orders they served sarah.
monday, 6.27 kicked off with a bracing, one-door shower, followed by pineapple juice and a gorgeous macchiato. we stopped to view the lake at the nearby awassa resort, then made the grueling trek back to addis.
[bits of awassa, awassa resort, monkeys!][no, we did not stay at this lovely place.]
[giant anthills, small strip town.]
after some six hours of driving and an hour of rest/nervous-prep at the guest house, we headed out to purchase baby/kid supplies at a local grocer (no bebelac 2 or 3 to be found anywhere), then happy danced to our respective care centers for the farewell ceremonies. our kiddos were coming 'home' with us for good.
ethiopia's bunna (coffee) futbol team was playing their whatever 'insurance' is in amharic futbol team, which made for a lively radio-spiked drive to the care center, plus much background cheering by the staff during the farewell party. m was wide-eyed and chatty during the van ride back to the guest house, didn't eat a crumb at dinner that night.
[our favorite nurse. this gal is strong, smart, gracious, warm. i'm so glad God placed our boy in her care.]
tuesday, 6.28 was a long day. once gaining custody, we were confined to the guest house, and m could make a living out of fiddling with things best left unharmed: cable boxes, power strips, outlets, keyboards, other people's iphones/ipads/laptops/kindles. he was a cheerful, busy little man with no concept of boundaries. food of the day: bananas (and the occasional lime), m would touch nothing else.
[bajaj, three-wheeled taxis. turns out i really like to photograph these blue guys.]
wednesday, 6.29 we left for our embassy appointment at 8am. after an hour's wait, m and i were called to a window where an incredibly genial embassy lady interviewed us for two minutes tops and sent us off with instructions on what to do with the sealed packet (ie DO NOT OPEN IT) we’d receive in two days' time. food of the day: dabo (bread) and juice. i could only hope that by the week's end we'd have the food pyramid covered.
thursday, 6.30 we kicked a soccer ball in the courtyard, and after a few brief minutes of low key back-and-forth, m wanted to sit down or go inside or both. this was the first sign of just how little he enjoys exercise.
elizabeth regaled us with lively tales of nyc subways and hospitals. steve was m's cheerful human playground. m consumed half a pizza, played inaugural games of angry birds and food ninja with andy. (forget the visa, my child clearly just passed the test for american citizenship.)
friday, 7.1 slugged along to such an extreme i suspect time was actually retreating. at this point in the game we were all weary and cabin feverish and so ready to be home, provided the requisite trip didn’t do us in.
m and i left for the airport that night at 7pm, walked laps around the tiny single terminal to kill more than four hours. m slept during our seven hour flight to frankfurt, but he thrashes about in his sleep, and it turns out being kneed/sucker-punched every couple of minutes complicates my ability to rest.
eight hour layover in frankfurt. eight-point-five hour flight to dc. immigration was a breeze, security lines a bear, and we spent another six-point-five hours in dulles, where we both eventually crashed for a blessed hour at an empty gate. our final flight home was just ninety minutes, where the hubby met us at midnight in baggage claim and i cried. another hour and a half on the road and we pulled into our driveway at 1:30am sunday, 7.3 (8:30am addis time). we'd made it home intact.
we tucked our boy in bed and called it a night. thus ended a nineteen month journey home (we're prone to the scenic route), and kicked off a brand new sort of adventuring, one we’re still gathering clues on how to navigate.
God is faithful.
*knitting lessons (and motion sickness patches) brought to addis by the indefatigable lisa weisman. that girl is the stuff of legends.
'tis a strange and wondrous thing, how you're up and turning five and we're only beginning to know you. i could weep for the years i've missed were it not for the lifetime stretched before us, shimmering far off and hopeful.
here's a bit of what we're starting to know:
you thrill at the sound of the bob the builder theme song. you love baths with tub toys, crispix cereal, brushing teeth.
you must hold hands when walking, even from one room of the house to another. you sit leaned-up against your brothers, leaving four feet of empty couch on the other side of you.
your favorite english word: cake.
you take great joy in terrorizing the neighborhood cats, yelling dimet and meowing at them at the top of your lungs. word has spread, and they now flee at the sight of you.
you sleep like a rock star. (or maybe not a rock star, exactly, as i'm guessing those folks are chronically low on z's. like a librarian, then.)
you like to call your siblings banana and cookie, then cackle on the floor like an upended turtle.
you loathe exercise in any shape or color.
you continue to chatter happily to me in amharic, persisting in the belief that one of these days i'll catch on.
you have a lone, deep dimple on your left cheek that shows up when you talk.
you sneeze cuter than anyone i know.
you love to click mouses, press remote buttons, turn dishwasher dials, and increase the volume on anything that emits noise.
the birds are singing up the sun and i’m reveling in my short stint as a morning person. this trick of waking at 3:30am does wonders for allowing me to finish up photography work, drink quiet coffee, pop in here for the sort of conversation that does not involve let’s not tell kaka jokes and please don't stand on the dining table.
i’ve been fielding a number of questions, and i will try to get to them all, but the one i encounter (and appreciate) most is the simple how are you doing?
the unvarnished truth: some moments are better than others, but we are, in fact, making it.
i don’t usually post info like this on the hairy-scary internet, but i’m in stark need of your prayers, so here it is—the mister’s overseeing part of a conference in louisville and i’m single-parenting this first week home, and that’s pretty hard. we were thrilled, touch-the-sky-elated, when we zipped from court to embassy so quickly. we wanted our boy home before his fifth birthday, home before spending a full two years in orphanage care, and all that coupled with the uncertainty of visa appointments in july meant that we needed to travel asap.
but it also meant that i’d travel solo. that i’d have custody of our boy for the first week ever in a developing country on my own. that i’d miss two nights of sleep in their entirety navigating four airports and customs and baggage with a scared smallish child alone. that the mister would have to be gone again right after we got home.
little m does this thing where he clings like a starfish to some part of me and leans most of his frame into mine, which admittedly is all sorts of endearing. north of twenty minutes, though, his sweatiness and heft (he outweighs my 6 and 8 year olds) plum wear me thin, and i just want to call a time-out and have somebody, anybody, grant me a small reprieve. you there at the pretzel cart in terminal 3? please prop up my child for just a bit. i would like to visit the restroom without a person glued to my kneecap.
on the happy side, though, he has taken beautifully to my older four, and they are fantastic with him. arriving home in early july with all the littles here all day has been the best possible scenario. and truly, though i gasped for peace like a beached fish during the trip and the travel home, i was never, not for the smallest second, alone. i've a Father who went ahead of me, beside me, behind me. who gave me strength to put one foot in front of the other when i was too bleary to see straight, who prompted fellow fliers to be patient with us all along the way.
God has not, and He will not, abandon us. and this morning His company and care are every bit enough.
the great thing about being firmly awake at 3:20am is how the house marinates in stillness and room to think.
the past two weeks have been, incontestably, the most exhausting weeks of my life. i imagine the same could be said for this small fellow:
internet, please meet my youngest son. he has weathered a good deal of heartbreak, and still he's warm and giggly and quick to find joy. [i’ll likely share very small pieces of his background, but his story belongs to him, and we will allow him to be the one to share it with whomever and in whatever detail he chooses as he grows older.]
i can tell you this, though: he loves soccer and injera and knobs and buttons and books and all things electronic. at the guest house, he’d turn on old school looney tunes and then curl up in his chair, paging through the kitchen’s menu-book. he’d spend half the afternoon on the playroom balcony conversing with the guest house guard (whom he named 'police') in animated amharic.
we have a decent number of issues to tackle, but little m is sweet and brave and has a mighty big God on his side. he’s loving his older siblings, mimicking their speech and play with aplomb. given enough time and prayer and grace, i have tall hopes we’ll not only heal, but thrive.
this week's thankfuls, #s 140-148: the soft rhythms of home the care center staff, who loved little m well and with gusto frisbee in the green front yard shade new friends who looked out for little m and me old friends who took such beautiful care of my family in my stead rest, after 37 hours of travel and two nights' missed sleep all of you--your prayers, your missives of encouragement freedom to love God out loud all five of my littles, together