Mama (Anne) & Reese

Daddy (Mike) & Lilly


This book is a MUST read for all interested in Ethiopian adoption.

Melissa Fay Greene

Here's a great video summary of the book by MF Greene and here is the full length version

Thursday, March 29, 2007

day 8 in ethiopia-our last full day; the time went so fast

WOW. It's hard to believe that this trip went so fast. We did some more shopping, had a few more macchiatos, spent time with some of the Christians from the church, and went to the pool for a bit. One brother from the church came all of the way across town to bring us gifts for our little girls-dresses. Berhanu also came to the hotel, as did the young woman who leads the women's ministry. They gave us gifts last night at midweek last night (Wednesday), too. What an unbelieveble show of love. There was no holding back the tears anymore. We are sincerely SO SAD to leave here. We had no idea that we'd fall in love with this country. There is a sweetness to this place. We cannot wait to come back one day with the girls when they are older. We'd love to get out into the country-side and see some of the historic churches and more of the culture. If only we didn't miss Reese so much, we would definitely stay longer here. We can't emphasize how much we love the adoption agency that we used-the Gladney Center. They took care of us from beginning to end. Again, big thanks to Ryan, Abby and Belay as well as the US Gladney team- especially Mary T. and Tonia. THANK YOU GLADNEY for our little angel! What an incredible journey....

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

day 7 in ethiopia-appointments at the us embassy in addis

Today we did some more shopping, went back to the Gladney home to particpate in a coffee ceremony (We LOVE how into coffee everyone is here---this place was made for the Delps!) and say goodbye to these incredible women who loved our children for so many months. We also visited a traditional Ethiopian Orthodox cathedral (where Emperor Hallie Salassie is buried) and had our appointments at the American embassy. I think that the ladies who worked at the embassy thought it was so cute that the two husbands were carrying the babies on their front in baby bjorns. They joked that Alem has one health concern that they wanted to discuss before granting her an immigrant visa- and that is that she's a little chubby and needs to have a "lifestyle modification!" So funny! Both Alem and Ashenafi's visas were approved!!! YEAHHHH! The proud daddies, Mike and Nick, did what Nick called the "first ever recorded post-visa approval daddy-baby chest bump," captured in the photo below. (Thanks for coining that phrase, Nick).

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

day 6 in ethiopia-traditional ethiopian food and dance

Today we stayed around the pool at the Shearton during the day, and spent quality time with Alem. We gave her a chance to get some good naps in and we snuck in a nap each as well.

We had dinner at a restaraunt called Fasika, with traditional Ethiopian food and traditional dance. It was amazing! The place serves traditional Ethiopian food and has a band and several dancers who perform songs/dances characteristic of different regions of the country. An outstanding experience. We have been fascinated by the richness of Ethiopian culture and history. Berhanu, the head minister from church, joined us again for dinner. It's great getting to know him.

Monday, March 26, 2007

day 5 in ethiopia- happy birthday to me!

Who would've ever guessed that I be spending my 32nd birthday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia while enjoying the company of my new baby girl? Not me. But, I couldn't have asked for a better birthday (well, actually if Reese had been there, that would've made it the best). It was a very special day, indeed. Sarah Marie and I spent the better part of the day shopping with one of the drivers, Anbes, and his fiance, Mytin. It was so much fun! We got some great jewlery (nice silver here in Addis), many kilos of coffee (yummy -- the coffee is outstanding), and some art work as well. We had lunch on the rooftop of an apartment building with an incredible view of the city.
For dinner, we went to an incredible Italian Restaraunt called Castelli's. Some people say that it is one of the best Italian Restaraunts in the world! The restaurant was recommended to us by a friend of the family who has traveled to Addis Ababa many times during his 25+ years with the IMF. Since he was born and raised in Rome, we figured he knows good Italian food, and so we took his advice and went. The meal was fabulous! And the owner (in pic with Mike) remembers Piero - small world!
For my birthday-- a few unexpected signs of kindess: one of the other couples, the Thorns, had flowers and a bottle of Ethiopian wine sent to our hotel room! Gouder is a brand of Ethiopian wine name, and it is definitely "gooder" than many other wines! :-) Abby and Ryan gave me a beautiful Ethiopian scarf. So nice of them to buy me a gift; when we feel forever indebted to THEM for facilitating this adoption. Then, we returned from dinner, Mytin (one of the driver's fiance) sent a beautiful cake and wine to our room (in pic above)! WOW. How sweet. I feel so loved.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

day 4 in ethiopia- church was incredible!

Today we had the oppoturtunity to attend a worship service with our sister church here in Ethiopia. We had been corresponding by email with some of the members for several weeks before our trip. It was great to finally meet them in person! They have a small congregation here in the city. The service was wonderful - incredible singing and a thought-provoking lesson preached by a fellow visiting fom Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The Christians welcomed us with big hugs and genuine warmth. They made us feel like family. We could see that despite huge differences in culture, language, and surroundings, we are unified by a certainty in the goodness and justice of God. We brought books for the church to add to their library, and they were so grateful...a simple thing such as a book collection meant the world to them.

We brought our new friends the Brophys with us to service and they seemed to really enjoy themselves and the members of the Addis church loved them and their cute baby boy! What an incredible journey we are getting to share together!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

day 3 in ethiopia- i think she likes us!!!

Last night Alem woke up and I went to change her diaper. I took her out of the crib and placed her on the ground and she saw Mike across the room, made eye contact with him, and gave him the biggest smile ever! Almost as if to say..."Hey, I know you. You were here yesterday, and I like you!" This was a real turning point for us. After that first smile, Alem laughed, smiled, coohed and seemed happier each day. She even began crying for us when someone else holds her. It melts our hearts that she can learn to trust and love so quickly.

Not suprising that daddy got the first smile. Reese is definitely Daddy's girl, and I (Anne) am bracing myself for this one to be the same. Who can blame these ladies? They won the lottery when it comes to Father assignments. He is, witout a doubt in my mind, the best dad in the world (and husband).

Friday, March 23, 2007

day 2 in ethiopia- a day visiting orhphanages

Today was definitely better with Alem, but not any easier on the emotional front. We spent the entire day visiting orphanages. It was intense. We began the day at the orphanage where Alem stayed from about 6-11 weeks old. She was taken there after her mother left her at a stranger's house. It was incredible to see where she spent those few weeks. This orphanage was not nearly as nice as the Gladney Foster Home where Alem has been since October. The caregivers here are kind and seem to do the best they can to care for the children, but there are many babies for each caregiver and the conditions are not as nice as the Gladney home. The babies are all in one big room---many cribs. Some babies are only a few days or weeks old here. The rest of the facility has other buildings where all of the older kids live. They mostly seem young here, early elementary school age. They are incredibly sweet and quite well-mannered - running up to us, shaking our hands, and posing for pictures then frantically wanting to see themselves in the pics. Oh, so sweet. They are all in tattered, but matching school uniforms with big smiles on their faces. I want to take them all home. We are so impressed with the level of education of these children; really everyone in Addis. People seem to value education dearly here, and it is obvious in the way that people speak and carry themselves, even these kids without homes.

The second orphanage was privately run and much smaller home/compound. Every house here is behind a wall of some sort---ranging fom corrogated tin to mud walls to fancier cement walls with security fencing along the top (only a few homes had this nice of a wall). This particular private orphanage was tucked into a neighborhood on the most narrow street. There weren't many kids here...but again, they were sweet, kind, full of smiles and wanting nothing more than to be picked up anf held and talked to. There was one beautiful little girl here who was about 3 years old and looked noticeably sad and withdrawn. Apparently, her mother had just taken her here not too long ago. It broke my heart. She did not want her picture taken, she would not make eye contact, she didn't want anything to do with anyone. Having a 2 and a 1/2 year old back home, I can imagine how traumatic such a separation at this age would be. Very sad. The last orphanage was older children-about 195 of them! One little girl attached herself to Mike the whole time and he wanted desperately to take her home also. These kids knew English well and very respectful and kind. They seemed to work hard in school and were even computer savvy. Gladney is working on different programs to teach various skills to the children. Particularly, to the girls who will perhaps "age out"...meaning that they will reach 18 without being adopted and therefore be forced out of the orphanage. You can imagine the lack of job opportunities for these young ladies--in a country with a very high unemployment rate and the jobs that are available aren't really availale to a lot of women. Even college educated women have trouble finding jobs there! So, many girls/young ladies turn to prostitution, and eventually may contract diseases-like AIDS, endure poverty, and maybe have babies themselves that they cannot care for and so they also bring them to orphanages. Alas, a second generation being raised in orphanages! A tragic cycle. I cannot imagine the fear, struggle, pain, worry, and stress that these parents go through that leads them to make a decision to actually give up their child. Sometimes I think that I have stress in my life, but I have never had to even think of giving up my daughter because I couldn't provide basic needs for her! We are very fortunate indeed. We will tell Alem that her biological mother made a brave decision to take her to a home and ask for help- hoping to find a better life for her somewhere else. We are on the verge of tears at every moment here. I must mention how impressed Mike and I have been by the kind demeanor of the people in Addis. We have yet to meet an unfriendly Ethiopian! It seems that in this culture, every baby is treated like family, as nearly everyone we interact immediately moves to hold Alem, kiss her and play with her.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

day 1 in ethiopia---we're here!!!

The flight went surprisingly fast, and I (Anne) barely slept--too excited (bad decision on my part) . When we landed it was 8:30 thursday morning, so it would have been best to get as much rest as possible on the plane! Oops. After leaving behind a cold march morning in Washington, DC, we landed down in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where is it warm (not too hot) and sunny with a nice breeze. The landscape looked beautiful- many mountains and hills with farms in the country side. It looks very different than Maryland from up here! We sped through the visa line, and were greeted by Abby and Ryan who work for Gladney (our adoption agency) and currently live in Ethiopia (couple on the far right in the picture). They moved here in the Fall to be the liasons between the Gladney families and the caregivers/adoptive children, etc... and they do an amazing job! They adopted a little Ethiopian boy, Enoch, a little over a year ago after helping him undergo extensive surgery. A fantastic Ethiopian gentlman named Belay coordinates with the state-run orphanages, carves through the beauracracy, and handles most of the legal stuff. He seems to know everyone in Ethiopia and just works miracles. The three of them handled the Ethiopia-side of our adoption. Many many thanks to Belay, Ryan and Abby. The three adoptive couples managed to stuff all of our many bags into the cars (each of us had two bags full of diapers and formula for the orphanage plus bags of baby clothes, and oh yes a few items for us parents to wear also). We then met our drivers. Each couple has their own personal driver, which we quickly learned is essential in Addis- the city is confusing and public transportation would be very challenging with a baby; not to mention that we wouldn't even know where to say we are trying to get to! Our drivers were our lifelines during the trip! We joke that they were our drivers/tour guides/personal shoppers/negotiators/translators/historians, etc.... Our driver's name was Tafesse. He was the best! Besides everything else, he gave me a phone that would make it possible for me to be in contact with family back home and people in Ethiopia. Thanks Tafesse, you made our time in Ethiopia go so smoothly. We quickly checked into the hotel and off we were to the foster home. Gladney runs a home here in Addis Ababa where the babies live. There are anywhere up to 12 babies and approximately 6 caregivers working at any time. That's a great ratio! They clearly loved and took care of our little lady... they certainly made sure that she ate well! :-) The caregivers cried when we picked up the children- and one young woman even made homemade gifts for them. How incredible! emotional rollercoaster- more of day 1 in ethiopia

Today felt like about a year long. I am sure that the jet lag had something to do with it. But, I think that we are on emotional overload. Just being in Ethiopia is a bit emotionally overwhleming for me. It was difficult to see the poverty and hardship many of the people live with, and we're in the most developed city in the country. I can only begin to imagine what it could be like in the countryside. There are large neighborhoods/shanties throughout the city; even surrounding our hotel.
Then, we're tired, very tired. We went to the Gladney Foster home within a few hours of arriving in Addis to get Alem (we are using her Ethiopian name while here: (1) so that she's not confused by one more thing and (2) because when we introduce her to others while here, Alem is very common to them). The flood of emotions we experienced upon meeting her for the first time were difficult to process. We are overjoyed to finally have her, but she reacted to us as if to say, "who in the world are you?". She has clearly been well-fed during her time in the Gladney foster home, but she is bigger than we thought! Almost nothing that we brought fits her! Then, the formula we brought (which ironically was supposed to be premium and gentler on babies' stomachs) made her sick, so poor Alem threw up pretty much everything for the first day. Thankfully, the Brophy's (the couple from NY) brought extra formula and were in the same hotel as us and so we were able to get some from them that didn't make her throw up.
Alem cried quite a bit today. She seems visibly uncomfortable with us, which is to be expected I guess. Poor thing. How many transitions can a baby handle in 7 short months of life? When we are out in public and she cries, I feel so insecure, imagining that people are looking at me thinking, "See this white woman can't take care of that baby." Not that anyone said anything even close to that in Ethiopia. In fact, the Ethiopians we have met were as sweet and supportive as one could hope for toward adotive familes. Many people said "lucky baby." But, my insecurities weren't really based on reality anyways. Then, we called back home at the end of the first day and spoke to Reese and that kind of put us over the edge. We miss her so much and she misses us, and here we are in Africa with this child who isn't so keen on us. Hopefully tomorrow will be easier.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

the trip begins-wednesday, march 21st

washington, dc to addis ababa, ethiopia Today we boarded Ethiopian Airlines flight 500, headed directly to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (after a short stop in rome, Italy for fuel). Our good friend, Paolo managed to pull himself out of bed at the ripe hour of 4:30 to pick us up and take us to Dulles International Airport. Thank you, Paolo!!! We snuck out before Reese woke up, which is great, because I think that I would've had a breakdown saying goodbye to her for a week. It's SO HARD to leave her behind. We are grateful that my sister, Aimee, came over to stay the night and be there to remind Reese in the morning that we're going to get her baby sister. Thanks Beth, Don, Alex & Ted, Grandma & Grandpa for all taking turns to stay with Reese and love her while we are gone. Thanks also to MJ, Ben, Michelle, & JP for visiting her too. Reese is definitely not lacking for love from her family. Our adoption agency, (the Gladney Center) has us traveling at the same time as two other couples-one from Houston and one from New York. Both of the other couples are picking up their baby boys from the same care center as our little girl. Amazingly, we are all on the same flight leaving Washington, DC! We met one of the couples in the airport and spent time while waiting to board the plane. While in line, I (Anne) also met the author of a fantastic book that I recently finished called "There Is No Me Without You." The book discusses an Ethiopian woman and how she started an orphange (without necessarily setting out to do so). It is brilliantly written in the way that it follows this one woman's true life story and inserts tons of history on Ethiopia-especially more recent history on the AIDS crisis in Africa and the orphan crisis as well. It was just released in 2006, so it is very current. I could not put it down. It was such a great treat for me to meet her! Plus, then I could keep talking to her for the next ohhhh, 18 hours, on the flight.... and ask her a million questions. Which I did. (Sorry, Melissa.) She was incredibly warm, and knowledgable about Ethiopia and adoption. Her and her husband have such huge hearts. They have seven kids- four biological, one from Bulgaria, and two from Ethiopia, and they are in the process of adopting two more boys from Ethiopia now. INCREDIBLE! You MUST read this book!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

one week left before we step foot in africa!

I think that we set some sort of world record on the number of things accomplished between referral and leaving to pick-up the baby! We managed finish major renovations in our basement (thanks to Dave for all of his hard work!!) The carpet was installed just two weeks before departure day. Then, we had to completely dismantle the office upstairs, and set a new office up in the "new area" of the basement and prime, paint, and assemble the furniture for the nursery. And, get remaining immunizations, buy supplies for the trip, pack our clothes and the baby's, and the donations for the orphange, etc... I cannot even remember everything anymore. Oh, and yes, I (Anne) did just switch jobs this last week also. Okay- no more major life changes, please! :-) Thanks so much to Holli and Henry for jump starting the baby Elizabeth's room. There's NO WAY we would have had it done in time without you guys. Then, a big thanks to the family for getting the baby's room decorated while we were in Ethiopia. You guys are amazing. And, arrange little Reese's schedule for the next ten days while we are gone. :-P Leaving her behind is the hardest thing we've ever done. We love our little Reesie and she goes everywhere with us. Typically, she travels well, and is our buddy. But, taking her along at her young age would result in more risks than benefits at this point. We know that she will be in great hands while we are gone because our family has been nothing short of AMAZING and once again, they came through for us! Beth & Don, Aimee, Alex & Ted, and Grandma & Grandpa will all have their turn staying with Reese (or her with them). And, she will receive visits from MJB and the Ben Man, Michelle, Teri, and Uncle JP. Beth even took vacation time to stay here with Reese. Many Many Many thanks. It's the only thing that makes us feel okay about doing this--knowing that she is in great hands and will be having a blast with her crazy aunts, cousins, and grandparents. As the time for us to leave approaches, she can tell that we're leaving soon. We talk about the trip and how exciting it is that we're going to get her new baby sister a lot. We pray for the baby, and we read books about having a new sibling and even about adoption (thanks, Cara for that great book). So, Reese knows it's coming and has tried to convince us to take her (as if we wouldn't LOVE to do so). She said one night to Mike "I want to go with Mama and Dada to get my baby sister. I'll get my clothes, I'll get my Teddy, and I will go." Talk about heart-wrentching. So, then after Daddy reminded her of how much fun it'll be here with her family, and that we'd be back soon she said, "Okay, I'll stay here, but God will stay with me...he'll give me a BIIIGG HUUUUG."