Our adoption journey officially began in January 2010, but it has been a dream of ours for many years. Zinesh came home in December 2010, completing our family just in time for Christmas. Now the real work begins!

Timeline so far:
Home study completed in March 2010
Dossier complete and shipped to Ethiopia in April 2010
Referral accepted for Zinesh in July 2010
Court date October 29, 2010
Embassy date December 15, 2010
Home forever December 20, 2010!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Months 3 and 4

Zinesh has now been home for four months - four very busy months, I might add! She continually amazes everyone with her adjustment and English fluency. My first parent-teacher meeting for her was similar to the meetings that I've had with Noah's teachers. "Well, this will be short. Zinesh is doing great and is loved by all of the students. I don't really have anything else to report." That's a paraphrase, but not far from verbatim. She knows all her colors, is working on letters - I think she knows A, B, E, G, J, K, N, O, X, and Z. We do Hooked on Phonics reading lessons with her whenever we can. She loves to "read" books, which consists of her flipping through a book, commenting about what she sees on the page. Her preschool teacher even sent a note home from school a couple weeks ago, about how Zinesh had started "reading" a book after she was done with her coloring sheet, and the rest of the students spontaneously came and sat around her and listened attentively. She already commands an audience! She loves to sing little songs with avant-garde stream-of-consciousness lyrics, sung to some tune that she makes up as she goes. It's a nonsensical showcase of English words. A song might go something like: "I love mommy and Jesus and I like to eat food like french fries and hot dogs. America and Santa's closet (??) and jumping singing pancake happy Jesus loves church and Santa's closet!" We dubbed her most recent composition "Santa's Closet."

Anyway, she cracks us up on a daily basis. She is also showing her true girlyness, with a love of "lip stuff" (lip gloss), having her nails painted and going through grandma's jewelry. She also loves to annoy her older brother, which he is getting better at dealing with. Fighting for attention (between all 3 kids) is still an issue, but I don't think we're dealing with anything out of the ordinary for a family with three kids 5 and under.

We went to a dinner this weekend for "Ethiopian Community Night", sponsored by a local non-profit run by Kansas City Ethiopians. I wasn't sure what to expect from Zinesh, as she had been somewhat scared and very shy any time we interacted with Ethiopian adults in America. However, she seemed really comfortable - eagerly wanting to play with the other Ethiopian children and gobbling up the food (although she was the first one of us to say "Can I have a fork?" when no utensils were provided, as is traditional with Ethiopian food).

Periodically in the last couple months, she has innocently inquired about her skin color, saying things like "Mommy, why is my skin like this?" Of course, we'd talk to her about how Jesus made her with beautiful brown skin and we'd read one of our children's books that emphasizes the beauty of different skin colors. However, at the Ethiopian dinner, she changed her question to "Mommy, why is YOUR skin like this?" which made me smile. It will be so important for us to continue to find opportunities like that one for her to be around others like her, especially other kids, which unfortunately isn't always easy in Johnson County.

It was an interesting Mother's Day. After a trip to Lawrence to show the kids around the KU campus and lunch on Mass Street, Noah slammed his left ring-finger in the car door while on campus, leading to a trip to the Lawrence Memorial ER. Poor guy. His finger wasn't broken, but is pretty swollen and isn't wanting to bend all of the way just yet. Besides that, I felt very blessed all day to be the mom of two amazing boys and one incredible little girl. I felt equally blessed to be married to my favorite person in the whole world.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Month 2 - Time Flies!

It's amazing how far Zinesh has come in the last month. The sullen little girl that used to cry so easily, then mope and pout for SO long, is turning into a Holt. As evidence, she was scolded by Kyle tonight because he was tired of her leaning over, with her rear-end in his direction, and tooting on him. Naturally, she's learned some *ahem* not-so-ladylike behavior from our boys.

That being said, after two months, the ease of how she meshes with our family already is staggering. Her English development is mind-boggling. While the nouns came easily, now we marvel at the "helping words" and sentence structures that are already coming. Almost without exception, in two months, we are speaking to her in completely normal sentences, just like we talk to the boys. More often than not, she seems to understand and responds appropriately.

Sleep is also much easier, and she has had several nights without any waking-up episodes. On a normal night, she does still wake up once in the middle of the night, crying for mommy or daddy, but she is easily calmed and goes right back to sleep. With sleep finally normalizing and everyone FINALLY healthy (knock on wood), our household has had several weeks of relative peace on earth.

We are looking forward to celebrating a lot in March, with my brother-in-laws birthday in about a week, my birthday in the middle of the month, and Zinesh's birthday and baptism at the end of the month. Zinesh and Noah start swimming lessons in a couple weeks. I look forward to enrolling her in gymnastics in the summer and we've started attending "music class" with Jonah on Wednesday mornings. Ah...a routine is a good thing.

Anyway, this post is sort of mundane, but the overall news is just that things are going well. We feel blessed to have found Zinesh - a perfect fit for our family. Our new family photo hangs proudly above our fireplace, a complete family.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Month 1 - Highs and Lows

The beauty of a blog is that I can post whenever I have the time and energy. I haven't posted since Zinesh got home on Dec. 20, and that's no accident. We've been very busy!

Her first week at home was really amazing, as it was full of Christmas activities. Of course, Zinesh loved Christmas and did wonderfully meeting scores of relatives and friends. The two weeks after that were challenging - I won't lie. With preschool not starting up until Jan. 10, and Kyle returning to work after Christmas, there was a lot of drama at our house. Christmas break is always challenging, with everyone cooped up indoors with yucky weather and no school, but adding a non-english-speaking 3-year-old into the mix added to the "fun".

The last couple weeks have been better, as Zinesh has LOVED going to preschool. She really is distraught when Noah gets dropped off on MWF, without her going to school too. He goes 5 days a week, while she only goes Tues and Thurs. Anyway, we're getting by - with a LOT of help from our friends and family.

Our biggest challenges have come from three major issues: Zinesh has mastered something that I've heard called the "Ethiopian pout". She can be very emotional with very little trigger, and keep up the moping for hours. Thankfully, this behavior seems to be subsiding with time. In addition, the kids have been struggling a bit with sharing, as the boys have never really had sharing issues with their 3 year age difference. Coming from an orphanage setting, Zinesh doesn't quite understand the concept of sharing and personal space. Finally, she doesn't seem to see me as much of an authority. When Kyle is home, her behavior is top notch. I suspect that all of these challenges are completely justified, given the unfathomable transitions and culture/language/climate/everything changes that have been thrown at Zinesh. I try my best to empathize, but I still have to try to maintain a relatively peaceful home and well-mannered kiddos. We're getting there.

I thank God every day for the loving family and friends who are encouraging us, praying for us, and have been doing so throughout this process. Now that Zinesh is home, the real work begins. She is a beautiful and sweet girl and seems to be very smart. As she and I grow closer together as mother and daughter and as a family, I cannot wait to see what the future holds for us.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 5: A Day of Goodbyes, Part II

Sometime in the middle of the night, someone came in and stole the crabby, sullen little girl from yesterday and replaced her with the Zinesh that we were used to – the one who smiles and laughs so easily. She had a long night sleep and actually had to be woken up at 7:30 to get ready for the meeting with her birth relatives at 9:00. She was a bit groggy at first, but we could immediately tell that we were in for a much different little girl today.

Kyle had let his facial hair grow while we were in Ethiopia, but he decided to shave this morning for the meeting with birth relatives. He took Zinesh’s hands and put them on his clean-shaven face, which immediately made her break out into a huge smile, which was a huge accomplishment considering how Zinesh responded to him yesterday. Maybe she doesn’t like facial hair for some reason? Kyle vowed to never go without shaving again. He then took her into the bathroom and showed her his electric razor, letting her feel the vibration and how to turn it on and off. I cannot overemphasize how new EVERYTHING is for her, so this was a huge novelty. I also suggested that Kyle be the keeper of the Chapstick today, which Zinesh has become quite fond of, so he could offer it to her upon request. They were off to a very good start.

She smiled and laughed and cheerfully greeted our guest house family this morning, which has NEVER happened with the warmth and sweetness that she shared today. We were just sure that her happiness was to be short-lived, as she would soon be experiencing what should probably be one of the most traumatic experiences in a child’s life.

After Yared picked us up, we drove by Layla House to pick up the social worker who would accompany us to the orphanage. Unfortunately, she wasn’t there yet, so we had to sit outside of Layla House in Yared’s van for about 20 minutes, which confused Zinesh at first, as she wanted to go inside. However, she quickly cheered up and began looking at her small photo album. When Zinesh was first told about Kyle and me, and that we would be her family, she was given a few gifts from us, including a t-shirt, a couple small toys, and a small photo album. We retrieved these items last night after the party at Layla House, and she has carried her small photo album around with her like a security blanket every since.

Anyway, the social worker, Elsa, finally joined us and explained to Zinesh where were going and that Kyle and I were still her mommy and daddy. Her mood was noticeably changed, as she was understandably nervous. The drive to Sele Enat was short, but seemed to be an eternity with my scared little girl on my lap. Kyle and I were very nervous too.

I won’t go into details about Zinesh’s birth family, the reasons for her relinquishment and the meeting with the family. It is simply too personal and I want Zinesh to hear and understand her story before it is shared with others. It is her story to tell, not mine. The meeting with the birth relatives was very sad, but also very beautiful. Zinesh remained distant from her relatives, perhaps having limited memory of them or perhaps being worried that she would be returning to them. She did allow them to embrace and kiss her, but Zinesh didn’t shed any tears when we left.

Communication with the family was interesting, as we had two translators, the social worker translating English into Amharic, and another translator translating Amharic into Sidamegna (Zinesh’s first language, from her Sidama tribe). Despite the two translators, our conversation was filled with honesty, gratitude on both sides and promises to send updates and travel to meet them in Sidama in the future. We sincerely plan to come back to Ethiopia in 3-4 years, once Jonah is old enough to travel easy and remember the trip.

We gifted her family with a photo album of pictures of Zinesh and pictures of our family, a copy of The Bible in Rhyme, and some small soaps. You are not permitted to give any gifts of any monetary value, as it could be perceived as paying the family for their child. All in all, it was an unforgettable experience and we documented it with audio recording, video recording, pictures and a detailed write up that Kyle completed shortly after the meeting, detailing the subtleties of the meeting. While she seemed apathetic about it this morning, this meeting may be one of the most important events in Zinesh’s life, as two families are forever bonded together because of her.

We were so pleasantly surprised at Zinesh’s positive attitude after the meeting. We were fully prepared to comfort a sobbing girl all day, but she didn’t shed a single tear all day long. After the meeting, at Yared’s suggestion, we headed to a bazaar that contains lots of beautiful Ethiopian handicrafts, all of the sales benefiting charitable organizations in Ethiopia. We made a few small purchases, then headed to Kaldi’s (a blatant and delicious Starbucks rip-off) for lunch. At lunch, Zinesh was talking up a storm with Yared. We learned that she wants to be a car driver when she grows up. Aim high, Zinesh! She also had her first experience drinking from a straw, which was funny. She sucked a tall glass of orange juice down in no time.

Zinesh took a short nap today, which I considered progress, since she had been too upset to nap for the last two days. We took it easy for the rest of the afternoon. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner of doro wat (chicken stew), probably the most popular Ethiopian dish. We also got to taste a popular alcoholic drink, called honey wine. The family had also prepared chocolate covered strawberries for dessert. Zinesh peeled the chocolate off (and gave it to me, which I happily ate) and just ate the strawberries.

Tonight, Kyle was working with Abebe to refine a few of his business practices at the guest house, to help him make more money and make the Oziopia an even more inviting place to stay. Any adoptive family who wishes to make an honest effort to learn about their child’s culture will cherish the experience of staying at the Oziopia and getting to know this wonderful family.

In putting Zinesh to bed tonight, she tried every stalling technique in the book – she wanted to look at her photo book, get some Chapstick, and get a Kleenex to pick her nose for about 3 minutes. Finally, I decided to say goodnight and leave her in bed awake and alone for the first time. I told her that daddy and mommy would be downstairs and she didn’t seem too concerned. When I came upstairs 5 minutes later to grab the computer to write this e-mail, she was fast asleep.

Tomorrow is our last day in Ethiopia and we will take a short drive to a scenic lake area called Debre Zeit. I am excited to see some of the countryside. It seems ridiculous that we have spent 2 weeks in Africa and never been outside of the city. While we are ready to come home, today was such an unexpectedly wonderful day, I feel much less homesick than I did yesterday. Thank you for your prayers for us at every step of this journey. They have been answered every time, without exception. As our plane leaves tomorrow night, this will likely be my last update. Thanks for following us on these journeys and for the part that you each will play in our little girl’s life!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 4: A Day of Goodbyes, Part I

I guess today was a good day, but it was a tough one. Zinesh didn’t wake up in a great mood, like she has for the last couple of days. It took some work to get her smiling. Eventually, I just started looking at the photo album that we brought and she quickly joined in and started naming off the people in the photos. I think she has a strong sense of what is going on. I’m not sure how much she understands, but sometimes she just seems very sad or serious for awhile, but she is easily distracted by a book or photos.

Easily, the most difficult thing about today was the continued deterioration of Zinesh’s positive response to Kyle. I won’t gloss over this – her attitude toward Kyle has changed dramatically on this trip. We can’t figure out the cause, except that perhaps her very strong bond to me (which is great) has been at the expense of her trust and affection towards Kyle (which is not great). We could speculate that perhaps she witnessed abuse in the home from a male figure or perhaps she is just more comfortable with women because of her female caretakers at Layla House. Whatever the cause, I’m 100% positive that it is temporary, but it has been very hard on both of us, especially since she and Kyle had so much fun together on the first trip. I know that I’ve been asking for a lot of prayers lately, but my number one prayer is now that this phase will pass quickly.

We headed to Layla House for another field trip to the Sheraton playground. This time, Zinesh played almost exclusively with her friends and nannies, and Kyle and I didn’t really attempt to step in. Perhaps she really sensed that this was one of the last times she would be able to play with her friends. After playing for awhile, we moved to the cafĂ©, where the kids had french fries and sodas. Last time we went to the Sheraton, most of the kids ate the french fries, but were quite suspicious of the ketchup. This time, I swear some of the kids could have eaten the ketchup with a spoon.

After we ate, the kids played for a bit more, then we went to the entrance to the Sheraton to wait for our driver to pick all of the kids up (25 people in a 12-person van). The driver was running late, so we waited for quite a while. At one point, a Sheraton doorman came by and told Kyle that we need to move off to the side (rather than standing at the front entrance) in order to “be safe”. Without a doubt, what he meant to say was “Please move the group of orphans away from the front entrance, where all of our rich white businessmen are entering the hotel.” I thought Kyle might give the doorman some attitude, but what do you do? We moved.

We then returned to Layla House for lunch, then took a crying Zinesh back to the Oziopia. Anytime we’ve left Layla House, she has cried, which isn’t too surprising. After trying again to get her to take a nap, we ended up looking at photos, putting on lip gloss and hanging out for the afternoon. Our “girl time” has been fun for me and important for our continued bonding. When we are alone together, she is a totally different little girl than when she is around anyone else, including Kyle. When we are alone, she is talkative, smiley, funny, agreeable, affectionate, and otherwise adorable. When we are around anyone else, she sulks, rarely smiles, and is much less pleasant to be around. As a result, for the last couple of days, Zinesh and I have spent lots of time upstairs in our room alone.

We returned to Layla House in the late afternoon for the “goodbye party” for Zinesh and four other kids who were going home to America. It included lots of singing, which was really sweet and moving. A rendition of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” was first sung in Amharic, then in some sort of English. I think the verse went, “If ye be happy and ye know, slap ye hands…” Really cute. After the singing, the kids did a chant, which commenced in a repetitive chant of the names of the kids going home, ending with Zinesh. As the kids names were said, they went to the front of the room to choose from a nice display of desserts, candy and soda. Together with the french fries and soda at the Sheraton, it was a junk food-filled day for Layla House kids! Zinesh wanted pictures with many of her friends and nannies. One nanny in particular, named Meseret, was very special to Zinesh. “Messie” asked for me to write to her about how Zinesh is doing in America. I kissed and thanked her for loving and taking such good care of Zinesh. Zinesh has cried many times this week, many times apparently for no reason, but when we left Layla House, she cried for good reason. She certainly seemed to understand the finality.

When we returned to Oziopia, she calmed down when I showed her some of the pictures and video that were saved on my camera from the party. We played for awhile upstairs and then came downstairs for dinner. A very solemn Zinesh ate her dinner begrudgingly, but with no tears. We returned upstairs shortly after dinner, then eventually it was bedtime. She patted the bed, wanting me to lay next to her. She quickly fell asleep.

Tomorrow is the meeting with the birth relatives. We will be meeting them at Sele Enat (which means “In the name of Mother”), the orphanage that Zinesh was in for just a few days before coming to Layla House. We are meeting there so that Zinesh will have her clean break from Layla House after all of the goodbyes today. I am very appreciative of this. While Layla House will always be very special to our family, it has been a bittersweet place for us to be on this trip.

We are ready to come home. Ethiopia is a wonderful place and I look forward to returning with the whole family in 3-4 years. I met a volunteer at Layla House today who was adopted from there 8 years ago. She is now 19 and has only one year of college left, before medical school. She was an incredibly beautiful and obviously smart young woman. Zinesh is a sweet little girl, albeit only in front of me right now, and I am confident that she will adjust quickly and grow into a strikingly beautiful and intelligent young woman.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 3: Embassy Interview, Part II

I love waking up next to Zinesh. It makes the restless sleep totally worth it when she wakes up smiling and gives me kisses. She did so much better today. We are really starting to bond with her and I feel like I’m getting caught up from the last trip in which it felt like she gravitated toward Kyle. Understandably so – Kyle is an amazing dad! Kyle smartly taught her three important English words this morning – book, water, and potty. She seemed to understand and enjoy her mini-English lesson and she responded appropriate to inquiries about books, water and the potty all day long.

First things first. We called Gail at AAI first thing in the morning and learned that Zinesh’s paperwork was here and was in the process of being translated. That meant that we were definitely headed to the U.S. Embassy this afternoon for our appointment, which would make the adoption and her citizenship a done deal. We also learned that the birth relatives were in the process of being contacted about coming to Addis Ababa to meet with us and gain closure with Zinesh. More about that later.

We did a bit of shopping this morning, which was great! I wasn’t sure if we’d have time for shopping on this trip, but I think I’ve fulfilled all of the requests for purchases, as well as buying a few things for our family. I can’t wait to show everyone what we bought. The handcrafted work, the silver jewelry – it’s all so amazing. Zinesh only cried two times today. One time was very short. While we were shopping, a shopkeeper tried to pull a traditional dress on over her head to try it on and she got scared with him trying to get the dress over her head and clothes. It was kind of awkward as Abebe angrily scolded the shopkeeper for being too rough with her. I don’t think he meant any harm at all – just trying to make a sale, which he did not. Other than that episode, she seemed indifferent about the shopping experience, other than one point in which she excitedly pointed to a small pink dress.

After shopping, we headed to Layla House, where we would eat lunch and then head to the U.S. Embassy (again) for our interview. She was excited to see her friends at Layla House, of course. She took off once we were inside the gates and headed for her KG class. I was somewhat upset when a Layla House employee closed and locked a gate after she had passed through, but before I had caught up to her. The gate was eventually opened and we joined her KG class for a few minutes of classroom time before lunch. Today, the lesson seemed to be about counting to six. Not sure why they were stopping at six, but it was cute, as they were all wearing “glasses” made of pipe cleaners. A few of the boys are familiar from our last trip, but there were several kids that were definitely new since our last trip and many that were gone to their new families.

During classroom time and lunch, Zinesh would barely acknowledge us. She didn’t completely ignore us if we called for her and she excitedly showed off her new clothes and necklace (she was wearing my Ethiopian cross necklace at the time) to her friends. But really, for the most part, she was too cool to sit by us or acknowledge us in any other way. I predict much more similar scenarios (choosing friends over parents) in the future. Anyway, it didn’t upset Kyle and it only hurt my feelings a little bit. Gail ate lunch with us and she remarked about how Zinesh’s response to us and her emotional fragility is all very normal.

Thankfully, after lunch, Zinesh did not throw any sort of fit when we jumped in Gail’s Land Rover to head back to the Embassy. The time at the Embassy was not terribly exciting. Visa fees were paid. The interview was held – just a few short questions and signatures. The biggest events (and those that require travel to Ethiopia) in international adoption is your court date and your embassy interview, both of which are pretty anti-climactic. Zinesh will be an American citizen as soon as her feet hit American soil.

After our embassy interview, Gail drove us back to the Oziopia. On the way, she received a call from a Layla House social worker with news about the birth relative meeting. Apparently, they wouldn’t be able to make it until Saturday (Zinesh is from a rural area about 8 hours south of Addis), so travel plan changes were in our future, if we were willing. Given what we have learned about the importance of the meeting with birth relatives – for us to learn about her upbringing, for her to receive the “blessing” of her relatives, and for the relatives to gain closure – we wanted very much to make it work.

After embassy, we returned to the Oziopia for “naps”, which was not high on Zinesh’s to-do list. Instead of napping, she laid in bed and cried a bit while Kyle and I tried to formulate our plan for how we would figure out our return flight changes. Kyle decided to head to the Hilton hotel, where Ethiopian Airlines has an office set up. A driver took him there, while I failed at my attempt to get Zinesh napping. Instead, we put lotion on our legs and arms, she listened and sang along to songs on my iPod (while wearing sunglasses upside down , no less), and we looked at pictures in the photo album that I plan to give to birth relatives. She simply came alive today – speaking so much more and being SO affectionate to me. When Kyle returned from the Hilton, he greeted us with “Hello girls!”, which was kind of fun to hear.

Kyle was able to successfully change our flights for minimal expense (in the grand scheme of things), so we are now planning to leave Addis on Sunday night rather than Friday, and will be home in KC on Monday late afternoon. We’ve already figured out how we’ll fill our days in the meantime, so chigga yellum (which means “no worries” in Amharic). Yes, kind of like hakuna matata. I guess everyone in Africa HAS to have a way to say “no worries.”

The rest of the day was pretty mellow. We watched some TV with Zinesh, including a viewing of Barbie and the Diamond Castle, which Kyle mercilessly and rightfully made fun of throughout. We then watched a home video of a graduation celebration and “show” at Abebe’s school, which included a lot of Ethiopian dancing from the various ethnic groups. A surprising part of the show included a dramatic re-enactment of the British troops killing many Ethiopians, which involved school kids holding fake AK-47s and shooting their classmates to their deaths. Then, one of the smaller kids, who was acting as Emperor Tewodes, pretended to commit suicide by shooting himself in the mouth with a .45. Yikes! I’m pretty sure that dramatic re-enactment simply wouldn’t fly in the Blue Valley school district.

Dinner was quiet and calm and Zinesh did great. Her solemnity isn’t totally gone at mealtimes, but it’s definitely improved. We’ll see how she does on the flights. I might join her in crying about airplane food. After dinner, we visited for a bit longer, but Zinesh (with no nap) was pooped. She got into her PJs, brushed her teeth, then fell asleep before we had finished the bedtime book.

Our night wrapped up with a viewing of a new contender for “worst movie ever” – a movie about dwarfs playing basketball, starring Dennis Rodman. Yes, I’m serious. It’s called “The Mini’s” and it was only funny in a so-bad-its-good kind of way.

I’m headed for bed with my girl. This is the first night that we’ve left her upstairs at the Oziopia sleeping alone. I’m actually pretty optimistic that we won’t have too much sleep trouble when we get home, so that’s a relief. I am quite certain that food will continue to be an issue and I will be very glad that I have some skillz as a cook of Ethiopian food.

Despite an extension of our trip (which now we view as an inconvenience, but when we got on the plane from KC saw as almost a certainty), today was a GREAT day. Zinesh is now not only “ours” but she also has the paperwork necessary to enter the US. Thank you, God!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 2: Embassy Visit, Part I

It’s amazing how much can happen in a day. Last night was not the most restful. Zinesh slept between Kim and I, and starting sometime after midnight she began pushing and slapping in her sleep. I think Kim took the early beating and I took the late shift. It had to have been sometime around 3:00 or 3:30 that I finally just gave up on sleep and tried to get what rest I could. Besides, it was the first night I would spend with my daughter, so who needs sleep.

She tossed a bit and slapped me a bit, but it was actually quite cute, especially when she spoke in Amharic in her sleep (I assume it’s Amharic, but it could be Sidamegna). Around 6:15, the sun was up, and so was Zinesh. Kim had been awake with me for 45 minutes or so, so we both saw when she first woke up. She just laid there, eyes open, expressionless. My first thought was we were in for a long day of emotional distress, but Zinesh surprised us as soon as we got her up. We dressed her in new clothes, which was very exciting to her. We really take for granted how much possessing your own wardrobe can really mean. After she was dressed, she looked at herself in the mirror with a huge smile, and while I was showering, she proceeded to kiss all of her new clothes in the suitcase.

After I was dressed, I found Kim and Zinesh on the balcony. Zinesh was talking up a storm, and in three minutes I heard her say more words than I had heard her say all day Tuesday. With us all prepared, we went downstairs. Zinesh wanted to see the dog and goats, but she fell on her bottom and quickly decided she was done and wanted to go back inside. So we sat down to breakfast and…what? Wait…what happened? Why are you crying again? It’s as if mealtime just brings on some powerful emotional response. Whether it’s missing her friends, missing food that she’s comfortable with, or missing her home turf at Layla, I can’t say. But when we eat, Zinesh gets upset.

That problem was quickly solved by distracting her with another I Spy book. Crisis averted as our driver Yarid showed up to drive us to the Embassy. We knew that going was a risk, but our hope was that if this was going to take longer than Friday, we might get credit for having us both present earlier so that we would get Zinesh the right kind of visa. The US Embassy seems to be known for having the strictest security of any embassy in Addis. Anyone surprised? Neither were we.

Thus began the best part of our day. The other families were there, the Winters who we had met on our first trip and feel really close to and their two girls, as well as Jen and her really cool little boy from AHOPE. Zinesh immediately began having fun with the kids while we talked to the parents. Everything seemed to be in place for them, and we told them that we expected nothing.

Gail from AAI came over to us and filled us all in – problems, problems everywhere! Jen was told that she had to pay almost double the amount typical (it’s a ridiculously long story as to why, so I won’t go into it, other than to say that they did NOT owe that amount but they wouldn’t be leaving with their son unless they paid) AND her son’s passport had been left at Layla. The Winters were told that they lacked the same exact piece of paperwork that we lacked and they would be held up like us. As for us, well, we already knew about our problems, so there was no shock. We had cash and Jen did not, and since we had nothing to pay for yet, so we loaned her the money. One problem solved! So Jen was able to have the Embassy appointment and once AAI takes her son’s passport in tomorrow, her second problem will be solved, and they’ll be out of here on Saturday. The Winters’ children are from an orphanage in an area close to Addis Ababa, so they should have their paperwork in by Friday which would be good as their flight is on Friday.

The Winters were very optimistic about that when Gail told us that she had received word that our paperwork was either done or getting wrapped up and should be back in Addis tonight. We were shocked! So we’re supposed to call Gail in the morning to see if the paperwork really is all done, then go back to the Embassy tomorrow afternoon to have our appointment.

Please say a prayer that everything wraps up tomorrow. I love Ethiopia, but the sooner we’re home, the better for everyone. Zinesh’s emotions are really in flux as all this change hits her at once, and despite the fact that more change is in store for her, the faster we get her home, the faster she’ll be able to adapt and stop going through this daily roller coaster.

Afterwards we rode back to the Ritmo Guest House where the Winters are staying and let the kids play while we talked and laughed. It was really nice. Then we went to Caribu with Daniel Winters and his oldest daughter Hana for a Western lunch. Zinesh did NOT like pizza. She took one bite then spit it out like it was poison. We love pizza, so she’s in trouble when we get home! But Hana was there to keep her busy and lunch passed without tears. PHEW! Finally eating without tears. Then we walked back to Layla to pick up a cab and to grab one of our empty suitcases. Zinesh saw a few of her friends in the 10 minutes we were there, and as we left in the cab she immediately began crying. Once we were back at the Oziopia crying turned to bawling. We took her upstairs for a nap, but she just continued to sob, her entire body shaking.

We’ve read a lot about the struggles with attachment and the grief process, but to see a little 3 ½ year old girl experience it was pretty troubling. As we were laying there with her, I couldn’t help but think that even though I know she’s just crying because everything is changing and she isn’t with her friends, it felt like she was crying for everything that’s happened to her – her family, abandonment, the loss of her country and culture, and all the fear she would have for her future life. I know I was reading too much into it, but those guttural sobs were so intense.

Anyway, naps did not happen. Instead, after awhile, she calmed down, watched a little bit of cartoons, and then she found bubbles. Blowing bubbles ended up keeping her and Kim busy for quite awhile. She had a great time…but then became sad again. It seems that when we are out and about, she is distracted. But when we are here at the Oziopia, everything starts sinking in. And although she has cried, her sobbing really only happened since we went back to Layla this afternoon.

We invited the Winters over for dinner. Not the dancing bonfire affair before, but just a dinner and coffee ceremony. Zinesh was crying and crying, and the more people tried to calm her, the worse it got. Finally, I tried a different tactic. Instead of sympathizing with her, I told her, “Bekka” which means “Enough.” That worked…for about 2 seconds. Frankly, I don’t think there’s any harm in letting her cry, but it is frustrating to not be able to communicate during that time. But as soon as the Winters arrived, with their daughters Hana and Mekdes, and Zinesh saw Hana, she calmed right down and they spent the rest of the night coloring and playing. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. What a relief.

The Winters just left a few minutes ago, and Zinesh just fell asleep. It was an amazing day. Full of what we are hoping is great news, tears, and friends. It began well and ended well. And it had good stuff in between. We now are fully expecting tears and sadness from Zinesh when we go home, but we finally think we’ve figured out the secret to fixing the problem…surround her with kids. So Noah, Jonah, Paige, Addie, Connor, and Piper – get ready! J

Please say a prayer that all the paperwork is really there tomorrow morning. If it is, it will be a true blessing!!!