Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Ahh, today . . . Let’s see.  Right now we’re feeling exhausted.  I just finished showering three girls, rubbing scabies cream all over two of them, sorting out pajamas and underwear, singing each child their separate lullaby, and getting them all in bed.  Of course Jasper and Ruby are still awake and listening to The Graveyard Book with us, because they’ve never heard of going to bed at the silly hour of 7:00 PM.  The other two were bushed.  And now I hear the odd sound of a new child snoring in my room—a strange and funny feeling.

Today was discouraging, frustrating, sad then happy.  At least we got them in the right order!  Discrustradappy. 

Discouragement came early as we had no where to be first thing in the morning, and Jasper and Ruby had cabin fever.  This has been a long trip for them, and I don’t blame them.  They picked at each other and fought constantly.  They kept speaking to each other in a really rude tone of voice, which I’m sure they learned from their parents, but which we hate to hear them use with each other.  I got impatient, and couldn’t seem to settle any of their issues.  I felt discouraged by the onset of real life again, and real sibling fighting, and the fact that I can never be the magic problem-solving mother I want to be, and that I know life with our new daughters will turn into this at times, too.  I also felt bad because I know I’m putting Jasper and Ruby through great emotional strain—it shows in their contrariness.  I know they will benefit so much from this in the future, and I know they’re excited now, but I also know they’re scared of losing their own places in the family, no matter what I say.  That was a badly running-on sentence, but I’m too tired to fix it.  Anyway, it’s normal—the sibling fear, not the run-on sentence.  OK, fine—maybe that is for me, too.

Frustration came next, when the embassy was much more crowded than yesterday.  We had to wait in several different lines for long periods of time and the kids were LESS than happy about it.  Jasper had refused to eat the yummy curry lunch which he insisted was too spicy, and had thus transformed into Hungrumpo Man.  It was hot.  Hot and crowded.  We seemed to be getting nowhere.  Finally, we found someone who seemed to understand our very unique predicament, and escorted us to our fingerprint appointment in another building.  That was all nice and pleasant.  But then we were told they can’t promise our fingerprints will be processed by Monday.  AAARRRGGGGHHHHHJ!!!!!  Are you KIDDING me?? 

Adoption interviews are only granted on Mondays, so if they aren’t ready by Monday we are toast.  We cannot afford, nor will our children stand, to hand around here another week.  This is not the fault of the embassy except in the fact that they are just too big and busy to give any case an individual schedule.  It is squarely the fault of our agency—both the US and Ethiopian representatives.  We could waste a lot of time getting upset about this, and we may yet.  (Dad, get your letterhead ready!)  But for now, we’re just hoping they rush it, as they said they would try, and everything works out for our appointment on Monday. 

Please, if you don’t mind, pray that it will.  We would really appreciate it.   

I used to feel a bit awkward when other families said they had not had a good experience with their agency and wouldn’t use it again.  But now I realize it’s just like saying you had a terrible natural labor, and want drugs next time.  Or had a psychedelic drug-induced labor, and want to go natural next time.  You’re still thrilled to have the baby, and have no regrets about going through the pain—you’d just do things differently next time.

Anywhat, we did have one prayer answered at the embassy.  I had been getting concerned the past couple of days that we wouldn’t be able to find church and would miss the opportunity to go while we’re here.  I had included this concern in my prayers.  On the way to the embassy we had asked Ahki and Gaetcho, who’ve never heard of the church, to help us find it.

While walking through the crowd at the embassy, I suddenly saw two grey heads and two black tags.  Yes!! It’s true!  We ACTUALLY ran into some of the only Ethiopian missionaries at the US embassy!  They have only been here a week and looked rather shell-shocked, but happy.  They told us the name of the branch and the time it started.  We thought we’d have to find it ourselves, but then ran into them again on our way out.  This is really amazing if you consider how crowded and nuts the embassy was today.  We walked out with them and they introduced us to their driver, a branch president in Addis Ababa (who looked about 16 but has already served a mission in Uganda).  We promptly introduced him to Ahki our translator, to whom the branch president gave directions to the branch.  Slick!  We are all set for Sunday, and have introduced Ahki to a local member to boot.  Things were looking up.

We then went to the orphanage to get the girls for good.  We had them change into clothes we brought so they could leave the orphanage ones for other kids, and they took us to see their bedrooms.  These were painted bright pink, and had about six bunkbed sets each.  Tinsae slept with the older girls and Birhane the younger.  This orphanage is very brightly-colored and pleasant.  We saw Tinsae’s classroom, and met one of her nannies who told us Tinsae made her look through the whole photo album several times.  She looked at Steve and said she had even seen his brother in the book.  She again said that Tinsae had asked constantly when her family would come.

We met with the nurse, who gave us T and B’s medical records and went over them with us.  I asked if all the tests were really definite, like HIV, and she looked insulted and pointed out to me that they even do the DNA test for HIV.  She also got a bit uncomfortable when I asked about Tinsae’s age, pointing out that her teeth look large for baby teeth.  She said the social worker who first investigated them in the countryside determined their age. 

They gave us the girls’ schoolwork (both very clever, the nurse said), and a nice traditional dress for each of them, and we were off.  I felt sad for them.  How do you say goodbye to everything you know?  Tinsae waved frantically at all the children she knew, on their way out of school.  I had them stop the van so she could get out and give some hugs.  She didn’t seem sad to be leaving them, rather it was more the look of “I’ve won the lottery!  Here’s my family, and I’m leaving.  Goodbye!”  We signed two copies of one piece of paper, and that was it.  We were off.  After the year of paperwork, it was hard to believe.

Then came the really sad part.  When we got to the guest home, we decided we should do the interview right away.  We have always felt that we should record Tinsae answering questions about her life before the orphanage before she got too absorbed in her new life.  We felt, and some of our research showed, that this would be very important to her when she grows up—to have some tiny insight into a forgotten childhood.  We knew the questions might be hard for her, and we asked the nurse what she thought before we left the orphanage.  She said it was important for Tinsae to talk about the past, and that they encourage it at the orphanage all the time.  That openness is one of the reasons we felt great about adopting children from this culture. 

We grabbed Ahki to translate, and figured we better get it over with right away.  We put a mic on Tinsae, knowing she speaks very softly when nervous.  I started by asking about the kind of house she lived in, and then moved on to her family.  I don’t know how much to share here, because it is her story.  Basically we learned that she loved her mother, who got sick when Birhane was born and died about a year later.  At that time she had to quit school and stay home to take care of Birhane and her brother while her dad worked.  Her dad was kind, she said.  She loved her two brothers, and misses them.  The part we really didn’t know before is that her father remarried.  The stepmother was not happy and was the reason for the relinquishing of the girls.  As Tinsae told this, I could see her eyes get very glassy.  I could see the sadness in them.  I asked one last question—was she sad to come to the orphanage.  No, she said, she was very happy.  It was better than home at that point.  I stopped the camera after that.  Tinsae started to cry.  I went over and sat by her and hugged her, and had Ahki tell her how grateful we were for her sharing this, though it was hard.  She started to sob harder.  Birhane started to sob, too, seeing her sister cry.  I started to cry too, of course.  I felt inspired to tell Tinsae, through Ahki, about how we made the decision to take them.  I hugged her and cried, and told her how the email came, and we thought and prayed all day.  I told her how at the end of the day I had suddenly had a feeling that her mother in heaven was asking us to take her girls, telling us they would make our family happy.  Then we called and accepted them right away.  This is all very personal.  I hope Tinsae, someday, won’t mind me sharing.

The room was sad and pretty quickly we decided we better get outside and have some serious play.  I thanked Tinsae again for her five minutes of difficult remembering, and we went out the door.  This is where the happy really began.  We played ball and jump-roped for an hour.  We had many really hard laughs, like when Steve was filming Birhane playing with one ball, and the other kids’ soccer ball came flying over and gave him a perfect header.  We had a genuine, great time.  We discovered that Tinsae knows a lot more English than we thought.  She can be a bit of a translator herself.  We had a good dinner—Orange Fanta familiar, Sprite quite a shocker!—and then it was shower time.  I had had Ahki warn them about this because I didn’t want them to feel scared.  I also had him tell them I would have to rub scabies cream all over them.  They loved the shower.  Lot’s of screams, which I think came from the warm water, believe it or not.  After I washed them all, head to toe, they then proceeded to re-wash themselves several times—funny.  At this rate we’ll go through a lot of body wash!  I still have a lot to learn about hair—and so do the girls.  I had a new experience washing theirs, and they both wanted to experiment with mine. 

One of the best parts of the night was that I finally got to sing that favorite lullaby to them, the one that is only for adopted children and that I’ve been saving all my life.  Yes, (Emily R), from The Rescuers.  The gist of it is something like:

Be brave, little one.  Make a wish for each sad, little tear.  Hold your head up, though no one is near.  Someone’s waiting for you.  Don’t cry little one.  Make a smile where a frown used to be.  You’ll be part of the love that you see.  Someone’s waiting for you. 

Always keep a little prayer in your pocket, and you’re sure to see it start.  Soon there’ll be joy and happiness and you, little one, will be part. 

Be brave, little one.  Till your hopes, and your wishes come true.  You must try to be brave, little one.  Someone’s waiting to love you. 

Choosing laughter and hope in the face of sadness and loneliness seems, to me, to be true bravery.  How lucky am I to have such brave little girls.  And, such bravery from Jasper and Ruby for welcoming them. 

Gosh, I’m sappy tonight.  These are the things that, for me as a writer, are much easier to share in words than in person.  Allow me, just once in a while.

Lest you think I’m being selfish:  I asked if Steve wanted to add his own post and he declined.  He did say,

“I agree with everything you said.  I would add that, although the experience has been very calm and surprisingly easy with the girls, I felt a surprising flood of emotion at the orphanage today which I was not expecting.  I suddenly felt overwhelming gratitude to the nurses and doctors and teachers, and even the housekeepers and guards, at the orphanage for how well them seemed to know and care about these two little orphan girls.  As we thanked them, both in their language and ours, I wanted it to feel like the most heartfelt thanks I could give.  The only way I could do that was to offer their traditional greeting of touching cheek to cheek, hoping that would communicate my sincerity.  While I thought I would feel those kind of emotions sooner—say, the first time we met the girls—it was realizing they were saying goodbye to the people who had shown them true love that they needed it most that brought the lump to my throat.  It was so thrilling to see Tinsae continuing to look out the window for anyone she knew so she could wave excitedly at them.  As we looked through the photo album in the car, the one we had sent the girls a few weeks ago, it was clear they had every photo memorized.  Birhane pointed at the picture of herself and said, ‘Good photo.  Good photo.’  Speaking of other funny things Birhane has said so far, when we were outside an airplane flew overhead.  We pointed and said, ‘airplane.’  But Birhane needed no help.  She was already yelling, ‘Ethiopian Airlines!  Ethiopian Airlines!’  Bottom line, I was struck with wondering how do you help them understand how much we want to help them.  Especially during the brief interview today, when I got back from getting another camera battery and found the mood in the room heavy and everyone crying, including Birhane, I just wanted them to know we would comfort them.  I hope they see that, just like we hug Jasper and Ruby when they cry, we’ll hug Tinsae and Birhane when they cry.

Like I said, I don’t have anything to add.”


Jodi said...

WOW, I need a tissue. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can't wait to hear more.

cari said...

The way you talk about these girls interacting with your kids, I so can't wait to see everyone together!!! Hope you guys have a great time the rest of the trip! Can't wait to see your new family!

Preston said...

We will pray for you and cry tears of Happiness for you as well! Jen

Lisa said...

Emily and Steve and Jasper and Ruby and Tinsae and Birhane. Now that sounds like a more complete family. We are tremendously excited to meet everyone. And your story does bring tears to our eyes as well. You are definately in our prayers and hearts.

Belinda said...

I am exhausted just reading about the range of emotions you all are experiencing. You have mentioned how brave everyone else involved is being, forgetting what a "leap of faith" this whole commitment truly is and how you and Steve are the strongest and bravest of them all. After hearing Tinsae's own recount, I hope you really do believe you are as much a blessing to them as they are to you. I have a feeling these two little bundles are going to bring your family even closer together. You are loved and missed!

it's just lisa said...

What a beautiful story. I am so grateful for your openness and willingness to share it. I was reading the story out-loud to Jason and I could only get through a few lines at a time because my eyes kept filling with tears.
I am so happy for you all, and inspired to better in my own life, to reach out to those around me.
We will remember your family in our prayers, in hopes that everything runs smoothly Monday and on your journey home.

Jamie said...

I couldn't wait to read your blog today- so inspiring and real. I am thinking of our happy days spent in Nauvoo together. We are keeping you in our prayers, especially that Monday will work out!

celiahannahhall said...

Emily, I found your story on Sara's facebook page. I love it and I cried. Your family is beautiful and I am so happy to have you in my life, distant, though you may be. I am so happy to know people that have so much love in their hearts and who share it so generously.

Amber Swensen said...

I'm so glad Rick told me about your blog today. I didn't realize you were blogging again and have been thinking about you guys a lot. I read through all your posts and felt so many emotions, but mostly happy that all is working out. The Lord is truly aware of his children. We are so excited to meet our new family members. I showed Chase and Amelie the pictures of their new cousins and Amelie said (pointing at Birhane) "That girl is my bestest friend." Children are so quick to love and accept. We can't wait to see you!

mabeyssayhi said...

Emily, Steve, Jasper, Ruby, Tinsai and Birhane you are all so brave and beautiful. I am so very grateful to be a part of your lives. You truly have been and are going to be a blessing to our family. I am crying now and will continue for a while. You are always in our prayers.

Tyler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tyler said...

Oh, Emily, and oh, Steve, we don't even know where to start! So we'll start here: Your posts feel like gifts -- precious, personal gifts -- and we are so grateful that you would take the time to record these events as they happen, then share them with all of us. Just based on the emotions we outsiders are experiencing, sitting on this end of a computer screen reading about your week, I can only imagine what a complex, full-but-fleeting time it must be. That photo of you, Em, surrounded by your children . . . whew, it's hard to type when I'm teary . . . you just look RIGHT. Present; mindful; powerful, even; you look like their mother, all beautiful five of them.

Never prayed about fingerprints before, but totally gonna!

Sending love and gratitude,
Kellie & Tyler

PS: You must know what we think about the names, right? WE LOVE THEM!! Two of our very favorites and we can't wait to see two gorgeous girls running around as Saffron Tinsae and Willa Birhane! Hooray!

mabeyssayhi said...

You are wise and wonderful. May the Holy Ghost and the pure love of Christ continue to bind us all together and illuminate our souls. Dad

Rachel said...

You are in our thoughts and prayers and providing us with inspiration as we try to find our way through our own process. Thank you for sharing Tinsae and Birhane's story. You were right to record it because her life in Ethiopia will seem so distant in the future. I can't wait to see you all. Thank you for the blogs...we can't wait to read it every day!

Emily said...

You realize we are all with you on your adventure, with your blog as our looking glass. I feel like I want to keep reading late into the night but that I have to put the book down until the next chapter is written. I can picture everything so clearly and feel that I know more about all of you. The thing that strikes me is how open your hearts all are. Including Tinsae and Birhane. Love will just continue to pour in is my prayer. That and that Monday has fingerprints! I just can't stop thinking about you guys and your story deeply touches me. LOVE the Rescuers lullaby, btw. I hadn't connected that before. Thanks, I think I want to do something with it. So happy for you!

FitZoner said...

You are all amazing! I can't wait to meet your girls and have all of you back home. We'll say extra prayers for ya! Amber

Sovic Clan said...

I totally agree with Emily R. Your story is a book I cannot stop reading! Your story has brought tears to my eyes! I understand how grateful those girls are to be a part of your family! Prayers are being sent your way, always! I will teach you all I know about how to do their hair( I learned a bit in hair school)! Send out love to your family!

Brooke said...

I'm sobbing here at the computer as I try and type while keeping my climbing two year old from turning the hard drive off! I'm so glad that we are getting this rare view of the girls. It has helped me feel as if I am there with you and am getting to be acquainted with your new little arrivals. We couldn't be more happy for you and we will continue for everything to work out for your journey home.

I know it can be trying with Jasper and Ruby, but think how much you would have missed them had they been at home. Plus, as I sit here I'm finding myself doing the same kind of "mothering" things and I can't seem to solve anything either. Myles has turned two, nothing more needs to be said.

We love you and are looking forward to more of the story. we can't wait to see the kids all together. Loves and Hugs!

Charlotte said...

Dave here - I wanted to hear the lullaby that you sang, so if anyone else is curious, you can hear it on youtube here

Thanks for sharing so much detail!

Amy D said...

What a sweet song to have sung to them after such an emotional day. Thanks for sharing.