Thursday, May 3, 2012

A lot of good!

Day 5 Tom wrote two emails, one in the morning and one in the eve...super long post, but if want to take a you go:)
Tuesday April 3rd, 2012
It's 6:29 here, and though I really tried, I am done sleeping. Those of you who know us well know that "morning person" does not really describe us. "Brunch people" might be adequate, or "We got up at 8:30 but don't talk to us until we've had an hour to drink 6 cups of coffee people" would work too. But I woke early today, and to be fair, I think it's actually 8:29pm at home, so we're all messed up anyway. I would like to blame my early rise on the 16 diseased dogs barking intermittently at maximum volume right outside our window, or the two roosters that seem to be battling for alarm supremacy, or the diesel trucks backfiring, or any number of ridiculous noises at this ungodly hour. But truth be told, I just haven't fully adjusted to the time change.

It's ok today though, because I have time to just sit, contemplate, drink some kind of strange tea, and shotgun my thoughts onto a computer screen (which is quite therapeutic for me). Again I knock on the wooden desk in front of me rapidly as I report that aside from some minor stirring and crying, Edilu slept through the entire night last night. He sat with me on the bed for a little while, sucking his thumb and straning to keep his eyelids open, and then Angela put him to bed, sending me downstairs to jump on the ol' word processor. When I came back up, she informed me with that classic Mom smile that says, "I rock!" that Edilu fought her for about 5 minutes, then obsequiently rode the river of exaustion into the sea of unconsciousness.

Yesterday we ate dinner at the guest house-on our first trip, we ate out when we could just so we weren't cooped up here too much. On this trip, however, we are leery of eating out, and it's much more work to bring Edilu with us as we walk to busy streets of Addis in search of a safe, edible meal. So we ate here, which turned out to be a blessing, because there were four other families (one from N. Carolina, one from Oregon, one from Ohio, and one from Arizona) who ate with us, and it was so great to just converse with people from our own country. The meal was excellent-chicken and a rice pilaf sort of dish-and as we have been kind of alone here now, just being around other people who were going through the same things we are was so encouraging.

But the greatest thing about last evening was we connected with Edilu so much more than we had before. We took him to the roof, and he actually walked up three whole flights of stairs. His stick legs are like jelly-it is apparent he is used to either sitting, or being carried. We took a ball to the roof, where he sort of watched us throw it back and forth. He must have been thinking, "They must really be bored, playing catch with a small, soft toy ball while I sit here and watch them." But he started to respond, and as we went downstairs to the lobby to wait for dinner, he sat with his mommy and was more alert and curious than I've ever seen him. A few different people commented to us about how different he already looked, how he was really coming alive in just one day. I tend to agree...the change in such a short time is dramatic. And THEN...the biggest success yet! He sat with Angela and she tried to feed him rice, even though we are aware of his affinity for ONLY warm formula from a bottle. He took a big bite with a smile on his face, and commenced to eat probably 15 bites of rice and chicken. Its so funny the things parents get excited about, but we truly felt like we'd won the lottery, and that we might continue to win more lotteries in the days to come.

The evening went well, and I think we will start to see shy, withdrawn, expressionless Edilu come alive very soon. I'm so proud of my little boy, so proud of my wife, and so thankful for every one of you who has elected to share in this experience with us. As I read emails from home this morning, I tried my best to fight back emotion since I'm sitting in the middle of the lobby, and I'm supposed to be the "strong, silent type"...I have a reputation to uphold. Its hard to do that when emotions are like a knotted rope inside you, however, and it really feels good to "feel". Thank you again for being interested in our journey, and continue to pray that God opens Edilu's heart to us as ours are forever opened to him.
Evening of April 3rd, 2012- Probably one of my favorite days in Ethiopia!

I'm not sure how your morning conversation went over breakfast this morning, or if you even had one, but ours went something like this (all you parents can relate, I'm sure):
Angela, coming downstairs with Edilu in hand: "He had the biggest poop ever!"
Edilu, smiling, says nothing.
Me: "Really? I missed the first did it look?"
Angela: "It was pretty soft, not too hard..."
Me: "What color was it?"
Angela: "It was kind of a light brown."
Me: "Like, really light? Was it yellow?"
Angela: "No it was kind of tan."
Edilu, pretending indifference but knowing what the conversation is about.
Me: "Oh wow-nice job, buddy!"
Angela: "Yeah, it was probably about the color of hay, but less a light brown..."
I'm sure that conversation could have continued indefinitely, but as we scanned the room we realized we were surrounded by other people trying to enjoy their breakfast, most of which was about the color of hay, and fairly soft, not too hard. We started laughing, of course, because that's mostly what we as people do: laugh. I can't say I'm horribly disappointed I missed the first poop, because there will be many, many more for me to experience. But I don't care what stage of development you start out at with a child-the first poop is, in the words of Ron Burgundy, "...kind of a big deal."

We ate breakfast, and Edilu ate right along with us, which was fantastic. Angela and Edilu sat on a couch together while Edilu played fetch with me, and like the bone-headed animals we dads are, I chased after the ball and brought it back every time (dare I say I am a superior fetching dog to our thick-boned, small-minded canine companion, Brutus, who, after about 4 tosses, plops his oversize frame down on the grass as if he's just completed a triathlon). We were able to squeeze a few laughs out of that expressionless boy, and they were music to our ears! Well, to be fair, they were more like chuckles or short seal-like barks, but I'll take what I can get, and I'll chase that toy ball anywhere to get one. Brutus gets a Milk Bone, I get a tiny laugh from my son; I'd say I'm the winner on that one.

We headed out with some other families to the transitional home, nervous that Edilu would forget us and go straight to the nannies. To our delight, he actually preferred to stay in his mommy's arms! Of course, Angela being the selfless, loving individual she is, quickly shared her little boy with every nanny in the building, and even brought pictures of each nanny holding Edilu that she had taken on our previous trip. Each nanny was overjoyed and thankful, and I just sat back and beamed with pride. I wanted to tell each of the children there, "That's my wife," but they don't speak english, and they are all under 2 years old. So instead I spun a makeshift top on the floor, much to their delight. You must understand, Edilu is 19 months old (or so), and he has been at that transitional home since he was 2 months old (that is very uncommon). Every nanny there just loves Edilu as if he were the special boy of each of them, so for them to have Angela bring him back in and quickly hand him off to each of them and present them with a picture of each of them with the boy they love and cherish but will most likely never see again in their lifetimes, truly meant the world to them. She didn't have to go to all that extra work, but she did, because not only does she love her boy, she loves each of those nannies as well. That is Christ's love in action.

We then had an appointment with the doctor, who-you guessed it-loves Edilu like her own special son! And again to our delight, he cried when she grabbed him, and lunged back at his mommy! I wish I could express to you all that feeling of realizing, "He finds comfort with us and not them", but suffice to say that's a HUGE deal. The doctor told us he is healthy, assured us there's nothing wrong with his nice, round belly other than he has no abs yet and likes to eat, and expressed to us how wonderful our boy is. We all grew emotional as she explainef to us that Edilu is a child of Ethiopia and a child of ours, but ultimately, he is a child of God's. Angela presented the doctor with a picture of her and Edilu, and expressed to her how thankful and grateful we are that she is doing the work she is doing to ensure the health of these children who make the transition from Africa to their forever families. Another beautiful, overworked Ethiopian woman was made to feel special and appreciated, and another chance for me to sit back and beam with pride.

We played soccer with the older kids there, then were taken to a wonderful restaurant for lunch, where I ordered lamb. I ate around the bones and residual lamb hair still stuck to my dish (it was actually quite tasty), then we walked out to see two large tortoises lumbering around a grassy area! Edilu wanted none of them, but we took pictures for Mae who LOVES turtles (what kid doesn't? Oh yeah, our other one, apparently). We then drove to a nearby orphanage where a lot of kids at the transitional home come from, and were impressed by the cleanliness and order, and the beautiful children there. We began to wonder, is there any way to take just one more home with us this trip?

We drove back to the guest house after a busy, enjoyable day (inflated balloons), and it was nap time for poor Edilu who was exhausted. We decided that, since he was so bonded to his mommy, I would put him down, a challenge I felt prepared for. Oh foolish me! I was confident but naive as I lay Edilu down in his bed and Angela went downstairs. Edilu cried, screamed, fought, kicked, hit, and pulled out every trick in the book, and I calmly made him lay down again and again, shushing him the whole time. He had moments when he would almost fall asleep as he sucked his thumb, then would awaken with the fury of a volcano, and it was back to square one. Not funny at the time, but humorous after the fact, is that Ethiopian kids do this thing where they look at you and act like they are spitting on you as they yell, "Boo!" Its a pretty snotty thing that needs to be corrected, and we are working on that, but later it really struck me as funny!

After almost a half-hour, Angela hiding right outside the door, unsure what to do (as was I), she came in like superman, encouraged me, and comforted Edilu. He was asleep in minutes. I know I have to be firm with him, but it's hard to have your son hate you. My helium escaped, and my shriveled balloon carcass fell to the floor. Angela reassured me that I was doing the right thing and he would love me again later, but I had none of that confidence.

We spent time together and I relaxed a little to take my mind off my failure, and I realized, he's NEVER had a man put him down before, so my ugly mug staring down at him probably looked like a giant ogre with a club. So at 6:30 Angela hid in the bathroom and I woke him from deep, deep slumber. He looked at me as I picked him up, put his thumb back in his mouth, laid his fuzzy head on my chest, and promptly went back to sleep. Ahhhh, my emotions sighed internally. I gently woke him, and just held him for a good 20 minutes as we made our way downstairs. He didn't even lunge for his mommy until later! I held him on my lap and fed him, and he ate every bite. I tickled his armpit and he laughed. I felt like we bonded more in that half-hour than any other time so far. Isn't God great?

Of course, he finally realized how much he missed his mommy, and I was happy to hand him over. After sleeping and eating, he actually came alive for a short time, laughing as I ran around the room with him, making funny facial expressions at another little boy here, walking up the stairs holding our hands (his little under-utilized noodle legs wobbling under that round belly full of spaghetti). I again held him upstairs as he drank more formula, then angela lay with him for 5 minutes or so. He "Oooo'd" a little (his form of crying that is oh, so fake) as we laid him down, and we both kept our hands on him while he settled in. He cried a little, then just lifted his head occasionally to make sure we were still there. Angela withdrew her hand from his head, and I left mine on his back. Within 10 minutes he was asleep, and I'm happy to say my daddy balloon is completely re-inflated and then some. I know it's bound to swing back the other way again, but for now it's all good. Top that evening off with a Reese's from home and more unidentified tea, and I'm feeling recharged.

There's not a question that Edilu is connected with his mommy, and who can blame him? But to have time to connect tonight with my son was priceless and invaluable. We watched him sleep and just kind of went, "This is starting to feel right." How great is our God (to shamelessly borrow an over-used christianese phrase)? Oh, side note: my mom emailed us (she is watching Mae currently) to report that last night at about 4am, she woke to a crying Mae in the monitor, so she ran into Mae's bedroom to find Mae inside her laundry basket with all the dirty clothes. When she asked what happened, Mae replied, "I fell off my bed into my laundry basket!" Some of you don't know Mae, but for those of you who do, that is classic Mae, and of course she would fall right into a laundry basket. My great night being topped off by a funny story of my daughter is just about all I can take as a dad:)

Thank you again for the emails (we look forward to them like you wouldn't believe-keep 'em coming if you have a chance!) and for Praying-God is doing amazing things here in the great land of Ethiopia.

Tom, Angela, and Edilu

 Saying HI to his buddies in his old room
 Love to see his smiles!

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