25 August 2007

We're Home!

As we were landing at LAX, I found myself singing with Andre Crouch in my head...

Thank You, Lord
I thank You, Lord
Thank You, Lord
I just want to take a little time right now
And thank You, Lord, for all You've done for me.
I just want to take a little time right now
And thank You, Lord, for all You've done for me.

After more than a day of flying from Addis Ababa to Khartoum, Sudan, to Frankfurt, Germany (where we hugged and kissed the Redmans and little Grace, the Belchers and little Caleb, and Schneiders and Hope goodbye until we meet again), to Los Angeles, Michael and I were so grateful to hit ground and be HOME. Then after passing through Customs (through the New Immigrants line) and collecting our bags, we were greeting by a wild bunch of screaming friends and family! What a fun homecoming for us!

Thank you, everyone, for all your phone messages, emails, and cards. We are overwhelmed by your expressions of love. We are so blessed to be home now with our FIVE kids! Give us a few days to recuperate and get back in the right time zone and then you can come over for coffee. Lord knows we've got plenty!

We love you,
Michael and Laurie, Margot, Ricker, Jackie, Evangeline & Elianna Hausam

(pics coming)

24 August 2007

Our Last Day in Ethiopia

Kisses for Papa

Wow, this week has flown! It's travel day already!

This morning Wende took us back to Hannah's Hope to say goodbye to the other kids and the staff and to enjoy a special coffee ceremony. Michael and I got to take a thorough tour, led by Hope Schneider, all over the compound. What a beautiful job AGCI has done to make this property a warm and inviting home for the kids here! Each bedroom is clean and tidy. The walls are freshly painted with murals of happy designs. As we walked through, it's clear that the kids are very proud of their beds and rooms. They raced around pointing, "See! See! Is for me!" What a wonderful place to wait for a Forever Family!

Michael and I brought over the last of the bags of donations for HHE and this bag happened to contain toys and candy which were a huge hit!

THANK YOU to everyone who helped us bring supplies and gifts to Hannah's Hope! We were able to buy more than 350 lbs. worth of diapers, wipes, formula, shampoo, vitamins, clothes, toys, and treats for the staff (like deodorant and gum). And, especially after seeing the great need there, it was one of the biggest blessings of our lives.

After the tour, the staff invited us to watch the coffee ceremony and eat some delicious traditional bread. It's baked in a huge loaf that looks like a cheese wheel and tastes a little like beer bread. Yum! The coffee that was served was delicious, too. The director of HHE prayed over our families and the children coming home with us. As soon as I can I'll get down his exact words because his prayer was so moving and beautiful. All of us were misty.

We gave kisses all around and then drove off while the kids and staff ululated and waved us goodbye. What a precious memory!

Thank you, Lord, for our beautiful baby, Elianna Ray. Thank You for this amazing time in Africa. Thank You for Hannah's Hope, Almaz, Danne, Wende, and the staff here. Thank You for our travel companions, the Belchers, the Redmans, and the Schneiders, whom we now think of as family. Thank You for safety in travel and in Ethiopia. Thank You for keeping us well in this country where serious illness and disease is rampant. Thank You for Your provision and care for our children from their births until we could come bring them home. Thank You for delighting in all Your children, dear Father. Thank You for loving each one, from every race and nation. Thank You, Lord!

23 August 2007

More Injera Please

We woke up this morning still feeling seasick, but we all slept much better last night, so that helped. Evangeline came down with a fever yesterday, poor baby. I think everyone in our group has been a little under the weather the last few days. Breakfast for Michael and I consisted of rice cakes and Ambo (sparkling water) and that was plenty. However, we didn't let that keep us from shopping! All of us, with the exception of Mike Redman who would rather keep his birr in his pocket (Suzi wrestled some out, thankfully!), have been looking forward to this for days!

Ubiquitous federal policeman

We went to an inside market, an open air market, and back to the art gallery we dined at this week and bought some beautiful scarves and wraps, some silver Ethiopian Orthodox cross pendants, a traditional Ethiopian gown for Elianna Ray's dedication, an oil painting, and a few things for special birthdays down the road and her wedding.

Preparations for the millenium celebration (Remember that the Ethiopian calendar is very different from our western calendar.)

Almaz purchased our coffee for us... all 30 lbs. of it. I guess the kilo-pound conversion escaped us. So, you're all welcome to come over for coffee anytime for the next 5 years!

After we couldn't spend one more birr, we lunched at the Elephant Walk where Suzi and I apparently ordered mystery meat burgers, not all that appetizing to already sensitive stomachs. Back to the rice cakes. Actually, every meal is served with delicious rolls, so we just carbed it up.

Suzi & Grace Redman and me

Hope with two of our guides

It was our intention to hit some museums this afternoon, maybe even visit Lucy, the oldest known mummy at the Natural History Museum here in Addis, but we were too pooped. It is odd for us not to be exploring the city thoroughly as we usually would, so but this trip has been so short, and for an entirely different purpose, that it just hasn't been possible. We're not leaving disappointed. Next time, though, we're hitting all the hot spots!

Kisses for Mama!

Tonight we decided to go out for a traditional Ethiopian dinner with music, and dancers. Just one tiny hiccup occurred when we walked into a restaurant laden with incense that turned half our group green and sent them back to the hotel. The rest of us soldiered on and found a great place anyway, although we were sad to not be all together. The ride there was straight out of an Indiana Jones flick, though. Let's just say our route was exotic! All of us crammed into the van, off-roading it over train tracks, down what we think was a water runoff area or a riverbed filled with huge rocks, through a couple herds of goats, and mazes of people wandering the streets, all in the pitch darkness. Our need for excitement is now sated. Zac, Jacob, Abbie, and Carol, I'm so sorry you missed this experience and the food at Ijab. The injera, dips, and meats varied from "interesting" to delicious!

Preparing the coffee ceremony

More injera please. We've had enough of rice cakes for today.

Tomorrow we're going back to Hannah's Hope to enjoy a special coffee celebration and kiss everyone goodbye and then we fly home late tomorrow night and arrive on Saturday. Home again, home again, jiggety jog! We are ready, too. As much as we've loved this trip, we're ready to bring Elianna Ray home to her older sister and brothers.

Margot, Ricker, and Jackson, I can hardly wait to get you into my arms! I miss you terribly. Is today the day you're going to Wild Rivers waterpark? Have fun at VBS. Smoochies from Papa, Mama, Evie & Ellie! I'll try to update you again before we take off, but if I can't... See you in LA!

22 August 2007

Meeting Elianna Ray's birth family

Sugar & spice and everything nice...

Even though Michael is still feeling a little wonky and I'm not feeling 100% either, this morning Wende picked us up here at the Sheraton Addis for our meeting with Elianna Ray's birth grandmother at Hannah's Hope. We couldn't bear to miss meeting with her and being able to relate her story and feelings to Elianna Ray someday.

View on the road to Hannah's Hope

We prepared for her a photo album with the pictures of Elianna Ray we had before arriving here as well as ones of our family and home, a glimpse of our life in California. Writing a letter to her was challenging. How do you say, "Thank you" for the gift of a child? It's ridiculous. Thank you is too small, too trite. I only hope that I expressed our profound gratefulness well and the honor we feel in being able to raise this little angel.

To our happy surprise, Elianna Ray's birth uncle was there as well. Both were charming, and very effusive with us. All in all it was a bittersweet meeting with too many words left unsaid, too many emotions expressed only with a few hugs and tears.

Almaz (HHE coordinator), Herfe & Getachew with Elianna Ray

Before we left we were able to spend time with Elianna's "Special Mother" at Hannah's Hope, the one who gave her one-on-one care. I was so grateful to the Lord to see for myself that she profoundly loves Elianna Ray and showered her with kisses and playfulness. It was absolutely beautiful to watch her coo over the baby and kiss and love on her. Thank You, Lord, for giving my darling one a mama to love her in person before I was here to do so! She and I both cried when I took Elianna back into my arms and we said goodbye. I hope we'll be able to see each other again before we leave the country.

Elianna Ray & Genat

Our group then piled into a van and headed to a Starbuck's-type coffee shop and restaurant for lunch and afterwards everyone joined us at our hotel to play at the children's park and the pool. I've got to tell you these people are so great. We've enjoyed getting to know all the other families and spend time together. Redmans, Schneiders, and Belchers, we love you guys.

Hausams & Belchers

Michael playing with the kids (I love this one of Hope.)

Elianna's personality is starting to emerge as she is getting used to a new sleeping/eating schedule and a new formula. I can't imagine how disorienting it must have been for her the last few days. Different faces, different voices and language, different food, new bed, new place, new schedule... The poor thing has done incredibly well, especially considering how her little world has been upended massively. Today we discovered that she gives kisses, too! What a sugarplum!

And, again today the sky broke loose with a torrential flood and lightning dazzled the sky. The thunder was so loud Evangeline woke up saying, "Woah, YOWD, Mama!"

Margie, Rickerman, and Jackson, we are so ready to come home to you three! We miss you terribly. Did you have a great day??? How is VBS going? Did you go surfing today? I love you with all my heart, sweet babies! XXOO

Ricks, this is Jake. See? I KNEW you'd like him!

21 August 2007

Tuesday in Addis

Elianna Ray, Pretty in pink

I'm sorry to be posting this update so late. Last night we enjoyed a torrential downpour and thunder, and a wild display of lightning like I've never seen before. It has rained at least a little every day here, sometimes heavily, but nothing like the deluge we saw last night. It was beautiful, but it made me grieve for all of the people living without a proper roof over their heads as well. I cannot imagine what that storm sounded like for those with a metal corrugated roof.
Evangeline and I pulled an all-nighter Monday night. She wasn't unhappy, just out of her normal time zone and ready to play. So yesterday we were both dragging a bit. But the sunrise was exquisite! We went out to the patio and listened to the clash of the Muslim call to prayer on loudspeakers and the bells of the Orthodox churches that ring out through the city. Once the music starts hyenas and stray dogs begin to howl and bark adding to the cacophany. So, we sat and watched dozens of bats flit around in the light of dawn in the land of honey.
Later Almaz and Danne and the rest of the group picked us up and dropped us off for lunch while they went to the embassy to get our exit visas and official documents. We have been having such fun together. Ricker, you would love Jake Belcher who is 11, too. His sense of humor is right up your alley. Anyway, we ended up getting stuck there at the restaurant for hours because of a goof up with Elianna Ray's visa, but it all got worked out and thankfully everyone forgave us for being high maintainance both yesterday and today.
Our group

Grandma Carol with baby Caleb Fasika

Because of that time-consuming delay, we put off going to the Merkado until tomorrow and went back to our hotel. Michael and I weren't ready to call it a day yet, so we shopped a little at the boutiques here, walked around the hotel grounds, and sat at the pool for a while.
Evangeline broke her kissing strike today
I told you before that people cannot get their hands off Evangeline and today was no different. Everywhere we go strangers come and pick her up, stroke her hair and kiss her cheeks. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the lady in a full burkha who fell in love with Evie, but she didn't want her photo taken.
This is Esther, a new friend.

and Abdu

I didn't get these girls names, but the man with them (their husband?) walked off in a rush with Evangeline in his arms to bring her to them. I ran after him trying not to panic. He said, "I like blondes!"

Daniel loved holding Evangeline but she was done with strangers by then.

Michael finished "There is No Me Without You" a beautiful book about the AIDS crisis and AIDS orphans in Ethiopia) having cried his way through it as I did. He ended up the day feeling very sick with the Ethiopian version of Montezuma's revenge, so please pray that that clears before tomorrow so he doesn't miss our meeting with Elianna Ray's birth grandmother!
Margot, Ricker, and Jackie, you asked about the pronunciation of Addis Ababa. We've discovered that there are many ways of saying it. ADD-is or Add-EES, and Uh-BAH-bah, Uh-BAY-bah, or Uh-BEE-bah in any combination is what we've heard so far. The spelling differs, too, from Adis Ababa to Addis Abeba. Crazy, huh? The one thing that doesn't change is that everyone here says Ee-TYO-peeuh with no "th" in there. We miss you terribly! Have a wonderful day today. And, leave us a message in the comments! You too, gentleboys, not just Marg. We want to know what's going on with you guys. Loveyouloveyouloveyou!!!

20 August 2007

Embassy Day

We enjoyed a very mellow morning just lolling about at the hotel. Everyone we've met has been very kind... the kiss you left cheek, right cheek, left cheek type. We've really grown to love the Ethiopian people. They are very warm and funny with easy smiles and laughter.

Papa & Elianna Ray

I love this shot of Elianna Ray & Evangeline checking each other out

This afternoon we had lunch here all together and then went to the American Embassy to finalize our paperwork and get visas for the kids.

We waited our turn as each family went up and swore that our paperwork was completely true and were asked questions about each child and the adoption itself. After each adoption was complete there were hugs and celebration all around. I couldn't believe what how quickly and smoothly it went, and now it's done! She's ours! Hooray!

The most significant and beautiful of those appointments was the Schneiders who adopted Hope Herawoit (sorry if I destroyed the spelling, Lori) who is around 10 years old. It's a very different thing adopting an older child who has a much smaller chance of ever having a new Forever Family. We all bawled as we watched Carl, Lori, and Hope stand with their arms around each other and have the adoption accepted by the US. God beautifully brought them together and it was a lovely miracle to behold!

After we were all done, we left the Embassy, and that was when Michael nearly got arrested.

Seriously. He ran ahead and was snapping pictures of us all leaving the Embassy and suddenly there were loud whistles, and shouts, and running, and police. Apparently, you're not supposed to take pictures of the exterior of the Embassy because of the threat of attack. Now we know!

The rest of us waited outside getting mobbed by beggars shouting, "helloimhungryihavenoshoe, hellomisspleasehelpmegetthefood, hellohowareyouimhungryfoodpleasemister" while Michael was interrogated, our camera and passports confiscated, and the officials decided whether or not he was a terrorist. It wasn't super fun. Finally, he was released and actually joked with the Marine guarding him, "Before I leave may I take your picture?" who didn't think Michael was terribly hysterical. Once my adrenaline petered out, I got a good laugh out of that.

After that we visited Enat Alem Orphanage where the kids were for at least a little while before coming to Hannah's Hope. I had to process this experience for about 12 hours before writing about it because it was so overwhelming. The orphanage is in incredible disrepair, with damaged plumbing immediately outside the open kitchen, cracked walls, crumbling roof, and more children than a place twice the size should hold. All of the caretakers are very kind, but there are just too many children for each to get the attention they require. Each crib and bed holds at least 2 babies/children, and there is simply no medication for those that require it. So, all of the children show some signs of illness from congestion and runny noses to fungus, scabies, and ringworm, to mention a few. My heart, all of our hearts, broke. We did our best to hold it together for the kids and play with them and hold their hands and give them attention, but every one of us needed regular breaks to brush tears away and gather our emotions.

Laundry duty

This shot is of Michael showing the kids the video he made of them. They went crazy over it!

The older kids go wild for any bit of love you will give them, but the hardest part was the babies because so many of them have already shut down emotionally. So many abandoned or orphaned little ones sat staring at us with empty eyes and wary expressions.

Before we left the staff insisted on giving us a traditional coffee ceremony where they roast the beans over a small wood stove, crush the coffee, and then cook and press it over the fire. The result is a very thick, very strong, heavily smoked drink akin to espresso, but far thicker. Most of us needed a lot of sugar in it, but we all found it, especially the beautiful ceremony wonderful.

Leaving Enat Alem was the hardest part of the day.

Street scene

Everyone was far too emotionally wiped out for supper so we called it a day. Michael, the girls, and I went back to our hotel and took naps and played before celebrating Evangeline's 1st birthday! Poor Elianna Ray tried so hard to keep her droopy eyes open for the party.

M, R, and J, we miss you three so much. Have a GREAT time at Avalanch Ranch and with Miss Briana today! XXOOOne of my PW girls, would you please let the others know that I can't update them from here and link this page for me, please? Thanks!

Happy 1st Birthday, Evangeline!

Happy birthday, my little rosebud, my long-awaited treasure. You are 100% delightful. I enjoy every single minute with you. I love your baby kisses and snuggles. You make me so happy just by being you. I'm simply crazy about you. You are such a fine girl. I feel like you are a love gift from Heaven and am beyond thrilled to be your Mama.

19 August 2007

Elianna Ray Day!

AKA Gotcha Day!

The view from our terrace

Last night, although we went to bed late, we managed only a few hours of sleep. I found myself stumbling around in the dark trying to find the radio that was playing persian music to turn it off, only to finally realize that it was from the loudspeakers at the Mosques outside! This morning the singing continued starting very early, so we awakened incredibly tired, but very excited. After a quick breakfast with delicious Ethiopian coffee we were picked up by Danne and Wende whom we met at the airport last night and driven through Addis Ababa to Hannah's Hope.

The city is filled with smoke from the cooking fires and the streets are teeming with people, donkeys, goats, chickens, cars, and carts. Getting just four miles to Hannah's Hope felt like taking Mr. Toad's Wild Ride because not only are the roads full of potholes, sometimes dirt, sometimes gravel, and sometimes paved, but also our driver seemed determined to run down at least a few people on our way. Frogger came to mind! We thought at first that maybe so many people were out because it was Sunday, but Danne said that actually the streets were this empty because it was Sunday.

The poverty here is shocking. It's hearbreaking to see what famine, and drought, and wars, and disease have done to this country (and elsewhere in Africa). It's completely overwhelming. We were stunned to see so many people living in shanties and mud huts, under corrugated metal propped up with plastic baskets, and in doorways and alleys. And there are so many children running up to cars and pedestrians begging for money and food. I'm at a loss for words. I don't know how to describe how we felt taking this momentous drive on the way to meet our daughter and being faced with such misery and suffering along the way. We felt and continue to feel so burdened by the tremendous need here.

Finally we arrived at the gates of HHE, where a troup of boys met us singing and shouting and shaking homemade tambourines made up of heavy wire and Coke bottle tops. Inside the courtyard we saw the other three families with their precious new kids and rejoiced with them. Almaz then led us inside and brought us beautiful little Elianna Ray! What a moment! We thought we might burst with joy! My first impression of her was that she was a lot bigger than I expected, very pretty, very smart, and smiley. Evangeline took one look at her and said, "Ay Ray!" Our new friend, Mike, graciously offered to video the moment so I'm looking forward to seeing it later. Right now it's kind of a blur. I just remember saying through many tears, "Hello, baby, I'm your Mama!" Inexplicable joy!

Us with Elianna Ray and Almaz, the director of Hannah's Hope Ethiopia

We stayed at Hannah's Hope for an hour or so playing with the other children and getting acquainted with the special mothers and staff who've taken such great care of Elianna and the others and clearly love the kids deeply, and then we headed off to church at the International Evangelical Church. Both Evangeline & Elianna cried so Michael and I ended up sitting out front where we met a wonderful missionary family here from the states who work with HIV/AIDS patients. What a blessing for us to get to speak with this amazing couple who took an 85% pay cut to follow the Lord's direction and minister here. Fantastic!

At church we discovered that people stopping to kiss Evangeline and touch her blonde curls is normal. It was a little alarming last night to have at least a dozen strangers come up and kiss her and stroke her head, but today we got used to it. A little white baby with curly blonde hair is a pretty unusual sight around here, so she's quite the attraction.

After church we all sardine squished into the van again and went to an art gallery restaurant. The girls crashed out and Michael and I were absolutely swooning with fatigue, but we really enjoyed hanging out with everyone and swapping stories of home. Now we're back at the hotel and after a fun snuggle time with Evangeline and Elianna Ray, everyone is napping again. I think I'm going to join them in a minute because I'm having to type with one eye shut in order to focus.

Lunch with our group

Margie, Ricker, and Jackie, you won't believe what a little schnookums your baby sister is! I can hardly wait to get her home to you. Oofie, love love!

Elianna is so, so, so beautiful, and sweet, and cute, and cuddly, and precious. Thank You, dear Lord, for this indescribable day. Thank You for all Your blessings. Thank You for our wonderful family and friends. Thank You for blessing us with five wonderful children. Thank you, especially today, Lord, for leading us half way around the world so that we could bring home this incredible little angel, our darling Elianna Ray. We are so grateful.

(By the way, Margot, Ricker & Jackie, leave your messages for us in the comments because we're having difficulty connecting to the guestbook. We can post on our blog, but not see it because Ethiopia doesn't allow freedom of speech, so blogs are not allowed in country. God bless the US of A! XOXO.)

I'll update you more after I catch a few zzzzz's...

18 August 2007

Hello from the Delivery Room in Addis Ababa

We made it! We're here! It took 31 hours door to door and we're wiped out but SO excited. We flew from LA to Dulles (DC), Frankfurt, Sudan, and finally Addis. Evangeline was an absolute dreamboat with nary a squawk the entire trip. Thanks, Lord! I wish Michael traveled as well... ;)
We met two of the other families from All God's Children at Dulles and the third here in Addis, and they are wonderful people. Without their help we would have been up a creek without a luggage cart once we arrived with our 11 enormous bags and duffles.

Oh my, and on the plane we met two families also adopting in Ethiopia; one family has 7 kids and are bringing home 3 more, and the other has 5 and are bringing home 2 more. WOW, we're in the shallow end here, folks. These people are so amazing. It's very humbling.

Once we arrived we unpacked all the babies' things and got organized all the while realizing... in the morning Evie will be a big sister! YAHOO!!! I don't know how we'll sleep tonight. We're incredibly wired/tired.

Marg, Ricks, Jackson, we missyoumissyoumissyou! We're praying for you three. I hope you're having a GREAT time at Poppy & Nana's! Smoochies!

Now when do I get my epidural?

16 August 2007

Off to Ethiopia in the morning!!!

We are SO EXCITED! In the morning we fly off to meet our new little angel! We've got butterflies.

Normally I'd be double-checking all my lists right now, but since my computer crashed this morning that burden has been magically lifted. Normally I'd be running around like a mad woman into the wee hours of the morning scrubbing my house and getting things perfectly organized, but since I broke my toe that trouble is left to Michael. Ha ha ha! Nothing can get us down!

On Tuesday we Ortlunds (everyone local plus Uncle Ray & Aunt Jani in from Nashville) gathered to celebrate Granddaddy, share memories, pictures, and thank the Lord together. It was such a beautiful time. At the end, Uncle Nels led a prayer over us which just blessed us enormously. It is overwhelming to be so supported and encouraged by such dear, dear family. Mmmmmmwwwwaa (big kiss) to each and every one of you! You make us weep with your love.

We dropped Margot, Ricker, Jackie and the poochies off at Poppy & Nana's this afternoon. We're going to miss them SO much! I wish that they could've come with us like we had originally planned. Actually, Poppy & Mother were supposed to come with us, too, if we were going in the fall. That would have been wonderful, but hopefully we can all go together next time.

Then, we drove up to LAX to pick up our wonderful friends, Ray, Kim & Evie (who is starting at Biola next week)! Actually, we think the Lord just knew how much we needed a laugh after these insane couple of days, so He sent these awesome friends in to the rescue. We skipped a nice restaurant meal in favor of In-n-Out and had such a great celebration evening together. We love you guys! We couldn't ask for a better send-off.

Well, we're leaving the house at 4am for LAX so we're heading to bed to pretend to sleep for a few hours. We'll try to check in as often as possible... hopefully on Sunday after we meet our new baby girl! God is so good. Amen and amen.

Margot, Rickerman, and Admiral Jack -- big, BIG oofies from Papa, Mama, and Evangeline! We already miss you oodles...