Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Synopsis- Day 2 and Day 3

Day 2 was pretty much spent on the plane flying from DC to Rome (didn't get to get off the plane- just refueled and kept going) and then finally to Addis Ababa.  Crazy long wait for our visas, then got our luggage and met our AWESOME driver- Abiey.  (pronounced "Abby")  These drivers are the BEST.  They are your tour guides, your information sources, your errand runners, your personal assistants, your translators, your shopping helpers... Abiey was so great!  But we didn't know that on Sunday.  We just wanted to load our stuff in his car and get to the Bejoe Guest House.  (HIGHLY recommend, Gladney fams!  Great place, near lots of stuff, computer w/ internet access there, and they take great care of you.)
Abiey- driver extraordinaire!

Day 3-  I woke up very nervous!!!  In fact, truthfully I was very nervous on the whole plane ride over.  I mean... this was pretty huge, and we just had no idea how it was all going to go.  Would she cry?  Would she be scared?  Would she want to be with us?  Would she sleep?  Would she play?  Would she be a good fit for our family or were we all going to have to do do a lot of adjusting to fit her in???  This was the day I was going to meet my DAUGHTER!  Crazy.  And she wasn't going to be a newborn baby like the days I met my sons... so you can imagine the nerves floating around!!!

Around 10am we got the call that Travis was almost at the Bejoe (which, by the way, Ben kept calling the "Bee Gee" all week) and so we all went out on the porch to wait.

There are no words for watching the car enter the gate.
There are no words for watching a little girl get out of the car.
There are no words for watching a little girl being helped up the stairs.
There are no words for looking into the face of a little girl and saying, "Hello!  Selam!" for the first time.

The closest I can come to describing it is to reflect on C.S. Lewis' description of Lucy in (I think) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when he says she is solemn and quiet- a feeling much deeper than one usually feels; a joy that isn't manifest by laughter nor tears, but just by being still and quiet and soaking it all in.

So there she was.  This little face we had memorized in pictures the previous 3 and 1/2 months was right there in front of us- averting her eyes so as to not have to look us right in the eye at first.  She took the dolly immediately and then backed right into my arms.  It was pretty amazing.  She was fine with me snuggling her right from the start!

The boys got out the bubbles and started entertaining her with those, and then they moved on to the sidewalk chalk.  I think I've already documented that the bubbles were a hit right away, not so the chalk.  But she has warmed to it now.  So for those first couple of hours she just stayed snuggled into me and played with the boys and watched the boys play.  It was awesome.

That afternoon we had our Embassy appointment.  I was a bit worried that it was going to go less than well considering that it was scheduled right during nap time.  But I didn't need to worry- she did great!  And she was very excited to see her friends who were being adopted that week as well!  

Here she is on the way to the Embassy:


Later that afternoon she and I looked through her suitcase.  She held up EVERY piece of clothing we brought for her and smiled the biggest, most beautiful smile you can imagine and said, "This is MINE!" (In Amharic, of course.  The workers at the Bejoe told me that's what she saying.  But really, I could tell.  ;-)  Can you imagine what she was feeling?  She's never had anything of her own... and then to discover that she had a dolly and bubbles AND a wardrobe!  Can you just imagine?  It wasn't spoiled, it wasn't self centered, it wasn't selfish, it wasn't vain.  It was just a little girl's joy at being able to look pretty!!!  So precious.  And when she discovered the headbands- whooooooah boy!!!!  The joy just couldn't be contained!!!


When it came time for bed she was an angel.  I gave her a bath, put her in her new yummy jammies, snuggled her for a bit, prayed for her, and then laid her down in her crib which was right next to our bed.  She sat there for just a moment, but didn't even whimper.  I laid down on the bed and closed my eyes, and I heard her immediately lay down in her crib.  She was asleep within minutes.  


Monday, March 29, 2010

Synopsis- Day 1

We are home.  We are happy.  Mostly because all three kids are sleeping right now everyone is doing great and we are getting back into a good rhythm.  ;-)

I am completely AMAZED at how well she fits in our family.  I mean just amazed.  I planned for every worst case scenario and I think we got every best.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's start at the very beginning b/c Julie Andrews says that's a very good place to start and who am I to argue with a Dame?  (she IS a Dame, isn't she?  if she's not she should be.)

Washington D.C.- I just LOVE it.  I loved sharing it with my boys and HAVE to give Sohailah ALL the credit b/c she is a tour guide and story teller extraordinaire and made it all come alive for all of us.  She is a professional tour guide (for real) and could give us the inside scoop on so many things!!!  Fascinating.  I just loved listening to all her stories and information that we never would have known w/o her.  My boys were hanging on her every word!  And she knew just where to take us and when so we got to see so much more than we would have on our own.  We all just loved it!  Mick tried to act all foreign and uninterested, but he doesn't have a cynical bone in his body and I swear I saw a tear in his eye when we were visiting the exhibit of THE flag that was the inspiration for The Star Spangled Banner.  (Okay- that's not true.  He didn't cry.  But he did have to admit that America knows how to store, display and promote her history!)  We went to Ford's Theatre and the house across the street where Lincoln died, as well as a special exhibit in the Smithsonian dedicated to my FAV Prez.  I was in awe.  I just loved it all!!!  The boys got a big kick out of Air and Space, and we enjoyed walking around, even though it was raining horribly all day.

A few pix:

(Yes, I'm wearing a rain poncho.  What?  Jealous???)
(Below: tried to get the boys to do the funny "holding the Washington Monument" thing... 
didn't quite get it, as you can see.)  ;-)

And then that night, we boarded our flight to Africa!!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Living with a Princess

We've started calling Lilah Abeba "The Princess" behind her back.  Or actually to her face, but since she doesn't know what we are saying it feels like it's behind her back.  :-)  It goes something like this:
"Oh, The Princess doesn't want to wear THOSE socks, eh?"
"Daddy, get a napkin.  The Princess has something unacceptable on her hands."  (like, say, water.)
"Princesses need to wear hair clips AND hair bands?  Oh.  That's something we didn't know."

She is just so funny!  Totally a girly-girl, but then loves to rough house with the boys in all her Princess finery.  A great Gower fit if you ask me.  But she certainly does have her own opinions on things!  And let's just say that the nannies in the orphanage didn't want Princesses to suffer for even one moment, so it seems she was pretty much able to put on her cute little pleading face and do pretty much whatever she wanted to do.  So she's got a pretty steep learning curve in front of her when we get home! :-)  But over all she is just a joy.  She loves to make us laugh and imitate (read: mock) our English!  She can pretty much copy cat anything we say- but doesn't quite get all the meanings just yet.  But she'll do this thing where I'll say, "Abeba, Mommy said 'no.'" and she'll deliberately mock me in a really silly way like: "Abeba, mamma may mo!"  ...and it's pretty funny and it catches me off guard!  She has quite the sense of humor.

Friday we met her father.  I can't even write about that experience because quite frankly I don't feel like breaking down crying AGAIN.  It was powerful and beautiful and heartbreaking all at once.  It affected both Mick and I pretty deeply.  I think it just worried her.  I'm not sure she totally recognized him, and for sure didn't want to go to him.  It was hard.  Enough said.

There are so many things that I want you to know about her, but I'm tired and haven't really felt good for 2 days now.  But I'll put a few bullet points out:
1.  She is very independent.  Can give herself a bath, put on all her own clothes, fold her towel after drying her hands... It's kinda sad.  Like she's had to do so much for herself for so long.  Toddlers are independent by nature, but this goes waaaaaay beyond "me do it." 
2.  I brought some play necklaces and bracelets from home and forgot about them until a couple of days ago.  When we found them in the suitcase she immediately put them ALL on and started jumping up and down in front of the mirror saying in Amharic toddler speak: "They brought for me!  They brought for me!"  (yes, someone had to tell me that's what she was saying)  Pretty cute, no?
3.  She LOVES to look in the mirror.
4.  She LOVES to pretend to put on my makeup.
5.  She MUST have chapstick or lipgloss on at all times if possible.
6.  She sits very still for like an hour while the staff at our guest house play with her hair!  She loves it.  But I am HOPELESS with her hair so far.  Really.  Good thing she likes those headbands b/c you are gonna see her in them a LOT!  :-)
7.  She has great hand eye coordination.  She can take the lid off of her own water bottle, drink from it, put the lid back on, and then tighten it to make sure it's secure.  Ben can barely do it as well as she can.  (again, with the forced independence.)
8.  She actually got me to do something I never thought I would: put make up on a toddler.  But she was just so cute asking for just a little eye shadow the other day!  And she just loved it so much once I put just a dab on her!  Geesh... I'm a totally different mom with her than I have been w/ my boys.

That's all for now.  Bed (and maybe some more imodium) are calling, if ya know what I mean.  :-/

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Our First Day as a 3 Continent Family!

Things Lilah Abeba learned on day one:
1.  How to blow bubbles.
2.  How to draw with sidewalk chalk.
3.  Sidewalk chalk does not taste as good as it looks like it would.
4.  Sidewalk chalk gets all over your hands and needs to be washed off IMMEDIATELY!
5.  Sidewalk chalk is gross and not to be looked at ever again.
6.  Brothers are for bossing around and jumping when you say jump. 
7.  Brothers are funny when they try to do whatever you say, especially when they don't speak your language.
8.  If brothers don't understand what it is you want them to do, just say it LOUDER and with more gestures until they figure it out.
9.  Mommies are very nice funny.
10.  Daddies are okay,but stay suspicious of them for a while.
11.  If one headband with a bow looks good, 5 will look even better!  So just put them all on at once and insist that your mommy not take them off, because you know you can rock that look.

Things we learned about Lilah Abeba on day one:
1.  SHY????  Who is SHY???  Are you kidding me???  This girl is personality plus!  The life of the party!
2.  Not only is she not shy, she is very funny and can even be downright BOSSY- especially with her brothers!  They learned very quickly that "Ney!" means "Come!"  ...and they do!!!
3.  Remember that dolly I bought at Target last fall b/c it looked at me and said, "I want to come home with you and play with your little girl."?  Well, it didn't lie!  We brought it with us and she has barely put it down since the moment we first saw her.
4.  Remember my worries that she would be sad or scared?  No.  Reserved for about 20 minutes... and then Miss Congeniality ever since!
5.  She is potty trained and is very good at letting us know when she needs to go. 
6.  Oh.  Except for at night.  Oops.  My fault.  Found that out the hard way.
7. She has not cried, fussed, nor even looked sad for even one moment so far.
8.  She already calls me "mamma" or to be exact "amamma".  And she even said "eh wud uh shah-loh" to me yesterday-  "I love you."  :-)
9.  She is super friendly, but not overly friendly.  She definitely prefers me over anyone.  And I can't complain about that. 
10.  She is super girly!!!  She looked through ALL her clothes yesterday- including undies and socks- and with every item said, "This is mine!  This is mine!"  (I know that b/c one of the helpers here at Bejoe House told me that's what she was saying.)
11.  She chose all her own clothes yesterday and today.  Several times in fact.  At one point she was wearing a dress, a fleece jacket and a jean jacket all at once.  WITH the 5 headbands, of course!

Really, she is pure JOY.  She is a sunshine girl and we are having SOOOOO much fun with her!!!

Just amazing...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Here We Go.

I am sitting in Lilah Abeba's adorable room.

It is 1:24 AM.

We are packed.

We are ready.

The house is relatively clean, all things considered, except for my sons' room and that's their problem that they shall remedy tomorrow morning.

And the next time I fall asleep in this house I will have had the privilege of putting my sons AND my daughter to bed that night.

I am so grateful.

I am so grateful to so many of YOU who helped us out in so many ways: financially, physically, spiritually... we have needed and been given so very much.  THANK YOU.  We really wouldn't be here without so many people.

I am just so grateful.

My heart is so full.

Your family is coming, sweet little flower!!!

Just 3 more sleeps without us, and then we are yours for the rest of your life.

And we can't wait.

Monday, March 8, 2010

HER ROOM!!!!!!

Do you know how long I have been waiting to write a post with that title???  Oh, I guess for about 15 MONTHS!!!!  ;-)  But as you can see by our ring countdown, we are getting VERY close!  (of course the short one is TODAY!)

Well, the room is not 100% totally and completely complete, but it is close enough!  And I can't write another word without giving credit where credit is due and saying that my dear friend JEWEL is the creative source behind this room.  I just gave her the general idea of what I was thinking and she just RAN with it!  She has such a good eye and is so talented and creative, and, well, let's let her work speak for itself!!!

Here is a "Before" shot.  Mick took out the windows that were wonderful and quaint but also 80 years old and drafty.

Oh, and just because he has so much time on his hands (note sarcasm) he also decided to re-do the closet AND build some inset shelves and drawers.

Yeah.  He's pretty much a genius.  :-)

I'm all for black when it comes to what to wear, but not for little girl shelves.  Mick actually let ME use the power sander on these AND help to paint!!!  (that just shows how much he trusts my talents that these shelves are pretty crappy and he didn't care if I blew it.)  (and the pic is bad b/c I guess the dust hadn't settled after my awesome power sanding.)

And of course... purple is the new black.

Some awesome friends came over after I had a melt down about getting her room set up and organized.  Such great people... Let me tell you something.  I am not going to make it through this life without some seriously wonderful women by my side.  I don't even want to think about having to do life without my friends.  For reals.

And so how about these great coat/bag hooks Mick put behind her door???  So sweet.

And so Jewel took this great bed spread that I love and cut it down to twin size (it was a queen) and used the excess to make the sham and that adorable pillow you see there!

I mean- really!!!!!!  How sweet is that???  Purple pom-pom trim???  WHAT, tell me WHAT is more precious????

On the floor there by the built in shelves and drawers that are so awesome, you see Jewel's crowning idea- we are going to hang those paper lanterns above the bed as a fun and whimsical feature!  But there is no way I could wait until they are up to post... I'll just have to take more pix and post about her room AGAIN after that is up.  :-)

And here are the formerly black and bunky shelves... LOVE IT.

And as if we needed more cuteness, la piece de resistance... a close up on the curtains that Jewel made.

Could you die from cuteness?

Thank you, Jewel, for giving so much of yourself.  I will always think of you when I look around and just LOVE her room.  THANK YOU!!!!!!!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

correct email address

My apologies to the Gladney Fams that may have been trying to email me.  I left a letter off my OWN name when I put my email address on here before!!!  So sorry.  That is such a reflection of the state I am in... many apologies.  Here is the correct address:  gaylagower AT cox DOT net.  It's still not too late if you want me to take pix of your children or even to have me take a package!!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

And Then Everything Changed...

So, I thought that the thing I was super stressed about was that her room wasn't painted.

But then three nights ago Mick finished painting, and then thing I was so stressed about became that I needed to put all her stuff in drawers and on shelves and on hangers.  And so I had a mini-meltdown and called some friends in to help me with that.

And then I realized that the thing I was really stressed about was that I haven't started packing...

So you can see that really I wasn't stressed about ANY of those things.  They were just convenient and immediate situations for me to fixate upon and blame.  Obviously the thing I was really stressed about is, oh, I dunno, maybe that we are about to travel to Africa as a family of 4 and come back a family of 5.  Do you think maybe that was really it???  Yeah.  I think that was it.

But for the past few weeks whenever I would think about the adoption I would just feel numb.  Really.  Nothing.  Painting her room didn't feel sweet; it felt like something that had to be done and checked off the list.  Hanging her adorable clothes (and boy, does she have some adorable clothes!!!) didn't feel precious; it felt like one more task I had to do in a series of never ending tasks.  I felt like a robot- going through the motions of life, but never tapping into the reality of what was going on around me.  And the moments I would let the reality in for a bit, I would just FALL APART and start bawling.  So it was safer to just stay in the numb.

People would ask me how many days we had until we traveled and when I would answer I would literally burst out laughing at how ridiculous it sounded.  "Really?"  I would think.  "Really?  We are leaving in 10 days?  9 days?"  It just sounded so fake to me.  The whole thing felt surreal.  Just absolutely not real AT ALL.  I would sometimes just sit in wonder that I had gone to all the trouble to fill out all that paperwork and do my homestudy and get fingerprinted and wait all that time... because it just did NOT seem like we were really going to travel to Africa and bring a little girl named Abeba into our family.  NOT. AT. ALL.

But today all that changed.

Today I got my last update from Gladney.  It included pictures of Lilah Abeba looking at the last letter we sent to her which also included a picture of our family.  And for the first time ever SHE'S SMILING!!!!!  She's smiling and pointing at our picture!!!  And, even better than that, the update said that she was very animated and happy while they were reading the letter to her and that she kept pointing at the letter and saying, "Mamma Abeba".  OH.  I could just die.

She knows us!
She knows she has a Mommy and a Daddy and 2 brothers!
She knows we are coming for her!
She's happy about it!

And just like that... everything was different!  It was as if I was brought back to life!  It all became REAL again!!!  And exciting!!!  So very exciting.

Through no one's fault I never got pictures of our package being delivered to her.  I had no proof that she even really received it.  I had no way of knowing if she had ever looked through our picture book and seen her new family.  So to see these pictures today... and to see her SMILING for the first time over looking at our letter and picture, and to know that she called me Mamma...

Oh, yes, baby girl.  I AM your mamma.  And I am coming for you.  And I am going to do my very best to be the kind of mamma you need me to be every single day of your life.

Because you are my girl.

And I'll be on my way to you in just 7 days.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Room = nearly completely finished!  Purple and green and adorable.

Packing = not started.

Paperwork = almost complete

My mind = completely gone

My emotions = numb and bawling

My theory = give me 9 days and it will all work out

Hopefully posting room pix soon!!!

Selam! G'day! Hello!