Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Everything is Official! Re-adoption in Georgia is done!

We have reached yet another milestone in the international adoption process. I think we must have broken a re-adoption record. We've been home a little over a month and have already taken the huge step of re-adopting Solomon in the state of Georgia. Although the Ethiopian courts recognized our adoption of Solomon as final mid June, the law required us to readopt him here in the states in order for him to have full citizenship. This final step involved more detailed paperwork, which is why many people choose to pay big bucks to adoption attorneys to complete the confusing forms. Most families put this off for months or even years, but not my hubby. Once again, Aaron was so on top of this final procedure. I also need to give thanks and a huge hug to my friend Laura who has assisted us and other GA families by providing an online file with the required paperwork for this procedure. XOXO Laura!

Solomon was well behaved at the court house even though we had to wait an additional 30 minutes until the judge could hear our case. Once we were called to his chambers and our paperwork was looked over, the process was over in about four minutes. We were congratulated, a picture was taken, and we were on our way with our new son. Immediately after our court appointment, we applied for Solomon's social security card. So let's see...Solomon has his Green card, full citizenship, a social security card on the way, and tomorrow we'll take his American passport photo. Soli baby, Welcome to America!

Our Time in Ethiopia

After a year of paperwork, interviews, and more paperwork, my niece Ashli and I traveled to meet our Solomon, while Aaron remained home with Addison. We thought long and hard about our travel plans and decided it was the best decision for our family for Aaron to care for Addison while I traveled to bring home our son. Ashli was so thrilled to visit the continent of Africa and to experience everything Ethiopian. I felt elated to be going back to Ethiopia again to bring home our second child. Here's an overview of our time in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Days 1 & 2 - Saturday/Sunday
Saturday and Sunday were travel days. It was difficult leaving Aaron and Addison to travel to Ethiopia. I knew they would both be fine, but being away from your loved ones for an entire week is tough. The flight from Atlanta to DC (Dulles)was BUMPY! We flew United Airlines and had to be on the smallest plane I've ever flown. Not fun at all. The flight from DC to Ethiopia on Ethiopia Airlines (EA) was sooooo smooth. Lately, I've read many negative postings on blogs about EA, but I've had great experiences both times I've flown them. Our luggage arrived with us and the overall service was good. We arrived at the Bejoe Guest House around 8:30 PM and met the awesome ladies who work there. These ladies are incredibly kind, helpful and were great company during our stay there.

Ashli and I headed to bed in anticipation of meeting Solomon early the next morning.

Day 3- Monday
I woke with such excitement Monday morning. Travis, who is an in- country representative for Gladney had told me that he would be our "stork" and to expect delivery of Solomon very early that morning. So I was up by 7, ate breakfast at 8:30, and grabbed my camera every time I heard the compound's gate open. Despite Travis' happy warning the night before to expect an early delivery, there was no Solomon to be seen or heard. Travis had told me to call him if I hadn't heard from him by 9:30. When I phoned him I was informed that the other couple scheduled to receive their child would be arriving a few hours later because of flight delays. Therefore, in order to make only one long trip from the Gladney Foster Center to our guest house, I had to wait an additional five hours before meeting our son. On top of that, there was a terrible traffic backup which further delayed Solomon's arrival. Of course I was disappointed, but when I put things in perspective, I had started this process a year earlier, so waiting a few more hours would not put a damper on meeting Solomon.

Here's our stork!

Even though this was our second adoption, I still don't have the words to describe the feeling an adoptive parent has when the child you have loved for months through pictures and descriptions is finally placed in your arms. When Travis drove through those gates and I saw our son sitting calmly in the front seat, my first thought was wishing Aaron was there. My second thought centered around preparing myself not to be disappointed if Solomon became upset when handed to me. I was relieved that although he was quite reserved, Solomon did not cry when I took him in my arms, but was obviously trying to wrap his brain around yet another huge transition in his short life. He carefully checked out his surroundings while accepting my bear hugs and cheek kisses.

No matter how many blogs, books or conversations you have with other adoptive parents, nothing can fully prepare you for the flood of emotions that run through you when you and your child first meet. It's not always a storybook meeting and sometimes it's awkward. For me, meeting Solomon fell somewhere in the middle. Not magical, not awkward, just right. I'm sure I'm not doing a good job explaining our initial moments together, but perhaps some things don't need to be explained. Those emotions and Solomon are in my heart and that's what counts. We spent the remainder of the day checking each other out. A few hours later, Solomon and I were running around and playing in the front court yard. I didn't sleep well our first evening together because I was mentally on alert for Solomon to display some sign of distress. It didn't happen. Solomon slept very peacefully throughout the night.

Day 4 - Tuesday
Solomon and I woke early and spent the day getting to know each other. I could tell early on that the foundation for a close bond between us was certainly there. I also felt that he and Aaron would also develop a special bond. Later that day, Solomon began to call me mama and appeared very comfortable with me. The feeling was mutual. Solomon's active behaviors that I had been told about began to surface and I spent much of my days running after him. It was Day 3 that I realized that we had been matched with a very sweet, intelligent, and athletic child. Solomon's other passion is cars. He loved sitting in the drivers' cars and pushes every botton he can get his hands on. Now I know all parents think their kids are "all that", but other Bejoe house guests and his cousin Ashli often commented on his sharp skills. Solomon quickly struck me as one of those children who possess charm, intelligence, AND athletic skills. It doesn't hurt that he's also a cutie pie! Now the flip side of my wonderful son is the evidence that he certainly likes control. I was reminded of this whenever I tried to remove his shoes, change his diaper, or stop him from doing something before he was ready to stop. Solomon can let out the loudest scream and cry I think I've ever heard. His tantrums are short lived, but they are loud! I know that much of his control issues and possessiveness are typical orphanage type behaviors, but it's tough when he's in the middle of an emotional outburst. I deal with these outbursts by reminding myself what this little soul has been through in 30 months. This sweet boy has lost loved ones, familiar environments and faces, and has moved clear across the globe to join a world he knows nothing about. With that in mind, the least I can do is try to remain patient and empathetic as I allow him to grieve for his loses.

Our driver Tafese

I'm so happy Ashli traveled with me. She was a huge help throughout our time in Ethiopia.

Day 5 Wednesday
This was a loooooooong day for Solomon and me. We started off the morning with the daily yummy breakfast prepared by Marta at the Bejoe House, and headed over to participate in the celebratory events at the Gladney Foster Care Center. Our children's special caregivers dressed our babes in traditional Ethiopian attire,
we visited all of the baby and toddler rooms, had the opportunity to take photos for waiting families, and participated in a traditional coffee ceremony. Solomon's special caregiver (sometimes known as Special Moms) appeared very kind but quiet until she non verbally scolded me for giving Solomon a bite of cake! These caregivers really love on and care for these children as their own, so it's understanding that they may feel the urge to tell you how to care for the little person they've watched over the last few months or longer. I must admit that I discretely gave him another bite of cake when she wasn't looking.
Solomon's Special Caregiver

I enjoyed being able to see Solomon's crib and was surprised to find the photo album we had sent shortly after being matched with him still placed in the crib.

The highlight of my visit to the Care Centers occurred when I walked into one of the baby rooms and a familiar face smiled and shouted out, "Biftu! Biftu's mom!" One of Addison's former care givers immediately recognized me as the woman who adopted their sweet baby known as Biftu two years earlier. I was so touched that not only did she remember me, she was obviously thrilled to see me again and to hear that I was there to adopt a brother for one of the babies she had cared for. This caregiver assisted me in tracking down the whereabouts of Addison's Special Caregiver, who just happened to be scheduled to baby sit at the Bejoe house later that evening.
Addison's Special Caregiver

We then left for the Top View Restaurant. This is known as one of the best restaurants in Addis Ababa with awesome views of the city. After Solomon threw filled up on a delicious spicy appetizer, all he wanted next was the freedom to run around and play. I took the advice of another parent and allowed a couple of the drivers to entertain Solomon while I enjoyed my lunch and adult conversations.

The third and most important activity of the day was the Embassy Appointment. The Embassy appointment is an important step in the adoption process that must be completed prior to the Ethiopian government issuing a visa for an adopted child. Solomon waited for a couple of hours before it was our turn. By this time, Solomon was running out of stream and patience and just wanted to get out of the building. To add a huge dose of stress to our waiting, Belay (our adoption agency in-country representative) warned me that an important and necessary document might be missing from our file. Since Aaron did not travel with me, a power of attorney form had to be notarized stating that he had authorized me to transport Solomon from Ethiopia to America. As organized as Aaron and I were with these forms, I'm still trying to understand how this particular document was missing. I was still able to go through the 5 second interview once called up to the window, but Aaron had to fax the missing document later that evening. It all turned out well, but for a few minutes there, my head felt like it was spinning. Just another example of how adoption is far from being the easy route to parenthood.

Day 6 - Thursday
What a relaxing day! A little gift shopping, good food, and lots of play and bonding time with Solomon. The bonding between Solomon and me continued to solidify. By this day, I was certain that Solomon and I would have that special mother-son connection my friends had told me about. I kept looking at him and thinking, "There's just something about this little boy that touches my heart." That evening, the parents went out for the traditional Ethiopian dinner and entertainment, while the children remained home with baby sitters. I had thought about passing on this event since I had gone there with Aaron and Addison two years earlier. However, I decided that I wanted to see Ashli experience Ethiopian culture so I got my tired body up and ready for an evening of good food and entertainment. I'm so happy I went because had I remained home, I would have missed Ashli's stellar 1st attempt at Ethiopian dancing. She was fantastic!

Day 7 - Friday
I knew that this last day in Ethiopia would be very emotional. Gladney had arranged for all of the Gladney families to meet their child's birth family. I was honored to be able to meet with Solomon's grandfather. Solomon's grandfather had cared for him prior to making the painful decision to place him for adoption. As with details surrounding how/why Addison became available for adoption, we will withhold specific details about how/why Solomon become available for us to adopt. His history is not shameful, but it is his personal story to share when he is able and with whom he wants. It would take me a year to adequately describe my meeting with Solomon's grandfather, so I won't attempt to. I can however state that if Solomon inherits just a fraction of his grandfather's dignity and grace, he will become an exceptional man. I left our meeting feeling full of joy and relief knowing that my son's life prior to meeting me was filled with much love, nurturance and guidance. Perhaps more importantly, Solomon's grandfather left our meeting knowing that his grandson would always be safe and cherished. How do I know this? Through translations and with raised hands, Solomon's grandfather told the interpreter, " I feel like this is a miracle...this is a perfect match. I'm very happy". Just when I thought our meeting could not have gone any better, he pulls out a photo album filled with pictures of Solomon's birth family! What a wonderful surprise and treasure for our little Soli! Needless to say, this meeting could not have gone any better.


Next, we visited the orphanage occupied by teen boys. These young men do not have the greatest future, but they have such a winning spirit about their circumstances. Ashli and I really enjoyed talking with these young men. I left thinking if only some of the young males I work with could visit with these guys, perhaps they gain a new perspective on life.

Later that day, we visited the orphanage where Addison lived for a short time before she was moved to the Gladney Care Center. I surprised myself by becoming an emotional wreck when I recognized one of Addison's former nannies at the orphanage where she had a short stay. She remembered Addison and beamed when I showed her a recent photo. Belay told me that Addison's Ethiopian name, Biftu, was so uncommon that many remembered her. In addition to that explanation, I'm sure I was remembered because Aaron and I were the first African American family using Gladney to complete an adoption from Ethiopia. We stood out and therefore we were remembered. There have been at least a dozen or more African American families who have since used Gladney to adopt from Ethiopia.

After we visited several orphanages, we grabbed dinner and headed back to the guest house to finish packing. Before I knew it, we were headed to the airport. After a five hour wait at the airport, we were boarding a plane and headed home. Solomon was such a champ during our long journey home. He slept, ate, and played during that 17 hour flight, all while tightening his grip around my heart. Our journey continues.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Our Birthday Girl!

Last week, we celebrated Miss Addison's third birthday. I cannot believe she's three already! Addison has grown so much in every aspect over the past year. She's still the spunky, sweet, strong-willed toddler that never ceases to amaze me. Addison has survived the last three weeks as big sister to Solomon. When she's in the mood to be a good big sister, she's awesome! When she doesn't feel like being bothered or sharing her parents or toys, she's a little stinker!

I was warned by several mothers at Addison's school that a child's third year is more challenging than their second. Well, while most of her classmates celebrated their 3rd birthdays back in the Spring, I think Addison decided then that she would get a head start on proving her classmates' parents right. She has decided that having selective hearing, constantly changing her mind about her desires, showing her disapproval by frowning and crying and in general, going against whatever her parents want her to do...is fun! Well maybe it is fun for her, but it can drive a parent crazy! It's amazing how at the moment when I'm thinking, "What happened to my fairly easy child?", she will say or do the sweetest thing that makes up (well almost makes up) for the crazy behavior just witnessed. So I guess that's why people often say that parenting is the hardest but most rewarding responsibility a person can have. Obviously the rewarding part outweighs the difficult part sense we decided to do it all over again with our adoption of toddler Solomon!

Here are my favorite recent pictures of our birthday girl:

This photo is of her birthday celebration with family. Note the unattractive cake. Addison saw this ice-cream cake in Trader Joes and just had to have it. She had a Dora themed birthday celebration at school that included a cool looking Dora "cupcake cake". I don't feel like downloading a picture of that cake but trust me...much prettier than the scary looking ice-cream cake.