I realized it will be MANY months before I will be able to go to church by myself. (Carl usually runs video for church so it WAS rare that we actually went together...oh but that has changed.)
Between Carl and myself we ran the whole time we were there. I was exhausted by the end of the morning and all I kept thinking was, "How in the world am I ever going to leave my house with all of my children?"
My answer...can I admit this on a blog?
Each boy needs a harness.
This truly is for their own safety. They run and dart and think it is the funniest thing in the whole world. And they are boys...I know because I grew up with 6 of them. I have actually lived with boys a whole lot longer than I have with my girls. So none of this surprises me really. I was just kind of hoping one of them would like to stay by me and I only had to chase one. Two running in opposite directions doesn't work very well.
Now for the new rule at our house.
You must sit to pee. I am sorry for all you macho males out there. I have cleaned up more urine off the wall, side of the toilet, floor and many other places need not mention than I care to. This will be in effect indefinitely...or until I install a urinal.
We started our adventure at the MSP airport. Security was a breeze and we had plenty of time to walk around and hang out. We prayed that Rowan would be able to catch the flight in DC.
Rowan missed the DC flight by 15 minutes and we were so bummed! That meant his seat was open next to me. The flight attendant wanted to seat another person next to me, but when I looked at the man with pleading eyes he said, "You don't want me to sit next to you!" Oh- I was so grateful to have a place to lay down for short periods of time during the 18 hour flight especially since it was so hot on the plane.
I thought we were home free with one last screening and then we would officially be in Ethiopia. We are always stopped because of Carl's camera, not a big deal until they say to us, "You must leave this here." What? Are you kidding me? Leave our professional livelihood with some random people in a 3rd world country??? I was exhausted and emotionally drained. This couldn't be happening. We sat there for 2 hours trying to figure out what to do. By this time it was past 10pm Ethiopian time and there was only a few people left in the airport. At the end, we put our camera at what they called the "store" and tomorrow we had to go to an agency to get a slip of paper saying we could take our camera into the country. (They thought we would sell it on the black market...yeah right)
We finally were taken to the guest house - to find out that it was not the one we signed up for. But we were so tired we just went to bed to figure everything out in the morning.
Monday morning was spent driving around trying to get our camera out of the pound. As soon as we walked in, I knew we were not getting anywhere. We decided to give up and go and meet the boys. At this point we are very discouraged because we had no video camera nor still camera because we didn't bring ours because we knew Rowan was bringing two. Now with the new information, we didn't know if Rowan would make it through customs.
Meeting the boys was very different that I expected. I kind of envisioned going to a separate room and they bringing them in. Nope...all the kids were running around and we were no more out of the van and they brought them over to us. The boys had no idea what was going on. We sent photobooks but they weren't allowed to look them because they were returned to us out of a locked cupboard. There was no emotion really. We played around for 45 mintues and they said, "Okay here is the sign out book." Carl and I looked at each other with big eyes and both of us thinking, "Is this for real? Are we really taking our boys?"
The boys thought we were kidnapping them and screamed the whole way back to the guest house. I thought they might hyperventilate from crying so much. Titus fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. Silas just cried and cried.
When we arrived at the guesthouse we were able to bribe them with food. They both ate 3 bananas and drank a quart of water a piece. It was obvious they never had free access to food before. Plus I think they keep the kids dehydrated so they don't have to go to the bathroom very often.
We spent the afternoon getting to know each other and playing. It didn't take long before they were smiling and laughing.
Rowan came the following day around noon. I was on pins and needles watching him try to get through the last security checkpoint into the country. But as you know, he made it through with his camera and I was ever so glad to have him on this side. The poor guy was sick sick sick. I don't remember doing much for the rest of the day.
Wednesday we went to the care center and two orphanages to take pictures of everyone's children. I wish we would have hired an interpreter because no one could speak English well enough to really communicate details. We could get the jest of what needed to be accomplished but we missed so many things.
We also stopped at the agency's office so that Kelly, who was also picking up her child, could fill out paperwork. It was stressful plus we hadn't really eaten anything yet. We arrived back at the guesthouse and ate lunch at 4pm. Beti, our cook, made us hamburgers and I think we ate the meal in 2 or 3 minutes. We told her we would like supper at 9pm, but she thought we ate out for lunch and that she just fed us super. She was so gracious and made us something anyway later that night.
Thursday was supposed to be a day of great joy with the last hurdle finally complete...the US Embassy. We made it through, but left with more questions than when we came. That is all that I can say at this point. Many questions were raised with our agency. The last family went up and we were going to all go out to eat afterward for a big celebration. They came back weeping - saying they couldn't bring their children home because the US didn't consider them orphans, yet according to their Ethiopian court decree, the children were legally theirs.
I can't even begin to tell you all the emotions that were in that room at that very minute. I was in complete shock. I have never heard of this happening. I was numb. I kept asking God why in the world would he bring this family all the way to this point to tell them that they cannot take their children home. In the eyes of the Ethiopian government, they were their children, but the US would not let them into the country.
I looked at Carl and said, "We gotta call someone. Get out your cell phone." Well, that opened another whole can of worms because someone how Carl's cellphone made it through the screenings and you can't have cell phone at the US Embassy. Guards came and it took a minute to get everything squared out. It was an honest mistake, but they didn't see it that way.
We went back to the guesthouse with both families and pulled out every number that we could think of. We were the only ones with an international cell phone and the phone at the guesthouse didn't work because the agency didn't pay their bill. The next few hours were a blur. We ordered pizza - the other family had a driver and an interpreter - who were able to deliver the food to our guesthouse. (We had told Beti she would have the night off because we would be out celebrating) We finally sent our friends back to their guesthouse with our cell phone praying that we would hear good news in the morning.
(Now this made me feel really unsafe because we had no way to communicate with the outside world. The guard had no phone, the phone did not work at the guesthouse and the cook wasn't going to come back that night. I laid my worries and fears upon the Lord. I kept repeating to myself over and over..."The Lord knew this would happen before the dawn of time. He has it all under control.")
I could not sleep that night - I maybe got 3hours. It felt like the drama of this week was more than the CBS Sunday night movie. I prayed hours and hours for the Hacker family. We were all supposed to fly out at 10:15pm on Friday night. The US Embassy was open from 8-12pm on Friday. By noon we would know their fate.
We were planning on going to the market on Friday morning at 8:30 am and meet a couple that we support for schooling but our driver from the agency never showed up. I was extremely bummed. He finally came after lunch. He brought news that the Hackers were going home with all of their children and they were coming to tell us. I have to admit, I didn't believe him. I wanted to hear it from the family. They showed up a little while later with the joyous news. Only by the grace of God were they able to get their children home - hundreds of phone calls later, they were able to get the right help here in the US. God had a mighty plan for these children. They are wanted, loved and finally belong.
Talk about roller coaster of emotions...
About 2pm Carl and Rowan and Kelly went to the market. I needed to stay back and pack with Titus and Kelly's little girl. I am glad that I stayed, but I never was able to get out and really see anything of Ethiopia all week. I did get to take home the two most precious boys though so it makes up for not experiencing anything else. Maybe we will go back when they are older.
The flight home...was LONG! I am so thankful that my boys were used to sitting for hours doing nothing because in all honesty...they were great. But sitting for 18 hours is the hardest mental and physical activity that I have ever done, all the while being 32 weeks pregnant.
Being on US soil makes me so thankful for the sacrifices of so many lives who made it possible for me to live here and now. I wanted to cry, but I didn't have any tears left at this point. I had to keep moving. We were standing in immigration and the fire alarms go off. All I could think was, "You've got to be kidding me. We are 20 feet away from being free and the fire alarms have to go off." Thankfully, it was set off by construction work so we were all able to stay where we were. After getting some weird news from the immigration officer that Silas, "kind of sort of tested positive for TB" we made it through.
Rowan met us on the other side and I was so thankful again to have him along. Two two-year-olds who just sat for 18 hours don't like to stand still and wait. He help us chase them down and keep track of them. We parted ways to meet in MSP again (we had to fly different airlines.) We had our funny moments of chasing them on dead sprints down the terminals.
We walked down to baggage and we first saw the director of our agency and I must admit I was not delighted to see her with all that went on this week. I looked beyond her and saw the Stacey family and my dear friend Betsy (She drove 6 plus hours just meet me at the airport - I told Carl in DC that I could really use a coffee date with her. We haven't been together for over a year.) I couldn't keep it in anymore. I felt like the week of emotions just gushed out of me. I was so tired, overwhelmed and happy all in the same breath. I am sure Titus and Silas had no idea what was going on. All they cared about was "mackeenas" (cars) They are 100% boy because they LOVE cars.
I thought the car seat was going to be a battle, but they were big eyed over what was going on that it was no big deal. I feel asleep in the backseat while Rowan drove and Carl kept him company.
We tucked the boys into bed and waited for our little girls to arrive home from the ranch with Nana and Papa. We then promptly all went to bed. The girls met their brothers in the morning. We spent the day playing and getting to know each other.
They have been home a week now and are doing amazing! They fit so well into our family. Titus has great dimples when he smiles and is more tender and doesn't like to be corrected. At the care center I don't think they were told, "no." Titus likes to push every button in the house...microwave, dishwasher, light switches, Daddy's computer. It is quite funny to watch him look around to see if anyone is looking at him and then go and push it.
Silas is the funny one. If anyone is crying, he will lay on the floor and do this fake cry/moan thing. I will tell him to stop it and he will look at me and start giggling. He also eats more than all three girls combined. Our food bill has now officially doubled and they aren't even teenagers yet.
Sleeping is going great! We have found the routine of putting them in their own bed and about 4ish they get up to go to the bathroom and then we put them in the toddler bed at the end of our bed. They just play around if we don't put them with us. Titus actually slept into 8:15 this morning. Another bonus is that Nana trained Adie so that I don't need to lay with her anymore for her to go to bed. I am simply in heaven! I have been going to bed before 9 all week because this three toddler thing is exhausting and we never left the house yet with all of them. Church will be a first tomorrow.
We have so much to be thankful for this year. Where to even begin?
I am thankful ...
we have a microwave so that every time a two year old walks by he/she can start it.
we have a long hallway to race up and down.
my husband works from home so that he can rescue me from chaos.
we have a dishwasher and I have to make rules such as..."You cannot eat anything that falls to onto the door."
we have medical doctors who know that it is best to lock me into a waiting room with my children than leave me with the general population.
we have an over abundance of bananas so that when we eat 2lbs a day and that is okay.
Clorox wipes. enough said for this one.
my big girls who have learned so much this past week and been willing to help me out.
my triplets...I don't know how long it will be before I take them out by myself. I am thankful that I have a triple stroller. God must have laughed when I bought that three years ago. He knew that I would need it now more than ever.
we have one bedroom for our children and it is so beautiful to walk into their room and hear them all breathing.
I am thankful for all the laughter that is in our home along with all the spilled milk and messes because it means we have a home and truly live here.
I am thankful for my two year old who prays for her brothers and her own heart at almost every meal.
And most of all, I am thankful I have a savior who died for me and for my sins and that through this next year HIS joy will be my strength.
The boys were up and at 'em at 2:00 am. I don't think they are adjusted quite yet.
We tried everything to keep them quiet in their own bed. Carl must have went into their room about 10 times. One of those times, Lydia was crying uncontrollably. When he finally got back to tell me what was wrong he was laughing. Apparently, Silas and Titus ate almost her whole box of Tic-tacs that she just got from Nana. (And they thought it was funny) Lydia is my saver - she would have made the box last a month. She was so distraught over the fact they would actually take something of hers. Carl reassured her that we would buy her some more tomorrow. But I could hear her telling them, "No, no Silas and Titus! It is not nice to take other people's things and eat them."
Every time we would leave the room, Silas would say, "Good night, good-bye, Chao" and then giggle.
We finally put them in our room at 5:00 am and they actually went back to sleep. The problem is that I haven't.
Today is going to be a LONG day...no one likes to start it at 2 in the morning. Hopefully everyone will nap this afternoon.
The boys met their sisters for the first time this morning. And after a few minutes of warming up, they're already playing tougher wonderfully. It's a clear evidence of God's continued Grace toward us.
We can't wait to have you see their beautiful smiles and hear their laughs in person - but until then have fun looking through this series of images.
We are here in Ethiopia and have the boys! They are simply beautiful. Our video camera is still at customs at the airport...hopefully we get that back on our way out :) and Rowan finally made it having to travel 64 hours to get here...all by missing our plane by 30 minutes!
I have been trying to journal but now that I have a few minutes at the computer my mind is drawing a blank. God is good!
We have our embassy date today and fly home tomorrow which we are very excited to continue the journey.
The boys are like we expected...Silas is very outgoing and easy going...Titus is more shy but coming out of his shell and he really doesn't like it when you tell him "no."
Grace, Lydia and Adie - we love you very much and are looking forward to seeing you soon! Silas and Titus carry the picture book of our family all around the guest house and each night they look at your pictures. We can't wait to see your beautiful faces!! Be good girls for Nana and Papa!
To all the parents who are awaiting photos...your kids are beautiful!!! We have a few more older children to photograph yet so being praying we can get back to the orphanage and take those pictures.
I have been writing this letter to you for weeks in my head. I am now sitting down to put it on paper, well, because now I have the time to pray over you and wait to see your beautiful faces.
This adoption journey was far more stretching than I ever thought it would be. Of course, I knew that being called to adoption is not an easy road, but it sure has a lot of ups and downs. God has been stretching me more and more every day.
When I felt the huge desire to adopt, the Lord hadn’t put it on your Dad’s heart yet. I honestly thought it would take years before we adopted. I knew with all my heart on January 30, 2008 that you were alive, but again, I thought you would be 10 or 12 when you came into our family. Little did I know that I was wrong. Only 7 months later, God ignited the passion into your Daddy and we officially started the journey.
At that point, we were stretched to adopt two. The thought of two kind of made my heart skip a little. That would mean 5 children 6 and under. Wow, that was going to be a huge responsibility. I knew we were crazy by the world’s standards, but when you are trusting God with your whole lives and living for Him, there is nothing crazy. It is passion living out the Gospel. “Crazy living” should be quite ordinary if all bible-believing people acted on what God told them to do.
We felt called to switch agencies mid-way through because they were less strict with a few details of adoption, such as birth order and pregnancy. We knew that God had you picked for our family long long ago. Nothing surprises him.
It was January 29th, 2009 and our paperwork is on its way to Ethiopia. We were told within 3-5 months we would have two little children home in our arms forever. Long months of waiting for our referral of you, but on May 18th we called in to find out that they had two little boys for us, one was 4 and one was 2. But we needed to wait until more paperwork came in for the official referral. No pictures, no information until all was ready.
During this week of waiting, I planned an adoption fundraising garage sale. You will have to look at the pictures of all that was provided for it. I was overwhelmed with the generosity of people who donated, helped set up and came. We raised over 2500 dollars in those two days.
The following morning, we were stretched again. I found out that I was pregnant with Jack. Needless to say, I was completely overwhelmed with the thought of a 6,5,4,3,2 and baby. But wait, on the following Tuesday we had the official referral for the both of you. One of you wasn’t four, but you were both two! Just like physical pregnancy, I was thankful all of this didn’t happen overnight.
I am so excited to have 3 boys be added to our family that some days I want to jump up and down.
The summer was a long and painful wait for your court dates. Finally in August we had a date of Oct 14th. So we waited some more while enjoying the few pictures that would come back from other adoptive parents who went there to pick up their children.
Days leading to your court dates were long and mentally draining. The anticipation of waiting was the most intense that I have ever experienced in all my life. We got the call that one passed court and one did not. What is a mom supposed to feel at this point? One child is hers forever and the other has more waiting. I had such joy and sorrow all in one breath and I could hardly breathe. I cried tears of joy and tears of loss. I was feeling the tension of that you both needed to pass in order for me to be able to travel to get you both.
God had bigger plans than what I was expecting. Silas you passed court 12 days later with a remarkable story that we fully don’t know all the details yet, but hope to soon.
We thought we were going to travel Oct. 31, but God wanted to teach me more patience.
Now here we are the eve of traveling – Friday, November 13th. We are packed and are ready to board a plane tomorrow to Ethiopia. My doctor extended my travel dates for an extra two weeks. Your Dad is rested and all projects are fully completed. Your sisters are with their Nana and Papa. And I am more than ready to come and get you.
In 48 hours, your world is going to completely change. I wonder if you will even remember these moments. Will you be scared? Excited? Will your heart be willing to trust us when you have never met us before?
Oh how we have prayed for you my dear little ones. So many people have prayed for you all over the world. You both are a joy and delight in our hearts – nothing will change that. You are apart of our family forever. I look forward to the day when you truly understand adoption and what God has done for all of us through his son Jesus.
May you know that you are loved and have been loved and will always be loved.
We are in the business this week of celebrating our lasts.
The last time we go to bed as a family of 5. The last time we read books to only 3 children. The last time we only have little girls in our house. The last morning...etc.
You see we always celebrate the firsts in our lives that we fail to recognize the lasts until they have longed past. I read a book a couple years ago by Karen Kingsbury and it has really stuck with me: Let me hold you a little longer.
Our family is changing which is a glorious thing, but I want to remember and cherish each season in our lives. Because stepping on that plane on Saturday, we will enter a brand new chapter of life in the Larsen home.
Every 15 SECONDS, another child becomes an AIDS orphan in Africa Every DAY 5,760 more children become orphans Every YEAR 2,102,400 more children become orphans (in Africa alone) 143,000,0002 Orphans in the world today spend an average of 10 years in an orphanage or foster home Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but… Every YEAR 14,050,000 children still grow up as orphans and AGE OUT of the system Every DAY 38,493 children AGE OUT Every 2.2 SECONDS, another orphan child AGES OUT with no family to belong to and no place to call home
In Ukraine and Russia 10% -15% of children who age out of an orphanage commit suicide before age 18. 60% of the girls are lured into prostitution. 70% of the boys become hardened criminals.5 Many of these children accept job offers that ultimately result in their being sold as slaves. Millions of girls are sex slaves today, simply because they were unfortunate enough to grow up as orphans.
When you are adopting or know someone who is in the process, sometimes these numbers are flashed before you so many times that you become numb to them. I know that I do. But I have been letting them soak into my mind today. My heart breaks for all those children, especially the ones who age out of the system.
I keep thinking about my boys. Today they are not orphans, but they don't know it yet. They have been adopted into our family, but have never met us personally. They have only seen pictures and one short video. Oh - they have no idea what awaits them - A family who has loved them before we knew about them. Three sisters who are so eager to have their brothers home. Cousins who live next door that want to add to the clan. A church family who has been praying for them for months and months. Yes - they have no idea!
I can't wait to tell them about Jesus. I can't wait to kiss their little cheeks. I can't wait to sing them to sleep. I can't wait to love them forever and ever in my home.
One week from right now we will be in Ethiopia- Lord willing - and we will have two little boys who will not be orphans anymore.
This past week Carl took the week off from work. This was new for us since we moved here almost a year and a half ago. Being self- employed and starting a new business equals not much time off, and since we were planning on being in Ethiopia - we had not scheduled anything.
We have had a great week together: reading stories, watching movies, cleaning out the nasty van, etc. This past Thursday we went to an indoor waterpark with some friends. We had a blast and the girls loved every minute of it. It was so good that they slept all the way home -the best way to end an evening.
Now I am counting down the days until next Saturday, that is when we board a plane to go and get our boys! It feels so surreal. I am almost kind of numb to the fact that it is really going to happen. There is a mom that just got home today and I heard she has a ton of pictures and that Silas drew a picture for us. I think seeing fresh pictures will jolt me back to reality.
But for tonight, I am going to "retire early" as my grandparents would say. Today was big day of cleaning and I am all tuckered out.
But I will leave you with some Adie quotes:
Me: You are so cute that I could eat you up. Adie: Don't eat me ...I not food.
Me to Grace: Let me see your new teeth coming in.... (pause) ...those are some big honking teeth. Adie: Honking...cars go honk ...honk ...honk (imagine her honking her nose like they do on Sesame Street)
I can hardly believe that she is now 5. This is the little girl who practically came out talking. Her vocabulary at two always made me question her age. When she was 18 months old, she looked at me and said, "God must be crying 'cause it is raining outside." Yes you would need to know her language, but that came out very clear.
We love you Lydia and the young lady you are becoming. You bring sunshine and laughter to our family that is irreplaceable. We look forward to see God working in your life in the years to come.
I found this on Eat Me Daily: (Just a side note: I am a two marshmallow kid)
The Marshmallow Test: Psychological Experiments in Self-Control
In this reprise of a now-classic Stanford psychological experiment from the 1960s, kids are put in a room with a marshmallow and told they can either eat it immediately or wait until the researcher gets back, and they'll be given a second marshmallow. Hilarity ensues as the kids suffer marshmallow temptation!
But the consequences go deeper: In the New Yorker article "Don’t!" from May that detailed the very same experiment, it turned out that the ones who passed the marshmallow test enjoyed greater success as adults. Said Walter Mischel, the Stanford professor of psychology in charge of the experiment, "What we’re really measuring with the marshmallows isn’t will power or self-control... It’s much more important than that. This task forces kids to find a way to make the situation work for them. They want the second marshmallow, but how can they get it? We can’t control the world, but we can control how we think about it.”