Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sweetheart Swirl 2013

 Our school had their first Daddy/Daughter Dance last weekend.  It was fun for the girls to get all dressed up and make some great memories with their dad.
I love Rob even more for the Daddy he is to his girls!  
He even took the time to paint their fingernails before the big event!
Elle and Hanna came home full of smiles and filled with stories of their evening.  What a special night for Rob to spend some time with two of his sweethearts!

Friday, February 1, 2013

One Month Home

This week we celebrated Anya being home for one month. Truly, the last few weeks have gone amazingly well. Anya is such a happy girl. She is eating well, plays well with kids, and is sleeping great. This transition has been much easier than last time. Even when she gets mad all she does is cry. No kicking, no screaming, no wailing or thrashing. While it is not perfect, we all feel pretty settled.  
Seriously, she is such a crazy nut and we all love her to pieces.  She likes to joke around and have fun.  We love her sense of humor, hearing her giggle, and seeing her missing teeth.


It's amazing that she has only been home a month for many reasons.  We feel like she just fits right in so perfectly and demonstrates behaviors that astound us on a regular basis.  Here are a few examples:
A couple of nights ago I was putting her to bed and she was rolling all over the place and being silly.  I asked her to lay down.  She looked at me and said, "Say please!"  So I said please and she laid right down.
Then the next night as I was putting her to bed she reached up her arms to me and said, "Hug!"  I gave her a hug and she squeezed me tight right back.
Last week Friday I was picking up Solomon from preschool and when he got in the van he opened his cup-holder and asked where his money was.  As I had seen Anya holding a penny earlier in the morning and had no idea where she had gotten it, I figured she had taken it from his cup-holder.
Sure enough, she got a huge smile on her face, reached into her coat pocket, and pulled out his penny.  Solomon wanted it back so I told him to ask her for it and then wait until she gave it to him.  After he asked, I went to the other side of the van to buckle him in and I saw that he had his penny.  I started going on and on about how asking her and waiting worked great and he got his penny back, when I saw the look on her face.  She was almost crying on her side of the van.

So I asked him if he took it from her and he said yes.  So I made it give it back to her and he got all sad.  As I was buckling him in and trying to talk him through this, Anya got out of her seat, put the penny back in his cup-holder, and crawled back into her carseat with a smile on her face.
She gave it back to him without either of us asking again and she was happy about it!  There were no temper tantrums, grumpy face, or tears.  I was amazed!  She can share and be happy about it!
Before Anya came home, I was wondering how I could care for another child.  I feel so blessed that adding another child to our family has actually lessened our "load" due to Anya's personality and how she has changed the dynamics of our family.
God took my concerns and replaced them with a daughter who has brought so much love, laughter, and countless smiles to our family! God knew just what we needed!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Airport Homecoming Miracle

We left Ethiopia at midnight on Friday, December 28.  Our first leg took us to Brussels and it seemed never ending.  Anya was a trooper and slept almost the whole time, but I just couldn't get comfortable and was in a very bad place.  I was so tired and just wanted to lay down.  Being the wonderful guy that Rob is, he laid Anya on his chest so I could lay down on the two other seats that we had.  Thankfully I was able to sleep for a couple of hours and was much happier when I woke up.
 After about nine hours we landed in Brussels.  It felt wonderful to stretch our legs and walk around.  But our joy quickly faded as we looked at the departure monitors.  We saw our flight number to Newark and the departure time listed was 13:10.  Being that this was military time, I had to do some fast thinking but quickly realized that our flight was leaving at 1:10.
NO...NO...NO...that couldn't be.  Our flight was supposed to leave around 10:00.  If we left three hours late we would miss our connecting flight from Newark home.  Please say this wasn't happening.  As well as missing our next flight, its also meant that we would be hanging out in this airport for over five hours!
Along with lots of other people we went to the United counter to determine our options.  We hoped to get on another flight that would still get us home at relatively the same time, but two of their three flights to the US that morning were delayed and the long line was filled with people trying to figure out how they were going to get home too.  After meeting with the agent, she took us off our flight from Newark to GR, gave us vouchers for an overnight stay in Newark, and issued us new tickets for a direct flight the following day.
After shedding a few tears and coming to terms with the fact that we would be home 24 hours later than we hoped, we tried to look at the bright side.  We would have one less leg of travel before we could rest.  We could start getting our bodies adjusted to the correct time zone.  We would have one more night with just Anya before we were home with all six of the kids.  Yes, truly there were some positives, but we were still disappointed.  We emailed our parents and let our friends know that we wouldn't be coming home for another day because of a delayed flight and then we got some food.
Our time in the airport was fine, but Anya would not let us sit down if we were holding her and she was really only happy if we were walking around.  As we had not slept much on the flight to Brussels, we were exhausted and just wanted to relax.  So when it was finally time to board the plane, we were more than ready.  At this point Anya was fairly happy and cried only briefly when our flight finally took off almost four hours later than scheduled.  But within less than a half hour she almost got manic and was making all sorts of noises: squealing, laughing, screeching, and touching e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.  Rob was sitting next to her and I was across the aisle.  The way she was acting was driving me crazy, but I couldn't do anything about it.
Then it was time to eat.  Out came the menus and linen "tablecloths."  Too bad by this point Anya was done with flying and had missed her nap, so she was beside herself.  While I was trying to eat and enjoy the good food, Rob was holding her as she cried and moaned.  Finally I just couldn't take it anymore.  Her crying was too much and I couldn't eat.  So I took her from Rob and tried to console her.  After crying for almost an hour, Anya fell asleep.  Then I was able to move her back to her own seat, finish my dinner (which included a fabulous hot fudge sundae with real whipped cream), and watch a movie.  After which I laid my seat flat and slept for a couple hours.  I felt like a new woman upon wakening!
When Anya woke up she wasn't real happy and just wanted to be held. Rob got up and held her for a while and she was fine, but then there was some turbulence and Rob had to sit down.  I took her back and held her again.  After only 15 minutes of crying this time, she fell asleep.  Bless those flight attendants who let me hold her until after we landed.  The flight ended peacefully and we were in the United States!
As we were in Business Class, we were the first off the plane.  We got to the line for customs before there were a lot of people, and within a half hour we were waiting for our luggage having cleared immigration too.  We waited almost another half hour for the luggage to get there, but then we quickly cleared security and were to the point of rechecking our luggage or going out of the airport.
An hour had passed since we had landed and throughout this whole time I had been looking for a TV that would give me the information about our original flight to GR.  But the only information I saw was for arrivals, not departures.  As our flight landed when our next flight was supposed to take off and now it was an hour later, I doubted that it was still there.  But I wanted confirmation.  I wanted to KNOW that our plane was gone and we would be heading to our hotel.

As I paused to look for a screen with some information, our miracle started.  Rob was carrying Anya and was a few steps behind me when a woman asked him his name.  He told her and she exclaimed, "I have been waiting for you!  What took so long?"  SHE had been waiting for US?  WHY???

It seemed that our plane had been delayed and was still there.  This wonderful woman noticed that we had arrived and could possibly still catch our flight.  She even had new boarding passes for us in her hand.  But we had to hurry because our plane was leaving soon.  Between tears of joy and getting over feelings of shock, we RAN.  We had to go through security again, recheck our bags, catch a bus to the domestic terminal, and get to the correct gate.  All the while trying to call our parents to tell them that we were coming HOME!  In fact, we would be home in two hours and we needed a ride from the airport.  It was crazy!

This wonderful woman flashed her badge multiple times to get us to the front of lines, through basement corridors, on a bus, and up the back hallway to our gate.  When we arrived at our gate, the door was closed.  The "angel" scanned our boarding passes and it said, "Boarding is closed for this gate."  So she ripped our boarding passes in half, gave one half to the attendant, and the other to us.  Then the attendant opened the door and we walked down the jetway to the plane.  Again, the "angel" flashed her badge to allow our carry-ons to go on the plane with us instead of being checked, put our bags in the overhead compartment and wished us well.  We gave her a hug and million thanks and she was on her way.

After she left, we both just sat there and looked at each other.  Did that really happen?  Was she a real person or an angel?  I don't know.  All I know is that she blessed us in an unbelievable way and made our homecoming that much sweeter.  As we sat in our seats our hearts began to beat normally and our hearts filled with joy as we realized that we truly were on our way HOME.

We ended up sitting on the tarmac for probably 45 minutes which meant our flight left about two hours late.  I'm sure the people on the plane weren't too happy about it, but we were overjoyed as this allowed us to catch the final plane of our journey and get home only 1 1/2 hours later than we had originally expected.
Bless her heart, Little Lady was happy and didn't even cry when Rob buckled her seat-belt.  She was happy and calm and enjoyed playing with her sticker book. Within minutes of take-off both her and Rob were asleep.  As I gazed at the two of them across the aisle, I offered prayers of thanks for the blessing we were given and the unexpected miracle of being on this flight.  While they napped I headed to the bathroom to "freshen up."  I was planning on changing my clothes before our last leg, but there was no time.  Instead I just put on some make-up, fixed my hair, and reapplied my deodorant.  Add a little perfume and I was ready to go!
Our flight home went by without issue and within less than two hours we landed in GR.  We gathered up all our stuff and got off the plane.  Thirty-two hours after getting to the airport in Ethiopia were home and feeling incredibly overjoyed when we were met by this:
 You have no idea how wonderful it was to see so many smiling faces, especially since they had such short notice that we were indeed coming home on our original flight.  It was such a blessing! 
Naturally first we introduced Anya to her siblings and loved on them after being gone for five days.  It was so sweet because she clearly remembered Kate and Elle from meeting them on our first trip to Ethiopia.  Then we introduced her to our families and friends.

We were able to share with them how God had worked a miracle and now we were home with our beautiful daughter.  It was a sweet time where we clearly felt the love and support of so many who encouraged us throughout this journey us over the last year. 

After many hugs, pictures, and conversations we headed home.  Although our luggage did not make it, we found that to be a small price to pay for catching our flight.  We all got in the "silver bullet" and took our first ride as a family of eight.

Anya cried for a few minutes and then just looked around at everything.  The older three all commented how she didn't cry nearly as long as the other two did when they came home.  It was great to see how going through this before made certain things so much easier the second time around.
After we arrived home, the kids showed Anya her bedroom and all around the house.  She walked with a smile on her face, holding hands with her siblings.  Shortly after arriving home we got all the kids in bed, including Anya who felt asleep instantly.  Within less than two hours of being home everyone was in bed sleeping and we all enjoyed a full night of rest.  The house was quiet until after 8:00 the next morning (except for me who was awake at 5:00 and celebrated three hours of blissful alone time before everyone else got up) and then we enjoyed a fabulous first day together!

God has blessed us in an amazing way and we are so grateful for the gift of this little girl!