Thursday, April 28, 2011

Today’s the Day!!

Today’s the day!!  Dave and Trey boarded their first flight headed for Frankfurt, Germany yesterday.  After a 5 1/2 hour layover, they were scheduled to board their second flight headed for Chicago.  If all goes as planned, they will fly into the St. Louis airport at 5:17 p.m.  I’ll be picking up the kids after school and we’ll be on our way to meet them at the airport.  While I love the idea of a big airport reunion with family and friends, we have decided to keep it intimate.  Since we can’t begin to guess how Trey will react to the day’s events, we wanted to keep things as simple as possible.

I’m excited and nervous, and everything in between.  Luckily, I have all of the those last minute to-dos I saved to keep myself busy ;)

First Coke
First Coke

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 3 and Gaining

All images © Michael Gowin Photography, 217-737-7908,, Lincoln, IL. Images may not be printed, copied, reproduced, or distributed without written permission from the photographer.
Dave’s Day 3 updates from Ethiopia:

4:10 a.m.  I fell asleep, but have been awake for at least an hour.  It's 4:10am here.  I'm going to try to sleep for a couple more hours. Trey is a restless sleeper, constantly rolling around, but he does sleep through the night.

7:18 a.m.  Just woke up.  Trey did not cry, although he is a bit solemn this morning.  He is up and out of bed now, playing with his flashlight.  Not real interested in engaging with me or doing the things I ask him to do yet this morning.

7:23 a.m.  Trey is certainly inquisitive.  He likes to take his flashlight, turn it on, and use it to look inside all the new devices he has received.  Strangely, the only thing he is not interested in is the iPad.  Maybe that's because it doesn't really have any buttons.

 7:30 a.m.  He we go.  He just got the remote control car off the shelf.  He's learned to turn both the car and transmitter on by himself.  It's the toy he usually starts playing with that helps get him out of his funk.

4:51 p.m.  More about Monday
Went to Lucy’s for lunch.  Very cool atmosphere.  Food was good, too.  Trey had injera, churro, and warm milk for lunch.  We colored a lot this afternoon. He prefers markers over crayons. He knows his colors pretty well.  We ended the day on a very high note and we laughed and goofed off for almost an hour. I don’t think he laid down for bed until after 10 p.m. I laid down with him and we both crashed out.

5:20 p.m. Tuesday
Trey slept through the night.  He woke up without crying, but was pretty solemn. We just chilled and I let him do his thing.  That thing turned into, as it usually does, playing with the remote control car.  Then we colored.  It is fun to watch him switch gears from something pretty exciting to something more subdued.  Went downstairs for breakfast.  Trey really enjoys sweetbread and pineapple juice.  He had the same breakfast two days in a row (as a matter of fact he had the same lunch two days in a row – injera and churro).  Amazingly, I had my first cup of coffee since getting here this morning.  Ethiopia really does have the best coffee.

We decided to head over to the zoo after breakfast with another family.  Before leaving, Trey and I hung out in the courtyard of the guest house.  We played with the remote control car some more.  He has the concept of forward and backward down pretty well.  He got a bit sad when I told him it was time to go in.  His crying was only momentary.  I showed him how to use the iPad before we left.  He really thought it was fun.  Started with the iColor application.

We went to the zoo, although it’s hard to call it much of a zoo.  Maybe a dozen or so lions in small cages.  Trey was not very impressed.  Besides the lions, we saw a handful of native birds and a kudu, but that was about it. 

We went back to the guest house and took a short nap.  When we woke up, I got out the matching game, which I had forgotten we had.  He played it over and over again and was very good at it.  Next we got out the iPad and played a puzzle game. Again, he did an amazingly good job for never having been exposed to something like that.

At this point, we have no plans for tomorrow.  The other families are going shopping, but we did that yesterday.  Ideally, I’d be able to get him to take about an hour nap tomorrow, so that he can stay awake until the plane leaves at 11 p.m., then sleep all the way to Frankfurt (wishful thinking).

6:15 p.m.  Trey and I've been having a great afternoon playing games and tossing the ball.  We went upstairs to the rooftop courtyard and played with a balloon.  He was intrigued with the view and would stop playing to stare out over the city every once in awhile.  I can't imagine what he thinks.  For the last year or so he has been isolated in the transition home.  Now, to all of a sudden be out and about, must be amazing to his senses.

Trey made up a game with the balloon where he would try to hit it by me.  We played it for about 15 minutes, with him successfully getting the balloon by me on a number of occasions. When we were done, as I was getting ready to unlock the door to our room, I said "Chalew, that was a great idea.  I had a lot of fun playing that game." He was looking me right in the eyes when I said it and he smiled a big smile and reached out and gave me the biggest and hardest high five of the trip.  Love you all!!  Two more days :)
Photograph by Michael Gowin           

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day Two and Making Progress

All images © Michael Gowin Photography, 217-737-7908,, Lincoln, IL. Images may not be printed, copied, reproduced, or distributed without written permission from the photographer.
Today was Dave’s second full day in Ethiopia and Trey’s second day away from the Transition Home – and pretty much everything he has known for the past year.  Traveling families often find it easiest to communicate with each other through Facebook.   I’ve been keeping my phone handy at all times (which is not really anything new) and I seem to even be listening for the message alert in my sleep.  Sometime around midnight our time, I received this message:

Woke up sad this morning :(  He wants someone named Sara.  We leave for Embassy in about an hour.

A few hours later, I received the following update with a few more details:

Embassy was easy. Trey's morning sadness lasted for about 30-45 minutes, which was a huge improvement over yesterday.  He was stoic but not crying during the Embassy appointment.  We waited about 40 minutes and they called our last name.  Each family went to the same window to interview with the same man, which lasted about five minutes.  He was a very nice man, who happened to be from St. Louis.  Trey was wearing his Cardinal's hat, so he commented on that.  He spent some time explaining that they had been suspicious of our case because not too many young men would take a child they are not related to off the streets to care for. He also said they had some concerns with the Shalom orphanage and that they are taking extra precautions.  I took an oath to tell the truth, signed a couple of forms, and we were done.  He handed me a bunch of paperwork. Our visas will be ready at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

We have good moments and not-so-good moments. Most of the time Trey is stoic. I think he tolerates me at this point. We’ve had a few good times when we laugh and play. Most of the time we just sit and color, play with cars, or watch movies, but it’s mostly playing along side one another.  I am doing well. Amazingly, I have the patience for this. Lately, I have wondered where my patience had gone, but I think I found it!!

About 15 minutes later, I received another update:

A funny (or not so funny) thing just happened.  Trey clearly wants the heck out of here.  I'm pretty sure he wants to go see Sara.  I found out she is one of the nurses at the Transition Home.  While I was typing the last message, he started to pack up his stuff.  I could tell he was a bit upset and was ready to leave.  I told him we were staying and he got ticked.  He tried to leave.  I just stood in front of the door.  Then , he proceeded to empty the contents of his bag, throwing everything as hard as he could into the bathroom.  I grabbed a couple of the breakable items, but let him throw what wasn't breakable (thought maybe he needed to vent).  He probably threw around 15 things, including crayons and markers.  About 30 seconds after he was done, still whining mind you, he started to pick his things up one by one and put them back where they were before.  I think he is looking for me to react, and when I don’t, he gives up.  Right after picking up, he became playful again, even smiling a few times as we hit the balloon around the room.  I think he felt bad. 

I love you all!  I will send more messages later. It's dinner time here.

Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t help but laugh about that.  I wish I could have seen Dave’s face as he hurried to snatch the breakable things.  It’s sad to think that Trey is so frustrated, but the little boy I remember was very, very particular about his things, and I can just see him scrambling to put his things back in order.

A while later, we were able to connect over Skype.  He and Trey were just hanging out in the room.  I had sent a V-Tech toy which teaches letters and numbers.  Just like at home, the kids there LOVE electronics.  Dave said that Trey knew both the alphabet and his numbers in English, as well as his colors.  We were able to use the video feature for most of the call, and Trey would sit on Dave’s lap and push the correct letters and numbers as Dave called them out.  He seemed to be trying to impress me – and he did!!

Late in the afternoon, I received one more message:

Trey is still awake and it's after nine.  I think I got him wound up.  We played an amazing game of “the claw” and then hit the balloons around.  Probably not the best bedtime routine, but I wanted to get my happy time in while I could.  Lots of smiles and laughs while we were playing.
 I'll try to message soon, unless  I fall asleep too.
Love to you, Sami, and Toby. I miss you all very much.

All images © Michael Gowin Photography, 217-737-7908,, Lincoln, IL. Images may not be printed, copied, reproduced, or distributed without written permission from the photographer.
(Photographs by our friend and fellow traveler, Michael Gowin)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gotcha Day

Today was Dave’s first full day in Ethiopia for the week.  I was able to Skype with him a little bit, but the internet connection was poor today and we were continuously disconnected.  In addition, power outages are common in Ethiopia, making things even more difficult.  He was, however, able to send me messages through Facebook and sent two pictures via e-mail.

I asked him to tell me anything he could about the day – he knows I like lots of details - and here’s what he had to say:

It started this way. I set my Blackberry clock last night to what I thought was the correct time zone. I set my alarm for 8 a.m., knowing we would be leaving the guest house at 10 a.m.  I slept very well throughout the night.  I woke up around 6 a.m., but was able to go back to sleep.  I jumped out of bed when my alarm went off and started to get everything together. I packed up Trey's stuff in his backpack, bringing some of the "cooler" stuff just in case I had a problem.  I saw David pull in around 9 a.m., so I took a quick shower and headed downstairs at 9:15. Turns out my 9:15 was actually 10:15. No worries though as the new families from the airport had just arrived and were putting their things in their rooms.

David and Yonas drove us to the Transition Home.  I prayed almost the entire way.  When we arrived at the Transition Home, I took some video for another family as they were meeting their 3-year-old boy for the first time.  Another family met their baby next.  Then Chalew came out.  He was full of smiles and hugs.  I think Yonas got a little video.

We hugged for what seemed like 5 minutes, but it was probably more like 30-60 seconds. When he came out, he was carrying a zip-lock bag full of pictures albums and some of the toys we had sent. He also had his keyboard with him :)  I then gave him his backpack. He was very jazzed. I put his Cardinal’s hat and sunglasses on him and let him go through the backpack. He settled pretty quickly on the balloons. We played with balloons for 15 or so minutes.  Next, we went through the photo albums. When I said a name of one of our family, he pointed to the picture.

We then played on the playground for a few minutes.  He is very timid, but determined.  I told him I wanted to go get my camera, so we headed back to the porch.  As I was grabbing my camera, he decided it was time to go.  Everything went in his backpack.  Since it wasn't really time to go, we played for a few more minutes, the backpack on him the whole time.

When it was time to go, he grabbed my hand and off to the van we went.  I helped him in.  We sat in the seat right behind David and Yonas.  He was pretty stoic for the entire ride.  When we arrived at the guest house we climbed out of the van.  He reached out for me and I help him down.  He still had that backpack with him, although I asked him to take it off for the ride, and he did.  We came into the guest house and up stairs to our room.  We sat for a minute and then I changed his clothes.  No problems, he let me put them on and he didn't complain a bit.  I put his Nike sandals on him.  I could tell he liked them.

We headed down to the lobby, as we had planned to go to the Zebra Grill for lunch. It started raining, so one of the fathers took our orders and a couple of them headed down to the restaurant. We went out and sat in the courtyard for a few minutes, but it was evident Chalew wanted to go outside of the courtyard.  I took him upstairs to get a toy to see if I could distract him, but I couldn't.

After a few feeble attempts to take him to the deck to play with the various toys you sent, I decided to give in and go for a walk since the rain had stopped. We walked down to the Zebra Grill and chatted for a few minutes. Trey was ready to go, so we went on a long walk, up and down the dirt streets.  Most of the people were very nice and one young man stopped and told me what a beautiful son I had. He grabbed his face and kissed him on the cheek. 

I tried to get him back into the courtyard a number of times, but each time he resisted, so we kept walking a bit more. It was clear he wanted to go home and he was trying to walk there. He kept pointing down the streets he wanted me to walk down. He carried his car the entire time. We put it down every once and awhile and he would try and drive it on the rocky streets, without too much success.

I finally decided I had to man-up and be the dad.  Even though I know he didn’t understand, I told him that we were going back and that he didn't need to cry. As we headed into the guest house, I started to carry him, at his request. He cried as we entered the gates :(  I knew I needed to control the situation, so I walked through the lobby.  As I was walking through, I told the three couples sitting there that I was apologizing in advance, as I expected tonight was going to be a long night. As I was walking toward the stairs, with very sympathetic looks on their faces, they told me not to worry about it, that it was to be expected.

For the next 1.5 hours he cried…I mean screamed. I tried to console him, play with him, entertain him.  No luck.  I prayed a lot during this time that God would give him peace and me wisdom. I had resolved myself to let him cry it out. He wanted to leave the room and go back downstairs, but I couldn't let him. We actually finally ended up closing our room door and just sitting.  He cried and I tried to both ignore him and love him.  Periodically, I would go over to the bed where he was sitting and give him a hug. Most of the time he would push me away and continue crying.

Finally, I got the remote controlled car back out and gave it to him. I turned it on and gave him the remote. He looked at it awhile, cried some more, and tried to leave the room again.  Eventually, he let me help him with it. It had to be a crazy sound coming from my room with a kid still kind of crying and a remote control car bouncing off the walls.

About 5 minutes into it, he really started to warm up. He actually sat down on the floor and pointed to his shoes, indicating he wanted me to take them off. I took them off and then he pointed to his socks as he must have wanted those off too. I took them off and we continued to play happily but calmly for the rest of the night. We watched a movie and colored - he colors quite well! He did this for quite awhile. Then, I put his PJs on him and brushed his teeth.  He colored a little more, and when he was done, I walked over to him. He put his arms up for me to hold him.  I held him, turned the bed back, and puffed up the pillow.  I patted the pillow as an indication for him to lay down.  He did, but indicated he wanted me to lay down too. I laid down with him and we watched The Incredibles.  After about five minutes of backrubs, he fell asleep. I'm sure he was exhausted. He even snored a little :)

I forgot…as we were chilling out and watching movies, I fed him a delicious meal of crackers (cheese and peanut butter - he preferred cheese), fruit snacks, and water. I never did get to eat my lunch. I had accidentally left it sitting on the coffee table of the common area for 7 hours, so my Easter dinner 2011 was a healthy dose of beef jerky.

More tomorrow. Hugs and kisses to everyone.

Love, Dave


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Arrival in Addis

Yesterday, I started off by saying that it has been a whirlwind around here.  At the time I wrote that, I had no idea that within hours tornados would be touching down at various locations in the St. Louis area.  Many homes and businesses were destroyed or received significant damage, including Lambert International Airport, which is reportedly closed “indefinitely”.  Luckily, Dave had chosen the earlier of his flight options, or would not have departed at all.  We’re hopeful he and Trey will be able to return to the St. Louis airport on Thursday.  However, we could easily drive to meet them in Chicago or Kansas City if necessary.  We do not typically use a travel agency, but are grateful we did this time and feel confident they will work everything out for us.

All images © Michael Gowin Photography, 217-737-7908,, Lincoln, IL. Images may not be printed, copied, reproduced, or distributed without written permission from the photographer.
Dave arrived in Addis Ababa this afternoon.  He was easily able to send me messages through Facebook and we were able to talk a little over Skype.  He said that one of his suitcases was missing at first, but was eventually found and everything arrived intact.   David, our driver from the last trip, met Dave at the airport and delivered him to the Yebsabi Guest House.  It was close to 10:00 p.m. their time, so he would spend the rest of the night in his room.  I have added a World Clock to the left column of my blog to help me keep track of the time difference.

All images © Michael Gowin Photography, 217-737-7908,, Lincoln, IL. Images may not be printed, copied, reproduced, or distributed without written permission from the photographer.
Above is a picture of the Yebsabi Guest House, where a majority of the America World families stay.  During our last visit, we had a suite on the 4th floor.  We had two bedrooms, each with their own bathroom,  divided by a small living area and a kitchenette.  This week, Dave will be staying in the same room that Samantha and Toby stayed in, which has 2 twin beds, while another family will occupy the adjoining room.

At the end of our conversation, as I was telling Dave (who had only slept two hours, but was clearly wired) that he better get some rest, we remembered that he would be sleeping on the side of the building closest to the road, and that sleep might not come easily.  Despite what you might think, it isn’t cars or people that cause foreigners to lose sleep in Addis Ababa… it’s the dogs!!  The city streets are home to wild street dogs that run about barking and howling all…night…long.  Fortunately, we had been warned about this last time and came prepared with a “nature sounds” app loaded on our iPad.  This worked great and will hopefully do the trick again.

All images © Michael Gowin Photography, 217-737-7908,, Lincoln, IL. Images may not be printed, copied, reproduced, or distributed without written permission from the photographer.
Tomorrow morning at 10:00, Yonas, will take Dave and the other families to the Transition Home, where Dave will be reunited with Trey.  I cannot wait for that update and will be waking up during the night to check my messages.

Thanks again to our friend, Michael Gowin,
who took the above photographs during our fall visit.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ethiopia Bound

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind here!!  Earlier today, the kids and I dropped Dave off at the airport so he could catch the first of his flights on his way to Ethiopia!! 

On Tuesday, we received the good news that the US Embassy was finally ready to schedule our interview, grant us a visa, and clear our family for travel.  We were asked to choose three possible dates beginning the following week for the interview.  Without much hesitation, we chose Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  The following day, we were notified that we received our first choice and were scheduled for this coming Monday!!  Sheesh, can we be anymore extreme?  After looking at tickets, we realized that Dave would need to leave St. Louis TODAY in order to arrive before Sunday night.

It's true, we've had hundreds of days to get ready for this trip, and for the most part, we were pretty well prepared.  Still, there are always so many last minute things to do: the paperwork, booking flights, the actual packing, updating my blog, getting all of the electronics ready…you know…stuff.  I also have a habit of putting off a few things until I can barely get it done.  I don’t know why I do that to myself, but I will admit…it’s intentional.  I would say it keeps things exciting!  For me, it makes going on a trip seem like a sport!  Dave would have something different to say.

Anyway, he’s off!!  His flight from St. Louis to Chicago was delayed due to weather, so he had to switch planes last minute in order to make his next flight to Frankfurt, Germany.  Unfortunately, his luggage didn’t follow him and most likely will not arrive in Ethiopia at the same time.  He knows it will show up eventually though, and it’s hard to be too bothered by lost luggage on Good Friday.  After a six-hour layover in Germany, Dave should board his last flight and arrive in Addis Ababa late Saturday night.  Then, on Easter Sunday, he will return to the Transition Home for what is referred to by adoptive parents as Gotcha Day!  This is the day that Trey will leave the Transition Home with Dave and officially become a part of our family forever.  I think I might feel pretty sad about not being there for that.  I felt sad just writing that.  Unless, of course, he screams and cries…then maybe not so much.

They are scheduled to arrive home on Thursday evening.  I’ll be Skyping with Dave throughout the week and he has promised to send me messages as often as possible.  Stop back throughout the week and I’ll try to share his updates here.

(The picture at the top was taken during our first trip to Ethiopia last fall
during our visit to the Kind Hearts care point.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

“Stick With It” Quickly Becomes “Stick It!”

Right around Samantha’s 5th birthday, after months of asking, we decided that the timing was finally right and enrolled Samantha at a charming little school of dance.  A special day was set aside to shop for the necessities: a pink leotard, itty bitty ballet shoes, and shiny black tap shoes.  For months - maybe years - we read about Angelina Ballerina at bedtime, and everyday Samantha would sashay around the house in her lovely lavender tutu.

Several months into practicing her pliĆ© and shuffle-step, while driving home from class, I asked Samantha if she was enjoying her dance lessons.  In her sweet little voice, my pleasing child replied, “No…I think it’s kind of boring.”

What?!?!?!  What was this silly girl talking about?  This was going to be her thing.  I drove on wondering how to convince her that she really didn’t mean what she had said, and that one day, perhaps the day she was crowned Miss America, she would remember this day and be grateful she stuck with it.  Instead, from her car seat in the back, she perked up and in her kindergarten wisdom said,

“I would like to be a gymnast.”

2011 Level 6 State Meet – Springfield, Missouri
Vault – 5th Place
Bars – 3rd Place
Beam – 5th Place
Floor – State Champion!!!
All-Around – 2nd Place

Way To Go, Sami!!  Awesome Job!!!
And Good Call :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Results

We received an e-mail update from our adoption agency today.  The lab work results we have been waiting for have finally made their way to the US Embassy in Ethiopia.  They confirm that the guardian is not Trey Chalew’s biological father.  That seems like a crazy thing to celebrate, but after 267 days of waiting - yes, I’ve counted - anything that moves us closer to bringing him home is considered insanely good news.

So, here we are…again.  We’re back to waiting for the phone to ring with the magical announcement that the US Embassy will issue our visa and that we have been cleared for travel.  Certainly, the deciding parties have run out of requests, right???  What else is there to ask for???  Unless, of course, they decide that the guardian needs to undergo hypnosis or that we all need to have our dreams interpreted.

Here’s a little video clip from the last time we saw Trey Chalew at the beginning of November.  We were all loaded in the van headed back for the guest house after our last afternoon at the Transition Home.  Dave noticed Trey (in the light blue) and some of the older kids (who we loved) heading back to the building where the older children live, so we pulled over to shout one final farewell.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Still Waiting

We don’t have any news to share about the additional lab work that was requested by the US Embassy or how much longer we can expect to wait for our Embassy clearance.  Fortunately, the guardian continues to be extremely cooperative and traveled the eight hour trip back to Addis Ababa again within days of the request.  We were told to expect to wait four weeks for the results.  It’s been two.

We did, however, receive an update today on Trey Chalew from our agency.  They said he has been healthy and his physical development is progressing well.  They reported that he is becoming more comfortable around new people and has become more trusting.  They also commented that he “has become excellent at different activities, too.”  OK...that’s a little vague and we’re not really sure what that means, but we’re looking forward to finding out.  Most months we receive two or three pictures, but they sent a bunch this month.  Here are two of my favorites:
          March Update Chalew Davidson Photo 10March Update Chalew Davidson Photo 2
Despite all of the unexpected delays and months of waiting, I can’t help but smile and just be thankful.