Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 2 with Penny

We had an early start on our 2nd trip to the orphanage at Acacia Village.  The van picked us up at 8:30 in front of the Ethiopian Guest Home after a yummy breakfast of crepes and strawberry jam  (and another cup of the most amazing coffee ever ...

**Just a sidenote: this coffee was sooo good that even Dustin drank several cups a day and he is NOT a coffee man.  It is roasted in such a deep, smokey sort of way that the beans have a strong, complex flavor that we thought tasted similar to a mocha from Starbucks - serious Yuuuum!  We bought 5 bags of coffee beans to bring home and have already gone through one of our bags.

Ok, so I digress.... Our driver picked up 2 other couples that we had met on our first trip to Acacia, also visiting their children and going to court the same week.  One couple had 6 children at home, one of them adopted from Khazakstan and the other couple had 2 boys at home and were adopting their 3rd child, an older sister for the boys.  It was great to talk with these couples, to hear about their reasons for adopting, about their journey and then to share in the moment when they first met their children the day before.  Together, the six of us headed in a van sent to us by our adoption agency, to their in-country office to go over paperwork and talk with the agency director.  Dustin and I have been extremely happy with CWA here stateside but felt even more confident after meeting the coordinator in Ethiopia, Zerihun.  He was incredibly compassionate, gentle, honest and forthcoming.  He laid out (as much as he could) what to expect in the courtroom the following day in front of the judge: what types of questions might be asked, etc.  We felt comfortable and well cared for as we left the Christian World Adoption Ethiopia office and headed for our second time to Acacia Village to see Penelope.

I am usually a pretty talkative sort of girl - I don't meet a stranger - but this day I found myself with little to way (I know, can you imagine that?!)  I sat in silence, preferring to look out the side window instead of the front of the car, to look at all the people as we drove through this beautiful city.  I couldn't take my eyes off of the masses of dear people milling along the streets.  Dustin and I fell in love with everything we saw... and I kept thinking about Penny and what her life might have been like before the orphanage:  mules carrying 5 feet high bales of hay on their backs along the sidewalks, horses in the center median trying to catch the breeze of passing cars to keep the flies off their backs, mothers carrying babies in wraps close to their bodies, men talking to each other to pass the time while hoping for a bit of day labor. I was curious about the masses of people, seeing the extreme number of people in the streets.  I read once we came back to the US that the unemployment rate in Addis Ababa is upwards of 40%.  A dire explanation for the masses of people out and about in the mid-morning.

As we drove (well, more like bobbed and weaved - I'm pretty sure we were inches away from meeting our Maker!) I kept thinking about seeing Penny again...  Would she recognize me from the day before?  Would she come to me with less hesitation?  Had she dreamed about the lady who cuddled her and fed her a bottle the night before?  I had laid awake until 4 am thinking about her!  Would she smell Dustin's cologne and remember his gentle touch on her back as she slept in the breeze of an open window the morning before?  Would we have an opportunity to play together, to see more of a glimpse into our daughter's personality?

The van pulled up to the same grey metal gate.  The sky was a bit overcast as we walked down the steps into the main entrance hallway again.  I saw Penelope in the cafeteria and walked in to see her, motioning to Dustin as we walked in the room.  I reached out to pick her up and she came to me without the same trepidation that held her muscles tense the day before when I had first held her.  She looked at me and I smiled ... "Ta dis!"  (Hi!) Dustin and I said to her.  Dustin had been practicing his Amheric in our bedroom the night before at the guest home and showed off for his baby girl.  "Oh het de shal oh." he said with bright, adoring eyes as Penny looked seriously at him.  (I love you.)  I asked if we could take her to a playroom across the hallway and they were extremely gracious (even though we would have never asked for such royal treatment!) to take all of the children to another room so that we could have the entire playroom to ourselves.  I kissed Penny's soft, spongy curls and caressed her chubby little arms as we made our way to a playmat next to the side wall where a few toddler toys were laying out.  Her breathing felt labored and I could feel wheezing in her chest as I began to set her down next to me and Dustin brought over some nesting cups to play with.  She whimpered and began to cry.  I set her on my lap as Dustin stacked the bottom cups of the tower.  "One" he spoke so sweetly as he laid on his stomach so he could be eye to eye with her.  He reached out with the other nesting cups to see if she might take one.  Yep - she pulled another cup out of the stack and started to become more curious with other toys that laid around us.  Dropping a nearby block into one of the nesting cups became the winner of her affections :)  Ooohh!  I had sooo forgotten how fickle and wonderful the whims of a toddler can be!  It was such fun to see her eyes search curiously and we could almost see the wheels spinning each time she would play for a few moments - look at mommy, look at daddy, play with a block, cry a bit, look at mommy, look at daddy, pick up a cup, cry some more...  I picked her up after a few minutes and Dustin gathered the few toys that we had brought for her to set in her crib.  Her skin felt clammy and she fussed as we walked around the home.  Her nose was running a lot  - Daddy saved the day with some kleenex he had in his backpack.  We took her to the other room to see if she might interact with her little friends who were playing in the back corner of the cafeteria.  They had been quarantined to a 10 foot square in the back of the room by barricading the space with the backs of chairs - of course, toddlers saw this as one huge challenge and more of them climbed up or under the chairs than stayed in the play space - so much fun to watch these little friends!  Dustin held Penny while I climbed through the barricade and sat on the floor to play peak-a-boo and tickle-chase with a few of Penny's friends.  He set her down inside the square and joined me - he was a total toddler magnet (not a big surprise to me!).  Within 2 minutes Dustin had a little boy on each hip and 3 more clawing at his knees - it was hilarious!  Who needs a jungle gym when you've got this guy!  I soo wish I had a picture of that moment!

I attempted to get Penny to crawl or walk as he played with the other munchkins.  She would not have any of that!  If I picked her up to set her to a standing position, she would pull the old "go limp at the knees" trick and cry.  If I set her down on her belly to crawl, she would cry and sit back up.  Being held was where our sweet girl wanted to be - with a pretty serious cold, as far as I could tell, it was a pretty rough day for her.  It is so hard to have the heart of a mama without the ability to see it through!   I wanted to give her a warm bath in a steamy bathroom, rub vics on her chest, cuddle her after some decongestant and a nose bulb.  This wait is heartbreaking!

We met with the nurse -Penny sat on my lap and I took off my watch to give her something to look at.  Baby girl turned that watch over and over, round and around, while we listened to the positive reports of Penny's health and physical development.  The nurse told us that most children have some sort of upper-respiratory tract infection due to living in such close proximity to one another and due, in part, to the change in weather during these summer months (their rainy season).  I asked if they give antibiotics and she said that unless a child begins to run a high fever, the treatment is generally saline drops.  She laid Penny on the table and gave her a few saline drops in her nostrils.  I picked Penny up as she cried (I don't know anyone who likes having something squirted up their nose!) and she quieted as we walked down the hall to the counselor's office.  Same glowing report from the counselor - Penny is well-adjusted and plays well with her classmates. I suppose we would have to wait until we bring her home to see this for ourselves but it was good to know that after only being at Acacia Village for a few weeks, she had adjusted very well.  We thanked the counselor and nurse for their work with the children and for loving Penelope so evidently.  Dustin held Penny as we walked down to the cafeteria for lunch at 12:30 - we had already been with Penny for an hour and a half!!  Where had the time gone?!  Only 30 minutes more - ugh!
We refrained from helping to feed lunch after our meager attempts the day before.  We stood back along a pillar on the side of the room, to observe Penny for a bit from a distance.  She reached out for her spoon to feed herself, although they do not allow self-feeding of the toddler children - with so many babies to care for, the disaster that could become lunch is not worth that risk!  It was amazing to watch her with her buddies.  She seemed to be very alert and aware, despite her icky cold, and finished her lunch.

I scooped her up out of her spot at the table and asked a nurse if we could feed her a bottle before the children went up for naps.  She motioned for us to follow and led us up to Penny's room.  She made a bottle for Penny, pulled a chair into the room from the hallway and I sat down for our last few moments with this angel baby God had chosen for us and us for her.  Drinking the bottle was a bit more difficult this time, with all of her congestion but she managed to drink most of it.  Her eyes were heavy and I studied her carefully as Dustin wiped her nose for the last time before we knew we would need to say goodbye...

I laid her down in her crib.  She rolled around a bit, fussing to get comfortable.  I laid her blanket over her head like I had seen the caregivers do with all of the other infants and toddlers.  Other toddlers were starting to come into the room and find their cribs.  Two caregivers gave out bottles and tucked in the other children as we looked at our little girl, wrapped in the blanket we had left for her.  She closed her eyes and began to breath sweet baby breaths as we stood over her crib and prayed for her.  We laid our hands on her back as we prayed: for protection, for nurture and affection, for her to feel the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit, for health, for safety and then we slipped out of the room.

We are so thankful to have spent the time we had with our blessing.  Saying goodbye was not as difficult as I had imagined.  I just thought of it as the first of many naps that I would tuck her into and then pray for her before slipping out of her room.   I couldn't bring myself to consider it as a "goodbye" - it was just the very beginnings of hello.

We cannot WAIT to continue the hello!


  1. I have added your family to Ethiopian Adoption Blogs. Best Wishes for the rest of your journey!

  2. i am so glad you will be bringing her home soon with a final HELLO!!! i will be following along for sure.

    here are my thoughts on pool hair. get it completely wet before she gets in the pool. somehow that makes the chlorine a little less damaging. afterwards, we shower her immediately. these are both things any kids should probably do before and after swimming, but we tend to be lax about such things. when we bathe her after the pool, we just repeat our daily routine: no shampoo (save once/week), conditioner (currently i really like the kinky curly line. got it at target. have seen it also at whole foods). after drying her, i put in a leave in conditioner/hairdress. also using kinky curly right now for that) after the pool, her hair is SO crunchy, but i think being faithful with the conditioner helps. her hair seems to be in pretty good condition.

    hope that helps. so excited for you to put all this into practice with your dear penny!