"Every child deserves a home." --Harry Holt

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ethiopia Travel Memoir: Day 3 In Country 5/17 (THE DAY WE MET OUR DAUGHTER)

**These are based on my thoughts and feelings while on our trip. Some events may come across clouded and foggy due to our high emotional state while encountering each event.**
 First, the phrase, "our daughter" still seems surreal, but it feels so good coming out of my mouth.

I think I slept a total of 2.2 hours all night, and not in a row. Seriously, no exaggeration. I was so excited to meet CUPCAKE. I was worried we would oversleep. I was worried about not sleeping at all and then being sleepy on the drive when I wanted to take everything in. I was worried that I would get sick on the drive (because I'd heard it isn't exactly smooth, but I'm not a carsick person). Turns out, when I finally fell asleep, we did sleep right through the alarm clock. UGH! I KNEW IT! Luckily, without even making a request, the Guest House staff called our room at 5am to make sure we were up. Thank you, Jesus! We both got ready in 30 minutes, ran down to eat breakfast and into the van with the 2 other couples making the trip to Durame with us. 

I never did get carsick on the drive. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. I think those that are prone to carsickness may have some difficulty with the quick slams of the breaks (so livestock aren't hit), but the last 25 km or so is where the roads aren't paved, and it is actually kinda bumpy. Other than that (I felt) it was smooth sailing. It IS an extremely emotional ride. ONe can't help but think about FINALLY reaching your child in mere hours/minutes when the wait has been a year/month/weeks/days. I was constantly trying to take in the sights, sounds and smells of our daughter's birth country. I didn't have a great vantage point for photos, but one of our travel party took some amazing photos (to be shared later). 

I was SHOCKED by the amount of people and livestock along the road. I am convinced that we knicked a cow's leg, but nobody believed me... The entire drive, I couldn't get Sara Grove's song, "I Saw What I Saw" out of my head. There was literally a soundtrack for how this experience was changing me, and it was playing on loop in my head the entire time. Indescribably feeling. People were constantly on the trek for water. We were able to observe some people taking their water canisters to the nearby well for safe drinking water, but I saw countless people filling their canisters up in puddles and rivers that I am convinced that I wouldn't want to put my shoe in, and they are going to consume this water. This sight literally froze me in fear. Speaking of shoes, there were so many people without shoes! To think, I spent 2 weeks making sure I bought the "perfect Africa shoes," you know, functional, quiet and cute! I disgust myself. Children without pants, children not at school. We also observed many kids walking to school in their oh-so-precious school uniforms. I have students that won't walk a block to school because it is raining out (seriously, I picked up an 8th grader a month ago because he didn't want to walk in the rain). Hmmmmm, these kids were literally walking MILES in uniforms!

I realized that I have a very strong bladder on this trip. I never did have to use a "porcelain hole" on the trip. I just held it as often as possible. :)

We arrived in Durame, we had lunch (spicy spaghetti) at the Durame Hotel. Families used to stay there following their orphanage visit. The hotel is no longer able to "accommodate the needs" of groups like ours. The hotel was not 4-star, and indoor camping probably is an accurate term, but the staff was so helpful, kind and friendly while we were there. I definitely would have spent time in our daughter's birth area and with these people for a night! Especially as it would have meant the opportunity to see her for a brief period in the morning. 

FINALLY, we got to head to the orphanage (PC term= care center). All 3 kids were in a "playroom" when we walked in. I was already crying which meant my vision was blurred, and I couldn't recognize HER right away. MAJOR PANIC for a second there as that was my BIGGEST FEAR, as the photos we had of her were 4 months old. Suddenly, my tears cleared enought for me to see she was the cute bundle all in pink. Her hair was in 2 mini-puffs (pig tails for the white folk). MELT. MY. HEART.
Here we go...
At first, I could tell she wasn't sure what to think of the 2 crazy ferenjis holding here and cooing at her. She didn't quite want to make eye contact. Luckily, I had mentally prepared for the fact that while I had been falling in love with her photo for 3 months, she had no idea we existed. She just kept focus on the familiar faces in the room. Slowly, she started to explore my hair, face and jewelry with her hands. Shortly thereafter, she was smiling and giggling with us, and she is a a big fan of making this goofy grunt/squeal. It is precious. She doesn't have any teeth, yet. She was sucking away at her sleeve, hand, and then gnawing my fingers, so I think we have teeth in the nearby future. The nannies noticed that she was hungry (either this was a sign I missed, or it was a scheduled feeding time). There was an awkward moment because her "main Nanny" either didn't want me to do "any work," or she was feeling protective of 'cupcake' and wanted to be the one to feed her. The Ethiopian people (in my experience) definitely go out of their way to lend a hand or meet a need, but I felt like this particular interaction was the nanny wanting to care for her girl. It is a beautiful thing how much the nannies at the orphanage care for their little people in their charge. Cupcake has many people in her life that love her dearly. I was grateful with a capital "G" when the head nurse insisted that I be the one to feed her. BEST. FEELING. EVER. to feed our daughter for the first time. Most of the pics of me feeding her are horrible because I'm doing what Oprah calls the "ugly cry." 
We can't show Cupcake's identity until we take custody of her on the 2nd trip. Cutest foot ever, no?!
Cupcake fell asleep 3/4 of the way through her bottle. She was OUT for the next 45 minutes. The nannies were worried that I would be upset that she was sleeping and not playing. So not the case! It was her normal nap time. We were told that she is a great sleeper. I may have trouble falling asleep, but usually, once I'm out, I'm OUT. Daughter/mother traits, ya know?! With her sleeping peacefully, we got free reign to check out her fingers (10), toes (10), belly button (innie), hair (so soft and long and continuing to grow), eyelashes (insanely long...I love when babies have long eyelashes), ears (2), lips (puffy, kissable...she is always making a "kiss face" because the naturally stick out), knees (cute baby knees...no chub rolls, though), ankles (skinny). She really has no major health concerns. There are a few things that we will be having checked out once home. I can't help but think about the 'checklist' that we filled out (what seems like eons ago) about possible health concerns that we were open to as a part of the adoption process. Somehow, we were referred a child that seems to be healthier than we are! ;)
Oh, how I long to hold this hand...
While she was sleeping, a 5 year old boy came into the room. He saw K was free and grabbed his hand to play. (Anyone reading this who gets our agency e-mails...he is the featured waiting child of the week). Melt. my. heart. K got out some fruit snacks out of my bag for him. He wasn't quite sure what they were. K opened the bag and he peered into it trying to figure out what it was all about. K tried to dump them out in his hand, and he snatched the bag back. He, oh-so-carefully plucked one out of the bag, and then the best thing happened. Instead of consuming all of the fruit snacks, he ate just one and then ran into the hall to summon his roommates/friends. He shared with all of them. PRECIOUS. We made sure each kiddo had their own bag of fruit snacks and one of the other couples in our travel group had other yummy treats for the kiddos. They LOVED it. That little guy stole my heart. I didn't really discover the waiting child photo-listing until after we had our referral. I 'knew' what it was, but hadn't really taken the time to investigate. Ignorance is bliss, I guess. This little boy's smile stole my heart a few months ago, and now his personality has stolen my heart in person. We pray over the children on the photo-listing to find families. I can't get this particular guy off of my heart and mind. I keep telling K that I pray his family comes for him SOON, and if not, then I have to think it is us, and we will be starting this process over, ASAP. Ha! I can see the fear in his face when I say these things, but interestingly enough...he has never said, "No." :)

 Cupcake awoke again as our time together (for now) was nearing its end. We took more pics (we discovered when we were home that in 2 hours we had snapped 160 pics and taken 4 videos... Ha! We are THOSE parents. We said a prayer together and heart-wrenchingly handed her back. I immediately put on my sunglasses as I started to cry, and I walked outside. I was putting my shoes back on and I could hear the giggles and good-bye calls from the window form the fruit snack and candy sugared up little peoples. Couldn't help but smile through my tears. 
All of that hair! Oh hurt me, cute...
We handed out more snacks to the kiddos in the neighborhood of the care center. We piled back in the van as sadness and exhaustion set in. All voices were silent. We embarked on a different route than the one that brought us to Durame. This one included 35 km of bumpiness on unpaved roads. It was telling that everyone in the van (except for the driver and myself) feel asleep on these roads. It was the perfect illustration of how emotionally drained everyone was. 

It took about 2 hours to get to Awassa. We stayed at the Lewi Hotel. My preference would have been to just get all the way back to Addis, but I'm certain the driver was fried from the days travels, and it is probably not recommended to drive on these livestock filled roads in the dark! The Lewi was a nice hotel, but the room was super stuffy. Couldn't really open a window because we were right on a busy street. 

I've loved every inch of Ethiopia and its people. The only thing I was missing at this point was our daughter in my arms and some Diet Coke. :) 2 more sleeps until court!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ethiopia Travel Memoir: Day 2 In Country 5/16

**These are based on my thoughts and feelings while on our trip. Some events may come across clouded and foggy due to our high emotional state while encountering each event.**

While I got some much needed sleep, my tummy was back to feeling uneasy. This particular uneasiness will probably not disappear on this trip. I pinpointed what it is: anxiety. A good anxiety, but anxiety, nonetheless. I just want to meet our daughter and pass court! The anticipation was about to put me over the edge. I decided to change my mindset and just learn and immerse in the Ethiopian country/culture. 

The guest house was able to get a hold of baggage services at the airport. K's bag came in on a flight from Turkey late the night before. He was meant to leave earlier than 6:45 am with the driver to pick up his bag, as well as, a couple that was flying in and needed a ride to the guest house. I woke him at 6:53 am, and luckily the driver still took him to the airport. He kindly didn't make me go with. Love him. He knew I needed to do some deep breathing and calming to prepare for the day. Our plan was to do some sight-seeing and I wanted to be calm enough to take in all that I could.

A few "random thoughts" at this point:

*I'm not going to have fingernails left when we get back to the States. I'm not a nail bitter, but I fiddle with my nails when I'm nervous. Gross habit.

*I rely on K to just take charge and "figure it out" when I am confused about things. I need to work on that.

*Mt. Entoto--must learn more about this, because our guide was difficult to understand.
                       For now, this is what Wikipedia had to say:
Mount Entoto (Amharic: እንጦጦ) is the highest peak overlooking the city of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Mount Entoto is part of the Entoto mountain chain, reaching 3,200 meters above sea level. It is also a historical place where Menelik II resided and built his palace, when he came from Ankober and founded Addis Ababa. It is considered a sacred mountain and holds many monasteries. It is also notable as the location of a number of celebrated churches, including Saint Raguel and Saint Mary.[1]
The mountain is densely covered by eucalyptus trees planted during the reign of Emperor Menelik II; thus it is sometimes referred to as the "lung of Addis Ababa". The forest on the mountain is an important source of firewood to the city.

The Orthodox Church on the grounds of Emperor Menelik's palace contains a museum inside. We weren't allowed to take photos, and I had difficulty understanding our guide. I observed royal dress which I assume was from the late 1800's and early 1900's, and that is about all I can remember. Pathetic, I know. 
I can say, on the way up Mount Entoto, there were so many people walking up and down, so many "elderly" women carrying piles of wood/sticks that were 2x their bodies. It seemed if people were fortunate enough, they had donkeys to carry the load (and yes, I just recently complained about walking 4 flights of stairs). People were always busy, and I mean busy in the physical sense. I get cranky if I miss Glee on Tuesday nights. Need me some perspective straightening. I wish I could have snapped a photo of the 3 boys that had taken some wood, string and ball bearings to fashion themselves a "sled" to go down the road of the mountain on. Dangerous? Perhaps. Having fun waving at us and whooping while they picked up massive speed? Absolutely. 

The Church (usually, there are more people around, but it was a Monday, and actually "closed". Kindly, they gave us a tour anyway.

Our driver insisted on this pic so we would remember that this was the palace of Emperor Menelik

Not the farming I'm used to. Someone call Joe Dolan or Willis Heitshusen to fatten those skinny cows up!

My new little friends outside of Menelik's palace

To prove we were there. :)

Overlooking Addis. Our driver was impressed that K could tell him about where our Guest House was. (Me: Somewhere to the left?)

We headed back down Mt. Entoto and went to the Ethnological Museum located in Emperor Haile Selassie's (1892-1975) former palace and surrounded by Addis Ababa University. The people/students walking around campus looked like students on any college campus I've ever been on. Probably more well-dressed. The former palace now serves as the University Library, home to the University President's office and the Ethnological Museum). 

Part of the museum was done according to the lifecycle and highlighted some of the Ethiopian tribes and the significant cultural events at this time. It talked about childhood games, passing into adulthood, as well as, death and how that can be honored. Another part of the museum was the preserved bedrooms of Emperor and Empress- yes, they slept in separate quarters. Finally, there was art from the Gondor period. I think my favorite part was the section of cultural instruments. I really wanted to buy a krar! The krar is a 6-stringed, bowl-shaped lyre (see, I did learn something at the museum!). I couldn't figure out how to get a full size one into our luggage, and K wouldn't help me carry it on. I settled for a mini-krar instead (and this is okay, because I have zero musical ability anyway). 

I failed to take a picture of the outside of the Ethnological Museum (and we couldn't take any inside). I got this from google images.

Our driver took us shopping at one of the lesser frequented street shops (and I mean, there were a ton of people, just no tourists and we had never heard of it before, and I still can't remember the name). At first, I found this particular shopping experience to be rather overwhelming. We created quite a following. Some of the vendors were shouting at us and at one time, a gentleman grabbed my wrist to have me look at his wares. At that point, our driver told me I wasn't to leave his side. "Can do!" Young boys the (ages 7-10?) kept asking to shine our shoes. Our driver asked me to wait to give anything out, food or money until we were done shopping and back at our vehicle. I felt like the biggest jerk for turning people down, when I had snacks, etc. to give in my backpack, and clearly I was shopping and had money to give. Luckily, we didn't miss the chance to give to anyone. They just continued to follow us from street side vendor to vendor. My first purchase was a traditional dress for myself. The 'shopkeeper' and I had difficulty communicating about the purchase. I am fairly busty/curvy :), and the Ethiopian people are pretty petite. I was asking about the possibility of a dress fitting me. She kept holding up the dress I was inquiring about saying, "Yes, fit!" My response? "Ummmm, not so much. Too little." I think I may have even used the word "pequeno" at one point. No, Spanish wasn't helping me either... It became pretty clear that the woman knew exactly what I was asking, and decided to just show me. She ordered me to sit on a chair in her teeny tent, and showed me that she would just altar the garment on the spot. Talk about service! She finished it and it certainly did fit me! I asked her the price, and when she told me (800 birr?) I was getting out my wallet. Our driver immediately said, "No." He even started wagging his finger at her in shame. It became clear that he felt I was being overcharged.  If I'm doing my math right (which isn't likely), she wanted to charge me approximately $50 for the dress. I didn't think this was outlandish, especially because she had just fixed it up to fit me in 15 minutes. Regardless, they haggled over the price for a while. I think I paid more like 550 birr. I realize that it is easy to tell in Ethiopia that I am a tourist, and the attractive option is to overcharge me. We are probably expected to haggle on the price (my mother's word for haggle is "dicker" and I just can't get myself to use that word...). I just had this constant feeling while shopping that the Ethiopian people (most people in the world for that matter) could put money earned to better use than I (as evidenced by almost anything I purchase in life), so I wasn't really into bargaining, but our driver felt adamant that we shouldn't be overcharged. 

Waiting for my alterations. Chick behind me has some serious style...
I felt true heartbreak during this shopping experience when a woman trying to breastfeed her baby begged us for food. This was not the only time we saw this. One person speculated that the breastfeeding was done in front of us to garner sympathy. Well, it worked. This wasn't the only time we witnessed this. Really, if you are a person that needs to have the knowledge that you are more likely to be given food if you are trying to breastfeed while begging for food, you really need the food, otherwise, why would you have this knowledge and take action on it? 

When we returned to the guest house there were probably 10 families (all with our agency) that had just returned from Durame. We got to see the McManus Family! They were thinking it was a possibility that our babes are in the same room, along with the Brooke baby! So crazy to think these 3 lil darlins are coming to live in the same state and share a room in their orphanage! (Update: our daughter is not in the same room, but regadless, they sleep mere yards from each other each night!) Also, we met another family from our state and a family from NoDak!!!! Woot! Small world! What amazing connections to make to people while on the other side of the world!

Some of the families that had returned from Durame were planning a trip out to the Leprosy Hospital. Wikipedia explains better what this is:
ALERT is a medical facility on the edge of Addis Ababa, specializing in Hansen’s disease, also known as “leprosy”. It was originally the All Africa Leprosy Rehabilitation and Training Center (hence the acronym), but the official name is now expanded to include tuberculosis: All Africa Leprosy, Tuberculosis and Rehabilitation Training Centre.
ALERT’s activities focus on its hospital, rehabilitation of leprosy patients, training programs for leprosy personnel from around the world, and leprosy control (administration of the Ethiopian Ministry of Health’s regional leprosy control program). From the beginning, ALERT provided leprosy training for medical students from Addis Ababa University. Also at ALERT is the Armauer Hansen Research Institute, founded in 1970, specializing in leprosy research. There is currently a 240-bed teaching hospital, which includes dermatology, ophthalmology, and surgery departments, also an orthopedic workshop, and a rehabilitation program.

The families headed there allowed us to tag-a-long (yes, we are those people..."You are going where? Sounds great, I'm going to horn in on your fun!) Grateful for kind people! :) We were able to purchase some of the things on my shopping list and support the hospital. There was also a gentleman (I wish I had written his name down) that was weaving on his loom. He was definitely a master of his craft!

ALERT Hospital restroom. Suddenly, I didn't have to go anymore...
We headed back to the guest house. At this point, we were starving (okay, so I am still altering my perspective and language from this trip. I realize now, more than usual, that I can be so melo-dramatic about EVERYTHING. Clearly, I was not starving. I had just skipped lunch and now it was a little past dinner). I've not truly witnessed people that are hungry enough to approach a stranger for food (and this is extremely different from an individual with a sign on the side of an interstate entrance). So, in my very spoiled, American way, we were feeling hunger pangs. We had breakfast at 9am (some sort of fruit bread). When we got back to the guest house from our sight-seeing, we ordered "lunch" but there was some confusion between people ordering to eat soon, and those ordering to eat in the evening, so our lunch wasn't prepared (which worked out because we went out to the ALERT Hospital anyway). We had dinner (by candlelight due to a power-outage), and began packing small overnight bags, because we were headed out to MEET OUR DAUGHTER in the morning!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ethiopia Travel Memoir: Day 1 In Country 5/15

**These are based on my thoughts and feelings while on our trip. Some events may come across clouded and foggy due to our high emotional state while encountering each event.**
I had high hopes for today. Unfortunately, with some lingering tummy issues and foggy head we didn't accomplish much at first. By late afternoon, I had managed to shower and eat a little something. Unfortunately, at some point, I had resolved that I might stay at the guest house. I kept hoping that solid sleep would help my tummy calm down. I was praying for quick healing, because I was bound and determined to experience everything I possibly could! 

Thankfully, I got 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep. K had gone down to the lobby to get some bottled water and make plans for a dinner out. He ran into 4 other couples (other adopting families) that were heading out for a traditional Ethiopian dinner. I'm not sure if someone invited him to tag-a-long or if he invited himself, but we ended up going out with all of them. This was great, they were such fun people! Thanks, again everyone for letting us horn-in on your plans! :) 
We went to a restaurant called, Yod Absynnia (sp?). We didn't realized we would be going back here at the end of the week as scheduled by our agency, but truthfully, I didn't mind going twice. Each couple ordered an 'entree' and it all came out on the same Injera platter. We shared it all communal/family style, a this is traditional. We had Doro Wot, Tibs, and some other stuff (really intelligent, aren't I?), all, of course, with Injera.

I felt much better in the evening. I took Tylenol PM to help me sleep and made it through 7 hours without waking up once. YES!!!

I've contacted my IT department (K) to get the videos of cultural music and videos uploaded. IT department grunted back at me. I think this means it will be fixed shortly???

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ethiopia Travel Memoir: Travel Day 1 5/13-5/14

**These are based on my thoughts and feelings while on our trip. Some events may come across clouded and foggy due to our high emotional state while encountering each event. **

I left work 30 minutes early (no small feat when you work in a middle school). I rushed home. K had already taken Diogee (D.O.G.) to the kennel (aka doggy hotel).I checked the mail to discover correspondence from our adoption agency. It wasn't a card wishing us a great and safe trip. It was an invoice for our homestudy update. The enclosed note explained that we should have our face to face completed by 5/20 (the day of our court date in ET.) Ummmmmm, that isn't going to work! We won't even be in the country! We quickly called our social worker to clear things up, to find out it was just a misprint. Whew!!!! We packed the car and left for the airport (this is exciting so far, isn't it?!) We checked in for all of our flights without a problem. We tried to check-in 24 hours earlier, but had no success. My suitcase was the heaviest, but weighed exactly 50 lbs. :)

Flight to Chicago was delayed an hour when we got to the airport. Of course, it was "on time" when we had checked it before leaving the house. Altogether, we took off about an hour and fifty minutes later than planned. We did have to rush through O'Hare to make it through security at the international terminal and onto the airplane.
By the time we got onto our flight to Turkey, I was already exhausted. I was tired from work, getting ready for the trip, worrying about every detail of the trip, etc. Normally, I struggle to fall asleep in cares and airplanes. This time, I don't even recall taking off! We were in the air around 10:30pm. When dinner and drinks came around (after midnight), I was still sleeping. K and the flight attendant poked me awake (and this was probably the last time I slept for any length of time on the trip). I still can't believe I at airplane pasta after midnight, while half asleep. Our plan had been to eat dinner at O'Hare because we were supposed to have a 3 hour layover. However, with the delays we missed dinner, so it was good to get a little something.

I did fall asleep again, but as mentioned before, it wasn't very restful (I think gut-rot from eating so late had something to do with it.) I woke up after about 20 minutes. K seemed to be conked out, and while I was happy for him, he was on the aisle and I desperately needed to go to the bathroom. Sorry, honey!
We were served breakfast on our flight to Turkey as well. After the 11 hour flight, all I wanted was to shower and brush my teeth. We made it to Turkey, got our transfer tickets and headed through security again. We bought 3 "Coke Lights" (sooooooooo not as good as Diet Coke). It tastes like Diet Pepsi...blech. We had 2 Coke Light and bottled water confiscated at the next security point. (I wasn't thinking about going through security again when I bought them). The very "nice"security worker offered to stand with me while I chugged the beverages. I tried, but I had just had an entire can of Coke Light. I ended up throwing them away. It hurt me...

We hpped our flight to Addis with no problems. We were both tired and were able to fall asleep (briefly). I started to feel a little nauseated from the lack of sleep and airplane food. I ended up reading most of the flight. I wholeheartedly recommend, "No Biking in the House Without a Helmet" by Melissa Fay Greene. I was stifling laughs.
We landed in Addis at 12:05 am. 22 long hours of traveling. We were able to get our visas quickly, exchange some $ and get through customs without difficulty. When we got to baggage claim, 3 bags were there, K's bag missing (so very glad it wasn't my bag! Sorry, honey!) We weren't the only ones with missing baggage. We hopped in line to make arrangements to find it. Things were moving at a snails pace, and I was tired (understatement). After an hour of waiting, it was our turn (we were only 4th in line). We were able to fill out the appropriate paperwork. The kind lady explained that bags aren't considered 'missing' until 5 days has passed. Hmmmm, I'm telling you it isn't here, I guess I thought that was the definition of missing? (I get snarky in my head when I'm tired). Finally, we were on our way to the guest house. We arrived around 2:30am. Driving there was peaceful. Not much action in the city that late/early. Just hard to believe we were FINALLY in Ethiopia!!!!
2 of our bags. These were all of the donations that we took to the care centers. (Diogee not included, as he would try to hump all of the children. Yes, hump. I said it. He is naughty). Thanks again to all those who donated!!!

 For the most part, we went straight to bed. Bonus of being hearing impaired? When I took out my hearing aids, I didn't hear the crowing rooster, mooing cow, barking dogs or 5am 'call to prayer'. K said this all kept him awake off and on. Oh well, I still woke up about every 30 minutes, because I just couldn't get my stomach to settle. Excitement, exhaustion, both?

Jemimah Guest House, Addis Ababa. I need to learn to use my camera properly.
 **Photos below of rockin' room 35. The stairs are brutal in this elevation... I'm going to start training for trip 2 in case I am carrying a baby up all of those stairs :) Yeah, you're right...probably won't happen.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Turning Today Around

The countdown to leaving for out court trip is getting SHORTER, but it almost seems like it is taking LONGER. I'm stuck in this limbo between still having 8 kabillion (technical number) things to do, and just wanting to be on the airplane! 

Where we started... 63 days
Look how short it is!? (We cheated and pulled a few extra off. Originally the countdown was for the day we actually meet our daughter, and my chain at work is still that. This one is days until we leave!)    

So, I was having a kind of *blah* day. You know the one. It is a Monday, don't want to get out of bed and face the drama of a work day, especially when the weekend was both relaxing and productive. PLUS, I couldn't stop thinking about the HUGE snake in our window well outside our basement window. 
Okay, okay. If it was HUGE, I wouldn't have needed the arrow. It IS HUGE in my mind's eye, though! It was much more threatening when it was between the screen and window pane and rearing it's ugly head while I was in the basement yesterday!
 Any Guesses as to which one of us "manned up" to get it out of there????????????????????

YUP! I've got the snake in a shovel booking down our sidewalk. My lovely husband wouldn't even come close enough to take a picture of the snake on the shovel. I should have guessed when he freaked out because his phone vibrated when we were standing over the window well. I may have laughed so hard I snorted at him. I forgive him. He is the official 'spider getter.' If we have any rodents, etc....he is on DECK, and you will all help me remind him!!!!!! :)
I heaved that poor snake into the pond 1 house over. Hope he is enjoying his NEW home and doesn't come back for a visit.

I am far too verbal to make an appropriate photo story! My apologies. 

The donations keep rolling in! I packed all of these up yesterday (and forgot to take a picture...I'll do that next time).
This is what gave me courage to get the snake! I had 2 packages when I got home from work! Front and center are the comfy, cute and sensible shoes I ordered for our court trip. The first pair of shoes I've ever ordered online! May have woke a sleeping dragon there! My first pair of Keens. I think I like 'em already! The stuff piled in the back is a donation for the orphanage from an old friend, Tessa! Thanks, Tessa! Can't wait to pack it all in the next bag!
 Thanks to everyone for the donations! I promise this isn't my 'official thank you.' That is coming! :) If Monday ended on this exciting of a note, I'm excited to see what Tuesday brings!!!!!!!


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