Friday morning began with a bang.
If that's what you want to call it.
All seemed to be going well. We were busy getting ready for the day and Mari seemed to be in good spirits. Katie was being playful with her and I was packing snacks, etc. in the backpack for our trip to Entoto mountain. All of a sudden I heard a scream from Katie and, with a look of utter betrayal she cried, “She BIT me!”
She held out her arm there were 4 welts popping up. I will admit it. I was so angry. I got down on eye level with Mari and said in NO uncertain terms... “We do NOT bite.” I said it in Amharic and I firmly held her wrists, but all she did was laugh. It just made me more mad. I was afraid I would lose it. I have compassion and I love this child, but she will NOT harm my other children. She has to get that, and get it NOW. So I told her in Amharic to say she was sorry. She planted her feet and looked at me and laughed again.
What she doesn't realize is she is child #5.
And her mama has a stubborn streak wider than the Mississippi River.
I tried putting her in the corner. I tried showing her how she hurt Katie. I tried ignoring her to make her realize she would not get attention for acting that way. She just laughed.
I wracked my brain to remember what Karyn Purvis would do...what the myriad of attachment books and website I have read would suggest.
So I pulled her into my lap, confined her, and said again “I'm sorry bay.” (“say I'm sorry)
She turned her head away from me and began pulling at my hands to escape.
I held her firmly and told her that she would not get up until she said she was sorry. She fought like a wildcat, screaming and thrashing and gagging. Katie was distressed...fearing Mari would think I didn't like her any more. I assured her that Mari has to understand boundaries and that as soon as she submits she will see that she is free and gets lots of love. The battle raged for 45 minutes and I began to fear we would be there all day. As she screamed I reassured her that I love her, kissed her cheeks, and calmly repeated the command to apologize. She was ticked off and it was clear that she was unable to believe that what had worked for her up to this point was no longer effective. But suddenly, she stopped. I saw her take a breath and I said, once again...
“I'm sorry bay.”
She opened her mouth and in a tiny voice said the magic words... “I'm sorry.”
I screamed in happiness and kissed her all over. “Gobez!!” I shouted and squeezed her little body in a great big hug. She grinned from ear-to-ear and was back to her smiley self.
Like nothing had just happened.
Wow, it worked better than I had hoped.
So we went down to rush through breakfast then went with friends to Entoto mountain with David at the wheel...which would guarantee an exciting drive. Katie got to see the beauty of Ethiopia from over 10,000 feet up and more poverty, more suffering, more need. We took lots of pictures then went back down to Addis because word had come through Job that our Embassy papers were ready.
On the way down we stopped to shop a little more. I bought the girls dresses and a purse for Katie. As we walked a beggar came up to me. He was bent over and leaning on crutches. He held out a wrinkled hand and I gave him 10 birr. He bowed low and smiled then spoke in Amharic. Job told me he said “May God bless you and give you health and a long life.” He seemed truly grateful. My heart broke because 10 birr is less that 75 cents in the US.
They are just so very poor. We have it so good.
We arrived at the Guest House and there was T with a passport and manila envelope in his hand!
“I guess you want these, right?”
Um, YEAH! He reminded me to not open the envelope and to hand-carry it to DC. He said to give it to the first Customs officer I see in the states. I took the precious cargo and realized this was IT. Paperwork and superhuman logistical feats were coming to an end! I stowed them carefully in my laptop bag, then we went with the other families back to the Transition Home to give Mari one last chance to see her friends and say goodbye. Katie was happy to play with the kids again, and I was thrilled to see Y, a boy who we had met on our first trip. He was walking with J and I gave them both big hugs. Precious. Just precious. I have GOT to get these boys home. They are just too much of a treasure to be sitting there waiting. When we finally said our last goodbyes, Katie started to cry. She didn't want to leave the older kids. I felt like crying, too. I looked at Mari as she cheerfully waved goodbye to her home for the past 8 months. I knew that she had no idea of the permanency of the change that was happening. I wondered when we would be back to see those gates open again.
The next few hours were peaceful as I packed. I loved how, despite the hurtful morning, Katie reached out to her little sister. She tickled her and played and had her cracking up with giggles. We met David downstairs to leave at 6:30 and set out for the airport.
Now let me tell you a little something:
Getting through security in Bole National Airport is a nightmare.
Getting through security with a sleeping toddler in a sling, a tired 9 year old, 3 suitcases, 2 backpacks and a computer bag is...well I will refrain from typing the word.
It was just plain H-E-double hockey sticks.
But we did it. And Katie was a CHAMPION when the pressure was on. Have I mentioned that I am proud of her? We sat down, exhausted once again, in the waiting area with other adoptive families and Mari slept away. It was after 8 pm so it was bedtime for her. There was no waking her up, she was OUT.
FINALLY the boarding call came at 9:30. We made our way to our seats and sat down, relieved. We watched as other adoptive families did the same...some with babies, some with toddlers, one with an 11 year old boy who was so obviously excited that I had tears running down my cheeks as I watched him. There were at least 15 children, formerly orphans, who were going home on this flight. Praise God.
As the plane took off I watched Addis Ababa disappear from view with tears in my eyes. Mari was leaving the only country she has ever known. My heart was filled with a strange mix of emotions. But finally fatigue took over and I dozed off.
Mari slept like a ROCK. She slept the 6 hours to Rome, the one hour stop to refuel, and another hour after that! Katie did the same, and I slept as much as I could with 2 girls leaning against me and a seat that did not recline nearly enough to be comfortable. After they woke up we ate and Mari played a bit. She liked standing in her seat and looking at the people behind us. She played with her toys in her backpack and enjoyed walking down the aisle to go to the bathroom. After about 2 hours I could see boredom was becoming a threat, so I decided to take a chance and give her a dose of Benadryl.
Yeah yeah, I know. But I'm sure she is allergic to something!
Much to my relief, after about 20 minutes she started looking drowsy. Before I knew it, she was asleep again! She slept for 4 hours! She awakened in time for the last meal, and then it was time to buckle up so we could LAND! I pulled her seat belt across her and she pushed it away.
She had slept through the first two takeoffs and first landing, so she did not remember having on a seat belt. All she knew was that she was being confined and she does NOT like that feeling one little bit.
Guess what was next?
45 minutes of screaming, thrashing, kicking, and gagging. The Ethiopian flight attendants tried to talk to her, she tried to scratch them. They offered her an apple, she didn't want it. (so Katie ate it!) They even threatened to call the police! (HUH? Seriously? Do they think she CARES?) Then they told me I could take it off of her until just before landing, but I knew that was in no way the right thing to do.
“We have two more flights until we get home. She has to wear a seat belt. She has to learn. If I take it off she will think she can scream and win, so I have to make her wear it.”
They understood but I could tell that was not the course of action they would have chosen. Thankfully I had missionaries sitting near me who later told me they were praying. I could not thank them enough.
Less than ten minutes before landing the screaming stopped. I praised her and she smiled. Ahhh, she is no dummy. We touched ground and I took off her seat belt when we pulled up to the gate. We got off the plane and I looked at my little girl who suddenly had become and American citizen.
One small step for man, one giant leap for an African orphan girl.
We went through Customs and Immigration, thankful to have a chatty officer who kept Katie entertained with crazy stories of punching out Pit Bulls while he stamped passports and paperwork, then we picked up our baggage, checked in at Delta, then went straight to Five Guys Burgers for American food.
It was only 10am, but those burgers tasted like manna I tell you!
We then boarded our next flight and I apologized to the lady in front of me in advance because I figured we would have a battle royale when seat belt time came, but I was wrong! She put that thing on and smiled at me like “see what I just did?” Katie and I both could not believe it. She was so proud of her little stinker self! 2 more flights, and not one tear about seat belts. I was utterly and completely shocked!
Finally, after 26 hours of travel through 9 time zones and over 13,000 miles, we landed in our home state. We stepped off the plane, went through the gate, and walked across the carpet to the scene I had dreamed about so many times.
And there they were.
I was weeping as soon as I saw the crowd. Mari, who had been fussy in her exhausted state, looked at me in surprise to see the tears on my cheeks. Katie was practically skipping because she was so excited. I was gasping for breath as my emotions crept up and took hold of my body. They were cheering, kids were jumping up and down, and Mari...
she was beaming.
We fell into the arms of our family and friends. I wept like a baby as all the stress and emotion finally let loose, and I handed Mari to her Daddy. She looked at him in awe. She reached up with her tiny hands and held his cheeks, and he enfolded her in the sweetest of bear hugs much to her joy. There was not a dry eye in the house.
It was truly a glimpse of Heaven.
Mari had a friend from Ethiopia there to greet her as well. He is 5 and, when he came up to hug her, he said to her in Amharic, “You are going to be OK.”
We rejoiced together and then had a little surprise when Michael W. Smith walked up. He saw the goings-on and stopped for a moment to watch. I did not see him, but a friend did. So he followed him and said “I understand if you are tired and you can totally say no to this, but I want to you know what is going on up there.”
So because of the graciousness of this man who had just flown in from Europe and had to be as tired as we were, our first picture as a family of 7 has Michael W. Smith smack dab in the middle of it! He was so nice, so friendly, and I just loved how we got to share this moment with someone who also has a heart for Orphans and has a platform on which to share it.
Then (You would think we were going home by now, right?”) we headed back up to the lobby to greet that sweet 11 year old boy that was on the flight to DC with us! He had talked with Mari on the plane and shuttle in DC and was so helpful with her. His family lives about 20 minutes from us and I just had to see his sweet face coming home. It was so worth it. He had tears of joy in his eyes and he recognized us, which was precious. I hugged him hard and said “You are HOME!” He just nodded and smiled with those big tears pooling. . And now here they are, 2 Ethiopian children living in the same community with their new families. God is so good.
And now we are home. Mari is home.
She is adjusting, processing, and figuring out just what is going on. She has moments of fear and panic, but seems to be bonding with us quickly. The kids are wonderful with her. She responds well to them all and likes to laugh when they laugh. She loves to cuddle and is getting lots of it as we try to help her feel loved and secure. God is working. She is learning. And I will be so thrilled when she can speak enough English to tell us what she has been thinking.
I am just so very glad to be home. Having all five of my babies in the same room at last is the most wonderful feeling in the world. I pray I will never again take it for granted. I am so very, unbelievably blessed.