Thursday, March 29, 2012

Created for Care 2012

Last weekend I was given the privilege of attending "Created for Care" - a retreat/ conference for adoptive and foster mothers. There were over 400 women in attendance, so the resort that we stayed at was swarming with like-minded women who all have a passion for Jesus and orphan care. It was amazing! I went last year and had an amazing time, so I was so thankful for the chance to go back.

Some of the AGCI Mamas!

I learned so much this weekend! There were so many new things taught this year, and even things that I'd heard before seemed to resonate deeper. Another difference is that now when I learn about attachment and parenting, it is much more real because there is a sweet little boy that will be in our home soon!

Sunrise from our porch, overlooking a lake

One of the amazing parts of the weekend was spending time with some AMAZING women. I couldn't have had better roomies/car buddies, and I loved finally meeting some women that it seemed like we already knew each other!!!

This is a precious woman! Katie Braddy, loved getting to know you deeper!

Courtney Bryant and I just missed each other in Raleigh. She started working at the church my husband worked at in NC just after we left last summer. I have a feeling that if we lived in the same place, we'd be best buds!

My roomies and travel buddies: Katie B. and Laura Swann!

My girl Sarah Taylor- we have LOTS of connections, but we're from the same town and went to high school together. God is doubling their family size this year- through adoption (Uganda) AND pregnancy!

In addition to the amazing community, was the amazing teaching. I learned SO MUCH but I think the main "themes" of what God taught me were these things:

1. It doesn't matter at what age you bring an adopted child into your home. From day 1, 5 months, 5 years, 15 years, etc... every child has to heal. There are things that may manifest at different ages, and as parents we must be ready and available to guide the healing process. This is a BIG responsibility BUT God is the one who heals them, not us. We need to be compassionate and open to discussing things with our children and then trust God to do His work!

2. There are many tools available to help the attachment/healing process. Cocooning (more info to come on that) is a starting ground, but this is a lifelong process. Our kids can't be healed in 3 months. We were given lots of practical advice on how to help our kids, and what types of things are not effective and are very effective.

3. In order to best love and equip our children, we must understand how God loves and equips us. If we don't see ourselves as God sees us, then we won't know how to teach the Holy Spirit, or grace to our kids.

4. There is a big, big need out there for orphan care, advocacy, and adoption. There are some AMAZING organizations that are already on the ground in some very needed areas! Check these out:

5.  Community is so necessary. I already knew this, but experiencing it this weekend with all of these amazing mamas was so good for my heart! It was so wonderful celebrating and aching with these women. God is so good to give us what we need. 

Can't wait to go back again!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Interview Date!

The interview for our file will be on April 16! We are not a part of this interview, so we will wait for word from the embassy after this. From that point, the US embassy can choose to continue the investigation of orphan status, or they can clear us if they deem that Israel was truly an orphan. We could travel as soon as a week after interview or it could be much longer if the investigation is furthered.

If you're a bit confused, it works like this: The Ethiopian government has already cleared Israel and deemed him to be not only an orphan, but now our son. It is irreversable. However, the US government starts completely over with their investigation to make SURE that the children are orphans. It is completely out of order, because even if they thought Israel wasn't an orphan, the ET government already declared him to be our son now, and since he has been adopted according to ET, then Israel could never be adopted again. He would remain in an orphanage. We are not worried at all that they would not approve Israel's case, but that is just a bit more of an explanation of what the embassy process is and why their investigation is so thorough, and how weird it is that it comes AFTER a family passes court!

So please be praying for our case on April 16! We would love to have our son home before the end of April. At that point he will be 6 months old (we got his referral at 8 weeks).  Trusting in God's sovereignty today!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ready to Interview!!

We received ANOTHER email this morning!!! The embassy is ready to set up the interview for our file. This is HUGE!!!!

Our in-country staff will decide the interview date, so we are at the mercy of their decision and the available dates at the embassy.

But the REALLY REALLY GOOD NEWS is that once we have this interview date, it is VERY LIKELY that we will travel within 1 week of that date! It's not guaranteed, because the embassy can always request additional information. However, in most cases, families clear embassy within a day or so of the interview.

Of course I will continue to update.... but let's all pray that we are back in Ethiopia VERY SOON!!! God is faithful and hears our prayers!!!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

File Opened!

We got this email early Monday morning from the US embassy in Ethiopia:

"We would like to inform you the consular section completed screening for your Form I-600 petition.  We will now begin the review of orphan status for the I-604, Determination on Child for Adoption.  As part of this process, we may request additional information or documents as it becomes necessary throughout the I-604 process.  You will receive notice when processing is complete."

In non-adoption jargon, this means that our file is opened! Another huge step forward! God has been showing himself SO FAITHFUL to us and to His purpose.

Now we wait for an interview date and then for clearance! Praying for more news this week!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Israel's Nursery

Like many other first-time moms, I have put way too much time into Israel's nursery. I dreamt about it long before we actually started setting up his room. I knew I wanted to go "gender-neutral" (although Will says it is NOT gender neutral) so that multiple kids could share this space/bedding. I LOVE to sew and do things myself, so most of what you see was made with my machine. There's not really a "theme" but LOTS of bright colors. I love the way it turned out!

The map was another "SIMPLE" DIY that didn't end up being simple. We ordered the map off of a teacher's website for dirt cheap, but then the cost of laminating it and putting grommets in made the whole map cost around $40. I wanted it to be laminated and not framed so we could draw on it with dry erase markers one day.
The dresser was an old one that Will and I found at an antique store for $20 before we got married. I repainted it "Dried Leaves" found at my local Ace Hardware. The floor mat was Will's Christmas gift to Israel- it can be found some places online but I've also seen it at the Auburn University Bookstore. Will bought it for wholesale price by contacting the designer.

Here you can see our little diaper changing station. We plan on using cloth diapers once our son is home and healthy. (Decision is made and diapers purchased- no need to tell me your negative opinions on it!). The ADORABLE humidifier is one of my favorite things and reminds me of a precious family that has been so supportive.

If any of you feared that our child would not be spoiled or have enough junk, let this picture put you at ease. :) I call this bookshelf an ode to being in the adoption process for 2 years. For Eighteen months we were collecting random stuff that was baby-ish yet not gender specific. The bookshelf and orange bins are from IKEA and the bins hold everything from bath supplies, extra fabric, to the random baby stuff like nail files and medicine. My mom got us the big bookshelf and that experience was hilarious- I think we southern ladies caused quite the scene as we tried to pick up the boxes and haul them to the checkout. :)
This wall collage makes me so happy. The ET art was given to me by my BFF adoptive mom. I made the yellow frame's giraffe art using this as inspiration. The green frame holds a greeting card that a friend gave us last year and it has little children holding hands around the globe! The giraffe rocking chair on the floor was a gift from Will's parents for Israel for Christmas and it sings!

The quilt hanging off the back of the crib was made using Gus and Lula's tutorial. The bumper pad is a breathable bumper, and I made the penant flags.

I also made the throw pillows and crib skirt (crib skirt tutorial here). Don't worry the pillows won't be in there with him, although he is used to sleeping with a pillow under his head at the orphanage.
I made the mobile using this tutorial. The art print reads "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow"- it was a gift from a precious friend (and adopting mama) and can be found at the Gus and Lula shop.
The pillow hanging on the door was Will's when he was an infant and reads "I'm Sleeping"- to put on the door during naptime. Will's mom kept everything from his childhood so we have a lot of sentimental items! My mom framed the beautiful art hanging up, it was a scarf she had and I love it!

The table was my mom's and passed down to us, so I painted it the same "Dried Leaves" by Ace. I made the two coasters on there for all the mornings we drink our coffee in our nursery when we go in there to pray. The glider was my sister's and I slipcovered it (inspired by a few tutorials but I didn't follow any one in particular so I won't link). There is a zipper on both pieces so I can take the cover off to wash it. I made the throw pillow using this tutorial. The green/yellow blanket was some clearance fabric from Joanns that I just added binding to. The art on the right is from Ethiopia (postcards!) and we found it at the Lime Tree in ET but I also saw it in the market too. My hubby is a runner so he picked them out. The stool was hand painted by a friend/mentor from Auburn. I made the curtains without a tutorial, just using what scrap fabric I still had leftover.

PHEW! What a long post. Thanks for bearing with me and for "stopping by" to see our nursery :). If you were here in my house it would probably be the first room I took you to! I hope I answered any questions you had but if you have any feel free to comment or email. I LOVE making things with my sewing machine and love that his nursery is 100% his with not another just like it. I love looking around this room. I could name off SO MANY people who were generous to us and blessed us with so many of the things in here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Embassy Submission!

Today we received an email stating that the US Embassy in Ethiopia has received our file! We have been SUBMITTED!!!!

I cried for a solid five minutes after the news. God is so incredibly faithful. I have been SO PERSISTENT in my prayers this week over this. Just continually claiming God's faithfulness and sovereignty, and petitioning the Lord to bring our son home and submit us to embassy. God is SO FAITHFUL! He answered us! I am humbled that the Lord hears my prayers!! What a joy to have a Heavenly Father who knows us and cares for us.

So now we wait for our file to be "opened" and for an interview to be scheduled. This could take anywhere from 1 week to 3 months. Praying for a VERY SHORT time frame so we can bring our son home soon! Now my prayers have changed from "embassy submission" to "fast interview date and clearance"- so feel free to join me in that!

I have seen the beauty of this community here, and the believers who have joined with me in praying boldly. What a beautiful gift we have been given to intercede for our children and for each other in prayer.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ethopia Trip One: Traveling Home

I guess I never officially wrapped up our travel posts... because I forgot these photo gems.

Let me just say that all my husband had to do was tuck his shirt in his super cool "travel pants" (and show off his passport holder).

 And I... well I didn't make a single adjustment for this photo. Yes, I was wearing tennis shoes and a skirt, with my jacket around my waist. Like all the cool travelers. What you didn't see was that I wore knee-high compression socks on the plane with this outfit.

Thank you Addis airport for reminding me to take out my gasoline, magnets, poison, fire extinguisher, and paint from my checked luggage.

I guess it is safe to say that we got a fit of the giggles when we were in the Addis airport. I think it was being drained from such an emotional day, lack of sleep for over a week, or the fact that we were trying to ignore the fact that we were leaving Ethiopia.

Here's to traveling in style!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

So What's Next?

Okay, so now that I've caught up on our first trip to Ethiopia, let me fill you in on what we're waiting on to return.

After we passed court on March 5th, our son became "B" William McGee. Next steps include his paperwork being sent off to have a NEW birth certificate with our names on it. A passport must be filed for him with his new name. Then, an embassy-approved medical doctor has to assess him to give medical clearance.

After all of those three things occur, (which can take up to 5 business days per thing, we were told) we will be submitted to the United States Embassy office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Embassy submissions only occur on Mondays. We will be emailed when we are submitted.

After you are submitted, your file is "opened" and reviewed. We will also be emailed when our file is opened.

After it is opened and reviewed, a person from our file will be interviewed. We will be given this interview date. Lately, the embassy has been very backlogged on interviews so the interviews occur 3-4 weeks after the decision is made to do an interview.

After the interview occurs, Lord-willing, we will be cleared to go pick up our son. This typically happens within a week of the interview.

SO, this is how we are praying, and how we would ask that you join us in prayer:
-A very, very speedy embassy submission. We're hoping for this Monday (which will be 2 weeks/ 10 business days after our court date).
-For our file to be opened soon after, and interview date set shortly after that.
-No hiccups in our file, and that we can proceed efficiently and quickly.
-To bring our son home in April. At that point he will be six months old and have been in an orphanage for five months.

Feel free to join us in praying* boldly for these things! I have so appreciated all of your support, especially after my post about leaving our son. Although I was warned, I don't think you can really prepare yourself for that experience. I still find myself crying and missing him so much, but it is nice to have people who are waiting with us in this, and other adoptive families that are going/have been through the same thing.

***And when I say pray boldly, I mean it. This embassy process can take 1-4 months for families, and several of my readers/ friends are also in this stage, having passed court and waiting for submission. I'm praying that the US Embassy picks up speed in general, seeing the need for children to reunite with parents quickly and to move out of institutionalization and into homes.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ethiopia Trip One: Hannah's Hope

Hannah's Hope is the name of the transition home that our son currently lives in. It is a beautiful, very clean facility. There are two houses and another building that has a kitchen/offices, etc. We never got a formal tour, but we did peek into some of the rooms when we had down time.

Israel's crib/bassinet. His crib neighbor is soon to be home with his forever family!

Laundry line/ cleaning station

To the left is the baby napping room, to the right are the big kids bedrooms. Upstairs are the baby bedrooms.
Baby nap room- kids lie in moses baskets, piles on the floor, floor cribs, bouncy seats- all with blankets covering their faces. It was a chorus of coughs and sneezes when we were there!

One of the big kid bedrooms

View from the balcony

Every day they clean ALL the outside crocs and the inside flip flops (you take your shoes off when you go inside the houses)

One day two of the toddler boys were a little fussy, so Almaz opened her window and a special mother lifted them up so that she could play with them to make them happy!

Hannah's Hope!

We are so thankful for the wonderful staff that care for the children at Hannah's Hope. It is clear that they love our son and that they are doing their best to care for all of the children there. The facilities were so clean. No child was left crying for very long. If our son must be in an orphanage, I'm glad he's there (but with that said, NO CHILD should be in an orphanage and I want him home yesterday!).

 I was amazed at how many people are on staff there, and it also made me think that we don't pay enough for our agency fees if we are paying for all of their salaries PLUS the people in the US! When people ask "why does adoption cost so much?" they should also think about what kind of care the kids are getting, and how many people rely on those agency fees. We would pay anything necessary for our son, and to know that we are getting such high quality of care for our son is so reassuring.

Another special part of our relationship with Hannah's Hope is that we can bring donations. We brought two tubs and two large suitcases FILLED with donations of formula, diapers, baby toiletries, adult deodorant, baby blankets and booties, sidewalk chalk, etc. I saw the special mothers immediately put the forumla to use. It is through donations that we can have such high quality products for our kids and it is a beautiful circle- what we bring may not benefit our son (like what we bring on trip 2), but will be put to use by other kids at HH, just like other families' donations have benefited Israel.

I think about those sweet women and men who are loving on our son and all of the kids and it makes my heart happy. I love watching the videos we took of Hannah's Hope where the special mothers are talking and playing with the kids, or chatting in the background in Amharic. Ethiopia is so beautiful, and the people at Hannah's Hope are no exception. I will be forever grateful for those people who pour out their lives for orphans, who are caring for my son in my absence, who know what makes Israel happy and how to comfort him or put him to sleep. Knowing that we had to leave our son in Ethiopia was terrible, but knowing the level of care he is receiving makes it a little better!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ethiopia Trip One: The Last Day

The last day in Ethiopia. It happened too quickly. Our itinerary said that we were going to be picked up at 10:00 to spend time at Hannah's Hope, so we slept in a little (7 am!) and started to pack up our hotel room. We got breakfast downstairs and packed our backpack full of snacks so we could stay a bit longer at the orphanage.

It was a pretty silent drive as we headed to Hannah's Hope for the last time. I thought, the next time we make this drive we'll be bringing him HOME! I tried not to think about leaving our son, but the pit in my stomach was already there.

Israel was sitting outside in a moses basket when we got there. He gave us some great smiles and talked to us while he was sunning. He was wearing an outfit that we brought, he fit perfectly in the three month outfit!

Soon it was naptime, so we took him inside and I rocked him to sleep. I love his little half-opened eyelids while he sleeps. After a while, he woke up and was smiling at me. I kept whispering him to go back to sleep or else a special mother would take him from me! I rocked him and he finally went back to sleep. He was sweating so bad, even though he was just wearing a romper and a thin blanket. It was so sweet to feel his warm body and to kiss him. I love that little man.

Several of the babies started to wake up, so Israel woke up because of the noise. I thought he didn't get a full nap, but I was too excited to play with him to try to get him asleep again. Will and I took him to the other Hannah's Hope house (there are two houses on the grounds). The downstairs has a sitting room, so we sat there for several hours. Israel started to be a little fussy, and Will started singing to him and he was in a trance listening to his daddy. We played with him, tried to get him to acknowledge the lovey that we brought (he never cared for it), and changed him into an Auburn outfit for a picture :). We fed him a few bottles and kissed him as much as we could. I tried to get some "detail shots" of his little body, so I'd remember how small he was, what his eyelashes looked like and how his hair had different types of curls.

Our case manager warned us that somehow the kids (even the babies) have a sense when it is the last day of the trip. She said it can manifest itself in different ways, but we found this to be true with Israel. He seemed a little more reserved and fussy on the last day. He was still absolutely precious and gave us some good smiles and snuggles, but he wasn't as cheerful as the day before. I tried to keep a brave face all day, but it wasn't easy!

Around 3:00 we took him to his room for bathtime. We gave him a bath and put his pajamas on, and he suddenly got really fussy. That's when I lost it. All day I'd tried to suppress the thoughts of leaving him, but at that moment it was over. I gave him to his special mother because I didn't want him to see me crying. He was still crying when I walked away into the hallway, and as Will kissed him good-bye. The moment we walked into that hallway to leave him was one of the worst moments of my life. Will held me and we both just cried together, thinking that our son was in the next room yet we were already leaving him. Wass, the driver, came to get us immediately (I think he was walking up the stairs when we left the room). The entire drive home I sobbed. When we got to our hotel, Wass was so sweet. He told me "Mama, don't worry. Wherever he is, someone is right next to him caring for him." I knew that Israel was getting good care, but it is still so sad to think of him in an orphanage.

The evening dragged by. It was so hard to know our son was just a few miles away. We weren't looking forward to the long, long trek home (8 hour flight to Frankfurt, 7 hour layover, and 10 hour flight to Atlanta). It was absolutely terrible to know that we were leaving Ethiopia. I cried so much and also felt so numb. This isn't how it is supposed to be. Parents should not leave their children on a different continent. If there was a way for me to stay in Ethiopia, I would.

Adoption is incredibly beautiful. Don't hear me wrong. Looking at my son and seeing a child who was an orphan, but is now a son, that is such a clear picture of the gospel. God took us in our sin, paid our ransom through Jesus's death on the cross, and made us sons and heirs to the kingdom of God. My son's identity was literally changed from someone who abandoned him to my husband who claimed him. As adopted children of God, our identity is changed from "enemy" to "son".

But, with this picture of adoption, we must see the "before" shot too. Before we were adopted into God's kingdom, there was a separation from God. When God paid the ransom for us, it involved him turning his back on His son Jesus while Jesus paid our price on the cross. Adoption has ugly parts. Like the loss of the birth family. Like the time spent in an orphanage. Like leaving your child in Africa when you go home. Praise God that he WILL bring our story to completion one day. Israel WILL come home and be a testimony of God's faithfulness to us.

So now, I try to forget the ache of leaving him on the last day, and try to remember the goodness of those four beautiful days in Ethiopia. I try to imagine that curly headed boy in his crib here in Jacksonville. I look at the pictures of him all over our house, and re-watch those precious videos of him talking to us. I pray HARD for the Lord to be merciful to us and give us a quick embassy date. And hopefully very soon, our son, the one who reminds us of God's faithfulness to us through the adoption process and even through our salvation... he'll be here in my arms again.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Five Months Old!

Dear Israel,

Today you are five months old! It is with a happy heart that I write this post to you, darling. All of these months I have wondered- what exactly does __ month look like for you? And now I know! You are so unbelievably precious. You are cooing and talking, you LOVE being naked and getting lotioned up after bathtime. You love to lay on your back and look up at your mom and dad. You are completely mesmerized when your daddy sings to you (even when he sings to you the songs from your doppelganger Bruno Mars). You love to be rocked to sleep but sometimes you like to wake up just to make sure your mommy is still rocking you. You almost got me in trouble by not sleeping when you were napping last week- the special mothers would have taken you from me if they saw the sweet smiles you were giving me when you were supposedly sleeping!

Israel, I cannot even begin to express how much joy you have given your mom and dad already. Your birth name means "blessed" and truly it is us who are blessed. You are so happy and sweet! You have the funniest personality and the silliest expressions. You love to watch all of your friends at the orphanage and to hear all of the special mothers call your name. You love playing with your hands and are not interested in any toys. You don't like to stand up or be stretched beyond what is comfortable- we have quite the work to do when you come home! Then again, why do I want to make you move out of the baby stage? If you do cry, it is only for about 30 seconds because we found out there is nothing that a bottle can't fix. You love your bottle! You are so little and so cuddly. You are wearing 3 month size clothes and you look very cute in the plaid outfits we brought you (of course you'll be wearing LOTS of plaid like daddy!). We even dressed you up in an Auburn outfit last week so that one day when you're an Auburn grad you'll know that you were a tiger from the start :).

This was a very big month for us! This month we met you and you became OFFICIALLY ours according to the Ethiopian government! You are no longer an orphan, darling, but a son. We had the sweetest, most perfect four days with you that we think about all day long. We look at pictures and videos of you all the time. We can't get enough of you!

We loved going to Ethiopia and seeing your birth country. We fell in love with the culture and environment of Ethiopia and we dream of taking you back one day so you can truly grasp what a beautiful heritage you have. We are so thankful that God brought us to you.

Israel, it is such a privilege to be your mom and to begin to know the little details about you. I love that we already know a few things about what you like and don't like, and I can't wait to know it ALL and to be able to meet your needs every day. You better believe that we are praying hard that you will be home soon. We love the sweet care that you are getting at Hannah's Hope, but we are aching to have you here. Know that we will do anything to bring you home, sweet baby! We're coming back for you.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ethiopia Trip One: He's Yours!

Monday morning was long-anticipated as it was the day we would be going to court. Both Will and I woke up around 1:45 am, and I ended up having a long chat with one of the AGCI mamas downstairs for a couple of hours in the middle of the night. It was hard to sleep when we knew that it was SUCH a big day for us!

 It is hard to explain the emotions that I was going through in the middle of the night. Thankfulness at being in Ethiopia, aching for my son even though he was only a few miles away (I miss him more now that I know him more!), anxiousness over court and pleading with God for our journey to be over soon, etc. It was a long night of praying and thinking.

Finally, it was time to go to court. Our driver Danny picked us up and we could see that traffic was extremely more difficult on the weekdays. It was a long, bumpy drive in the back of the van and I fought carsickness from the heat, dust, and bumpiness (ok and maybe nerves too). We had to pick up a few people that were involved in our court process. We drove up to our court building and walked up several flights of stairs. We were ushered into a waiting room that had "SILENT" written on the walls. Still, it seemed that there was a buzz of conversation from other families. There were birth families and adoptive families in the room, it was a humbling experience. Within five minutes of waiting, despite the fact that there was probably 30 people waiting in the room, we were called before the judge. We went into a tiny office where a woman behind a desk asked us a few simple questions (have you met your son? Are you prepared to adopt? Have you educated yourself on interracial adoption? Do you realize that today will make this adoption full and final, it cannot be reversed?). We answered a hearty YES and I fought tears as I thought of the beauty of it! She quietly said, "well, he's all yours!" and we were quickly escorted down the stairs again. It was just a few moments of time and yet it was monumental. WE ARE PARENTS! Little "B" is now our son legally.

Will and I went to the van and just let our tears happen. It was such a beautiful moment as we praised God for His faithfulness, that B was now Israel and no longer an orphan. He has a legal mom and dad, praise HIM!

We were thankful that we were done with court so quickly, because that meant the rest of the morning could happen a little faster and maybe we would get more time at Hannah's Hope! Danny took us to a market and dropped us off. He gave us instructions to call him when we were done shopping. We spent about two hours shopping and finally our driver came to get us. We got some good deals and were pleased with our interactions with the Ethiopians- they all seemed to be so caring and kind to us. Throughout our entire trip, the Ethiopians would sincerely ask "What do you think of Ethiopia?" and want to know if we were enjoying it.

Our loot from Day 2 of Shopping!

When it was time to go we noticed a lot more people begging. It is illegal to give money to beggars in Ethiopia. We've seen homeless people in America, and it definitely has humbled us and broken our hearts. However, seeing the women with their infant children begging absolutely crushed me. All I could think of was, what if this is what Israel's birthmother had to do? What if this is why so many children become orphans, because no one cares for these young moms? It was so, so sad and I wish that I knew how to care for them. It definitely increased my prayer life for these women who so desperately need to have physical and spiritual needs met.

After the market, Danny took us to the Italian restaurant that all traveling families go to. It was great food, but at that point we were so anxious to get back to Hannah's Hope! Our schedule said that after lunch we were to have a period of "rest" and be picked up at 3:00 to have a brief hour with our son. We convinced Danny that we didn't need rest (even though we got less than 2 hours sleep the night before) and he called the orphanage and confirmed that we could go early :). After lunch, we dropped our shopping loot off at the hotel and headed back to Hannah's Hope!

When we got to Hannah's Hope, a special mother was holding Israel because he wouldn't rest and it was nap time. Will and I took turns holding him and he slept well in our arms. Talk about heart-melting stuff! He is so, so sweet.

When he woke up he was happy and so playful! We got some great time with him when he laid on his back and looked up at us. He loves to talk to us! We took him upstairs for bath time and were able to give him a bath. He was so funny when he was taking a bath- his face sort of zoned out and he seemed to not want it to stop, haha. We laid him down on the changing table after we towel dried him and he just talked and smiled at us. We got some incredible video showcasing his many expressions and it was ADORABLE! We love this boy!!! We also were able to weigh and measure him. He is 26 inches long, his head measures 16 inches, and he weighs 13 pounds, 11 ounces. :) We also brought clothes for him and noticed that the 3-6 month pants were HUGE on him, but a 3 month outfit fit him perfectly. We love our tiny little man!

Daddy changing a diaper!

We sat on the couch in his bedroom and the other kids put on quite the show for us. (I am very pleased to say that 2 of his roommates are coming home to their forever families this month! Both families just got embassy clearance! Yay Stanleys and Smiths!). Two of the toddler boys were showing off their dancing and clapping skills and loved to wear Will's hat backwards. It was so funny! I could tell how much the special mothers loved on the kids in their room. They all clearly love Israel and I got some awesome pictures of them making him smile. It puts my heart to rest a bit.

What is it about a baby in footed pajamas that makes him cuddlier? I don't know but I love it!

When it was time to leave, we had very full hearts. It was such an amazing day! We had dinner in the hotel and then sat in the lobby with our computers for a while. I ended up staying downstairs and chatting with Erin, another AGCI mom, for hours about adoption and ministry. It was so good for my heart to have another mom to work through the experience with.

That night, Will and I knew that we needed to rest after days of not sleeping well. We took sleeping pills and slept a full night- from 10pm- 7am, praise God!
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