Todd Family Blog

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Biggest December Ever

I bet you thought I gave up again! Never! I’m nothing if not stubborn. And there is so much to share. This post contains pictures from our first Ethiopia trip in December. I’ve already started another post with pictures from the second trip. And soon there will be one for Levi’s first month home. Obviously, a lot has happened around here with the holidays, trips to Ethiopia, meeting Levi for the first time…Whew! I’ll do my best to catch up. I hope you all have had a WONDERFUL start to 2011. Keep us posted on your news, too!

Getting ready for a new tradition – Christmas brunch instead of Christmas dinner! Thank you, Bonnie, for a fabulous meal.

Jenny couldn’t be with us this Christmas, so she sent her presents. She always finds the best things! This was funniest gift of the year – a birdhouse that is a cat with its mouth open.

This is the great thing about German Shepherds. They will keep an eye on anyone in your house. They patiently wait outside Mom and Dad’s room every time they go in there.

Christmas Party 2010! I cooked all month and with Mom and Bonnie’s help we did the party the week after we returned from Ethiopia. It was so great to see everyone who was able to come and catch up!

Ryan’s traditional Christmas sweater grew into…well…an ensemble? Wondering how this will grow next year. What more could he do? Should I even ask?

As always, every flat surface was covered in food. So fun to cook for all my friends!

What’s the Christmas party without Jason Brown? We missed him last year!

And how it always ends...2 a.m., sitting in the living room, chatting.

Ethiopia – Trip 1 to meet Levi.

Here are some highlights from our trip. I know that many of you received updates while we were there, so I’ll save all the details. I’ll also save sights of Ethiopia for the next post and compile them from both trips. To summarize, it is an amazing, historical, fascinating country. I highly recommend it as a vacation spot. Yes, a bit different from the norm, but I can guarantee great food, wonderful people and amazing sights.

The beautiful Sheraton where we stayed in Addis Ababa, the capitol of Ethiopia. (Thank you, Starwood Points!) Supposedly one of the nicest hotels on the continent. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay.

The view from our room. Another sunny day and beautiful flowering trees.

The beautiful pool, huge breakfast buffet, which I looked forward to every morning, and the amazing spa. I could have stayed there all day. It was lovely to go on our trip early, before the adoption process began, and just be tourists for a while.

Taking a daytrip to the Crater Lakes and enjoying the gorgeous Debre Zeyit resort, where for $15 you can have a never ending lunch buffet, use of kayaks, and the resort.

While violent crime isn't a concern as you travel in Ethiopia, theft certainly is. We carried our passports and money in a carrier under Brad's shirt. Worked well, but every time we paid he had to undress.

After the Sheraton we moved to the Melkim Guest House, which is a small hotel that works closely with our agency. The room was basic, but very comfortable. I loved the Ethiopian embroidered linens and bought some similar pillowcases while shopping.

Our view from our room at Melkim was a good example of Ethiopia. The compound of the hotel was very nice, and just behind us was a field full of trash where people and donkeys were scavenging at all hours. Contrast everywhere you look.

Pulling up to the compound gates (most nice homes are surrounded by walls and heavy gates) of our agency's wonderful transition home where Levi was living.

Inside the courtyard of the transition house, laundry hangs 24/7. You have to duck under it as you walk through. All those clothe diapers!!! And everything is washed in that little stone sink and tub you see below. The women who wash all day are truly amazing. The kids are always clean and well dressed.

By the way, there are no pictures of the kids because you can only take pictures of the child that is yours. But let me tell you, the happy, smart, endearing, beautiful children there completely stole our hearts. We loved playing with them and pray they all have found wonderful homes now. From the gate guards to the nannies, all the staff loved those children and they do amazing work. God bless them all.

This is the sign above Levi’s room and Levi in his little crib with our picture above. There are cribs lining three sides of the small room and a couple nannies who care for the 8, or so, babies in that room.

Brad reading in the courtyard of the agency's guest house where we had our AMAZING meals. The cook there completely spoils the visiting families. (More about that in the next post!)

Shopping at a bazaar at the International Church. We loved it because the prices were very fair, fixed (no haggling!), and all the money goes to charity. Lots of Christmas shopping and future presents for Levi!

Some of the wonderful people we met! Our dear friend, Bet, who lives with her husband, Erik, and now their baby, Zain, near Chicago. They, like us, lost their first referral in the same way and I think we will be lifelong friends. Below is the group with which we were having coffee when we got the call that we could go meet Levi! George and Christina took us there in their hired car. George even did our videotaping.

Highlights of our first meeting with Levi! He cried a bunch when he first met us (He had to think we looked pretty strange!) but as you can see he calmed down pretty quickly. Looking at the pictures now I can already see the personality I’ve come to know. Even at only 9 1/2 months there was so much to learn about him. All his cries and expressions already had a meaning that we didn’t know. But I certainly do now!

Oh, and did I mention that we were both really sick? Brad had a terrible cough on our way there, I caught the cold halfway through the trip, and Levi was really sick with a terrible cough when we met him. You can see how run down Brad and Levi were in one of the pictures below.

More Ethiopia highlights to come in the next post!

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