Will you dance with us?

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During our trip to Ethiopia, we dedicated Thursday as a day of celebration. The Transition Home where Weldu had lived hosted a goodbye coffee ceremony for him (and for us). And later that evening, we went to 2000 Habesha, an Ethiopian cultural restaurant. We had been to a similar restaurant when we brought Mihret home. And we had a great time. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the end of all of the red tape and the fact that Weldu was really, truly, going to come home with us in just a few days!
The food was amazing, as one should expect. The dancing? Amazing. It was a great evening of celebrating with family and friends. Our hearts were as full as our bellies by the time the night was over.

Continue reading “Will you dance with us?”

Nesting and packing and nesting and packing

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"If the family were a container, it would be a nest, an enduring nest, loosely woven, expansive, and open." - Letty Cottin Pogrebin

If the statement that a family is a loosely woven and expansive nest, then it’s safe to say that our nest is about to get bigger. It’s already grown in our hearts, but things are about to get real. Real world real. Because that empty chair at our dinner table is finally about to be occupied. Forever.

Rumor has it he’s a pretty good soccer player. And he’s a big fan of Manchester United. So I’m trying to get the hang of it. I was never a very good soccer player. And I haven’t really been much of a fan.

But I am now.

Because he is. That’s kind of how the game is played. So I’m learning about soccer  football. We’re also learning how to be fans of Manchester United. It’s a whole new world in the Todd household, y’all.

There is a sudden flurry of activity in our house. In the midst of our busy school and work schedules, we're trying to put the final touches on this house, making room for one more person. So you could say that we're in full-on nesting mode, helping this family container of ours expand some more.

Fortunately, his side of the Boys' bedroom is ready. Chalkboard and all.

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But we're not just nesting. We're packing, too. So we're kind of in this weird state of cleaning and rearranging a bunch of things while also pulling stuff out to pack. Fortunately, I didn't really fully unpack from my trip a month ago. But now there's two more people flying out with me and one more coming back with us.

So we're nesting. And packing. And nesting. And packing. And waiting. And getting ready. And nesting. And packing.

Because soon this journey to bringing Weldu home will come to an end.

And the real journey will begin.

I'm flying to Ethiopia!

It’s been a whirlwind of a week, let me tell you.

On Saturday, we received a letter from the Immigration office. It included this phrase:

USCIS is pleased to inform you that we have preliminarily determined that the beneficiary child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States as an orphan…

I’ll admit that it’s hard to celebrate some of those words. They’re full of loss. And hurt. And sadness. While that phrase “as an orphan” breaks my heart, this determination is a big deal. It means that we have cleared the PAIR investigative process. It means that one more hurdle has been cleared. We are one step closer to bringing “W” home as our son.

For I know the plans I have for you bracelets

Then we got a call Monday morning. Courts in Addis were closed Monday and Tuesday, but our agency was convinced that there would be a very quick turnaround on the next step, which is a court appearance in Ethiopia. Because Christy already met him, I am to fly out to Ethiopia, meet my son for the first time, and then tell the Ethiopian government that yes, our family does intend to adopt “W” and that we will bring him into our family as one of our own. The agency staff was so convinced about the possibility of a quick turnaround, they were pretty sure that I would be due in court sometime early next week.

That meant that I needed to book a flight out of the States as soon as possible. Of course, there was a chance that the court wouldn’t schedule me to appear that week. So there needed to be some flexibility. But I needed to buy a ticket as soon as possible.

After some drama in trying to find an available seat, we were finally able to purchase a ticket on Monday night, some six hours after learning that I might have a court appearance very, very soon.

And then we waited.

I’ll be honest. Tuesday was a very long, emotional day. It was full of anticipation. But it was also full of caution. We couldn’t wait for the courts to open. Hopefully they would do their scheduling very soon. But in the meantime, I listened in on a travel conference call with our agency, learning as much information as possible in preparation for a potential visit this weekend.

Christy got the email Wednesday morning. She called me right away.

I leave for Ethiopia this weekend!

I get to meet my son for the first time this weekend!

Ethiopia or Bust #Tips4Trips

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. An adoption journey ain’t for the faint of heart, y’all.

It’s going to be a whirlwind of a trip. And I’m going to miss out on a few family functions, but I’ll be home for Christmas (hey, isn’t that a song or something?) and holycowIgettomeetmyson!

I know what you’re going to ask. And no, I won’t be bringing him home with me. There’s one more step after this one. It involves travel. Again. But this time Christy and I get to go together. And we get to meet the fine folk at the US Embassy again. And hopefully everything goes as expected during our visit to the Embassy.

And then we’ll head home. And our family of SIX will finally be together.

But first things first. I’ve got to get to Ethiopia and meet my son (HOLYCOW!). And then meet with a judge. And sometime after that, assuming all goes as it should, we’ll (hopefully) be named “W’s” legal guardians in the eyes of the Ethiopian government.

And then the clock starts ticking to that final trip to Ethiopia to bring this boy HOME!

7 must-have apps for international travel

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #Tips4Trips #CollectiveBias

7 Must-Have Apps for International Travel #Tips4Trips #ad #cbias

As mentioned earlier, a lot of moving pieces finally came together at just the right time in just the right way in order for Christy to be able to meet “W,” the teenage boy we are in the process of adopting. Late Sunday night/early Monday morning, I drove Christy to the airport. Nearly 18 hours later, she landed in Ethiopia. There were times where I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to pull the whole thing together. With my full time job, Christy’s responsibilities at her school, and taxiing the kids to and from sports practices, church activities, and camp, it just felt like too daunting of a task to get together all of her necessities plus a bag full of donations in less than two weeks’ time. I honestly don’t think we could have done it without our unlimited talk, text, and data/web from Walmart Family Mobile.

Ethiopia or Bust #Tips4Trips

If you’re looking for the lowest priced unlimited plans with access to a network that covers over 280 people, Walmart Family Mobile is the place you should look first. Their Unlimited Talk, Text, and Data service plan starts at $29.88 a month for the first line. In addition to unlimited talking and texting, you also get access to up to 1G of 4G LTE data per month. Plus, they have a variety of phones available at some pretty incredible prices, including the Alcatel One Touch Pop Astro for only  $64.88.

Disclaimer: All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to this link or your local Walmart for current pricing.

#Tips4Trips Store Collage at Walmart

While we’ve taken several vacations in the States, I think it’s safe to say that we’re no world travelers. And we definitely haven’t made a habit of jet-setting around the globe. So when it was finally decided that Christy was going to make this trip by herself, life became a bit more hectic. And life was already hectic with the kids’ activity schedules.

We had travel agents to call. And social workers to call. And our adoption agency to call. We had to make sure my work schedule was arranged in such a way that I could be home as much as possible. We had doctors to call. We had family to contact. We had to collect items – diapers, wipes, educational supplies, DVDs – that we were going to donate to the Care Center. The to-do lists kept piling up, adding more and more chaos to this whirlwind.

You know what we didn’t need during this mad rush to get everything done and ready for Christy to get on a plane? A phone service that dropped all of my calls. Or a phone that was so slow that it would be easier to send documents via passenger pigeon or the Pony Express. Been there. Done that. Not going back.

Ever.

Luggage and phone at the airport #Tips4Trips

That’s what I love about using Walmart Family Mobile. I don’t have to worry about wonky Internet connection. And I can be confident that I’ll be able to have an actual conversation on my phone without worrying about how many minutes I’m using. That’s pretty important when you’re in a time crunch.

And the phones are pretty cool, too.

In preparation for this great journey, I discovered some pretty cool apps. I think these are some tools that every traveler should have in their digital suitcase. They’re very helpful. And they’re free, although some can be enhanced with in-app purchases.

7 must-have apps for international travel:

Android Apps SmartTraveler #Tips4Trips

SmartTraveler

Provided by the U.S. State Department , SmartTraveler gives a plethora of information about countries around the globe, including local customs and laws, political climate, and the location of the U.S. embassy. It also keeps you up to date on travel alerts and warnings that have been issued by the State Department.

 

Android Apps iBlueButton #Tips4TripsiBlueButton

You never plan on having a medical emergency while traveling. But just in case the unforeseen does happen, it’s a good idea to have iBlueButton. It keeps all of your medical information and medical history in one place so you can access it with just the swipe of your finger.

 

Android App Google Hangouts #Tips4TripsGoogle Hangouts

This was pre-installed on our Androids, and although it’s gotten some negative press in the past, Christy and I have been using it to communicate over the the thousands of miles between us. You can use it to send text messages. You can also use it for free video calls via wifi, too.

Christy checking the phone at the airport #Tips4Trips

Android Apps iTranslate #Tips4Trips

iTranslate

With over 90 languages available on this app, you can translate words and phrases in a matter of moments. With an extensive dictionary library, you’ll be able to discern contextual clues and dialects. It’s easy to use and essential for a world traveler.

 

 

Android App Google Goggles #Tips4TripsGoogle Goggles

Let’s say you’re overseas and you see a landmark some 30 miles away but you don’t have any idea what it is. It looks important, but that’s about all you know. With Google Goggles, you can take a picture and search the web with that image. This app has some serious potential.

 

Android App FlightAware #Tips4TripsFlightAware

FlightAware was the perfect app for me to use while Christy was up in the air. No matter where I went that day, I could check the app and track her flight. And if you’re using it while traveling, you’ll be able to keep up to date on the flight schedule and which terminal you have to go to. That’s amazingly helpful if you have a short layover.

 

Android App XE Currency #Tips4TripsXE Currency

You can keep up to date on the exchange rates with this app. It’s a great way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your currency.

It’s also helpful if you’re trying to plan and budget your trip.

 

There are so many apps available that are related to travel. I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones. Now that Christy’s begun her journey, I can start planning for my trip to Ethiopia, which should happen within the next few months.  What apps should I add to my list? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

#Tips4Trips Phone and suitcase