Tag Archives: travel

Thankful to Be Home

What are you thankful for?It’s the day before Thanksgiving, the busiest travel day of the year, and for the first time since high school I’m not traveling anywhere. I guess 1996 would be the last year I didn’t go anywhere for Thanksgiving. In college I always drove the 700 miles home to Michigan. Once married, we alternated Christmas and Thanksgiving between our parents in Wisconsin and Kansas. The former was only a 300-mile trip, but the latter was another 700-mile full day in the car.

So I’m pretty used to traveling on Thanksgiving. On the years I made the 700-mile drive I’d get up at some ridiculous pre-dawn hour so I could be on the road early and make good time. The alarm would go off at something awful like 4:30 and I’d be on the road by 5. Except I could never sleep well before long drives and would always be up before my alarm. No matter how early it was.

I couldn’t sleep this morning either. No alarm was set, but I was awake by 5. Some habits die hard, I guess.

This year we decided to stay home for both holidays. Last year we somehow ended up traveling every other weekend in November and December and we just couldn’t handle it this year. Too many miles, too much whining from the back seat, too much stress. Plus, the idea of having our own holiday and forming our own traditions sounded pretty great. We’ve never done our own holidays, so we haven’t forged many of our own traditions.

Growing up we rarely went anywhere for the holidays. We had fairly set traditions, like going to cut down a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving and setting it up that night. Watching Ernest Saves Christmas on Christmas Eve. OK, so sometimes family traditions are weird. But that’s what’s fun about them.

Through the years I’ve always been thankful that I had a place to go for the holidays. No matter what happened that year, no matter what life transition happened (and there were a few, between getting married, watching my parents get divorced and seeing them get back together), I always had a place to call home. A lot of people aren’t so lucky.

I’m also thankful that for all those miles traveled I never had any major car trouble. It always seemed like a minor miracle that I’ve never been in a big accident, never had my car break down, never had a flat tire. I’ve had my share of close calls. I hit a bird in Chicago once. A jet ski fell off a trailer just in front of me. It wasn’t a holiday, but on one snowy drive I did lose control and fishtail into a ditch, but I was nearly able to drive out of it. Plus my parents were there to help push me out and we were back on the road like nothing happened. Later that day on the Interstate I watched the truck in front of me start swerving and spin 40 feet off the road into deep snow. Last year I drove several hundred miles to Thanksgiving with the check engine light on, worried something bad was going to happen. But all systems were go.

I’ve had some close calls over the years, some diverted plans and some travel sickness I’d rather not detail, but we’ve always made it. I’m incredibly thankful for that.

I have a lot to be thankful for at Thanksgiving. This year it’s going to be staying home and doing nothing with my family. Forging our own traditions, like the day before Thanksgiving donuts (it’s a thing) and setting up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving (some traditions are meant to endure).

Home from Ethiopia

Lexi & MiloIt’s hard to believe a few days ago I was in Africa. We made it home Friday afternoon with Milo and Lexi thoroughly embraced her big sister role.

A lot has happened and there’s a lot to say, but for now we’re doing OK. The plane ride home went surprisingly well (yay for the bulkhead!) and Lexi did great while we were gone. But by Saturday reality started to set in as Abby got sick while Milo spit up an entire bottle on me and Lexi threw a fit. The night and morning were a bit rough but by Sunday night I think we’re starting to get a handle on things. I hope.

We’ll have a lot more to say about everything, but that’s a basic update. It’s good to have the four of us in the same place.

Oh, and photos are starting to go up on Flickr (there’ll be many, many more).

Returning Home: Day 10

Today’s the day we bring Milo home. We’ll touch down in Washington, D.C., early in the morning local time. We’ll have a lengthy layover in the D.C. airport, but that’s probably a good thing (in case our flight is late).

Our flight leaves in the early afternoon and we’ll be back in Minnesota in late afternoon. In the baggage claim at the Lindbergh terminal Milo will get to meet his big sister. This will be the first time our whole family is together, and we’ll be jetlagged and crabby. But we’ll be home.

Depending on how everything goes, we may post real updates and pictures tonight, but don’t hold your breath.

Traveling Home: Day 9

Today we pack and get ready to go. There is an Ethiopian cooking class in the morning, which should be fun, but I imagine the stress of travel will be on everyone’s mind.

This is kind of like coming home from the hospital, but instead of a 20-minute car ride, it’s a 20-hour, transatlantic journey. Whoopee.

Our flight takes off from Ethiopia around 10 p.m., which is early afternoon back in Minnesota. This is the part of the trip that could potentially be hellacious, so we’d appreciate your prayers that Milo enjoys transatlantic travel.

Live from Ethiopia 2

It’s Tuesday night in Ethiopia. We leave in two days and this adventure comes to a close, though a whole new one begins. So much has happened here that it’s hard to put it all into words. Right now my son is sound asleep upstairs in a little tiny crib that’s probably supposed to be a doll bed. But that’s OK, it works (I had contemplated having him sleep in a suitcase).

The people of Ethiopia and the process of adopting have been amazing. Today we had a goodbye celebration at the care center and the tears flowed. They are tears of grieving for what has been lost, but also tears of joy for what has been found.

All the children of the care center came down to watch and participate in the ceremony. Most of those adopted on this trip are under a year old, so they don’t really understand what’s going on and they definitely can’t express it. But a few of the kids are older, they know what’s going on and it’s incredible to watch them. At one point two of the older kids who were being adopted, perhaps ages 4 and 6, went around and said goodbye to their friends in the care center. They also got to cut the cake we had as a part of the celebration. Every time they did something I started crying all over again.

It’s just so much to fathom, the whole miracle of adoption: that these kids, for whatever reason—be it poverty or death or loss or whatever–have lost their birth family but are gaining a new family. For a baby it’s just as incredible, but in the moment they don’t understand. Some day they will and it will mean just as much, but right now to watch these kids go through all of those emotions and understand what’s going on, and the fear and the joy and the loss and gain and just incredible. Some of the kids were crying and sobbing, while others had big smiles full of joy. Everyone reacts differently. It’s just so much to take in.

My favorite moment today was when they had each of the children being adopted come forward, dip their hand in red paint, and leave a mark on a sheet of cardstock with their name. It wasn’t clearly said, but I think those handprints go in a binder at the care center where I imagine you can find the handprint of every child who has been adopted from the center.

Milo has left his mark in Ethiopia.

And I guess I lied. Milo is no longer sleeping soundly upstairs. He woke up crying and right now his mom is giving him a bottle and hopefully he’ll go back to sleep. Every day here in Ethiopia, amidst the life-changing moments of incredible poignancy, there are moments of down and dirty practical reality, like washing out bottles with purified water and diaper blow outs and puking in the car (not my child for once).

And as I finish typing this, he did go back to sleep.

Ethiopia: Day 7

Get ready to cry—today’s the big day. There will be a special celebration at the care center as Milo says goodbye to the care center and his nannies and is placed in our care. I imagine this will be both a sad and joyful day for everybody. I’m actually typing this 12 days ahead of time and just thinking about it makes me want to cry.

In the afternoon we’ll head to the U.S. Embassy with Milo to get his visa and everything we need to bring him home.

In the evening it will be us and Milo, our first night together. He’s in our care, now and forever. There I go crying again as I type this, 12 days before it happens. It’s just been such a long process—I’m so happy our little baby boy will finally be with us.

Ethiopia: Day 5

Today we take a day trip to the Hosanna region in southern Ethiopia. We’ve been told this can be a hairy trip—four hours each way along a bumpy dirt road with crazy drivers and no seat belts. This is part of why we have emergency medical evacuation insurance (I’m not joking).

The purpose of the trip is to meet any potential birth family, depending on the individual child’s situation. We’ll be purposefully vague about this trip and who we meet or don’t meet, since we’re keeping Milo’s story private.

This will be a chance to see real African countryside away from the city and potentially learn more about Milo’s background. There will also be a formal ceremony between birth family and adoptive parents that should be pretty cool.

Ethiopia: Day 4

Today we’ll get to spend some real time with Milo. We’ll get to observe him in the care center where he’s spent most of his life and learn his routine, his personality and everything that makes him tick. Or as much as we can pick up in a few hours in the morning.

In the afternoon we’ll venture out into Addis Ababa (with a guide) for some shopping. More like buying, since we won’t have time to shop around. We’ll be looking for authentic Ethiopian ware to add to our home, fun gifts for friends and family, something for Lexi (shh, don’t tell!) and stuff for Milo to help maintain a connection with his homeland.

As stressful as shopping in a foreign land can be when you’re trying to buy stuff for all sorts of people and your child’s future, I’m thinking this is going to be fun.

In the evening we’ll go to dinner and a show with the other families from the guesthouse.