Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children
What could be better than an Ethiopian welcome, FOVC style?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ethiopia, part II: The First Few Days

We stayed at a hotel called The Ghion. As far as we could tell, it's the nicest Ethiopian hotel in Addis. The grounds were huge, and well-kept with beautiful flower beds. The rooms were a bit tired, but certainly adequate. Since there were six of us, we had two rooms--really big rooms. The Ghion has a huge staff who were friendly and tried to be very helpful. The entire Ethiopian Olympic team was staying there, too. We told them we would cheer them on during the Olympic games.

At first, we regretted not staying at the Hilton, or even the Sheraton. However, it wasn't long before we felt right at home and glad we had chosen an "Ethiopian" hotel.

Here are some pictures from the first days:

Ahhh! So thankful to have a big sis....

Lest you forget...I rock.

Taking it all in.
Lunchtime by the pool. Although we didn't swim, the water is always warm because it is fed "by the bowels of the earth"--per the hotel literature. (I still rock.)

Mom and Amelia in the Ergo.

What a lovely girl! The first bath....

Getting dressed is a group effort!

It's play time... ...and Daddy time.

Thank you, God!

Ethiopia, part I: We Meet!

We arrived in Addis Ababa late Saturday night, July 19. Our agency's facilitator, Abebe, was out of town, so his wife picked us up. Her name is Hanna; she directs Sele Enat, which is the orphanage that cared for Amelia.

Hanna picked us up at 9am the next morning and drove us to Sele Enat.

We had read, prayed, pondered and dialogued with other families, but we weren't prepared for the sights of Addis Ababa. There were people and donkeys and goats and cows and mud and mini-buses and cars and PEOPLE everywhere. We drove on a muddy road through throngs of people for about fifteen minutes until we reached the orphanage.

Hanna pulled up to the gate and tooted her little van's horn. A few of the older children opened the gate and welcomed us in. As we all--me, Dave, Allison, Abby and Grammy--piled out of the van, we were surrounded by curious, smiling orphan children. Hanna greeted the kids with much love and many hugs, and they responded with the same for her.

In the U.S., we really don't have a way to perceive the word "orphan." It tears at your heart and boggles your mind to see these sweet, sweet children and to try to comprehend the reality that they are...orphans. No family, nowhere to go save the orphanage. Little humans who God loves very much, but whose lives and futures are fragile and uncertain. When you see them, they are simply beautiful, and joyful, children. There is no way to make sense of the reality that is right there before your eyes.

After spending a few minutes with the children, we all went back to the baby room. Those minutes are a bit of a blur, but somehow, Amelia was in my arms. I knew her, but I didn't know her. She was so little, so beautiful! Such a hope and prayer and dream fulfilled.

I think Dave and I were a bit stunned and shocked that Amelia was finally in our arms. Grammy just cried and cried.

We stayed at the orphanage for a couple of hours that morning. We had brought gifts for the children, and we all alternated between enjoying the children and enjoying Amelia.

I think Amelia was a bit overwhelmed, too. But before we even left the orphanage, she showed us what we now know is her signature self-soothing move: sucking her fingers while telling us, "I rock!"

First doctor appointment--check!

Amelia's doctor appointment went fine yesterday. Her heart, tummy, eyes, ears, hips, etc. etc. were just fine. The doctor thought she was very alert, plenty social, had good head control, etc. etc., too.

However, we have confirmation that she is officially really, really little! She weighed in at 10 pounds, 7 ounces; length is 24 inches; head circumference is 40 cm. Basically, she's not yet on the charts--at all--for any of her measurements. (But she'll grow!)

The orphanage had told us she weighed just 3.3 pounds when she first arrived there in February. Honestly, I think our doctor was amazed at how much weight she has gained since then, and how well she is doing. I asked, and he agreed, that we should make an appointment at the International Adoption Clinic at Children's Hospital in Denver. We think very highly of our doctor, but this is his first Ethiopian infant adoptee patient. Both he and we would be interested to hear what the Clinic can tell us.

The plan is to keep up the good work in terms of her feeding and care. He wants us to help her continue to develop her neck muscles and also to give her plenty of opportunities to bear weight on her legs. (We won't do much of that today, however, as she's suffering the effects of the three shots she received.) We'll start cereal in three weeks, and go back to the doctor in a month.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shots soon, posts later

Baby Amelia has her first doctor's appointment today. I'm assuming she'll have her first set of shots, too. At less than eleven pounds, we know she's awfully small....but we'll see how she "measures up," and we'll get a baseline so we can see how quickly she progresses.

I imagine Amelia will need to sleep quite a bit this afternoon. Hopefully, I can begin to post about our adventures in Ethiopia.

Italy in Three Posts: Eating our way through the country

We enjoyed more pizza, pasta, caprese salads (Lory's hands-down favorite) and gelato than we could keep track of! It's true, the ingredients were incredibly fresh, making for delicious meals. I can't wait for the Roma tomatoes we planted in our garden to ripen!

Dave, Grammy and the girls enjoying a snack at the market in our "neighborhood," Campo di Fiori...

It's lunch time! We ate every meal at various sidewalk cafes. The people-watching was unbeatable. The Italian cuisine was pretty good, too.

Italian cappucino, with love...

Break for refreshments at our lovely hotel in Siena...

This guy was BORN to hang out at Italian cafes!

Surprise, surprise---more gelato!

When in Rome, right?

Italy in Three Posts: Tuscany and Siena

If you recall, our days in the Italian countryside were, er, spiced up by Dave's driving. Nevertheless, we saw sights and scenery that we never would have experienced if we had stayed in Rome. (Note to self: next time, pay the $60 for the GPS!)


Thanks to the fabulous suggestion from our amazing neighbors, we started off in Orvieto. This was the best and most beautiful village of all. Here is a photo of the cathedral in the town piazza. Started in the 1300's, it took over 300 years to build.

The entire face of the structure is laid with tiny mosaic tiles.

Orvieto is famous for its ceramic pottery. Our big purchase was a beautiful plate. It's being shipped to us as I type.


Next stop: Siena.

This is where Dave drove illegally down ever-narrowing alleys, to the chagrin and disgust of thousands of pedestrians. Since no cars are theoretically allowed in these alleys, there were no polizia cars there, so we were fortunate to escape the notice of the polizia!

This is the duomo in Siena. (Duomo means cathedral, or "house of God.") It was intricately beautiful. It was inspiring to imagine all of the community that has taken place for hundreds of years in these town squares and piazzas.

Here is the famous piazza in Siena. Gelato all around!


Final major stop: Assisi. Dave has always wanted to go there!

This is a typical street in the ancient village.

Another street....this is just what I always imagined Italy would look like!

A view across the valley from the village.

The countryside truly was a magical place. It defies description, and photos don't do it justice. What an opportunity this has been, and what amazing memories we will always treasure.

Italy in Three Posts: ROMA

This is the door to our apartment building in Rome. Cool, huh? We stayed in an area called Campo di Fiori, which means "field of flowers." It was a perfect place for us--central to everything (including Abby's several times a day visit to Blue Ice for gelato) and in a true neighborhood.

This is the view from our apartment.

A picture of the daily market just steps from our apartment. Each morning, we would walk to a pastry shop for treats, a coffee bar for cappucino and the market for fresh fruit. Ah, Italia!


The colosseum....we took a tour. It was amazing to "see" the history and the context of the times in early Rome.

"The Howletts 4" (but not for long!)


The famous Trevi Fountain


Drum roll, please....

And now, for the best part of the trip (according to the girls):

There was an actual cat sanctuary a couple of blocks from our apartment. In the ruins where Julius Caesar was murdered! The ruins are sunk down about 20 feet from the current street level. In the ruins, and the adjoining cat care center, there are about 250 cats! Most of them are street cats, but the sanctuary takes them in, sterilizes them, feeds them and gives them medical care. They are free to roam in and out of the ruins and the care center. The cats could leave the sanctuary, but they don't! It became our evening routine to walk to the ruins and count cats.

Very deep? Not so much. Very Howlett-esque? Absolutely.

(By the way, most evenings we would count eighty or more cats.)

The ruins...

If you look closely, you can probably see some cats!

Several of the girls' souvenirs came from the gift shop here (proceeds support the sanctuary), including very-cool "gatti di Roma" t-shirts that show the cats among the ruins.

We are home!

Two weeks, many technical difficulties and a bit of jet lag later---we are home!

Welcome to the family, Amelia Ayitu Howlett!

How beautiful is this girl?
Incredibly, she's as sweet and smiley as she is beautiful.
It feels like she has been with us forever.

In the next posts, I'll do a bit of backtracking. We have photos and thoughts to share....but internet access was not available like we had hoped it would be.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Buena sera from Tuscany!

We are in Siena, which is in Tuscany, tonight....what a beautiful place! (Lisa and David, we already have some recommendations for you.) We stopped in Umbria and visited an incredible town called Orvierto. We purchased a beautiful piece of pottery there, for which Orvierto is famous.

We took something of a three hour tour trying to find our way to and through Siena. (Don-t trust Rick Steves and his guidebook!) Our car journey alternated between "European Vacation II" and some kind of a scary Jason-Bourne-is-driving-an-innocent-family-through-Italy-in-a-rental-car-while-furiously-fleeing-bad-guys kind of scenario. But we finally arrived and spent the afternoon and this evening in the ancient walled city of Siena. And we have even mostly recovered.

Allison is fully better now. She and Abs enjoy careening from gelateria to gelateria!

We tour through Tuscany tomorrow before heading back to Rome. Hopefully we-ll have a chance to post some pictures soon.

We meet Amelia in only five!

Monday, July 14, 2008

ER in Roma?

We are in Roma. Poor Allison diarrhea-d and vomited all the way across the Atlantic. She was doing better, but woke up in the night with hideous cramping. Appendicitis? Something worse? We didn-t know. Dave and I ran out in the night, found a cab, loaded Allison in, and headed to the hospital. We speak no Italian. The Italians at the hospital spoke no English. Fortunately, we hobbled together a dialogue with my (un peu de) French.

They ran blood tests on Allison and gave her IV fluids. Ends up she was still suffering from gastroenteritis. Thank you, Lord! The medical people at the hospital were so kind to us...and they didn-t even charge for the treatment! (Dave and I were joking that American hospitals would chase Italian tourists back home to Italy for payment!)

Guess what? I can-t find an apostrophe key at this internet cafe computer!

Allison is somewhat weak, but doing better. We-ll keep you updated...and we really are having a grand time. It-s off to Tuscany tomorrow....we have nixed the train idea, and Dave will be driving us in a rental car. Pray for us....or pray that maybe I can find a bit of red wine to take the edge off--ha!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

We are outta here

It's time to go. The day we've been waiting for is finally here!
We'll have a few days in Rome, a couple of days in Tuscany, a couple more days in Rome...and then, we're off to Ethiopia. We'll meet--and hold--and hug--Amelia in just eight days.

(Check out all the luggage--yikes!)

Please pray for traveling mercies for us. That our supplies for the orphanages will pass through inspections and customs with no problems. That we will see God's power. That we will bless those we meet. That our first days as a family of five will be just as God wants them to be.

(Can you believe Dave fit it all in? Of course, we'll have to strap Grammy to the roof of the van....)

We'll be writing and posting photos along the way, of course.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wise Response to Panic

Our Abby (almost ten years old) said to me,

"Mom, if God brought us this far,
He's not going to let us down now, is He?"

So I guess this calls for a review of my favorite Scripture:

The One who calls you (or us, or me) is faithful, and He will do it. (1 Thes. 5:24)


Sheer panic. Not at the thought of welcoming a new daughter to the family, of how much our lives will all change, of all of the joy and challenges that we will experience together.

No, this panic is fully centered on the fact that I don't know how we'll pull it together and get out the door Saturday at noon.

Details aren't exactly my strong suit, and the next 41 hours are fraught with details!


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

There's a new kit(ten) on the block

IF you were preparing to leave the country for a couple of weeks, and
IF you would be bringing home a new baby, and
IF your house was in an uproar with packing and organizing, and
IF your last name was Howlett--

What would seem a reasonable thing to do in your spare time (ha!)--
You got it, let's get a new kitten!
OK, in our defense, she was actually kind of given to us. And you must admit, she's awfully cute.

So far, she has been named Ivy, Pansy, Posey, Rosie, Buttercup, Violet and Bluebell. (Did I leave any out?) This morning, her name is Rosie Posey. But let's not hold our breath, because I wouldn't be surprised if it changes again.

Our house sitter, Sarah, is rapidly becoming more of an in-house pet-sitter. She'll be coming over this afternoon for hands-on training...

On a less nutty note, we are making progress in our preparations. We added most of the clearance luggage at Marshalls to our collection, and we have packed over one hundred pounds of things to give away. How exciting is that? We'll tackle round two tonight.

Yeah, we're a bit stressed, maybe overwhelmed. But it wouldn't be the House of Howlett if we did things any other way. I did tell Dave that these daughters of ours had better grow up with glowing memories of their FUN childhoods!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Count down continues

Seven days from now, we will be in Italy. A week after that, we'll be in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We have sooooo much to do between now and then. The dining room table has become the staging area for all we will take to Ethiopia. It's hard to believe everything we have amassed to give away. Yea!

In honor of Buster Gray, Allison has decided she would like to get another kitten when we return home. It will be perfect timing--she'll have a few weeks to get the little guy or gal to fall absolutely in love with her before school starts back up.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rest in Peace, Buster Grey

Before we girls came home from Grand Lake on Tuesday, Dave had been worried sick because he couldn't find Allison's cat, Buster. He looked and looked, and even made "lost cat" posters--in the event our inside cat had found his way outside.

Allison was unaware of the missing Buster situation. As soon as she walked in the door Tuesday afternoon, she called her distinct "Buster Grey!" call. And Buster dragged himself down the stairs to see her. His entire hind end was paralyzed. Even though Dave hadn't been able to find him anywhere, and he didn't respond to Dave at all, he pititfully pulled himself all the way down the stairs to see Allison.

Allison and I immediately took him to the vet. They did some x-rays and ruled out injury. An absence of femoral pulses in Buster's legs caused the doctor to think he had a blood clot where his "main" aorta met his "leg" aortas. The veterinary gave him heparin and fluids, but indicated it was unlikely he would pull through.

Allison visited Buster twice a day all week. Amazingly, he did get better. Yesterday, he stood up. Today, he walked. As soon as Allison came near his cage at the clinic, he would start purring and kneading his paws. As she rubbed him, they "head butted" one another over and over.

Unfortunately, the typical cause for these kind of blood clots is very serious heart disease. A feline cardiologist came today and did an echocardiogram. (Yes, there is such a thing as a feline cardiologist. And yes, when your precious daughter's cat soul mate is involved, you pay for the test.) The test confirmed that Buster had very advanced heart disease, a genetic condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy...even though he was not even two years old! He might have lived for a short time, but the risk of a terrible death was extremely high.

So Dave and Allison and I just returned from telling Buster good-bye. It was heartbreaking to see how healthy he looked, and how intensely he responded to Allison. We are very proud of Allison's courage. I truly don't think a girl has ever loved a cat as much as Allison loved Buster Grey. She is still a girl, and he was merely a cat....but her heart ache is almost more than can be borne.

Please pray for our Allison.

Amelia Update

Happy and unexpected news! There is a mom from IAN who is in Ethiopia right now. In fact, she was kind enough to deliver more formula for Amelia. ANYWAY, she emailed an update today. Here's what she says:

Hi Lory,

I met your little one today and took a couple of photos for you. She is so beautiful and tiny. she was very happy and looks healthy as well. The nanny was holding her when we stopped in. she was very alert and smiled when we spoke to her. I will email the pictures when I get home.

Yippee Skippy, how exciting! She SMILES! She's BEAUTIFUL! She's TINY! She's ALERT! She's HAPPY! She's HEALTHY!

We can't wait till she's in our arms (only 17 more days till July 20!) and we can post her pictures.

Such a lovely room!

Amelia's little bedroom is just about ready for her! The walls are a pale lilac color called "Precious." How sweet is that? We hope she'll like it.

Here's her crib (thanks, Webers!), complete with the bedding I made for Allison thirteen years ago! Also, note the "ode to Africa" print--hippo in tutu.

This is a wider view of the same wall. We'll fill up the shelf with books & toys!

This is where the diaper-changing action will happen.

Finally, a close up of the hippo in tu-tu.

We leave in just eight days! The girls and I spent much of the day yesterday shopping for items to give to the orphanages and Children's Heaven. A friend (thanks, Derek!) has a whole stash of messenger bags for the girls at Children's Heaven, too. What an honor to shop for these children.