We are the Snyder family and ... we are different

This is the story of our journey to our daughter in Ethiopia. God is preparing our family for her and preparing her heart to come home to her family. We chose the difficult road of trusting and obeying God. It is worth every step!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Alert the presses

Yes, that's right.  Alert the presses I am actually updating our blog, it's amazing!  Well the post may not be amazing but that fact that I'm actually writing one is, lol.  So what have we been up to in the last three months?  Well there's so much that I can't possibly remember it all but just know that we have been doing well and making more and more progress.

Aliya started preschool just a week after everyone else started.  She goes to the preschool at our church three mornings a week and is loving it.  The first day we were there the teacher asked her if she knew how to spell her name.  At that moment I thought "oh...it has not EVER occurred to me to even teach her to spell her name yet.  It's a good thing that she's going to preschool...whew!"  She has been on several field trips to which I accompanied a couple of and of course took an insane amount of pictures.  My theory is that we have to make up for the first 5 years of her life by having the same number of scrapbooks in a matter of just a few months.  It makes perfect sense...in my head, lol :)  Anyway, her language is really coming along and she is even starting to lose her accent at times.  There are many phrases that she has picked up from school as well as her neighborhood friends; some are good and some are not.  While there are still concepts that are difficult for her to understand she is exploring her world very nicely and eagerly.  She is also figuring out the system in the Snyder house, which according to her is not as fun as it is in Wolayta.  According to her she apparently never had to walk in Wolayta (we walk 5 blocks to take Christian to school and we need to stop for water and stretching breaks along the way), her mother never made her eat fish (she says it smells dirty), she has to go to bed and brush her teeth every night, she does not get to "pick one" everywhere we go and she does not get to do whatever she wants.  It's a hard life in America.

The boys are also continuing to adjust well to another member of the family.  Christian, who just turned 6, was having some competition issues but is slowly turning the corner on that and does not feel the need for it quite as much.  Dominic has been a great big brother and seems to enjoy having a little sister around.  They both played soccer this fall so she got to see America's crazy schedule of practices and games.  We have not signed her up for any extra activites and probably won't for a little while longer.  Her attitude and behavior shows a distinct downward turn when we are too busy and/or around too many people.  We've had to reign it back in a little in the last couple of weeks and have noticed an improvement on tantrums which is always good :)  Aliya doesn't understand why the boys get to everything all the time though and she is stuck at home so often with mommy.  "All the time we eat lunch and take a nap.  Why all the time I'm sleeping?  Mommy always says GO TO BED!"  Yes again the Snyder house is a hard place to live where you have to take naps so that you don't become a cranky whiny diva and you have to go to bed by 8:30 every single night. 

We have had some interesting moments of high pitched screaming fits from looking at a cartoon picture of a snake, making her walk on her stiff leg from the vaccines and brushing her hair.  We have also had precious moments of snuggles, hugs, kisses, "I love you" and pure contentment.  Every day God renews us and every day I am so thankful He does.  Without that promise there are days I don't think I will make it another.  We have shown her the video of her caretaker and she watched a couple of times.  The second time she started to cry so I took her to her room and just sat and held her.  I knew she missed her, her country and the life she once knew.  Adoption is between a rock and a hard place.  While it is blessing a child with a new life and a new hope as well as blessing a family with a child, it's also a heartwrenching reality that a lot of pain and suffering had to happen before those blessings could.  I wish I could take away her pain but all I can do is pray for her healing heart and try and make her feel safe and loved.  There are moments when I think she is doing so well and there are moments when she is still scared and lonely.  One thing that has helped so much is having a network of people that support and encourage us.  The community that we have exprienced through this process has been so amazing.

Well I'm sure I could write 10 times more than this but I'm going to end with a few pictures.  I've got my routine back a little so perhaps I will stay more up to date on blogging and not let it go months.  Thanks for following our journey.  Thank you for your prayers.

Aliya at the pumpkin patch in a corn husk teepee

Dustin throwing Aliya in the air at soccer

Aliya tackling CJ in the leaf pile

at the 12:1 run where Aliya took 1st place in her age

Saturday, August 13, 2011

we've been home 2 weeks now

Well you can tell I haven't had a lot of time to update.  It's been a while since my last post.  Since then Dustin left and went back home while Aliya and I spent another week in Ethiopia.  His flight through Frankfurt went well and was picked up by the Murray's in Chicago.  It was so nice of them to let us park at their house and pick Dustin up at the airport.  He got to hang out with their family a little more before he headed back for home.  I missed having him around a lot the first couple of days but then Laura Unruh got there with her two kids so Aliya had her friend Yaruse to play with, that was wonderful! 

When Dustin left so did most of the other families.  It was sort of a sad night to see the van full of familiar faces leave.  There were many pictures taken, many hugs and a few tears.  It's amazing when you share these experiences together how close you become to people that you barely know.  It's such a gift to have that though.  We met lots of other families from lots of other agencies and most of them do not have the same experience that we do.  They don't have a network of people before they go to consult with and share with.  They don't have a travel group that they become life long friends with.  We are very lucky to have the agency that we do.  There are many other stories that I will have to put in another post about that.

Laura and I took the kids one day to get their hair done.  I wanted Aliya's hair trimmed before we left and Laura wanted both her kids shaved.  We ended up going to a different place than we had when we got her hair braided because I turned down the wrong street.  Laura had to go to a barber to get her kids' done because the woman we went to did not have clippers.  She did a good job on Aliya's hair, especially since they don't have running water or chairs that elevate or real barber scissors.  She washed her hair in this sink that had a tube connected to a bucket for the water to drain into and used pitchers of water from a large plastic barrel.  She also used what looked like sewing shears to cut Aliya's hair while she hunched over her in a regular chair.  It cost 30 birr which is a little less than $2.  I had 60 birr in my pocket so I just gave it all to her for a tip.  For Laura to get her kids' heads shaved it cost 10 birr a piece.  She gave the guy 100 birr which is still only $6.  I'm going to miss the prices.  Aliya of course did a great job getting her hair cut.  The lady's teenage son and daughter popped in and out and helped put gel in her hair at the end.  When they asked her name they giggled after she told them.  The boy asked me if I knew that her name meant bird to which I replied yes and the two laughed.  Wefe is not a common name, but c'mon.  You don't have to laugh!

We also had our embassy appointment on Tuesday July 26th.  We got there around 1:00 and waited for about an hour or so.  They were not nearly as busy as the day we went with the other families but it still took a while.  It's like if you had to go to the DMV to get your driver's license renewed but had to be granted an appointment just to take a number and wait for your chance at a window.  It's a very American process.  We finally had our name called, went up to the window and answered a few questions and signed a few papers.  We were done!  No, really, DONE!  I felt a rush of emotions that cannot be pinpointed to anything in particular, just a rush.  When we got back to the guest house I was exhausted.  I wanted to just cry and let out all the emotions of the past 16 months, but I couldn't.  It wasn't until several days later that I was finally able to do that.  More on that story a little later in this post.

The rest of the week we didn't do too much.  We did end up having to go back to the transition home a couple more times because I thought that Aliya had ring worm and needed to see the doctor.  The doctor gave us some cream that made the spot bigger so we're still not really sure if it's ring worm or not.  It was nice for Aliya to go back and see her friends again and play with them.  There was never any weirdness about her going back, I don't think she ever felt like we were giving her back or anything like that.  She was obviously very loved there.  In fact, it was so cute because she went in the classroom and they all clapped and cheered.  When she left they all kissed and hugged her.  It really was so sweet :)  We also went shopping again and only got a few things.  I was trying to conserve the birr I had left to pay the driver and the guest house but didn't want to bring too much home either.  Turns out I accidentally hid 1000 birr from myself and found it stuffed in my backpack on the plane home.  Looks like that didn't work out exactly the way I wanted.

We left Cimbrey and her mom Thursday afternoon.  They and Laura were the only ones left at the guest house.  Cimbrey was staying between court and embassy and was still waiting on her MOWYCA letter, hoping it would be there before the court closures.  Between then and me writing this she has passed and has her son with her now.  If you would like to read more about her stay, visit their blog (she actually keeps up with hers unlike myself) Cimbrey's blog.  So our flight left on Emirates at 7:30pm from Ethiopia to Dubai.  The flight was very nice and we didn't have any problems.  Aliya did great on the take off and landing and loved looking out the window.  She slept some of the time but was mostly happy to sit in her seat listening to her headphones and watching a movie.  She really couldn't have done any better.  When we got to Dubai I thought we had an hour and half to get on the next flight.  Turns out with the time change and the time it took for us to get to the next terminal it was actually about 15 minutes.  While we were still waiting in line to get through to the gate they were already calling final boarding.  Luckily we made it on the plane with plenty of time.  We even got a seat in the first row so we had more leg room for the long flight ahead.  The flight from Dubai to New York was going to be our longest one at 12 hours.  The flight we had just been on was 5 hours or so and then the one from New York to Chicago is only 2 hours.  The flight was mostly during the night so we both slept most of the flight, besides the meals they brought to us at weird times.  It was on time and got into NY at 8:15am.  I knew that we would be spending all day in the JFK airport because our last flight didn't leave until 3:50pm.  We ate and walked around and went in a couple stores.  I bought her a cupcake sticker book and she danced around.  We then found out that our flight was delayed 2 hours because the incoming flight was late.  Well after a couple more hours of taxing around and then coming back into the gate, our flight got cancelled.  I called Dustin to tell him what was going on because he had driven up to Chicago with the boys to surprise us as well as the Mowen family.  We had to figure out what was going on and Aliya and I ended up staying at a Holiday Inn Express in Queens, NY that night.  We finally got to the hotel at 12:45am.  On our way to the hotel our cabbie had no idea where he was going and was lost.  I was so tired and emotionally exhausted that during the car ride is when I wept.  All the emotions had finally caught up with me and came pouring out in the backseat of a yellow cab.  Aliya just looked at me and held my hand.  I'm glad that my 5 year old daughter could be my comforter.  When we got into our room there was a comfortable king sized bed awaiting us.  There was also a 45" flat screen TV (which is very large for a single room) sitting in front of the bed.  Aliya saw it with big eyes and said, "BIG!" while making a big motion with her arms.  I said, "television".  She looked at me like I was lying and said, "NO!  BIG!"  It was pretty funny.
We got showered the next morning and had breakfast.  I found a man with 2 teenage girls that were also going to the airport so we shared a cab.  Our flight didn't leave till 12:50pm but their flight was a little earlier so we ended up getting to the airport around 10:30am.  We ended up walking around and looking in some of the nearby kids' stores.  We had also cancelled our airline and went with a different one that had an earlier flight because the original airline couldn't get us on another plane until 8:00pm.  Well while we were waiting for our flight we got notice that our flight had been delayed to 3:00pm.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!  I didn't think we were ever going to make it home.  I didn't feel relieved until that plane had finally taken off and we were actually in the air.  We got into Chicago around 5:00pm and were greeted by the Murray family and Dustin and the boys.  The Mowens ended up having to go home since we had to stay the night, which was such a shame.  After a wonderful homecoming we headed back to Iowa.  We pulled into our house at 9:30pm on Saturday July 30th after 53 hours of being in transit.  Wow!  Aliya did great the entire time too, not a single fit.  She played, sang and danced the entire time.  She was amazing!

Aliya felt very comfortable the moment she walked off the plane.  She hugged everyone and walked out of the airport holding hands with her brothers.  On the way home she and Christian fell asleep against each other, it was probably the cutest thing ever.  When we got home she was very comfortable in her room and everything.  She slept in her bed all night without any complications.  She has slept well every night.  She is eating well and eats most everything.  There are only a few things that she has not cared for like strawberries, watermelon and fish.  Other than that she seems to eat about everything.  She has adjusted to meeting new people.  We have tried for the most part to have people come to our house where she is comfortable.  When we are out and about when we see people she tends to be more reserved and lots of times won't acknowledge them.  She is a natural part of our family.  She blends in as if she has always been here.  There is some competition between her and Christian (he's 6 and she's 5) but I knew there would be.  So far I am trying to find the balance of bonding with her and giving the boys enough attention.  It's a struggle but it's going okay.  I am not a physical touch sort of a person so my cup has been getting very full with 3 biding for my attention all day.  We're working on that.  There are things we are working on every day and each day brings something new.  She is learning English, she quizzes us on Amharic, but she communicates very well.  We are anxious to see what the days ahead of us bring.  The boys start school next week so it will be just us girls at home very soon.  Hopefully we both make it, lol :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

beginning of a new week

Sorry I didn't update the end of the week, I just haven't had a chance to get online and update the past few days.  We have been having lots of fun getting to know each other more and getting to see more and more of Aliya's personality.  We have had so much fun playing up on the terrace and in the playroom eventhough there aren't a ton of toys up there it's still an open space that is different scenery than our room.  We blow bubbles off the terrace, play soccer, play with balls and balloons and chase each other around.  One day when we were blowing bubbles two little girls out in the street in front of the guest house were waving and calling to us.  I convinced Aliya to go downstairs and give them a couple granola bars, raisins and hair clips.  The girls were so excited to ge them that they were squeeling with delight.  They kept saying, "thank you, thank you, we love you so much."  It was so sweet.  When I went to put the flower clips in their hair they had lice just crawling all over the braids in their hair and they were just filthy.  Those girls hang out quite a bit at the store next to our guest house and are so sweet, I just want to give them a bath and put some new clothes on them.

We have discovered how silly Aliya is.  She makes the funniest faces and does some crazy things.  She is teaching us a few things in Amharic and Wolatigna which is so wonderful.  Her little accent is absolutely adorable and she surprises us everyday with more and more English.  The other day she and Dustin were playing and teasing each other and she kept saying, "No Dad, Go Dad Go!"  She then told Dustin, "dad you go America, see you tomorrow!"  It was so hilarious!  He then pretended to leave and walk out the door but he didn't have shoes on so she told him, "Dad shoes, Dad shoes, Dad go America!"  She is definitely sassy pants ;)  We have also found out that she loves to flip and be upside down and all those other fun 5 year old girl things.  She is constantly climbing on, jumping off and rolling all over the furniture.  Definitely something that will be changing once we get home.

This weekend LOTS of other families have come for court and embassy appointments.  Many families I have been following along on the yahoo group, blogs and facebook for months.  It's so nice to finally meet these people in person and talk with them.  It's amazing to hear everyone's stories and the ways God has moved and changed them.  There are so many wonderful stories of God's provision that it makes my heart sing to hear them.  What a blessing to be part of this group!  There is also another family staying at our guest house that is adopting a four year old girl from another agency so it's interesting to hear about their experiences as well.  The guest house is filled to the brim this week and I love having all these people around to share this experience with and to have community with.  I look forward to keeping in contact with many of these families in the future.

Today we went to the embassy to "say hello" and let them know that yes we are still here in country and would greatly appreciate an appointment this week.  We were basically met with the same response we have gotten via email "the embassy is short staffed, they are very busy, there are no appointments but if one does open up they will let us know".  Basically, we will see you on the 26th.  Oh well, at least we tried.  So for now it looks like Dustin will come home this Sunday but Aliya and I will not come home for almost 2 more weeks.  We are all ready to come home, but at least we are together.  Aliya even said to me the other day, "we go America".  Yes we will get to go to America  very soon :)

Just in case you are wondering how our bonding is going, it's going very well so far.  We have had lots of hugs and kisses and many "I love you" as well as lots of eye contact.  She is eating well, although her tummy has been upset the last day or two.  She knows who "mommy" and "daddy" are and stays very close to us for the most part.  When we went to the orphanages with her she did not get in the mix of kids trying to get stuff from the people handing out toys and snacks.  She likes to sit on our laps and be held quite a bit and she loves to have her arm around my neck and stroke my hair.  She is such a sweet girl and actually reminds me a lot of our son Christian who also loves to snuggle and just be close.  Today I did see some potential fits and got some screaming so we will be exiting the "honeymoon" phase shortly.  She is getting more comfortable with us and others around us as she actually played tonight after dinner downstairs in the lobby with all the other families around.  It's the first time people really got to see a glimpse of the real Aliya.

I will probably not be updating a lot for the next week or two just because we are still really staying low key and not going too many places because of her comfort level and budget.  With me staying another week that is another week at the guest house, another week of meals and another week to pay for a driver if we go anywhere.  You can tell as time is going on we are taking fewer pictures.  There's only so many pictures you can take of us playing with the same toys day after day.  There are some pictures that other families took I hope to be getting soon so I will post those once I get them.

Continue to pray for us as we will be here for a while longer, pray for safe travel and pray for all the families that are here for court and embassy this week.  Our God is greater, greater than any other, our God is stronger.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Thursday we had another low key day.  We did decide to finally go up to the playroom at the top of the guest house and check it out.  You have to get a key to get in and it's a little 10x10 room with some toys and little chairs and things in it.  Dustin played with her quite a bit in the room which was really nice for some daddy and daughter bonding.  Dustin also used the pocket Amharic dictionary to communicate with her, it was great because we got to hear her talk more and she taught us a few things.

We had another makeshift lunch, this time with Ramen noodles, and took another nap today.  We ate dinner at the Zebra Grill and had the best, no really, the best chicken wings ever.  So delicious!  We did decide that she is not comfortable with new environments as we went down the street to a couple of shops the night before and she held onto my neck for dear life and at the restaurant she seemed very uneasy.  We will try and not take her anymore places than we can help.  She is very shy around new people.

That night we had the Snyder dance party in our room, complete with lots of party balloons.  While washing her hands she started singing, "baby, baby, oh" the Justin Beiber song so Dustin uploaded the Beiber album and we danced and laughed.  We had so much fun together!

We knew she was a lot of fun, but we didn't know she was so so hilarious!


I was planning on keeping updated every day because the days tend to blend in together and I forget things but the internet in Ethiopia had different ideas.  We did not have any internet in country at all Wednesday night and a great deal of Thursday.  So here is the update for Wednesday day 3 from what I can remember.  It may end up being mostly pictures since we are currently towards the end of day 5 while I am writing this :)

Wednesday we decided that it was going to be a pretty low key day.  We had been pretty busy since we got here so wanted to just relax.  Aliya also really needs a nap in the afternoon and going out to lunch with the group doesn't allow for that.  We ended up just playing upstairs in our room and downstairs in the lobby most of the morning.  We had a make shift lunch of crackers, peanut butter, spicy tuna, beef jerkey and granola bars (not all together).  After lunch we all laid down for a 2 hour nap and then went back downstairs to the lobby to play some more.  There really isn't anything to do down in the lobby but it's different scenery from our room and we can go outside and play soccer, play with balloons and blow bubbles.

This is the first night we really saw her be silly too.  I can't seem to find any pictures of it but it was hilarious to see her funny faces and funny personality come out.  It was kind of a mommy day so dad didn't get a whole lot of attention.  Aliya did get to bed at a good time though and had a great night's sleep.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Our second day together started out better than the first.  Instead of waking up to a stunned zombie we woke up to smiles.  She went potty and then cuddled in bed with us for a few minutes before we got ready to head down to breakfast.  It was a little cooler that morning so we made sure to have her jacket with us.  Tuesday we knew we were meeting the doctor and psychologist at the transition home as well as taking care of our care packages and photo releases.  We were a little unsure of how she would react to going back to the transition home as we had heard from previous families that some of the children reacted very negatively to going back.  When we pulled up a huge smile broke out across her face and she was anxious to see her friends.  It was nice that she got to play on familiar ground again.  The equipment was much more worn since our stay in April, even the beloved merry-go-round was broken.  Aliya was much more adventurous this time on the equipment compared with last time.  She had figured out how to work the swing of death by herself.  She also knew how to go down the slide by herself, this slide rivals an incline of any cliff.  She also learned how to hang upside down from the monkey bars.

We talked to the psychologist and gave him the books that Brad Mowen had given us for him.  We talked about the transition with her and her brothers, we know that it will not be an easy road.  The doctor told us of her medical conditions since entering the transition home and checked her ears and breathing again.  There were two nursing interns there from the University of Virginia who looked in Aliya's ears also becaues they don't see very many clear ears and hers are great.  We handed the transition home a duffle full of donations and I made the mistake of getting out a few cars from a couple of the boys that have their family here.  I was trying to be discreet but obviously not enough because suddenly I was swarmed by kids from all over the yard digging their hands into the bags of cars pulling out as many as they could hold.  Eventually some of the nannies came out and dispersed the crowd.  They made all the kids put back all the cars, which I felt bad for becaue they could have each had one.  After all the kids went back to the classroom I got a couple cars out again for the two boys because the nanny even made them give them back.  A few minutes later we were directed into the classroom where the children were lined up and had to apologize to us and to Aliya for acting that way.  Aliya told them in Amharic, "you should not act like that again."  It made us all laugh.  We then gave the care packages to our friends the Seevers' children.  Absolutely adorable!  Then took photos for the Bosmans and Rowells.  All the kids are so beautiful and precious.  Dustin even got some video of it and with the internet being somewhat fast now we were able to send them all to the fmailies after we got home that night.  It is such a blessing to get to do that for other families.  We were blessed many times by familis doing it for us and I remember wanting to get them as quickly as possible :) 

When it was time to leave the transition home the girls were all lined up ready to head back for lunch.  Aliya kissed each one of the goodbye as they left and kissed a couple of them several times.  I was so happy that she got to say goodbye to them since she didn't really do it when we took her out.

We ate lunch at Makush, this fantastic restaurant that has an art gallery.  There was another group of adoptive families from AGCI there as well, must be the tourist spot :)  Then it was off to the orphanages to take the rest of our donations.  We went to Abeneezer which was not one we had visited before.  It was really special because another family from a different agency was actually picking up their baby girl that day.  The kids all had on traditional Ethiopian shirts on and they were having a special birthday/farewell party for the little girl.  A woman from their agency gave a little presentation and the entire thing was videotaped for them.  It was so cool to be part of that.  We found out that the family was from California and they had gotten their referral in September.  We gave a bag full of baby items as well as cars and granola bars to all the older kids.  After that we picked up a family at the transition home and headed for KVI to give out more cars and granola bars as well as the pillowcase dresses and t-shirts we brought from missional mamas.  Our time there was very short and nicely enough they obliged us by having the kids put some of the dresses and t-shirts on.  It was very sweet of them to do that for us.  Going to the orphanages is always hard.  It breaks my heart to see all of the kids there.  I just want to take them all home.  I wish that everyone who questioned adoption could visit an orphanage because they would NEVER question it again.  It is giving a child that is deemed for death new hope and life.

We had some terrific lasagna back at the guest house for dinner and then got ready for bed.  Aliya did not get a nap in that day so we put her to bed a little early.  She went to bed without anyone laying next to her.  Although I will say that there is no longer any polish on her left thumbnail from her sucking it off.  Hopefully as time goes by she will be comforted enough in her environment that she won't have to do that :)

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the pictures.  I will continue to update.  Tomorrow may not be as exciting because we have decided to relax since we have been pretty busy since we arrived.