I can’t believe it has officially been 3 years since bringing the boys home. I can truly say that these boys were meant for us! Our story has so many bumps along the way that there was a time when Craig and I thought we were never meant to be parents. Craig lost his job which threw a huge wrench in our plan; and I’ll never forget the day after our baby shower, when we received a phone call that the baby we were placed with died of malaria. We were quickly referred another boy, Kai. He was found in front of a church at 2 weeks old and when we got the photos, he immediately stole our hearts. So this was the path that was meant to be for us, just like Craig’s job loss that gave me the courage to start this business. It all happens for a reason.
I recently read Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson who is an amazing chef. He too was adopted from Ethiopia and writes about his memories of his journey. My favorite part of the book is when he writes about having to go into the big scary bathtub! My boys would cry hysterically at bath time for the first month of being home but soon enough they begged to play in the water. Baths were not something enjoyed in Ethiopia, many times the water was completely shut off for very long periods of time.
It was quite a journey! We traveled to Ethiopia in May 2011 to sign court papers and to meet the boys for the first time. It was an amazing but bittersweet trip. The feelings of meeting the boys for the first time were indescribable, they put Micah and I in a tiny dark room upon meeting and I held him while he cried for about 2 hours. I decided that I was going to “break the rules” and go outside to play. I found a donated basketball and started playing catch with him (the older Ethiopian men at the foster home laughed at me because I was bouncing the ball with my hands and they play soccer… a basketball meant nothing to them:). Within about 5 minutes of playing Micah was hooked on me; I don’t think he ever had attention like that from anyone.
The days went by in a blur; nothing to do but to hold and play with our boys. Having to leave them was very hard. Craig mentioned it was like being in the delivery room and seeing your son for the first time, holding him and getting to know him and then the nurse saying, “OK, we will take him now and you can come back in 4-6 weeks to take him home”. Sadly, we had to leave them behind not knowing when the U.S. would let us travel again to bring them home.
We hit some more ‘bumps in our journey’ as our paperwork was marked as “Not Clearly Adoptable” and was sent to Nairobi for review. This caused another long delay. We expected to bring them home in 4-6 weeks, but it ended up over 6 months! Craig has told me that it is a good thing we didn’t know it would take 6 months when we first met them as it was hard enough leaving them thinking it would be 4-6 weeks! We didn’t get the approval until November 2011 and our official embassy date was set for November 21st.
This started the craziest few days of my life. We had 5 days to get all the arrangements made, hotel, airlines, drivers, etc. There was also the additional wrinkle that only Kai’s case was approved and we were waiting on an interview with Micah’s birth mother that was set to happen on Friday while we were flying out to Ethiopia. So when we got to the hotel we didn’t know if we would be bringing both home or just Kai. We were to receive an email from the US Embassy telling us if the interview went well and if we could bring Micah home too. The minute we got to the hotel, Craig ran to the office center where you could buy access to the internet. It had just closed. Craig pleaded with the women and she let him in to check his email. The email was there. The interview had gone well and Micah was cleared to come home!
Every month that went by, I feared that Micah wouldn’t remember the woman who played ball with him but when we jumped out of the taxi cab, he ran into my arms (see video). This video is priceless to me.
Kai, on the other hand, was the opposite. He loved cuddling with us on our first trip to stay with him, but when we came back he cried whenever we held him. It totally broke our hearts. Why we had to be apart so long seemed so unfair.
We were only in Ethiopia for 4 days. The boys were so good despite all the new and unfamiliar things that happened to them on the way home. First off, as you can see in the above photo, it was only the second time they had ever been in a car! Our car had no seat belts, let alone car seats (and the driving is SUPER scary! Cars and buses everywhere, chaos!). So as we pulled out of the gated foster home, Micah cried the whole way to the U.S. Embassy. I can’ imagine how much his view of the world grew in just minutes. He had spent almost a year in the foster home in this little walled courtyard (about 20 feet by 20 feet). I will never forget the look on his face as we pulled out. His eyes were as big as saucers.
As we sat in the waiting area at the Embassy, Micah continued to cry and Kai decided it was time to fill his diaper. They both had giardia, which makes for “blow out” diapers. Fun when traveling half way around the world! So Craig left with Kai and I sat with Micah while I felt that there were hundreds of eyes on me judging me for not being able to comfort my new toddler.
The flight home was a different story, the boys were so over-stimulated, they slept almost the whole way home (as you can see in the photo, Micah made good use of his seat!). As for Craig and I, we didn’t sleep for the 48 hours of travelling from picking them up at the foster home to getting home! At least we weren’t sick with giardia this time like we were on the first trip back to the U.S. Yikes!
Once we arrived in Minneapolis, we had lots of new and scary adventures for the boys. As we strapped them into their car seats they screaming started. Another new thing for them. I’m sure they wondered why we were no longer holding them like we had been for the last 4 days straight. I tried to hold their little hands to comfort them (as you can see in the photo above) and their tears finally stopped after 40 minutes. BUT, then we picked up our puppy, O’Hana, from the kennel. Dogs were not considered friendly in Ethiopia, they were mostly used for protection and the boys were extremely scared of her.
We arrived home and kept O’Hana downstairs. It would take almost 2 months for Micah to be OK with O’Hana walking around the house. It was 2pm the day before Thanksgiving and I was ready for bed! I was exhausted, but we tried to feed them and of course our food was totally different than what they were accustomed to, so the crying started again… So we tried a bath. The bath tub is a scary place for the first time, and the crying started again. At this point, I haven’t slept in 2 days and I fell into Craig’s arms and said “They hate me!” Craig is my hero; he held me tight.
I don’t mean to make this story sound negative, because it isn’t. I just wanted to tell the truth of how it all unfolded. Adoption is a true blessing, but taking a child away from everything they have ever known and fly them half way across the world with people they barely know would be very traumatizing for an adult much less a child. This was now Micah’s fourth home in his short 27 months of life. But the most important thing of all, it is his last. Our “Gotcha Day” was a yanking of fours lives together in a 2 day chaotic sprint. The rest of our lives together is our marathon and for that it was all worth it.
The boys and I crashed at 5pm! At 3am, Kai and I were up and the new day started. With sleep and food in my belly, I felt amazing. I held my new baby boy in my arms, rocking him while I fed him a bottle. Life never felt so complete. It is amazing how well the boys adjusted in just one year. They now love our puppy, the bath tub, our food, and they are even getting used to playing outside in the cold! They are amazingly good riding in the car seat or stroller. We could not have asked for two more perfect children. It was a journey that took over 5 years to make us a family. But the path along the way has proven to be the path that was meant to be for our family and for that we feel truly blessed.
It is amazing how you forgot the trials and challenges we went through until I look back at the photos. It seems like they have been with us forever.
One of Micah’s first phrases was “Micah, Kai, Daddy, Mommy, Hana.” O’Hana is our dog (O’hana means “family” in Hawaiian). He still repeats it all the time. Family.
Comment below on what you are grateful for today!
Beautiful – thank you for sharing your family’s story! I am so grateful for my children and my husband and the many blessings that we have.
I’m grateful for having the two best kids in the world! My daughter is brilliant, beautiful and growing into her life away at college, and my son (the ginger giant) is growing his heart and mind to fit his hands and feet!
When I was 13.5, my family adopted a baby who became my little brother! I know what its like to open your heart and watch it grow in someone else!
Have a great Gotcha DAY!
How beautiful, those precious, precious faces! May God bless your wonderful family forever and ever! Happy Thanksgiving!
Adoption. I brought my beautiful daughter home forever April 22, 2005. She brings me joy every day. I cannot imagine my life without her.
What a wonderful and moving story of courage and determination. You got your two wonderful boys and they were lucky to get a wonderful family too.
I am thankful/grateful for my salvation, my family, my job, my home, and for finding this website! Thank you, Maria, for your tireless efforts to bring us the truth about what we WERE putting in our bodies, and how to correct it!
I will be forever grateful… 🙂
Beautiful story! I too am very thankful for my wonderful family!! I’m blessed to have a beautiful daughter, an amazing 23 month old grandson, a kind hardworking son in law and a patient and loving husband!!!!
Oh my this made me cry…those eyes alone….what a beautiful Thanksgiving story……
I loved the music in the video
Happy Gotcha Day! I love this story and I am so thankful for people like you and Craig who open your hearts to these children and love them so much. You make the world such a better place! I can’t wait to hear more about your beautiful children. Thanks for sharing something so intimate with us!
Beautiful story…You ARE blessed! I am thankful for my ” amazing son “. He is now 20 and I have thanked God since the day he was born…Have a wonderful Thanksgiving…
Thanks! You too!
I am grateful for you Maria. I am grateful we have changed our life. I am grateful my husband made ity through bypass. Thank you.
What am I grateful for today? That’s easy– MARIA! She is an angel here on earth, saving souls from an impoverished world of poor physical, emotional, or spiritual health and creating something beautiful and wonderful for us to watch unfold in our own lives. I will be eternally grateful for all this woman, Maria Emmerich, as well as all her wonderful husband, Craig has done for me and all of humanity!!!! PS- Your sons are SO blessed to have you for parents! Sharing your story took my own heart back to the years of 2002-2004 when I lived in Angola, Africa and saw similar sights to the story you shared today! Thank you!
Awe, thank you Diane!!
Wow…. It’s been three years already?? Gods bless, to you, Craig, and the boys. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. 🙂
Absolutely love the video and so very happy for you and yours! I am thankful for the love of God who through many trials blessed my husband and myself with the miracle of having twin daughters.
I am grateful that you have taken the time to educate others and given of yourself in ways that make our world a better place. May God continue to bless your family Maria!
My husband and I took in my niece and nephew at ages 11 and 4. We lost our first son (stillborn) and later had a son, daughter and son. Years later when my youngest was nine, we decided to adopt a 3 year old boy from the States. We celebrated our 38 years of married life and sent our youngest son (adopted one) off to college this year. What a roller coaster life, so many wonderful memories of it all and now we are starting on grandchildren. We have truly been blessed with a wonderful loving family and I am so grateful! Happy Thanksgiving Maria, from our house to yours. 🙂
That is great. Thanks!
Thank you for sharing your beautiful adoption story! Made me cry with gratitude.
FAMILY! How ever you get together, once you’re family, it’s for life. I am so thankful for my two strong children!
I am thankful for two beautiful nephews that you and Criag never gave up on!! You both are amazing and the love that you both give the boys is unconditional, they were brought into this world to be yours and yours alone!!
Ps I’m grateful for you and Craig too❤️
Thanks Kelly! We love you too!! 🙂
Happy 3 year Anniversary! Look how much they have grown 🙂 You have a lot to be thankful for this, and every, Thanksgiving.
And thank you for Everything you do for us!
Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. It has been a pleasure watching your boys grow up. I always look forward to seeing them in your pictures and videos. They are beyond adorable. The world needs more people like Craig and you.
This is such a wonderful post Maria! It brought me to tears at my office cube! Motherhood alone is a daunting task, let alone what you took on! Thank you for sharing.
You sure do know how to make me cry…. I am thankful that YOU have had such joy brought into your life!!
Thank you! 🙂
Wonderful Maria and Craig!
What a beautiful story. Made me cry. My husband is adopted and I am forever amazed at the immense love adoptive parents share with children they wanted so much that they moved heaven and earth to create a family for these babies who need good parents. I am grateful for our 3 girls who amaze me daily and share this journey of life with us. we are blessed with love, good health and a safe place to raise our children in. Thank you so much for all you do for us and helping us realize the best health we can so we can take care of the blessings bestowed upon us.
Congratulations, Maria. I thoroughly have enjoyed reading your posts through the years. I am grateful for my parents, as they have continued to care for me (I am 34 years old), giving me unconditional love as I continue to struggle with a 7 year battle with Anorexia/ED NOS. I am always so touched by any parents love they give to their child, and how no one else will ever give them the same type of love. Thank you for sharing your parenthood journey as well as your culinary knowledge.
Thank you! 🙂
Beautiful boys…there should be cake on Gotcha Day!
Beautiful boys. I am thankful for two beautiful, happy, and healthy daughters.
Loved curling up and reading this story. 🙂 Do the boys themselves know they were adopted? You’re such a sweet mother, sort of wish you were mine…haha. We’d have the best time running early in the morning together and baking sweets and you teaching me the right way to nutrition hidden behind all the food industry lies!!
Truly Maria, you are a blessing. I only wish I was with you in person.
wow, that is quite an emotional ordeal, I was on a roller coaster reading it. so thankful all has turned out well for the boys and you!! It is truly a blessing you all found each other.
I am thankful today for so many things– Jesus; health; food; shelter; a jog a loving husband. So much to be thankful for.
too bad I can’t edit my comment… a job– not a jog. 🙂
Aw! Congratulations on your family day! You’re kids are soooooooo sweet they warm my heart every time I see their little faces!
Maria, I am grateful for this site! you have improved my life with your example and information. I am so grateful for many things, that I would take up too much space on your site listing them so I have them tucked away in my gratitude journal and heart but wanted to take a moment to tell you how grateful I am to you and your site . Ann Voscamp has written a book called 1000 gifts. this has inspired my gratitude journal. I am grateful your children have you and your husband as parents. Happy thanksgiving and thank you for the gratitude inspiration!
What a beautiful story Maria!! I am so grateful for my family, I am a blessed mom of 3 with 4 wonderful grand babies. I am also thankful for you Maria. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us. Y9ou make my life easier!
Awe, thank you! 🙂
I just returned from a trip to Oahu to visit family. I was there for 2 lovely weeks. Before the trip I prayed for guidance and direction. During my stay, my brother had 4 men from Teen Challenge come over and do yard work. My sister-in-law made a lovely lunch, and I assisted. I talked with a few of the men to hear their stories. A couple of days later I found my prayers answered. With my passion for nutrition, exercise and sustainability, I have decided to work with the Teen Challenge in Pahoa (Lava Land), on the Big Island of Hawaii. Although, my family live on Oahu, an hour flight is a lot more manageable than the 5-7 hour I must now invest. I am retired, and am retired and ready to work on the second half of my life by giving back. I am grateful for Ohana.
I am grateful for you, your website, your creativity, your recipes. I am grateful for Craig and his support for whatever makes your hearts pitter pat, especially the pitter pat of little children. As evidenced in your story, if you were led to Ethiopia to adopt, so be it; life is about change. And change is sometimes hard to get through, but when you get through it, one is so much stronger (and usually happier!)
That is awesome! 🙂
Great site Maria, thanks for sharing.
I am extremely grateful that I can walk again although not pain free. At least I am mobile again and have use of my legs again. Hoping keto will help with the chronic pain.
I cried reading your story, thank you for such a raw and touching share. Reminds me of my own journey to keep and bring up my own 2 yo son. I am grateful to be his mother.
OH MY! I balled and balled and balled and balled reading this post… it is so SO SO incredibly similar to our story in so many ways! So many ways! Thank you for sharing, and thank you for sharing the ketogenic diet… I can’t wait to try it with Teshome to continue his healing process! THANK YOU!!!!!