Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How's it going?

Our new daughter is doing really, really, amazingly well, especially considering everything she's been through! She began calling us "Mommy and Daddy" from the first moment, without any coaching from us. However, she did cry and scream and pace for a good 2 hours after she was brought to us at our guesthouse, desperate to go back to the caregivers and friends she was comfortable with at the orphanage. She wouldn't let us comfort her for a long time and finally let me pick her up and rock her and then she fell asleep in my arms. She woke up crying but this time let me comfort her right away and the crying didn't last very long. It was really heartbreaking to watch her go through such grief and illustrates the tragedy that is the flip side of every adoption.

We had some really sweet moments with her, too, in Ethiopia. I'll never forget the proud smile on her face as she pranced around the guesthouse showing off the new shoes we brought her. She came to us with literally the clothes on her back and nothing else, and the shoes from the orphanage had holes in them and straps that didn't stay fastened. She slept in her new shoes and hair bow that first night. She insisted on the shoes for several nights, and as it turns out sleeping next to a child wearing shoes is not the most comfortable! Thankfully we transitioned her to slippers once we got home!

The airplane rides home were not too bad. The parts of the flight where seat belts were required were really the only screaming, crying spells and then a kind flight attendant allowed us to use the infant tandem seat belt so she could sit on our lap and be strapped to our seat belt, which went over a whole lot better! Actually the in-airport time was worse than the on-plane time, the wide open spaces of the airports just made her want to run wild, and she was not too keen on our rule that allowed us to survive 3 other toddlers, "You may walk and hold my hand or be carried." We discovered that rule is easier to apply to a child who has not spent the last 13 months cooped up in one room of an orphanage!

In just 1 week she has gone from not even wanting her daddy to get near her (all her caregivers at the orphanage were women so we were warned to expect that) to a total Daddy's girl. She cried when he went back to work on Tuesday, and when he got home she squealed "Daddy!", ran to his arms and wouldn't let him put her down the rest of the night! The last couple of days she's called me "Mommy-yay" and we know that in her language of Amharic, adding "yay" to the end of name is an expression that the person is especially dear to you. It melts our hearts to see the progress in our relationships with her!

She loves her sister and brothers, and immediately began playing with them after we got home. Really it seemed like she was relieved to have other kids around again after being with just adults all week in Ethiopia after leaving the orphanage! At one point the Saturday evening we got home our 3 older children were acting out The Grinch movie they'd seen the night before, setting toys out under their Christmas stockings and then sneaking in with a big bag and "stealing" them. It wasn't just a couple minutes before our new 3 year old was in on the action running down the stairs squealing, "Steal toys! Steal toys!"

She is still adjusting to our time zone; she wakes up around 3:45am every day and sings us what sounds to be Ethiopian children's songs for an hour or two before finally falling back to sleep an hour or so before the other 3 kids wake up!

She's totally potty-trained which is awesome, but we are lamenting the fact that the Amharic word for pee-pee is "shint", so we (and strangers who may happen to be nearby) hear, "Mommy, shint!" every 30 minutes :)!

In Ethiopia we were treated a few times to her dancing, complete with the traditional Ethiopian shoulder shimmy. She's a really, really good dancer! Since we've been home we introduced her to our Wii Michael Jackson version of Just Dance and she loved it, doing complicated moves our 8 year old can't master! The first song, "Billy Jean" ended and she declared in perfect English, "I LIKE IT!"

We are recovering from the trifecta of a new child, jet lag, and Christmas, but really enjoying our new little girl and so thankful God brought her into our family!

 I just love walking in the room to find my children 4 to a chair!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Home for Christmas!!!

Our family of 6 together at last in the airport on Christmas Eve!  

So grateful to be posting this from my home where all 4 of my children are sleeping under 1 roof (which means I need to go sleep now, too, while I have a chance -- more updates and pics. later)!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Embassy Clearance!!!

We got some very big news today!  The American embassy in Ethiopia has cleared our adoption case!  Our new daughter is finally coming home!!!

My husband and I will fly out this Saturday (his parents are coming into town to take care of our 3 kids here) and then we'll be back home with our new little girl the morning of Saturday, December 24th, Christmas Eve.   We will have all 4 of our children together at last for Christmas -- how's that for God's timing?!!

We are overjoyed and in shock!  With the bad news from the embassy last Friday and then even more again yesterday we felt our case had the very real potential to be delayed for several months.  The last few days we have prayed and cried through the agonizing decision of having me go to Ethiopia to take custody of daughter and stay with her until she cleared immigration, even if that meant several months.  We couldn't stop thinking about the Bible's words in Luke 15, when the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to go after the 1 lost sheep.  We decided I would go shortly after Christmas, not knowing when I'd be able to return, leaving the 3 children who had always known life with a mother to go to the 1 child who had been without parents for far too long.  
Then this morning we got the amazing, miraculous news of clearance!  We had to call our caseworker to see if she was looking at the say email and ask her if it was for real?!!!

We're so thankful to have had so many praying for our family and now ask for prayers over the transition phase for us all.  We expect nothing less than chaos for a long while with kids ages 8,6,4, and 3, but who are we kidding, it was chaos before!  Also, prayers over the plane ride home would be great -- 20 hours on an airplane with a 3 year old who doesn't speak English, has never before worn a seatbelt, and we've only parented for a few days -- we're going to need some gracious, understanding flight mates!
Praising God for moving mountains to get our sweet, spunky girl home!

Friday, December 9, 2011

More Embassy Questions

The wee hours of the morning did not bring the news we'd hoped for.  The U.S. embassy in Ethiopia did not send us an email with our clearance to travel to bring home our daughter, instead they have some "follow-up questions" and will be getting back to us.  We have no details about what the questions are and do not know if these questions can be cleared up in just a matter of days or if they will delay our case for months.  We have already contacted the offices of our local congressmen and senator earlier this week and are further requesting their help. 

Please pray for comfort in the midst of more delays and unknowns as far as when we can bring our daughter home.  Pray for us to have clarity and wisdom in the coming days as we make decisions about how to proceed.  Decisions like should we leave our 3 children here in the U.S. to go be with the 1 in Ethiopia, in order to take custody of our new child and begin parenting our little girl who has been without parents for too long, even if it means I may have to stay on in Ethiopia for an extended period of time?  Could we help our case clear quicker if we are physically present in Ethiopia?

And of course we are really praying to just clear early next week and not face all the worst-case scenarios!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Embassy Update

We received word that the phone conversation the American embassy wanted to have with a party on our Ethiopian adoption case, finally happened today (after about 2 weeks of waiting for it, did you know there's not much voicemail in Ethiopia?).  We are desperately praying that the phone call provided the information the embassy was looking for to be able to clear our case and that some time during their half-day workday on Friday (roughly midnight to 4AM tonight our time) they will send us an email that we are cleared to travel and schedule our exit interview in Ethiopia.  If this insanely awesome email comes tonight, we will request an appointment next week and fly out this weekend to take custody of our 3 year old little girl! 

Over 2 years into this adoption process and here we sit SO. VERY. CLOSE!  I can hardly stand it, the suspense, because there is still a scenario where not only are we not cleared, but our case is sent for further investigation that could take months!!!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to ride a roller coaster constantly for 2 years?

I think I know what that's like.  Good thing I have complete trust in the creator and operator of the ride.

God is good and He is in control no matter the news we do or don't get tonight.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On a to-do list scale, is 1 out of 10 bad?

There were ten things on my to-do list for today and I just realized I accomplished exactly ONE of them!

But, I got several other things done that were not on the list.

Too tired to erase the things that did not get done and write in the things I actually did just to feel a sense of accomplishment regarding my day.

The good news?

I don't have to worry about making a list for tomorrow!  Today's list will just become tomorrow's to-do list!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Life at the Never-Ending Slumber Party

It's been a never ending slumber party around here the last few weeks.

Night after night after night after night.

My 3 children are sleeping all in the same room.

One in each bunk bed and one on the floor.

The little girl on the floor has her own room.

And her own bunk beds that she couldn't wait to have.

So she could finally have a top bunk to sleep on.

And someday her little sister from Ethiopia would sleep on the bottom bunk.

Only about  2 weeks after the excitement over the bunk beds faded,

the sleep issues began.

And my 6 year old didn't want to sleep alone anymore.

She'd cry and cry at bedtime, which we'd never really dealt with before.

We offered the option of a pallet on the floor in her brothers' room

And the slumber party began.

The other morning when I was wondering why I was so tired?

It hit me.  

I live at a never-ending slumber party!

Find more Wordful Wednesday here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Traditions

Per tradition around here, I let the kids make the Christmas wrapping paper. 

Saturday morning (thankfully it was still warm here before our cold front on Sunday) I rolled out paper on the driveway and gave the kids red and green ink pads to stamp their hands and feet across the paper. 

This year the 8 year old was less interested in stamping than he was in managing his younger brother and sister's work.  Fine by me!  Instead of reminding the 4 year old over and over and over not to put the red hand in the green ink, I sat on the patio, painted my toenails (really!), took a few pictures, encouraged, and let the 8 year old handle most of the project management, which he totally loved.

I finished the Christmas dresses I made for my daughters.  They are easy pillowcase dress style, only I didn't make mine with a pillowcase, and I did a fabric tie around the neck instead of a ribbon.  My 3 year old has a matching dress and even if we don't get her home from Ethiopia before Christmas, I'm still getting a picture of she and my 6 year old daughter in their matching dresses some day.  And I made the hem extra wide so I can let it out and they can wear the dresses next year!  But we are still clinging to hope that our new little girl will be home this year for Christmas.

My husband had his annual gingerbread house decorating with the kids.  They did a gingerbread village this year with several small houses instead of one big house.  I've started purchasing this village kit for them on purpose because I couldn't handle all the drama and moaning of trying to get the roof to stay on that big house when the icing just kept it sliding right off in year's past!  Anyway, the kids like each having a little house to decorate!

And we are reading our Countdown to Christmas Advent Devotional Book each night after dinner.

I'm grateful for the daily chance to reflect together as a family on the true meaning of Christmas -- Jesus!  Not Santa, not presents, not parties, but God's love for us, for the whole world!

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1 John 4:9-16

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quick Update

We got a new picture from our agency of our 3 year old daughter in Ethiopia.  Our caseworker said she looks very active (some of the pictures were pretty blurry).  Yep, that's our sweet, spunky little girl!

An excerpt from the update on her said, "She takes an afternoon nap from 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm but sometimes she does not want to take a nap."  Ha!  Why does that not surprise me? 

I should probably go sleep now, while I can, but instead I'll be anxiously awaiting an email from the embassy.  We got an email from them last Friday requesting 1 piece of information from our adoption agency.  Our agency submitted what they requested on Tuesday of this week, so we are hoping to hear back from the embassy very soon!

In other news, my 4 year old son is talking my ear off!  It is constant, non-stop dialog about a wide variety of subjects, with a lot of "Mom.  Mom?  Mom?" thrown in for good measure just to make sure I'm listening.  Good thing he's really cute and says some hilarious things because otherwise the endless chatter would just wear me out!  Just the other day he asked me out of the blue, "Is jello a liquid or a solid?"

That question from my 4 year old!!

"Hmmm," I thought, "I graduated with a degree in biomedical science and I'm pretty sure I don't know the answer to that question.  It's kinda both.  I mean, are we talking jello that's been in the refrigerator for several hours or jello that's just recently had the boiling water added to it?"


And something else that's wearing me out, Madeline the puppy is undecorating the Christmas tree!  She brings me ornaments all casual like she's bringing me her tennis ball to throw for her and then I realize what it is she really has in her mouth!  Seriously, what were we thinking getting a puppy last February?  This would have been the first Christmas in a very long time without a toddler to worry about messing with the tree and now I have the dog to worry about! 

Mommy's Idea