Sunday, April 29, 2007

End of an Era

Well, I am fast approaching the end of one season in my life and the beginning of the next. Since 2000 I have had the extreme privilege of being a stay-at-home mom to my children. It has been the most rewarding, difficult, tiring, refreshing, wonderful, unforgettable, funny, sad, awesome 7 years of my entire life. I wouldn't trade it for the world. Part of me wishes it could go on forever. But then I wouldn't experience the joy of seeing my babies grow up. I'm just so thankful that I got to experience this time.

But, I've known all along that it would eventually come to a close, as if I am ever to repay my mountain of student loan debt, I must actually use my college degree to get a job! So, I have an all-day interview for a teaching position on Tuesday. The job will start in the fall when the kids go back to school. I honestly would rather stay home and just be a mom. But, if I must work, this is a job I really want. It's at a school that I fell in love with, mainly because I want my kids to go there. It has a strong emphasis on involving the creative arts in education and my little Kaitlyn is very creative. They have a huge ESL program. And a very internationally and ethnically diverse staff. My children would have teachers from all over the world, which is quite a school given the small, not-so-diverse area we live in. But, since it's out of our district,the only way they could feasibly attend is if I teach there. So, Tuesday is a pretty big deal for me. I'm soooooo nervous! So, if you think of me, say a prayer! :)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Update On Bird Catching

Catching birds has now become an obsessive past time for Yosef and Lucas. Mind you, they haven't actually caught another one yet. But their system is now quite complex. It involves a series of buckets propped up by sticks that have a string tied around them. They put some birdseed under the bucket, then wait at a distance ready to yank the string and drop the bucket down on top of the poor unsuspecting creatures. Also, They have designed two luxury bird condos out of cardboard boxes. Lucas made a trail of birdseed that leads up to the front door on his bird condo. So far, no bird has been stupid enough to actually go inside. But it's a good thought! Today is a rainy day at our house, and they're both quite disappointed that they can't go outside to catch birds today. The birds are probably quite relieved though!

Also, I've decided that we must officially be past the hardest part of the transition. I have had an entire week now that has been mostly good! We haven't had any major meltdowns (for the record, I didn't even have any meltdowns this week!), no major fits, no major fights, no major episodes. And bedtime has been smooth for over a week now. The thing that made me decide we must be past the roughest part though was the fact that I stayed sick in bed for an entire day this week and the house didn't completely fall apart in my absence! Mind you, I'm still cleaning up from that one awful day. But no interpersonal relationships fell to pieces that day. :)

I leave you with a few pics of my Yosef working diligently on his bird condo. Enjoy!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Yosef's Bird

Today, I was trying to braid Mihret's hair, but it was being made increasingly difficult due to Lucas and Yosef squabbling all morning. It was a nice day, so I was sitting outside to work on her hair. Inspired by the chirping birds in the bushes, I decided that if Lucas and Yosef could work together to catch a bird, they could keep it as a pet. Now mind you, not in a million years did I ever think that they would actually catch a bird! They worked and worked. But after 30 minutes, still no bird. Then, Lucas decided that they would use an old fishing net in the garage. That kept them occupied for another 10 minutes. Then Yosef decided that Lucas was more of a hindrance than he was helpful. He complained to me that Lucas was too loud and scarred the birds away before he could catch them. So, I told Lucas to go with his net to a different part of the yard. You know, diversifying their area in order to increase their odds of capturing a little birdie! Some more time passed and I went inside for a few minutes. All of a sudden, I heard a very loud bird noise and realized that it was in the house! I went into the living room and there stood Yosef cupping a bird in his hands! He actually caught a bird! I screamed, "Don't let it go!!!!!!", fearing that I'd never be able to get it out of the house! So, suddenly I had a little bit of an unforeseen dilemma on my hands...actually, my dilemma was in Yosef's hands! I had made a promise that they could keep it because I have never heard of a kid actually catching a bird before! But my son did it! Not quite knowing what the long-term plan was, I went to the garage in search of a box to keep it in while I figured out what I was going to do. Lucky for me, the little bird was so panic stricken that Yosef suddenly felt bad for it. Much to Lucas's dismay, Yosef decided to release it. So, Yosef tossed it gently into the air, Lucas cried, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn't have to keep my word to allow it be a pet! Whew! That was a close one! I will certainly put more thought into future potential pets! :)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Kids...Gotta Love 'Em!

Okay, my kids are just so great that I have to take a break from writing about our trip to Ethiopia so that I can write about the here and now. They are so great! All four of them. I just love them all to pieces. Even on the really bad days (Yes, there have been some REALLY bad days!), I am so thankful that I have them. Being separated from two of them was pure anguish to my heart. I am so thankful for the opportunity to mother these kids, FINALLY!!!!

Anyway, here are a few cute moments we've had together....

Lucas: Grrrrr.... (Obviously grouchy demeanor)

Yosef: You are funny, Lucas!

Lucas: I AM NOT FUNNY!!!! Grrrrrr.....

Yosef: Yes, you are funny!

Mihret: Lucas funny!

Lucas: NO I'M NOT!!!

Yosef: Okay, Okay brother. You are not fun (not understanding the difference in the words "fun" and "funny")

Mihret: No, not fun.

Lucas: (absolutely exasperated and in tears), I AM TOO FUN!!!!!! *SOB*

Mihret decided one day that she was tired of the outfit she was wearing and wanted a different outfit. I told her that she would have to wait until the next day to wear her other outfit. She wanted to know why she had to wait. I told her that mommy doesn't like to have to wash a lot of clothes. Coming from a place where people handwash everything, she looked at me and giggled saying, "Noooooo! Not YOU, Mommy! This can wash!" as she pointed at the washing machine. :)

Yesterday morning I told Yosef to "go upstairs and get dressed." He looked at me in disbelief and said, "Dress???? I am not a girl!"

Last night Mihret told me, "I am love love love love love injera!"Lucky for her, I just made some and it turned out really good!

And, one of my favorites, our neighbor gave us their trampoline the week after we got home, as their kids are too old and have lost interest. Earlier this week, I looked out the kitchen window to discover Lucas and Yosef on the trampoline with their bicycles! I didn't even take time to take a picture, though I wish I had! But there were arms and legs hanging in the balance!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My Favorite Moments

As I said before, I did not keep an accurate journal recording our time in Ethiopia. But I will share a few of my favorite moments...

The first morning when we stepped outside of the wall to our guesthouse, Lucas exclaimed, "Gwosssss! What's that smell?!?!" Upon which Avery pointed his gaze toward the herd of goats walking ahead of us! He was flabbergasted at the goats!

Walking the streets of Ethiopia with two ferinj children was quite the experience! People exclaimed in Amharic almost constantly, "Look at the ferinj children! The ferinj children are so beautiful!" Also, their hair was touched almost constantly. Well, so was mine, but my Kaitlyn especially received this touching. Her hair is long and silky and straight. Luckily, she wasn't bothered by this, as she mostly was oblivious to it. I have photos of Lucas getting "petted" on his head.

While walking through Merkato, a woman sitting on the sidewalk selling her wares petted Lucas as I walked past her, holding Lucas by the hand. (We were kind of making a get-away. More in a future post). All of a sudden, he stopped coming and I turned around to find that the woman had grabbed his other hand and wouldn't let go! I didn't know until later that she had grabbed him because she wasn't finished petting his hair! Avery was behind us and saw the entire thing unfold. All I knew in the moment was that a stranger had grabbed my son and wouldn't allow me to take him! I told her very sternly, "Aiy! YANE wadadj no! Kum!" (No, He's MY son! Stop it!)

No fewer than 20 times I had women ask me if they could have one of my children, both ferinj and habasha children! I would always reply, "Aiy! Yane!" with a smile. I think this was their way of admiring my least I hope they didn't really want to take them!?!?!

Three days into our stay, Yosef and Mihret began begging us multiple times each day to PLEEAASSSEEEEE take them to America TODAY! They were more than a bit excited. Poor babies had no idea what they were getting themselves in to! Honestly, they still don't. These children are so brave and resilient. God is surely with them.
I leave you with a couple of pictures taken at a beautiful crater lake in a town called Debra Zeit about an hour and a half outside of Addis. This is where we spent our first two days as a new family. It was such a perfect, peaceful location to get to know each other. The view was absolutely breathtaking. Sooooooo beautiful! Reminded me of God.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Family Together at Last

The moment we walked through the gate at the little orphanage, Yosef and Mihret were all smiles! It was so good to see them with their shining little faces. They were genuinely happy that we had come. And that made my heart so genuinely happy. In an instant, there we stood. A complete family. God does something amazing in the hearts of people in those moments. He miraculously makes strangers into a family. It only took a few minutes for the four kids to abandon the adults and go off on their own to play and get acquainted. What a blessed sight to a mother! My children playing together! All four of them!

We hadn't known what to expect as far as Yosef and Mihret's willingness or desire to leave the orphanage and come with us. They were legally our children, so we were able to take them. But we also didn't want to push the issue or rush them in their bonding. But that was absolutely a non-issue. They were both so ready to come with us. Even now as I remember, my heart is melting.

I don't know if anything has ever felt as good as walking out of those green gates that had once kept my children from me. Now we walked out of those gates, all six of us, hand-in-hand. It was such a sweet moment as we walked down the street. Mihret seemed like such a big girl to me in those moments as she proudly strutted down the street. Yosef walked with his arm gently around his little brother. So sweet. So peaceful. So complete.

As we walked the 20 minute walk to the restaurant where we were going to eat, I discovered that indeed, there was something that was more of a tourist attraction than four ferinj (white foreigner) in Ethiopia. Evidently, it's much more exciting to see two ferinj parents, two ferinj children, and two Habasha (Ethiopian) children! Honestly, it was a little bit unnerving! People were pointing at us, photographing us! And the streets were busy that night. I counted it a small miracle that we made it to the restaurant without losing anybody!

Oh my goodness- it just felt so good to sit down together and enjoy a meal as a family. It felt so good to pray, first in Ge'ez as the Ethiopian Orthodox do, then holding hands in English. For two years we have prayed that way every day, "Lord, please bring Yosef and Mihret to our family soon" (though for the first 6 months of that wait we didn't even know their names). How amazing to hold hands and pray, "Thank you Lord for bringing Yosef and Mihret to our family"

That night, we tucked four children into their beds and then Avery and I laid down to go to sleep. For two years, our house has felt somehow empty. There has been something very missing. You could truly feel the emptiness of these two children absent from our family. That first night felt so good. The emptiness was gone! That night, I prayed, "Lord, You are so good and so faithful! You have done this! Amasegenallo! Thank you!"

That was a truly good day. It says in the Bible that every good and perfect gift comes from God. This day was a good and perfect gift from a good and perfect Father.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The 5 Minute Version of The Journey

I wanted to get this video out here before Easter. While Easter in America is largely about bunnies, chicks, eggs, and chocolate, there is deeper meaning to this holiday. Easter is a celebration of Jesus. It's a celebration of the fact that we humans are stuck with the condition of being just plain mean, bad, horrible, and rotten to the core sometimes! (Or at least I know I am!) No matter what we do to try to be better, no matter how many good things we do, we are still stuck with feeling disconnected from God. And that's because we are disconnected! (Great news, huh?!) The reason we feel disconnected from God is because He is always good, always kind, always just...and we...well, we are not! That's why we don't feel like we know God on some deep spiritual level.

But Jesus- now there was an example of something you and I just can't seem to attain no matter how hard we try. Believe me, I have spent far too much of my life trying to become good. Take my advice and give up your self-efforts before you waste a whole lot of time. (Very cheery post, isn't it!?)

God sent Jesus, His only son, to live and breathe on this earth as one of us. He knows the pain and suffering and trial of being human. He knows how much our hearts hurt. He knows how desperately we need to be close to God. And He also knows the scars in our hearts that keep us from being able to know God. The good news (finally, something happy in this post!) is that Jesus, the one who really was perfect, made a way for us to come to God without feeling that disconnect. You see, we have all done things that were not good; not right. Every one of us has things in our pasts that we are not exactly proud of. I think it's safe to say that we all have things in our current lives that we wouldn't want to be published! Because of this "stuff" in our lives, we have lost the ability to connect with God. That's the consequence of the "stuff" we have done, and the "stuff" we have harbored in our hearts. Ultimately, we die and have to suffer that consequence for all eternity.

But, Jesus, who did not have the "stuff", chose to take that consequence on Himself. Because it broke His heart to see us suffering that consequence of being separated from God, He volunteered to suffer the consequence for us. He essentially traded places with us. Just like if I get a traffic ticket, but by some miracle, the judge decided to allow my husband to assume the fine and drivers license points while I walked away free. That's what Jesus did. He died on a cross at the hands of evil and ignorant people, people just like you and me. He willingly allowed them to kill Him on a cross and assumed our "stuff" and the consequences of it while our slate got wiped clean in God's eyes. It all seems horribly unfair to me. I will never understand. But He didn't stay dead. On Easter, He rose from the dead.

Pretty far out claim, isn't it?! And how can intelligent, educated western people such as myself believe such a mythical fantasy?! I think that's a very valid reaction. My response is two-fold. First, once you decide to risk and take that leap of faith, you are able to experience what it feels like when that disconnect from God disappears and you actually know Him. You actually feel the closeness and love of God for you. That alone will convince you beyond any doubt that this is more than a made-up story. But admittedly, that's a hard risk to take. Especially when you're not exactly a dumb person and know how to rely on reason and common sense! So, if that's where you fall, then take heart and pursue an intellectual answer on this one. Ultimately, following Christ does require a risk of faith, but you've got to start somewhere, right? One of my favorite authors was a man whose wife decided to become a Christian. He was an atheist, so this was more than a tad bit upsetting to him! A respected journalist, he decided to write a book disproving the claims of Christianity and Jesus. The book he wrote is very well organized, researched, and methodical. So, if the latter is where you fall, I think you'd really enjoy this book written from a skeptic's point of view.

Anyway, in celebration of Easter and the fact that we don't have to remain disconnected from God, I hope you enjoy this video about our adoption. Just as Yosef and Mihret used to be orphaned, I used to be orphaned in a spiritual sense. I didn't know God. I didn't know that He wanted to be a Father to me in the deepest, most intimate sense of the word. But He didn't leave me as an orphan. He showed Himself to me so that I could know Him. Some of you already know what I am talking about. And some of you haven't quite gotten to that same place yet. And that's okay. God knows where you are spiritually and He loves you. And He also wants to take you deeper. So, look into this Jesus thing. I know that if you will keep searching and not give up, that you will find what you are looking for. Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Trip- Part 1

When we took our last trip to Ethiopia, I kept a detailed journal each night. This time, that did not happen. You see, last time, it was just me and Avery. Each evening, I would take a shower and crawl into bed with my laptop. This time, I had four kids each night to deal with! Funny how I didn't have the heart, motivation, or energy to keep a journal by the time I got everybody to sleep! I did write down lots of random thoughts on the things that I didn't want to forget. So, I hope you enjoy reading about the close to the adoption phase of this adventure. Thank God I'm now in the "mothering" phase!

So, the day we departed from Washington DC was somewhat....somewhat...stressful. See Avery's blog for full details! He neglected to mention that our very, very old (but very free!) van began making a clunking sort of noise in the engine about two hours away from DC. I tried to ignore it for a while. I tried to pray it away. I tried to convince myself that I was the only one hearing it. Until I asked Avery if he heard it too. His reply, "So you noticed too, did ya?" We both began to pray and we made it! In fact, the van didn't make a sound (that I was aware of anyway) on the return trip home.

I was very happy to get to our friend's house just outside of DC and find that the generic "crocs" I had ordered for the entire family did indeed arrive on time. Don't ask me why, but it was of paramount importance to me that our family have these shoes for the trip. I honestly don't know why! But it made me happy.

As we were leaving our friends to go to the airport, I checked my email on a whim. Wouldn't you know, AFAA had decided they wanted almost $3,500 from our family by the end of the day. We hadn't received any invoices for any further monthly foster care, so we had assumed that they realized how ridiculously expensive this ordeal had become, and that they recognized that we had helped them out by escorting a baby for free on our last trip and that we were even. Nope. No such luck. I am just so thankful that I checked my email and that we actually had that much money. We just got our income tax refund. Easy come easy go! I was also furious that they had sent me an email instead of calling my cell phone. I was furious that they waited until the day we were leaving! I had clearly said in an email the day prior that I would not be checking my email any more and that they would need to call my cell phone with any further questions. Oh well. Par for course. In the end, it all worked out. In fact, we're now more than even. We're owed a refund on some of our foster care. I'm not holding my breath on ever getting it. It's hard not to get bogged down in the fact that we chose this agency because they were the cheapest. And money was a huge factor for our family. And in the end, they have charged us more than even the most expensive Ethiopian agencies out there. The most expensive agencies get your children to you in a very reasonable amount of time, especially when you choose waiting children, as we did. Seriously though, when I start to get upset about this, I have to remember that we started this adoption with pretty much no savings. And we now have pretty much no savings. But we also have no debt from it. God provided every dime we needed. I have to remember that it never was my money anyway. It's always been God's. And while we thought we were choosing the cheapest agency, God knew from the beginning how much this venture would cost us. And He had already established a plan for how He would pay for it. That's not to say that we won't pursue justice through the appropriate avenues in this situation. But pursuing justice with malice in the heart isn't right. God looks on the heart, and lucky for me, God also helps us to keep a clean heart!

So much of the heartache on this journey has been due to our agency. And up until now, I wasn't at liberty to even disclose which agency that was. But, finally, this is over, and I am free to share. The reason I share is because such a big part of what God has done has been in the area of grace and forgiveness and choosing to not harbor bitterness toward this agency. It has been sooooo hard! But I realized early on that it was completely my choice as to whether I would come out of this bitter. God has been so good to me throughout this process. We've had to endure some pretty harsh stuff, but God has enabled my heart to not get bogged down in all of the "stuff." Left to my own vices, I would be so angry and bitter that I wouldn't even like myself! But in God's hands, that's not happening. It's a choice, but it's one that He is enabling my heart to make. Sometimes I've had to make that choice a hundred times in a single day, but the point is that with God, it's a choice that I can make. And for those of you in similar circumstances, God can help you to make that choice too! :)

Anyway, by the time we got on the plane, I was a nervous wreck! But it felt soooooo good to sit down and know that finally, this was it! Kaitlyn and Lucas were so excited to be on the plane. I'm so glad that they came with us. It had been my desire all along, but until God opened the door wide for them to be able to come, I would never have seriously considered it. Having them with us made the whole trip feel so much more complete.

Long story short, after a very long flight, we finally made it! We touched down in Addis, and I felt such a peace knowing that tomorrow, I would be with all four of my children. On my last trip, I felt such peace knowing that I would be with my children. But this time was different. The peace was different. It was deeper. It was a knowlege that God had accomplished something huge. It was knowing that it was indeed finished at last.

A huge thanks to Anita, our missionary friend, who took care of our arrangements for us! And it was sooooo last minute! She was such a life-saver for us. And our guest house turned out so much better than a hotel room at the Hilton. It was so quiet and peaceful. The perfect place for our new little family to spend time bonding.

We all slept well that first night, especially Kaitlyn and Lucas. They slept for 14 hours straight at the guesthouse! The only reason they got up after 14 hours is because I made them! They were so exhausted! Poor little things!

We spent some time that next morning, Saturday, getting things situated at the guesthouse. And then, at 2:00, finally, it was time to go get our babies! It felt so good to approach that green gate with Kaitlyn and Lucas in tow. As we knocked, there was such joyful anticipation. Something that wasn't there last time. Last time there was joy, but also such sorrow. This time, only joy! The guard opened the gate with a smile and......

You'll have to wait until the next post! :)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Well, it's been a week since our family got home from Ethiopia, complete with Yosef and Mihret at our sides. And I am finally rested enough to be feeling like a regular human again! I was seriously soooooo exhausted! The kids were all so tired and wanted to go to bed for the night by lunch time once we got back to America. All four of the kids, as we were in Ethiopia for over a week and we all pretty much acclimated to Ethiopia's schedule. Of course I couldn't allow this, so I had to endure eight hours of tired, whiny children before I could allow the to go to bed at night. Also, Kaitlyn picked up some sort of intestinal parasite while we were in Ethiopia and was sick. By about 3:00 PM each day, I could find her vomiting in the bathroom! I took her to the doctor this past weekend and she is improving. At the end of this week, the doctor is going to re-evaluate the situation. Did I mention that Kaitlyn was also waking up at all hours of the night because her stomach hurt? Oh yea, Lucas was also suffering from some mystery ailment that caused him to suffer fever and least that's what I assumed it meant when he would say, "Mommy, I have a lot of rocks and they are bouncing around in my head!" Whatever that illness was, it cleared up on its own. So, I say all of this to say that I am so glad that I'm not tired anymore!!!!

Perhaps at some point in the very near future, I will post details of our most recent trip. We didn't get scammed by a bunna bet this time, but we did have some incredibly memorable experiences that will probably leave some wondering if we've completely lost our minds. But that's the stuff that memories are made of, right?! :) It was such a wonderful week for our new little family to get acquainted.

For now, just know that I have so appreciated the prayers of so many people on this two year journey. At points, I didn't know what the outcome of this adoption would be. We had to deal with (and I'm afraid will continue to deal with) so much grief from our adoption agency, Americans For African Adoptions (AFAA). That was an experience I wouldn't wish on anybody. And yet, in the end, I would walk this path all over again without hesitation, as it was the road that God laid before us to lead us to our children. They are mine and I would give my very life for them. The one thing that I know more certainly than ever before is that regardless of politics, corruption, paperwork, ethics, etc. God is sovereign. He is the One who has brought my children to me safe and sound at last. There was nothing I could do, but God has accomplished this.

Well, at the moment, everybody is sleeping peacefully in their beds, so I mustn't waste the next 30 know....dishes, laundry, clean up from breakfast, contemplate supper, etc. More to come in the near future....