Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Thoughts

Everyone is pretty excited around here. I truly cannot believe that Christmas is just five days away. I remember this time last year... we knew of three siblings in Ethiopia but had not seen their faces nor knew their names. I thought often of what this Christmas would be like, and now it is here.

I debated on sharing this, but feel it is a common adoption issue from everything we have read and studied. The girls had a little bit of difficulty during the week prior to their birthday party. We really think the "hype" of birthdays in America, the excitement and anticipation was a little too much and sent them into somewhat of an emotional over load. The day after the party was over everything seemed to settle back down, emotions calmed and behavior improved.

With the twins' birthday experience, we are trying to approach Christmas as simply as possible. For example, I usually have all the gifts wrapped and under the tree by now but think we'll hold off a few more days. As boring as it sounds, planning and structure have been the best tool Dustin and I have used during these days of adjustment. We were advised by our adoption caseworkers how important structure would be to the lives of our new kids, and they were so right! Trying to anticipate responses to new situations and unexpected changes, although sometimes impossible to do, really does help all of us. I can't say it is easy, though, because this goes totally against the grain of the hustle and bustle of daily life in America, not to mention the revved up pace of the holidays. We want to avoid meltdowns at all cost so that all of our kids can have the best Christmas and have great memories of this special time of year. We look forward to the future when we can all feel more comfortable and can be less structured, but for now it works.

We're all pretty excited to have a few days off and celebrate the birth of our Savior as a new and bigger family. The kids like to tell us of Christmas in Ethiopia and of Mariam (Mary) and Escabior (Jesus.) Their little accents sound so sweet and beautiful. In spite of the challenges and adjustment of life as a bigger family there is a different feel and dynamic to the preparations of Christmas this year. It's good. Some things are more difficult but the big picture is so much brighter, richer and deeper with Corinne, Ellyn and Turner in our lives.

Birthdays and More

As promised from the post last month, here are photos of the kids building their fort. They added cardboard boxes to keep out the wind. I think there might even be a laundry line strung across the top of their window.

Thanksgiving. The kids said they did not have turkeys in Ethiopia. We had major discussions on who was going to eat the turkey legs because all three of our new kids wanted them!

Around our house, birthdays are ushered in with breakfast in bed. Madison turned 13. Wow, we have a teenager in the house!

Madison wanted to go to a Japanese hibachi restaurant for her 13th birthday.

We had a skating party for Madison, Ellyn and Corinne. Dustin's mom made her special doll cakes for the twins.

We were so honored that our new friends, Bahiru and Hiwot, joined us for the birthday party.

It was great to have family celebrate with us for the twins' first birthday in America.

A quick pic after the performance of our church Christmas play. Aren't they adorable?

Ellyn and Corinne's turn for their birthday breakfast in bed. They turned 8!

Sage is going to kill me when he sees this photo on our blog. I just couldn't resist snapping a picture of him as he helped the girls paint their fingernails. When he's not tormenting and pestering, he is a wonderful big brother.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Home Four Months Today

It was four months ago today that we came home as a family of seven, greeted by family and friends at the airport. I will never forget the relief of seeing so many of those who had supported us every step of the way and how it felt to fall into the arms and embrace those we love. We were coming off the most emotional week of our lives and were so glad to be home. I remember stepping out through the front doors of the airport into the very hot and steamy night, almost like walking into a furnace. It was such a change from the beautiful and temperate weather we enjoyed while in Ethiopia.

I remember being afraid that Hailab Turner would not like riding in a carseat. We had help while in ET to translate and prepare Hailab for sitting in a car seat once we came to America. When we were loading up in the van to leave the airport, he got in and saw his carseat. He called it his special seat and got in and buckled up with great pride. Preparing him in ET really helped.

Funny how when we were waiting and preparing, it was hard to look to the future and imagine what life was going to be like. We did our adoption training and read books, but like most things in life, most of our learning has come by experience. We have made many mistakes in these first months home and wish I could re-do some of my responses to my children's behavior. Even when I knew not to take things personally, I did and sometimes still do if I am not careful. It's a good thing we get to wake up each day and start over. I thank Jesus for the opportunity to start fresh each morning and for the strength that only He provides in the midst of struggles and strife. I pray over all of our kids for Jesus to fill in the cracks that I leave behind when I lose my patience and don't parent the way that I want. I pray for protection for all of our children, that the enemy would not have any strongholds on them because of adoption. I pray especially that our adopted children know they are special and so dearly loved and that God has a beautiful plan for bringing them to us to be our children. Sometimes that plan seems a little confusing when they are grieving and missing their birth mom and Ethiopia in general. They really miss Ethiopia and that isn't something that I can fix. Time heals and we'll walk through our adjustment for as long as needed. It reminds me of this post from last September about God's timing. I think what I wrote in that post is still so fitting in this different season we are in now:

"So we wait. And we pray.

Thank you, God, for this time of waiting. Some days will be difficult, we know... Help us make the most out of this time and place a peace in a little person's heart in Ethiopia tonight. Help him or her to know that they will be a part of a family again. We trust you, knowing that you are working your perfect timing into this situation. We pray that it is you who is glorified and praised in the midst of our planning and preparation. Please don't let us ever forget that we, too, are orphans given a place in your family because of Jesus' amazing act of love and grace on a nasty, ugly cross. Amen"

Even as it is starting to get dark this evening, I hear the sounds of kids playing outside. We live on a farm and have a refuse pile of old, broken pallets. What a treasure to children with wonderful imaginations! All five of the kids have worked together to build a little house for themselves. It is made from all kinds of scraps and pieces of just 'stuff' they have found around the farm. There may even be a tool or two of Dustin's that he'll have to go and reclaim! It has a door and a window and I think they were painting it this afternoon. As soon as they have it finished, I'll take a picture and share it.

I wonder where we will be in four months from now. No matter what the situation or season, we'll be held safe in the Father's arms. And that's a good place to be.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Photos (Finally!)

I have become one of those bloggers that used to frustrate me. You know, the ones who blogged regularly until they came home with their child/ren and NEVER blogged again! Come on! Just like Paul Harvey, we want to read the rest of the story!

I now have a better understanding of those bloggers. There is NO time!

Wow. Where do I begin. I have started this post a thousand times in my head. I promised myself I wouldn't go to bed tonight until I wrote something because once Monday starts, the whole week is a flurry of activity, chaos, rowdy kids with loud voices and homework!

A second part of my lack of posting has been the extremely difficult days we have walked through as a family of seven. I have struggled with wanting to be transparent for other waiting AP's and also for those that may be considering becoming adoptive parents. At the same time, our children have walked some hard, long, difficult days and I don't want to dishonor them by spilling the details of their actions and behavior as they are learning life in America as part of our family. It's been rough. It's been more than rough. But, we are in such a better place than we were two months ago. For the most part, the twins have almost given into the fact that I'm their mom and they really aren't in charge around here. At least they hesitate before arguing with me about every thing that comes out of my mouth! I may be stretching the truth a bit because they really have come a long way since our first days home in July. They have incredibly great manners and remember their please and thank you's more often than our bio kids. They love to joke and tease, especially Hailab Turner. They like routine and change is really difficult for them. They like knowing what is happening next. They even ask me sometimes, "What are we doing tomorrow? When we go to bed and get up, what are we doing the next day? When we go to bed and get up, what are we doing the day after that?

We've been home four months. The last three weeks have been completely different around the house in such a good and positive way. We are so thankful.

I've added pictures from this fall. Don't we look like one big happy family?!? In an effort to stay as transparent as possible in blogland, many of these pictures are great but I don't have photos of the difficult and painful days. And if I did, I wouldn't show them anyway. (I do have one great picture of Turner pouting. I just might use when he turns 16 or 21 or 30 for a good roast!)

We are glad to answer any questions anyone may have about our experiences. Our heart is to help others be more aware of the gift of adoption, and the ability we all have to help orphans in some way or another.

I will do my best to post before another two months fly by!

Good old fashioned roller skating!

Ellyn Yeabsira and Hailab Turner standing on Ethiopia on the large scale globe at the zoo.

My sweet sister, niece and Madison.

I love this picture!

It's good to grow old together. We met over 20 years ago.

Our small town festival. Our family always has a float in the parade.

Nanna kisses!

Carving pumpkins and roasting seeds. It was a great afternoon!

They wanted to race their bikes and asked me to say, "Ready, steady, go!" (Ready, steady go is their verson of ready, get set, go. It always makes me smile when they say it.)

Playing in the yard!

The four youngest kids set up lawn chairs for Dustin and me to watch them play football. Some were in coats, some in sweats and one with no shirt! Hilarious!

Corinne Meserat


P.J. day at school. The kids dressed up each day as part of Red Ribbon Week. The girls kept telling me they were stomping out the drums in their school. (Drums, drugs... you know it sounds almost the same!) They weren't too sure about wearing their pajamas to school. It took a little coaxing. I bet they think America is pretty weird sometimes.

Trick or Treat!

Madison and her good friend. I have to say, I didn't know who Thing 1 and Thing 2 were at first. You know, from Dr. Seuss! I thought they were way too cute and so creative!

A funny story... our neighbor and I trade off driving our kids to school each week. One morning one of her girls was saying, "Trick or treat! Smell my feet!" One of the twins gave her a strange look and asked in her cute Amharic/English accent, "You want ME to smell YOUR feet?!?"

Friday, September 11, 2009

Melkam Enkutatash

The kids got home from school today and I greeted them with "Melkam Enkutatash!" Luckily I pronounced it correctly and they knew what I was talking about! They were surprised that I knew about the Ethiopian New Year. I asked them what they did on Enkutatash and they said something to do with yellow flowers and a coffee ceremony. One of the twins said they eat doro (chicken) on Enkutatash, but the other two said no, they don't eat chicken on Enkutatash. They showed me how the kids wore drums around their necks and the girls wore dresses. I think maybe there was an exchange of coins or food.

I told them that we celebrate New Year's Day on January 1st. They asked what we do on that day. I went to the pantry and showed them black eyed peas. They said they eat them, too. They asked me, "What else?" I told them no school, no work and usually football on T.V. and good food.

I asked the kids what year it is in America and they answered 2009. I asked them if they knew what year it was now in Ethiopia. They again answered 2009, but I said, "No, do you remember what year it is?" They looked puzzled. I reminded them it was 2001 and today it is 2002 in Ethiopia. They gave me an ah-ha look as they remembered from Ethiopia!

Melkam Enkutatash!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Turning the Corner to Feel a Fresh, New Breeze in the Air

Life is happening around our house. Some good, some rotten, some fantastic and some very, very normal stuff. Some days have been more difficult than I thought I could handle. Others have been filled with beautiful smiles and sweet sharings.

I really feel like we have turned a corner this week... one for the better. There has been an easier spirit around the house, smiles appear without guarded hesitation and laughter has been deeper and richer than ever before. One of our sweet Ethiopian children has struggled with their emotions and had lots of anger, sometimes raging, and major defiance. Understandable. A child. A hurting child. Sometimes a very confused child. (I have to admit it is very difficult to remember all this in the heat of the battle, I mean moment!) We watched as this sweet one started down a road of anger and discontent on Tuesday, we saw all the signs as the situation began to unravel. And yet they were able to use words and share tears and tell me what they were feeling, moving away from the normal anger response. I stopped what I was doing and we just sat in the grass. This child talked a little, but mostly we just sat together as I rocked this sweet one in my lap. Our child was able to recover and move back into the family happenings with cheerfulness. Amazing! Yes, we have turned a corner. One of our other children was able to talk about personal feelings with more freedom shortly after all this happened. I think they, too, sensed change in the air.

Even as tangible as this feels, I am trying not to set myself up for disappointment if we encounter more tantrums. But this beautiful change feels like a glorious spring day after a long, hard, cold winter. God IS good. God IS faithful. God has provided in so many ways and we thank Him for the good work He has done, is doing and will continue to do in the lives of all our children and in ours.

...he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

We have our first post placement visit today. Needless to say, our house doesn't look quite as spotless as it did when we had our homestudy. Funny how seven people in the house changes things!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

African Thunderstorm

I first saw this video when my dear friend Kristine posted it on her blog with a dedication to our family. I absolutely LOVE this version of Toto's 'Africa,' mostly because it sounds just like the rain on our roof when we were in Ethiopia. We were there just as the rainy season began. It rained every night and the days were clear and beautiful with the exception of one afternoon. And if you, too, love 80's music then this one will zing you back a few years!

BTW, Kristine and her husband have four amazing kids, three of which are from Russia. Several years ago God used Kristine's family to water the seeds of adoption He had placed in our hearts. She's always posting new stuff to her blog and I would encourage you to stop by and visit her!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

First Day of School

I cannot believe we've been home four weeks and the kids started school today. We now have a 7th grader, a 4th grader, two 1st graders and a Pre-K student. It was a great day. All the kids were excited about the first day of school. Hailab Turner went to school in the afternoon and then I picked them all up when school was over. The car was filled with little voices telling me all about the events of today all the way home. Truly a wonderful day!

I surprised myself today. As I was leaving Turner's class after dropping him off, I turned and had a lump in my throat. It really caught me off guard. We are starting to feel like family and the lump in my throat is such a good indication of all the good that is yet to come. Once more, praising God for the good things He is doing in all of our hearts!