Saturday, July 25, 2009

Week Three in Pictures

Our neighbor's dog, Sparky, came to visit. The kids loved him especially since he was so much smaller than Zeus, our Great Dane.

After a nearly traumatizing visit to our pediatrician, all was well at the park. Hailab froze when the doctor checked him over, but the girls were in complete hysterics. I told them before the visit that their doctor was very tall. They said, "Like Travis?" Many of you know Travis Norwood, one of the in-country staff and yes, he is tall! Our pediatrician was great with the kids. No poking, no shots, nothing painful. He was very gentle yet firm in his observations, not wanting to scar them for the next time they came to the doctor.

Our dear friend, Lynn Ann, allowed us to come and spend the afternoon at her house. One of the kids' friends recently went home with her forever family to California. The kids all know that their friend's new family has horses and have been asking about horses since we met them. Lynn Ann introduced them to curry combs, saddle blankets, bits, halters and horse shoes. They tolerated their ride on Shorty, the small horse, but their eyes were really on Cowboy, the big horse.

Lynn Ann's house is also the place to find turkey's, peacocks, dogs, cats, goats and yes, the occasional rattle snake. We waded in her pond and enjoyed brownies and watermelon for a late afternoon snack.

I love the kids' English. They use the word 'small' for anything little: a small push on the swing, shallow water (small water), small drink, small time finishing a movie (small more, Mom, please), small dog, small horse, etc.

Beamlak on Shorty

Yeabsira on Shorty

Sage on Cowboy

Hailab on Shorty

We all went to pick Madison up from church camp on Friday. All four kids were so happy to see her. She had a wonderful week and I am so thankful for her time away in such a beautiful campground, learning more about her Savior from others who love Jesus, too.

We went to the lake this afternoon and tried the boat out on the water for the first time in almost two years. We were unsure how the kids would like it, but after a little hesitation, all loved splashing and playing. They even asked for more when Dustin took us all for a pretty fast ride. I didn't take our camera and missed many great photo ops. We picked up hamburgers and ate at the park on our way home from the lake.

Dustin is putting the kids to bed as I finish up this post. Bedtimes are usually met with dragging feet, wanting to sleep in every body's bed but their own, and general anxiety/sadness/anger/teariness. I think it is the time of day when emotions are revisited, bodies are tired, and it's easy to become cranky. I don't expect bedtimes to get much easier for awhile as I think it will just take time. At least they wake up happy and cheerful, which is a wonderful start to the day. Not that they always stay that way, but at least we usually start off good!

The kids have also been asking about church ever since we came home. We are going to attempt church services in the morning. I am more worried about me than anyone else. We always had a hard time getting four of us off to church without being late... what will seven be like? Mom, don't answer that question!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Beginning Week Three

It's hard to believe that we became a family of seven just two short weeks ago. Madison left for church camp this morning. The kids asked where she was when they woke up. I got out the calendar and showed them today was Monday and that Madison would be back on Friday. They asked me several times, "Madison go and then come? Yes? Madison go and them come home?" Then we counted the days and they were happy to know Madison would be home in four days. It's Mad's first time away for a week and I think I will miss her terribly! She was so excited to go and I pray it will be a fun and rich time for her. I am amazed at how big she is getting. She is such a wonderful helper with the kids. It's a little hard for her to not hold Hailab, but she understands how important it is for our new kids to look to Dustin and me to meet their needs physically and emotionally.

Dustin's parents invited us for dinner tonight. They cooked fish that Dustin's dad caught in a nearby lake. Dustin's parents also have a really pretty fish pond in their yard. The kids loved looking at and feeding the goldfish in the pond. When we were telling the kids we were having fish for dinner, Yeabsira pointed to the pond, made a slicing motion across her neck and pointed to her mouth. She was asking me if we were eating the fish in the pond. I assured her no, we were not eating the goldfish. It was pretty humorous!

Our biggest struggle today was again, battle of the wills. Simple requests like, "It's time to brush our teeth!" or "It's time to take a bath!" are often met with a pout and someone sitting down and refusing to move. Sometimes I am able to love the child through the pout/tantrum/meltdown and other times my own frustration gets the best of me. The times that I am able to quietly say, "O.K. Stay here if you like but we are going to do _______" often end up with the best results. A few things that were always met with resistance, like asking the kids to go to the potty before we get in the car or potty before we go to bed, are slowly easing up. It's a good feeling.

Our biggest joy today was unprompted kindness, a surprise kiss and a fun time on the bed (all of us except Madison) before reading a book.

Sage was such a ham when he was younger. It's fun to have another little ham in the house again:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Few More Photos

Saying goodbye to our amazing driver, Beki. We all miss him very much. The kids asked to see a picture of him tonight.

One of the three like our dog, Zeus. The other two squeal when he walks in their direction.

Cinderelli, Cinderelli... we watch it several times a day when the kids aren't out riding their bishkalets (bicycles)!

The last two days have been wonderful in comparison to our first three days home. Tantrums have decreased significantly. The kids are eating so well. We ran into the grocery story today and one of the twins saw radishes and asked to buy them. (Yuck! Radishes!) She said she liked them, so we will see. Either they ate radishes in ET or something that looked similar.

It's been an interesting week. One of my dearest friends was describing how it felt the day you wake up and you don't think of your kids as adopted, they are just your kids. That will be a great day. I so want to "feel" like family and yet I know I can't force it on me or them. It just takes time.

Almost everything is unpacked. My sister is here for the weekend and I think she did at least 10 loads of laundry yesterday. She also organized a menu for next week and helped me keep my head on straight long enough to purchase all the needed groceries. We are amazed at the food consumption around here. My goodness, I've never seen kids put so much food in such little tummies. Hailab has gained almost two pounds! A typical day includes several bananas, apple, peanut butter sandwich, eggs, toast, milk, casserole, salad, fruit salad. We really can almost set our watch to them saying, "I'm hungry" every two hours. My grocery budget requires a complete overhaul. But that is not a complaint! We are so glad to see them eat so well. One of the girls turned her nose up at a small serving of salad one evening. I asked her to take one small bite and then she didn't have to eat anymore. The next time I looked at her plate was clean and she said she liked the salad! I think it was the ranch dressing that she liked!

We're good. Not perfect. Not happy all the time. But happy a lot of the time and that means a whole lot to us.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pictures in Reverse Order

I loaded a few random photos from the last week. Then I realized blogger loaded them in reverse order and I am way too tired to fix it. (Those of you who know me best, know that this would drive me crazy, but hey, I'm learning to be flexible!)

The kids have been begging to go swimming since we were in ET. They saw the pool at the Hilton one afternoon when we were exchanging currency. We told them we would go swimming in America and they didn't let us forget it! Today's trip to the pool was our first venture out of the house and I was a little unsure any/all kids would have a meltdown in public. Sure enough, while getting into the car after leaving the pool, one kiddo had a full fledged screaming fit over a seat belt.

Our first night home. We had way too many toys available for the kids and they were overloaded. I think they fell asleep watching a Cinderella movie. (Again, much flexibility required on my part... I hate messes like this in the house! I think I'm beginning to sound a little OCD.)

Exhausted girls in the Denver airport.

An everyday sight on the streets of Addis.

A beautiful outdoor lunch at Addis Rodeo, a restaurant near our guest house.

Saying goodbye at the foster care centers. The care givers are really amazing. As painful as it was to watch them say goodbye, we loved seeing how much love was shared between our kids and those who took such good care of them in the Gladney houses.

A picture taken on a little balcony of one of the Gladney houses.

Sweet smiles at the guest house.

Waiting to meet our kids! Everyone was asleep but me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

So Glad to Be Home!

We are home!  We left for the airport in Addis at 7:00 p.m. Sunday evening or 10:00 a.m. CST.  Get this... we arrived home at our house at 5:00 a.m. Tuesday morning.  Just in case you are wondering, YES, IT WAS HORRIBLE!  Our flight was late leaving Addis and our refueling stop in Rome took an extra hour.  We arrived late in D.C. and so we missed our second flight.  We sat in D.C. for over seven hours and finally caught our second flight.   Our third and final flight was not to our original destination.   Because our third flight did not get us to our original destination, we had an additional three hour drive home.  Coffemom and her family were in Addis last week also, and I was so glad I had her to share in the long trip home.  Her Marta is so very sweet and was beaming each time I saw her.  

We finally arrived in our house at 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning.  Over 40 hours of traveling.  H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E!

Yesterday was tough.  We read to have just a few toys for the kids and I thought we had limited the toys in their rooms.  No, we didn't.  I guess one toy per room would have been better because we spent the entire day yesterday hearing two little girls determining each toy as MINE.  By last night, I was so tired of being a referee.  

We all slept between 12 and 15 hours last night, which was great for everyone.   Madison and I got up at 5:30 this morning and put away a bunch of toys, so today has been better.  The kids English is so much better than we were expecting and that is a huge blessing.  The most common words said at home so far are:  mine, come, play, swing, eat, drink, juice, doll, glasses.

The kids have asked for bananas, peanut butter on bread, juice, milk, apples and grapes.  They eat about every two hours.  Travis told us in ET to keep plenty of food available as it would help with emotions (always helps with mine!)  We've carried the advice through to here also.  The other advice we received in ET was to be flexible.  And being flexible here at home has been a life saver for my sanity.

The very best thing that we took with us to ET were little, cheapy picture albums filled with all the pictures we had of the kids from Gladney and other APs.  Then we also put in photos of family, house, dogs and their school.  They poured over the albums.  They loved telling us their friends who were in the background of their pictures and they loved naming all of our family, "Grandmuzzer, Grandfazzer, Kusin, Sister, etc."

I kept a journal while in Addis.  I hope to take excerpts and post them here in the next few days.  Haven't looked at our pictures yet, and hope time allows for that soon.

This morning we pulled up a few blogs of the kids' friends that now live in "A-merr-i-ka."  They loved seeing them.  They are playing on the swing set right now, where it is a mere 108 degrees outside.  Dustin's parents gave us a great swing set with Madison and Sage were smaller.  It has a few swings, slide, stairs, climbing ropes and two "tree houses" mounted at the top.  I turned my back for a few minutes and one of the girls was on top of the roof of a treehouse!  Oh my!

Not to give the idea that all is a bed of roses at our home, we experience fits often, sometimes egged on by a sibling and sometimes for reasons we do not understand.  We hold them close and hug them through it, even when they try to push us away.  We know it is a part of the process and I tell myself often that it certainly not personal.  It's just kids trying to cope the best they can.  Sometimes we see beautiful smiles with unprompted 'thank you's' and sometimes we see some one of them take a toy and throw it across the room away from their sibling.  Sweetness and goodness mixed with hurt, confusion and grieving.

Sorry for the scattered thoughts, but wanted to post something just to let everyone know we were home and alive!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Heading Home Tomorrow

Another double post, one for the blog and the other for family and friends.
I sat and typed a long note, hit send and the internet connection ended.  Ugh!
We are all good.  Madison is getting her hair braided by one of the employees of the guest house.  The three littlest kiddos are engrossed in Tom and Jerry.  Sage is in bed with a fever.  We are just hoping he feels better and we can get on the plane without any problems.
The "honeymoon" period ended last night.  They are still wonderful, they are still funny, lively and joy-filled.  It's just that they are starting to be a little more transparent.  All of our training and reading is coming in handy as none of this has been a surprise.
We have enjoyed every second of our time in Ethiopia.  I once heard someone talk about taking a trail ride on horseback.  The horses are great on the trip out, clip-clopping along at a nice even pace.  But once you turn the horses around, it's all you can do to keep the horses from trotting because they know they are heading home.  I feel like a horse. 
I don't want to take water and electricity for granted any more.  But, with time I imagine it will happen.  Every other day without electricity means every other day without running water.  And when the water is running, you still can't drink it.  Home sounds heavenly, just wish it didn't take so long to get there.
I should start moving the kids to bed.  We are going to an International Evangelical church service in the morning.  We are looking forward to it.  We toured a church on Wednesday.  On our way out the door to get in the car, the girls grabbed their head scarves.  Women cover their head for prayer at church and it was so sweet to see our girls do what they know.
Much love from all of us.  We can't wait to meet everyone at the airport.  Even though we have been talking about it to the kids, I still think they may be surprised and a little fearful when they get to meet everyone.  We have told them that family and friends will be there just to see them and will probably hug and kiss all over them.  We told Hailab he will have to sit in a car seat in America.  Instead of frowning, he beamed.  He puffed his little chest out and said, "Special seat!"  It was priceless.
Please pray for Sage, that he feels better tomorrow.  I cannot imagine anything much worse than traveling for 30 hours when you feel rotten.
We love you all and again, can't wait for the kids to meet you.  It's been a wild week!
Signing out from Addis,
Dustin, Nikki, Madison, Sage, Meseret (aka Beamlak), Yeabsira and last but not least, Hailab

Insert movie times and more without leaving Hotmail®. See how.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Alive in Addis

Killing two birds with one stone... sending this to family/friends as well as posting on the blog:

WE ARE ALIVE! Today is the first day the modem has worked in our guest house. We have SO much to share.

The kids are wonderful! We expected the worst and have experienced as good as we could have ever hoped/prayed for. YOU WILL LOVE THEM! The placement (adoption term for hand-off) was extremely difficult with long, hard cries from the kids and then of course from Dustin and me. One of the guest house employees quietly joined us and spoke so softly and tenderly to the children and helped in the transition. His name is Cannon (sp?) and he didn't know us from Adam, and yet served us so generously by helping with the kids. I could write for days, but don't know how long the internet connection will stay up.

Ethiopia... no words. Simply no words. Dustin and I have raw, open sores on our hearts. I wonder if they will ever heal. We have seen things that shouldn't be. And yet, the people are very open, very kind and loving.... beautiful people.

Today was extremely difficult. We visited three Gladney houses, one for infants, one for toddlers and then the older kids home where our kids lived. It was all that Dustin and I could do to keep from openly sobbing as the children said goodbye to the care givers and friends who have been their family for the last 15 months. And the children in the homes... All beautiful, all deserving of a family to love them. I can't wait to share pictures. Dustin already picked out an older boy that he was ready to start paperwork to come back and get. (Dustin was so relieved when I told him that I knew that particular boy was in the process of being adopted, the boy just doesn't know it yet.) The care givers are amazing and you could tell how very much they loved our children. Each time our children went into one of the houses, the care givers squealed and loved and kissed and held each of them.

What else can I say without writing a book? The kids are amazing. They speak enough English for us to get by and have already picked up on so much. They love teaching us Amharic words. Haileb will sound an Amharic word out to us so that we repeat each sylable after him. Then he will change the last sylable and look at us and die laughing. He is a clown. Yeabsira is very sweet and loving as is Meseret. They are definatley siblings who are loving each other, caring for one another, sharing with one another and then the next minute whacking each other on the head. (We were warned in advance that the culture is very physical, so it was nice to have a warning the first time one whacked the other one. It bothers Sage terribly when they hit one another.)

There is just so much more. Dustin and I wake up each morning at 2:30 a.m. (5:30 p.m. time at home) and can't go back to sleep. We actually haven't minded much because it's the only time of day that all is silent and we get a chance to talk and reflect on all we have experienced and retell funny stories of all the kids. BTW, I never would have believed I could survive three days with little to no running water and little to no electricity. There is a huge shortage of electricity so the government shuts off all the power at least every other day. In addition a water pipe broke the morning we arrived and the guest house staff have hauled water up to our rooms in bucket so the toilets will flush and we can have bucket baths. When you are stinky and have yucky hair, cold water from a bucket for a bath really isn't THAT bad. We were so glad when the water was fixed last night. Madison almost did a halelujah chorus when she got to take a hot bath this morning (the electricity came back on, too!)

Our request, again, is for prayers for Friday when we meet Amarech. Today was so hard at the children's homes that we can't imagine what Friday will be like. Will the kids feel pulled in their loyalty to their birth mom and to their new family. What does a child feel in their shoes. Tears sting my eyes at the thought.

Love from Addis!

Dustin, Nikki, Madison, Sage, Meseret, Yeabsira and last, but not least, Hailab

Friday, July 3, 2009

We Leave Tomorrow!

Gladney sent this last photo of the kids from ET last week. We leave tomorrow! We'll spend tomorrow night in DC and then leave for ET on Sunday morning. We think it's kind of cool that we'll spend the Fourth of July in our country's capital.

We will attempt to blog from ET, but also realize that the events of the week may be so overwhelming that we even forget we own a computer. That and the internet service may not be very consistent.

We arrive in ET at 8:00 on Monday morning, midnight on Sunday here at home. We are so ready to love on our kids and have all five together!