Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Adoption Battle/It's War!

I wanted to create this post to encourage some of my friends out there currently adopting. We originally adopted from Guatemala in 2005 and then brought our 3 Ethiopian children home in February 2008. Adoption is a total battle and labor of perseverance. When adopting Matea it was the hardest because we would receive the absolutely worst pictures that anyone had ever taken. One even showed her sneezing. She was HUGE and expressionless and HATE TO ADMIT..I would have these images of someone fattening her up and just letting her lay around like they do those baby calves (to create Veal)...I would wake up at night thinking this child is not going to fit into our family ...what if there is something wrong....and worse than that I totally was not connecting to the pictures. The agency owner didn't help. Upon visiting Matea she sent me a message telling me she was seriously concerned about her weight (at 4 months) and that she seemed to be 'reticent". So I ended up not sleeping and waking up in fits of prayers etc. We decided to visit mid process when Matea was 5 months old...upon meeting her all I could say is that she was the closest thing to one of those cherubic angels that you see in a Michaelangelo painting. She was gorgeous and had more personality and intelligence than any 5 month old baby I had ever met. I was instantly smitten. When I came back to the states we still had a long wait...I received some pics where she looked miserable. She was frowning (I interpreted it to mean she seriously missed me and was mad at me for leaving her at 5 months). I thought it would be funny for me to share her 3 month pics that were sent to me. All of my friends would look at the pics and say "OH!" with a very shocked expression as if they were trying hard to say something nice. NOT PRETTY PICS AND NOT A PRETTY BABY in these pics. Here are some words of encouragement and pics to look at.

James 1:12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has
promised to those who love him.

EX. 14:13-14 "Stand your ground...The Lord Himself will fight for you; You have only to keep still."

"We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame [hope does not disappoint us], because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." Romans 5: 3-

To my friends struggling out there please don't give up on these children. THey need you and will be the most beautiful children in the world to you once you battle past those doubts and fears. Also,please know you are not alone. THis happens. Mostly know that these are the children God has annointed to be your children and be in your care. Embrace them...

Try not to laugh too hard...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Seventeen Years!

17 years ago I gave birth to my first child Samantha. She was born via csection after 36 hours of labor.When I finally laid eyes on her I couldn't believe how much she looked like Mark. We were in our 20's at the time and struggled financially and lived in a two bedroom apartment. Sam's crib was in our room and the other bedroom was an office/studio.

For Sam's second birthday we were living in Monte Carlo. I was working at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club. She would swim daily at the Monte Carlo Beach club which overlooked the mediterranean sea. She swam with Whitney Houston and her baby. She always made friends easily and has a natural refined taste that is just a gift. I don't have it.

I remember bringing Sam home to our apartment. I remember saying "THANK You" to God because I couldn't believe how blessed we were to have her. I had spent my life pursing fame and worldly success but found my bliss truly in being a mother. I said to God that things were so wonderful...i would be selfish ever expecting anything more fabulous or exceptional.

Today, 17 years later I see so much potential in Sam. She is an amazing young woman. She is beautiful and everyone's best friend. And she is just a great kid. AND though I really believed that God had extravagantly blessed me on the day of her birth he continued to shower me with blessings. I never ever would have imagined being the mother to 6 kids. NEVER! I never would have believed I would have gone to Guatemala and Ethiopia to bring home my children. I never dreamed I would be blessed with a marriage lasting 20 years. God is so good.....each day is a gift, each daughter, son, sister, mother, husband, brother, friend is truly something to treasure. Thank you Lord for Samantha in giving her life. And thank you for giving me new life through her birth.


So, I am really enjoying getting to know my kids better each day. It is as if each day they relax more and start to reveal more about their fears, pain and past. When we first met Ella she immediately grabbed my hand and claimed me as her mom. She was the one who would translate for the other two. She was the one who would always giggle uncontrollably. She also referred to her grandmother as Amaya (mom) because she didn't have much of a memory regarding her mom Bayoush. Recently, it is clear that Ella has some deep sadness regarding her mom. Even though she was very little when she died (probably around 4) she told me her mom would just lay in bed all the time. She started crying and told me she misses her. She then came to me mad and said "I want a picture of my mom." I said "Me too. But we don't have one." According to Grace, her grandmother has pictures but it is quite a trip to get from Addis to a place called Gorodella (spelled phonetically) to her house to get the pics. I am determined though and even willing to pay one of my friends relatives to take the day trip to take pics of the pics of Bayoush...So I hope to one day gaze upon her face and have a photo of her displayed proudly somewhere in our house.

So, Ella has taken to the guitar. The other night she said "I wanna scream." When I told her not to I said she could play her guitar. I came back. It was her 8:30 bedtime. She was singing and strumming a song she wrote called "I no like 8:30" ...Lyrics were "I no like 8:30, 8:30 I no like, I no like 8:30...why bed 8:30. 8:30 i no like" It was really funny. The guitar she was playing on was a guitar Andrew had bought with his birthday money. In the morning I heard a scream from Andrew and saw that Ella had written her name in purple sharpie all over the guitar. The guitar now belongs to Ella and I have to buy Andrew a new one. She says she will buy herself another one so she can have two with her birthday money. Her birthday is 8/12 but I will have a little party for her on 8/10. She turns 7.

So, Ella is wildly happy when she is happy. So last night she was screaming at the top of her lungs outside . We asked her to stop several times. She didn't so then went to her room. Later she came back out and said "I don't like this family." Then she was talking about going back to Ethiopia (this is the same child that was terrified when she thought we were actually in ethiopia at the restaurant last week). Then she went downstairs had a piece of ice cream cake and came back upstairs and said "I happy now. I sorry. I love my family." I said "So having ice cream makes you happy." She said "yes mom I very happy"....Go figure. She is a blesssing and I pray that her wounds and longing for her mother can be healed. But I also know better. It is a loss she will always have. Imagine also on top of your grief also starting to lose the memory of her face. I pray we can get a picture so she will always remember what she looked like.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Great Day!

I am realizing that school is just way too stressful for my kids. If I didn't have to work I probably would opt to home school. I have figured out today that I need to meet our kids teachers again and tell them we may let up on them a bit. There isn't a ton of homework but some of it is over their heads and really makes them feel insecure, frustrated, sad etc. So, we will lighten up a bit ...AND I will try to do simple non stressful assignments at home to enhance their learning. So, we started the day with the kids decorating the screened in porch. They decided they each would make their own sleeping area and imagine they would sleep in it tonight. Which I knew when nighttime came they would be terrified to do that. They brought everything in and now we have blankets, pillows, stuffed animals all over our living room...but they had lunch and snacks out there and kept saying "I am so happy.."...Then they had to clean their rooms. Ella was upset and wanted to stay under her bed . I made her get out from under the bed...she said "i just want to lay there. I am tired" (I think she was exhausted from the week). But I made her get up because I knew she would be really sad laying under the bed plus I wanted to keep her away from the window). I told her if she wanted to lay down she could lay on my bed or her special bed on the porch. She immediately cheered up and was happy all day.. She has developed this cute but strange comforting technique. She has a strong love for the guitar. She wants it by her bed and wants to strum on it and sing when she is stressed or for any other reason. I think we will get her guitar lessons. She has a birthday on 8/12 and wants a Hannah Montana guitar. We visited some friends from their orphanage (LAYLA HOUSE) today. We met Berhan, Hailu, Masene, Safiya, Mati and their families. We swam in their hotel pool and then went to dinner. In the morning the kids were nervous and afraid of seeing some of their old friends. By the afternoon, they were really excited to see them. I had to tell them though that we were still in America and North Carolina. I had to remind them we only drove a few miles to their hotel from our house. When we went to the Ethiopian restaurant later Ella placed her head in my belly and wanted to be glued to me. She said "I don't like this place" Then I said "We are still in America in North Carolina and we are all coming home together back to your room and house." Then she immediately left my side and started dancing around. When the food was set before them they devoured it. It had been 3 months since they have had Ethiopian food. I just haven't made any and my friends haven't stopped by with any. Matea also kept saying "more injera, more injera". So they really had so much fun. Parenting adopted kids from a different culture is a real learning experience. I am learning that you can't necessarily play by the same rules. I am reading the beyond consequences model and joined their forum. Sometimes the techniques work and sometimes they don't. It is really intense though our lows feel very low and dire sometimes when they act like they hate us so much and then the next day/minute all is well. We are trying to regulate to have fewer LOWS. I think by God's grace we will all be great. The kids loved being at the restaurant but were elated to be back home with all of is so sweet. They are incredible children and I can't believe how blessed we are. It is such hard work and committing to parenting these children isn't easy but it can also be so fulfilling. I still give God all the glory for our family. What a blessing they are....Thanks for all of the prayers.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Stressful Week!

This was a tough week. The kids are in their second week of school and the first week for Jared in Kindergarten. He was great the first few days but wanted to stay home for a few days...I had to bribe him with bubble gum to get him on the bus..It worked. Ella was very stressed this week but i learned how to speak her love language. Anytime she would dysregulate I would say the word "Princess"...I would either tell a story or read a book. Grace punched Andrew and then had to go to bed early. This made her start rambling and describing her life in Ethiopia to be idyllic. Her house was big, no rules, no bed time, lots of food, no homework and she describes her bathroom to be the size of a ny apartment. She liked it better because she never got in trouble...blah blah....Tonight was decent because they didn't have homework. So they were happy. The irony is that with all of this nostalgia over Ethiopia they are reluctant to go to an Ethiopian restaurant. Somehow, this also makes them nervous. We are signed onto a forum with suggestions on how to parent these situations...Just keep us in your prayers.


Wedding Montage!

The photography was by our daughter Grace. They threw this dress on me after cleaning all day and put crooked lipstick on my lips...and not the right bra..but we had a sweet day...I used our song SATISFIED for the audio..this was the song we used for cake cutting at Michael Douglas/Catherine Zeta Jones' wedding....notice the braids on Ella...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Wedding and the ultimate compliment!

I started the day off today by being asked the funniest question from Matea. She woke up, looked around and said "When are we going to go jelly fishing?" I said "What" She said "jelly fishing." and then said she was hungry and wanted breakfast.

This week was the first week of school so very stressful for the kids. Two nights in a row I put Ella to bed an hour earlier than the older kids because she was way too cranky. She was sad that she wasn't at the same school as last year. But in her stress would say things like "i want to jump out the window." We discerned from info from Grace that they used to jump out their window when they were in ethiopia onto a big soft pile of something. We reassured her, told her why not to jump out the window but also followed the advice of counselors experienced in kids that have gone through trauma in their lives. So, I decided I was going to have some heavy "time in" with Ella.

We had a great day today. I made the girls really happy by braiding Ella's hair. They were putting make up on when I did her hair. When I was about finished Grace came up and said in Amharic to Ella that I was braiding it just like their mother did in Ethiopia. That to me was the ultimate compliment since I am a blond waspy eligible for the Daughter's of the American revolution type girl. I have been terrified of BRAIDING. So I was totally complimented until Ella decided later it was too messy and didn't like it..She is threatening to take it out tomorrow. But the braiding experience was clearly therapeutic to her.

Also, Ella has been insisting for about a month now that Mark and I 'get married". We had tried and tried to explain that we were already married but everyday she asks us to have a wedding. Finally tonight we just decided to go for it. So the girls handed us both clothing that was way too small and put make up (bright red lipstick on me). Andrew had a bible in his hand and wanted to "marry us." He was the minister. Grace was the photographer (photos to come later). My dress was one of my band dresses. Matea was supposed to sing. Ella was the bridesmaid and Jared escorted me down the steps. Mark, Andrew, Matea and Grace were down the steps (Sam is in Hilton Head). I was getting ready to walk when I clearly heard HERE COMES THE BRIDE being played. Andrew had found the laptop and set up the song. So I came down the steps. Mark forgot the ring Ella had given him and had to go back upstairs. He couldn't find it so just took his wedding ring off.

Andrew started to speak. He was so organized with the music and everything and then said "What do I say? I don't know what to say?" He was holding the bible open while we read him some vows to say..."Dearly Beloved...blah blah blah." When the ring time came Mark placed his ring on my finger and I took it off and put it back on him. We were announced husband and wife and then said a prayer which included "dear lord please sell our old house..." HA!!!along with blessing our family. When we kissed the kids were extremely loud and hysterically laughing.

They then went in the other room while they played the Naked Brothers song "Do you love me?" they came back into the foyer with pretzels on a paper plate, water and napkins. Then they all danced the electric slide and wanted us to dance so I told them what our first dance was (Anita Baker "Sweet love") we danced, we danced with the kids....all did the MACARENA (things my brides would never allow) and went upstairs and I quickly told them they all better fold the laundry...It was a super sweet night...When I put Ella to sleep tonight in her princess bridesmaid dress that she is sleeping in, she said "mommy I love you. I happy." I will post wedding pictures soon....HA! Tonight is the honeymoon....(at least that what my husband reminded me of when they said they wanted us to get married).


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Out of the mouth of Jared!

So every morning Mark goes to the bagel shop to pick up bagels for himself and the youngest. This morning he brought Jared..(dressed in his superman outfit). In the bagel shop was this extremely obese man. Jared walks right up to him and pokes him in the belly and says "Fat belly! Jiggle jiggle!" Mark was mortified (his words) and reprimanded Jared outside.....( I hate to say it but I had to laugh about it )

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fourth of July!

I can't believe it has been a week since Grace's accident. She is doing really well. On Friday July 4th we had a beautiful day at the lake in bond park. We went on a paddle boat and fed the ducks. We also went to the park and the kids complained of the heat. That night we went to our church picnic and had a blast and then decided to go to Regency park with thousands of people and were just about to watch the fireworks when massive lightning started going off. So everyone stampeded back to the cars. We were parked really far and I had to carry the baby...We finally made it to the car and had to drive home in the worst weather. When we got home the power was out....all of the kids slept in our room. The neighbor set off fireworks. It was very nice to be safe and watch the fireworks from our window through the rain and thunder. The kids kept saying "birthday America." And Ella for some reason thought Mark and I were getting married. As much as I have told her that we are already married she wants us to get dressed up and get married. I cannot figure that one out. Matea has been walking around calling herself Dr. Princess. She wants to be a doctor and a princess. The kids started school this week. Jared went on staggered entry today(won't be there fully until next week). Tonight we discovered that he had no underwear on all day. That was a slight oversight on our part. He was already dressed when we got up. Now that the kids are speaking more english everyday we found out that the scars on Ella's stomach are not from a skin rash but from falling on a fire when she was little. THe homework at school is overwhelming and the kids are still learning to read, yet Grace has really hard homework in 4th grade. They are all going to the same school and taking the bus. We are very happy about it. Matea starts school in the fall (just in time for them to be tracked out).

My girlfriend's Ethiopian baby needs prayer. He was sent to the hospital today. Please pray for him to get better soon.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Day in the Hospital! (warning blood mentioned)

So, we had a very active day yesterday with Grace in the hospital from 3:30 until 1am. Yesterday at about 2:45 we were leaving the pool and Grace apparently had slipped and hit STRADDLE on the side of the pool. But I didn't see it..she didn't tell us because she said it didn't hurt. When we were leaving she called me into the bathroom. BLOOD EVERYWHERE...everywhere. I thought for a second that maybe she started menstruating but it was so massive it would be unlikely. She told me about hitting the pool but said it didn't hurt and "I touch pool LITTLE" (huge understatement). We went home. She was embarrassed and didn't want the boys to know. But i told Mark i had to take her to the doctor. We went in. They winced when they saw all of the blood (doctor's) and called a pediatric OBGYN who told us to go to the emergency room at the hospital immediately. So i called mark to meet us and we went to the hospital. They took CBC and blood pressure for hours while waiting for the appropriate doctor's to come to assess and fix the laceration. They eventually found a tear that required 5 stitches. She had to be put asleep for the procedure. They said the huge loss of blood is typical in vascular areas. There are no awful side effect or lasting wounds and she will be fine. But it was scary. Grace lives up to her name though. I don't know another 10 year old girl who would have been so poised through all of this. No screams, freak outs or fits. She was extremely calm but upset that they wouldn't feed her. I had to be seated with my head between my knees at one point. When she came out of the anesthesia i told her it wasn't her period but a tear...she laughed and said "WOOHOO" as if celebrating. And then said "I told you. I 10. No so soon." I had told her maybe she was older and it just started early. She said "no I 10" She was happy that she still had time to be a girl rather than a woman. This morning she woke up at 7am and still isn't tired or ready for bed. She was mad at us when we told her to take it easy today..."WHY? I good..all bleed" She is amazing. It humbles me though to be reminded that in Ethiopia this could have been fatal. There are only about 100 obgyn's in the entire country. Our OBGYN said that she has seen some straddle wounds like this before. When they operated to sew it up it only took 10 minutes...We are so blessed in this country. I thank God that sweet Grace is alive and doing well...she did say "No more swim." We are grateful for any continued prayers.