Monday, March 31, 2008

Coming right along...

Well, I have been very busy painting...all of the bedroom swapping projects are coming right along...

As is the adoption! Our homestudy is finally complete! It felt like that took forever... We are now just waiting for our final stack of paperwork for the dossier. It seems like things are happening very slowly compared to when we were in the process with Emma. But it's moving along anyway, so I guess that's good.

I was reading this letter that Erin, a woman who I truly admire, wrote. She is my age and has 11... yes, 11 children! (Don't worry Bruce, I admire her, but I know I could not handle 11!) The remarkable thing about her is not only that she has 11 children, but she is a wonderful mother. You can just tell by the way she writes about them, how great the love she has for each one of them...individually...Whenever I read about her I am in constant awe. Her blog is private, but she gave permission to share this letter. I thought it was beautiful...and couldn't resist posting it.

Kids and Moms (and Dads)

I have been thinking a lot about kids lately... kids who don't have moms (and dads)... kids waiting for moms, and what life is like for kids who do not have parents. I have been thinking about the transformation that occurs when a child realizes he has a mom, a dad, a, love and somewhere to belong.

With some of our kids, that "realization" that they have a Mom and a family, that they have someone to belong to, someone to watch over them, someone to care for them and someone to love them, has been gradual. With some of our kids, there has been this "a ha!" moment, where you could just see that they "got it".

There was baby Maggie... almost four months old... laying on the bed in our hotel in Vietnam on our first full day together (I had been visiting her for days at the hospital before this point). Before her hospitalization she had lived in a government orphanage where the babies had their names written on their legs in black magic marker so they could be told apart, and got very very little personal attention. She didn't cry when she was hungry or when she wanted something. She was quiet and tiny, but I could tell she loved being held and loved the attention I was giving her.

I walked away from the bed where she was laying to get a bottle for her, and she made this teeny tiny pitiful (feeble attempt at a) cry, and I rushed over and picked her up and offered her the bottle. She got this look of amazement on her face with a little smile that seemed to say, "Holy cow! You mean that crying thing WORKS with you??" and after that she did not want anyone but me and always wanted me close. She got it. I was there for her. I was her mom.

With Mercy, she was nine years old. She had had a mom before, who did not value or respect her role as a mom. Mercy knew neglect and abuse and loss. Despite that, she came to us with an open heart and a surprising amount of trust. At one point during our first week, Des needed her hair washed (and Mercy had been the one to care for Des up until that point, even though she was only three years older). Mercy told Des to go into the bathroom so she could wash her hair, and I gently told Mercy that I could wash Des's hair, and reminded her that that was the kind of thing a Mom should do. The social worker had warned us that "letting go" of being the caregiver of Des might be hard for Mercy and we might have some power struggles over it... but Mercy looked at me and looked at Des and looked back at me and said, "You wash all the other little kids... You would wash Des's hair too?" and I said, "Yes". And she said, "And then what would I do?" and I said, "Well, you could go play." And she looked at Des again and then back at me, and then she got this huge smile on her face, and you could almost SEE her letting go of the responsibility of caring for her little sister. She ran over and gave me a hug, and then took off to play. She got it. I was there for her and for her sister. I was their mom.

With Solomon, that moment came when we left AHOPE for the second time together. We had spent two days together, and then we had gone back to AHOPE to visit. As we walked through the gate and the kids called out his name and came running to say hi to him, he sat in my arms with huge, silent tears running down his cheeks. He would not make eye contact with anyone (including me, the kids and the nannies) and just stared ahead with this heartbreaking acceptance of the fact that he thought he was being left. Again. It hurt me so much that he had come to accept this from life... that nice people came and went, but he did not truly belong to any of them. I couldn't imagine how his little heart felt and how he had endured all that he had already. I comforted him and held him close and told him over and over again in his ear that I would never, never, never leave him.

He started to relax a little the longer we were there and I stayed with him, but he was not his usual self. And then it happened. I put him in the sling, we waved good-bye, went back out through the gate and headed back up the road towards the hotel for some lunch. He got this HUGE grin on his face, and was bouncing up and down in the sling laughing, and then grabbing my face and kissing it over and over as we walked. He was so happy and joyful. He got it. He was not going to be left again. I was HIS. He was mine. I was his Mom.

Since then I have watched him blossom with love. I have watched him learn how to expect and look forward to being held often, comforted when he cries, rocked to sleep, having his needs met, getting individual attention and being smothered in hugs and kisses often. As I crawled into bed last night, a few hours after I had put him down to sleep, his little body turned towards me, and without waking up, he put his arm on me, snuggled in close and let out a content sigh.

All kids deserve that knowledge, that peace and that comfort. All kids deserve to know that they are loved and that they belong to someone.

I believe with all my heart that our Heavenly Father did not send us down here to go at life alone, to worry about ourselves and to focus our lives on material and trivial things. I believe with all my heart that we are meant to live in families... mothers, fathers and children together, focusing our lives on loving, enjoying and serving each other.

We have several reasons to believe that Solomon most likely spent very little (if any) time with his first mother. And yet even after multiple changes in caregivers and "homes", multiple losses and lots of suffering without a mom to comfort him, he KNEW what a Mom was for from our very first days together. His heart and soul reached out to mine and grabbed on firmly. He knew that he wanted a mom. He knew that hugs, kisses and rock-a-byes were something he wanted, deserved and needed. The other kids we met in Ethiopia knew it too. They knew that they belonged with parents. They knew that something big was missing from their lives.

My heart rejoices for my kids and others that have had their lives changed so drastically...who were once alone, and now live with love, security and family. Watching Solomon over the past few weeks has reminded me of what an incredible miracle adoption is.

And at the same time, my heart aches for the so very many kids who are living life alone right now. . Even the very best orphanage is no comparison to a home and family. It is wrong that these kids must wait and yearn for a family. They deserve, as all children do, the peace and security that comes with the knowledge of knowing that they belong to someone, that they are being cared for and that they are loved.

This is why I support adoption...because I have seen the sadness in the eyes of the children who wait for moms, I have seen the amazing transformation in children once they have been "claimed" and loved, and because I believe, with all my heart, that that love and belonging is what our lives on this Earth are supposed to be about.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What made me cry today....

A few weeks ago, I sent out an email to my family and some close friends. I was asking for help gathering donations for AHOPE I really anticipated that I would get a good response....I know some pretty great people!

But in the weeks that followed, I began feeling very sad and a little hurt that few people even mentioned anything about the email....

Something about me....when I feel hurt, I pull away.

I even went as far as to opt not to go to my sister's house for Easter...(a decision I regret) because I felt like, by my own family not getting what this meant to was a direct insult to me and the things I find important...

Which obviously isn't the case. My family is wonderful, and has always been very supportive....

But I tend to live by my heart...not by my head, so as a result it takes me awhile to make sense of the simplest things sometimes....It's really difficult for me to understand why everyone doesn't see things just the way I do...another real flaw of mine.

Anyway, just today, I got the cutest card from my 11 year old niece Abby...with $10 of her own money to donate for supplies...That made me cry!

Friday, March 21, 2008

While the cat's away, the mouse will....paint?

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a serious obsession with painting...not of pictures, but actual rooms. I try to mask this strange addiction as "home repair" but really I just need to paint!

So this week, while Jud was out of town, I started....for now just a few walls in the kids playroom downstairs...but while I was painting, the wheels in my head were turning....and I must be reading too many kids books because I started to sound like a Laura Numeroff book! You know like,.... If you Give a Mouse a Cookie... sorry, if you don't have kids, you most likely won't get this!

Here's how it started...

The boys have been sleeping in the guest room for the past two weeks, they are scared in their room and the guest room is much closer to our room (they've been sleeping awesome in there!) I move the boys room back into the guest room...

then I could move Caroline into the boys current room....

and if I move Caroline into the boys room, then I could move Emma into the room that Caroline is in.

and if I move Emma into Caroline's room, that would mean I could turn Emma's room into the new "nursery"....all rooms of course would need to be re-painted!

Did I mention I'm nesting? And I'm slightly obsessive?

Poor Jud!


This is what the first day of spring looks like from my kitchen window!

And this is the foot of snow out side of my garage door!

And this is my driveway...covered in snow, because I refuse to snowblow anymore this year...!

My first video montage!

Here are a few pictures from Emma's birthday party last weekend! The theme was princesses of course! It was Emma's friend Dottie's birthday too! (She the princess Belle with long blonde hair!) I think all of the girls had a good time! There was make up, nail polish, beads, glitter, paint.. Oh my!!! And of course the Areil cupcakes! YUMMY!

This was a girls only party! The boys didn't mind, they went to see, Horton Hears a Who, with Daddy! Caroline was a great big sister and wanted to stay home to help with all the little girls! And the little girls sure loved her!

Mom and Rhona, all you need to do is push the green arrow!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Watch This!

This is a video made by the ethiopian triplets mom! I read her blog, she's very funny....I just rewatched this video for about the 100th time and I thought some of you might like to see it!

Rhona I know you'll love it!

Friday, March 14, 2008

This was the first picture we ever saw of Emma! The first time we saw her beautiful face...

With Caroline, Jack and Sam, we have this tradition...starting the night before their birthday, talking with them about what was happening that night just before they were born....and then telling them (age appropriate of course!) about the day that they were born.

I tell them who was in the room, what I was feeling, and of course what our reaction was when we saw them for the first time.

Well, this year, especially with our string of January birthdays...I have started to wonder...what about Emma's birth story?

Is this a tradition that maybe we need to let go...because obviously I don't know Emma's birth story?

So after a lot..and a lot..and lot more thought, I have decided that each one of our kids' birth story is unique....and that's why they love to hear it!

So just because I don't know the exact time, place... or heck, even day that Emma was born, I do remember the anticipation...the waiting...the longing, to meet her... much like I felt while I was pregnant with the other kids.

I remember... while we were in the process, and waiting for Emma's referral, wondering, was there a woman out there, on the other side of the earth, carrying my child...?

Every night when I went to bed, my head was filled of thoughts of her...who was she? what was she feeling? was she hungry? was she scared? did she have heartburn?.... Did she know, that there was another mother out there, longing to love her child?

I so wished that I could reach out to let her know it was ok and this child was going to be loved and well taken care of....

I remember the feelings I felt the first time I saw Emma's picture, and the first time I saw her and held her in my arms....the first time I smelled her smell!

This is her birth story....This is what we know.

This was her birth into our family.

So from now on...on this day, not only will we celebrate Emma's birth, but we will celebrate her birth whom we are forever indebted!

We will never Emma came into our family...and just how blessed we are...

Happy Birthday Emma!

Since today is Emma's third birthday, let's watch the slideshow one more time!!! I hope no one minds!!!

And here are a few more recent ones! I tend to go a little overboard, I know, but the girl is just too darn photogenic!

Emma's first visit to the beauty salon!

Emma needed a little help from big sister Caroline this morning at breakfast to hold up three fingers! It was quite tricky at first, but she has the hang of it now!

Monday, March 10, 2008

This is sure to make you smile!

I'm not exactly sure why, but I've been in kind of a little funk lately....Just a lot on my mind I guess...and then of course the sick kids...for two weeks! (all better now thank goodness!) that's enough to wear any mom down! Anyway, I've been trying to shake it, then suddenly tonight, one look at this little ham....I think I'm cured!

Here's a few from storytime tonight!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Look what I found in my bed!

I just went upstairs to make my bed and look what I discovered! Three kids, snug as a couple of bugs in a rug!

And just to be fair here is one of Emma this morning with a block of cheese she stole from the refrigerator! (she sure does love cheese!)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

We're making progress!

Today I feel like we are finally making progress on the adoption front! This morning I sent out our I600-A to our local immigration office, along with a hefty check, Ouch!! There goes that new camara I had my eye on! We also have completed the first stack of our dossier paperwork! That's a big sigh of relief!

Now, after our agency in MN recieves our homestudy from our local agency (which hopefully is next week,) they will send us the second stack of paperwork for the dossier! Yeah! Then, once that's all done, then we can official start the really difficult part, the wait!

I'm not looking forward to that! I already am feeling the need to nest! I am constantly looking around the house thinking "what else can I paint!" Luckily for me... the kids have all been sick for the last two weeks, so that has kept me very busy and has kept my mind from wandering too much! (yeah right!)

Actually, I shouldn't say all of the kids, because of course fiesty little Em, nothing gets her to slow down! As the other three have been content resting, watching movies, and reading books little Em is running circles around them! She cracks me up! Not to worry, I think we are finally on the mend. Caroline and Jack are both back at school today and Sam will go back tomorrow! Ahhh....peace....well sort of It'll be just me and Em!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Our first INJERA!

This weekend Emma and I sampled our first Injera! The two of us, and another wonderful local family (who are going very soon to bring home their gorgeous little boy from Ethiopia!) went to an Ethiopian Restaurant that just opened downtown.

We had Injera, which is the bread of Ethiopia. (it's not much like american bread...especially the texture, Emma kept saying "look it's squishy!") The injera is meant to be a sort of "table cloth" and then the meal is served over top. You break off a piece of Injera and then scoop up the food, there are no utensils involved! Which Emma thought was very cool!

We had Iab (homemade cottage cheese), Doro Wat (chicken stew with hard boiled egg), Sega Wat (Lamb dices), I think a type of vegetable stew and something else very delicious and spicy but I have no idea what it was called or what was in it! -Patrick do you remember?

I was very interested to see if Emma liked the cuisine. Which she did indeed. (when she wasn't busy exploring the social scene!) She especially liked the Iab, which is a homemade cottage cheese....(I'm not sure if this is an Ethiopian taste she inherited or if it's growing up in Wisconsin!) She has recently also expressed a liking for coffee, (bunna in Amharic) which is typically served to children in Ethiopia...

She has gotten to the point where she steals sips, whenever I'm not looking. I have to admit, seeing these little tid-bits, these tiny little links to Emma's Ethiopian Heritage, become make me feel joyous, and wanting to know more....

All in all... the restaurant was great...the dinner was delicious...and the company was awesome!

I look forward to going back! Only, next time, maybe Emma and I will both know a few Amharic words!