Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Even more words

Hard to believe in the long list of words I posted the other day that I was missing quite a few.

In regards to the dog, who Mihretu loves... (not sure Auty is convinced yet although they are buddies when Mihretu is giving her food:) he knows how to say:
Lick you - it sounds more like Delagu - it's him basically hearing me say "she'll lick you" and everytime she does - he says that - so cute!
Bite you - this is me trying to tell him to be gentle with Auty cause I don't want her to bite you. I don't think he understands that if she ever does really bite him, it could be really bad. Nevertheless, when I tell him to stop swinging his arms at her or being so loud or not to get near her when she's eating- this is what he says "Auty bite you?"
And the rest of the words I missed the other day:
Careful - he hears this one alot and is now saying it as well
Ugh oh
Yeah - this one is so cute. He'll say "mommy" and I guess I often say "yeah" cause now he's saying it when I ask him something or say his name. Pretty cute.
Eggs - thank God he likes eggs cause it's hard to get any protein into this kid. He's not a big fan of meat and doesn't like bread or sandwiches. Today I put some tiny pieces of chicken in his mac and cheese for lunch:)
Clean up - he knows this one well and is such a good boy at cleaning up his toys
Broken - when something doesn't work, I say this. Now, he's says it too.
Gentle - he hears this one alot - mostly in regards to Auty. Now he's started saying it to me:)
One, two, three - he's learning to count!!!!
Swallow - he thinks it's funny to show me his food in his mouth so I always say "swallow buddy". Now he says it too!
Bunny - he had just learned this word about a week ago and then they brought live baby bunnies into Sunday school this past weekend so he was pretty excited about that!
Teeth - he says this a lot while pointing to his teeth - he loves, loves, loves brushing his teeth. He's been known to wake up in the morning and first word out of his mouth is "teeth". He likes to have good hygiene:)
Belt - he loves wearing a belt. Has become very interested in other people who are wearing belts as well and has recently started surveying who all is wearing one:)
Buckle - he likes to do the buckle in the stroller and carseat himself
Mommy cooking - when I am at the stove or just in general - making food in the kitchen - I've told him "I'm cooking". Now he'll say "mommy cooking?" and it's so cute!

and my very favorite of all which I can't believe I forgot to post the other day:
Baby Jesus - he loves nativity scenes and everytime he sees one in someone's yard - he points and in his adorable voice, shouts out "baby Jesus!!!!"

And prepare yourself for cuteness, here are a few little videos of my boy:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Update Dec 6, 2012

I can't believe I haven't written anything since November 21st. Holy cow - a lot has happened. Most days I'm just caught up in the moment of what Mihretu wants and needs and trying to manage it all. Honestly, I've learned a lot about myself these past 5 weeks. I am not as patient as I thought I was. Things I have thought were cute in the past when babysitting have now become extremely frustrating. Babysitting and being an auntie is so much more fun than being a mom. I know that sounds horrible to say. I'm just being honest. When you're not the mom - you get to be the fun one. When you're the mom - you have to be the one who creates boundaries and enforces rules and changes diapers and works on potty training and wakes up all throughout the night and is "on" all the time even and maintains consistency when you're tired and you've said "please close the refrigerator door" about 2 million times. You can't hand em over to someone else because you ARE the someone else. I'm not saying I don't want to be a mom because I do - I'm just saying it's different than I anticipated. All my babysitting and experience with kids surely has value but this is a whole new ballgame. And man, I wish I had a husband right about now. Ha ha  Just keeping it real folks!:) And trying to maintain a sense of humor too.

Even though there are still plenty of daily challenges and adjustments, overall things are SO much easier, and SO much better than those first few weeks. Praise the Lord for that. Mihretu is hitting, biting, digging and spitting WAY less. He's learned an insane amount of words in English (I listed them below and there may be more that I am just not thinking of right now). He is no longer afraid of the dog. Now the challenge is keeping him from going super hyper crazy on the dog so she doesn't get stressed right out and snap at him. He even did well with our friends little dog at small group two weeks ago. He's a super well behaved boy in Sunday school class and in preschool. He just started school this week on Monday and has done really well. He cries briefly in the mornings when I drop him off which is actually a good sign of our attachment and would be a concern if he didn't. But he doesn't cry long and he's following instructions and being super helpful with throwing away his trash and rinsing his dishes and using the potty. He loves one of the teachers and sort of follows her around a lot. I love this school because they have experience with adopted kids so when I called and they said "he cried at nap and wanted Ms. Charee to hold him but we don't want him to attach too much to her so we had Ms. Andrea hold him for a minute instead" - that was huge! I am so thankful they know to do that!! Plus Montessori in general seems like the perfect fit for Mihretu. He seems so happy when I pick him up and he's blowing kisses and saying "bye bye" to everyone when he leaves. Yesterday when I picked him up, as I was putting him into the carseat, he said "mommy hello, mommy bye bye, mommy hello" which was awesome because that's his way of saying he recognizes that mommy leaves but she comes back. This is super huge and amazing. What a smart boy!!! He's adjusting so well. When we get home after school, he's crazy hyper and loud. Maybe because he's so well behaved and quiet all day - he can't hold it all in any longer. Maybe it's because he's excited to see me. Or he's just over tired. Whatever the case, I hope that evens out over time cause he's like a little tazmanian devel ripping through the house the last few nights. He's doing every single thing he knows not to do, is jumping around and spinning and yelling and acting like he ate like a whole cake by himself or something. It's kind of funny but also really over the top and pretty annoying. I end up repeating myself a million times and sounding like a total nag. Not my favorite way to sound. Other parents tell me their kids are that way the first week or two after summer break so I'm hopeful it'll simmer down:)

Last weekend, my cousin Heather came to stay from Friday to Monday. Oh my gosh - having her here was awesome. She was so much help, Mihretu LOVED her and because I had that help, it allowed me to get to do more of the fun stuff and not focus SO much on each task at hand. I was even able to go to the bathroom by myself:) It's the little things people. We went to the zoo on Friday and saw ALL the animals this time and even ate lunch there. We had so much fun. It's just so valuable to me to have another adult with me. Merrill watched him for a few hours on Saturday so Heather and I could go see the Twilight movie. That was so great. And he had a blast at the park with Merrill. He loved playing in the sand! I was so thankful Heather came. Plus when I go to Michigan in a few weeks, I will be seeing lots of people so it was nice to have this one on one time with Heather. And when we go and he sees a familiar face, hopefully it'll make him that much more comfortable to be there. I can't wait for the whole family to meet him. They are gonna love him. He has such a fun personality.

Mihretu loves to make faces and roll his eyes and be silly. He loves elephants and bubbles and playing in the water and spinning in the swing in the backyard and showing you how many pictures he knows the word for in his favorite book and baths and hugs and running around naked and eating yogurt and having ranch on his pizza and ketchup on his eggs and avocados and mac & cheese and slides and skype calls with his buddy Sitota and her family and walks with Auty and helping feed Auty and letting her out and going places and doing the buckle on the seatbelt, stroller and swing all by himself and wearing shoes at all times and seeing animals at the zoo and cleaning up and putting things in their rightful place and all his aunties - Heather for sure and all the Nashville ones he has seen a bunch of times - Deb, Jessica, Merrill. He's doing so great and learning so much. When I take a breather and reflect on the fact that it's only been 5 weeks since we came home - I'm shocked at how far we've come. Although it's still hard and he's still a toddler and of course he tests boundaries and has meltdowns like all kids at 3 - he's doing amazing and I couldn't be more proud of him.

And speaking of proud, here's a list of all the words I could think of this morning that he knows. Whoa!! As I started thinking of more and more, it made me even more amazed. I might even have forgotten a few.

Words Mihretu knows
Good to go
Thank you 
Bye bye
Auntie Merrill, heather, Jessica, deb
Kitty cat
Come on
All done
Good boy
Pee pee

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Good morning? Not quite:)

It's easier to post updates on the good days. Days like today - much harder. But probably more important so some other mom out there will no she's not alone when she has a day like it.

Little man slept in his own bed. It took 2 hours to get him to fall asleep and lots of rearranging from his bed to the ergo carrier to the air mattress to running around the room to his bed and back through all the other choices. He ended up falling asleep on me on the air mattress. Once he was asleep, I put him in his bed. He slept there at nap and we had been working on him sleeping there so this was good because he wouldn't be shocked or terrified when he woke up there. I slept on the air mattress next to him so when he woke up - mommy was right there. This seemed to be good cause he didn't wake up in the night and even though he moves around a lot - he didn't climb all over me like usual so mommy got better sleep too. He did wake up an hour earlier though but still - much better than expected.

We were up at 5am. He had a super wet diaper that was so wet it wasn't holding it all in so he basically had a big ole wet spot under him. I threw the sheets in the washer and changed his diaper and clothes and we started the day. He brushed his teeth, took a bath, ate breakfast, we let the dog out and fed her, etc. And then we went for a walk. Or so that was the plan. I keep the stroller in the back of the minivan - it's easier to get it in and out of there with the dog leash and the kiddo than it is to haul it out the front door of the house every time. Plus if we ever go anywhere - it's already in there. We go for a walk with M in the stroller and Auty on the leash literally every single morning. It's not a new thing. But today, Mihretu thought it would be fun and funny to not get in the stroller and instead take off running down the street in the opposite direction. Asking him to come back nicely and be a good boy and listen to mommy did not work. I just heard a loud giggle and he kept on running. I had the dog in hand and the stroller so that was fun. I then switched to the stern "mommy said no - come here right now mister - do you want to go in time out?" voice. More laughter, more running. This time he started up a neighbors driving and into their side yard toward their back yard. Thankfully, I don't think they were home or they would have probably wondered why the crazy neighbor lady was running up their driveway yelling "come here right now" with my dog in tow. Good times. Love starting the morning this way. I finally catch up to him and though we live on a dead end non-busy street, mommy knows that this taking off running business has got to stop because he may not only do it on our quiet street and it is a non-negotiable when it comes to doing things that are dangerous. So I picked up little man and we marched on home. He went in time out and I gave him a lecture about not running off and how dangerous it was and all that good stuff that I know he had no clue what I was actually saying other than he knew my tone of voice was serious and he knew he was in time out. I am praying he does not do that again. Once time out was done and he got the message (hopefully), we proceeded to go on our walk. This time, we went into the stroller at the door just in case he decided to run off again.

Then we went to a friends house mid morning for a playdate. She has a 3 year old and a new baby so we thought it'd be fun for her little man and mine to play. Mihretu didn't want any part of that. He only wanted to get into things that aren't for kids like the curtains and all of my friends sewing stuff and climbing all over the couch and behind it and running off into their kitchen and trying to get into their fridge. When mommy would try to redirect him - he spit at me. When I told him no spit, he started digging at my face with his finger nails and trying to bite me. Good times. Yeah, that was fun. My friend was super great about it and we decided to make it a short visit with hopes that next time he'd be more familiar and in turn more fun to play with. I'm sure he was just uneasy cause it was a new place and he was uncomfortable but gosh, it is really hard to figure out the best way in that setting to try to get him to not bite and hit and dig at me. And it's hard for me not to get frustrated.

Once we got home, more acting out - throwing food, throwing things at the dog, doing the opposite of what he knows he's supposed to do. Gave him a bath and a heads up that nap time was coming soon. The heads up seems to help prepare him. It still took awhile to get him to fall asleep and he did throw quite a few things at me. I've learned to just move away from him in those moments and wait for him to calm down. If I try to pick him up when he's throwing a fit - it just results in biting and scratching. He is able to get himself together pretty quickly and then he comes over to me and reaches up to be held which is good. I picked him up and put on the ergo carrier and rocked him while standing until he fell asleep. Then I laid him down in his bed. He's asleep now and I'm thankful. I know all of the above things are totally normal for any toddler but especially for a child who has been in the country only 3 weeks. I know these things are to be expected but it's still extremely challenging in the moment when we're dealing with them. I don't always keep my cool and remain calm. I'm constantly amazed at how frustrating this is and how easy it is to forget what he's going through when the behavior on the outside just looks like a toddler acting out. My prayer is that God will remind me every moment to see the situation through the lens of adoption and all that I've learned about trauma, attachment, trust based parenting and those things - rather than seeing the behavior as acting out. My friend forwarded me a text someone wrote to encourage her and it said to view the child as a vessel that has to be filled with love - take ourselves out of the equation and focus on filling the love tank. And to also take time to fill our own cup when we have a moment here and there. For me, the moments are few and far between and these nap times are pretty much it right now. I'm thankful for these nap time moments when I can frankly just sit down and cry. I can't do that in front of M - I did once cause I was so overwhelmed and it made him cry and it was heartbreaking. And I can't close myself in another room cause he'll freak out if he can't be with me at all times. It's hard not being able to just have a moment when you feel overwhelmed. But I will take the moments I do have. I cherish them. I need them to refuel and just feel like a normal person again. This is harder than I ever thought it would be. I thought all my babysitting and experience with kids would make it easier. It helps but it doesn't make it any less hard.

I'm praying this afternoon is better. Maybe it was the extra hour we missed of sleep, maybe it was truly a more challenging morning than usually or maybe it just seemed like it. Sometimes our perspective has a lot to do with it. Lord fill me up so I can overflow and fill his love tank up. Fill me with your compassion, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and love. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More firsts - church, new friends and more

Sunday Mihretu and I went to church for the first time. I was so beyond excited. It signified to me a return to some normalcy but also - I was so very excited for him to meet all the many amazing people at church who've been praying for him for so long. He seemed a little overwhelmed but he does great - he just gets quiet and clings to mommy and takes it all in. He stayed upstairs in the sanctuary with me for worship. I tried leaving him in kids worship but I could tell that was not going to go over well and since he had discovered the classroom full of cool toys that just so happened to be the room he'd be in for Sunday school - I thought taking him there rather than the worship room would be better. Before church, he met Miss Carla who is the preschool director and immediately took to her. So when we came back down to take him to class, even though he cried for a few minutes when mommy left, he let Miss Carla comfort him. I was able to stand on the other side of the windows that I can see in but looks like a mirror on his side and just make sure he was ok. He calmed down pretty quickly. Carla ended up sitting in there with him and it was so adorable when I came back down and peeked in the window and saw him sitting at the table with all the kids next to her showing her a little toy lion he had picked up. She said he did great, followed instructions and went along with everything the other kids were doing - went over to the circle for story time, to the table for snack and so on. She said he was especially good about throwing all his trash away. He loves to help clean up which makes this momma proud. I was so glad he did so well. Initially I wasn't planning to leave him in there the first day at church but because he's starting school in 2 weeks, I thought it would be good practice for mommy to show that yes she has to leave but she always comes back. And since it's like a classroom, I was hoping that would be even more helpful of a setting.

Yesterday (Monday) he had his big appointment at Vanderbilt International Adoption Clinic. It ended up being 3 hours total but it was really great info and he also met with an occupational therapist. He's a bit behind for his age developmentally - mostly I think because of lack of practice or opportunities to develop certain skills - but they said he shows signs of already picking up things really quickly so they think he'll be up to speed in 6 months. I think so too. If I need to have him work with an occupational therapist in the future, it's nice to know it's there but I don't think we need to at this point. They gave me some great things to work on with him. At the very end of the appointment was the not very fun part where they had to stick him for a TB test and then draw lots of blood to run all sorts of bloodwork on him. He did not like that but he recovered really quickly. He's a tough kiddo. So proud of him.

At nap today he was not wanting to stop playing and sleep which can get frustrating trying to talk him into resting. I ended up trying out the Ergo carrier again - hadn't used it in awhile for napping. Since Ethiopia actually. But I think I will go for that from now on cause he was asleep in like a minute. And I was able to lay him down in his toddler bed. YAY he's asleep in his own bed. Not sure if that'll take or not but we'll keep trying it. The Vandy nurse recommended we transition him to his bed and me next to it on the air mattress for awhile as the next step before mommy no longer sleeps in there. So we'll be trying that and seeing how it goes.

My friend Robin came over last night and met M for the first time. He LOVED her. I've not seen him take to anyone quite that well right off the bat. She's fun and silly and played with him a lot which made him warm right up. By the end of the night he was reaching for hugs and giving her kisses on the cheek. Pretty sure he stole her heart. My cousin Heather is coming next weekend and I'm SO excited for her to meet him and for her to visit again - it's been a really long time. M and I are going home at Christmas but it'll be nice to have Heather all to ourselves for some one on one time for a few days. Can't wait for that.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

3 week update

Tomorrow marks 3 weeks ago that I showed up at my agencies care center in Addis Ababa and picked up my son. Hard to believe it's only been 3 weeks. So much has happened. So much has changed. Life has changed completely for both of us.

I feel an obligation to be real and honest about our transition - especially as a single mom who has many other single ladies visiting my blog from time to time who are considering adopting as a single.

I knew it would be hard but until you're in the midst of it - you don't know in what ways it'll be hard. For some, hard looks like illness or sensory issues or problems attaching. While others, it's lack of sleep or any number of things. It looks different for everyone, and you don't really know how much your life is really, truly going to change until it does. And with any huge life change, it's hard to adjust - even when it's a good thing. We get set in our ways. We have our own selfish traditions or favorite tv shows or things we like to do. And then it's all different. And while it comes with it's own set of blessings and new traditions and moments, that doesn't mean you don't mourn the loss of what had become familiar. I think that's the best way to describe my first 2 weeks - mourning the loss of life as I knew it.

He's been doing better than I would have dreamed. He's had his moments for sure but overall, he's adjusting super well. But it has been harder for me than I thought it would be. I felt pretty defeated by that fact the first 2 weeks because I thought I'd be more joyful and love every moment. I felt honestly quite guilty for the way I was feeling. Thankfully I have amazing friends and other adoptive families to talk with who assured me this is very normal and it will get better. I know this is the hardest part and that makes me hopeful. And I do love this little man so very much so it's definitely worth it. But as a 36 year old single, independent woman, I have been faced with my own selfishness big time these past 3 weeks. I didn't even realize how much free time I had or how much I would miss things like being able to take a shower, watch my favorite tv shows and be able to sleep in my own bed (oh how I can't wait until I can do that again), or meet a friend for coffee or even just have a phone conversation lasting more than 30 seconds. In my hopes for this process, I guess I just didn't quite picture it without me having any space. Once he begins sleeping on his own, that'll definitely get better. And even now, I do manage to slip out during nap times and have some much needed down time. That 1-2 hours a day is a Godsend. It's amazing how much you can get done in 2 hours! Ha ha

I hope that those reading this are not thinking I'm complaining, I'm really not. I'm just trying to be real. I feel like I owe it to future single adoptive moms to be real. I want you to know that it's worth it and I wouldn't change it for the world but it's still hard. And it's still a huge life change. You won't know how you'll react to it or feel about it until it happens. I prepared as much as I could. But you just don't know until you're there.

This week has been a huge improvement for me. I think it's just all starting to feel more normal for me too. More familiar and we have some things established now. Lots of work to go for sure but there's a familiarity between us. I feel like I know this little person now and can anticipate meltdown times and try to cut them off before they happen. I feel like I have come up with ways that work for him to establish boundaries and am trying to be consistent, even when I'm tired. I've tried to be more playful and come up with creative fun ways to entertain him. He's learning more and more to venture out, play with toys, dance & sing, play with other kids. I'm learning to cram a whole lot into a short amount of free time and to reach out to people and ask them to get together. It is very lonely and isolating those first few weeks. It's been so great to have so many people to lean on and just even come over and sit with us and just have another adult present. Oh how I treasure that adult interaction.

For Mihretu and I, the biggest challenges and areas of prayer right now are as follows:
1) Because he has attached to me so well (which is a Godsend btw) it means that he freaks out when I leave the room. He has to start school in 2 weeks so my dear friend Merrill who went with me to get him in Ethiopia is coming over a few times between now and then to practice having mommy leave and come back so that he can hopefully begin to understand that I always come back. I'm so thankful for her willingness to help with this. She's the only other person besides me that he's comfy with right now so I thought that'd be a great place to start. Praying that goes well and that his transition to school would go good as well. He starts Dec 3 and I'm still technically on leave that week in case I need to pick him up early or anything. If he does really well (praying so), I'll go ahead and go into work but it'll be nice to have that flexibility if I need to go get him since I'll still have some vacation days left.
2) The dog - he's warming up - especially outside - I think it's because it's a wide open space. Sometimes even in the house he seems to be warmed up to her but then all of a sudden he's acting terrified again. It's pretty inconsistent and it definitely has added a level of difficulty for me trying to rangle the dog and care for her while also trying to keep her away from him in moments when he's scared. He's definitely making progress though so it's a huge praise.
3) Spitting, biting, pinching and hitting - we are making progress but this is still a big thing with him. Whenever he doesn't get his way or is frustrated, he will do one or more of these things. I've noticed he's doing it more and more when we are in public and it's harder to do a time out so I hope I can come up with a good time out option that works for public places. At home, this area has really improved and the time outs are working. He has to say sorry (yeekerta in amharic:) and the amount of time it takes for him to say it has become less and less. I've also noticed when I say no - about half of the time, he stops what he's doing and actually listens. This is huge progress. I'm sure all of the boundaries we are trying to set will become much easier over time as he understands more and more English. He's already understanding quite a bit and I've been amazed at how well we communicate with the little english he knows, the little amharic I know and lots of hand gestures and acting things out, pointing and head nodding. Truly amazing really.
4) Sleeping - I would LOVE for him to be sleeping in his own bed soon. Right now, we're on an air mattress in his room. One day we tried getting him to nap in his bed and he seriously melted down. I know it was too soon so we scrapped that plan. But it will be really nice once he finally does. In the meantime, I'm extremely thankful that he sleeps through the night and takes naps. He's been a lot more resistant to nap times this week - not sure why - but today he acted upset about me turning the light off so I left it on. That seemed to do the trick because he didn't fuss near as much and fell fast asleep. We can leave the light on. Mommy is learning to be flexible too:)
5) He's clumsy. He fell the other night and scared mommy half to death. He hit the back of his head super hard on the hardwood floor. Poor little guy. It was awful and he didn't want ice on it either - he wasn't happy with me about that. I ended taking him to the doctor to get checked out the next day because he had a meltdown mid-day and started holding his head like it hurt and then cried so hard he threw up. I didn't know if it was related or not and didn't want to take a chance. It wasn't, thank God. Doctor said he was fine. He was over-tired and didn't want a nap, had a total meltdown and cried so hard he made himself throw up. Nevertheless, glad for a doctors office who got us right in to ease a worried moms mind. Today, he bumped his head on the chair in my room while playing on the floor. He likes to climb on things and is all boy - it just makes me nervous. Especially after his hard fall the other night.

Thanks for praying for us. I can feel the prayers and I'm so thankful.

Gotta run - my little many just woke up:)

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Our first grocery store visit on Tuesday

Our first doctor visit Tuesday evening
Thursday morning - we visited everyone at mommy's office

Thursday - we went to the playground at the Nashville Zoo. He loved it!!!

Thursday afternoon nap - Mihretu gets ready for sleeping. So cute!!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Proud momma - my boy is doing great!

Mihretu is doing amazing. Since the major meltdown on Monday, I am happy to report that all meltdowns since have been brief and minor in comparison. Praise Jesus.

Tomorrow will be one week since we got home. Wow - only a week and so much has happened. He's come so far already. My sweet, smart boy.

Yesterday was a good day. We woke up at 5 am after going to bed the night before at 7pm. Getting more adjusted to time zone. Mihretu loves shoes. He even wants them on at night and during naps. The only time he wants them off is in the tub. Chamas - shoes - is a word he says a lot. So cute!!! I talking him into wearing slippers to bed last night instead of tennis shoes. I told them they were bedtime shoes and I put on my slippers. This made him excited and want to put them on. I think these slippers are much better for sleeping than tennis shoes so I'm glad he was up for it. In the mornings, he's been waking up smiling at me and touching my face and then giving me a kiss. What a sweet snuggly boy. Then he sits up and points to the door - he wants to go to the bathroom where he proceeds to get a drink of water with his toothbrush cup. Yesterday, we then took a bath, got dressed, let the dog (woosha) outside, and we ate oatmeal and applesauce. He has now decided he wants blueberries in his oatmeal like mommy. Still no rasberries. But he likes the blueberries. After breakfast, we then went for a walk with the dog. As of yesterday, he's riding in the stroller and I'm able to also walk the dog. This is awesome and much easier on mommy than carrying him in the ergo since he's almost 30 lbs. YAY - victories!!! Throughout the day, there were several baths, lots of dirty diapers, one time going on the potty, several changes of clothes, lots of hand washing and putting things in their place, M helping mommy with laundry, playing with puzzles and legos, swinging in the little tikes swing hanging from the tree, exploring the backyard and another walk in the afternoon. Merrill came over around 4 to bring dog treats and batteries for M's activity table that plays music. Then we went to Green Hills for our first doctor appointment. The docs office schedules new patient appointments last in the day so it was scheduled for 5pm. They called on our way and said they were running behind. I needed some things at Trader Joe's so I decided since we were over there - why not? I'm a proud momma. Mihretu did awesome in the van and his car seat. He did awesome in Trader Joe's sitting in the cart smiling and looking around, never once trying to get out of the cart or never crying or anything. Granted - I'm a power shopper and we were in and out in 15 minutes. But still - he did so great. He was just checking everything out. The only moment where he got mad was when mommy wouldn't give him the whole bag of cheese puffs in the car. He got over it quickly and ate the handfull I gave him in his car seat cup holder thingy. At the doctor - he did awesome. He even let me take his shoes off to get on the scale, let the nurse move him over to the measuring height area and let the doctor pick him up and put him on the table to look in his ears, eyes, throat, listen to his chest and examine him. Didn't cry at all. Wow - that was definitely a great first outing. We came home and grabbed something to eat and then it was time for bed.

We went to bed at 8 pm last night without a fuss by the way. We have a new routine where we get in our pjs and I put down the air mattress on the floor. I'm sleeping in his room with him since he's freaked out without me right now. Instead of having him in my bed, I thought sleeping in there would make for a good transition to his own bed when the time comes. It's not the most comfy thing but it works. And he squirms and moves a lot in his sleep so a regular bed would not be a good bet anyway. I wouldn't want him falling out. His toddler bed has a railing so once he's in that, we should be good to go. In the meantime, he snuggles up with mommy. So after pj's, we sit on the rocking chair and read 3 books. Then I say "taga" which is sleep and he lays down on the mattress and mommy covers him up and then lays next to him. He kisses my cheek and smiles and then lays there quietly until we both fall asleep. Cutest thing ever. This morning, he woke up at 6:15 am which was great. If we can do 8pm bedtime, up at 6ish am, 12 noon nap for 2 hours - that will be a perfect schedule to continue with once he's in preschool and mommy goes back to work.

He has some control issues when it comes to food which is pretty common with children who've come from orphanages. Especially ones where they may not have gotten their bellies filled when they were hungry. My boy loves to eat. And he can eat a lot. This morning, he didn't eat all his breakfast - we left it on the table and did our morning routine of bath and getting dressed and then going for a walk. So after our walk - we came back in the house and he saw his oatmeal and wanted to eat it. Fine with me - he didn't care if it was cold and it hadn't been sitting out long - so why not? While he was eating it - he pointed toward the sink. Usually this means he's done and wants to rinse his bowl. I proceeded to pick him up and carry him to the sink to do so. Oh no - this is not what he wanted at all. He threw a fit, threw his bowl on the floor and went into a full on screaming/body flailing fit. Mommy misunderstood what he wanted. And since we have a language barrier and my Amharic is limited - it gets tricky. I took him to his room and sat him down and said "Tell mommy what you want bud. Use your words (I'm turning into Karyn Purvis - you adoptive moms will understand that reference). He's still crying and I start using the little Amharic I know. Bella is food so I said that and he stopped crying and shook his head yes. I said "show me" and reached for his hand. He lead me out into the kitchen and pointed to the microwave. Turns out - he wasn't pointing to the sink. He was pointing to the microwave. That's pretty much my source of cooking lately since amazing people have brought us meals - I've just been heating it up in the microwave. He was basically telling me he wanted more. Whew. Crisis averted. Boy calmed. Mommy realizing food is a trigger. We'll learn from that one for sure. All in all - it was solved in less than 2 minutes. That's a victory for sure.

Around 11 am we went back to the doctor to drop off M's stool sample to test for parasites. Pretty sure he has some. Most Ethiopian kiddos do. I think Giardia - not sure how you spell that - but I hear that's the common one. He did great in the car and we only ran in to the doc for a second. Came back home and a friend brought some food over and some toys for M. We ate lunch and then it was nap time. We read 4 books this time. He tried for 5 but mommy said no, we're done, time for nap. Sure enough - he laid down and got ready for nap. Gave mommy a kiss on the cheek and a cute smile and I snuggled up next to him and we both fell asleep. He's still sleeping and I got up shortly after to pay some bills online and pick up the house a bit. And write this blog.

Love my sweet boy. So very proud of him. He's doing so amazing. I'm going to go online and try to find fun things to do - maybe library kids music hour or something. Might take him to the YMCA to see how he likes the pool. I imagine he'll love it. I also have a zoo membership so we'll probably go there soon. Will start integrating some playtime with other kids and most likely will attempt to go to church this weekend. We shall see how it goes. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Celebrating victories

I wish I could write down every single thing.
I wish I had more time to blog.
I wish y'all could see how smart and curious and fun my son is.

I also wish we were past the hard stuff - like him being afraid of the dog and his terrible meltdowns where he scratches mommy's face, tries to bite and hit me. Those are not the fun moments. But those are the realities of adoption. Thank God those are things I knew might come so I'm at least somewhat prepared. Although in the moment, when he's screaming and throwing his little body around and trying to hurt mommy - all I can do is just be with him and pray. Lots of praying. Lots of asking God to heal his little heart. He's never had one person focused on him who would meet his needs and stick around. He's been in orphanages with lots of kids and limited nannies. He's probably had days where his little tummy was hungry and didn't get fed. I know there were times when his diaper was dirty and he didn't get changed. My sweet boy has experienced trauma and we're in the midst of building trust and trying to work through it. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't hard. It is. But I will tell you with 100% certainty - I am absolutely honored to be his mom. And I will absolutely gladly walk through this with him, even if he bites and kicks and scratches my face. Even if I have some crying sobbing meltdowns myself. If you catch me in one of those moments - don't worry - I'm not thinking I made a mistake or wishing I hadn't done this. Yes, I'm tired and yes those moments are hard. That's parenting, right? Yes - hard but no I'm not regretting any of this. He's hurting and I'm his mommy and I want to help him through it. I can't control what happened before he came home but I can do my darndest to make sure he learns that mommy loves him and I'm not leaving and over time, he'll begin to understand that. And healing will begin to take place. For now, it's one day and one moment at a time. And we celebrate the victories along the way. There are so many victories and I am so thankful for those. So thankful that overall, considering everything - my son is doing amazingly. He really is. I love him so much. He's such a precious, smart, curious, amazing, snuggly little boy.

Here are some of the many victories:

• Snuggles - he loves to snuggle and hug mommy. This morning he woke up next to me and hugged my neck and kissed my cheek. Seriously - melt mommy's heart. :)
• He loves to take baths - we're averaging about 4 per day. He is so happy in the tub, playing with the foam letters and washing his body with the soap that he reaches out his hand for mommy to squirt in every few minutes.
• He is a good sleeper. He was on a great schedule in Ethiopia - nap for around 2 hours at noonish and then go to bed between 7 and 8 pm and sleep 10-12 hours. Holy cow - that's a great sleeper. We are WAY out of whack here because of time zones but he's still sleeping a lot - just at weird times. Like this morning, when we were up at 2:30am. Yeah, I'm a bit thrown off on time too:) YAY for parental leave and no place to be for awhile.
• He loves to eat - he eats about the same size bowl of oatmeal in the morning with me, plus a banana and applesauce. He has eaten 6 bananas since yesterday afternoon. He loves them. He very rarely turns his nose up at something - he'll eat almost anything. Including dog treats - he put one of those in his mouth today. Yuck;)
• This one amazes me - he has gone on the potty 4 times since yesterday. He's got a pretty upset tummy - pretty sure when we go to the doctor tomorrow, we'll find out he has a parasite which is pretty much the norm for Ethiopian kiddos. So it's a noisy process when he has to go potty. He tells me "kaka mommy". Sorry if I'm getting too graphic. If you're a parent - you know - bathroom and diapers and potty are big deals:) So he told me he had to go and sure enough - I sat him on the kid potty thingy that sits on top of the regular seat and he went. I was shocked. He's pretty much brilliant!!! My smart boy, already starting to potty train.
• He LOVES to put things in their proper place. For the fact that we speak a different language, we communicate really well. I learned a lot of Amharic words and he talks a lot with body language. The adorable eyebrow raise up and down is like a yes. No is a shoulder shrug or shaking the head no. When he wants something he points to it. Almost always when he says something, I can figure out what he's trying to tell me. Anyway, so he dumped out a bunch of toys and then didn't want to leave the room until we picked them all up. But not just picked up - he wanted them in their proper place so every single toy he looked at me and with his ways of communicating asked me where it went. We ended up separating 3 bins of toys into 3 categories as mommy directed.
• Puzzles - people gave me a few puzzles which are actually pretty advanced. Probably not the type of puzzles you start doing puzzles on. One has textures and shapes and low and behold - today he looked at the octagon with the pink textured top in his hand, looked at the puzzle board and figured out which one matched. He then proceeded to pretty much do that with all of them - from square to triangle to diamond to oval and so on. I was impressed. He is so smart.
• We have a changing pad that you can travel with and it's super easy to fold up and velcro shut. He loves to help me put it away and once I showed him the shelf it goes on - he absolutely wants to make sure it gets put there everytime we use it. He loves things to be where they go.
• He thinks it's fun to rinse all his dishes in the sink after he eats. I put the step stool in front of the sink. He climbs up there and rinses everything just like he saw mommy doing and then he climbs down and puts them in the dishwasher. He loves to help.
• He's still not ready to be too close to the dog but we're making progress. He thinks it's fun to throw treats to her over the baby gate.
• Huge victory - yesterday he wanted down in the backyard to walk around while holding mommy's hand. And the reason that's huge is because the woosha (dog) was running around the yard too. Auty would run right by us but not too close - she's so smart - she knows he's afraid of her. If she got really close, he'd want me to pick him up. But otherwise, he was fine to be down while she was running around. This is a big victory. So is the fact that I can now walk Auty while I'm carrying Mihretu in the ergo. This morning, he even wanted down on the walk. Wow!!! Huge progress. Can't wait till they are best buds.
• He loves to wash his hands and brush his teeth. The first time I handed him his toothbrush, he went to it like he'd done it a million times. I'm glad I got babyganics organic toothpaste without flouride cause he's brushing his teeth a lot. He also washes his hand a lot. We are getting lots of use out of this little step stool in the bathroom. We are spending a lot of our day in the bathroom between baths, potty, washing hands and brushing teeth.
• He is already learning words in English. Like "up" when he wants to be picked up. And "thank you" when I give him something. I always say those to him so he's picking it up quick. He also says "hello" in the cutest amharic accent. And there's nothing that beats the way he says "mommy, I love you". Melt my heart.
• When someone calls - like my mom or dad or cousin or anyone - he likes to get on the phone and talk to them in his adorable cute voice. I think we need to skype some friends soon:)
• He loves to be covered in baby lotion. He also wants some in his hands to rub it on himself. It's a process after each bath. This kid is the cleanest, best smelling kid on the planet right now:)

Those are just a few of the hundreds of fun things we get to experience everyday. LOVE LOVE LOVE this kiddo. And I'm gonna love him through the hard stuff as well as all the fun stuff. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

We are HOME

My friend and I got on a plane last Friday afternoon. We made it to Ethiopia late Saturday. On Sunday morning, we got up and got ready to go meet Mihretu's grandmother. I'm not going to post details about  his story or what all she told us because it's his story and I want to keep it private but... I will say that it was a complete honor and blessing to meet her. She spoke a blessing over me and I know that it was sacred that time I had with her to be able to ask questions and find out about my son's story. This will be incredibly helpful to him when he grows up and begins asking about his birth family. So thankful I had that chance. 

After we left there, we ate a quick lunch and then headed onto the care center to get my boy. After almost 3 months, it was so surreal to walk in there knowing I was leaving with him forever. He looked confused for a few minutes but quickly warmed up and was in mommy's arms. We hung out there for a few hours before we left with him and we decided to come back the next day for a final goodbye after our Embassy appointment. Mihretu was super curious in the car and seemed quite content to be strapped to mommy in the Ergo baby carrier. That thing is a life saver (and back saver too). We headed back to the guest house where we had dinner. My boy did so great - he ate dinner in a big boy chair with his own kid bowl and silverware the guest house provided and even wore his Baby Bjorn bib I brought him. He loves to eat and isn't picky - he ate carrots, chicken, potatoes and almost anything we put in front of him. He wants mommy to hold him all the time and I'm so thankful for that connection. I gave him a bath in the guest house sink and he LOVED it so much. Cutest thing ever. My boy loves to play in the water. He got out without a fuss when I grabbed the towel and then I got him dressed and ready for bed. He likes to go in the carrier on my back at bed time. He was fast asleep in 10 minutes and I layed him down on the bed where he slept for 10 hours. Holy cow - what a good sleeper!!! I slept next to him but really didn't sleep much. I kept staring at him - hard to believe he was finally there next to me. Sunday night, after I was in bed, my friend Megin and her husband arrived. They were there in August for court and we both were adopting kiddos who came from the same orphanage. Our kids grew up together there and then got transferred to our agencies care center at the same time. They are buddies - Mihretu and Sitota who is now 3 years old and super cute!!! Their process took over 2 years but what a joy to be able to be there at the same time and have our kiddos transition one more time together. 

Monday morning was our embassy appointment at 9am. It was super quick and very different than what I would have pictured. I was so overjoyed when they handed me his documents and told me I was good to go - I about lost it in the lobby in front of the 100 or so people. Still so surreal. He came along in the ergo and fell asleep in the car. We went back to the care center to say goodbye. It was kind of emotional - even in only 3 months of being there, the nannies were already really attached to him. One looked like she was gonna cry. He went to her but after hugging on her, reached his arms back for me. This is a huge thing - that he would still want me even over the nannies. Very unusual - it's usually the opposite. I am a thankful momma. He didn't cry at all when we left - seemed happy to go for another car ride. And Sitota's parents were there too so they rode with us back to the care center. Mihretu and Sitota got to leave together. Very neat. We went back to the guest house and had another lovely dinner where my big boy sat up at the table like a pro and so did his buddy at the other side of the table with her mommy and daddy. Mihretu is so cute with such a big personality - he makes funny faces and loves to be the center of attention. He loves to snuggle and be close to mommy. And he's just a fun little guy. I can't wait for everyone to get to see his personality. Love him soooo much!!!! 

We played at the guest house and got another bath and then mommy put him on her back in the ergo and he was asleep again. He slept 12 hours this night. I went to bed soon after he did and thankfully I slept 11 hours. After several nights of practically no sleep at all - a good nights sleep made all the difference. 

Tuesday, we stayed at the guest house all day. Sitota's mommy and daddy had Embassy and some other things to do so we were there by ourselves. Merrill got to take a nap while Mihretu and I played outside. We played in the front courtyard with the stroller that Sitota's parents left for us to try out. He loved being pushed around in it. When Sitota got back - the two of them were so cute running around shouting out high pitched Amharic words to each other in the front courtyard. Adorable!!!! He's got a lot of energy and I certainly got a workout in that day chasing him around, walking him up and down the stairs in tow. He's an active little guy. I just can't believe how well he's doing - he just goes with the flow and hardly even acted like anything was outside the norm. He did have a few afternoon overtired meltdowns. I've already learned the different cries and I have seen the over tired one a lot - especially in the last 48 hours with all the crazy travel we just did. Whew. 

Speaking of which, I'm going to end here so I can wake him up. His little body thinks it's nighttime and he's already taken a crazy long nap. I know he needs sleep so I let him sleep for quite awhile but I think I better go wake him so he will want to sleep tonight. Oh jet lag - good times. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Leaving on a jet plane

I got word at 2:23 am on Tuesday morning that I was cleared by the Embassy in Addis to go get my son. Later that morning, I heard back about my appointment day - it's scheduled for Monday, October 29th. By Tuesday afternoon, my flight was booked and so was my lodging.

I get on a plane tomorrow. I will be in Ethiopia by Saturday evening.

I will be picking my son up FOREVER on Sunday!!!! THIS Sunday. Holy cow - I don't even think it has fully sunk in yet. Tomorrow morning when I say goodbye to my dog and head to the airport - the reality is that next time I see her in less than a week - I'll be coming home with a new family member. Whoa!!!!

By next Thursday, November 1st - I will be arriving back on US soil with my son in my arms. My friends will be waiting at the airport to welcome us home. Wow! It's really happening.

I believed this day would come. But during all those months of waiting... many months of waiting and no progress being made at all... in those months, it felt like it would never come. But I held onto faith that it would. And now, 15 months later - it's here. It's really here. My life is about to change forever. I'm about to be a mom to the cutest little boy in the whole wide world!!!!

Right now, I am:
  • Thankful. 
  • Overjoyed.
  • Praising Jesus.
  • Counting down the hours.
  • Excited. 
  • Ready.
  • A little nervous.
  • Giddy.
  • Glad I have been preparing.
  • Unsure exactly what to expect.
  • Trusting God will be with me.
  • Ready to wrap Mihretu up in my arms and tell him I'm not leaving.
  • Reminded of all the miracles God worked to get me here. 
  • Thankful for the people who've been on this journey alongside of me. 
  • Praying.
  • Praising. 
  • Smiling. 
  • Thanking God.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Happens After the Welcome Home

Ok, so I've read some really great blogs about this but I wanted to write one myself to make it more personal and so my friends and family who haven't gone to all the adoption conferences and read all the books and blogs about attachment that I have will understand what I'm doing and hopefully won't just think I'm a crazy off-my-rocker new mom that's being paranoid and weird. ha ha

Seriously though, a lot of what adoptive parents do, especially in the first few months, will sound very contrary to the first few months with a biological child. With a bio kid, everyone and their brother comes to the hospital or to your house and everyone takes turns holding the baby. It's just natural - people want to hold precious little ones. I get that. And with a biological child, that's great. But what I've come to understand is that with adopted kids, pretty much everything that seems natural and normal is out the window.

To really understand why, you almost have to put yourself in the shoes of the child. So let's do so by looking at the glorious trip home with mommy from my child's perspective.
My sweet precious 3 year old is about to have his very own mommy and while he seemed to love and attach well to mommy when I saw him several months ago, the reality is: I'm about to go take him out of his comfort zone and turn his whole entire world upside down. I'm about to take him away from all the caregivers he's used to and is probably pretty attached to, away from all the kids he sees and plays with daily, away from all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and really every single thing he knows. We're going to get on an airplane for 17 hours surrounded by strangers. We're going to a totally different country where nothing at all all is familiar or reassuring. Add to that the fact that this new mommy is going to be speaking a language he does not understand and he will soon be surrounded by a whole slew of people he does not understand. This child does not know that any part of this is a good thing or the beginning of a beautiful story. All he knows is that this new world is unfamiliar and scary. On top of that, take into account the loss he's already experienced in his young life to have even been adoptable in the first place. At the age of 3, my sweet boy has been through unfathomable hurt and loss.

All of this is why the first few months with mommy are going to be crucial. Especially in the area of attachment. Attachment is tricky and thank God there are great resources nowadays on it (thank you Karyn Purvis for writing The Connected Child). Children from orphanages have had many caregivers, so when multiple adults try to hold them and give them physical affection or act in a caregiver type role in their new environment, they can easily become confused about who to bond with. This is why I'm asking that you don't try to hold, hug, kiss or give physical affection to him for a few months. It is not personal or mean. It may seem extreme but there is a lot of research about this and trust me when I say - this is crucial to create an attachment between Mihretu and I. And once we have a healthy attachment, it will make it easier for him to have healthy relationships with other people. This no affection thing is not forever but please, please, please honor this for the first few months. It really is best for Mihretu.

For the first few weeks, we probably won't be going much of anywhere and most likely won't be having people over and if we do - it'll likely be brief visits. A lot of it will depend on Mihretu. During these few weeks, we will be establishing a calm, stable environment. We need time to adjust to one another and for Mihretu to adjust to his new surroundings and begin to understand that I'm his mommy and I'm here to meet his needs. With the language barrier alone, we're going to need time to learn how to communicate with one another. Dr. Karyn Purvis talks often about giving children a voice. So many kids from hard places have not had a voice. They've cried and no one came. They've had needs and oftentimes, those needs weren't met. The first few months especially will be about teaching Mihretu that I will be there, that I will meet his needs. So when he cries - I'm going to come running. When he needs me, I'll be there. I need to be the one who gives him a bath, tucks him in to bed, rocks him, feeds him, holds him. It's so key to this whole process that he recognize me as his caregiver. Because he didn't have this kind of care or attachment up to this point, there may be a lot of things that resemble caring for a newborn. These are all things that are highly encouraged by experts on adoption. For instance, I will be holding him alot, rocking him to sleep, most likely carrying him in my Ergo baby carrier (Lord help my back), they even recommend giving toddlers drinks out of a bottle type container that you can give them while they are laying in the usual position a baby would be in your arms while taking a bottle. Doing so helps with eye contact, nurturing and bonding. He may end up sleeping in the same room or same bed as me. All of these things I've mentioned help create attachment and bonding and establish to Mihretu that I'm his caregiver. I don't know how healthy the relationship with him and past caregivers has been so in being there immediately whenever he needs me, I will be establishing that regardless of his previous caregiver history - mommy is reliable and constant and will meet his needs. This is huge!!! This is where major healing can begin to happen for my sweet boy.

I am so thankful for the community of support I've had thus far. I have seen what the body of Christ should look like. I have experienced an outpouring of love, prayers, support and generosity during this whole process unlike anything I've ever experienced before. It has truly been humbling and awe inspiring. You have all already done so much to help me get my son home. And in the way you've supported me - I have experienced God in a whole new way. It really has felt like it's taken a village to get my son home and I know it'll take a village to raise him up as well. I am thankful for my village of people:). This whole process of adoption has been hard but at the same time - pretty awesome really. Someone I met the other day that had adopted in the past and found out I was doing it as a single said "it must be hard to do it alone" and I didn't even hesitate with my answer. I said "honestly, I don't feel alone AT ALL!" I am so thankful for that. So thankful for my village. And that's why having you understand all this attachment stuff is so important to me and so crucial in these next few weeks and months. The more understanding and support I can have from those around me - the better for me and for my precious child. I really appreciate you even taking the time to read this blog so that you can understand the things that will best help Mihretu adjust and attach. 

For other ways you can help support me in this journey, I highly recommend reading this blog by Jen Hatmaker. http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2011/11/02/how-to-be-the-village Scroll down to the part where it says "Supporting Families After The Airport" - I couldn't have said it better myself so I didn't try:)

Mihretu is 3 and a half and there's a lot that I have missed in his life. But if I focus on the beauty of adoption and the fact that God has adopted us into his family and that he is a God who restores and redeems - I have so much hope and excitement for things to come. Instead of focusing on what I've missed, I choose to focus on the time I get to have with my sweet boy. I choose to focus on what God wants to do in me and in my son. I look forward to learning who God created Mihretu to be, what his little personality is like, what he likes and doesn't like, what makes him come alive. I'm honored that God would choose me to be this little guys mom. I pray that He will equip me everyday to live and care for this precious child in a manner that is worthy of this calling.

"And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten…." 

(Joel 2:25 AV).


If you have any question about any of this attachment stuff - I highly recommend The Connected Child book or checking out the Empowered to Connect website and watching some of their great videos. Some of the video links I recommend that address these things I've talked about specifically are here: http://empoweredtoconnect.org/should-i-parent-my-adopted-child-differently-than-birth-children/

and a series of 8 videos about What Every Adoptive Parent Should know is found here: http://empoweredtoconnect.org/what-every-adoptive-parent-should-know/

The best email ever

Last night at 2:23 am, I got the long-awaited email that said in the subject header: Case is cleared; request for visa interview. I hit reply to request my first 3 choices of appointment. By the time I woke up at 7:20 am - I had word that I got my first choice. My visa appointment is next Monday, Oct 29th at 9am in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This is really happening!!!!!

Travel agent is working on flights. We leave Friday sometime and we'll probably get to Addis late Saturday night. I'll get to see my sweet boy this weekend on Sunday!!!!!! And then Monday we'll have our final appointment to get his visa and everything needed to fly home Wednesday night.

Overjoyed is an understatement. I will be arriving on US soil next week with my son!!!

Today is the exact 15 months since the day I first met him. Praise the Lord - he has fulfilled this desire of my heart.

"I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him." ~ 1 Samuel 1:27

If anyone feels led to make one last donation toward me bringing my son home, you still can. Any funds donated that are not used toward this return trip will go toward all of his medical tests once he gets here. He'll be getting a lot of blood work, parasite tests and a full medical exam soon after arriving which I just found out can be several thousand dollars. If you wish to contribute toward our travel or his medical costs, you may do from the donate tab.

Friday, October 19, 2012

15 months

This past week has been a whirlwind. So I did get the email from the Embassy on Monday morning saying I was successfully submitted and I did sell my car Monday afternoon. I was beyond thrilled about the embassy and selling the car was bittersweet - you know why if you read my last post. But God is in the details - get this: the people who bought the car were buying it for their adopted daughter who is about to go to college. And if that alone wasn't cool enough - I bought the car the year they adopted her. And as I was signing over the title and said the date aloud - the mom said "it's October 15th today?" to which I said "yup" and she said "that's the date we adopted our daughter". Well there ya have it - total awesome God thing!!!! I'm not gonna lie I teared up as the dad drove away in what had been my reliable car for the past 11 years. But at the same time, I was excited about who would be driving it and really excited that selling it signified me moving into a new season. A season of mommy-hood.

So this week was very active in my adoption process. Here's what it looked like:

Monday morning when I woke up at 2:40 am to check my email I saw that the long awaited Embassy Submission email had arrived at 12:33 am. It read: Dear Kerr Family, Congratulations! Your adoption case has been submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia....   Praise the Lord!!!! Hard to go back to sleep after reading this good news.

Tuesday morning when I woke up at 5 am, I saw that an email my agency said could take a week was there telling me my portion of the approval process was done and approved and that they would next move on to my son's paperwork, checking for inconsistencies, interviewing guardians or birth family or anyone involved in the case.

Wednesday morning at 8:09 am, I got an email from the Embassy requesting my agency bring in a birth relative to interview. My agency wrote me shortly after and told me they reply to that email with a date and usually the embassy responds saying they are booked that day and then they set a date for 2-3 weeks out. I replied to that email with this "well, I'm going to pray that they miraculously have an opening next week to do the interview". My agency suggested Monday morning and...

Thursday morning, I woke up to an email saying:  the embassy came back with "we're full Monday. Your appointment is at 7:30 am on Tuesday". Not 2-3 weeks later - the very next day from the requested appointment - next week!!! Praise the Lord - this is huge. I am hoping and praying that this will be the final step needed to get the most glorious email of ALL - the one that says Ms. Kerr - you are cleared and may come get your child!!!!!!! Praying that it will happen next week.

If it does - I will be on a plane probably as early as next weekend. Once I get word - the travel is going to happen fast. So I'm in logistics and preparation think-of-anything-at-all-you-should-get-done-beforehand mode right now. And I'm stinkin excited. Like I can't even describe how excited!!!

I just realized tonight that Tuesday, October 23rd - the day of the relative interview is EXACTLY 15 months from the day I met Mihretu. Praying it's a day of favor and blessing and movement!!! Please pray with me that the interview would indeed happen as scheduled with no delay or problems whatsoever and that it will be sufficient to satisfy what the Embassy needs in order to clear my case and that after that interview is finished, I would be cleared to go get my son.

Thank you for praying. I hope my next post is the one we've all been waiting 15 months for:)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

From one season into another

It's getting closer. I can feel it. My agency has the additional document the Embassy requested and they are hoping to submit me tomorrow. So by the time I wake up in the morning, I "should" have an email saying I've been submitted. And I will be jumping for joy!!! From there, there's no defined time frame but we know someone who got clearance to come pick up their child in less than 2 weeks after submission so I'm hopeful that I could still have my son home before the end of October. His bag is packed and mine can be packed super quickly once I get word. I'm ready to go.

In the meantime, there are a few things I'm finishing up with - a few projects at work that I need to do before I'm on parental leave. About 180 thank you cards to write and mail (I'm almost half way done with that) and then there's my car that I need to sell. If you read my blog a few entries ago, you'll recall that my friends surprised me with a several thousand dollar check about a month ago - a check toward me getting a minivan. Providence Auto Group hooked me up with a great deal and I am now a proud owner of a 2002 Chrysler Town & Country minivan with (my favorite part) sliding doors and a rear door that open with the press of a button!!! LOVE it. The first day I bought it, I made use of the space by emptying my shed of all the glass and plastic recyclables I've been saving for several years and returned them to the recycling place. That was a good feeling - and one of the things on my list of things to do before Mihretu comes home. The second week I had it, myself and 6 other Visiting Orphans staffers piled in and I drove us down to Atlanta for the Catalyst Leadership conference. All that to say - I love my new minivan and I'm so happy that I have it.

But... for some strange reason - I've been having a hard time letting go of my car. I bought it new back when I worked at an ad agency in Michigan - I worked on Chevy retail advertising and we got a supplier discount so I got a discounted price on a brand new 2002 Chevy Cavalier. I got it at the end of 2001 since the new models come out the fall before the model year. That car was with me when I went through a heartbreak back in early 2002. It was with me when I packed up a 20ft moving truck, took a leap of faith and moved to Nashville in August of 2002 without a job lined up and without a single friend in Nashville (one of the best decisions I ever made btw). That car was with me on many road trips back and forth to Michigan to go home and visit family, through road trips to Florida, through all the years of singing in a band and loading her full of gear. She was with me through a move back to Michigan in 2006 and 3 months later when I realized that wasn't where I was supposed to be and moved back to Nashville, bought a house and decided to lay down some more permanent roots. She was with me through a lot of things. She was reliable. She was great on gas and she was finally fully paid off in 2006 - exactly one month before I bought my house. She's been a really good car. And while I LOVE my minivan and know it's time to sell my car, there's something really sentimental about the whole thing. It's like an outward visual representation reminding me that I'm heading into a new season. I know that life is about to change and I'm so excited to enter into this new season. I am so excited and so ready to finally be a mom!!! But I think it's good to reminisce and even be sentimental about the season I'm moving out of. It's been a good season. God has done so many things in my life and in me.

I'm not the girl I was when I bought that Chevy Cavalier in 2001. And I'm so thankful. I'm thankful for the journey and thankful for all the Lord has taught me through every tear, every transition, every celebration and every lesson. He is faithful. When I moved to Nashville in 2002 without a job or a friend, God provided a job and led me to my first ever church home and church family. A church family that I still get to do life with, praise the Lord! When I lost my job in 2009 because the company closed - He was my faithful provider and led me to Visiting Orphans doing something I love and am incredibly passionate about! During this adoption, He's been my provider, my rock, my shelter and my strong tower. As much as I wanted this process to be quick and easy and as much as I would have loved to have Mihretu home months ago, I recognize God at work in the waiting. He's taught me so much during this process. There are so many ups and downs and delays and snags and potential discouragements and moments when it looks like all hope is lost - and yet, I knew God called me to this and I could not deny the connection I had with one very precious little boy from Ethiopia. You do not have control when you are adopting. In fact, it's so obvious that you can't control really much of anything in this whole process that all you can do is cry out to Jesus and hold tight to Him. I've never prayed like I've prayed during this. I've never trusted quite so fully as I have during this. I've never held on quite so tightly as I have in this. And I can see the beauty in all of that. I can see God working it all together for good. Maybe even especially in the ups and downs. I've gotten to experience God in a new way. And though it's been my favorite bible verse for many years now, James 1:2-4 has taken on even more meaning through this season:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Faith is tested in those moments where things don't seem to be happening and you start to question whether you really heard from God. It's in the moments when nothing in the natural looks like the promise God gave you - those are the moments when you really have to decide what you believe and you really have to hold tight to the last thing you know that you know that you know God told you. Because in the months where you don't feel like you're hearing anything - those are the things you hold onto. That's when you really start to understand what faith really is. What a season it has been. What a God we serve. He is faithful when we are faithless. He is everything we need exactly when we need it. 

My friend is helping me sell my car and several people are interested. Someone is coming to look at it tomorrow. Maybe it'll even get sold tomorrow on the same day that I am submitted for Embassy which would actually be a pretty cool way for it to happen. I pray that whoever does buy her will experience God in new ways during this next season and have as many great memories as I have with that trusty ole Chevy:) When I say goodbye to her, I will be a little bit sad - I'm not gonna lie. But I'm also going to rejoice because of the new season I am heading into as I am just one month away from my 37th birthday and hopefully only a few weeks away from being a mom. I've wanted to be a mom since I can remember. I not only get to be "a" mom but I get to be the mom of the cutest little 3 year old boy I've ever met. He has so much personality and I only got to see a little bit of it in the week I spent with him. I get the honor of getting to be his forever mommy and getting to see who God made him to be every single day. I am SO excited. I already love him so much my heart feels like it is overflowing. I can only imagine how much more that love will grow as I get to share life with this precious child. 

Thank you Jesus for deeming me worthy of this calling. May you equip me every day of my life to be exactly the kind of mom you want me to be and Mihretu needs me to be. Amen!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

God is in the details

Waiting is hard. Delays are hard. Not being with my sweet boy is hard. But.... in the midst of waiting and being away from him, I'm reminded of all the miracles God has already worked. I'm reminded that everyday gets me one day closer to having him home. God is bigger than all of this. He's in the details. Details like how, after a year, things finally moved with his paperwork right at the exact time that I was going to be in Africa and therefore, I was able to visit my sweet boy at my agencies care center and have an interview with the judge and pass court! That was all a true miracle - God's timing is perfect. Details like how well he connected with me and attached to me (and praying that continues even moreso when I go back to get him). So much to be thankful for.

I'm so thankful for all the support of so many people, including our Visiting Orphans staff who is fasting sweets with me until I get word that Mihretu is coming home. I'm thankful for all the other friends and family who have been and will continue to pray, for all the generous people who've supported this adoption financially and with encouragement and prayers.

I'm also thankful for the other adopting families who post pictures and videos of my sweet boy on our agencies sharing site. Yesterday, I watched the cutest video I've ever seen of my adorable boy playing ball with one of the dads and another boy. Mihretu had such a huge smile on his face and was just so cute. It warms my heart to see him smiling. That makes the waiting a little tiny bit less hard because at least I know he's ok and he's being loved on and played with and cared for. So thankful for that. Here are a few frame grabs I took from the video. Can this kid get any cuter? Just when I think he can't, he does. I cannot wait to get him home. He's got such a fun little personality and we are just going to have so much fun together. My heart is overflowing with love for him. I can only imagine how much more that will deepen once he's here. Once I get word that I can go - believe you me - the world will know because I will be jumping for joy and updating my blog, facebook and shouting it from the rooftops. So excited for that day. Soon. Soon.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Empowered to Connect

This weekend, I attended the Empowered to Connect Conference here in Nashville. For two days, I learned about brain function and what chemicals the body releases when a baby is nurtured and loved and their needs are met. I also learned about what happens when those needs aren't met and how devastating that is for kids from hard places. Even in the most loving orphanage, it's still not the kind of nurturing a child will get from his very own momma. To be held and stared at for hours a day. To cry and know someone is coming to meet their needs. To feel safe, to feel precious, to feel loved unconditionally. To know he'll be fed and his diaper changed. To know he has this person(s) who is always there for them. My sweet boy hasn't had that. He hasn't had consistency. I'm pretty sure there have been days when his little tummy has been hungry and his needs haven't been met. The rest of what he's been through - I may never know. But I know he has experienced much loss and hurt in his young life and that alone is enough to make any momma just want to lock herself in a room and sob for days. But you can't stay in that place. You have to move into the place of hope. And that's what this conference was all about. It equipped me with knowledge and understanding and tools for how to bring healing in my sweet boys body, soul and spirit. I truly hope that the things I learned will stick with me in moments when my knee jerk reaction could be frustration and instead turn it into compassion. Compassion for an innocent child who isn't intentionally acting out or being defiant but a child who has been in survival mode for a long time and didn't have the nurturing he needed. Dr. Karyn Purvis talked about giving our children a voice, letting them know they're precious and that they are safe and can trust us. While that is a huge responsibility that could be overwhelming, I just found myself wanting even more to get my boy home so we can begin the journey toward healing.

There's so many unknowns and so much info. I don't know what specific things will be a struggle for him. But I know that whatever it is, there are resources out there to help me so I can help him. I am beginning a journey with my son. And I feel so honored to be the one who gets to be on this journey with him. I know there will be many hard days ahead but I also know that I don't have to go it alone. I am so thankful for that. I've been thinking so much lately about all the families who adopted 20 years ago and didn't have all the resources we have today. I feel so blessed by conferences like this one and books about attachment and adoption and how to help our children heal. I'm thankful for other adoptive families willing to be transparent and real about their struggles. I'm thankful for a support network and most of all for a father in heaven who demonstrated exactly what adoption looks like when he adopted us!!!

My prayer is that Mihretu would know that I'm his safe place and that the connection we already have would continue to grow stronger every day and that the Lord would give me wisdom and compassion and patience and kindness and gentleness with this precious child He has entrusted to me.

Lord empower me to love my child well and to parent him in a manner worthy of this which you have called me to. Equip me with every tool that I need and all wisdom from above to be exactly what Mihretu needs me to be. Help me to be a very real example to him of what love is and who you are. Thank you in advance for this gift and for the honor of being this precious child's mom. Lord please be in all the details needed to bring him home soon so we can begin this journey together.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. ~ James 1: 5

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. ~ James 3:17-18

Saturday, September 15, 2012

And the winner of the "Season of Thanks" painting is...

IMG 2329 from Autumn Kerr on Vimeo.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed toward me bringing my son home. I will be eternally grateful!

I apologize for the sideways video - not sure how to fix that:) 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Blessed beyond my comprehension

So I've been completely blown away by the generosity of friends, family and strangers alike. God is using boatloads of people from everywhere to get this sweet son of mine home. God has been on this from the beginning. After losing my job a few years ago and seeing how faithfully God provided during that season, provision is just not something I generally stress about. Some people have emailed me and asked how in the world I would raise that much money. I didn't know but I knew God did. And here we are, a little over a year later and He has totally provided in some really neat creative and fun ways. There were periods of long waiting and no news from my agency because nothing was happening with paperwork. But with the financial side of things - before I've even needed money for the next due date, it was there. I know this is all God because I haven't done anything worthy of any of this. But God loves Mihretu even more than I do and He's making it very clear to this momma that He is that sweet boys Abba Father and He WILL move heaven and earth to get this boy to his forever home. I also know that He will continue to provide for him and our family once he's home. There is so much peace and comfort in that. Especially as a single momma.

At this moment, between a generous ShowHope grant and lots of donations, sales from my blog store, yard sale and concert funds, I'm at just over $29,000 toward my adoption. It's abundantly more than I could have asked or imagined. I am thankful. So thankful.

And then on top of all that - the "but wait there's more" moment comes. No it's not an infomercial - it's crazy awesome mind blowing sweet friends who are still blessing me - this time in a way I would have never even thought of!!!

This was my facebook status last night:
Ridiculously blessed by a surprise tonight in which my small group informed me that an anonymous donor gave a large amount of money toward me getting a more reliable vehicle for when I bring my sweet boy home. Then my small group friends asked other people who knew me if they would be willing to match the donation and a bunch of other people donated on top of that to go toward it. I was completely shocked and surprised. Never saw that coming. I already feel so incredibly blessed by all the support for my adoption costs. Never in a million years would I ever dream of anyone donating above and beyond for a vehicle. It's all anonymous so I have no idea who to thank but you know who you are - a HUGE THANK YOU!!! I am a bit in shock but incredibly touched and completely surprised. Wow.

Yeah - wow is really the only word for that!!! This just feels different than the donations for the adoption. This feels more personal and more like a gift for me. First of all, I LOVE minivans and everyone who knows me well knows that. (No, I am not joking btw.) I am often known to say the words "if I had a minivan..." followed by statements such as "we could use it to take a staff road trip" or "I could totally fit all of these yard sale items in it". The Honda Odyssey in particular has a special spot in my heart. I drove one many times while babysitting for some sweet girls whose family owns one. Love, love, love it! Stow and go seats, push button sliding doors when you're carrying heavy groceries, room for all your friends and getting to ride high up - yeah, what's not to love!!! Minivans are so practical and I'm a practical girl. But to me, wanting one just feels like a desire. Not a need per say although of course it is a great family vehicle and it will be easier for getting a toddler in and out and probably safer than my current car. But because I love minivans so much - it really feels like that feeling some people might have about getting to indulge in an awesome vacation. I know - you're laughing at me right now cause not too many people in this world would feel that excited about a minivan. But I do. And so that's why this feels so much different, so much more like a gift for me. If I'm being honest, I much prefer being the giver than the receiver. But I can see God teaching me and showing me that He wants to bless His kids with gifts and He cares about the things that we love and want. I am completely in awe that my friends would want to donate EVEN MORE money on top of all the money they've already given to the adoption to help me get a minivan. I mean, seriously - I have the best friends in the whole world and you should have seen how excited they were about it. There truly is so much joy in blessing people with good gifts. I love being on that side of it. And while it feels a little strange on this side of it - I'm seeing such a neat glimpse of God's love and how the body of Christ is to care for one another in all of this. We are the church. And all of this - what a story to tell Mihretu as he's growing up! "Look what God has done to get you home, to bless you and your mommy and to provide for your family sweet boy!" No detail of our lives is too small for God. I'm still letting all of this sink in - still kind of shocked at the whole thing. I really would have never imagined. But God did. He's the best dad ever!!!


By definition Perseverance is: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, o...