Saturday, December 28, 2013

The most frustrating part about being a parent is ME

Some days, I suck as a mom. I'm trying SO hard y'all to be patient and grace-filled and kind and patient and a non-yeller. But no sooner than I think "Wow, we had a good day yesterday - maybe this is becoming more natural for me" do I lose my cool while trying to cut little man's hair in the kitchen and he won't hold still during the crucial shaping around the edges with the electric thingy and I feel like he's in his own little head bobbing world while I kindly ask him 10 times to hold still so I don't mess up or accidentally cut him. These moments when it's like he doesn't even hear me and I repeat myself too many times - those are the moments when I go from 0 to crazy by time #10 of hearing myself say the same thing. Confession time: I yelled at him. He cried. I felt awful and immediately said I was sorry. He recovered quickly. I finished his hair and got him in the shower so I could have a moment to chill out. Whew.

The most frustrating part about being a parent is ME! My reactions that seem to come out of nowhere. Even when I am trying SO SO SO hard to be nice and patient and calm. I struggle so much with this. I want to overcome it. I need to know how. I read books and blogs and I have hope that it can happen. I have friends who may not always remain patient (who does?) but they don't resort to yelling or losing it with their kids. They seem to have a lot more self control than me.

This is a hard job. And I'm doing the best I can but I want to do better. I want Mihretu to have better than mommy losing my cool and making him cry.

I've always been a huge believer in counseling and even though I really can't afford it financially, I am going to start going soon and just finding a way because clearly my buttons are being pushed. Which means I have a lot of buttons to push. Which means a lot of junk is getting stirred up.

I want to be the best mom I can be. I believe I can. I just have to get there. One day, one moment at a time. Deep breaths. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mini me

I am daily amazed at how much my son is like me.

He says the things I say which seems pretty normal cause I'm sure most kids pick up things their parents say and do. But he even has similar humor and habits and preferences. All of these things just makes me more in awe of God and how He knows what He's doing and how He brought Mihretu and I together.

This past week we had our friends and their 3 kids staying with us - Mihretu and their oldest boy who is also from Ethiopia instantly became best buds and had a total blast playing together. It was so much fun having them. One day Mihretu and I came home after I picked him up from school and we walked in the door. One of the big rugs was in a different spot. I hadn't even noticed yet cause we were literally barely in the door. Shoes and coat still on. Katie says hi to Mihretu and I don't even think he answered. He saw that rug and without a pause at all, he walked over and picked it up and moved it back to its proper place saying "it doesn't go here, it goes here". Katie was cracking up. She immediately said "oh Autumn - he is so your son!"

The next morning as we were about to leave for school, I found him in his room gathering up some pillows that Katie moved from the rocking chair in my room to his room bed cause she had laid her little guy down on there and didn't want him to roll off. When I asked him what he was doing and why he wasn't coming since we needed to leave for school, he informed me that he had the pillows back first, they didn't go there. I smiled and said "thank you so much for being such a big helper and wanting to put those back but I think Auntie Katie might use them again so let's just leave them there for now. We can put stuff back later." And he said ok and went on his way.

This morning we were about to brush our teeth and he said "book - teeth - tega" (not sure how to spell that) - that's our bedtime routine for night and tega is the Amharic word for bedtime/sleep that we began using when he first came home (and I'm pretty sure I've been pronouncing it and spelling it wrong ever since but he figured out what I meant pretty quickly - in real life, I think it's tenya but we still say tega). Anyway we have just kept it in our 3 word bedtime routine list that we say every night. So he said it this morning and before I could even say anything - he said "I'm just kidding mommy - it's not bedtime!" and gave me a little smile. He's so funny. That's totally something I would say to him.

He doesn't like to go to bed if his room isn't picked up. Yeah, I get that.

His favorite things to do are cleaning, vacuuming, playing card & board games and watching movies. Yeah, me too.

He loves to say "just kidding" - I remember my mom teasing me as a kid cause I said it so much. I still say it quite a bit which of course is where he picked it up from. But it's so cute when he says it. He now says it for me if I joke with him - before I can say - he says "just kidding mommy - you funny!"

He restocks the toilet paper supply under the bathroom sink without prompting. He loves doing this.

Anytime I take the trash out in the kitchen, he disappears for a minute or two and returns with the bathroom little trash and my bedroom trash to also take out at the same time.

These are all things he initiated doing.

He loves to quote and act out scenes from movies. My whole Kerr side of the family does this. I can say a line from a movie and he'll tell me what movie it's from. Our quite often he'll say a line from a movie at a random time. Like the other night when we're laying in bed trying to sleep and he gives me a hug and says "I choose you Aladdin". He cracks me up.

And then there was this on Sunday - he climbed up on the bay window to sing us a song but then got back down and said "I need microphone" and wouldn't continue until he had the microphone that I eventually had to help him find in his room. Once he had it - he put on this little concert.

Yes, he's a lot like his momma - when I was a kid and now. He makes me laugh daily and never ceases to amaze me with the things he says and does. He's just such an awesome little guy. We have so much fun together. I am so thankful that God chose me to be his momma!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tis the season to be.... overwhelmed

We're not traveling this year at Christmas and it's a good thing because even so, I feel like I'm about to go insane! I'm exaggerating, of course. But seriously the holidays are crazy busy. And I'm not even doing half the stuff other families are - which I'm ok with - but still - I'm often overwhelmed.

Taking my son to see the lights at Opryland was overwhelming. I have these ideas in my head of how magical it will be and it never really pans out how I pictured. Like the time a few weeks ago when we went to the Lighting of the Green outdoor concert at Lipscomb that I went to multiple years in a row before I had Mihretu and thought it would be the most magical Christmas thing to take him to and he wouldn't sit still and poked, prodded and annoyingly violated my face with his little hands while not sitting still at all on my lap and crying because he didn't have water, even though he just had a huge cup of hot cocoa and cookies. We left after song #3 cause mommy was frustrated and not enjoying the concert at all. And he clearly wasn't enjoying it or could care less about the lovely carols coming from the stage. We won't be going next year.

And we've seen the Opryland lights now so we won't be doing that again either. It wasn't that bad but M likes to run ahead and he tried to jump into the revolving door by himself even though I told him to wait for me and I about had a heart attack thinking he was going to get his fingers pinched or chopped off in there. I managed to run and jump in there with him. Thank goodness my friend was holding the stroller. He likes to ride the escalator so I had our friend hold the stroller then too so I could take him up and down once only he didn't want to hold my hand and thought it would be fun to walk backwards on it or sit down on it even though the end was nearing and again - I was picturing his coat getting stuck at the top or bottom and him getting badly hurt or falling off the thing. We couldn't just ride it normally. Oh no. So then he got in trouble and I had to physically make him stand up. And that is always fun. He likes to grunt or growl at me when I tell him not to do something when we are in public and make this grumpy "you can't tell me what to do" face. Sometimes he yells out "you bad - YOU in trouble mommy" with that grumpy hateful expression on his face. Open spaces and public places are not friends of mine right now. It's harder to wrangle your kid and try to attempt discipline or manners or staying close by because there's no time out chair and sometimes I've got things in my hands and have a hard time chasing after him. And then I just get downright mad and miserable and very often - sweaty. That's no fun for anyone - well, at least not for me and Mihretu. And I don't want to get that way. And I know it's possible not to because I have friends who just seem to manage it all with ease, even if their kids aren't exactly cooperating - they don't seem so frustrated and overwhelmed as me. Maybe it gets easier with time. It probably does. I mean, it is easier than it was last year when he first came home. Maybe I just need some couch time - you know, some therapy! Seriously, I think I do. In the meantime, I just think for now, because I know what settings overwhelm me, it might be better to avoid or majorly limit those settings from our schedule and life. Mihretu is happier when mommy is happy so it seems to be a good idea.

And then there's other things that are fun and awesome but that when they are all in a row right after each other - also get overwhelming. Mostly the pre-planning of each thing. Cause the parties and events will be super fun when they happen so I'm excited about them - I just need to get the details beforehand done so I can get to the fun part. I'm going to try to knock a bunch out today.

I just made a store list cause I'm throwing a baby shower on Sunday and need to get the food for the meal (already got the gifts and decor), I have a holiday party to go to on Monday night and you need to bring a $10 gift to exchange with the adults plus a book for the kids to exchange plus a snack of some kind and then Tuesday, I'm hosting our office holiday party at my house and I need to get all the food for that plus a $15 gift for the exchange and then on Thursday, Mihretu has to bring a homemade craft to school for his school gift exchange and I have to figure out a craft we can make together for that, plus I somehow picked this same week to be in charge of bringing snacks for his class. The neighbors asked me to petsit at Christmas and I felt like I was going to have a panic attack just thinking about it so I said no because I just knew I'd be too overwhelmed and in turn it would affect my time with Mihretu and I don't want to be grumpy or stressed. I feel bad not doing it but am learning that I just have to say no sometimes.

I also say no to things that are around nap time. If Mihretu doesn't have a nap, he's a mess. A whiny, everything is upsetting, overly dramatic mess. And again, that's no fun for him or me. So when we go to visit people in other states or people come to visit us - I plan our days around naps and I will very rarely make an exception. I think some people think I'm too uptight. I probably am. But I know how frustrated and overwhelmed I'll get if he hasn't had a nap and starts showing it. And I know based on the fact that he shows it that he really does still need a nap. So we rarely skip naps. It's just not worth it. So I don't care if people think it's crazy to plan your life around nap time or bed time. That's how I roll because that's part of keeping things smooth and therefore as not overwhelming as possible.

And speaking of not overwhelming, I'm heading to the grocery store right now during the day while M is at school and I'm on lunch break to get some of the items knocked off my list without a child with me.

Ahhhhh, tis the season. I'm doing what I need to do to make it all come together and trying to take deep breaths and stay calm:) Hope you are too!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Our New Bedtime Routine

We just finished up our evening round of games which included Sequence for Kids, Snap and Dominos. It's his favorite thing to do lately. Also on the list: Go Fish, Memory, War, Rummy and Bingo - all part of an 8 game Toy Story themed game set. We've been playing morning and night for like 3 weeks. I like games but I've started limiting the evening to 2 or 3 instead of all of them cause I'm getting kind of gamed out:) Oh and hide n seek - he loves that one too. I try to work a show or bath or both in there just to break it up. My brain is kind of fried after a full day at work so I can only do so many games. It is pretty neat to watch him playing though and see how much he loves it and gets excited about it. When some family were in town - it was neat watching him play with them too - he just gets so proud and acts like such a big boy. It's sweet and a little bit sad cause he's growing up so fast.

Mihretu's thing lately is to hug me and say "I miss you - I haven't seen you in a really long long time" which is pretty cute and sweet, even though he says it on days when I've seen him for several days in a row. Ha ha I'll take the extra snuggles and sweetness any day though.

I posted on facebook about a week ago and asked for some advice from other moms - adoptive and otherwise - just because we were having an ongoing issue at bedtime. Mihretu still sleeps with me and no matter how much I try to convince him to sleep in his room, he's just not ready to be alone period. So he sleeps with me. I'm kind of used to it now, even though he is a huge bed hog and I often get woken up multiple times in the night by little feet in my ribs. A body pillow I bought to put in between has really been a huge help though.

Anyway, so the frustration at bedtime is that Mihretu has been over the top with the physical touch - and not in a snuggly sweet way but in a "I'm going to poke and prod mommy's face and mess with her eyebrows, lips and mouth in the most annoying invasive way possible" sort of way. Seriously, I have felt like I might all out lose my mind a few times it was so over the top. I've tried nicely telling him to stop. I've tried ignoring it. I've even lost my cool quite a number of times and yelled. None of those things worked. Telling him I didn't like it and wanted him to stop made him do it more and think it was pretty funny to get mommy worked up and annoyed. Yelling didn't work either - when does it ever? It only makes me mad at myself for losing my cool and letting it get to me. Anyway, I was desperate for ideas and had finally come to the conclusion that it wasn't good to ignore it and let him keep doing that. I finally realized it wasn't mean to not let him do it - it wasn't doing him any favors by letting it go on - he needs to learn to respect people's privacy and not do things that make people uncomfortable. I finally realized this was not a physical affection adoption thing or anything that would mess up our attachment by stopping - it was something I needed to set some major boundaries with. I was so appreciative of all the great feedback I got online and that night I calmly decided to take some of the advice and put it into practice.

It wasn't always just at bedtime either. That very night we had been at the Lighting of the Green Christmas concert outdoors at Lipscomb University where Amy Grant and others sing and they light the big tree. Well, as he was sitting on my lap and we were listening to the show - he started doing the face touching, poking, prodding thing and basically driving me crazy. I ended up getting so frustrated that we just left - we got there early to get a good spot and ended up leaving only 3 songs in cause he wouldn't sit still and he was touching my face over the top. Public places are always harder anyway. So we left and came home. I posted the status and started getting feedback about things to do. And right before bed, I'm standing in the kitchen and here comes little man behind me while I'm standing at the counter and he starts poking me in the bottom very annoyingly and inappropriately. I told him to stop. He laughed and did it harder. I said calmly "if you poke mommy's bottom again, I will put you in time out". He didn't take me seriously and he ended up right in time out. Our time out is a little kid size chair in his bedroom next to his bed. I carried him in there and sat him in the chair and told him to stay there until I came back. I said "I'm going to finish opening the mail and then I'll come get you". As soon as I walked out of the room, I could hear him get up. I said "you better sit back in the chair until I come get you or you are not reading bedtime stories at bed". He knows I'm serious cause he has lost bedtime books many times. So then he got back in the chair but started crying. I never close the door but I do leave the room. At first, I didn't leave the room cause of some of the stuff they talked about at adoption conferences and doing time in but I will tell ya what - time in didn't work at all for him. It only feels like he's in trouble for him if he has to sit there and mommy walks out of the room. He hates that. And it makes him listen next time I tell him something cause he doesn't want to sit in time out. Now, time out only consists of him sitting there for like a minute so don't go thinking it's like 10 minutes or anything crazy like that. It's very brief. Just long enough to get the point across. So I went in and got him out and he calmed down immediately when I said "ok you can get up, now it's time for bedtime books". He was relieved he still got to have books. And he did because he got back in the chair like I asked. I calmly said to him "Buddy, you got put in time out cause you were poking mommy in the bottom and I don't like that. And I don't like my face being touched all the time either. So from now on, if you touch mommy's face at bedtime, you'll have to go back in the time out chair." If I knew that was all it took - I would have done it a year ago! It worked beautifully. He almost touched my face a few times out of habit and stopped himself. I praised him for being such a good listener. And it's going on almost a week now without that being an issue. Sometimes he starts to do it and I remind him he will have to sit in time out if he doesn't respect mommy's space and that works. My goodness - bedtime is like 999% more enjoyable for me now and probably for him too since mommy isn't getting upset all the time. Praise the Lord! It's the little things people that will either drive you crazy or that you'll be so appreciative of when they go the way you hope.

So now we get to lay down and I ask him about his day at school - usually the things he remembers from the day are not the things he worked on but who got hurt or in trouble. It's pretty cute when he gets going telling me and then it sparks his memory and he remembers more and more things from the day. I love listening to him tell me all about it. And then he likes us both to get under the covers and hide from "sharks coming" as he likes to pretend. Under there, I put the indiglo light on my watch so we can see each other. Then like 20 seconds later, we both say "it's hot under here" and get out, done with that and ready for sleep. I say "Goodnight, I love you" most of the time and so now he says it before me. Then he gives me a kiss or hug and rolls over and falls asleep. I hope this keeps up. It is much better having him sleep with me when this is our bedtime routine versus him jumping all around, not holding still and mauling me half to death and driving my half crazy with face touching. Praise Jesus for this breakthrough!!!!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

One less orphan

It's Orphan Sunday. One year ago this week, there was one less orphan. I got to finally bring my son home. So thankful.

The time changed last night. Fall is in full swing here in Nashville and the colors of the trees are especially beautiful this year. Everything about this change in season reminds me of our first days as a family last year. It almost seems like it was years ago and yet, in other ways - seems like just yesterday when we were up at 2:30 am to start our day because of jet lag, when we had to communicate mostly by pointing and a few words I learned in Amharic, when each hour of the day seemed to last forever as we both struggled to adjust to this new normal, when overwhelmed looked like Mihretu scratching my face and trying to bite me, when he screamed anytime the dog got near, when he took 6 baths in a day, when we watched the movie Elf over and over cause he wanted to and that was the only sort of break I got, when sleep was very, very interrupted and Mihretu would freak out if I even started to walk to another room without him, when I was carrying him all the time and my back was killing me, when the Ergo was my best friend, when personal space was a thing of the past, when we were getting to know each other, when setting boundaries and trying to discipline pretty much backfired, when I felt completely lost as a mom but when thank the Lord every new day brought new mercy and new progress.

It's hard to believe it was only a year ago because it's so different now. So fun, so familiar, so silly, so light, so filled with joy. Both of us. I'm so much less stressed. He's so well adjusted. He's smart and his language development never ceases to amaze me. I can pretty much explain most anything to him now and he often says "oh, ok" like he understands it all. He makes me laugh. He's incredibly funny - he really has a great sense of humor. And he just has a way about him that makes everyone love him. He's such a ham. He loves people - I call him my social butterfly. The more people around, the more he hams it up. He's really a great kid. Now that I actually have learned what works and doesn't as far as discipline - he really does respond well. I often uses phrases like "try that again - use your words", "you don't talk to mommy like that. That's not nice". Most often, I have to gently remind him that if he doesn't listen, he will lose a privelege like one less book we read at bedtime or no movie that night. I've had to follow through on taking those things away on many occasions so he knows I'm serious and most often - the mention of it will cause him to rethink what he's up to. He hardly ever has to sit in the time out chair anymore. I think only once in the last 3 or 4 months actually.

It's amazing how much growth and development and change can happen in a year. It was hard at first and some moments still are (it is parenthood after all) but man, I wouldn't change it for anything. I cannot even fathom my life without this amazing blessing in it. I am a blessed momma, that's for sure!

Having a car accident earlier this week sure made me think about life and how much of a blessing it is. What a scary thing. I've replayed it in my mind 100 times since Monday. I am convinced that angels were in that car with us. My friend broke her wrist but other than that - we're all ok. Mihretu didn't even have a seatbelt mark or anything. Not even any soreness and believe me, I asked him a million times if his neck or his back or anything was sore. I'm still sore and it was determined by the xray at the chiropractor that I did have some whiplash but they are getting me taken care of and I already feel like I'm on the mend. Casi had her surgery and we are praying that she will have a quick healing and full recovery. Man, it could have been so much worse. I'm thankful we're all alive. I cannot even imagine how devastating that could have been. It brings me to tears everytime I think about it. When I went back by myself mid-week to get something out of the old van, seeing it again, all smashed up like that, I just lost it. I just sat in it for the longest time thanking God for protecting us. Life is fragile.

I love this life I have as a mom and a director of a non-profit organization and a member of an amazing church that I've called home for 11 years now and part of a community of the most amazing friends I could ever ask for - friends that are pouring into Mihretu's life more than I ever dreamed. I don't even think much about the fact that I'm doing this as a single mom because I'm not alone. I have a huge group of people who come alongside me. I have a supportive family who totally got behind my decision to adopt and love Mihretu to pieces. Super excited that my aunt, cousin and nephew are coming to visit in a few weeks. We are going to have so much fun. I can't wait for them to see how Mihretu is in his own environment and how much he's grown since even July.

I made Mihretu a little "journey to gotcha day" movie with videos from when we first met, when I went back a year later and then again when I went to get him. It's edited in imovie and is about 5 minutes long with 2 songs. He LOVES it and has asked to watch it over and over again since yesterday when I first showed it to him. We talk about him being from Ethiopia and celebrating one year with mommy all the time. I want him to grow up knowing his story so it'll be part of him and never a shock or bad thing. He gets so proud when he says "I'm from Ethiopia." I love that! I want to always celebrate where he came from.

What a journey we are on. I can't wait to see what the next year has in store.
Left photo taken about a year and a half ago. Right photo taken last month. What a difference!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gotcha Day and a new appreciation for life

Yesterday was our 1 year Gotcha Day and on our way to the pumpkin patch to celebrate with all Mihretu's Aunties from my work (Mihretu had no school because of conferences and we were taking a staff field day with him), we were in a car wreck. Me, Mihretu and my coworker friend Casi were in my minivan. The cars in front of us on our exit ramp stopped quite suddenly and I was talking to Casi telling a story and had turned my head for 2 seconds to look at her and by the time I looked back - the rear end of the car in front of me was literally right there. We slammed into the back of it, the airbags deployed and my van was totalled. I felt ok but was immediately concerned about Mihretu and Casi. Mihretu was crying but when I asked him if he was ok, he shook his head yes. Casi was calm but just said "I think my wrist is broken". I didn't feel anything (although my neck is quite sore today). I didn't even know if I actually got hit by the airbags at all. It all happened so fast. In a matter of seconds, we went from happy conversation to "oh my gosh - are we all ok? That was a hard hit! What do I need to do next?" mode. Talk about surreal. The car in front of me and the lady in front of her were all ok and very nice considering I caused the accident. The fireman came - they were super nice too and gave Mihretu a fireman hat. The police were super nice too. Casi was taken by the EMS to the hospital about 3 miles away. It was a pretty bad break - it will require surgery later this week on her wrist. Please pray for her healing. 

I'm almost 38 years old and I've never been in an accident. Casi hadn't been either. And poor Mihretu - only 4 years old and he's already been in one. He stopped crying right away and assured me he was ok - it just scared him. He wasn't hurt, thank the Lord. I hate that Casi got hurt but man, that could've been SO much worse. If I had my old Cavalier instead of this minivan, we might not be here right now. Just even thinking of what could have been brings me to tears. Life is so very fragile. I am more thankful than ever to have this sweet boy in my care so yesterdays Gotcha Day definitely gave me a whole new appreciation for my son and for life in general. Angels were no doubt watching over us. Thank you Jesus for your hand of protection! 

My minivan is considered a total loss. We hit hard.

Pictures from our Gotcha Day last year - Oct 28, 2012
Photoshoot from August by Rosemary Stanton Woods!

I love these pics in his Ethiopian outfit. My handsome boy!

My favorite picture of us! 

Being silly on the trampoline

My big boy decorating all the October birthday cards!

This little man is indeed going to Change The World as his shirt says:)

I love this one - he's imitating Moses from the Prince of Egypt movie.
He calls this stick his "Moses stick". 

I love his smile!
This was at the hospital yesterday when we went to visit Auntie Casi at the ER. He was such a brave boy and so well behaved all day as it took a long time to get the insurance and rental car stuff figured out and we never did make it to the pumpkin patch:( We are having a big celebration at our house on Saturday morning to celebrate Gotcha Day since our plans yesterday didn't work out. I have a feeling the celebration will be even more meaningful than ever after our ordeal yesterday. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Looking back

It was one year ago today that I got the email. The long-awaited email that said my case was cleared and I could schedule my visa appointment and come get my son! It was exactly 15 months from the day we first met when that email arrived. I wrote this blog post last year - oh the excitement of that day!!! Feels like it was just yesterday in some ways and in other ways, feels like my sweet boy has been home for longer than a year because he's adjusted so well and it just feels impossible that I ever did life without him.

Last week, I got this photo of him which is definitely the youngest photo I've ever seen of him. My friend adopted an older boy from the same orphanage and he found it in his stack of photos - he has no idea who gave it to him or when it's from. I'm so thankful to have it! What a treasure.
My baby boy! Oh how I wish I could have loved him
and kissed him and cared for him back then.

A few months ago a past volunteer at his orphanage sent me these next two ADORABLE photos! I can't even tell you how much it means to have photos of him from the first years before I got to bring him home. 

Pre-haircut - how cute is he?

LOVE this one. And now I know they did have a bathtub at the orphanage.
No wonder he wasn't afraid of baths and loved it so much. I can't get over the cuteness!

And then there was this - one of the most important moments of my life.
The moment I first picked up this sweet, snuggly little boy in an orphanage in Addis Ababa,
Ethiopia. I knew instantly that there was something very special about this moment.
So glad one of my teammates happened to capture it on camera! 

After I met him in July 2011 many of my coworkers visited his orphanage.
This is one of the photos taken by one of my coworkers during those
long months of waiting to get him home. 

A year later, I got to see him again and have court. And then I had to
leave without him - hardest thing I've ever done. Thank the Lord, I got to
come back for him 3.5 months later!
October 28, 2012 - Gotcha Day - the moment I walked into the care center
to pick up my boy knowing this time I didn't have to leave without him.
What a special day. I am beyond thankful!

Oh how I wonder what he was thinking as he looked at me here.
Maybe he remembered our 7 days together 3 months prior. Maybe he was thinking
"who is holding me now?". I don't know but I'm so glad he warmed up so quickly!

He looks so little and yet, this was only a year ago. 

First nap in mommy's care

First dinner together our first night!

First bath in mommy's care in the Ethiopia Guest House sink:)
Oh my cuteness!

Sweet, sweet firsts!

First bedtime together - being our silly selves!

First bedtime story time!
Our first morning together - our Embassy appointment day!

Good ole car rides without child car seats in Addis:) 
Our Embassy day! Waiting on our IAG representative
to take us to our appointment!

November 1, 2012 - Airport welcome home party in Nashville, TN
after a tiring 40 hours of travel time. Mihretu was sound asleep in the Ergo
when we arrived to greet our friends who were waiting for us.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Painting Prints

You can now order a print of this painting that I did entitled "Joy".

The prints are on flat canvas so you can easily put them in a frame. Of all the paintings I've done over the years, this one is my very favorite. I imagine that little girl on the tire swing is me and it's just that moment of pure joy. I have the original hanging in our dining room at home. Mihretu always says "mommy, that you?" and that makes me smile:)

Here's the link to purchase if you're interested.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A letter to my son

Dear Mihretu,
I am overflowing with joy this morning. The sun is shining and as I dropped you off at school, I carried you to the gate like I did in the photo below - that photo that was taken by a team member on the trip when I met you. That photo that was taken the first day we met - July 24, 2011. That day changed my life. You changed my life.

You are so much bigger now but I love to carry you like this and kiss your head and say "remember when you were little and I held you like this when I first met you in Ethiopia?" You smile. I don't think you actually remember that but I  know you what I'm talking about because we have the picture hanging at home and we talk about it a lot, about mommy holding you when you were "little". 

Oh Mihretu - my sweet boy - 1 month from tomorrow is our 1 year gotcha day anniversary (Oct 28) and you're growing up so fast. You're 3.5 inches taller than you were last October when I came to bring you home.

You are so smart and so independent. You are a good eater and will try most anything once. You like to make your own scrambled eggs, including cracking the eggs into the pan and not even getting shell in there - you're good at it. You think it's fun.

You love to climb up on the counter and scoop coffee into my little keurig insert, put the top on, put it into the machine, close the lid, put my cup under and push the button. And then you say "mommy, will you get the coffee creamer?" and you love to put that in for me too.

You're such a helper. I tried to do things for you early on but I've finally learned that it's who you are and that I need to let you help because it gives you joy and confidence. So you've become my little helper. You dump the laundry soap into the washer for me and you climb up on top of the dryer and I hand the dirty clothes to you and you throw them into the washer. When the load is done, you stand in front of the dryer and I hand the clothes out of the washer to you and you put them into the dryer. You love to fold washcloths and hand towels and you do it really carefully and perfectly. You love to be in charge of taking out the bathroom trash while I take out the kitchen one. You like to help me roll the trash bin out to the street. You love to get the ketchup, ranch or whatever condiment we're using out of the fridge and pour it onto my plate and yours all by yourself. You love to wash dishes.

You love to get my toothbrush and yours out of the cupboard and put toothpaste on them both. You still like me to help you brush your teeth though. And you still like to sleep with me and even in your sleep - you're constantly reaching out to touch me, making sure I'm close by. Sometime you move in your sleep and your head ends up on my stomach or chest or neck. The other night you climbed right on me and your face was pressed against mine with your breath in my eye. I shifted you around a bit for comfort but I think it's pretty sweet that you still like to be close to me. You're talking in sentences now. You are learning about the rules of driving because you pay attention from the back seat and ask my why I'm stopping everytime I'm at a light or behind a line of cars. You know that red means "stop", yellow means "slow down, get ready to stop" and green means "go". You get frustrated when it's green and I don't go immediately because another car is in my way. You like to ask why. You ask why a lot:) When we get on a certain road or highway - you recall when we went that way before. For instance, it's been quite a few months since swim lessons but every time we get on 440 to 65 South - you say "this is the way to swimming mommy. Mona, mommy!" Mona was your awesome swim teacher. You are now telling me about things you're doing at school. Not all the time but once in awhile you'll tell me all about your day and most of your focus is on what kids fell and got hurt that day or who got in trouble. You tell me when you have fallen or gotten hurt or got into trouble. You remember certain toys were given to you by certain people. Last Christmas Auntie Deb gave you a giraffe and everytime you pick it up you say "Auntie Deb - Giraffe". You love puzzles right now and are getting pretty good at doing them with only a little bit of help. I just got you a bunch of new ones - a little more complicated - but you're figuring it out so fast. You love when we read books at night. You like to say the "Polar Bear Polar Bear What do you hear?" book back to me after I read it to you. You have it memorized. It's so cute to hear you go through each page.

You like princess movies and princess stuff but you're very much all boy too - you think it's absolutely hilarious to say "poopy butt" over and over in all kinds of situations. You crack up the most at that kind of stuff. When you crack up, it makes me laugh too. We have a lot of fun together. When I'm being goofy - you smile and say "mommy - you silly". You like to recite lines and re-enact scenes from movies. You're really fascinated by babies. Whenever I hold a baby - you seem a little jealous but you don't make a big deal out of it. But you do come over to me immediately to see all about this baby I'm holding. You are so gentle and you touch their little hands and toes and check them out, commenting on how little they are. It's so cute how gentle you are with babies. You're also really gentle with dogs. You seem to like the bigger ones better than the small ones that bark alot. You still talk about our dog Auty a lot even though it's been several months since we surrendered her back to the animal rescue organization to find her a new home. You still pray for her and talk about how she would bark at coyotes and chase squirrels and bunnies. I miss her too buddy. We pray at meals and if we're with a group of people - you almost always initiate the prayer and will often lead it. When we visited your friend Sitota in Maine - you said the prayer every time and sang the "God our father" song and then listed all the things you were thankful for. I love hearing your list of things you're thankful for. Sometimes you just look around you and thank God for everything - food, water, ketchup, fork, place, napkin, mommy, table. Other times you add in the names of people you love - sometimes people come to your mind that we haven't seen in awhile and I smile because you thought of them. You now say "how about..." when you suggest we do something or want to pray for someone else. Like "how about Auntie Merrill?" "How bout Auntie Casi?" and on down the list of my coworker friends that he likes to pray for and talk about. You do so great with babysitters. Last weekend while mommy had work stuff on Saturday - you had 3 babysitters all in one day and you were so good for all of them. You are very social - you love to go to church and make your rounds to all the people you recognize. You find a few of the guys on staff at church that you think are fun and you always go up and say hi to them and give them a hug. Everyone loves you sweet boy. You bring so much joy to so many people. You're full of life and energy and excitement. You just bring joy with you every where you go. Now you have your occasional meltdowns but it's very rare now and mommy finally understands you enough to know what works and what doesn't and I've learned how to distract you when you're getting upset about something little so that you don't have a big meltdown about it. Distraction works so well with you. The Hatch family taught me about that. Especially in situations where you want control and didn't get it and are about to throw a fit because of it. I distract you with something fun and you forget about how you wanted to be the one to turn off the dvd player and we go on about our day without a meltdown at all. We are working on saying things with respect and how you don't get your way when you're bossy or disrespectful but you do get things you want when you ask nicely and say please. We are now to the point where I can say "try that again" and you know what I'm talking about and you ask instead of telling and you say it nicely with a please in there. You love going for walks in the neighborhood with your new plastic little tikes wagon. You liked riding in it with a snack for the trip until about a week ago - now you like to pull the wagon through the neighborhood.

You like to point out things and tell me they are "dangerous" like people riding motorcycles and kids trying to climb on things that are high up. When you describe something far away - you say "way, way back". It can be an airplane in the sky or when you're talking about how your friend Sitota lives far away - you say "way back". You love going to get Ethiopian food but you don't really like the spicy stuff anymore. You try it and say "too spicy mommy" and stick with the injera or the mild appetizer I now order for that reason. You like to play games on my phone and your favorite right now is Avokiddo where you get to put different hats and outfits on either a zebra, giraffe or sheep. You can have them blow bubbles, eat food, paint them different colors and you figured this all out in about two minutes the first time you played the game. You know how to take pictures on my phone and love talking to people on the phone too. You call everyone you like "my friend". Even relatives. I'll says something about Grandma and you'll say "my friend Grandma?" Too cute! You love water and are quite the swimmer. No floaties or anything - you can swim like a champ. You like to tell me what food items have sugar in them and the way you say "sugar" is so cute. It sounds like "sue-grrr". When I tell you no to certain foods because it has sugar in it - you seem to understand why and you don't press the issue. You say "oh, ok" (usually). You're almost the full length of the bathtub - you're growing at rapid speed my son. You are totally brilliant - the things you think of or remember or figure out. I really think God has a pretty big plan for you someday. I think you'll be a strong leader. You have leadership qualities for sure. You are like a sponge - you soak things up. You know almost all the letters of the alphabet when you see the letter and you can count to 10. You know blue, green, red, black, white, grey, yellow and orange. You can fully get yourself dressed and you even like to make sure your shoes match your outfit.

You notice everything. Like if I drop you off at school wearing my workout clothes and then am wearing a dress when I pick you up that afternoon - you always notice and not only do you notice but you say "mommy - i like your dress. Pretty." You're very complimentary and you notice beauty. You're always pointing out the oranges and reds in the sky at dusk and saying "look mommy - pretty". You love to point out the moon and airplanes. Whenever you see an airplane you talk about how you took an airplane from Ethiopia and to see Sitota. Whenever we talk about going to the beach you say "like with Sitota" and "what about Auntie Merrill?" We went to two different beaches so far - one in Maine with Sitota and one in Tennessee with Auntie Merrill. You're so smart kiddo! And although you never talk about any specific memories of Ethiopia, I wonder how much you remember from being there because you seem to remember so much here. I love how sometimes when we pull in the driveway to come home - you say "my home. I like home". And how sometimes you give me a big hug and kiss my cheek and say "I like mommy". I think that means even more than you saying "I love you too" when I tell you I love you. It makes my heart smile when you say you like me. I like you too little man. And I love you this much (arms as wide as they can go). You think that's fun and you like to say it back and show me how wide you can get your arms to go to. And you'll say "I love you way way way back mommy". Me too buddy, me too.

You are the most amazing kid ever! I am so thankful that you are my son and I get to be your mommy. I know it took me awhile to figure out this mommy thing and I haven't always been patient with you. I'm so glad you still like me anyway. And I'm so glad we get to have adventures and do life together. You make life so much more fun. My love for you is overflowing. I can't imagine life without you in it. 
- Love,

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Getting Through the Transition to Experience Joy

At church lately, the message is about renewing. The series starting out talking about wineskins. Not trying to put new wine into old wine skins - the old wine skins will break, they can't hold the new. Not trying to hold onto the old wine skins at all - which are often empty wine skins anyway. Today it was about transition and how there's that season - however long or short - we're in the in between. We often get stuck there - not sure we're ready to go forward but not totally sure we want to go back either. Sometimes we get paralyzed in this place. Sometimes we focus so much on looking back that we can't move forward. How often we romanticize the past - we look back and think about things that we miss. It's like the good ole days type of thinking - only in reality - sometimes we make them out to be better than they actually were at the time. Why do we do that? Honestly, I don't know except that where we've been is familiar. Where we are going is unknown and scary and exciting too - but still it's not clearly defined and that can be paralyzing at times.

As I got closer to bringing my son home - it was that "oh my gosh - my life is about to change more than I even know" feeling. It was excitement and a little bit of fear and here I go - I'm about to jump out of the airplane skydiving type of moment (not that I would totally know cause I have no desire to actually skydive:)  but, you know what I mean. I had spent a week in Ethiopia during court and my son was crying a lot, he was mad and throwing tantrums and kicking and couldn't decide what he wanted and nothing made him happy. It took me a few days to realize, thanks to another mom who was there, that he was not feeling well. I didn't know. I didn't know this child and his temperament. The nannies said he was fine. When I first met him a year earlier - those nannies told me he was ornery. I remember thinking "he just wants a family of his very own - I'd be ornery too". But a year later and a screaming, squirmy child who was not able to be pleased - those words replayed in my mind. It wasn't until this other mom who had done this before came to the care center and said - "he's acting like he's in pain (which I totally agreed) and you should just insist he go to the doctor". I didn't know I could even do that. So glad I did and she was there to suggest that - cause he certainly was sick with some sort of stomach bacterial infection and after a day on meds, he was like a different kid. But I tell ya - those first few days - I seriously was thinking "oh my gosh - I'm gonna have my hands full." It was this weird feeling of being overwhelmed and yet not for even a split second was I second guessing the decision. Honestly, looking back - all I can say is that God gave me such clarity about pursuing adoption of this child and all that it entailed - no matter how the journey turned out, no matter how ornery this child might turn out to be - there was no doubt in my mind that I was supposed to move forward. I just never looked back. It was a bit scary but I was determined. I was sure. No, I wasn't sure it would work out like I hoped. I knew at any time it could be halted and I could be told "you cannot adopt this child after all" but I also knew that if that happened - that God had another plan in mind. I'm so thankful that didn't happen cause that would have been devastating and I cannot imagine now a life without this little boy who is not ornery at all but who is funny and independent and helpful and affectionate and so full of life and joy.

The thing that shook me was not the process or the journey to becoming a mom or even the thought of bringing home a possibly ornery child:) - even though all of this process was filled with so many unknowns. Looking back, I'm surprised that it didn't scare me. Except that I know it was God who directed me. I know He orchestrated it for my team to even be there at that orphanage that day when I met my son. But the thing that took me by surprise in all of this was the emotions of becoming a mom once he was finally here. The things that got under my skin and about drove me crazy were things I thought I would love - like lots of affection and a child who wanted me close ALL THE TIME. I thought I would love that but at first - I resented it. I was so overwhelmed by it. I felt like my body was no longer my own. My life was certainly no longer my own. My house, my familiarity, my free time, my personal space, my comfortable great night of sleep - all had changed. I knew it was going to. I was even excited for it to change. But when it actually did - I was shocked at how awful and overwhelming it felt. And I felt horrible guilt for how I was feeling. I've heard so many moms talk about being so sad to go back to work after maternity leave. I was counting down the days. I literally felt like I could not handle being touched for one more second at times. I just never guessed this would be one of the biggest struggles I'd have. I thought I might have an ornery child or a child with rage or sensory issues or a whole slew of adoption attachment disorders. When I started to realize my child was mostly, from what I could tell, just having normal toddler type behavior for the most part and yet I was feeling so overwhelmed - I felt so awful about myself. "I'm so lucky and yet I'm struggling? What is wrong with me? What would I have done if I had brought home a child with severe issues? I'm struggling and my child is doing amazing? What in the world is wrong with me? I'm a horrible mom!" These are the things that went through my mind every day. These are the days when I started to romanticize the past, making it out in my mind to be far better than it actually was. Not that it was bad by any means. But I wanted to be a mom and during those months of waiting - it was hard being here and knowing my son was on the other side of the world. I wanted to be a mom - since I could remember. But in those first months, I started focusing so much on the past that I just kept replaying all the things I was missing now that I had this new responsibility - that I just felt so resentful. Not even necessarily of Mihretu himself but of the situation. I didn't feel like me at all. I'm usually an optimist. I felt like all I was doing is complaining. And honestly, I pretty much was. It was not the me I wanted to be. It totally sucked. I'm not going to lie. I didn't like that me but I couldn't seem to figure out how to stop being that me.

I don't really even know how it happened except that I knew that I had to be as transparent as possible with others, especially those close to me. I know the enemy would love to keep me feeling so inadequate and hopeless and negative and ashamed - that I wouldn't want anyone to know and would keep it all inside. But I've learned in life that the very things you don't really want people to know are the most important things to share - because there's freedom that comes when darkness is brought into the light. When people can know where you are and what you're going through and be praying with you and for you and speaking encouraging words to your soul - that's when healing comes. Those are the times when God speaks through those around you to say the things He's been saying to you all along, only you were so focused on the past and how hard the present transition is - that you can't even hear him. I'm so glad I knew to be real, to be honest and to share the darkest parts of my feelings with those around me. I seriously think that was a huge reason why I finally was able to crawl out of the pit. That and a video series bible study called Counseled by God. Our staff went through it a few months ago and we watched a video every week with a workbook and then spent 20-30 minutes in a spot by ourselves praying and asking God to speak to us and then journaling what we felt like He said. We would then come back together and read what God had said and it was so neat to hear how God spoke so uniquely to each one of us. Oh my goodness - this was life changing. It carved out time to be intentional to hear from God. And you know what - God spoke to me so clearly during these times. I started to hear him speak those encouragements to my heart instead of only being able to hear it through others around me who were speaking it to me. I started hearing directly from God what He had for me and who He created me to be and How much He loves me and Mihretu. He spoke to me with specific things about motherhood and specific struggles I was having. He spoke to me about work. He even spoke to me about the decision to surrender my dog back to the animal rescue agency. I remember the second to last session - I was just bawling and said "I don't know how I would have gotten through this season without this". I really don't. And it's not because it was some study - but it's because it was God himself speaking to my heart and guiding me back. Almost every single week - He said "I want you to experience joy". I hadn't experienced it in awhile. And I wanted my joy back.

Today is Sept 1st and I am happy to say that joy has returned. It's not every single second but it's becoming more and more the majority of what I'm feeling and experiencing in motherhood. As joy returns, patience and grace is increasing too. I'm being more silly with my son and we're laughing more. We're both coming alive even more.

We went through a transition - both of us. Life is completely different than it was 10 months ago when I got on an airplane to go bring my boy home. Motherhood is a gift, a huge blessing. But I had to get through a hard season of transition to come into the fullness of enjoying that blessing. And what I'm realizing now is - that's ok. It's part of our journey. I can't change the past but I can look forward to the future with excitement. I can take each day and choose joy in it.

Today, I am so thankful for this little person that God entrusted to me. I am so blessed. He brings laughter and joy to my life. He teaches me. And God is most certainly growing me through motherhood and all that it brings. I'm learning to let go of more of my selfishness. I'm learning to let go of trying to control things or worrying about what other people think. I believe everything in life is an opportunity to learn and grow. And in the process, to become more Christ-like. And that involves a constant process of dying to ourselves. I think that's why those first months of motherhood seemed so intense - cause I had a lot of me that still needed to die. And a whole lot more selfishness than I ever would have guessed. I'm thankful for the journey - even the hard parts - because that's what makes you stronger and more mature. And that's why my favorite scripture has been this one for quite some time now. I've still got a lot to learn but I want to always be willing to do the work, to embrace these new seasons so that I can be mature and complete - not lacking anything.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  -James 1: 2-5

Monday, August 19, 2013

What would I do differently if I knew what I know now?

I was talking to some girlfriends this weekend about my adoption and parenting journey as a single momma and it got me thinking - if I knew what I know now - 10 months in - what would I do differently? Here are a few things specifically regarding adoption related things in the first few weeks and some travel things. This is not a list of actual parenting things I would change - that would be a much, much longer list:) Maybe this short list of simple things that I'd do differently early on will help a new adoptive momma - single or not:)

1) I would just let him sleep in my room with me from Day 1. 
Instead I had this plan to hopefully transition him into his own bed as soon as possible - which involved us sleeping on the floor on an air mattress in his room from the first night we came home and for the first month or so after that. It then transitioned to me putting him in his bed once he was asleep but me still on the air mattress and yet every time he woke up (which was 4 or 5 times a night) - he'd climb back out of bed and back on the floor with me. And then that transitioned to me putting the air mattress away and then I was rocking him to sleep in the rocking chair every night which wasn't the most comfy for him or me and tended to take a while and be pretty frustrating and then put him into his bed once he was all the way asleep. And then I would go across the hall to my room and sleep and he'd wake up and come in with me like a few hours later. A few times I tried taking him back in his room and rocking him to sleep and putting him back in his bed but that took awhile and he'd still wake up again and come in with me anyway. It was a lot of interrupted sleep for both of us. I was very very very much wanting to sleep by myself again. But the reality is - it's not happening and I can't force it to happen. A few months back - my friends gave us a twin bed and frame and that helped a ton cause I could just lay down in bed with him until he was asleep and then slip out. I usually fell asleep too until like 12 or 1 am - then I'd get up and go in my room and then a few hours later - M would come in with me. Still pretty interrupted sleep.
It wasn't until our July trip to Michigan when we slept in the guest room at my mom's and aunt's houses that I finally just realized it was the best sleep I had had in months. And Mihretu too. And it was that aha lightbulb moment - "why the heck aren't we just doing this at home?" "Why am I trying so hard to transition him into his own room? It's not like he's still going to be sleeping with me in middle school (at least I hope not)!" And so when we got home from our trip, I asked him if he wanted to sleep in mommy's room and we started doing so ever since. It's working way better. I still miss sleeping by myself, I'm not gonna lie. My back hurts pretty much every day cause my little 4 year old moves a lot, takes up half the bed and usually it leaves me with a little sliver on the edge. I move him over often in the night if little feet are kicking my ribs or head but he usually ends up with an arm across my neck or a head on me or feet poking me somewhere. But it's still better sleep than we were getting.
If I got to start over again - I would just have him sleep with me in the first place. And maybe I would have bought a queen bed before he came home:) ha ha

2) I would have asked for help right away. In fact, I would have asked for someone to come stay with me for at least the first week or two. I was so over the top in my "no one else can help me because of attachment" thinking that I took on more than I could handle well. And therefore, I didn't handle it as well as I had hoped and that sent me into somewhat of a depression cause I just felt like an awful version of myself. I certainly didn't feel like the patient, giving mom I expected to be. I was tired, I was overwhelmed. My child was screaming bloody murder anytime the dog was near. Even just a hand with the dog so I didn't feel like she was totally neglected would have been a Godsend! If I could do it again - I would ask someone in my family to come stay with me those first few weeks. Not so that they could bathe him or feed him or do the attachment stuff - but just so that someone else would be in the house to understand what was happening and me to be able to talk about it with someone who was there witnessing it. And like I said, to help with the dog. I felt horrible that Auty wasn't getting any attention and had to be sectioned off in our house by a baby gate. That was really hard.

3) I would have had the dog at doggy daycare for at least the first night and possibly several nights. It was too much - especially that first night when we got home at 8 pm after 40 hours of travel and I was left by myself with my precious dog and my new son and the immediate response was screaming and a very stressed out all 3 of us. My goodness, what was I thinking? We survived though and a month later - Mihretu started to even like Auty. Another month went by and he loved her. She didn't love him though so my heart broke when we surrendered her back to the adoption agency I got her from. She was just so anxious around him. I still miss that fur baby.

4) I would have brought a stroller for the pickup trip. This one is just a travel tip really. I thought M would hate a stroller or being strapped into anything. I thought it would be too much to carry, especially if he didn't really want to go in it. So I brought my super awesome Ergo carrier and left the stroller at home. My goodness, I about killed my back in that decision. Even if he hadn't wanted to be in the stroller - it would have been helpful to put everything else I was carrying over the arms of the stroller or in the part where you sit like I do now when I travel. If I could go back, I would have definitely brought that stroller. The connection in Frankfurt, Germany was killer. I swear you have to walk like 2 miles from where you get off to where your next flight is. And there's no tram for the most part and there's these escalators and sections with these weird metal barriers designed to keep you from taking the carts you can rent up the thing - but it also makes it horrible to get your bags through the small entrance onto the thing. I hate that airport. And that brings me to the last thing...

5) I would have paid extra just to NOT have to fly through Frankfurt, Germany. Worst airport ever to connect in if you are carrying a lot of bags and/or a child strapped to you. I literally broke down in tears in the security line because I felt so physically fatiqued that I thought I might collapse. You don't really get to work up the muscle gradually when adopting a 30 pound child either - it's hard on the back. Especially when all you brought to carry him in was something you wear on your body.

And that's my list. Not too bad really. Not that much I would change. I'm so thankful that every day and every month things get a little bit easier and I figure out this parenting thing a little bit more. God is faithful - He meets you where you're at. And sometimes it takes awhile to find your way. Hold tight to Him and you will:)

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Thankful Heart

Mihretu and I just got back from 6 days in Maine visiting the family that adopted Sitota - his best little friend from Ethiopia. Sitota and Mihretu grew up at the same orphanage - they were together for several years in a room with many other kids. They were buddies. They still are.

Top photo - Oct 2012, Bottom - Aug 2013

I think it's totally awesome that in this great big world - Mihretu's mommy and Sitota's mommy both met these kiddos on a mission trip to Ethiopia and both ended up using the same adoption agency to adopt these two friends. That same agency connected us last year - two families from two different states - with two precious kiddos who were buddies. I'm so glad they did. Seriously, I can't even describe how glad I am. How thankful. And then the God timing of us having court the SAME week and getting to meet in person in Ethiopia this time last year. And then again - more God timing - we got Embassy clearance the SAME DAY. All the other families that were with us in Ethiopia for court all got theirs spread out on different days and some were weeks and months apart from ours. And we got ours on the same day. I mean - seriously - this cannot be a coincidence. It's truly a God thing. We got to go get our kids the same week and stay at the same guesthouse so that our kiddos could transition into their forever families with some familiarity - each other. What a blessing. And then when we came home - to be able to skype regularly with them, watch each others videos on facebook and then to be blessed to spend 6 days in their home with their family and watching our kiddos play together. I feel like my heart literally grew 3 sizes!! It was such an amazing trip.

I'm thankful that they invited us. Thankful that they welcomed us into their home. So very thankful to have gotten a glimpse into the beauty of their family. I learned so much about parenting from Megin and Rob. I seriously am so thankful for observing how they interact with their kids and praise them over and over again and getting to see how that lights a kid up. I wasn't doing that nearly enough. I was feeling lost and frustrated and so insecure in my parenting because many of the things I was trying were not working and I just felt so inadequate. I don't think any advice anyone could give me could ever be as great or as meaningful as watching it in action within a beautiful family. I'm so thankful to have seen it, to have gotten ideas and inspiration and to have had another mom to sit and share our stories and our struggles with. There's so much healing in that. I'm sitting here with tears streaming down my face as I write this. I just feel like this trip was such a gift. Yes, to Mihretu and Sitota but also to me. To encourage my weary mommy heart. And to help me find joy and peace and so much more love than I even knew I had.

It wasn't just a vacation - it was a God ordained trip. I don't know if they will every truly know how much it meant to me. Seeing our kids together brought so much overflowing joy. And it reminded me of all those months of waiting and how far we've come - all of us. Megin and I talked about doing this yearly and I really truly hope we do. I'm so thankful for that time we had together for 6 precious days in Maine in August of 2013!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

One year later

This week marks the 1 year anniversary of my court appointment in Ethiopia and the 7 days I spent with my sweet boy at my agencies care center. It was the first time I had seen him since we first met - a full year had gone by. I was so nervous as we drove there that morning. Would he warm up to me like he did the first time? How would it go? What would he think of me?

And then I was there, walking into the care center telling the nannies which child I was there to see. They pointed to the door and I walked to it and saw that it was the room he was in. I scanned the room full of kids and quickly saw him. The nannies were talking to him and before I could say a word - he walked up and put his arms up for me to pick him up. I'm sure they told him to but still - he didn't HAVE to do it. And in a moment - he was in my arms and photos were being snapped by my friend Wynne at the door who had come along to document the day. My friend Elisa was there briefly to take a little video and meet him before going on her way to do other things in Addis Ababa. It was surreal. All this time, all this paperwork, all this praying, hoping and waiting and he was in my arms. And he wasn't freaking out, crying or pushing me away - thank the Lord. He was so curious - just looking at me and checking me out. I showed him his photo on my necklace and he was so intrigued. I showed him the picture book I brought with pics of him and I from the year before and of his room and our dog and some friends and family. And the rest of the day and the next 6 days - he was attached to me non-stop. He didn't want me to put him down. He would scream and cry and yell "mommy, mommy" each day when I had to leave - which made my heart feel like it was literally being ripped out. I just kept reminding myself - I can do this - we are closer to forever - soon he'll be home - I can do this.

I had to leave to come home without him. That's just the way the process goes. Which feels all sorts of wrong. You know you have to. But it feels like you just left your child in another country and you're going home without them because that is exactly what you're doing and yet you have no choice. HARD. Emotional. And yet, you suck it up and try to hold it together because you know you are at the homestretch. I've made it this far - I can make it a few more months. Lord, let it be 3 months or less - not one of the many cases that takes EVEN longer than that. Let it be soon.

And thank God - it was just around 3 months and the long-awaited email from the Embassy came at 1:30 am that said "you are approved and can come get your child". Ok so maybe it didn't say that exactly but that's what it meant. And 3 days later, I was on a plane with my friend Merrill to go get my son and bring him home. That anniversary date is in October.

It's hard to believe it's been a year since my court date and since we were reunited and these great pictures were taken. So thankful to have my sweet boy home.

LOVE our Ethiopian family

We just returned from Ethiopia and oh boy - my heart is completely wrecked. Mihretu and I traveled on our own last March (2018) over his ...