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

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 ...