Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Adoption Stories

I've been hearing/reading some seriously rough adoption stories this week. Usually they have happier endings (present day), but boy, they could certainly scare a person off. I'm a big believer in reading all the bad stuff along with the good stuff, if you are considering adoption. Go to Pound Pup Legacy and see where some of those rabbit trails go. Google any agency you think of using and read everything. Read the horror stories. I know it can be harder to find the good stories, or just the not so bad stories. Certainly, the first year of any adoption is hard even when all other circumstances are perfect because we are dealing with human emotions and expectations. I guess it's possible that our adoption was the exception and we were blessed. Or maybe it's my perspective. Maybe I think it was the rosiest adoption possible because the "messy" or "difficult" stuff that came up wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Here's my experience, looked at through the lens of five years later:
We had three biological kids before our youngest joined our family. She was fifteen months old and very underweight. She came to us from an orphanage, and though there were many children, the caregivers were loving, warm and affectionate with the kids. Our daughter didn't smile at first. I didn't mind too much. I was grateful that she wanted to be held. I could work with that. We had a good first meeting. She went back to the guesthouse with us. It was all a bit surreal. I vaguely remember having a panic attack late in the night. There I was in a foreign country with all my other kids on the other side of the world. WHAT have I done?? But the sun came up again, and we went to the embassy. It was a whirlwind going to the airport and getting back home. I know she was literally attached to me for about 27 hours straight. Except for the 17 diaper changes (something about the airplane really triggered her digestive system to freak out). I distinctly remember using the airplane bathroom with her attached to me in the Ergo because she would scream if I took her off. It might have been difficult, but I just remember it as being really funny. I just talked to a mom last week and found out this isn't a very unique experience for a brand new adoptive mom on a ten or twelve hour plane flight. I also remember a four hour wait at customs where I was dead on my feet and falling asleep in the hard plastic chair (with her still attached to me). By that time my clothes were covered in all manner of foods, liquids and bodily fluids, and of course, I was wearing black! The first days home were surprisingly good as far as adjustment. She relaxed right away around the other kids and began smiling often. She quickly decided she didn't like my husband, and it took two solid months to begin to ease her into being held by him. I think the hardest thing for me was the health issues. She was generally healthy, although she'd had a double ear infection when we got home. That was normal for the kids coming home from the orphanage though. For me, it was the stomach issues. It took about a year and a half to figure out every parasite and worm that was plaguing her. But she was still having diarrhea and low weight gain. After celiac sprue came up, we cut out all dairy and gluten and it finally improved. A year and a half. I can't imagine what that was like for her. The other awful thing that comes to my mind was a phase she went through where she was smearing feces on the wall. Thank you God she didn't do that more than a few times. The cleaning and laundry each time was so exhausting! I guess she had a few peculiar habits that you sometimes see in children from orphanages. She would stuff little pieces of food down her onesie or tuck them under her pillow. She would hide toys in her bed. No big deal. There was no throwing food across the room, screaming rages, etc. But I wonder now if I would have handled that okay too and looked back on it fondly later. Maybe it's just perspective.
The big stuff: she attached to me, my husband and her sister and brothers firmly that first year. There was the occasional time of her giving out her affection to others a little too easily and we would reign it in when that happened. It took longer to build up her self esteem, but she has blossomed in confidence in the last year or two. We keep working on it. She has definitely turned downright sassy this year, so that is a new road for me. She is healthy, active, clever, detailed, beautiful, amazing, loving, and kind.
Now for a brief statement from my soapbox - I am grateful that I am a stay at home mom and we could cocoon ourselves in those first few months. It was a precious investment. My biggest piece of advice is don't go out for a while, and do not be a social butterfly. A newly adopted child does not want to meet all your friends and family, they just want to be fed, kept warm, loved and most of all, secure. That's it. Also, no matter how much you wanted this child or how long you waited, love is not automatic. While you are working on getting them attached to you, you are also working at attaching yourself to them. I didn't not fully realize that for awhile. Love takes work; it doesn't all just happen on it's own. There were times I plastered a smile on my face and hugged her when I really didn't want to. I don't have to do that anymore. That was a long time ago, and I'm grateful for all the growth.
I'm sure you've read or heard it, adoption is not for the faint of heart. That's the God honest truth. You need a strong heart, an open heart, a faithful heart and most of all, a committed heart. I think every parent's worst nightmare is the idea that you will make a mistake. You'll bring home the "wrong" child, a lemon. Plug on. Stick with it. Keep going. It's a marathon, and if you are committed, you will not fail. You will love and be loved. Besides, those lemons grow up into pretty amazing adults.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will not leave you or forsake you." Deut. 31:6

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Four Years Later

Yeah, so I've been gone awhile...
First, I just got too busy to post anymore. Then we had a crisis. Then I was super busy. Now I'm finally feeling like I occasionally have free time. I've said it before and I'll say it again, WHO are these moms who homeschool multiple kids and still have time to blog everyday?
So here's what the last four years looked like in summary...

2012 - A mostly quiet year
Boys took piano lessons with our friends down the road and did a few recitals.
Our favorite giant tree in the front yard fell across the driveway missing our minivan by about 12 inches.
My love affair with Korean Drama began with a marathon summer viewing of My Princess.
We all traveled to Florida to visit my in-laws, as my husband's father was healing from a head injury. He made an amazing recovery.

2013 -Year of the Tree
In January, we took an amazing family trip to Disney World and Epcot. I don't think we can ever top a trip like that.
Two months later, child #2 almost died after a dead tree fell on him as he jumped on a trampoline at a friend's house.
Child #2 got to take a helicopter ride downtown where he stayed for the next week with my husband and I on rotating shifts.
Only by God's grace Child #2 healed from injuries including fractured skull, broken pelvis, broken leg, broken toes, fractured vertebrae, not to mention the trauma of a catheter.
It takes a few months and includes a wheelchair, portable potty seat, walker, and making a bedroom downstairs where our living room used to be.
We all learned how much love and service and gratitude we are capable of. There is no limit.
The rest of the year is wonderfully quiet and the pins are removed from his leg at the end of the year.
Hmm, I should say quiet except for the Weimaraner puppy we added to the family. She has not been quiet or peaceful.

2014 - Year of the House
I built a house.
I became a full time general contractor, after mistakenly assuming I could do it part time.
I did a pretty awesome job and only took seven months to finish.
We move in and enjoy the fruit of our labor.
There were also birthdays, trips to the museum and some holiday.
I don't remember much
from last year. I was kind of busy.

2015 - Normal Rhythm
We homeschooled.
We bought chicks that are now egg laying hens.
Child #1 had eye surgery in April. He gets his braces off this month. It's a big year for him.
We traveled to Rock City, then a big, fun family reunion in Dollywood. Next we spent days going to Smoky Mountain National Park, North Carolina mountains and the Biltmore.
It was only a two week vacation, but we sure did a lot in two weeks.
So now that we're settled into a wonderful, comfortable routine, I wonder what God will have in store for us next. I kind of have a clue, but the coming weeks will tell...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Vacation, Readoption and Birthdays, Oh My

It has been a very busy couple of months. We went to Florida the beginning of May. I got to go to the opening for my sister's solo show. My mom did face painting, and I got to vamp it up with my sisters. Oh, if only they lived closer! We went to the beach with my cousin and her sons (I love you, Cherie!). Thankfully, no one drowned, although Child #3 did her best to go face first into every wave, and Child #4 ate everything. Seriously, I pulled a rusty bottlecap out of her mouth, and she actually chewed a shell before I was able to fish it out. She pooped sand for three days afterward. We went to the Playmobil Fun Park, only $1 per child, and you can play with all the toys! It is still one of our favorite Florida spots. Then we went to the west coast and had a family reunion with my side of the family. I met my new niece, and everyone else met our newest child. We also had a blast at Busch Gardens. I highly recommend the Sheikra, funnest ride I have ever been on. Make sure to sit in the front row. We had tons of fun, but half of us had raging fevers/coughing by the time we drove the 18 hours home. Thankfully, everyone got better fairly quickly once we were home.

Soon after returning home, Child #2 graduated kindergarten. Generally I think graduation for anything less than high school is silly, but once I started homeschooling, I celebrate those kindergarten graduations.

Then the week after that, we did Child #4's readoption. If she had come to the U.S. on an IR3 visa, all we would have had to do was a recognition of foreign adoption, but since she came home on an IR4 visa, we had to do a readoption. We just recieved the TX birth certificate, and it was very exciting for us.

The week after that, we celebrated Child #4's 2nd birthday and Child #3's 4th birthday. I actually spent four days straight baking three different cakes and wrapping oodles of presents. I treated Child #4's birthday more like a first birthday, and made her a little square splat cake to dig into. She mostly poked it with her fork and ate the frosting off the top. Out of all the gifts we gave her, I think the thing she liked most was a pair of gold sandals my mom got her. She refused to take them off and wore them to bed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why Mothers Don't Nap...

Because their kids don't...

Actually, child #4 does nap. But this is the work of Child #3, capable of doing more disaster in five minutes than all the other children combined throughout a full day. What you don't see in the photo is that she also painted the walls, the windows (apparently taking the time to lift the shades, paint the glass, then politely put the shades back down), and dripped all over the carpet. I'm not entirely sure how she did that without painting the shades themselves. I was able to remove the paint from the shelf, the windows, and the carpet, but the upholstery has me stumped. Any suggestions?

So to recap, fifteen minute nap = four hours cleaning up (and still not done yet).

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ethiopian Cabbage Recipe

I had some vegetables to use up in my fridge, and I decided that tonight was the night that I would finally work up my courage to try out an Ethiopian dish and crack open some of my berbere. I used this recipe. I used baby carrots, potatos, one onion, and a half a head of cabbage. Instead of the spices listed, I used salt to taste and a teaspoon of berbere. It was a big pot, but I could have used half that amount of berbere! I served chicken and egg noodles with it which balanced out the heat a little, but it tasted great! And my house smells like an Ethiopian kitchen, which brought back all my memories. Now that I've taken the plunge, I am going to find some injera (or make my own sad version with buttermilk flenjses) to serve with it next time. Child #4 loved dinner tonight. She does not go for bland foods. She loves spicy sausage too :). (Child #1 also loved it, but Child #2 and 3 only wanted noodles and chicken. Sigh.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

With us longer than...

the time she spent in orphanages. She was in orphanages for four and a half months (which is a blessedly short amount of time compared to most orphans), and she has now been home longer than that! She is usually quiet, unless she wants food, but lately she is babbling more during playtime. I am really glad to see her trying to talk to the pets and her brothers and sister now. I think for a long time she was fascinated by how very loud and verbal they all are, and she was content to just listen. I can see she has been very busy learning. She defenitely understands what we tell her. I tell her to put things back or bring something to me or shut the door, and she understands all of it. I am constantly amazed.
And by the way, this week has been MUCH better than last week.

Monday, January 17, 2011

4+ Months Home...

Yes, I forgot I had a blog. My bad.
I could say it's because I have been crazy busy and overwhelmed and exhausted at the end of every day, and that would all be true. But it's mostly that my brain just hasn't had enough cells to work with for writing anything worth reading. That may still be true, but I'll give it a try anyway.

Our first few weeks were the hardest, but even at the hardest, it wasn't unbearable. Child #4 was almost fifteen months old when she joined our family, and she only weighed 16 pounds. She attached to me right away, and those first few weeks she didn't like to be set down. She had a fairly easy time adjusting to sleep schedules, and she took two naps a day for a month or two, like she had to catch up. Now she takes one nap in the afternoon. She was sleeping in our room at first, but we moved her to Child #3's bedroom a couple months ago. I think it has been better for both of them. Instead of competing for my attention, they can team up being mischevious. One of the harder parts for my husband was that she liked him holding her in the very beginning, but then within a week, she developed a major aversion for him. It was to the point that she wouldn't be in a room with him if I wasn't holding her. She liked him okay if it was morning and he was the only one awake to feed her. It felt like a really long time (really just a couple months) before she liked having him hold her. Now of course, she runs to greet him when he walks in the door and loves having him pick her up and make her giggle. Even our daily routine has gone way better than planned. The chaos level is not near what I was expecting. The hardest part has been dealing with her daily moods, some days she's cheerful and smiley, other days she is whiny and cranky. On the bad days she has to be held most of the day. She has had about six teeth come in since coming home, four of them molars. One of those is not quite out yet. I'm hoping that is what the bulk of her cranky days stems from. She is nineteen months old now and she weighs about twenty pounds. (Other kids are Child #1: 8 1/2 yob, Child #2: 6 yob, Child #3: 3 1/2 yog). Most of our days are chock full of food, noise, playing, learning, food, laundry, food, noise and sleeping, not nessacarily in that order. That is also where all my energy goes. I'm just thankful that I usually get a couple of hours at night to watch Hulu or read a book. I think I would be cross eyed and slightly unstable if I didn't have a little time at night to collect my wits. My good days are when everything on my list gets done AND my children all listened to me without debating or talking back AND my husband came home in a good mood AND I actually cooked a home made dinner before 6:30 pm AND I get a compliment. I might have that kind of day once a week, and it's what keeps me going. My average day has about two out of five of those elements. I also usually get about one or two BAD days a week, and I wash those days out my hair because they are far too demoralizing. And since I know you all love hearing about the bad days ;), they usually include at least three of these elements -

  • I have to strip and change Child #3's bed because that nighttime cup of water was one too many.
  • I spend the entire day looking for Child #2's favorite book (currently Wacky Wednesday) and listening to him ask me if I've found it yet "No, I'm still looking". (This specific scenario went on for three weeks daily to the point where I was debating between getting it off Ebay or Amazon. Then it appeared today, under Child #1's bed, where I'd already checked twice!)
  • Child #1 decides to assert his #1 status by questioning the legitimacy of school work, cleaning and getting out of pajamas. He may carry this on all day and into a second or third day, thereby losing electronic priveleges and being periodically banished to his room. All of which is my fault for making it "the WORST day ever". Oh, you know it!
  • I have to strip and change Child #4's bedding because she figured out to get out of her clothes again. That is the number one factor when deciding what she will wear, "Can she figure out how to take this off?" And it always has to been when she pooped because she just loves to spread that crap around. So we do spontaneous bathtimes for that too. Everyone in the house is on alert for it now. If someone hears Child #4 awake, they peak in and it is either, "MOMMY, She's only wearing A DIAPER." (level orange alert) or "MOMMY, SHE TOOK ALL HER CLOTHES OFF." (level red alert).
  • I spend an hour working on dinner only to find out that an integral ingredient in the recipe is missing or is unuseable. Thankfully, I have a lot of experience in adapting recipes. I get better at improv cooking every year.
  • My husband walks in the door, sees seven things on the floor and three dishes in the sink and some school books still on the table and wonders what I did all day. This means he is in a bad mood and he will spend the evening being dissatisfied and possibly vacumning and doing dishes. I love it when he cleans, but it's usually because he's cranky. Not a great trade off.
  • Somebody has a fever, stomach flu, or nasty cough, thereby cancelling all activities for the next few days, like cub scouts or Bible study, and turning us into groundhogs.

Since I'm fairly used to the elements of a bad day, it makes the good parts of those days shine all the brighter. Compliments are sweet nectar to my ears and obedience honey to my heart. If you can't tell, today was a bad day. Yesterday was too, which is unusual. But that puts the odds in my favor for a super day tomorrow! Thank you Lord for the gift of optimism, I couldn't be a stay at home mom without it. So let me know if you spot any typos or mistakes because I'm too tired to proofread this, plus if I don't get in the shower now, my next chance won't be for another 22 hours.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Photos from 2nd Trip...

Craft Bazaar at the International Evangelical Church -My favorite table there Abebe at the Oziopia Guest House
Some photos from our trip to the Southern Region

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


We've been home a week and a half, but I've been a little busy...
Our week in Ethiopia was wonderful, but we didn't get out much. The first day we arrived, we were on our own, so we stayed at the wonderful Oziopia guesthouse. Abebe was the best guesthouse manager I have met yet. He took us around in the blue minibuses (that was a thrill! and only 2 birr each, unbelieveable), and he even suggested the once a month bazaar at the International Evangelical Church. They only have it the last Saturday of every month, but it was the best place to shop! When I post photos, I will put up a photo or two from there. We went to the agency guesthouse that night, and the next morning we traveled south to meet birth family. The drive south was so beautiful and it was priceless to see all the families outside of their tukuls going about their day to day lives. We even passed a soccer game with a huge ring of people watching. Meeting the birthfamily was difficult and wonderful and priceless, and I'm very thankful that I was allowed to record it. It was a long full day, and we fell asleep at 6:30 pm that night. The next morning we saw Child #4 and she was wary of us, like I expected. Just for reference, she is fifteen months old and weighed 16 pounds when we picked her up. She took to me easily again, so I was thankful for that. We didn't have her in our care full time until the next day (embassy day). I was really nervous about that, but she was fine as long as she was attached to me. We were at the embassy four hours and she didn't really cry. Rather unheard of in our family. We stayed at the guesthouse three more days and she started to relax a little. I still couldn't set her down though. She hated the guesthouse bedroom. She tensed up and cried everytime we went in there (maybe because it was small, dark and quiet?), so we stuck with the outdoors and dining room mostly. She slept through the night very well and still does.
It's been interesting to see the progress we make with Child #4 every day. In Addis, she was fine as long as I was holding her, but she didn't smile much at all. The plane ride was about as long as I imagined it to be, but it wasn't quite as awful as it could have been. Sure, I'm not positive I had more than two hours of sleep during twenty eight hours of travel. And sure, I ended up arriving in Houston with a giant mustard colored poop stain on my jeans and twelve various milk, banana and drool related stains on my shirt. But she didn't cry as much as other kids. Actually, she really only cried when she was tired and trying to stay awake. I will admit that I almost burst into tears in the Customs and Border Patrol office at the Houston airport where we sat waiting after already being in line for over an hour. All I wanted was to pick up my luggage and go home and see my kids and sleep, but the agents behind the counter were joking with each other and in absolutely no rush. That was the closest I came to crying during the whole trip. I was thinking how nice it was to finally be back in America with our efficiency and routines, but they were apparently running the office on Ethiopian time. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Anyway, I somehow lasted through a half hour there (in retrospect, that is still far shorter than the four hours we spent at the embassy), and we finally got to go home. I was a bit nervous of what Child #4 would think of our other children, but there was no need to be concerned. We had a brief mishap right after we got home. She was fast asleep in the car seat, so hubby set it on the floor when we got inside, unbeknowist to me. I noticed the same time as our sweet timid little dog started licking her toes thereby scaring her awake and into screaming, crying mode. She was in hyper vigilant mode for a little while after that, but she quickly warmed up to Child #2 and even let me walk four feet away while they played. The hardest part has been holding her all the time. She will occasionally have an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening where I can set her down as long as I sit on the floor and don't move while she explores within an eight foot radius. If she is hungry, tired, etc. then I have to be holding her and standing up. Although, she let hubby hold her the first couple of days, she has been wary and scared of him since. It's not uncommon, but it is difficult for both of us. Last Thursday was a horrible day, probably because she had just had shots and a double ear infection, but Friday was much better. I have to focus on the baby steps that we make each day. Count every smile and laugh and remember it during the bad times. Notice the moments of independence and exploration and remember it when she won't let me put her down. Today and yesterday have been great as far as her exploring more without me, and she's been smiling more often than not lately. On the other hand, we found out she has Giardia, and I'm having the dickens of a time trying to get her to swallow the medicine. Out of seven doses (only 1 ml each), I'm not sure I've gotten even a drop down her throat. I've put it in every manner of drinks, sugary syrups, fruit. I've used a medicine syringe to push it right at the back of her throat. But without fail, she has spit it on me, her clothing, the floor, dribbled it out the sides of her mouth and down her neck. I don't blame her, if it tastes half as bad as it smells. We've been relying on YL DiGize, and thankfully, that seems to be helping quite a bit. She has even gained a pound this last week! I'm just paranoid of having Giardia go throughout our family of six and making a permanant residence here. So now I carry a bottle of Purell with me everywhere. Today, we went in to have blood drawn (six tubes!) and she had the skin prick for the TB test. It was just awful, and I don't think she liked it much either... Hopefully, there won't be anything to worry about there.
I'll try to get around to posting some photos of our trip later...