Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wake up Church!

I might step on some toes in this post and for that, I apologize.  Well, except I don’t really apologize. God not only stepped on my toes years ago when He opened my eyes to what’s happening to children around the world, He stomped on my feet. HARD.  I need to do a little foot stomping – maybe your foot will be underneath. Sometimes that’s okay. I promise it’s out of love.

Want to know what I did today? I left Amani with a caregiver to go love on some orphans. We visited the same three orphanages we visited when I was here in July. I thought I’d be just fine. I knew intellectually that today would be hard but I had already forgotten just how hard it is. Then I nearly lost it before we even left the first orphanage. I am really not sure how I’m ever going to sleep tonight.

We spent time first at the boys’ orphanage. It is a place where I wouldn’t let my children play, much less live. And I spent most of my time talking with a 13 year old boy who has been at this particular orphanage for 4 years but was at a different one before that. He’s working hard at school and wants to be a doctor one day. Do you know what his chances of success are? Not so good. If he’s still in school by the time he turns 18, the Ethiopian government will give him $500 and send him on his way. No training on how to spend that $500, no guides to make sure he finds a place to live and a place to work. I know I’m not sending my kids out with $500 when they turn 18 and just expect them to know what to do.  We were told most of them have spent the $500 within the first week. And then they’re just out of luck.

Know what else I realized? If Amani were not adopted, this would be where he’d grow up: in an orphanage in Ethiopia. Where boys sleep in bunk beds, row upon row, with thin blankets over them on cold nights, where they only recently all got pillows.  Where ONE “mother” is there for hundreds of boys. No good night stories, no snuggles, no one to answer boys who call out in the night. No family.

We went to the baby orphanage next. I blogged about this back in July. It’s still heartbreaking. These babies get two diaper changes a day. TWO. Do you know how many diapers Amani went through during our first few days when he had diarrhea?  Seven or eight at least. We walked around picking up babies who were crying. I picked up one and realized she had burns on her neck and shoulder. Burns.On a baby.Uncovered, untreated, just open to the air.   And her cry was so weak. How long until infection sets in? How did she get burned? How does a baby dealing with burn pain get through the day when there is no one to pick her up when she cries? How long until she gives up?

From there we visited the girls’ orphanage. These girls are not unlike my youth girls at home. The walls of their bedrooms are covered in pages from magazines: pictures of Beyonce, Brittany Spears, and some Bollywood stars.  They dream just like American girls do. Only these girls have no mom to giggle with; no one to talk to them about how boys should treat them.  Many girls who grow up in orphanages end up in prostitution in Ethiopia. These beautiful girls I hugged today are likely to share the same fate. Do you know how sick that makes me?I have a daughter. The thought makes me want to throw up. Then scream. And throw things.

I started to title this post simply “WAKE UP” but I realized that the basis for everything I have to say is in the Bible.  That doesn’t mean at all that people who aren’t Christians can’t help – they certainly can. But if you call yourself a follower of Jesus and you aren’t doing anything, you might want to have a little talk with your Creator about that.  We, as the church, need to wake up.

I know I’ve said that before, but I am so mad today. I’m mad at our culture, I’m mad at our churches who focus on keeping Christians happy and comfortable in our fancy churches with flat-screen tvs. I’m mad at myself for buying into the idea that I need comfort and security when my comfort and security comes at such a cost. I have so much when these children have nothing. I am at fault here.

That doesn’t mean everyone needs to adopt. If God is calling you to adopt, I suggest you answer. But maybe He isn’t calling you to adopt. That’s great. Adoption isn’t going to solve all the problems.  Maybe you’ve been reading my blog and you want to do something to help the orphan problem. Check out Lifesong for Orphans. Go to the Heart for Africa website. Read Orphanology. Caring for orphans is MUCH more than just adopting. Adoption is like triage – kids in the system now need to be adopted but we need to do more to make sure more kids don’t end up in the system in the future.

But here’s the deal. God wants you to do something. James 1:27 says “True religion is this: caring for the widow and the orphan in their time of need.”  Caring FOR, not caring ABOUT. Anyone can read what I wrote about those orphanages and care. Do you know how few will actually do something?  There are children going to bed tonight alone.  To steal a quote from one of my favorite people:

“is that okay with you?” (Janine Maxwell from Heart for Africa – read her book!)

There was some kind of research study done a few years ago asking mainstream Americans what they thought of Christians (I can actually get you the info on this, just don’t have it in Ethiopia). Do you know what the main answers were? Christians are hypocritical and hate gay people. Hmmm… sounds like we’re doing a great PR job. Last time I checked neither of those things are in the Bible.

What if Christians were known for caring about orphans or fighting injustice because we love Jesus? What if we all did something? Domestic, international, whatever. What if every person who claims to love Jesus went into action? (By the way, action is more than just writing a check)

What if?

I can only speak for myself… like I said, I’m stepping on my own toes. I don’t know yet if this is our last adoption. I struggle with how in the world I could not adopt again. But adoption isn’t the answer to the problem. We will continue to work in Swaziland helping with the orphan problems there.  I might have an Ethiopia project in the works as well – I’ll blog more about that after I’m home.

Take time today and be still. Ask God what He intends for you to do. I can guarantee His answer will never be “stay how you are and maybe buy a new jacket for yourself.” Are you a friend of mine and He’s been tapping on your heart about Swaziland? Do you only know me through this crazy blog and you’re thinking maybe adoption really could be for you?  Did you find this blog randomly and now you’re thinking about picking up Orphanology or Is it Okay with You?

And if you aren’t a Christian, I pray you will somehow encounter this God I love. We do a terrible job representing him. I personally apologize for any behavior you’ve ever seen in a Christian that was selfish, hypocritical, or hateful. That’s the exact opposite of what Jesus is all about and I’m very sorry.  Like I said in my post about God’s timing… He uses us to set things to rights. He uses me – broken, uncoordinated, selfish, hot mess that I am.  What an honor to serve Him; and it motivates me to try harder, to do more to be like Him.

So tonight I go to bed just kinda mad.  But there is hope sleeping just a few feet away from me. A child who up until a few weeks ago was an orphan.

We can make a difference.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Challenges of Adopting a Toddler

Before I begin, let me say that I know that adopting Amani at 13 months carries far fewer challenges than adopting an older child. We are blessed that we are able to adopt him so young.

BUT… there are definitely some challenges to adopting a toddler. The fact that he’s walking, and walking so well, makes things a little dicey sometimes.

When you have a newborn, you do nothing but make that child’s life better. If he’s hungry, you feed him, if he’s wet or dirty, you change him. If he wants to be held, you hold him. You can do no wrong. That doesn’t mean your child never cries but a newborn doesn’t cry because of something you’ve done.  It’s a perfect relationship: the child has needs and you meet them and that’s how you bond.

Try that with a child who can walk. Amani gets mad at me regularly. He wants to grab the trash can and I don’t let him. He wants to walk outside on to the porch area that has wide railings through which he could easily fall. Of course, I don’t let him. He wants to play on the stairs, grab the stove knobs, push the furniture around the room; he wants to push the doors open and I have to stop the door as quickly as I can before it smooshes his other hand or pinches his fingers.  He wants to bang on glass.  Outside, he wants to walk along the ledge next to the parking lot (about a 6 foot drop).  Usually I can distract him and get him moved onto a different task. But not always.  And it can involve him screaming and dropping to the floor.

It is frustrating.

I want us to be having a lovely bonding experience where I am always making life better for him.  In most ways, we are. I am giving him more individual attention than he’s ever had in his life. I try not to make him wait hardly at all for meals or for a bottle. He gets snuggles immediately when he wants them.  For the most part, we are doing great. But we have some tough times when he moves from one dangerous activity to the next and I have to follow behind being his constant fun-killer.

My heart goes out to him when he cries because I’ve stopped him from something harmful, but for some reason, his freaking out over his bottle is exasperating. He’s on formula and I have to measure the water into the bottle, then scoop the formula and shake it for a bit (his formula has a terrible tendency to clump). It probably takes all of 45 seconds. But he freaks out the entire time.  He shouts “uh uhUHUH” over and over again and grows more and more frantic until he gets the bottle.  And it starts the second he sees me pick up a bottle or grab the can of formula.  I know it is because he had to wait a long time to get a bottle when he was at the orphanage. I can NOT wait for the day when he realizes that it is coming quickly and he doesn’t need to freak. For some reason, I’m just not as compassionate with him about the bottle thing. It drives me a little crazy. Maybe I just need to get out more. J

I’ve had some of you ask me about why we can’t leave the guest house. It’s a MOWA rule. MOWA is the Ministry of Women’s Affairs here in Ethiopia. They are the ones who investigate each orphan’s background and has to write a favorable opinion to the judge in our each in order for the judge to approve an adoption.  We’ve already passed court so MOWA can’t do anything to negate our adoption, but we wouldn’t want to buck the rules and jeopardize future adoptions in Ethiopia.  It has been explained to me that MOWA says Ethiopians don’t want to see a bunch of Americans walking around with the babies they are adopting – that it reminds them too much of the problem.  I won’t say what I think about that. If you read this blog enough or know me personally, you probably already know my reaction to that.  So, the good rule-followers that we are, Kim, Jaeden, and I stay home pretty much every day. Talk about Cabin Fever!

We have figured out a couple places we can go with the boys and on Wednesday we are actually leaving the boys with a caregiver and we’re going to visit the government orphanages again. Kim and I went on our trips here for court but Jaeden hasn’t been.  And my friend Amanda who is a missionary here is going to join us. It is a tough experience but I am looking forward to the opportunity to love on and pray over those little and not-so-little ones.

And yesterday we left the boys with Marta, one of the amazing women who works here at Bejoe. The boys love her and she offered to watch them for 15 minutes so we could walk up the street for a macchiato. It was heaven. We didn’t even care that it rained on us the whole way home. It was so nice to get out of the house and be baby-free just for 15 minutes. And it’s funny how you get take-away stuff here. You have to bring your own cup. We wanted to bring a macchiato home for Marta but you have to bring them a cup. We brought a mug from the guest house but then realized we had no top for it and it was raining! I put my little travel wallet thing over it and walked as fast as I could, trying not to spill.  Living in Ethiopia makes you creative.

As for an update on when we might get to come home: no updates yet. We are going over to the Embassy in person on Thursday afternoon to check in with them. There is a small chance they will clear us then and we could have an appt Friday and fly home this weekend! If not, it is quite likely we could come home early next week.  If you are in the US, please start praying as soon as you wake up on Thursday morning… it’s likely we’ll already be up at the Embassy (we are 7 hours ahead here). Pray for a soft heart in the person that we speak with.

Please pray we can come home Friday! Amani and I want to come home! 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Just an Update

I think I jinxed myself. As soon as I posted that Amani would sleep for 2 ½ hours every afternoon, he stopped.  For the past three days, he has slept only 30-40 minutes, and wakes up tired and cranky but of course will not go back to sleep. We’ve had some looooooong afternoons with him overtired but refusing to go back to sleep.

So I changed it up today. I didn’t put him down for his morning nap. He got sleepy but he did really well. He ate lunch and fell asleep immediately afterwards!! He’s sleeping now and I am praying he takes a nice long nap, both because I think he’ll be much happier the rest of the afternoon and because after keeping him occupied all morning, I need a little break!!! J He’s so much fun though. He loves to play this game where he takes something off my bed and brings it to me, then brings it back to the bed to switch it out for smoothing else and brings that to me. He’ll do that over and over and over again. And his smile really does light up the room.

Everything with Amani is going really well. Everything with the Embassy? Not so much. I will post later after I get home to explain how I’m feeling about this process. I’ll just say it is not a warm and fuzzy feeling. Our in-country representative was going to go to the Embassy today to talk with them about their unreasonable requests. We are VERY hopeful that we’ll be able to be cleared next week and come home next weekend!!

If you’re an adoptive mama and you are considering going over early, let me tell you: it is wonderful and awful all at the same time. I don’t regret coming over early, not for a minute, but it is really really hard.  Having the extra time with Amani is amazing. He and I are getting some invaluable bonding time and I will always treasure this time we have together. And I think it will help us so much traveling home and those first weeks home with the family. He knows me. He trusts me. We can handle flying home and introducing more family members.

But it is so hard. Struggling with Embassy requests. Not knowing when we’ll be allowed to go home.Missing my other two children and my husband. Emotionally, that is exhausting.  And not being able to leave the guest house really took its toll on me this past week.  There is only so much you can do and time goes by really slowly. And that’s hard when you are stewing over not hearing from the Embassy.  We realized after we left the house to go to the coffee ceremony that we really need to figure out ways to get out from time to time.  We have 3 “events” planned for next week to get us out of the guest house with the boys. I think next week will go by much faster!

And I couldn’t have done this if Kim and Jaeden weren’t here. Just having someone else with you, going through the same thing, is unbelievably helpful. Speaking of Kim and Jaeden, please pray for them if you are reading this: Reisen isn’t sleeping at night. He’s up every hour and a half. They are exhausted.

Fresh vegetables!!!  We’ve been avoiding fresh fruit and vegetables since we got here and I’m usually a really healthy eater so it’s killing me that I haven’t had any fruit, veggies, or milk since I got here.  But Genet, the woman who runs the guest house lived in Texas for 20 years and told me she is really careful and only eats fresh veggies that have been washed a certain way and she said it would be okay to eat what we got!  Kim and I were so excited: tomato, lettuce, cabbage, carrots!  Oh, there will be Ethiopian food in heaven, I guarantee it! J

So will we be throwing up later? We’ll just have to wait and see! There’s your cliffhanger for the next post! J

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Coffee Ceremony

Yesterday was the coffee ceremony at the orphanage.  Basically it’s when I take Amani back to the orphanage so that his “special mother” which is what they call his primary caregiver can say goodbye. It’s really sweet – his special mother takes him and changes him into traditional Ethiopian clothing and gets to say goodbye and then the families have a coffee ceremony.

But I was really anxious about it. Amani’s special mother, Senet, is wonderful. It was so obvious how much she loved him and he really loved her back. When we were there for court you could see how bonded he was to her. And when she left the room because her shift was over, he cried for her. I am so thankful to her for having taken such wonderful care of Amani until he could come home to our family.

So why was I nervous? Well, I was afraid he’d choose her over me, that he’d cry for her when we left, that all our hard work bonding over the past week would be undone and I’d be back to square one with him freaking out if I moved slightly away and not letting me sit down with him down ever, much less put him down.
I was really nervous.

And guess what? It was wonderful. I need to email my caseworker about it because I’d emailed her just needing some support because I was so anxious. And of course, because she’s so awesome, she’d sent me a really helpful email about it.

Here’s what happened:

He saw her and grinned, but wouldn’t go to her until I took him by the hand and led him over. He kept his eyes on me the entire time she changed him. I got a beautiful picture of the two of them, both smiling!  Then she took him away for a bit, back to his old room to say goodbye. I took that opportunity to take some pictures of some kids in that house whose moms I’d promised I’d bring back updated pictures.  Since he’d really seemed okay when she took him, I didn’t really worry.  And after a little while, there he was, looking for me!  Kim and Jaeden said he’d been looking for me most of the time he was in his old room.
That makes my heart happy.

And I needed some happiness today… we have a holdup with the Embassy. Argh. But hopefully some progress will be made before the end of the week and I’ll have an update soon.

You know what else was wonderful about today? WE LEFT THE GUEST HOUSE!! Today was the first day in a week that we have been able to really leave the guest house. Jaeden and I had made two quick trips to the grocery store but that was it.  Today we drove to the coffee ceremony, went to La Parisienne to get macchiatos and cream croissants to go, went to the Connected in Hope shop, and took a quick trip into the grocery store (we switched out so the boys could stay in the car).  It was so wonderful to get out of the house for awhile. We’ve done some figuring and have found a couple places we can go with the boys so we’re hoping to go out two mornings next week! Whoo hoo! It really was a wonderful change of pace for us to get out for while. Much needed, let me tell you.

Please keep praying for the Embassy process. Kim got some sort-of encouraging news from them today. I got nothing! But I am so hopeful that I’ll hear from them tomorrow.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Something keeps biting me in the night. I’ve woken up the past two mornings covered in bites and today the bites just seemed to get more & more irritated as the day went on. I think the guest house was going to spray something for them today but I’m not sure they did.  It’s so bad that I’m honestly afraid to go to sleep at night!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

God's Timing

I’ve been trying to write this post for a long time… since before we got our referral actually. I keep wanting to write it during a time when I am waiting on God’s timing, not after something has happened. And things just kept happening with our adoption, which was good!

Before I begin, I want to say I would never claim to really understand God. I don’t think it’s possible for our little human brains to fully understand all that He is. And to be honest, I don’t know that I’d want to worship a God I could fully understand.

So here I am again… waiting. That’s the name of the game in adoption. I have Amani, he’s living here with me. He is legally my son, and yet we are still waiting for clearance to come into the US. And we’ve asked for a miracle. Last night, Kim and I sent letters to the Embassy asking for appointments on Thursday. That’s in 2 days. We aren’t even cleared yet. It shouldn’t happen, yet I know if it does, it will be nothing short than God’s intervention. I don’t think I’ve stopped praying since I hit the “send” button on that email.

But if it doesn’t happen, does that mean that God didn’t intervene? Does that mean that God wants it to take an extra two weeks for me to bring Amani home? Those are the types of questions I struggle with when it comes to God’s timing. When a friend loses a child, does that mean it’s God’s timing? Does God WANT us to go through struggles, pain, hardship, suffering?

Big questions.

I thank God for Rob, who is more spiritually mature and just all-around a better person than I am. He’s helped me try to figure all this out.  We have an awesome pastor at our church but when I’m truly honest, Rob is my pastor. He’s the one I go to when I need answers. Man, I love him a lot. I’m so blessed.

I wanted to believe that God’s timing would be for Amani to have been home months ago. I want to say that God’s original plan would have been for Amani to never have lost his birth parents. I want to believe that God wants us to have hunky-dory, easy, comfortable lives in which we lack for nothing.

But he made us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. When we have easy lives (like in America), we take the credit. We rely on ourselves instead of on Him.  Look at the US. We think we are a nation of “self-made men.” We think we’ve pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps. We think a successful life means more stuff so we work harder to get more stuff: newer cars, bigger houses, fancier vacations.  We tend to leave God out of the equation when life is so comfortable. 

Here’s what I think. I might be wrong and I’m okay with that – I am always learning God’s heart. And I’d never claim to really understand.  But I don’t think God WANTS children to go hungry, families to be separated, mothers to lose children. He doesn’t WILL those things to happen.  He isn’t making it happen that adoptions in Ethiopia are taking longer than they used to. He hasn’t sent the US Embassy to put obstacles in the way of bringing children home.

HOWEVER… God can (and does) use every situation for His glory.  This is a broken world. We broke it almost as soon as it started.  And God knows that. And He has a plan to redeem it… through us, a broken people.So all this crappy stuff happens because of the consequences of sin in our world.  We broke the world and now we have to live in it. And God’s going to use us to fix it… but the problem with using broken people is that we do things in a goofy way sometimes. 

I think of it kind of like teaching my kids to put on their own shoes. It is much faster for me to do it for them. I could just put their shoes on them for the rest of their lives. But that doesn’t make sense, does it? I need to have patience and give them the opportunity to learn so that eventually they can put on their own shoes and, someday, teach their children how to put on their shoes.

I suppose God could reach down and fix everything for us. I know He can. But in His own wisdom, He’schosen to use us to fix the world. What an honor! But, like my children were with their shoes, we’re slow on the uptake. We make mistakes, we put our shoes on the wrong feet sometimes.

In Eden, there would have been no orphans.  In heaven there will be none.  But here on Earth there are.  God wants families to be together – we need to work on family preservation programs without a doubt. But for many children it is too late for that.  And God has established very clearly in the Bible that He is pro-adoption.  I think in God’s eyes there can be two “best choices” for Amani. It would have been wonderful for him to have been able to stay with his birth parents.  But you know what else is wonderful? Being adopted. That’s another first choice.  I’m not a second-best mom for Amani. He’s not having to settle for something “other.”  God is cool like that.

So while I wait anxiously for an answer to my prayer. I know God lies in the answer either way.  He may intervene. We may get a true miracle and get an Embassy appointment in just two days.  Or we might not.  God’s hand is in the works regardless. He is using us to “set the lonely in families”.

I am so thankful for the honor of participating in His plan… even when I know it means sometimes my shoes will be on the wrong feet.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fighting Sleep

Have I mentioned that Amani fights sleep? Oh I have? About a million times? Oh, that must be because he really does. And it’s just awful.

We actually have done really well yesterday and today during the day getting him down for naptime and bedtime. He fusses a little and you can see him trying to keep his eyes open and keep his head up but it doesn’t last long. It’s definitely better than it was. Tonight for bedtime he didn’t even freak out as I made his bottle, which is usually when he loses it. We’re really making awesome progress.

Except for last night. I don’t know what woke him but he woke up about 10:40 last night and was screaming. I rocked him but he was not calming down. So I gave him a bottle. He was quiet while he took it but as soon as it was done he was screaming again. I did everything I knew how to do to try to calm him and he would not stop screaming. He didn’t have a fever, he wasn’t pulling up his legs as if it were a tummy issue. And he wouldn’t calm himself.

How do you comfort a child who refuses to be comforted? He wouldn’t put his thumb in his mouth. He pushed away from me and kicked out his legs. At one point he wrenched himself away from me so violently that I was afraid I was going to drop him!

I gave him another ½ bottle and he was calm only long enough to drink it. He was screaming again. That’s when I accepted the fact that he was going to do everything in his power to stay awake. I put him in the sling and we went outside. He was still screaming. We walked up and down the porch over and over and poor sweet Amani would not calm down.

Finally I started praying aloud. I prayed that God would help him know that he is safe, that he can trust me, that we love him, that God loves him. I prayed that I could take the pain and fear upon myself, even though I know that’s not how it works. As I prayed, his little body started to relax. He was still fighting sleep but he’d run completely out of energy. This little one fell asleep still holding his head up.  It breaks my heart that he’s so scared.

Here’s the deal: I can see the bigger picture. I know what his life would be like if he were never adopted. I know that after this pain and grief and fear part, that he’ll finally know and understand the love of a family. He’ll know what it means to have a Mommy and Daddy who love him, to have siblings who love him.  I know what the future holds for him. 

He doesn’t.

To him, he was suddenly taken away from everything comfortable, everything safe. He is now in a strange big house with strange people who don’t speak a language he can understand. He’s learning that I’m providing for him, but sleep makes you so vulnerable. He’s just not ready to be that vulnerable with me yet.

And that’s okay. I’ll hang with him as long as it takes.  I was fine last night, other than my heart hurting for him. His crying didn’t wear me down, I was perfectly calm, although maybe a little sleepy at first. I know the day will come when my presence will be enough to comfort him. I get the honor of being his mama and I’ll do whatever it takes to be worthy of that honor.

PS. If you are still reading, please say a little prayer for Kim and me… we are hoping for an Embassy date soon!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A typical day...

Before I start this post, I want to make a quick announcement… If you are an adoptive mama who will be traveling to Ethiopia anytime soon, BRING DIAPERS with you! Everything in Ethiopia is pretty inexpensive… except diapers! I was really surprised at how much they are and they come in pretty small packages. The biggest pack I found was 50 diapers but there was only one of those packs. They have lots of packs of 9 though (I still can’t begin to imagine a scenario in which you would only need to buy 9 diapers!). I’d say bring wipes too. I’m not sure if wipes are more expensive because after doing all the math to figure out how much the diapers were, we couldn’t deal with doing it again for wipes. So I bought “fruity wipes” since they had the most in a package. They smell like fake strawberries. Very classy! J

That concludes my public service announcement.

I thought I’d share with y’all what a typical day looks like on my crazy adventure here in Ethiopia! Prepare to be… well, bored, really!

We are not allowed to leave the guest house and while it is significantly bigger than the room at the orphanage where the boys were (I’m here with another mom, her daughter, and her new son who was in Amani’s same room), it’s not really all that big. We run out of places to go pretty quickly. But here’s how a typical day goes down for us!

6:15 or so – Amani wakes up and is HUNGRY! We go out to the eating area and I carry Amani, a bottle of water, the canister of formula, a banana and a box of baby cereal.  I put him in our little high chair and give him some little pieces of banana so I can run into the kitchen (the next room) for a bowl and a spoon.  He eats breakfast and I give him a bottle afterwards.

Around that same time the guest house staff have figured out we’re awake and they start making  breakfast for us. This is the only meal offered at our guest house and it’s usually really yummy. Amani and I play a little and when my breakfast is ready he goes back into the highchair for “second breakfast” which includes Cheerios, puffs, and bites of whatever I’m having (so far he likes the eggs and French toast, but didn’t like the pancakes).

After I’m done, we play some more. I’ve been giving him a bath during this time but tomorrow I’m going to start bathing him at night since that’s what we do at home.

“Play” consists of sitting on the floor next to the tables where we eat, sitting on our bed, or going outside.  “Outside” is a pathway with paving stones that we can walk down. It’s lined with pretty flowers. But those are our only options. We have a few toys and a ball but mostly the boys like playing with puffs containers and water bottles.

9:00 – Amani is tired and needs a little nap. He’s been fighting sleep so it’s been taking me 30-45 minutes to get him to fall asleep. But today was WONDERFUL! I put him in the sling and we walked around and he fell asleep without hardly any tears at all! Whoohoo!  As soon as he’s down, I run and take a shower and if I have time, I’ll check email/facebook.  This is a short nap for him, maybe 45 minutes.

We “play” until lunch. Usually we move around from outside to the eating area to the bed and back again! He likes to walk around so we often hold hands and I just let him lead and we walk all around the guest house.

Around 11 I need to order food for us. We can order food from nearby restaurants and the guy at the guard house goes out and gets it for us but it takes an hour or more to actually get it. I’ve gotten smart and started ordering two meals at a time. That has been lasting us through 3 meals usually!

12:00 Lunchtime! Amani’s a great eater – I just knew he’d be ready for finger foods so we started in on that right away! He does great and eats whatever I’m eating. We’ve had Ethiopian food, fried rice, ravioli, chicken, and veggies.  Our only real options are Italian food or Ethiopian food. Luckily I like both.

Around 1ish he’s ready for another nap. Again, it’s been taking 45 minutes to put him down because he fights sleep so badly. But today we did really well again  - I used the same sling technique and it worked like a charm! It probably only took 20 minutes to put him down and we had minimal tears! J

At this point I have about 2 or 2 ½ hours to chill out. I write blog posts, check email/facebook, nap, read, whatever.  Today I actually left the guesthouse with Jaeden!!! We went to the grocery store and it was VERY exciting just to get to walk around a bit!!! Honestly, it feels a little like being under house arrest!

When Amani wakes up, we have another snack. I tried buying him yogurt at the store today. Who knew Ethiopian yogurt is the same consistency as milk? Hmmmm… I mixed it with rice cereal, some pear juice, and sugar.  And had to kind of convince him to eat it. I don’t blame him.  I wish I'd taken pictures of his faces! But Jaeden had an idea to mix it with honey, so I may see if the guard can get me some honey sometime soon!

The boys eat dinner at 5 so if we are ordering out, we have to order by 4. I am REALLY hoping I can figure out how to extend his dinnertime. There’s no way I can get dinner on the table by 5 – Rob’s not even home by then! But today he had a big snack and our dinner didn’t get here till closer to 5:30 and he did okay.
After dinner we’re usually a bit at a loss for what to do. We make the rounds between playing on the floor, the bed, and outside.  I’m usually trying to figure out what we’re going to do until bedtime! I think adding the bath during this time should help out!!! To be very honest, Kim and I probably check the clock 40 times between dinner and bedtime just hoping time will go by a little faster. That's the longest span of our day, I think.

8pm – bottle and bedtime!  He was so tired tonight that he took his bottle and fell asleep with almost no problem.  He fought sleep just a little but didn’t cry, and fell asleep really quickly! Success!

After he’s down I usually collect bottles and wash them, try to put our room back together, eat dinner if I’ve forgotten to eat while he was eating (I keep forgetting to eat while he eats and there is NO way to eat later without feeding him again so I have to wait till he’s in bed).  Last night I watched Elf on my computer.
So you see how exciting our days are around here. Kim greeted me this morning with “It’s Groundhogs Day!!”  And we’ll keep re-living day after day for at least another two weeks! Whew.

But things are different each day. Each day Amani trusts me more and allows himself to relax. He plays more, smiles more, freaks out less. He’s been letting me sit down as long as we keep the sling on. I can get up from the bed to get something (sometimes). We’ve been having much longer play sessions before he hands me the sling! And now I just keep the sling nearby and when he needs to be held, he picks it up and holds it out to me. He doesn’t cry and he lifts his arms up as I put the sling around me. It’s pretty cool, actually.

And we had an awesome interaction today with a visitor to the guest house. She was sitting on the couch holding up a toy wanting him to come take it from her. He hesitated, looked at me to see if it would be okay. I motioned he could go but he still wouldn’t take it from her. When she put it on the table, he looked at me again, went and took the toy, then brought it to me and came in for some snuggles.  That was really great. He may not understand yet that I am his mama, but he’s starting to get that we belong together!  Most of our playtime goes that way. He moves away for a little while, then comes back in for a hug.  Or while we’re walking he’ll walk awhile, but always stops and lifts his arms for me to pick him up before wanting back down to keep walking.

We are moving in the right direction. Slowly… we had some tough times today too, but each day is a little better than the last!

God is good!  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Good News and the Bad News

Today has been one of those good news/bad news kinds of days.

Good News: Amani slept through the night
Bad News: His morning nap was 20 minutes long and he was CRANKY until after lunch

Good News: Amani let me sit down a couple times today
Bad News: He is fighting sleep like crazy. Poor baby

Good News: We were told it’s likely we’ll be cleared mid-week next week!
Bad News: The Embassy is closed the week after that so we’ll probably have to wait two weeks for an appointment. Argh.

The process of adopting is not for the faint of heart… and neither are the first couple days. We’ve been together 3 nights and 4 days now and let me tell you, it hasn’t been easy.
I think I wrote in my last post how I have to convince Amani to let me put him down to play. And if I stand up, or sometimes even move positions, he wants me to hold him again. But he only wants me to hold him while I’m standing up. If I sit down he screams.  Imagine doing that all day long. Whew! But this afternoon and this evening were much better.

And he fights sleep .  Oh does he fight it. I’ve read other adoptive moms’ blogs about sleep. And how scary it is for a child to fall asleep when they don’t really know what’s going on.  We are living it here – I am so sad that he feels he has to be on alert like that.Amani will be so tired he can do nothing but cry. And he’ll put his thumb in his mouth and he’s so tired he almost falls asleep immediately but as soon as he realizes it’s happening he pulls his thumb out and screams.  And I’ll rock him and he’ll start to fall asleep and realize what’s happening and try to sit up.  And scream some more.

But each day has gotten a little better.  Today we played for a long time!! That’s huge! Up until today I don’t know that Amani has played longer than 10 minutes without needing to be held.  So today we played outside for a good long time and most of the time we really were playing together.  And a couple times he let me sit down while he was in the sling. I’ve really grown to appreciate sitting down!
He loves the sling. L-o-v-e-s.Which is good, since I love using the sling.  And we had our first little conversation about it! We were outside playing and he picked up the sling, handed it to me, and cried. When I tried playing peek-a-boo with the sling he cried more. When I stood up and put it on, he lifted his arms and as soon as he was in it, he was fine!  This has happened twice now!

He’s also learning the sign for “more.”  Of course I don’t think he has any clue what it means, but he was copying me during lunch today, signing “more” at random times, usually just after I signed it and gave him a bite of lunch.  I thought that was a great sign! J

As hard as these past few days have been, it is all worth it. I look at him and I know what his future would have looked like had he never been adopted. And even though it’s hard while we’re getting to know each other, by the time we come home we should be in pretty good shape.  And he is so sweet. When we’re playing he smiles and giggles. He loves me to crawl after him across the room – he finds that hilarious.  And he loves the ring stacker. And shoes. He has some little Robeez and he LOVES them and brings them to me and puts them on top of his feet as if to say “hey Mom, I got my shoes!”  He’ll sit still for me to put them on him. I took them off shortly before his nap and he cried.  He’s just a sweet boy.

He also LOVES to walk. The room at the orphanage was probably 10 x 10 and part of it is filled with cribs. He didn’t have much room to walk around. In the guest house, he just walks and walks! We make loops in and out of our room, into the living room, through the kitchen… he just keeps going! And he’s getting better and better at it. Riley and Allyn better watch out!

I am so glad he's in our family!  Now I just have to get that bringing-him-home part figured out!


At first I thought I’d call this post “Mistakes” but I thought it might be more positive to call it “learning”.
Amani and I are learning each other. He’s pretty unsure a lot of the time.  He wants me to hold him and he wants me to hold him standing up. If I sit down he starts to cry.  Thank goodness for the sling or my arms might have fallen off by now.  It doesn’t matter that I can leave the guest house, I’m getting a workout anyway! J

I see glimpses of his personality. He’ll laugh, be silly, play with me, and toddle around the guest house. But it doesn’t last all that long.  If he walks away and I stand up to follow him, he immediately wants me to pick him up. If we are playing on the bed and I get up to get another toy, he thinks I’m leaving and cries to be picked up. Sometimes all I have to do is shift my weight and he looks at me with alarm. I lean towards him or pick him up saying “I’m not going anywhere.”  But I think it’ll keep getting better. I am so thankful for this time we have together now so we can focus on bonding.  It’ll be tougher when we’re at home.  He’s taking a pretty long nap right now and I’m letting him sleep as long as he needs.  I’m sure all this change is so exhausting for him!

My mistake happened our second night together! The first night he slept through the night. And I know he doesn’t need his bottle in the middle of the night for nutritional purposes.  He woke up at 2 that night and wasn’t really fussy. He just wanted to be awake. I really didn’t think he needed a bottle. I rocked him for a long time but he was still up so I put him in bed with me, hoping he’d fall back asleep.  He just quietly laid there in bed with me, eyes wide open.  After an hour or so I tried again to get him to sleep. He’d fall asleep in my arms but the minute I’d put him in his crib, he’d cry.  And then by about 3:30 he was crying. LOUD.  So I quickly popped him in the sling and fumbled around in the dark (have I mentioned the light in my room is broken? We have no light in there!) trying to get everything together to make him a bottle.  I gave him a warmed bottle and he went straight to sleep.
Huh… I bet if I’d just given him the bottle at 2 he would have gone right back to sleep!  Oops. And of course after he went to bed I was wide awake. It took me awhile to fall back asleep…. and all the while I kept thinking about how I should have just given him a bottle in the first place.
We attempted a bath again and it went MUCH better. I was able to wash his hair and I even got a smile out of him at one point.  He’s still not thrilled about it but at least he wasn’t crying the whole time. I think that will keep getting easier too!

Right now we’re just sort of in survival mode. I want him to know that I will respond to his needs as quickly as I can. The only way to teach him that he can trust me is to be trustworthy. So I’m at his beck and call. If he wants up, I’ll hold him. If he wants a bottle, I’ll feed him. If he needs to fall asleep in my arms, that’s just fine.  It’s actually not any different than it was with Riley and Allyn when they were first born.  We are establishing our relationship.  And good relationships take time to grow.

Speaking of relationships… I sure do miss Rob and the kids. I so hate that Rob isn’t here to be with Amani.  Of course I am so glad he’s home with our other kids though. Kind of a tricky emotion, to be honest! J  I got the best surprise today. It turns out we hadn’t taken all the videos off the flip before I came. I went to download some videos onto the computer and found some videos of the kids.  The best was one Riley had taken of Allyn. I didn’t know he’d done it so I hadn’t seen it before. It was hilarious. He talks to her like I do!  And it made me miss them and feel better all at the same time.

The latest on the Embassy is that they asked me for more info! I was so bummed out.  But my agency’s going to bring them that info Monday morning.  HOPEFULLY that will be the last of what they ask for and we’ll hear that we are cleared very soon! Hooray! I am really hoping to have heard something by the end of next week. And Kim, Jaeden (her daughter) and I did some blog stalking last night and found out that a family that was cleared this week got an Embassy appointment 5 days later!  That is amazing news! 

If we are cleared next week we could have an Embassy appointment in maybe two weeks! Oh that would be so awesome.  I love having the extra time with Amani, but I will feel much better having an idea of when we’re going home! J To be quite honest, it’s a little scary really not knowing how long it will take. It was scary thinking about it before but now that I’m here… yeah, scary.

Thanks for the prayers!  Keep ‘em coming please!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dear Amani...

Dear Amani,

We’ve almost been together for 24 hours now. I’ll never be able to tell you what you first day of life was like, but I can certainly tell you about our first day together.

I went to visit you at the orphanage yesterday as soon as you were up from your nap. We played for a long time.  Word got around that you were leaving that evening and your caregivers came by to say goodbye. They obviously love you very much.  Senet and Sarah are your “special mothers” and they are wonderful. We’ll see them again next week to say goodbye for real at the coffee ceremony.

I fed you dinner there and we played a little while longer. And then when I left, I didn’t have to leave you behind!!  You came right along with me!  Samuel Reisen was with us too because his mom and sister are here doing the same thing we are: Waiting for Embassy clearance.  You must have been some kind of favorite at the orphanage because we were stopped several times on our way out so that women could say goodbye.
Usually you would be brought to me at the guesthouse and that was our original plan but when the visit was going so well, Kim and I figured it would be so much easier on you and Reisen if you came with us while you were having a good time with us.  There were no tears. You didn’t try to reach for anyone at the orphanage instead of me.  I think it was way better than having someone from the orphanage bring you to me in the morning.  You didn’t really enjoy the car ride. It seemed to freak you out… you just sat very quietly on my lap with a slight look of alarm on your face.

We came back to the guest house and played a little longer. I changed you into pjs, and gave you one last nightly bottle.  Your schedule says you take one at 10 pm but I figured if I gave you one at 8 right at bedtime that you’d do just fine all night.  I was right – you slept all through the night until about 6!
I woke up because I heard a loud CRASH! You had woken up, stood up in your crib and grabbed the ring stacker I’d accidentally left on the bureau next to your crib. Oops.  You wake up so quietly… I wonder how I’ll know you’re up tomorrow morning.

You are a great eater! You had an entire banana, a bowl of rice cereal, and a bottle for breakfast!! And you played happily until about 9 when you decided you were going to take a nap. The orphanage said you only nap once a day but maybe moving was tiring so you needed a little rest.

You slept about 45 minutes and when you woke up, I gave you a bath. I think up until now you’ve only had sponge baths.  You did NOT like the regular bath. Not at all. I washed you up quickly and didn’t do your hair since you were so miserable.  And then after that you really weren’t yourself.  You only wanted me to hold you. You cried if I even sat down and cried harder if I sat you on the floor to play.  Most of the morning you were pretty out of sorts.
It was hard to watch you suffering like that.  I’m sure you are confused about where you are, about where your friends and caregivers are.  I don’t know your routine. I don’t know how you like to be held. I can’t speak the language that can calm you.  This morning was hard.  And it made me a little mad. I know the adoption would have been easier on you if we could have gotten to you earlier.  But now you are 13 months old. I’ve known about you since you were 8 months old. All those 5 months I wish we could have been together.  But things are not that way so we’ll have to get through.  A part of me is glad to see you grieving. I know it’s a healthy reaction.  It would not be a good sign if you just attached immediately to me as if nothing ever happened.

We ate Ethiopian food for lunch. You’ve never had real solid foods and you’ve never fed yourself before. I put you in our little highchair and gave you some tiny pieces of injera, gomen (collard greens) and a little meat. You ate like a champ!  You still prefer me to put pieces of food in your mouth but you ate a lot by yourself. And after lunch you had an entire bottle! I don’t know where you put it all!
After that you were back to yourself. Smiling, laughing! You’re walking now and you like to toddle over to Jaeden or Miss Kim and then turn around and toddle back to me. You’re so funny. You make some awesome faces. And you babble quite a bit but I don’t think you’re saying anything in Amharic. I know it’s not English J

I’m learning some Amharic to make life easier for us. More, all done, water, milk… I’m trying to learn the basic words we’ll need to get by for the first couple months.

You know what? I was nervous about coming to get you. I didn’t know how it would go between us. I wasn’t sure how I would feel. I remember feeling so strongly that you are mine when I came to visit you in July for court, but I was a little scared about how it would go when we were actually living together.  But you are my child.  I don’t feel like I’m babysitting. I don’t  feel like I’m having to try hard to feel motherly towards you.  I love you. I love getting to know you. And I love knowing that we are finally together.  Only one hurdle remains and that’s getting you home to the rest of the family.  But it’s in the works and our adoption agency staff have been really encouraging.

I’m going to nap a little while you’re napping.


Monday, September 12, 2011

My Prayer

Dear God,

Wow. Thank you. Thank you for not leaving me be. Thank you for not letting me live this life as if it were all about me.  Thank you for putting adoption on our hearts years ago, before we were even married, so that when the time came for us to adopt, there wasn't much left to figure out.

Thank you for teaching me about yourself.  For showing me how important orphans are to you. And thank you, so much, for including me in your plans.  I am so not worthy of the honor.  Thank you for opening my eyes to Ethiopia and to Swaziland. We will not abandon our brothers and sisters there.  The finalization of this adoption is only that - the finalization of an adoption. Our commitment remains.

Above all, thank you for calling me to be a parent. We aren't in this journey to adopt a child... we are in this to parent one.  Well, three, actually.  Thank you for my children. Aside my from my husband, they've been your best blessings to me.

When you first placed us firmly on this journey, I had no idea what we would go through. You probably designed it that way. I would have been too scared. There was so much at risk. So much of my heart put out on the line.  YOU gave me the strength to get through.  Thank you for not telling me ahead of time. I am so glad I never had the chance to wimp out.

Thank you for arranging things so that I can go over early. There are too many "coincidences" here for them to be truly coincidences.  Thank you for thinking of two women in North Carolina as you loved two boys from Gondar.

I pray for my own government. That they would find the answers they need so that we can come home and be a family.

I pray for my family as we are apart. Thank you for making us healthy enough to sustain a long separation.

And this journey is not over. Our family has changed. We have three kids. That scares me a little.  We are now a multiracial family and we embrace all that that entails.  That scares me a little too.  I pray for tough skin and soft hearts for all of us when we need it.

Most importantly, I pray that we would reflect you in all that we do. I pray that my children will fall in love with Jesus, just as their parents have.  That we, as a family, can be examples of your grace.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Embassy update

My friend heard from the Embassy yesterday. We were submitted on the same day and when we didn't hear anything yesterday I got so anxious I could barely stand it. I was a bundle of nerves all day yesterday. I even had weird dreams about the Embassy all night.

The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was check my email.  And my heart quickened when I saw an email with the title: add.doc.Cassell (embassy code for our case, I guess).

We heard from them! It wasn't clearance, but I knew we wouldn't be cleared. It appears that the Embassy is asking additional questions of pretty much everyone these days.

I'm trying to have a better attitude about the Embassy. I'm really kind of frustrated. I won't go into it here because I'd like to stay respectful.

IF our agency can provide the answers for them by the end of next week and
IF the Embassy takes about a week and a half to respond and
IF they clear us at that point and
IF they have appointments available within the next week or so
...we're on track to be coming home the first week of October.

Hmmm... that's a lot of IFs.

I spent some time recently freaking out about how long I'll be gone. And then the other night at bedtime, Riley asked me "What if they never clear you to bring Amani home?"  And suddenly my perspective changed.  Here's the deal: they've never NOT cleared anyone. At least not to my knowledge. So it's not a matter of not being able to bring him home, it's just how many hoops we need to jump through before we're issued clearance.  I was able to tell him that there is almost no chance of that happening. And he's my prayer warrior - he's been praying every night that Mommy and Amanuel will come home soon.

In four days I leave to go get my son. And I'm really not coming home without him.  In the grand scheme of life, it doesn't really matter if I'm gone 2 weeks or 5.  Of course I'd rather it be 2 weeks, but our family is healthy enough to sustain a longer separation if that's what we have to do.

It's almost hard for me to believe it. It's been almost 2 years since we started this process. The other day I calculated how "far along" I am if this were a pregnancy... it was 90-something weeks! Sheesh.

But we're really here. I'm really leaving. I'm really bringing my son home.

We will finally be a family of five. Praise God!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Mom Thing... it takes a village!

I am pretty sure I blogged about "the Mom thing" last year.  Right around my firstborn's birthday. I guess I think a lot about what it means to be a mom every year around the time I became one.

I love being Mommy. L-o-v-e.  That doesn't mean I'm always calm and graceful and patient (and certainly not perfect!) with my kids, but when it comes down it it, there is nothing else on this earth I'd rather be than their mama.  And in one short week, I will finally be with the third child who will call me Mommy.  That name, to me, is such an honor. And, in this last kiddo's case, very hard-won.  Sometimes I think about my kids and my husband and my eyes fill with tears, wondering how in the world I came to be so blessed. But just to keep things real here, sometimes I think about them and my eyes fill with tears because there's chocolate sauce on the wall and I honestly am not sure if it's there because of the kids or the husband!  But mostly, it's the good kind of tears.

Today I went to Target with my LIST. Everything I think I need for Ethiopia. I mentioned in my to-do list post that I'm sure I'll be head back to Target 'cause I know there's stuff I've forgotten.  I got a bunch of stuff and then I hit the formula aisle.

I was stumped.

You see, he's on a kind of formula there in Ethiopia and I plan to buy that while we're there, but I wanted to bring some so that at least I'd have something in case for some reason I can't buy any right when I get there.  At the first grocery store I couldn't find the formula and had to ask, which made me feel kinda dumb.  I gave up and left.  Then at Target I was in the formula aisle, staring at all the formulas and realized I had NO clue what I was doing.

And that's when I was so glad I'm in the "Mommy club."  Rob says there's this invisible network around me of mamas and we have this unwritten rule that it is always okay to call anytime with a random question.  I know I can text my friend Amy in PA when I can't remember the crazy awesome recipe her pediatrician gave her for her son's terrible diaper rash. I've often called my friend Becky from the diaper aisle at the grocery store to ask what size diapers I'm supposed to get when I'm out buying disposables before going out of town (I use cloth diapers and our girls are the same age/size).  And, likewise, when she was looking into buying a cloth swim diaper for her daughter this summer, she called.  That's just how moms roll: together!

Today I called my friend Amber. Her sweet daughter Emmy is the only child I've ever mixed formula for and fed with a bottle!  I remember the moment clearly because I felt like an idiot when I had to ask her how to mix the bottle!  She was my lifesaver today and successfully got me through the formula aisle. She had been on another call and even ended her conversation early in order to help me figure out what to do!

How in the world did I get so blessed with such wonderful friends!?!?

I wish I could turn this blog post into a giant shout-out to all the mamas who have stood by me over the past five years and partnered with me on this journey to raise our children.  But inevitably I'd forget and leave someone off and then I'd never forgive myself.

But you ladies know who you are: we've been in playgroups, in Little Gym and Kindermusik classes, we drink coffee every week, we sit next to each other in Sunday School, our kids play on a regular basis, we talk at the playground every day after school, we have moms-nights-out, your kids are my youth (or were), we run together (when I can keep up), we head to the "big pool" when the whistle blows, or tag-team trips to the bathroom. Some of you are here in NC... others are oh-so-far away.

Y'all know who you are - you are in my mommy network!  And I don't know what I would do without you.  They say it takes a village to raise a child.  I think it takes a village to make a good Mom!

Thanks to all of you for being a part of me - I wouldn't be who I am without y'all!  And this next child of mine? He's not just an orphan gaining a mommy... he's gaining a whole village-full of mommies.

And I can't wait for him to meet y'all.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The To-Do list this week...

This is my LAST full week at home before I leave!!!  Whoo hoo!

Just a glimpse of what we're doing this week:

Today... family day! Just hanging around the house (and I'm working on my packing and to-do lists)
Tonight - my last four hours at work! Maternity leave, here I come!!
Tuesday: the kids' first day at school! I'll drop them off, then head straight to Target to get the rest of what I need from my list!  Make double of the lettuce wraps for dinner and freeze for while I'm gone. Oh yeah, and Riley has soccer practice.
Wed: Riley to school, Allyn to dance class, haircut for Allyn after school, then AWANA starts that night at church!
Thurs: Both kids to school... how much you wanna bet I have to make another trip to Target? Haircut for me that afternoon (not enough for Locks of Love this time - this will be my first non-Locks of Love haircut in 6 or 7 years!) Make double of the potato leek soup for dinner and freezer for while I'm gone.
Fri: FAMILY DAY! We'll be celebrating Riley's birthday since I'll be gone that day! Hiking at Hanging Rock (please no rain!)
Saturday: Soccer games, birthday parties, Rob has a carwash thing.  And I'm sure, at some point, some general freaking out.
Sunday: Last Sunday at church before I leave! Hmmm... how much will I cry during the service? Maybe I should bring some tissues.
Monday: Head to Charlotte!!! We're going to meet my brother for dinner, then I'm going to stay the night with him and he'll take me to the airport Tuesday morning before the sun comes up!  This will be my tough day - saying goodbye to Rob and the kids.

Whew - this week is going to fly by!  But I'm going to soak up every bit of my sweet kids and husband before I go.  Oh how I'm going to miss them.

But I've got my eyes on the prize now... and I can't wait to lay my eyes on this face:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Getting ready/Unsettled

In 12 days, I'll be on a plane headed for Ethiopia.  I arrive the following day and will visit my sweet boy at the orphanage.  Then, two weeks from today, he leaves the orphanage to come live with me at the guest house! My heart beats faster just typing the words.

He leaves the orphanage. Forever.

Our plan for me to go over early isn't an easy one.  But even when I'm struggling with the idea of leaving my other two, I've never doubted for a moment that this wasn't the right plan.

I don't know if I'll be in Ethiopia for three weeks or five weeks or longer than that.  But I know that in two weeks, a sweet child in Ethiopia will finally begin to learn what it's like to have a family.  And I will finally have a chance to get to know my son, a boy who's been in our family for almost a month already.

Lately I have a new trick - it's called "not-being-able-to-fall-asleep."  Every night as I get in bed, my mind fills with all the things I need to do, things I want to pack, things I need to remember to tell Rob about our kids here... the list goes on and on. I don't get out of bed to do anything about it, but I lie there and my mind races. It's not really fun.

It's a little overwhelming to pack for a trip when you don't know how long you'll be gone, and you've never dressed the child whose clothes you're packing.  And I have to pack everything. Everything. Bottles, bowls, spoons, baby cereal, Cheerios, socks, clothes, pjs. He owns nothing; everything belongs to the orphanage.  I am really hoping to have room to pack this little high-chair thing I have. It has a tray and I'm excited to start him on some finger foods (hence the Cheerios).

Over the past week, I've had a couple of really tough moments getting ready to leave the kids here. I've been trying to freeze extra meals so Rob will have healthy meals ready to go when he needs them.  I need to make a master schedule for him of who goes where & when. School, soccer practice, dance lessons. Who is supposed to keep the kids that "extra" week when his mom is gone and he's already back at work.  What I want the kids to wear for school pictures (still gotta figure that one out).  I learned that one the hard way one Easter: I laid out the kids' clothes and figured Rob would figure out the shoes. I found out later that my daughter wore her Easter dress to church with croc shoes! ha ha!  Mental note: lay out shoes for school pictures.

All of that has made me focus on what I'm leaving behind. How hard it will be to be away from them.  I had a giant meltdown over it this week. Huge. Crying, irrational thinking, the works.  Not pretty.

But today I got to take the kids to preschool to meet their new teachers for this year. And I got to see a lot of my preschool mommy friends who I didn't see all summer. I got to show off pictures of Amani and talk about the plans to go get him. I so needed that. It got me all excited again to be going. He's coming home! He really is coming home!!! That makes me start crying, but in the good way!

I'm seriously the biggest ball of crazy emotions right now!

Mostly, I'm unsettled.  Not over anxiety about leaving the kids; not the general before-a-trip stress. I'm unsettled because our family just doesn't feel complete. I'm very aware that life is much easier right now. Especially with the kids headed to preschool next week. Life would be a cake-walk if he weren't coming home: two days a week with no kids, the other three days with just one. We'd settle into an easy routine and I'd have time to myself for the first time in 5 years.

But I don't want that.

I'm unsettled because I want him home. I want our life as a family of five to begin. I actually want the struggles that come with the attachment issues of having a son who spent his first year of life without a family. I want the upheaval of adding another child to the family.

I want all that because I want him. We want him in our family, more than I can explain.

And for those of you wanting an update: we were submitted to the Embassy 1 week ago. No news yet. They've been taking two weeks to respond, so I expect to hear something next week sometime. I'll feel a lot better hearing from them before I leave.  After that, if they don't request any additional paperwork, they could clear us in two weeks! And then add another week or two to get an appointment. That would be wonderful. We're praying for that!

But I'm not coming home without him, so I'll be there as long as it takes!