Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Impromptu Photo Shoot

We had scheduled with a friend and wonderful photographer to have our pictures taken a few weeks ago and it rained :( Since all the kids were bathed and in coordinating clothes, I decided to take a few pictures myself. These are the results - some pretty cute kids if I say so myself.

Now if we can get this rescheduled before the snow comes and maybe even get Christmas or perhaps New Year's cards out.....here's hoping

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Catching Up - Kaleb's Birthday

I'm still playing catch up, but with Christmas coming I really wanted to post a few things. Kaleb's birthday was October 10. We were driving back from our trip to the coast (which is another thing I need to post about) so we stopped for pizza and ice cream. We had gotten Kaleb a few presents in Fort Bragg at a really great toy store and he was able to open them. I must say it is a little bit difficult to shop for a kid you are still getting to know who would love anything. We kept it kind of simple with a small lego boat, silly straws, a toy car and a harmonica. Singing him happy birthday was really special.

As I have posted before we are changing Kaleb's birthdate so this was his 6th birthday instead of his 5th and we are still confident about this decision. We also decided to have a small party when we got back home. It was still soccer season and Kaleb loves soccer so we had a soccer party with a few friends and Grammy.

Now I have always made my kids cakes and although I'm no cake artist they have come out ok except for the castle cake I attempted for Toby last year, that was a bit of a disaster and Addie did request a cake with gummy bears, marshmallows and sprinkles which was difficult to make pretty. Anyway, I wanted a special cake for Kaleb being that this was his first birthday with us. We have a great little bakery in our town and I went in to talk with Tracie. She was wonderful and in talking to her I found out she has two adopted children. Athough her schedule was packed she really wanted to make Kaleb's cake and it turned out amazing. The soccer ball on top was rice a krispie treat and Kaleb loved it.

Emnet has been pretty good when other kids have received things she hasn't but this whole birthday thing was a bit much for her. Being that she will have to wait until May we decided to have a pretend birthday for her. We picked out a few things from the dollar store and she got a balloon which was the highlight. I look forward to celebrating her "happy bursday" as she calls it.

I am so thankful God has given me the privilege of celebrating the next many birhtdays with these two children that I did not birth.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Late Halloween and Early Thanksgiving

I know this is a little late, but the kids were so cute on Halloween, I thought I would post it anyway. Jeff's mom came to visit and it was her first time meeting Kaleb and Emnet which made it even more exciting. My kids dress up all the time, so Halloween is just an extra special time to dress up for them which earned them a crazy amount of candy. Our town does a "Safe Trick or Treat" downtown which is a lot of fun. All of the merchants hand out candy and you get to see everybody in their costumes. Afterwards, we went to a few houses on our street because we have some really wonderful neighbors. There aren't many kids in our neighborhood so they were waiting for us. Kaleb and Emnet thought it was really crazy that they could go up to someone, say "trick or treat" and get candy and I must agree. We give candy sparingly in this household so we might have enough to last until the 4th of July!

Emnet Ladybug, Addie Butterfly Fairy Princess, Kaleb Spiderman and Toby Soldier

Today we had a Thanksgiving Feast at Toby and Addie's school. We are so thankful that our tiny town has a wonderful Christian school. The kids were so excited about the feast. The preschoolers dress as turkeys, the kindergarten class as pilgrims and the first graders are native americans. Unfortunately, Kaleb had school today so he wasn't able to join us, but Toby made sure we brought him home a special treat.

My Indian with his turkeys

Jeff was able to come which was really fun

The kids made placemats for the feast and Toby's is a keeper. He wrote what he was thankful for and the first two things he wrote were "my brother, Kaleb and adoption."

I can't tell you how thankful I am for this because Toby had the most difficult transition when Kaleb and Emnet came home. God has worked to soften his heart because just a few months ago Toby would not have written this. His whole world had been turned upside down and he was angry and confused. We had many late night conversations with Toby and we prayed a lot. We also had him see a counselor a few times which was very helpful. I was talking to her just the other day and she has been so encouraged by how far Toby has come. Thank you Heather! I am so proud of Toby and how brave he has been and the leadership he has shown. I have so much to be thankful for. Now to survive a drive with 4 kids to Colorado......

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Year Ago

One year ago today we got the call we had been waiting for. Our paperwork had been in Ethiopia for 8 months and it had been 20 months since we started the adoption process and it felt like it had taken forever. I must admit I didn't always wait well and the waiting after the referral was only more difficult.

I had woken up that day anxious because we had been having trouble with our phone and internet and as I realized that neither was working, I joking thought to myself that this would be "the day." I quickly reminded myself that it was Veteran's Day so I was convinced nothing could happen. Jeff went to work and was burning piles in the forest when he got a message on his cell phone. He called my mom, who came over and got me to call him back. It was then he told me our casemanager had called about a referral. That was such an exciting moment and those of you who have adopted know exactly what I am talking about. I looked at the clock and being that we are 3 hours behind our agency, I knew it was going to be close. Ben was just walking out the door when he answered the phone. He told me about a 4 year old boy and a 3 year old girl. I was ecstatic. I called Jeff back with the news and promised him I wouldn't open the e-mail from Ben until we were together. This wasn't going to be too hard because my internet still didn't work. Jeff couldn't leave right away because he was on a fire, so I had to wait. We made plans to meet in town at a restaurant with internet access. Lucky for us, our internet started working just before Jeff got home.

We sat down and opened the pictures, and I have to say, I didn't get the same feeling I know some people have of just knowing this was their child. This was unexpected because both Jeff and I thought we would open the pictures, feel an instant connection and call back to accept the referral immediately. This was not the case for us. We read all the medical information and we knew there were a few things that we needed to get more information about before we could accept the referral. We really thought we would be referred siblings although we were open to unrelated children and Kaleb and Emnet were not siblings. There were also parts of the kids stories which are truly heartbreaking. I know this is true of all adoptions, but when you realize that you will need to share certain details of a child's past with them at some point, you need to be able to accept what they have been through. At the same time, we were super excited. This was finally happening. As you all know we happily accepted the referral after praying and getting our questions answered and I am so thankful because I cannot imagine what it would have been like to turn a referral down. Although this journey has been anything but easy, it has been so blessed. I might have mentioned that once or twice :) So here are the pictures we saw first.

Kaleb Kebede age 4 (?)

Emnet Seyoum age 3 (?)

I can't tell you how often I stared at these pictures and prayed over them. We didn't receive a picture of Emnet smiling for months. How deceiving that was :) Kaleb's smile was and is magnetic. Here are the beautiful faces I kiss goodnight.

In other news, I have so many things to blog about. An amazing trip to Fort Bragg that was instrumental in our family turning a corner towards unity, Addie riding a two-wheeler, Toby showing incredible leadership, Emnet being the cutest little ladybug for Halloween and Kaleb's 6th birthday as well as making the paper twice in 4 months of being in America - oh. life in small town, we love it!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Orange Tree

I debated for a while whether or not to share this story, but it is so poignant, I decided it was worth sharing. When you adopt an older child it is difficult not to think about all the things you have missed in their lives before joining your family. Of course you think of milestones - first smile, first steps, first words. But there are other things also. The night we got Kaleb to the guest house and put on his pajamas, I noticed a really bad scar on his knee. It almost looked like a burn, but I had no idea what happened to cause it. It has been such a glaring reminder of all I don't know about his life before and what he has endured.

The other night I was helping him dry off after his bath and I pointed out all his little owies from falling off his bike. He pointed to the big scar and in his own way he told me the story. It went like this:
Ehtiopia. Hungry. Hungry. See Tree. Orange. Climb. Up. Up. Fall Down. No Band-Aids. At night, no sleep.
I asked him if anyone saw him fall. He said no. I asked if anyone helped him. He said no. I asked him if he got the orange. A huge smile came over his face and he said yes. He told me he took it home, got a knife, cut it up and it was yummy. The oldest he could have been when this happened was 4 years old. As I hugged him and rubbed lotion on his scar, I promised him I would always have band-aids.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Little or Not so Little Update

I really want to get better at blogging so my updates won't be so long. A lot has been on my mind and many things have been happening in our family, but finding the time to blog is difficult. The first big news was Jeff got home two weeks ago after being gone almost a month and it wasn't a moment too soon. The kids were really missing him and I was really needing him. He had a couple of days off and it was great. He laid the law so to speak and the kids have responded remarkably well. There has been a lot of progress made with Kaleb and Emnet feeling more comfortable and attaching to us which has allowed us to be more strict in our expectations. This goes for our biological kids as well because we had lacked consistency as we all struggled to adjust to our new family dynamic.

The truly amazing thing is we are finally starting to feel more like a family. We went on a little hike the weekend Jeff got home and these are a few pictures.

This truly warmed my heart because there has been so much fighting between the kids. I got a glimpse of how things can be with prayer and hard work.

There has also been some other progress made. Kaleb is now able to go to school without me and I am so proud of him. He is writing all of his letters, and although he gets frustrated, I try to continually remind him (and myself) how great he is doing. He is going to take an assessment on Tuesday which is required by the state of California for all non-English speakers to evaluate his level. He will be assessed every year until it is determined that he is fluent in English. I find this kind of thing fascinating so it will be interesting to see what is included in the testing. Kaleb also lost his first tooth! He was really upset about this at first and it took a lot of convincing to assure him that another tooth would grow in. He was pretty excited about the tooth fairy and it is likely he will lose several other teeth soon. Finally, Kaleb is riding a two-wheel bicycle. He had been wanting his training wheels off for a couple of weeks but I wanted to wait for Jeff to get home. The night Jeff got home he took them off and Kaleb was riding by himself about 5 minutes later. This is the same boy who could not figure out how to pedal and would ride slower than I can walk when he first got here. They have come so far in so many ways.

Toby and Addie are loving school. Living in a small town might require a blog post all its own but one thing I will say is that people truly are invested in the lives of my kids. This is such a blessing to me and to them.

Kaleb and Toby both started soccer which is a lot of fun, but it does make our evenings crazy. Kaleb is really good. He kicked the soccer ball for hours while we were in Ethiopia, so I was really excited for his opportunity to learn the game. He had his first game last week and he scored for both teams :) He gets pretty aggressive and I was telling his coach, who is a good friend of ours, that we might need to work on sportsmanship. He reminded me that perhaps we should keep working on English instead :) Toby is also doing great when he isn't staring at the clouds. If you know Toby, this makes perfect sense. Let's just say it is a really good thing Toby is smart.

Emnet started dance class. This just makes me smile because she dances all the time. We were watching a Muppet Movie that had a lot of Motown music in it, and although Emnet was exhausted, she just had to get up and dance. It is amazing to see how well she listens and follows directions when she is running off which continues to be an issue for us. Emnet's little dance class just might be the cutest ever. There is a little girl adopted from China and a little girl from Mexico adopted out of foster care in her class. What a beautiful picture. You can't help but think about what life would have been for these three little girls as you see them twirling in their tutus. It is moments like this that makes me so thankful for adoption amidst the very difficult days.

Jeff and the boys are camping out tonight for "man camp" which was going to include all kinds of fun like canoeing, compasses, Bible reading, fishing, hiking to a waterfall and code names. Kaleb kept asking everyone if he was going to get eaten by a bear. I will post more on this adventure and my fun time with the girls which included a tea party, pretty dresses, nail polish, beads and princess movies. For now, here a couple pictures of Kaleb's first s'more. Now that is a momentous occasion! As for Emnet, she still doesn't like sweets - I told you she was crazy.

The camo and sunglasses make the picture don't you think :)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

My Silly Superheroes

I have been trying to focus on the lighter moments at our house. Jeff is wonderful at bringing laughter into most situations and he is missed. I have a hard time doing this especially when I am frustrated, so I have been trying to encourage the kids in their silliness. They came up with this all on their own.

Bat Toby

Spiderman - his favorite

Always a Princess even when doing Kung Fu

Not sure about this one on so many levels but she always makes me laugh