Sunday, November 30, 2008

More Pictures

Adjustment at 4 months

I'm hoping all these pictures make up for me not posting in so long! Before we went to Ethiopia I swore I would not be one of those people who spends a lot of time on the computer posting on my blog and to my adoption yahoo groups, only to return home and disappear from cyberspace, yet here I am, definitely one of those people!
Life is so busy around here. And I don't mean busy because we are running around to a hundred different activities a week because we don't, I mean busy being a homeschooling mom and a parent. It is so hard to find the time to blog. Once the kids are in bed I have to decide between getting some work done, spending time with Sergio, spending time with God, or doing something really wierd like relaxing!
The 26th of Nov. was our 4 month mark for the kids being home! As I remember my old posts tonight I am so thankful for God's grace in getting us through those first weeks and for the fast and continued progress in our adjustment. So far the bonding with the kids is going really well. Leul has started being much more affectionate with us, I even got about 4 kisses on the cheek from him today! And his relationship with his siblings is so much better than it was even one month ago. He now uses encouraging words with them, apologizes when he's done something to them, and puts up with them giving him hugs. Hana is bonding well too, but she did right from the start. Her only sibling issue was Olivia not wanting much to do with her in the beginning, but that is getting much better. I don't know what Olivia's problem was with Hana. I think she was mad that we left her for 8 days and when we came home with Hana she decided to hold a grudge against her! More and more they play together now, the other day she even wanted Hana rather than me when she fell!
Mateo went through a little funk a few weeks ago with having a very bad attitude. It seemed to stem from that good old testosterone and his desire to compete and win. I think he was having a hard time dealing with the fact that he now has an older brother who basically (for the time being anyway) can beat him at anything, and not only CAN beat him, but WILL beat him, and feels no need to cut the little guy some slack. Thank God it only last a week or two because Mateo who normally is one of my easiest kids, was no fun to be around at all. He bounced back quickly though and we now only see his attitude every now and then.
I think I am the one having the hardest time dealing with adjustment right now! Once in awhile the heartache of knowing Hana and Leul have been seperated from people whom they love dearly hits me. Today I was looking at pictures from our trip to Ethiopia (so that I could finally print some out) and I just lost it. I spent much time crying about the fact that every day we have to enjoy Leul and Hana is a day that their bio families are missing out on them. It just breaks my heart. I had been looking at pictures of Leul hugging his Ethiopian mom one last time before we got in the taxi to leave. I will probably never know the pain of giving one of my children up for adoption, yet looking at the pictures, I think I felt just a bit of the sorrow she must have felt that day. What an unselfish and strong love she has for her son.
I have also been really uptight lately. Much of the time it seems like our house is either in total chaos, or it's a bootcamp and I'm having a hard time getting somewhere in the middle. The good thing is that I have a good encouraging support system and I am working hard (with God's help, because I couldn't do it on my own) to ease up a bit! The past week has been a lot better than the previous ones and I'm praying this week will be even better. I am constantly having to humble myself, but that's what God gave us kids for anyway right?


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

In the past few weeks......

My precious Isabel turned 7. She picked Cookie Crisp cereal for breakfast and McDonald's for dinner. We had cake at the park with some family and friends, and she also had her first sleep over with some friends from our homeschool co-op! Isabel is so full of life and joy and has such a strong faith in God. It is a blessing to be able to watch her grow up!

My husband became a US Citizen! After 17 years of being in the country he finally had his interview and was sworn in on Sept.25. We had a surprise party for him and ate gorditas and cake. Most people will never know all the miracles God did to bring him to that swearing in ceremony, but let me just say that there were many!

My sweet Grandpa who was so very special to me passed away. This was the first death I've had to deal with since I was in second grade and it has been very hard. He was seriously the best grandpa anyone could ever ask for. He was one of the most loving people I've ever known and I miss him so much already.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Way overdue highlights from our summer!

I know this is late but I finally downloaded our pictures from the summer and I thought I'd share a few with you all. We didn't do any major vacations this year but we did go to a few places like the zoo and the ocean.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

How things are going now!

Well, just in case anyone is still checking my blog, I thought I should post some kind of an update. I've meant to do it many times over the last few weeks but it just never happened.
Things are going really well. We have good days and not so good days, and good hours and tough hours but I still can't believe how much better things have gotten just since the last time I posted.
Some of the things that are better:
Our child who was having angry outbursts not only gets angry less often but now stays angry for only a few minutes and I wouldn't even call it an outburst anymore!

The picky eater is now eating what we eat for dinner. (Not everything we eat but at least one thing we are having without much sulking) They even tried chicken nuggets tonight and liked them!
Leul is doing much better with Olivia. He still needs his body space but when she's hanging on him he's figured out that if he gives her some quick loving she'll leave him alone!

Tonight Leul and Hana actually danced together! It's the first time they've touched eachother since we've been home.

I have no kids sleeping on my floor tonight. (Honestly, I kind of like having my kids on the floor once in awhile but it's nice to know it's not mandatory anymore.)

Sergio and I both received our first hugs initiated from Leul a few days ago. I even got a goodnight kiss. I was tucking him in and he sat straight up in bed and told me he wanted a kiss on the lips! (Usually I kiss him on the forehead when I put him to bed)

The kids are both learning the rules and they are getting that sulking and disobeying don't fly in our home, therefore they are testing less and less every day.

Tonight while I had 4 kids all talking/shouting at me at once my almost 7 year old daughter shouted louder than anyone, "God only gave Mom one brain and two ears and one mouth so everybody let's be quiet and only one of us talk at a time." (Finally my little talks are sinking in!)

I'm still exhausted some days, and depending on when you talk to me you might hear a not quite so positive explanation of how we're doing, but over all things really are going well. I am truly amazed at the strength and courage of all my kids.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How things are going around here!

Blogging about my trip to Ethiopia isn't turning out so easy to do. There is just too much to say and by the time I can blog at night while the kids are sleeping I'm DONE with emotions for the day. So, I'm just going to give an update for those of you who have been checking this blog for anything new.
We've been home 11 days now. Things are actually going pretty much how they are supposed to be. We are all adjusting, sometimes getting on eachothers nerves, but most of the time things are okay. We are trying to be really consistant with certain boundaries like speaking nicely and obeying Mom and Dad, and letting other things go for now like being a super picky eater and wearing articles of clothing that don't fit and shouldn't be worn together.
Some of the fun/funny things over the past 11 days have been watching the kids learn to ride bikes, taking Leul to soccer practice, watching Mateo absolutely adore having a big brother, seeing the surprised look on Leul's face when a voice came out of the speaker at the B.K. drive thru and he said "That thing talk?", trying to explain to Hana that when you order something on the internet it doesn't just come right out of the computer screen, and seeing my bio girls the second morning after being home walk into my bedroom with what I thought was very wet hair only to find out Hana had fixed their hair that morning using her hair grease! We had one day where Leul was really frustruated and said he wanted a new family. Although Mateo loves having a brother he very nonchalantly replied, "Okay, let's go to the airport and send him back"! (We did later explain to Leul that he's stuck with us as his family and he won't be sent back no matter how mad he is)
Some of the not so fun things:
Constantly reminding the kids that we need to speak in a kind voice to eachother. For example if one sibling is in the way of the other, rather than saying could you please move, they will instead say "Move!" in a really irritated voice. This is an issue with all the kids that has become magnified since Leul and Hana have come home only because there are now 6 kids shouting rather than 4. In a way it's been good because everyone is getting lots of practice saying things the nice way, it's just exhausting to deal with all day.
Some kids have this weird idea that everything in the world must be even! If one child gets a swimsuit, it doesn't matter if the other child already has one, they still sulk because they think "If they get something, I should get something."
One of the new kids is a very picky eater, and I'm not talking they don't like American food, they don't even like many kinds of fruit.
One of the new kids gets mad very quickly (although every day the anger spurts get shorter and less frequent and I'm very thankful when they're mad they are just very silent rather than physically harmful)
Olivia is a little clingy these days
Due to nightmares I now have children sleeping on my bedroom floor every night
Leul doesn't really appreciate all of Olivia's touching. Usually I hear him saying "Please stop
(although there has been a few times when I've seen him hugging her or giving her a kiss on the cheek)
All in all the new kids don't really act out any more than the old ones do. I think it's just that when the new ones act out I feel a lot more pressure and stress because I'm constantly having to explain a new rule like why we don't eat icecream for lunch, or why mom can't stand outside all day watching the kids ride bikes, and then there is usually some sulking that follows. With the other kids I can just look at them and tell them to get over it and move on and they actually do move on right away, Hana and Leul like to sulk awhile first! There is a part of me that is constantly on guard waiting for the next fit to be thrown and it's tiring.
I'm not saying these things to be negative. There are a lot of good things going on in our house every day and I'm trying to list some of them tonight, I just want to be real. I want to be able to look at this one day and see how far we've come and I want others who read this blog who might be adopting to have a real picture of what it might be like. So far all the negative things are small things I expect will fade with time and consistant parenting.
Some surprising things:
Mateo wants to follow Leul and do whatever he does, but even when Leul gets to do something Mateo can't Mateo doesn't get mad. He just says, "Yah, Leul can do that because he's older"
I feel a lot of love for the kids. This is surprising to me because even with my babies I don't bond right away and it's common for the love feeling to take awhile when adopting older kids, so I didn't expect to feel so much love for them right off the bat.
Hana is really good with Ariana and even Leul plays with her and has given her hugs and kisses.
Neither of the kids is shy at all around our family. There was never a stage where things felt uncomfortable or wierd. They just fit right in.
So far, other than Olivia being clingy, there is no jealousy between the kids as far as fighting for my attention. The bio kids don't feel put on the back burner and Leul and Hana don't get all jealous when I'm hugging on one of the other kids. I was prepared for the jealousy thing but it hasn't happened yet.
Isabella (age 7)has become a mommy number 3. Everyone knows Angelina (12) is mommy #2 but Isabella has never cared to take that on until now. She speaks to Leul and Hana in a wannabe Ethiopian accent (I think she figures they'll understand her better!) and says, No Leul don't do that, or Please stop doing that Hana, or sometimes just a loud Leul!. This hasn't been that great for her bonding with Leul. I don't think he really appreciates this little girl he just met telling him what to do, but we are working on that!
Some of the good things:
I love both of the kids' personalities. Leul is a total comedian and a pistol, and Hana is fun and compassionate.
The kids don't ask us for a bunch of stuff
Hana and Leul are both pretty obediant even when mad or sulking
Both of them have apologized completely on their own after doing something wrong
They both accept my physical affection very well and also seek it out
Leul is a great soccer player, the other mom's called him a Ringer (thanks to my neighbor I now know what that means)
Hana can read well in English which means homeschooling will be a tad bit easier with her
Both the kids feel comfortable talking about their lives in Ethiopia
All the seats in our Suburban are filled which is something I prayed for years ago
Leul eats like a champ
Hana is right in between Isabella and Angelina age wise so sometimes she plays with Isabel and sometimes with Angelina and neither one of them gets left out all the time (also much of the day the kids all play together)
When Leul is sad or mad, he will usually talk about it and tell me why
Both of the kids have a reverence for God
They have called us Mom and Dad from the beginning
I am amazed at how much of the time the kids are happy. 11 days ago they left everything and everybody they know to fly 22 hours on an airplane and live with a family who has a completely new set of rules and lifestyle than what they are used to. The week before leaving they revisited the homes they grew up in and said goodbye to the family they love dearly knowing it will be years before being able to see them again if at all as some of their family members are living with HIV in a country where medications aren't readily available. My heart truly breaks everytime I think of it and yet it rejoices when I'm driving in my Suburban looking in my rear view mirror and I see 7 beautiful children God has given me the joy of raising. The sound of 7 kids making noise in the car is priceless to me. I'd rather listen to that than music anyday. I don't know what I'll do when they grow up and the noise is gone.

I know this post is all jumbled and my grammar stinks, but it's as much as my tired brain can get out for now.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The trip over

Okay, so I'm starting with the trip over because there's not a whole lot to say and I'm hoping by tomorrow I'll be inspired to delve more into the details of our time in Addis.

Sergio and I were originally going to spend 3 nights in Rome when we were supposed to leave in May, so when the time came to book our flights and we were going to be flying out of JFK we decided to fly in one day early and spend the night in NYC. (Not exactly Rome, but at least it was one night alone somewhere)

What we wanted to do while we were there was take some self guided walking tours through different neighborhoods but it was WAY too hot and humid to just be out walking so we had to change our plans. When we went to NYC a few years ago the one thing we didn't get to do was eat some good food, so we made that our goal for this trip. We went to a Cuban Restaurant the first night, then ate in Little Italy the second day and of course had some yummy New York pizza too! In between eating, we went to the Empire State Building and Times Square Friday night, then to Battery Park (just to look at the Statue of Liberty) and walked around China Town and Little Italy a bit on Saturday, being sure to stop into any air conditioned building we could find! Here are some pictures of our trip.

We flew out of JFK to Dubai Saturday night. It was the flight I was dreading because it is 13 hours long and a lot of it is over water but God is so good and faithful and I barely had any anxiety aside from the takeoff and the anxiety I did have was about a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 which for me is a miracle. The flight went by pretty fast and before I knew it we were landing in Dubai!

We got in around 7:45 pm and the plan was to go straight to the hotel our travel agent had supposedly booked for us, but just like in NY there was a slight change in plans. We got into the airport and found out there had been an oversight and a hotel had not been booked for us or one of the couples we were traveling with (Paula and Ryan). We were supposed to get a hold of our travel agent and have her call to arrange things but it was a Sunday morning in WA and we couldn't reach her. Then we found out that because Sergio was traveling with a Mexican Passport he would have to get a visa in order to even leave the section of the airport we were in. We didn't know if it would be worth it because at that point we didn't know for sure if we would be able to get a hotel to stay at so the couple we were with decided to go to a different part of the airport and see if they could find some help. After quite awhile of waiting for them to return, a man from the Emirates Airline counter we were sitting near walked over to me and told me I had a phone call. It was Paula telling me that she was not being allowed to come back to the part of the airport we were in! At this point it was getting late and I was not that comfortable with staying at the airport all night so we decided to book a hotel ourselves without our travel agent. First we went to the visa counter so that Sergio and I could go through customs and meet Paula and Ryan to book a room somewhere, but when Sergio was called up we were told they would not give him a visa unless they had proof we already had a hotel booked. So I ended up having to leave him, go through customs by myself and find Paula and Ryan, book the hotel and then have them fax a letter to the visa counter. They questioned him for quite awhile but finally gave him a visa (it cost 230 US dollars!) and a very friendly man met him at customs and showed him to right where we were all waiting for him. The hotel was beautiful and clean and although we couldn't sleep we did rest and shower before returning to the airport at around 6:00am.

At the airport we were reunited with the second couple we were traveling with Julie and Mike. Their hotel had been booked properly through the travel agent so we hadn't seen them since getting off the plane the night before. The flight was short, only about 4 hours and when we landed I honestly felt like I was in a dream. It looked like Ethiopia but I didn't feel like I was half way across the world. It felt just like being at home.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

We're Home!

I've been wanting to blog but honestly I don't even know where to start. Maybe it's because there's so much to say, maybe it's because I'm exhausted, maybe it's because I have 7 children now, two of whom I'm having to constantly teach things to all day long. Things are going pretty well all things considered. In some ways they are better than I was thinking they would be while we were in Ethiopia but I am fully aware that we are early in the game and things could be way different in even a week from now.
A friend emailed me this picture of Mateo and Leul from the night we first came home and I thought I better post it, but I really don't want to say much about how we're doing now until I've gone back and blogged about our trip. Hopefully soon I'll be able to post some day by day entries of what it was like, and I'll add some pictures too!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane!

I've seen that title on so many other blogs and have been waiting 10 months to be able to say it for myself! Okay so it's 1:00 in the morning, we are leaving in 3 hours and true to our nature, we aren't packed all the way yet! This will not surprise anyone who knows us. It looks like I won't be sleeping tonight so I'm hoping that means I'll sleep well on the airplane.
It still seems completely unreal to me that I am about to fly all the way to Africa (I always told myself I could never do that) and will return with two older children. Those two beautiful kids I've been staring at in pictures since Dec. imagining what sweet little angels they must be :) are actually going to be home with me soon!
There are so many of you reading this that have been right there with us along this journey and are just as about excited as we are! Thank you all for your love, your advice, your prayers, and your help. Leul and Hana will be blessed with so many people who love them.
We are getting into Seatac late Saturday night the 26th and any friends and family who'd like to welcome us can join us there. You can either call my house or email me (my oldest dd will be checking emails), for the flight number and time.
The next picture you see on this blog will be of us with our kiddos!
Please keep praying for peace, and safety and health. Also that we will be able to meet with the kids' bio families.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Big Thank You!

We finally started packing tonight! It's been on my to do list since we were supposed to leave in May so I'm very relieved we are actually getting it done. For tonight we are just packing up the donations for the orphanages, which as you can see from the picture is not a small task. I want to say thank you so much to all those who donated supplies! Most of the donations came from my neighbor's son's baseball team, people I have never even met!

Here's a list of what the children in Ethiopia will be blessed with:

20 pens

5 dry erasers

145 dry erase markers

168 pencils

8 24 packs of crayons

55 sticks of deoderant

12 toothbrushes

3 tubes of toothpaste

910 bandaids

8 instant cold packs

100 tootsie pops

39 books

2 puzzles

6 small bottles of bubbles

7 toys

7 onsies

4 baby hats

1 Baby Bjorn

and 4 bras!

Thanks again to all who made this possible!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

He Passed!

My husband is on his way to becoming an American citizen! He passed his interview and will be scheduled for his swearing in ceremony once we return from Ethiopia! Praise God!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The news we've all been waiting for!

Sergio and I are thrilled to announce we are leaving Friday the 18th to pick up Leul and Hana!

We will spend one night in NYC before heading on to Dubai where we will also spend one night due to a 13 hour layover. We'll arrive in Ethiopia Monday the 21st around mid morning, go through customs, dump our stuff at the hotel and then go to the orphanage to get the kids!

We are leaving Ethiopia Friday night and will arrive home late Saturday night after 7 months of waiting to have them home with us!

God has abundantly blessed us in so many ways with our travel dates and I wanted to share some of them with you all.

First of all Sergio and I are getting a night in NYC. We'll be there for a little over 24 hours which is the same amount of time we had when we went there a few years ago and we got to see everything we wanted then, thanks to my obsessive planning and scheduling! This time we are just going to relax and enjoy the city. Okay we might not relax, but we will definitely enjoy the city!

Second of all we are flying on one of the nicest airlines out there right now, Emirates Air. They have all new aircraft, really good maintenance records (which is a big deal for me!), roomier seats and are supposed to really cater to kids having over 600 movies and games available to watch and play! When we were originally going to go over in May, I wanted to fly Emirates but at the time tickets were way too expensive!

Third, the route we are taking is supposed to be a really good way to go. We will have a 13 hour flight from NY to Dubai which I'm not doing cartwheels over, but once in Dubai we will get to spend the night at a hotel courtesy of the airline, wake up and shower and only have a 4 hour flight to Ethiopia. I have heard from many traveling parents who have taken this route and they have all said how nice it is to arrive in Ethiopia refreshed, rather than arriving after flying straight there. The electricity and water are not too dependable in Ethiopia so I am very glad to know I will at least get a shower on Monday morning!

Fourth but probably the biggest blessing I will share is that there are two other families from our agency traveling at the same time. I have gotten to know both the mom's online as they are both Christian homeschooling mom's. They are both adopting boys close to Leul's age and one of the boys even shares a room with Leul! I am happy we will all be there at the same time but what I'm really thrilled about is that we have almost all the same flights! We will be meeting up in NYC and will fly over together and fly back as far as NY with one family and as far as Seatac with another! This is nothing short of God's blessing and provision! He knows I need some prayer partners on those flights with me. It seems unreal that only last Dec. I turned down Sergio's offer to go to San Diego for our anniversary in order to avoid the 3 hour flight and now I'm facing 47 hours of in flight time withing a week's timeframe! I am so thankful God put my two friends on the same plane as me because I can almost guarantee that without them, Sergio would be asleep by takeoff and I'd be left to fight the fear alone!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

My little warrior is 5

Mateo's birthday is the day after Olivia's, so today my little guy turned 5! This was the first time I didn't cry when one of my kids turned 5. 5 just seems like such a big deal to me, but we were way too busy having fun today, it left no time for tears! We woke up early and after eating Trix (Mateo's pick) went to a nearby theme park. After 6 years of going as a family, I finally decided to leave 2 kids home with a babysitter. Our 3 year old is just too young and tired from yesterday to make the $30 worth it and our 10 year old daughter who has autism really really does not like being in public places and is usually pretty unhappy when we go out. So for the first time I didn't have to stand with the stroller and watch as the rest of the family went on rides, I actually got to participate! I'm not a big ride person, I get dizzy on the carousel, but I did get to go on some rides that didn't spin around and also got to go in the wave pool and down the waterslides with Mateo! We were there for 8 hours which wasn't nearly enough for the kids but plenty for me! After taking the babysitter home we had an icecream cake and opened Mateo's presents. Right now the kids are downstairs watching tv. Yesterday we went to Target with some birthday money Mateo got in the mail. He chose a dvd that had 13 episodes of superman and batman. Little did I know those original cartoons are not suited for young children. Mateo returned it to me today telling me he was giving it to Daddy because it had the "S Word" (in our house that's "stupid") and kids shouldn't say the "S Word". I felt so bad that he had spent his birthday money on it that I stopped and picked up Scooby Doo on our way home tonight and that is what they are watching right now! Mateo so fulfills the meaning of his name which is "gift of God". Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for him. He is such a tough and brave boy, but he is also my biggest cuddler. He actually told me the other day he didn't want to grow up because he doesn't want to stop being able to cuddle with me. I told him he will always be able to cuddle with me, his wife just might not like it too much! Hmmmm, I think I'm starting to understand why I sometimes sense some competition coming from my mother in law!

My baby is 3

Olivia turned 3 yesterday, I can't believe how fast time goes by! This was the first year she was really old enough to know what was going on and she had a great day. In our family the kids get to pick a birthday breakfast and dinner. Ever since I banned sugar cereal from our grocery list that is what the kids choose on their birthday, which works for me because that means I don't have to cook! Olivia picked Lucky Charms and all the kids enjoyed them! Then I took Olivia to her first movie. She was beyond excited that she got to have popcorn and soda and actually sat quietly smiling through the whole movie! It was so cute. In the evening we went to a local park and had a barbeque with our immediate family. There was only 20 of us including all the kids which is about 1/4 of what there usually is. This was our first birthday party where we didn't cook authentic Mexican food (which takes way too much time if you ask me!) We went all out American style: cheeseburgers and hotdogs, potato salad from Costco, watermelon and chips. It was so low key, it was great. Even my mom commented on how I actually looked like I was having a good time! I am so so greatful to God for giving Olivia to our family. She is full of life and spunk and we all get such a kick out of her.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

We're on our way to church but I just got this picture emailed to me from another traveling parent and I just had to post it. They look like they're warming up to eachother!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

new pictures!

I've just been going nuts at home desperately wanting some new pictures of Leul and Hana and I finally got some today thanks to a traveling parent! The more pictures I see of Leul the more I think there is no way he is 7 years old like his birth certificate says, but whatever age he is I love him (and Hana) and can't wait for them to come home!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Aaaarrrgh! Who goes there?

We did the coolest thing for Mateo's birthday yesterday! He is turning 5 soon, so when I heard that our local Christian radio station was hosting a pirate themed 2 hour cruise in Seattle I knew it would be perfect for him. We took along one of our nephews, dressed up both boys like pirates and headed off! The first part of the cruise a lady who trains parrots did a little show. She taught the kids (and us adults) a lot and then let the kids take turns holding the birds. Then we went upstairs where we all got to make icecream sundaes. Mateo had a blast putting on as many toppings as he could! Initially there was going to be a treasure hunt on board, but I think the people from the radio station changed their minds once they saw all the little boys running wild on the boat! Instead, the pirate carried around the treasure chest filled with gold coins (some chocolate and some "real treasure") and let the kids grab a handful. The boys had so much fun!
Usually we have a party at the park for Mateo which entails inviting both sides of our family plus friends, cooking authentic Mexican food for everyone (at least 40 people) and at least 6 hours at the park trying to watch all 5 kids while at the same time being a good hostess.
I'd take the pirate cruise over that any day!