"Every child deserves a home." --Harry Holt

Thursday, May 17, 2012

525,600 Minutes

One year ago or 525,600 minutes ago, we met our daughter. Our daughter. Still seems surreal at times. She has been with us just shy of 10 months and she turned 20 months old yesterday. There are days where I look into her eyes and my own well up with tears because I'm so overcome with how blessed I am to parent her. I am struck each time I look at a picture of her first mom and am reminded that they share an exact smile and cheeks and their eyes light up the same. We have hard days. Don't ever let me give you the impression that adoption is easy. It is easy to share the easy parts, it is hard to share the hard parts. Besides all of that, parenting is hard. Adoption and parenting are equally the most difficult and most beautiful things that have EVER happened in my life. 

One year ago, meeting our daughter for the first time was the greatest thing I could have ever imagined. Leaving her behind was difficult. We are so blessed to have shared the last 10 months together. Amen, amen, amen.

I'll spare anyone reading this all 160 pictures and just pick a few to share. Does anyone else keep singing, "Seasons of Love?" Maybe it's just me...

 Below is my post from that travel day 1 year ago...

**These are based on my thoughts and feelings while on our trip. Some events may come across clouded and foggy due to our high emotional state while encountering each event.**
 First, the phrase, "our daughter" still seems surreal, but it feels so good coming out of my mouth.

I think I slept a total of 2.2 hours all night, and not in a row. Seriously, no exaggeration. I was so excited to meet CUPCAKE. I was worried we would oversleep. I was worried about not sleeping at all and then being sleepy on the drive when I wanted to take everything in. I was worried that I would get sick on the drive (because I'd heard it isn't exactly smooth, but I'm not a carsick person). Turns out, when I finally fell asleep, we did sleep right through the alarm clock. UGH! I KNEW IT! Luckily, without even making a request, the Guest House staff called our room at 5am to make sure we were up. Thank you, Jesus! We both got ready in 30 minutes, ran down to eat breakfast and into the van with the 2 other couples making the trip to Durame with us. 

I never did get carsick on the drive. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. I think those that are prone to carsickness may have some difficulty with the quick slams of the breaks (so livestock aren't hit), but the last 25 km or so is where the roads aren't paved, and it is actually kinda bumpy. Other than that (I felt) it was smooth sailing. It IS an extremely emotional ride. One can't help but think about FINALLY reaching your child in mere hours/minutes when the wait has been a year/month/weeks/days. I was constantly trying to take in the sights, sounds and smells of our daughter's birth country. I didn't have a great vantage point for photos, not that I take great photos anyway.

I was SHOCKED by the amount of people and livestock along the road. I am convinced that we knicked a cow's leg, but nobody believed me... The entire drive, I couldn't get Sara Grove's song, "I Saw What I Saw" out of my head. There was literally a soundtrack for how this experience was changing me, and it was playing on loop in my head the entire time. Indescribably feeling. People were constantly on the trek for water. We were able to observe some people taking their water canisters to the nearby well for safe drinking water, but I saw countless people filling their canisters up in puddles and rivers that I am convinced that I wouldn't want to put my shoe in, and they are going to consume this water. This sight literally froze me in fear. Speaking of shoes, there were so many people without shoes! To think, I spent 2 weeks making sure I bought the "perfect Africa shoes," you know, functional, quiet and cute! I disgust myself. Children without pants, children not at school. We also observed many kids walking to school in their oh-so-precious school uniforms. I have students that won't walk a block to school because it is raining out (seriously, I picked up an 8th grader a month ago because he didn't want to walk in the rain). Hmmmmm, these kids were literally walking MILES in uniforms!

I realized that I have a very strong bladder on this trip. I never did have to use a "porcelain hole" on the trip. I just held it as often as possible. :)

We arrived in Durame, we had lunch (spicy spaghetti) at the Durame Hotel. Families used to stay there following their orphanage visit. The hotel is no longer able to "accommodate the needs" of groups like ours. The hotel was not 4-star, and indoor camping probably is an accurate term, but the staff was so helpful, kind and friendly while we were there. I definitely would have spent time in our daughter's birth area and with these people for a night! Especially as it would have meant the opportunity to see her for a brief period in the morning. 

FINALLY, we got to head to the orphanage (PC term= care center). All 3 kids were in a "playroom" when we walked in. I was already crying which meant my vision was blurred, and I couldn't recognize HER right away. MAJOR PANIC for a second there as that was my BIGGEST FEAR, as the photos we had of her were 4 months old. Suddenly, my tears cleared enought for me to see she was the cute bundle all in pink. Her hair was in 2 mini-puffs (pig tails for the white folk). MELT. MY. HEART.
Here we go...
At first, I could tell she wasn't sure what to think of the 2 crazy ferenjis holding here and cooing at her. She didn't quite want to make eye contact. Luckily, I had mentally prepared for the fact that while I had been falling in love with her photo for 3 months, she had no idea we existed. She just kept focus on the familiar faces in the room. Slowly, she started to explore my hair, face and jewelry with her hands. Shortly thereafter, she was smiling and giggling with us, and she is a a big fan of making this goofy grunt/squeal. It is precious. She doesn't have any teeth, yet. She was sucking away at her sleeve, hand, and then gnawing my fingers, so I think we have teeth in the nearby future. The nannies noticed that she was hungry (either this was a sign I missed, or it was a scheduled feeding time). There was an awkward moment because her "main Nanny" either didn't want me to do "any work," or she was feeling protective of 'cupcake' and wanted to be the one to feed her. The Ethiopian people (in my experience) definitely go out of their way to lend a hand or meet a need, but I felt like this particular interaction was the nanny wanting to care for her girl. It is a beautiful thing how much the nannies at the orphanage care for their little people in their charge. Cupcake has many people in her life that love her dearly. I was grateful with a capital "G" when the head nurse insisted that I be the one to feed her. BEST. FEELING. EVER. to feed our daughter for the first time. Most of the pics of me feeding her are horrible because I'm doing what Oprah calls the "ugly cry." 
We can't show Cupcake's identity until we take custody of her on the 2nd trip. Cutest foot ever, no?!
Cupcake fell asleep 3/4 of the way through her bottle. She was OUT for the next 45 minutes. The nannies were worried that I would be upset that she was sleeping and not playing. So not the case! It was her normal nap time. We were told that she is a great sleeper. I may have trouble falling asleep, but usually, once I'm out, I'm OUT. Daughter/mother traits, ya know?! With her sleeping peacefully, we got free reign to check out her fingers (10), toes (10), belly button (innie), hair (so soft and long and continuing to grow), eyelashes (insanely long...I love when babies have long eyelashes), ears (2), lips (puffy, kissable...she is always making a "kiss face" because the naturally stick out), knees (cute baby knees...no chub rolls, though), ankles (skinny). She really has no major health concerns. There are a few things that we will be having checked out once home. I can't help but think about the 'checklist' that we filled out (what seems like eons ago) about possible health concerns that we were open to as a part of the adoption process. Somehow, we were referred a child that seems to be healthier than we are! ;)
Oh, how I long to hold this hand...
While she was sleeping, a 5 year old boy came into the room. He saw K was free and grabbed his hand to play. (Anyone reading this who gets our agency e-mails...he is the featured waiting child of the week). Melt. my. heart. K got out some fruit snacks out of my bag for him. He wasn't quite sure what they were. K opened the bag and he peered into it trying to figure out what it was all about. K tried to dump them out in his hand, and he snatched the bag back. He, oh-so-carefully plucked one out of the bag, and then the best thing happened. Instead of consuming all of the fruit snacks, he ate just one and then ran into the hall to summon his roommates/friends. He shared with all of them. PRECIOUS. We made sure each kiddo had their own bag of fruit snacks and one of the other couples in our travel group had other yummy treats for the kiddos. They LOVED it. That little guy stole my heart. I didn't really discover the waiting child photo-listing until after we had our referral. I 'knew' what it was, but hadn't really taken the time to investigate. Ignorance is bliss, I guess. This little boy's smile stole my heart a few months ago, and now his personality has stolen my heart in person. We pray over the children on the photo-listing to find families. I can't get this particular guy off of my heart and mind. I keep telling K that I pray his family comes for him SOON, and if not, then I have to think it is us, and we will be starting this process over, ASAP. Ha! I can see the fear in his face when I say these things, but interestingly enough...he has never said, "No." :)

 Cupcake awoke again as our time together (for now) was nearing its end. We took more pics (we discovered when we were home that in 2 hours we had snapped 160 pics and taken 4 videos... Ha! We are THOSE parents. We said a prayer together and heart-wrenchingly handed her back. I immediately put on my sunglasses as I started to cry, and I walked outside. I was putting my shoes back on and I could hear the giggles and good-bye calls from the window form the fruit snack and candy sugared up little peoples. Couldn't help but smile through my tears. 
All of that hair! Oh hurt me, cute...
We handed out more snacks to the kiddos in the neighborhood of the care center. We piled back in the van as sadness and exhaustion set in. All voices were silent. We embarked on a different route than the one that brought us to Durame. This one included 35 km of bumpiness on unpaved roads. It was telling that everyone in the van (except for the driver and myself) feel asleep on these roads. It was the perfect illustration of how emotionally drained everyone was. 

It took about 2 hours to get to Awassa. We stayed at the Lewi Hotel. My preference would have been to just get all the way back to Addis, but I'm certain the driver was fried from the days travels, and it is probably not recommended to drive on these livestock filled roads in the dark! The Lewi was a nice hotel, but the room was super stuffy. Couldn't really open a window because we were right on a busy street. 

I've loved every inch of Ethiopia and its people. The only thing I was missing at this point was our daughter in my arms and some Diet Coke. :) 2 more sleeps until court!

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Have you ever been in a situation where someone gives you a beautiful and meaningful birthday gift, but you remember that 3 months earlier you remember you gave them a cheeseball birthday card and costume jewelry from Target (which for me are some of my favorite gifts, because I love to see what people pick out for me?. It just feels like you are on unequal footing. You wish you would have given them something more meaningful.

That is the closest way that I can describe our relationship with Cupcake's birthmother. She gave us the gift of parenting Cupcake. We get to receive "snugs" from her every day. We get to laugh when she twirls around until she decides to try and walk a straight line but runs into stuff. We get to watch her walk backwards down our front sidewalk (no idea why she prefers to walk backwards instead of forward). We get to kiss her tears away. We get to read stories, sing songs, say prayers and snuggle her to sleep every night. In return, we pray for Cupcake's mom every night. We try to honor her in loving the daughter we share fiercely. We delight in every silly thing she does, and we know that she and her first mother share the same blindingly beautiful smile and eyes that light up. 

Today is what is known as Birth Mother's Day. We thought of Cupcake's first mom today just as we do every day. We honor her today, tomorrow on Mother's Day and every day after that. 

We decided to send up one of those wishing lanterns into the night sky. It seemed sort of symbolic in the sense that while she is 9,000 miles away, we live under the same sky and love our daughter together. Of course, the symbolism was less whimsical when we were able to see the lantern come down in the nearby farm field, and the husband literally went over there with a fire extinguisher to ensure we didn't accidentally start an uncontrolled burn on someone's farm. Nevertheless, we tried. :::sigh:::

 Happy Mother's Day whether you are a mother, a first mother have children in heaven, have a mother in heaver or are desperately aching to be a mother. It is a beautiful and difficult holiday for so, so many. I personally avoided church and any establishment where children would be on the last couple of mother's days. May you find your joy in the beauty from ashes.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Can I Ask You a Question?

I get annoyed when people respond, to that with, "You just did." Yes, yes, I KNOW. I am just terrible at the creating a segue especially into awkward or difficult conversations, and as a school counselor, I talk about a LOT of awkward stuff! So, more accurately, I have a couple of awkward questions.

First, have you ever heard of Birth Mother's Day? I hadn't either until recently. Apparently, this day started gaining momentum in the early 1990's, and continues each year to become more well-known. It is celebrate in May, the Saturday before Mother's Day which is a on a Sunday (May 13th this year, so Birth Mother's Day is May 12th). Here is a bit more information on Birth Mother's Day.

I certainly think Birth Mother's should be celebrated. More accurately, we refer to Cupcake's birth mom as her first mom. Don't gasp, this doesn't make me feel like a lesser person to be the 'second mom.' In fact, it is just math (which I'm terrible at, but I know I have this equation right). First, there was her and now there is me and together, we have one stinkin' amazing kiddo! The only time I get a little peeved is when people ask if Cupcake has a REAL mother. What? Am I imaginary? She has 2 REAL mothers. The only difference is that I am standing in front of you when you ask things like that and will roll my eyes at you and sigh in annoyance, you are welcome (clearly, I'm mature beyond my years). Nerds... I'm already off topic. Again, first mother's/birth mother's should certainly be celebrated, because without them, families like mine certainly wouldn't exist. We had been futilely trying to come up with a way to honor Cupcake's first mother on Mother's Day. We can't call and chat with her, but we wanted to do SOMETHING and start a tradition.

So, my second question is, do you have any ideas on how we can honor Cupcake's first mother? I harassed my cousin who is my fountain of good ideas in unique situations. Her ideas were: writing a note, attaching it to a balloon and having a little balloon release, making handprints to send to her first mother when we send things (in the fall hopefully), or to create a care package for a young mother. All really fantastic ideas. The only one I had come up with previously was to plant a flower, shrub or something and just talk about her while we do it. Who else has an idea? 

Third question, do we have to have a separate day for birth mother's? Shouldn't we honor them on Mother's Day? On one hand, they are special people and do deserve their own day, but on the other hand it almost feels like a "separate but equal" issue and in my mind that phrase does not have a positive connotation. I mean really, is it ever equal? My mind is a cloudy mess trying to figure this out. Give me your opinion, please!? Please??!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Where Does the Time Go?

Oh me, oh my. We have been a family of 3 in the same house for 9 months and we have a 19 month old. I'm stuck in a vicious cycle of wanting to stop Cupcake from growing, but also working hard to do everything we can to keep her growing and healthy. The husband said the other day, "Would you stop getting teeth? They change the look of your face, where is my baby going?"

So, April brought Easter and we were thankful to spend it with the husband's side of the family. 'Tis a beautiful thing to spend a holiday with the ones you love. 
Cousin K, Grandpa and I played with the plastic eggs together.

We had the hotel clerk take our picture :)

The gang...

One of our favorite middle size people...
 The husband and I both turned 29 last month. Ewwww. Really? We are getting kinda old and crusty! Our birthdays are 3 days apart and buying gifts for each other as married people with joint checking really loses the appeal in comparison to when we were just dating, am I right? So, we always try to do something together, which usually means a little trip somewhere. Neither of us had ever been to St. Louis and it isn't a destination that is difficult for us to get to. However, the weekend of our birthdays we had an opportunity to visit family and that takes precedent. So, we canceled our plans to visit the Lou and headed to spend time with family. We decided a bit last minute this month to check out the Lou a few weekends ago as a belated birthday present to ourselves. We took Cupcake, of course. It was our first trip somewhere which didn't include a family gathering. We used to stay out late, go, go, go all day when we took these types of trips. Not the case anymore! We had to stop because someone demanded nap time, regular feedings, reasonable bedtime and child friendly activities. It was fun to get away together and do our own thing. We took lots of pictures, but I won't bore with all of them. Also, there will be no photos of the zoo excursion because we got poured on for about 2ish hours which made me cranky and fearful that Cupcake would develop pneumonia no matter how hard we tried to keep her dry. She wasn't particularly bothered by the rain...

We met up for dinner with some friends who have the 2 cutest Ethiopian boys! This is technically an outtake from the pictures we took of the three of them together, but it showcases their personalities so well that I think it is my favorite!

We were up really high in the Gateway Arch! Cupcake was not bothered by this fact...

Feeding the fish near Union Station.

This particular area at the Magic House kept Cupcake busy for a long, long time. I'm contemplating putting in various lightswitches at little person height in the house... She would get angry with other kids that wanted to try the lights...

Cupcake went down this slide about 4,092 times. She was this dramatic every.single.time.

Cupcake could have cared less if it was a magical dragon that pooped rainbows taking us on a carriage ride or our horse, Wyatt. We really need to step up our game to impress this kiddo... like little person height lightswitches.

Just a fun fountain with a neat shot of downtown St. Louis.
We currently have no trips planned until later in May... crazy! Multiple weekends in a row at home? We might actually have to do some landscaping, or finally clean out the basement! Until next time!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...