Monday, October 29, 2012

day 5

when the ET lawyer for our agency casually recommended we be at the office today at 1 or 1:30 for our court appointment i was a little flustered simply because no other details were allotted.  i was still not totally sure what was supposed to shake down while we are here.  we woke up this morning planning on heading over to see elliot before court, but since the van broke down monday the ride situation got a little dicey.  we ended up just getting a ride to the office, signing some paperwork and essentially preparing for court.  when we met with the social worker we realized a few things about elliot's history. it was all stuff we have copies of, but to hear it explained to us by the social worker was really enlightening.  learning more about where he was from was really cool for us.  turns out another couple that was there for court was going to the region he was from and agreed to take a bunch of pictures and email us.  that was super cool and we are looking forward to seeing those soon. 

after the paperwork we had about an hour to kill which was not enough time to go see elliot so we got dropped off at this coffee shop that is a starbucks knock off.  pretty funny to almost feel like we were at home.  when 1:30 rolled around and no one was there to pick us up i began to get a little uneasy.  since i had recently learned more about the ethiopians ideas about timing, i was a little prepared but surely court couldn't be this casual?  just as i began to really ask b to do something (i nor he had any idea what to do since we didn't have a phone or a number to call) our driver and the social worker rolled up.  we made our way to court, which was simply a room on the second floor of an inconspicuous building near the airport.  we took an elevator up to the second floor and walked down the hall to the waiting room where our social worker signed us in-- or at least we think that's what she did.  there was a piece of paper floating around that everyone was signing and fussing over.  there were tons of ferenge in the room as well as many ethiopians.  the room was buzzing with nervous energy at least from us ferenge as we looked each other up and down all stuffy in our 'nice' clothes.  a girl poked her head out of a side door and said a number,  and an american couple stood with their social worker and walked in.  they came out 5 minutes later smiling and tearing up.  this went on for the next hour and a half.  still our number was not called.  about halfway through our wait and older american couple-- probably in their late 50's, early 60's walked in with 3 ethiopian children-- a girl about 12, a boy about 9, and another girl about 7.  i didn't think much of it til i saw where they were walking to.  in the corner of the room was an ethiopian couple.  it quickly became evident they were the children's biological parents.  suddenly there was a lot of crying from both sets of parents.... and of course me.  as in i. couldn't. stop. crying.  this was stressful on many levels.  one, i wasn't expecting this much emotion, and two, the judge could call us in any minute-- i had to get it together.  our social worker explained that the white parents had sponsored the 3 kids and had them living in america for the past  year or so.  now they were back because the kids ET parents wanted the american couple to adopt them.   this did not help matters for me.  by now the ET women around me were beginning to become concerned about me.  they kept asking why i was crying and b said, 'cuz she's happy,' which was not the truth at all.  our social worker told us that this was a very good thing and the other  ET women in the court who were also emotional were very happy about this.   that made me feel a little better, but not entirely.

you see, adoption is a funny thing.  it is by no means a perfect solution.  anyone who disillusions themselves otherwise will be sorely disappointed.  yesterday while talking with the manager at our hotel she said to me, 'your son is very lucky.'  it wasn't the first time i had heard some variation of that, and i know people mean well when they say things like that, but i often find myself with nothing to say in response.  it's no secret that the every adult ethiopian we met  would love to come to america.  america  represents hope and change, a way to move up in the world.  yet, they don't love the idea of us adopting their children.  i understand both.  adopting a child from a third world country has nothing to do with bringing them to america, it has everything to do with providing a child with a mom and dad who will love them forever.  every child deserves that.  so to see this ethiopian father weeping in the court as he mourns the physical loss of his children from here on out, i couldn't help but be torn apart.  yet on the other hand i see such a selfless love pouring out of them as they realize that the life their children will now have will include not only unconditional love, but every physical amenity possible-- as well as the opportunity for an exceptional education and college.   as soon as i saw those 3 kids, i saw lily, ozzy, and tali.  and i asked myself if i possessed that kind of selflessness.  our social worker mentioned this was a case of 'extreme poverty.'  would i love my kids enough to recognize that my love wasn't enough for them?  is that even the case?

so there i was sneaking glances, trying to hold it together as these ET kids showed their mom and dad pictures of their new house, their new school, their own room!  all in shiny, beautiful, america!  soon enough their name was called and just like that a new family was forged.  i was thankful that these kids now had 2 moms and 2 dads to call them daughter and son as bittersweet as it was.

by now we were were the last ferenge in the room.  i was really starting to wonder if in fact the court thing was cancelled after all.  our social worker had some words with the girl calling numbers and next thing we knew we were escorted into a small room.  we sat in 2 folding chairs and faced a middle aged woman behind a desk.  our social worker had prepped us somewhat, but more importantly she had told us to keep our answers short-- which was invaluable advice for me, cuz lord knows what kind of rant i would get on.  we answered a quick yes to about 8 questions on topics from international adoption education, our thoughts about ethiopia as a country, what our kids thought of the adoption, and lastly if we had met tegegne.  before i knew it, she looked up and said these sweet, unforgettable words, 'the court approves this adoption.  it will not be cancelled for any reason from this point forward.  congratulations, tegegne is all yours.'  more tears from me and and off we went. 

since we didn't get to visit with elliot that morning, abraham took us over there after court.  this was probably our sweetest visit with him.  he was up from his nap and had a snack and was in a great mood.  he still didn't want to come downstairs so we hung out in his room. 2 other toddlers were cruising around and they all were fighting over the stuff we had brought for elliot.  it was cute to see him say some words to the other kids and get a little feisty with them. we also got some video of him cracking up which we can't get enough of.   today was the only day that we left and i felt like he was actually sad and a little confused.  made my heart hurt to think about. 

to celebrate our victory we  took abraham out to a nice dinner at an indian restaraunt.  not the best curry we've had, but it was fun nonetheless.  abraham had never had indian food so it was fun watching him try everything even though he didn't really care for it.  another great day in ET, can't believe we leave tmrw.   that means goodbye, which are never easy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

day 4

it's crazy to think that we leave this place tomorrow.   in some ways it feels like we've been here for months, in others its like we just got here.

today started out a little dicey.  i woke up at my usual 6 am after getting my first full night of sleep without taking anything!  i hopped out of bed (which i think might be the first time i've ever used the words
'hop out of" and 'bed' in the same sentence).  i was anxious to get downstairs and call home.  yet once i got down there i realized the wifi wasn't working.  no call home, no email, no blog.  i was kinda bummed but knew that this sort of thing happened.  i mentioned the problem to the manager-- the sweetest girl ever-- and she tried to reset it with no luck.  she assured me the IT guy would be here in a half hour.  that was at 7 am.  i tried to find the email that had all of the ET staff's number so we could call and get a ride to the orphanage and AAI offices.  yet the email wasn't there... i had to be connected to the internet. no problem, the IT guy would be there by 9 i was sure.  wrong!  ET standards of time mean give or take a couple of hours!!!  by 10, still no guy.  mille (the manager) was aware of our situation and was trying to find us a solution.  we couldn't just call a taxi to take us cuz we didn't know the address...  just as my stress levels were beginning to escalate (due purely to the fact that i wanted to get to the orphanage by 10 to insure at least 2 hours with elliot before his nap) the owner of the lodge walked in.  he is an irish guy who married an ET woman.  when mille told me who he was, i went over and thanked him for such a great place to stay.  we have been loving it here i told him, and all the staff is just amazing.  he was sweet and said he would pass on the message to his wife.  i went back to sit with b and we were about to head out to find an internet cafe to get the phone numbers to be able to get the address for the taxi.  but since our phones don't work here, we would have to walk to said cafe, get number, walk back to lodge and call.  just as we were getting ready to leave, mille comes up and said, joe (the owner) will have his private driver take us to the cafe to get the number!  we were so happy.  yet it ended up being that joe paid him to take us wherever we wanted.  so we made it to the cafe, got the number, had the driver call our ET contact, get the address, drive us to the AAI offices, wait outside for 10 minutes while we chatted with our lawyer, then drive us to see elliot in plenty of time to be with him.  seriously SO god!

when we arrived at hilawe for our second visit, i felt much more comfortable.  all of the older kids were at school so it was much more mellow there.  we went upstairs and saw our baby boy in his little bed... still in his new jammies:)  so, so, so cute.  we got out some stickers we had brought him and he spent probably 45 minutes peeling off the little star stickers and putting them on my hand.  he was pretty infatuated with it.  the staff suggested we go down to the first floor for some privacy.  when we tried this on sat, elliot became pretty tense and started to cry.  today was no different.  as soon as we got back upstairs, he was fine again.  today we were in our own private room upstairs which was a step up.  baby steps to get him comfortable with us.  after he lost interest in the stickers we moved onto some legos they had in the room.  he built for awhile with b and i.  we tried to show him some pics and videos on our phones, but he was obsessed with pushing the one button on the iphone... just like big sis T.  today was the first day that b got to hold him.  they looked out the window at trucks for awhile, typical boy.  next they brought lunch in.  same exact thing he ate on sat... and i have no idea what it is.  it looks like a mix between pasta and rice cereal.  i can't wait to feed this boy when he comes home.  he's gonna have a world of flavor awaiting him!  saturday he didn't want us to feed him, so the nannies did.  today was the same, but since the nannies were gone we didn't know what to do.  so we just gave him the spoon, and lo and behold he was a happy guy.  he did pretty well feeding himself, and we realized that he is most likely left handed.  so fun!  b is left handed, but none of our bio kids are and i'm pretty sure left handed people are smarter than right handers:)  after his successful feeding we said goodbye as it was time for his nap.

as we made our way downstairs, there was a family coming up.  we all kind of stalled on the stairs at the same time to put our shoes on and we realized they were there meeting their 6 yr old son for the first time.  ahhh, broke my heart in just the right way.  seriously so adorable.  i, the only one crying at this point, offered to take their picture all together. as soon as the dad picked up ermias, the boy, ermias with a huge smile kissed both him and his new mom on the cheek.  it was so raw and so real.  i felt so happy to see one of the older kids going to have his very own mom and dad.  after chatting with them a bit they told us they had a bio son that was 6 also.  so fun.

we also met a couple other adoptive families that day.  a couple from texas with 2 bio boys adopting a 1 yr old baby girl who is absolutely adorable, and a single mom adopting a 1 yr old girl with down syndrome...  angel here on earth.  seriously, seriously amazing.

once we got back to the lodge we were were lost without abraham.  elani (other staff member) told us he was at the mechanic working on the van that broke down yesterday.  i decided to call him and see if he wanted to hang out with us.  he answered and i said, 'abraham, we miss you!'  he said he'd come over in a couple hours and take us shopping- we'd take the blue donkeys again since the van wasn't fixed yet.  i'll have to fill you in on more of his role here and his story one of these days, its pretty remarkable.  shopping was pretty hard core and very mexico.  we went to the popular toursit shops and as you walk by they say, 'JUST get in here!'  its very funny but also very commanding so you listen!  once inside they are shoving everything in your face.  if you look at one necklace, they take all the necklaces in the store ad lay them before you.  very aggressive!  we bought a few gifts for people back home and came away pretty sure we got taken.  but all for a good cause since most of the stuff is handmade here.

the afternoon winded down as abraham took us to the fancy hilton to use the atm.  we cruised around there a bit and were amazed at how fancy and international the place was.  we had a drink by the pool and then headed back to the lodge.  since yesterday was the first day i hadn't napped, i was falling asleep on the way home.  we skipped dinner due to a late lunch and i fell asleep at 8.

another great day in addis!  tomorrow will be amazing as well as we get to go to court, or so we think! please be praying for favor for us.

Monday, October 22, 2012

day 3

africa has effectively both stolen and broken my heart all at once.  the polar effect it has had on me is incredibly overwhelming.  one minute i'm amazed at the strength, beauty, and resolve of these people and wooed by the incredible scenery, and the next i'm devastated by the complete and utter lack of poverty and despair.

in our brief notes frrom our agency on places to stay, things to do, and places to eat, there was an aside that said not to give the beggars money. they said  it will be incredibly hard not to give change to the children, but if you do, it simply encourages them not to go to school and stay on the street and beg.  i had my first test last night.

after our busy day at the orphanage we crashed out for 3 hours.  after we dragged ourselves out of bed we found a restaurant we wanted to try.  b said it was close enough to walk...  in the dark.  by ourselves. in africa.  did i mention my husband is whiter than white (i know i'm not far behind, but at least i have dark grey hair)?  as we were walking down back alleys in the mud to get to the main street we passed many street people.   i felt a little frightened and uncertain, but everything i'd read and seen here was that the people were not hostile or aggressive.  once we got to the main street i loosened up a bit and was excited for a date with b.  we had a somewhat difficult time finding the restaurant mostly due to the fact that it was on what they call the second (our 3rd) floor of a building with no sign.  however, b's map skills afforded us the correct route.  we had passed a few beggars as we walked and although it was hard, i was able to resist the temptation to empty my pockets.  once the restaurant was in sight we picked up our pace.  with our goal in sight, i just so happened to glance to my left.  my heart quickened and my face felt hot as the tears begin to spring forth.  to my left, on the side of the road there was a girl about 4 yrs old sitting up and curled up at her feet were 3 tiny boys aged probably 10 months to 2.  the girl and i locked eyes and she looked down. we kept walking and my heart started pounding as i tried desperately to get a hold of my emotion.  b felt me tense up and tried to comfort me.  we made our way into what we thought was the restaurant but was actually just a hip bar.  we sat down confused, but figured this must be it since the guy downstairs told us it was on the second floor.  we ordered a drink but found no food on the menu.  we passed the time with small chit chat, but b knew my heart wasn't in it.  we tried to talk about why we weren't supposed to give them money but failed miserably.  at this point we realized the restaurant was actually on the next floor up so we decided to head up. but first i pleaded with b to go give them some money.  he was hesitant, but conceded.  he got up and said 'let's go.'  i quipped, 'oh honey, i can't go.  i can't see them again... its just too hard.  can you just run down there (block and a half away) and give them some money?'  he just smiled knowing there would be no other way for the night to continue without this errand.  as i waited in the bar i was so thankful that i married a man whose heart was as big as mine... even if you don't always see it, those of us close to him know that behind his tough  exterior is a lot of raw emotion that comes out when you least expect it.  he came back and told me their mom was now with them and he gave them some money.  a weight had been lifted.  at least tonight they would sleep next to their mom and have a full belly.  i tried not to let the reality that those sweet kids were just 4 in 4 million that were hungry in ethiopia on that saturday night.

we woke up sunday morning to another nice breakfast and quiet time.  on sundays, the orphange is closed for visitors.  we knew this, but it was still hard not to be able to go again.  since we weren't doing official orphange business, abraham couldn't drive us in the agency van, yet he agreed to spend the day with us touring.   he met us at the lodge at 8:30 and we had our first experience in an ethiopian taxi.
we fit right in, right?!

i can't even began to describe this.  there are several common modes of transport here.  all ferenge take a taxi called the blue donkey which is a tiny blue 4 seater, or have a private driver.  the ethiopians however, take these blue 12 passenger vans to get around.  yet they don't just go when and where you want.  there are routes and they only go when the van is full--- meaning 12 or more passengers.  our driver abraham told us to follow his lead.  we took probably 5 of these taxi's to get to get to a place called entoto.  it was incredibly unnerving being in these cars.  the way people drive here has no rules, very few stoplights and lots of honking.  yet somehow no one is ever mad.  honking is like saying, 'hello!' and they do it very freely.  we almost crashed, or so i thought, at least 7 times.  and the amount of pedestrians we almost clipped were too numerous to count.
people are always in the street, probably doing 40 mph here

finally we arrived to the base of the mountain  where we opted to hike the 2 miles up (thank you brandon).  abraham told us no family has ever asked to hike up the mountain, and by the end i could see why.  it was not an easy hike, especially with the altitude. 

 felt pretty lame about complaining when i saw these ladies.  this is their job.  they trek through the mountains for a day or two collecting about this much wood, tie it to their backs and walk down... all to sell the bundle for about $3 US.  2 days of back breaking work.  humbling to say the least

another mode of transport

when we finally reached the top it was well worth it.  the whole city laid out before us... it was absolutely breathtaking.

beautiful addis
abraham, our driver and new bestie over here

we toured around a bit up there. the guy that founded addis ababa had a palace and a church we could walk through as well as a historical museum.  it was really cool to have abraham tell us all about the history of addis. 

the orthodox church at the top of the mountain.  don't look at my shorts, it was very stressful not having any shorts i felt that were long enough to wear here

it made me fall in love with this place even more.  we made our way down the mountain and had a few more harebrained taxi rides and enjoyed a nice lunch with abraham.  we spent the afternoon sleeping again.  we woke up at 6 as abraham was coming to get us to take us to a traditional ethiopian dinner.  this was by far one of the highlights of the trip.  we got a taste of ethiopian food and got to watch some amazing tribal dancing and singing. 
let the sharting begin!

i've got some super sweet videos to share once we get stateside-- unfortunately takes to long to upload here.

all in all another incredible day here.  tomorrow proves to be even better as we get to hang with our boy and take care of some official adoption business with our agency.  please pray it goes smoothly and we will have favor with the staff and authorities here.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

day 2

since i poured my heart out yesterday, i'll try to give you guys a play by play of today-- cuz i know its a day i never want to forget.  

we woke up saturday morning earlier than we wanted, methinks the jet lag was catching up.  our driver, abraham was coming at 8:45 to pick us up and take us to hilawe (the orphanage elliot is at).  we had about 2 hours to kill.  thankfully the place we are staying provides a really nice breakfast and a quaint little cafe with free wifi to hang out at.  we got caught up with emails and facebook and had some time to read.  god had given me psalm 121 about a week after we got our referral for elliot.  i read it today and was reminded again, just as this entire trip has been one GIANT reminder of god's love for his children.  these verses specifically have continued to resonate with me as i think about our boy... 'the lord will keep you from all harm- he will watch over your life; the lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.'  what a promise.  

i kept thinking i was going to start feeling anxious or nervous to meet him, but i had a real surprising peace (probably due to all that praying i've been begging for).  up until this point, this moment wasn't one that i had thought much about.  i think i wanted to protect myself from to high or to low expectations. 
abraham--who happens to be a super cool guy and amazing tour guide  was right on time.  he did his usual bit about all the touristy things we might want to know, which consisted mostly of unmanned herds of sheep, goats and cows strewn about in the middle of the city.  i was surprised now that i was seeing the city in the daylight how much it reminded me of mexico.  a midst shacks there were lots of unfinished buildings but also sprinkled in were super fancy high rises.  it was very polar to say the least.  abraham first took us over to the layla house, which is where our agency used to have their orphanage.
i had heard lots of great things about the place, so it was weird to see it almost totally empty.  now our agency doesn't pull children from one orphanage, but several.  after layla house we picked up a gal from our agencies ethiopian staff.  next thing i knew we were pulling into the gates of hilawe.  we were minutes from seeing tegegne for the first time.

as we parked the car there was a big group of americans gathered right out front.  they were a  group from the US doing some medical mission work.  they were basically a group of doctors and nurses going from orphanage to orphanage doing check ups on the kids.  it was nice to have them there as we weren't the only 'ferenge' (what ethiopians call white people).  the orphanage was big and actually really nice inside.  hardwood floors, clean rooms etc.  it seemed very organized.  we walked in the front door and went up the first flight of stairs to the second level.  there were quite a few older kids (5+) hanging around.  these kids were so stinkin adorable and so so so so sweet. they wanted to shake our hands and they just smiled and smiled.  the boys were outgoing and girls shy.  seriously such beautiful children.  it was then that i started crying.  i was really surprised how affected i was by these kids.  i've seen posts on our adoption group with people pleading to consider adopting older children.  now i see why.  perhaps some of it was seeing lily and ozzy's eyes among the ones i saw today.  it really shook me.

we made our way up to the second set of stairs and saw 2 rooms.  the first room had a gate and 3 little ones probably all under 18 months hanging on the gate.  they were adorable, and my first glimpse of babies.  i looked into the room next to it and sitting on the floor i saw him.   i recognized him right away. he looked just like his pictures, but even cuter.  the thing that surprised me the most was how tiny he was.  the pictures made it seem like he was bigger, but the kid is seriously little.  the nannies (caregivers at the orphanage) immediately start saying 'tegegne, mommy poppy' and pointing to us.  i bent down and more and more tears came.   as i sat down to be at his level he just looked at me, taking it all in.  next thing i knew he was in my lap cuddled right up.  the staff suggested we go downstairs in the lobby area and play with him.  we walked down and sat on a chair.  he wasn't interested in getting out of my lap.  we gave him a little truck we had brought and he held onto it as we showed him some pictures from the little photo book we gave him.  he kind of started to get a little fussy and at that point one of the nannies brought him some milk in a sippy cup.  we realized it might be better to take him back up to his room.  this was the right choice. once up there he climbed out of my lap and started to loosen up a bit. it was cute to see him interact with his little roommates.  we played trucks, looked at more pictures and really just hung out.  babies would cry and we would hold them as the nannies went about their work.  we gave him some jammies we had bought him and the nannies put them on him.  i wish i could show all of you how adorable he looked in them.  a couple of the medical missions people came in and started chatting with us. they offered to take a look at him which was super cool. the lady who visited with us told us he seemed pretty healthy, he def had a pretty good cough going but then again all the kids had runny noses and coughs.  she said she works at a lot of orphanages and that we were very fortunate because hilawe is a really nice one.  that made me feel really good.  the doctor estimated that he was between 18 months and 2.  i could tell how much elliot loved his nannies as well.  i felt really happy that he was so attached to them.  by the end of our 2 hour visit, the nannies were asking him to point to mommy and poppy in the pictures and he was.   i don't think he really grasped the situation but i was happy to know that he seemed reasonably comfortable with us.  it was hard to say goodbye, but i felt like our time was really rich.

all in all it was a pretty amazing day.  elliot was everything i hoped for and more.  i know it will be an adjustment for all of us, but i'm so happy and thankful to be able to actually do something about all of these orphans.  it literally breaks my heart into pieces being around them.  if it's hard to imagine, peek into your babies room while they sleep... and try and imagine for just one moment, that you don't exist in their world. you won't be there in the morning to cuddle him in your bed, or make him his favorite breakfast, or tell them you love them.  in fact no one person is there to do that.  it's incredibly painful to know that elliot has never had this... that he's probably never been to a park, never ridden in a car, let alone a stroller.  he's never had the same warm body to hold and tell him that he is perfect and loved...

i can't wait for this to change.... 

Friday, October 19, 2012

day 1

i read this morning stenciled across the bathroom wall of my in laws house that 'life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.' i'm not one for signs necessarily, but i can't tell you how much i needed those words from dear old helen keller.

you see, it wasn't long ago that i considered myself a pretty carefree, adventurous girl.  i was by no means reckless, but i loved the idea of the unknown, and i was almost always up for an anything.  5 months after i met brandon we filed electronically (quite possibly the first year it was offered, and quickly got banned from e-file) and got a measly enough tax return to head to england for spring break.  we had no agenda and a place to stay only for a couple days, the rest we would figure out along the way.  we partied our way to the airport where we lost our passports temporarily, but somehow managed to make it across the pond with everything intact.  3 years later we booked flights to new zealand for our honeymoon and had not one accommodation booked.  all we had was a car waiting for us at the airport.  3 solid weeks of tripping around the north island was our idea of the best trip ever.  i was up for anything and everything, there was so much to do!

naturally things slowed down after we got married and had a few kids.  my desire to not miss a thing now extends itself to being terribly troubled if i don't make it to the beach on a sunny day.  the adventuress holly still exists, but its locked away within the confines of low risk and utmost safety for myself and my family.
so when it comes to leaving my 3 precious children and flying halfway around the world to a country that has sporadic electricity and such severe poverty that makes your heart hurt, i realized i was in over my head.
it would literally take pages and pages to even begin to contain the amount of anxiety i've had leading up to this trip.   since i'm not typically a girl who struggles with anxiety, i have found myself in uncharted territory.  its a place i'm not proud of, yet through it all i have come to realize a lot about myself and the faith i profess.

we are about to land in addis ababa. we have been flying for almost 24 hours.  tomorrow i will travel to an orphanage in a city of 2 million people and meet my son (one of hundreds of thousands of orphans in ethiopia) for the first time. i can tell you without a doubt that this the hardest thing i have ever done in my life.   i can also assure you that without the massive amount of prayers that have been offered on our behalf, i wouldn't be on this plane.  i have never needed jesus as much as i have in the last 72 hours.  somehow i know the next week will be more of the same.  i also had no idea how fair weathered and puny my faith was.  i have been pleading for prayers from best friends and strangers alike.  i literally cannot hear enough prayers on our behalf... never have i been so desperate and never have i felt so much peace a midst  raging storm inside my mind.

everybody says adoption is hard.  and i'm just barely in, but i can assure you its not for the faint of heart.  when my thoughts get unleashed and start crashing around my brain causing me to wonder who on earth would travel this far leaving the safety of a sweet little family in the happiest place on earth (btw-- these are surprisingly the first doubts i've had in this process, which leads me to believe that greater things were at work this last week) i have to remember that this calling was so much more than us wanting a 4th child.  and though i wrestle with these doubts and many others, i keep going back to this one parable... the pearl of great price-- which, ironically, was prophesied over me just a few months after i got saved.  at the time, and up until this point, i've never known why, or what it would mean. finally, i do.  Elliot is my pearl, and i will leave everything to find him-- because he, and every other orphan we'll see this next week deserves a mom and a dad who will love him forever.

as my dear friend lealah says, we are just the vessel.  please continue to pray for us, and for our children at home, for our dear parents that are watching them and all are friends who are standing in the gaps for us.  we would not be here without our tribe.

Friday, October 12, 2012

i really thought we would be different

well, it's with a heavy heart i write this post.  this morning i got a call from our agency explaining that MOWA (ministry of women's affairs) in ethiopia has 'temporarily' suspended adoptions with our agency.  even if i had the time and energy to explain what that means, i really couldn't because i don't totally understand it either.   ethiopia does... what ethiopia wants.  but i can tell you that it means something very major for our family and for our sweet boy.  we won't be traveling to ethiopia next week as planned... unless God does a crazy huge miracle-- which i'm trying desperately not to put past him.

to say i'm feeling a lot of things right now would be a vast understatement.  if i had a nickel for every person that told me about 'their friends adoption story' that always involved massive delays and disappointments  i would probably have at least $5.  for real though, all these stories i hear all the time are actually happening to us!  i'm sure i sound incredibly narcissistic, but honestly this process-- though long-- has actually been really easy.  i really thought we were going to be the exception!  we were going to be able to tell the world that adoption can be easy and AWESOME!

not to mention, we are in the middle of the most amazing outpouring of support from are friends and family to bring this baby boy home.  i feel sick just thinking about how much effort and time and money everyone has put in and all we can bring to the table now is that we just don't know when.  arggghhhh.

yet now we've been tossed with the masses for everyone to tell our sad story as we try and pick up the pieces of months of planning and anticipation.

although its hard, its by far not the hardest part.  to know our son has to go another night not knowing his mom and dad and brother and sisters is almost unbearable.

i've been thinking a lot about this process this last week as my mind labors through every scenario and thought about traveling to ethiopia.  from how will my 3 kids here fare, to holding him for the first time.  people call adoption being paper pregnant.  and while i'll concede that there are similarities, it is obviously vastly different.  however, this morning's call was like one i received while pregnant with ozzy.  after our ultrasound with him, we were ecstatic to know we would be welcoming a baby boy.  3 days later we got a call saying there was something abnormal in the ultrasound.  we were devastated and scared out of our minds.  the next few months were so, so, sooooo difficult for us.  those feelings have descended again.  when will this end?  when will it begin?  so many unanswered questions.

yet a midst all of this pain, sadness and frustration, i'm reminded that i serve a God that is never caught off guard.  if i profess total and complete faith in him, then i have to know that his timing to bring elliot home will be perfect.

in the meantime, please--if you see me just give me a hug... and say those famous words, 'its going to be okay,' and don't be surprised if i'm less than enthused to talk about.

thank you all for your continued love and support.

PLEASE pray for a miracle that the authorities in ethiopia would change their mind early next week and we would be able to go as planned, and always for God's perfect will for our lives and the grace to walk it out.

thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Friday, October 5, 2012


3 months since my last post.  so, so, so sad.  another 3 months before this last one. downright despicable.

i don't know why i think that i can go so long without purging my soul to the cyber world. i  forget how much i feel like i'm going to split right open any minute from not having this fleeting little release.  

yet time passes on... and much like wanting so badly to connect with an old best friend, you can't ever bring yourself to do it cuz you know the conversation will be so long.  wonderful, but long.  so you keep 'missing' their call and tell yourself next week, next week for sure.

i reckon its finally next week and here i am.  and what do you know, i don't even know where to begin.

oh wait, yes i do.  i leave for ethiopia in 13 days.  in 2 weeks, i will walk into an orphanage all the way across the world and meet my second born son.  i will meet the boy that God knew one day would be mine. i will spend 5 sweet days with him and then i will have to leave him... only to return 3 months (lord willing) later to bring him home forever.  even if i tried to summarize all that i'm feeling and anticipating and worrying about i know it would fall short.  when you've lived for 33 years you would think you've pretty much experienced every type of feeling and emotion.  but like holding your firstborn for the first time, or speaking forth your vows to the man of your dreams, i somehow know i'm about to have some 'firsts.'

it is my hope and desire to take a good chunk of time updating you all on our journey.  selfishly, i want to have it all on record so i won't forget one single moment.  on the other hand, its the very least i could do... the outpouring of support we've received up until this point is one of the most humbling things i've ever known.  such a big part of our heart in adoption was the amazing community we have that will help raise this boy.  our 'village' is strong when we are weak. and i know there will be many moments of sheer bewilderment  confusion, grief and pain.  to know we have the people we have around us is the only thing that doesn't make me lie awake at night.  this will be the hardest thing i've done in my life... and i'm here to tell you, i absolutely CANNOT wait.  

i've never been so ready to bring my baby home.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

let me come home

at least once a week i run the same 5 or 6 miles out in the park.  sometimes its rainy, sometimes its sunny, and well most of the time its foggy.  but i kid you not, every single time i'm out there, i literally have to stop and marvel at how incredibly beautiful it is.... and how wildly thankful i am to call this place home.

i know, i know.  here she goes again.., rambling on and on about how amazing los osos is.  doesn't she know they don't even have a sewer?  or that its foggy for at least 3 months out of the year?

i am painfully aware of all of my baby's faults.  but like the loving mother i am, i love this place unconditionally.

recently b and i took a trip down to san diego.  i've always liked it down there, with the warm water, great shopping, good food, and of course sea world.  it really has so much to offer.  b's parents have this timeshare that allows them to go to all these different resorts.  last year was san jose del cabo, mexico. this year was san diego.  they were both wonderful and we are so thankful they have made taking us on vacation with them once a year a priority.  its really a great tradition.... not just because we could never afford these trips on our own, but because its so nice to be with family.

since i've always been one who doesn't like to miss out on anything, being in san diego was harder for me than i thought it would be.  i'm the type of person who can't say no to any party, girls night, concert, beach day... anything really.  if its sunny out, i feel anxious if i'm not at the beach.  if everyone's going camping and my kids get sick, something in me dies inside.  not really, but you get the point.

needless to say this type of restlessness can really affect my family.  like one of the millions of other ways my kids are nothing like me, they don't possess this dis-contentedness that can plague me.  so when trying to vacation in a place where there is the excitement of the zoo and sea world and legoland, but also the romance of the beach and lounge chairs by the pool, i'm just torn in two.  this translates into massive agenda days... the one where every minute is accounted for, just so we don't miss a thing.

it had been awhile since i had been that agenda driven.  i think i felt like my kids were finally old enough to be victims of my insanity.  which leads me to ask... have you met my 2 year old?  she has the attention span of a goldfish.  she could give a rip about baby gorillas and giant roaring lions.  show her dolphins frolicking through the air and she'll laugh in their face and then start foraging through my purse in an attempt to seek and destroy all of my lipstick.  next up are my other two. though they really enjoy places like the zoo and sea world, the fact that they can't walk more than 30 ft without severe leg pain and whining really inhibits us all.  throw in what felt like the whole state of california in each of these parks and you've got your basic 3 kid meltdown with a mom who won't slow down and a dad who is desperately trying to keep the peace.

growing up in slo i probably went to los osos 4 times.  i was a typical teenager and spent my free time roaming downtown, eating free kona's sandwiches, and sneaking into the movies.  i'm not complaining, i thought that was really living.  so when the time finally came for b and i to buy a home and he purposed leaving our charming 1 bdrm house on garden st to a 1500+ in los osos, i practically had a panic attack.  what would i possibly do in los osos?  even if i had money to spend, there is literally no where to spend it.  and even if i had a bra to wear, there's really no where to wear it.
yet i wasn't about to pass up being a home owner and so we made the big move.  those first few months i realized it was the best thing we could have done.  that first week i remember walking the 2 blocks down to the bay and looking at all the boats and knowing one day one of them would be ours.  i remember for valentines day b and i discovered a little known culniary delight known as noi's and spent many a dates with a bottle of wine and massaman curry parked at the top of the hill in watching the sunset.  i remember our first year with lily, and b waking up every morning to walk down to the bay with her and the dog.  i remember discovering the jungle at the end of our street and spending hours exploring with it's tapestry of vines and mystery that blows doors on any video game.  i remember blackberry picking in the winter, long summer nights at sandspit watching my husband surf, and the romance of traipsing around hazards.  i remember discovering the endless, endless trails of MDO state park and being amazed when i heard there was yet another one i hadn't conquered.  i remember taking feverish kids down to spooners to skip rocks in the creek cuz there was no where else to take them.  i remember taking dinner down to the back bay and having a glass of wine while the kids played on the rope swings.  i remember getting our little boat and motoring over to the dunes and watching my kids get naked and splash to their hearts content.

so on our fourth day in san diego when b suggested we go explore the tidepools in la jolla instead of braving sea world again, i knew i had been broken.  this was confirmed when i saw the sheer joy and excitement of my 2 year old finally able to break free and run along the beach.  looking over at my son literally laying in the sand drawing with his fingers and my six year old sitting on the rocks sketching some sea snails she collected, i realized i was home.

though we grumble about the politics out here, and whine whine whine about the fog... i've always known in my heart that raising kids out here was just plain good for their soul.  to see my kids that day in san diego happier than they'd been all week was just that confirmation.  we finally are reaping the benefits of raising kids who love the outdoors.  kids who love the peacefulness and solidarity of nature.  i know it can't last forever and we'll likely loose them for at least a few years.   i know one day they will choose video games and downtown slo with their friends rather than a walk with their mom and dad on the beach.  but their first love will always be with them.  and for that, los osos, i am eternally indebted.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

learning curve

i've always been a sucker for new years resolutions.  i know lots of people think they are futile, but for me the idea of corporate change and accountability somehow motivates me.  this year was no different.

i typically try to focus on one or two things.  sometimes they are small, like not eating sweets during the day and gorging all night long.  other times i get more serious, more deep. this year my main resolution has been to be a better parent.

it wasn't long ago that b and i were mostly the same.  granted he's always been insanely smarter than myself-- evidenced by the fact that i still don't care know what a mechanical engineer is.  but when we first met, we were fumbling our way through college... we had similar enough goals and ideas about life and really had had a lot of the same life experiences.  for instance, back then we both thought that planning a trip to the UK over spring break was not only a great idea, but that we should fund the said trip by filing our taxes online (which then led to being banned from online filing for the next two years due to some discrepancy about paperwork.  tomatos, tomatoes. all i knew was that we each miraculously had $300 and some change in our account after hitting 'file.'  and really who would have thought this whole concept of 'e-filing' would really take off?)  needless to say, this idea to whimsically file online and not follow up was my idea, but the point is was that b conceded to it.  something i know he would never do now.

fast forward 12 years and b has not only become a partner at his firm, but he also has acronyms at the end of his name and listens to podcasts from harvard business school!  fast forward 12 years for me, and i haven't worked one day in my degree and my idea of intellectual stimulation is the amazing writers of 30 rock.  the point i'm trying to drive in is that brandon is really, really good at his job.  can you see where this is going?

its hard for me to even get in the space of 'my job' as being a stay at home mom.  i don't typically like the conversations i hear about it, and if i'm honest i always preface my title with a just in front of it.  i've heard all the racket about how stay at home mom's have 'the most important jobs' and 'we are raising the next generation' and 'what a privilege and honor it is to stay at home.'  i will concede that all of these are very true.  especially the bit about it being a privilege to stay home.  i don't say it nearly enough, but seriously not a day goes by where i don't thank god for being able to do what i do with, and for my family.  i find it frustrating that society is so two-faced about it.  on one hand it seems as though my job is very prestigious and esteemed, yet  every day i feel like i'm barely making a difference... barely affecting my kids the way i should be... barely able to do the mundane tasks i'm called to.  i'm frustrated that i always put that 'just' in front of my title.

so instead of settling for mediocrity in it all... i decided this year my new years resolution was to be really, really good at my job.  god has called me to be a mother and a wife.  first.  first before my email, first before the spin class i'm dying to take, first before talking on the phone with my friends, and first before my bad ass (second) career as the greatest realtor around.

thankfully my first step was to do something i do pretty ding dang good... read.  i started digging in to some of the great parenting books.  however, i started to realize that while they all seem great while i was reading them, before the dust even settled on the pages i'd already forgotten all the magic they held.  i don't know why it took me so long to realize that i really needed jesus to be a better parent.  how quickly i forget.  before i became a christian i tried and failed miserably to change.  i tried to quit partying so much, fail.  i tried to not be so insecure, fail.  i tried to not be gossipy and jealous, fail.  it wasn't like my coming to faith made me perfect by any means, but by the power of the holy spirit i really began to see change in my behaviors and thinking.  i can't tell you how freeing it was.

perhaps my biggest motivator and also biggest failure was realizing that my ideas about success in my job were contingent on the behavior of my children.  i was starting to see things that i really didn't like in the way they were turning out. parenting was getting harder instead of easier.  i felt like i was doing my best but wasn't getting the results i wanted.  unlike my husband, his success led to pay raises, a better car, daily pats on the back.  my success's were measured in potty training, sleeping through the night and good manners but my failures were like a slap in the face with every temper tantrum, bad attitude, and bratty behavior.  in my quest for knowledge b and i took a parenting class through our church.  there was soooo much good stuff in it, but the one thing that really struck me more than any of it was one simple, obvious statement.

you are raising imperfect children to become imperfect adults.

duh, right?  i couldn't believe i had never realized this.  i can't tell you how embarrassing and humbling it was to realize that i might have been trying to raise perfect people.  i mean, i know they aren't perfect but i think i honestly thought they might be if i just tried a little harder or did something a little different.  i wasn't able to understand that kids do kid things.  they blow it all the time.. just like me.   that little bitty undeniable sentence set me free in a way that no book has come close to.  for the first time in a long time i felt a freedom that allowed me to do my very best but not let the outcome affect my efforts.

so you need jesus to be a better parent? i need jesus for everything.  but yes, i am realizing i  have to be more prayerful.  i have to be around people that are seeking the same outcome i am.  i have to seek out moms that take their calling as a mom and a wife as their highest priority.  i need to talk it out and be held accountable.  and really, more than anything, i need the time each day to heal my own heart and search out my own shortcomings by humbly coming before the god i love and asking for forgiveness and assistance.  for the first time in my life i really feel like i'm understanding dependence on him in a way i haven't yet known.  and instead of feeling frantic, i feel free.  free to finally be the mom and wife that will be glorifying to my god and have that be enough.  cuz nothing is more worth that sacrifice than these faces:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

v is for many things.

so this valentines day i really wanted to do it up right.  being married 10 years this october kinda makes us pretty big time.  either that or i realized we have found ourselves in a new place.  not newlyweds where every day is v-day (wink wink), and not new baby days where all both of you care about is the baby getting some sleep, and lastly, 10 years of marriage, means 10 years of not being divorced.  10 years means we've definitely had our ups and downs and we don't have the excuse of being burdened by small kids anymore, yet at the same time we don't have the fire that comes with being newly married.  it could almost feel like an okay opportunity for some apathetic contentment (cuz thats a real condition i just made up-- mostly cuz its quite possible it's what i've been living for for quite some time now).  if i'm completely honest, the lack of intensity in our marriage comes from being comfortable in a lot of ways. b has a great job, i get to stay home, all of our financial needs are met and even some of our wants.  all of us are healthy, and though the kids make us crazy, they are healthy and thriving.  we really have so much to be thankful for and therein lies the rub.  thankful can often times mean complacent.
so when the night before valentines day came around and i was chatting with lealah and coco about our plans, i found myself super excited for what coco had planned.  it was just a simple dinner for the most part, except hearing her describe her dress, her smokin hot wig, her sweet card and her 'stage' name (moana shiftwell), i realized i needed to up my game.
so what better way to up your game then going to a place you haven't been in years....  the small space you've reserved in the last drawer  in the way back corner of your dresser... you know where i'm talking about ladies... your lingerie spot.  as i fumbled my way there i was reminded of what a road less traveled it was.  of course we were totally running late and i had like 3 minutes which is 2 minutes more that usual to get ready, so i had this crazy idea (and no i hadn't even been drinking yet) to wear some lingerie under my dinner clothes.  for some reason i had this vision of it peeking out and 'whet'-ing the appetite...  well, peeking out it did.  i tried to find my raciest number circa 2002 (yes, something i got for my bridal shower)  and after wasting 2.5 of my 3 minutes trying to fasten all 50 hooks, i realized it was eventually supposed to attach to something... like some sexy underwear or something (which it probably came with 10 years ago, but is long since gone).  there is probably a name for this type of lingerie, but clearly i'm out of the game.  so i kind of gather the hanging straps and tuck them in my jeans... thus creating a bulging on many levels.  the first level was apparant when i finally exhaled.  see, appparantly my rib cage (not whats on the outside of my ribs unfortunately) has grown several inches since i was 23.  so where the lingeire stopped,  my stomach bulged out.  i seriously looked 4 months pregnant.  that combined with the sheerly ridiculous amount of lace made me look like i had a bunch of gum wrappers wadded up in my tank top on top of my second trimester belly.  needless to say, i kept my jacket on the entire evening.
dinner itself was pleasent enough.  we enjoyed halibut, soup, salad and bottle of wild horse merlot.  we talked about  how much we loved each other and how we couldn't wait to rip each others clothes off.  haha, you didn't really believe that did you?  have you already forgotten we have been married 10 years...
we talked about the kids for longer than we should have... we talked about how some of our friends were doing. i bored him with the details of the latest 'best book ever' i was reading, and he tried his best to engage me on what was happening at work.  it was a lot like a typical evening except we didn't have 3 little hyena's competing for out attention.
as the night went on, i kept trying to think of ways to convey my sexy underparts.  i kinda felt like a mormon with my holy garments, except mine were way sexier and i can have sex whenever i want.  yet when we finally paid our bill and made our way out to the car, i was to tired and full to show anything off.  needless to say by the time we walked in the door we weren't exactly ripping each others clothes off.  so... now was my moment, right? as we went upstairs, b went into the bathroom and i began to unveil my sexiness... and let me tell you, what a night it was!  it ended with the best most amazing fireworks a girl could ask for:  we fell asleep cuddling, but not before my husband told me how incredibly happy and thankful he was to have me has his wife.
i know what you're thinking, so hot right?!  because in the mind of a woman, cuddling and words of affirmation trumps any wild night anyday.. 10 years or not!
all this to say, it will be hard to top next year... but instead of waiting one year to go back to the recesses of my dresser, i'm going to try really hard to nip this apathetic contentment in the booty, and actually put lingerie on at least once before next v-day.  baby steps ladies.  lets do it for our dudes, lord knows they deserve more.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

i just called to say i love you....

i'm really not even sure where to begin.

when i went to type in holdmama,  my computer could barely remember the website-- either that or att was being ridiculously slow as always-- but whatever the case, its been that long.

so you are probably wondering, and hoping for something uh-mazing right now. well keep on hopin, obama style.  i got all kinds of riff raff floating around this head of mine, yet its been so long i don't even know where to begin.

i think i'll start with some excuses as to why my last post was on nov 16.  for starters it was the holidays.  and besides being super pumped for jesus birthday, i like to take a good solid month to attend as many holiday parties as possible and eat and drink as much crap as i like.  its kinda how i celebrate.  but in all honesty, i really really love that time of year and this year i apparently couldn't be bothered to actually take the time to write something.
what else... oh well the whole 3 kids thing.  yeah, that's actually proving to be much more difficult than ever.  the realization that i don't have 3 babies anymore is really starting to hit me.  there are like 3 little obnoxious bodies constantly chirping away in my ear and fighting to climb all over me, and mostly just busy making doing anything but wiping butts, noses, and being a short order cook impossible.  did i mention they are as adorable as heaven itself and i wouldn't trade them for a million billion pesos?!  regardless, they are becoming increasing real with their endless wants and needs.  i've even been thinking real adult responsible thoughts like, 'how are we going to send 3, 4 kids to college?'  'how much did you say braces would be?' and 'lord have mercy on me i will one day have 2 teenage daughters.'  real stressful stuff people.

which leads me to my next update.  this is a favorite of mine and all of yours too as i have been questioned a lot about it lately.  so with that said, 'what exactly is going on with your adoption?'
well, not much.  however, not much in a good way.  we will have been waiting 1 year come march 23rd.  last time i spoke with our agency (at 6 months waiting) they informed me that things are still moving along - as in the country is still open-- but there have been so many new laws and changes being enforced-- all good stuff for the kids themselves, but means it takes longer for us.  however its totally worth it, because it ensures the safety of the kids, which is of utmost importance in my book.  at this point we are praying and hoping for a referral  (ie a picture/file on a child matching our criteria which is *healthy* boy under the age of 2) come summer.  at that point we will decide- who am i kidding-- there is nothing to decide, we will leap for joy and begin to prepare to be a family of 6.  it will then be anywhere from 4-8 months before we actually bring him home (we have to travel to ethiopia twice).  i plan to call our agency sometime in march to double check this timeline, cuz if there is one thing i've learned in this process, its that every situation is different.  there is no 'typical' experience.  in the meantime, the kids will continue to talk about and pray for him and count the minutes til he graces our lives.  thankfully for me and b the 3 we have now leave us little time to ache for him.  its more of a budding excitement at this point.  i reckon once we have his picture, we will be absolutely ruined until he's actually in our arms.

so you love christmas, you are busy with your 3 kids, you don't have a fourth yet, and.... it sounds like you are a bit lazy?  nailed it.  i have been a reading machine lately.  every spare minute i have which totals like 13 in one day, my head is buried in my kindle.  i have read some amazing books these last few months.  literature will never cease to amaze and completely humble me.  why are there so many amazing writers out there?  it truly never gets old. to help you get on track, here is a few must reads:

peace like a river  by leif enger
the history of love by nicole krauss
rules of civility by amor towles
lit by mary karr
extremely loud and incredibly close by jonathan safran foer
the tiger's wife by tea obreht
state of wonder by ann patchett

just to name a few.  there have been many more, but those are my top picks as of late.

when i'm not reading, or scheming ways to get away from my kids, i have been so incredibly fortunate to be spending lots of time with my dear friends.  one of which i recently wrote a blog about.  many of you know her personally, but many others i know don't know her and have been praying for her.  so i wanted to take a minute to update you on her so you can keep on praying!!!  coco is doing amazing for all intensive purposes.  she humbles me daily with her faith and love for jesus.  she literally cannot get enough of him.  i have learned more from her 14 month walk with god then i have in years.  she spurs me on in the way that iron sharpens iron.  she makes me want to pray harder, hope fuller and love deeper.  she shines so bright considering her circumstances... which are still not what we want.  praise be to god that since the gamma knife radiation she got in seattle last summer, she has not had any new activity in her brain.  this is maj huge as she would say.  its a huge answer to sooooo many prayers and we give god all the glory for healing her.  however that stupid cancer has crept into her lungs and is being extremely stubborn.  she is currently undergoing chemotherapy once every 3 weeks with more grace than you could imagine.  she has lost almost all of her hair and suffers intermittently from many other side effects of the chemo.   but as i mentioned you would never know it when you see her big blue eyes smiling at almost everything around her, or the way she just radiates her love for her perfect baby girl.  when i find myself mad at god and wondering about the injustice of it all, i'm brought back down when i see the way that god shines through her.  she's a fighter and she's got the god of the universe in her corner, and really what more can you ask for.  she is teaching us all what it means to love and cherish your life in a way i've never known and for that i'm eternally indebted.

well, that's about all i've got for now.  i promise i'm going to try and be better at this.  i really want to tell you all about my valentines day cuz it was another relevatory evening of just how old i am.

oh and one more thing, if you could leave a comment on the blog itself instead of facebook it would mean so much to me... not every time - i know that's a lot to ask, but even just this once -- i need my ego stroked if i'm gonna keep this up.