Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I don't want to forget all the ways sweet Mari butchers her new language.  "Mommy, eeee-yut some milk?"  (Can I have some milk?)  "Mommy, we go jumpaly?"  (Trampoline!)  One of the cutest is her version of "I can do it myself."  She says "Mari I got it!"

I also don't want to forget the look on sweet Gracie's face when she blew out birthday candles last week for the sixth time.

Six.  How is that possible?  My chub-a-licious baby girl has become this tall, lanky young lady who milks every ounce of joy out of every moment of every day.  And she can read.  Slow down, sweet girl.

I don't want to forget the sound of her squealing with delight when she got a BIBLE from mommy and daddy.  The next gift was an American Girl...but it did not hold any more joy in her heart than that purple Early Reader's Bible.

I want to remember the stacks of books by Katie's bed, read (more like inhaled) more quickly than I can believe, the look on her face when she was told she gets her braces off next month, the sound of her hamster running in his wheel and her sweet "awwww"  every time he burrows under his bedding.

Oh, did I forget to tell you about the hamster?  That is another story!

I want to remember DJ in his pajamas, forgetting for a moment that he is almost 11 and too cool to hug mom as he sleepily sits on my lap and lets me ruffle his hair.

I want to remember the feel of Drew, so heavy and big for his age, with his long arms and legs wrapped around me and his sweet face nuzzled against my neck.  He loves to be held and touched by mommy, and I love to smooch his sweet cheeks.  He is only 4, after all, even though he wears the clothes of a 6 year old!

So many times I think "I need to write that down" but it doesn't happen.  So many memories tucked in the back of my mind that fail me when I sit at the computer.  But they are there, triggered by the smallest things.  I truly believe one of the joys of Heaven will be perfect recall...I will be able to think and remember and enjoy all the little moments of life that pass by too quickly.  Time slips away, but I believe every moment with my children is a treasure in Heaven.

I am a wealthy, wealthy woman.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Princesses are real.

The big kids are at basketball with Daddy so things have been pretty low-key for the past couple of hours.  After a while the creative juices started flowing through Gracie and Mari and I listened as my little girls giggled while dancing around (and around...and around) our coffee table singing "If you're happy and you know it" at the top of their lungs.  One was on beat as she shouted "Hoo-Ray!"  The other?  Not so much.  I heard "Hoo-Ray!" followed 1 1/2 beats later by "Hoo-Way" (in the cutest little African accent ever) and I quickly got out the video camera to record the cuteness.
Now they are playing dress-up and two beautiful brown-skinned princess are on parade in all their glitter and rustly-ruffle-ness with flowers in their hair and purses on their shoulders.

Life is good.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Through the eyes of my daughter...

My sweet Katie wrote a journal about her experience in Ethiopia.  I have had it on my desk for a month but, because I am nothing if not inefficient, I have yet to share it with you!  So, at Katie's request ("MOM you still haven't put my thingy on your blog???") I present to you her journal entitled...


I have to admit the travel part was boring.  There were no good movies on the plane so I watched one on my mom's i-pod.  For those of you who are wondering how long the flight was, it was sixteen hours.  That is long.  I will never complain about the trip to my cousins' house again.  I didn't even sleep the whole flight.  When we landed I got sick.  My mom thinks it was altitude sickness.  When we were driving down the road it really struck me how much we have.  Some of the houses were smaller than my bathroom.  Then we saw some houses that looked as big as an average house in America.  When we got to the guest house we were told as soon as we got situated we would go get Mari.  When we got to the transition home Mari ran to my mom.  The she was standing, looking at me like who are you?  Then my mom told her I was her sister and she gave me a hug and we played for a while then we took her to lunch and she ate like a grown man!  When we got back to the hotel I got sick again and then fell asleep till like 10 at night!  The next morning we went to embassy and then we went to lunch and ate lamb and injera an Ethiopian flat bread.  Then we went to the palace/museum and there was a picture of the princess and she looked just like me!  the next day we went to the transition home and at lunch I ate weird ravioli.  It was gross!  Then we went back to the transition home for a couple of hours and then left.  The next day we went to Entoto mountain and that was fun and saw another old palace on Entoto.  Then went shopping and then went back to the guest house to pack.  By then I was ready to be home.  Going through the airport was tough with Mari.  When we were waiting to board our plane we had to go through security again.  Mari was asleep so I carried the bags for my mom.  I was so tired I fell asleep during takeoff and slept till we landed in Rome and then stayed awake for the whole rest of the flight.  When we were landing in D.C. Mari was screaming for forty five minutes.  Mari didn't react to seeing America.  The next flight to Atlanta I ate and was bored.  While we were in the airport I was bored.  When we boarded the plane I slept the whole way.  When I saw everyone standing waiting I was so happy to see my family and friends.  My mom was crying then we took a pic with Michael W. Smith.  I would've been starstruck if I wasn't so tired!  We stayed to watch someone else come home then we left!  That's my story of when I went to Ethiopia!
Now that we are home I feel that God answered my prayers!

Ok, back to mama's commentary.  I am so stinking proud of her.  I love that in all the wonderful details she described, there is very little about the negative behavior of Mari toward her while we were in Ethiopia.  I love that her sweet heart remembers the sights, smells, and adventure of Africa.  And I love that she truly loves her little sister and sees her as the answer to her prayers because she did, in fact, pray for a sister from Africa for two solid years.  I truly believe God used Katie to open our eyes to the reality of 147 million orphans and our ability to make a difference, one child at a time.  I believe that Mari is home because of the fervent, faithful prayers of her big sister.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Full Circle

Exactly two months ago I arrived home with sweet Mari.
Two months.
So much has happened in two short months.
First of all, her use of English has exploded and, as quickly as the English comes, the Amharic leaves.  That makes me sad, but I know it is normal for a child her age.  She rarely speaks Amharic anymore.  Even when she plays with her dolls, they speak English to each other.  She uses words like "wonderful" and "time for bye-bye" and tells me often that "Mari no nigh-night" just minutes before falling asleep in the car.  She is learning the blessings of obedience and loves to help me "cuh-leen up" just about anything.  Her quest for control has lessened as her trust has grown.  It is not over, not by a long shot, but it is definitely getting easier to reign her in when she is being difficult.  If you could see her angelic face you would say "What?  That angel baby can be difficult?"  I know, I know, but the truth is, the honeymoon ended about 2 weeks ago.  How do I know?

Believe me, it is quite obvious when the honeymoon ends.  She absolutely tried herself last weekend, and apparently I looked a happy.  She looked at me and said "Mommy, Mari no bye-bye."  My heart sank because it confirmed what I suspected.  She was seeing if she could push us away.  I had to be up to the challenge of enforcing limits yet smothering her in hugs and kisses between time-outs to reassure her that this is just part of family life.  Sometimes you just have hard days.  The manipulation that was your survival mechanism is no longer necessary, sweet one.  You can relax and take your finger off that button you keep pushing.

Yes, Little Sister can push buttons like a pro, tattling on Drew (who has had the most difficult adjustment due to their close age) and relishing the possibility of seeing him get in trouble.  I have to be extremely careful to not let her exert power over him so that HE knows his position in the family is secure. He has needed lots of Mommy TLC and babying to remind him that he is, in fact, my baby boy even if he is HUGE for a four year old (he can rest his chin on her head)...but I digress.  They are getting along better and better each day, and he is realizing his important role as big brother.  But there are those moments when naps are needed, not only for their sake, but for mommy's sanity.

I could end most world conflicts with the diplomacy skills I have learned, oh yes I could.

One funny thing I have to add here.  Several days ago, he was playing with a toy and Mari seized a moment when he was distracted to take said toy.  He looked at me in all seriousness and said "I don't like Africans playing with my stuff."

I nearly choked on my Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.

Yes, that is my coffee of choice.

That being said, I really don't have any more behavior issues with her than I have with the others at this age.  She is four.  Four year olds can be annoying.  Four year olds don't like boundaries yet desperately need them, and four year olds can "do it myself" yet melt down when, in fact, they can't.  She is a completely normal four year old despite the abnormal way she spent the past year of her life and the abnormal amount of loss she has experienced.  She is loving, almost always kind, compassionate, affectionate, hilarious, and strong-willed.  She laughs from deep in her belly, and her eyes sparkle when she does something to  make us say "Good job!"

Our biggest battle right now is over food.  Though she nearly starved to death by the age of three, she is one picky eater.  I know, though, that this behavior has started because she now knows there is a pantry and fridge full of food to be eaten and that there is no longer the threat of hunger in her life.  She also knows Mommy wants her to eat her "good food to make her tummy happy" and, in another effort to have control, flat out refuses to eat about half her meals.   So I have had to do some creative bargaining and let her learn the hard way when all who ate their lunch get a lollipop or brownie but she doesn't.  She fully understands her decision, which is interesting...she never throws a fit about it.  She just tries to see if I have forgotten and asks for "carmela" and I say, "No carmela because no eat.  If you eat your good food, then you get carmela."  She smiles like she is thinking "I knew you would say that" and goes on about her business.  She is no dummy.

I have learned so much from her in two months.  She responds wonderfully well to structure and thrives in a quiet room.  When we are homeschooling, she is very happy to sit down and color with crayons or play with blocks.  She likes to "check in" every few minutes, telling me she loves me or showing me something she has made.  She and Drew sometimes go off together and play and it thrills me when they head upstairs, hand-in-hand.  She is crazy about DJ and Katie, and Gracie sees her as a living baby doll who is oh-so-fun to dress up.  She has integrated into our lives so well...or is it that we have integrated into hers?  We have all changed as a result of her addition to our family, and it has all been for the better.

Sometimes when I look into her eyes I see Africa so clearly and I long to hear the sounds of Addis or smell the air on Entoto Mountain.  I see her trust and her attachment to me, and her need for me to fight for let her know in no uncertain terms that she belongs here, with us.  Friends may come and go, but we are family, forever and unyielding in our loyalty.

Life with Mari do I sum it up?

Well, it is normal.  It feels right and natural.  It is joy, frustration, wonder, and pride all at once.  It is the realization that, without God right in the middle of each day, I will fall flat on my face and fail my children miserably.  But with Him leading the way, I see my children coming together in love and learning more each day what it means to heal, to be redeemed, and to be chosen.

I gave this post the title "Full Circle" for a reason.  Tonight, exactly two months after coming home, Mari stood in the exact same airport terminal and welcomed her friend, T, to America.  She was so excited to see him and his brother (who has been home since August), as she had known them both in Ethiopia.  As we prepared to drive to the airport she told me she was going to hug them both, and she did.  To watch a friend come home, to know that there are now three of them here, living within miles of each other, was very powerful for her.  We have talked over the past several weeks about how T's older brother was home, but T was in Ethiopia, waiting...well tonight she said "Mommy, T is at his HOUSE!"

Yes, another little heart is beginning to heal tonight.

I wonder what they will be saying two months from now.

Where has the time GONE?

This week marked 2 months since we brought Mari home and I have fully intended to blog every day but, obviously have failed to do so.  
I want to tell you so much.
She is doing extremely well, as are we all.  She has integrated into our not-so-little family beautifully and God continues to teach me lessons, some of them hard, through this journey called adoption.  More than ever, I realize my utter dependence on Him to "get this right."   There is a post cooking in my cluttered brain that I will hammer out as soon as I can get more than 10 minutes on the computer so...
stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I Will Be A Carrier: Davids' Story: URGENT NEED!!!

PLEASE read this link and ACT. Pray, and if the Lord nudges you, BE THE ONE to change this child's life!!!!!!!!!!!

I Will Be A Carrier: Davids' Story: URGENT NEED!!!: "Contacts for more information about Davids: 1)LeAnn Dakake (New Horizons for Children) 678-313-8321 cell dakake (a..."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Birthday...

We don't know exactly when Mari was born.

In Ethiopia, countless babies are born in mud huts in remote regions of the country.  There is no hospital record, no birth certificate, and no yearly celebration.  Their ages are usually determined by the seasons and, often, people lose count of the years and have no idea how old they are.  Mari was one of those babies.

But exactly one year ago today, when interviewed by the court as she faced the most heartbreaking of decisions, her birth-mother said she was three years old...
"I don't know exactly when she was born, I just know she is three."

So that day, today, became her legal birthday.  That day, today, marks another year of life and a year since her birth-mother began a painful journey for the sake of her youngest child.  A child whom she misses terribly.

So today we celebrate our sweet daughter's 4th birthday, and the piece of my heart that will forever be in Ethiopia weeps for a woman whose face is forever etched in my memory.  I pray she has peace.  I pray the Lord mercifully gives her visions of her daughter laughing as she hides from the lit candles that make her more than a bit nervous, then giggling with delight when I helped her blow those scary things out.  I pray she sees Mari's wide eyes as she tasted birthday cake for the first time, and the sound of her sweet voice saying "Eh weh de shal lo, Mommy" as she lay her head on her fluffy pillow and snuggled under her warm blankets while cuddling with her favorite baby doll.  And I pray that she and her children have all they need and more, that they will be lifted out of poverty and disease and given life and health.  I pray along with them that they will live to see her grown.

Thank you, Lord, for this story that is so much bigger, so much more beautiful, than we are.  Thank you for allowing our world to become so big through another beautiful pair of deep brown eyes who has lived a lifetime before becoming part of ours.  Thank you for protecting Mari's life, for not allowing poverty to take her too soon.

Thank you that she is home to celebrate her 4th birthday...the first of many.

May all of your precious ones who wait be so blessed...