Monday, September 26, 2011

Sweet Words

I have had this urge to listen to Ethiopian music again lately.  I wasn't quite sure where it was coming from, but every time I break out the Nahom Favorits #2 and Mari starts jamming to Chembalala or Elay Yaba-Addis Abeba the sights, sounds, and smells of Ethiopia literally flood my mind.

Then I looked at the calendar today...and it hit me like a ton of bricks!  It has been exactly ONE YEAR today since my DH and I boarded that plane to meet our baby girl face to face.

A year has passed since that tiny little girl sauntered into the room and rocked my world.

I keep thinking "This time last year" thought such as...

This time last year I was scared out of my mind of flying across the ocean and leaving four babies at home.

This time last year I had no idea I would spend three extra days in Africa...alone.

This time last year I was a packing MACHINE.

This time last year I had no idea of the challenges we would face with Little Sister, nor of the joy small victories with her would bring to my heart.

I did not know the love that would wash over me when she lets me paint her toenails electric blue.

And I did not know how sad I would feel when she forgot her native language.  

I took her for a haircut a couple of weeks ago and let the hairdresser cut off quite a bit so that we could keep her in my fave 'do of all time, the short afro with a headband and giant bow/flower/whatever gaudy accessory I can find.  As the stylist cut off a good three inches I looked at the pile of curls on the floor and tears filled my eyes.

Africa.  That hair on the floor is the hair she came home with from Africa.  I had to restrain myself from scooping it up into a bag so that I could try to glue it back on save it.  For what I'm not sure, but there was that sense of letting go...of cutting the cord, so to speak.

The little girl that stands before me is more American each day.  Her accent is only slight now...still beautiful but fading.  Her grammar is still hilarious, and it looks like it may be for a while, but she says things that shake me sometimes...things that remind me of the redemption that has taken place in her life.

"Mommy, you 'member in Etiopia when I did not know your words?"

While watching me look at children on the Waiting Child List...heart heavy with the need to pray for them...she asked me who they are.  "These are kids who are waiting for a Mommy and Daddy, just like you did."  She smiles with bright eyes and says "I have a Mommy and Daddy!"  Yes you do, sweet girl.

"Mommy, I need to hold you."
"Mommy, I love you."
"Mommy, you're conjo."  (The Amharic word for of only three she still uses!)

The remaining Amharic words, besides conjo, are bunna (coffee), and when she really needs to go pee  BAD...shint.  

That one will forever crack me up.

And above all these things is the realization that she LOVES.  She loves her parents, and she loves her siblings.  She wants to be at home.  She feels safe here.

And though she may still do some unsettling things, like giving a blank stare to strangers or forgetting boundaries with visitors, she is not the same child she was this time last year.  She is healing.  Thank you, Jesus.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

From Joy to Joy

It amazes me how quickly time passes.  Days turn to weeks turn to months and now here I sit with one child  home 10 months and another about to turn five.

Slow it down, already.

Sweet Mari has passed a major milestone.  She has officially been home longer than she was in an orphanage.   Though she may not be conscious of that fact,  I see it in her.  Our battles are no longer daily...her behavior is more and more predictable.  The only struggle has been with preschool, and I think we are quickly coming to a decision on that.

She goes to a Mothers Day Out twice a week, just for fun.  She wanted to go because she saw the fun Drew had when he graduated from preschool and I figured it might be a good thing for her.  At least I hoped so.
But despite the fact that she really, really likes preschool, it is taking a toll on her.  When she is away from me, there is that internal fear that I may not come back.  She prepares herself for that possibility and then acts out once home.  She came home from Africa with enough "issues" of her own, and I am realizing that she is taking on some new ones while away from the shelter of our home.
I don't need her to go to preschool.  It is not a break for me.  In fact, it just takes more time out of our homeschool day when I have to take her and pick her up, so she really has been going for her own fun and not for my need for a break.
I have struggled with what to do because on one hand, the consistency of my coming to pick her up helps to build trust.  But on the other hand, her behavior betrays her weakness and fear.  Is that fair to her?  Is it worth it?  I read recently that people often put newly adopted children in school right away so they can make friends, but when they were in the orphanage friends were all they had.   They don't need a bunch of friends now, they need a family.
And that is exactly what she has.  When I asked her if she felt better when we were all home together she smiled and said "yes."  She wants to go to school, but expresses that while she is there she misses me and feels scared.
She doesn't need that.  I don't need the "undoing" I seem to be doing after every day she spends away from us.
Yep, I think my decision is pretty clear.

Last weekend my DH and I flew away for the weekend to attend the wedding of a dear friend.  It was our first weekend away together since Miss Priss came home and boy were we ever in need of some couple time!  It was FABULOUS.  When we arrived home on Sunday, kids #1-4 came running and smiling and leaping into our arms.  Mari smiled, said hi, gave a halfhearted hug, and kind of looked at me like "well what do you expect?"  So I picked her up and planted her on my hip, smothering her with kisses.  Her response?
"I want down."
Me:  "Nope, you are staying right here."
"I want down, Mommy."
Me:  "Nope, Mommy wants to hold you because I missed you!"
More protests, but I held my ground, stroking her hair and her back and waiting.  Finally she gave up and her little body melted into mine.
I held her a while longer and then very nonchalantly lowered her to the ground when I was good and ready.  It worked like a charm.  She has been more physically affectionate with me this week than she has been in months. She expresses how much she loves me several times a day, unsolicited. Oh what joy to win that battle!   I just pray her little heart can finally see that this deal is forever, no going back, no matter what.  We may go away now and then, but we ALWAYS come home. She is stuck with us and we are going to love her through whatever comes, no matter what!

Finally, we have my baby boy's upcoming birthday.  Five years of the brightest white smile lighting up the most gorgeous ebony face you could ever imagine.  Kissable lips and meaty little hands that give Mommy more hugs and love than I ever deserve.  How I love my sweet boy.
He is SO excited about turning five, SO excited about being a "big kid", and literally counting the minutes until it is officially his birthday.
Five years old.  I can hardly believe it.
He cops the cutest version of a black Justin Bieber that you have ever seen, lives for basketball, football, soccer...well, if it has a ball he can play it and plays it well.  He adores his brother and sisters, loves to make us all laugh, and has a young faith that challenges my heart at its core...praying with such authority at a young age that it takes my breath away.  My baby boy loves his Jesus.  He lights up when his heart of worship is caught up in song, closing his eyes and raising his hands to the Lord.  He loves church, his daddy, and his dogs.  And oh, does he ever love his Mommy.  I could write volumes about the way he looks at me when I sing to him.  His eyes are ebony pools full of love.  It is beautiful.  I am so thankful for him.  I am so thankful for this privilege of mothering him and experiencing all these wonderful moments of his life.
So, happy birthday my precious Drew!  You are more than we ever hoped for...our unexpected surprise that we now cannot imagine life without.  You are love and light and joy and fun...and you are the apple of our eye.  Your siblings are so crazy about you, grinning at your antics and proud to call you theirs.  You are a gift, sweet and perfectly fit for us and very loved.  I pray this year you take that leap and give your heart fully and forever to Jesus.  I pray the Lord lights every step of your way.  May you rise up in strength and know why you were placed in such a time as this.  May you be a life changer and live fully for the glory of God.  His plans for you are good, and we count it all joy to be the parents He chose for you.  Sweet boy, may you always feel the joy you bring to others and be blessed beyond measure.
We love you more than words can express.

Oh, and can you slow it down just a little, for crying out loud?  I mean really...five?