Friday, April 28, 2006

Slowing down

Anna's been really sick all week, so we've had a rough time. She didn't sleep much this week (and so I didn't sleep much either), and had a really high fever, sore throat, and was just miserable most of the time.

It's always a good reminder to just slow down and enjoy your kids! Since Anna's been sick we've done lots of cuddling (something she's generally too "busy" to do!), lots of reading together, and lots of "Mommy, play with toys."

And it's occurred to me, why is it so hard for us moms to just get down on the floor with our kids and play? Are all the other things I "have" to do or most likely want to do really so important?

This morning I took the time and just sat down with all three of them and played. It's especially important for the boys because it seems to be a great way to bond and promote attachment. Today little Biniam (who is as far as I can tell not as attached so far as his brother) made lots of great, smiling eye contact with me, and fully initiated a little game with me! He would shake this toy that makes a lot of noise, looking into my eyes and smiling/laughing the whole time. Then he would hand it to me. I would shake for awhile, and hand it back to him. It was great!

So one of my goals now is to spend good solid time every day on the floor with my kids. Not that I never do that now, but certainly not as much as I should. And it's not only good for them, it's good for me too!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Great visit

Yesterday Anna had her (overdue--we've been busy, what can I say?) 2 year well-baby visit. I resolved ahead of time to try to ask the doctor about the boys' circumcision and Ezra's bloodwork, figuring it'd be easier to do at Anna's appointment (when the boys aren't wailing in my ear! My mom and dad came over and watched the boys.)

WELL, I am happy to report that the doctor was really great this time around. I think maybe last time he was really rushed, which was a bummer, but at least now I know he's not always that way! He totally knew who I was for one thing, which I'm sad to say is not always the case with doctors.

Anna's visit went well. She weighed in at 25 pounds, 1 ounce and was 35 inches long. She's tall for her age and a little below average, weight wise. They did a finger-prick test to test her iron levels and they were all perfect! She got her Hep A shot. The doctor also commented on the fact that she apparently has big toes! Hee, hee. She has Kevin's feet so we can blame him for that...

So I asked the doctor about circumcision, and what he thought I should do. First he said he'd tell me what the AAP says, and then he'd give his own recommendations (which I appreciate.) Now keep in mind that this guy is YOUNG, maybe early thirties, and not very doctor-looking. He fully couldn't use some of the, uh, "terminology" without smirking and almost laughing! Hee, hee! It was funny and I almost burst out laughing myself when he was smirking.

He told me that (he and his wife have four children, with at least two boys) none of his sons are circumcised. Interestingly he said fewer boys are circumcised on the West Coast than the East Coast nowadays. He explained the potential risks of non-circumcision, and also the issues with circumcision. The AAP no longer recommends routine circumcision I guess. He said that if we did want to have the boys circumcised, it would have to be done in the hospital and they would have to be put under general anesthesia. Recovery would probably be painful, and it's just harder once they're past the newborn phase.

SO, we have decided that the boys will remain uncircumcised. To be honest, neither of us ever had particularly strong feelings about the issue. Most of my mommy friends with sons seem to have it done, and I probably would too had I given birth to these little guys, just because it seems like the normal thing to do around here (or at least it was for boys in our generation but I think the tide might be changing.) But I cannot justify having them put completely under anesthesia (and all of the risks associated with that alone) for superficial reasons. The statistics in my opinion are not compelling enough to have it done. My sons are perfectly fine the way they are!

As for Ezra's bloodwork the doctor is really not concerned about waiting longer, being that Isaiah's was perfectly normal and he would not expect anything to be dramatically different. So we will wait.

All in all a good visit and I'm back to liking the doctor again. :) I felt comfortable presenting my questions and feelings, and he did a great job addressing them. I really liked the fact that when he was explaining circumcision to me, he explained things in such a way where it was totally open for me to decide. He didn't try to sway me, just shared his own experience and also what the medical community was saying. On a personal level I think it's cool that he and his wife have four kids, and they're all close together in age (I guess at one point they were all 5 years old and younger!), so he kind of has an idea of what we deal with on a daily basis. :)

So a big relief for us!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fitting in

Okay so here are just some random musings about something I've been thinking about lately: where do I fit in?

I've been noticing more and more that we as humans are really into labels: "I'm a Republican/Democrat, Conservative/Liberal, Protestant/Catholic or Non-denominational/(insert denomination), stay-at-home mom/working mom...and the list goes on. The interesting thing about labels is that each label conjures up some sort of image or stereotype based on the majority (or at least the most outspoken) of people wearing that label.

Using the random labels I just listed, I guess I'd be a semi-conservative Republican Protestant going to a non-denominational Christian church and I'm a stay-at-home mom. But I don't really feel like I fit in with a lot of people with those same labels. When it comes to politics I am adamantly pro-life/anti-abortion--that is my primary reason for voting Republican. However, I am a bit more socially/economically liberal than probably most of the people labeling themselves as Republicans, so I don't really feel like I fit in very well there. I don't fit in with the liberal Democrats so well either because of my strong stance on abortion, as well as the fact that I disagree with some of their ideology/values/methods. But I DO appreciate their commitment to health care, helping the poor, and humanitarian leanings.

As for my "religion," I believe that God sent His son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for my sins, and for yours. I believe that I am saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ, and that on my own I am nothing but a sinner. I believe the Bible to be the true Word of God, and I gratefully, humbly and wholeheartedly wear the label "Christian."

The funny thing is that sometimes I don't feel like I really fit in with some of the Christian culture. I'm not sold out on the Elizabeth George books (shhhh, don't tell!), and it makes me sad that the church in America right now seems to have such an inward, individualistic focus: my relationship with God, my daily quiet times, my prayer life, these are the only things that matter. At least, I always have, and I always got the impression that that was how it was supposed to be.

The reason this trend in the church (well ultimately in society I guess) makes me sad is that in order to love Jesus and love others with the love of Jesus, we have to get outside of ourselves. Ephesians 2:10 tells us:

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Okay, so when it comes to being an at-home-mom, I don't "look" like most moms either. I'm 24 with three children. Two of my children are from Ethiopia and don't look a thing like me (well my daughter doesn't look much like me either, sadly!) My sons are part of two cultures and two worlds. Now so are we. Our family is what they call a "conspicuous family": you can tell we are "different" just by looking at us.

So all of this to say that I am just plain weird. :) There is still some small part of me that is stuck in high school, wanting above all else to "fit in" somewhere. But for the first time in my life, I really don't!

There is something surprisingly freeing about not fitting into a label or stereotype perfectly. It keeps my true identity and true purpose at the forefront of my mind: my true identity being a daughter of God, and my true purpose is to follow after Christ. As Psalm 139 says, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." I never have to have an identity crisis because I am loved by a sweet God who has some sweet plans for my life.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Worth 1000 words

The usual Bob Marley music was playing today and I looked up to find Anna dancing WITH Ezra!! I ran and grabbed the camera and luckily caught it just in time!

They were giggling and spinning together holding hands. It literally brought tears to my eyes to see them enjoying each other so much, and to see Anna being such an awesome big sister! (She'd initiated the dancing.)

It was one of those moments that reminds me that all the cleaning up, poopy diapers, and laundry is nothing compared to the amazing blessings that are my children. Far too often I get frustrated or mostly just plain sidetracked, and forget to stop and just love where I'm at in life, and wonder at these three people God has given me to love, care for, and encourage. I'm so unworthy but God chooses to bless me just the same!

Happy Easter

This is us, taken last night. Unfortunately we didn't have time to take it in the morning before church (when we were all fresh and awake), but all of us are looking at the camera, so I will call it a success. :)

On a side note, Anna HATES having her picture taken. She'll refuse to look at the camera, refuse to smile, and sometimes will downright throw a fit. It is so frustrating; she's such a cute kid, but we have so few good pictures of her!

The boys on the other hand love being in front of the camera and having their pictures taken. So if it seems like I primarily post pictures of them, that is why!

We had a good Easter. Church in the morning, yummy dinner with friends, and then we saw some more friends throughout the evening. It was fun. (The kids managed to get a nap in between church and dinner, which made for a happier afternoon.)

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

More weekend fun

Sunday after church our family headed up to Atascadero for a party my friend (we've been friends since we were eight years old!) and her husband and sister threw for the boys. People from the church I grew up in attended, as well as my mom and dad. It was a lot of fun.

It has been really neat to see how welcomed our sons have been. Our friends have truly generous hearts and we're always blown away by the kindness and generosity of people. I really want to be that kind of person too!

And so I've been thinking about that a lot lately. People have been so encouraging and supportive throughout this adoption. They've brought us meals, showered us with gifts, and most importantly prayed for us. I so want to be that type of friend, and I so want to be able to give something back. This was the first time in my life where I had felt truly "needy"--in need of prayer, support, and in need of the strength only God can give. And so it's been neat and humbling to get to benefit from peoples' kindness and huge hearts. Now that I have received that, I realize the importance of it and so desperately want to give that.

Just some random thoughts I've had lately. One way I hope to be able to lend support to people is through an adoption/orphans ministry I hope to help start at our church eventually. I've had a lot of people at church tell me they are thinking about adopting, or want to do it eventually, or who want more information, which is tragically lacking in Christian circles. When we started out I had to do a lot of time-consuming research on the internet, and I'd love to be able to help people with some of what I've learned. So we'll see! Of course I'm also wanting to give more to people in the way of just generally being encouraging, helpful, making myself available, etc. I will continue to pray for those opportunities!

Here are some more pictures from the party:

Monday, April 10, 2006

Fun weekend

Thursday afternoon Kevin's parents came down from Northern California to spend a few days--this was their first time meeting the boys. The kids had a good time (so did we) and I think the grandparents did, too!
Saturday afternoon and evening, Kevin's mom and dad watched all three kids while Kevin and I attended my friend Sarah's wedding (thanks for babysitting guys!) I've known Sarah since our freshman year of college and it was such a blessing to get to share in her big day. We got to see some old friends, including my old roommates, and it was held at a gorgeous winery. It was fun--and really nice to get dressed up and go out, just the two of us!

(This is me and Kevin after the wedding with my friend Sara. We've been friends since high school!)

(The beautiful bride and me!)

Supersize Me 2

So no one told me that my daughter was going to be making a sequel to the famous documentary. But apparently she is.

Don't believe me? I walked into the kitchen this afternoon to make the kids lunch, and that's where I found Anna, licking her fingers, holding a now-empty butterdish...

Fortunately I think there was only about a tablespoon's worth of butter on there. I will continue to console myself with that fact.

Yep, another "travel story" installment

(I am bound and determined to finish sharing our travel story. Unfortunately with three kids I just don't have the time to blog very much!)

So where was I? Okay Friday we'd gone to the Hilton and AHOPE, and Saturday we had no plans. We hoped to find out about the birth mom that day and get to meet her.

After many unsuccessful attempts of trying to get ahold of the social worker at Layla House (who was supposedly working on it), Kevin called Gail (orphanage director), who didn't know what was going on and offered to find out herself. We ended up waiting around pretty much all day hoping to get word about either traveling to Nazret where the boys are from or the mother coming to Addis (which wouldn't come until the next morning, when we found out that due to some staff change--presumably at the government office in Nazret--the mother would be difficult to track down. Translated: someone dropped the ball and our hope of meeting the mother fell through the cracks. On her relinquishment paperwork she filled out, she had listed her whereabouts. AAI's drivers were spread thin that week, the social worker had had to go out of town for something, and I think we payed the price. In hindsight we would have fought harder to meet the mom. But supposedly they were working the details out. We're so devastated about it, but do hope to make contact through the agency. The frustrating thing is that on one of the days, Jemal made a trip to Nazret to pick up some more babies. Why couldn't we have just tagged along with him?)

We spent the day basically hanging around the guesthouse. During the boys' nap we were hungry for lunch, so Kevin went just down the driveway to a little Ethiopian restaurant called Merry Fam, to get some food "to go." He returned with something that looked quite unappetizing. It is called Tibbs, though I've heard it pronounced "Tepps." It is basically beef served on injera. This particular version of tibbs tasted pretty I think I just ended up eating a yogurt from the fridge.

Later that afternoon we spent a lot of time with the family and family friend that was also staying there and adopting Yerusalem and Messele. The dad taught us how to juggle, Messele showed off his breakdancing skills, and Kevin played some soccer with the kids. Below is a picture of Scott (family friend of the couple adopting Yerusalem and Messele) holding Biniam (they became fast friends), Messele breakdancing, and Yosef swaggering around.

That evening we all went to a fancy Italian restaurant called Arcobaleno. I got lasagna (which was really yummy!), Kevin got some different types of pasta, and we even ordered some Ethiopian beer! It's called Meta. It was pretty good, especially considering that neither of us likes beer very much.

As we were leaving the restaurant (about a ten minute walk from the guesthouse) there were cars and taxis lined up all the way down the street. The manager of the restaurant told us that there had been a car accident (which we saw as we passed by) and also that police had just randomly started searching vehicles, which was causing a big traffic jam. Good reminder of the political instability/governmental abuse of power in Ethiopia (which sadly, could be a post or entire blog of its own.)

Friday, April 07, 2006

First steps!!!

So Isaiah Biniam took his very first steps last night!!! Woohoo!!! His progressing development is SUCH an answer to prayer.

Wouldn't you know it that this occurred during the nightly Bob Marley dance party? AND wouldn't you know it that Mommy was the only one in the room who missed it?!

Kevin's mom and dad are here visiting (first time meeting their grandsons!), and we were all sitting around watching the kids get their groove on. Kevin's dad had JUST turned OFF his video camera, and I was looking in the other direction, when Binny took two steps all on his own! We got him to take some more though, so at least I got to see that.

Today I've seen him take a step as well. I think I have shared this before, but adoption is turning out to be a blessing in so many ways that are very different from giving birth to a healthy child. Anna has always been on target developmentally, and we've never had to worry about anything regarding her health or development. But with our sons, we obviously have our concerns. So to see Isaiah take his first steps is such an amazing, emotional, exciting time for us because of all that it means. What a reminder these boys are that God is in control, that God can make something better and turn things around. That is all too easy to forget when you give birth to a healthy child.

So we are praising God that our little guy is learning to walk all on his own! After a month and a half in our home they are gaining weight, progressing developmentally...the Lord is so, so good. It is extremely comforting to know that the boys are in His hands!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I'll give you three guesses... figure out where Mommy keeps the snackfood!

Future shopper

I overheard Anna saying this the other day while I was spying on her.

(While looking at the pad of paper Mommy writes her shopping list on):

"Mommy's shopping list. Anna's shopping list: Breads. Butters. Eggs."

Man I love that kid!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Full weekend

--Last Thursday afternoon the kids and I headed down to Santa Barbara, picked up Kevin from work, and went over to his aunt's home (also in Santa Barbara) to spend the evening with his aunt and uncle, and his cousins and their families (who were visiting.) It was the first time any of them had met the boys. It was so fun to see the kids playing, etc. and WONDERFUL to see everyone again. Here is a picture of all the kiddos lined up on the couch--7 total! (Poor Anna wasn't so thrilled about being in the picture...From left to right: Isaiah, Katie, Megan, Zoe, Andrew, Ezra, and Anna! Oh and that's Kevin's cousin Steve in the back, trying to keep everyone on the couch.)

...And here is a picture of Ezra dancing with little Katie. So cute!

--Saturday some friends hosted a church baby shower for me. What a blessing!!! I was so moved by all of the special ladies that attended and I had a great time. (I left the kids at home with Daddy so it was nice to be able to just visit with people!) One of the highlights was that one of the ladies had prepared a special talk to give. (She used to co-lead the Young Marrieds group at our church when my husband and I were engaged.) Anyway, she has an adopted son from Ethiopia, and her talk was so wonderful and meant so much to me. She shared a really neat poem which I'll have to post sometime.

--Sunday the boys were dedicated to the Lord at church! Our family got to go up front (all five of us), the pastor prayed for the boys, had us commit to raising them up in the ways of the Lord, and had the church members commit to supporting us. There were three other babies being dedicated in addition to Yos and Bin. Grandma and Grandpa Perruzzi were in attendance, which was really special. I love this picture of Isaiah Biniam taken after the dedication in the church cry room. He is such a happy little guy!

Post-placement thoughts

Well we had our first post-placement visit on Friday morning with our social worker. (She did our homestudy back in August, and once a child is placed, you have to have three follow-up visits with her.) I was pretty nervous, wondering if anything would seem wrong or if there'd be some red flag with the boys' behavior or something (yes I'm paranoid.)

The social worker only stayed about an hour, asking various questions about their development, transition, etc. and then also observing them. Anyway she sent me a copy of her write-up, which included this near the end:

Isaiah and Ezra are thriving in their parents' care and seem to be
forming strong attachments to family members.

So the boys apparently seem to be emotionally healthy and doing well considering all they've been through. Yay! The fact that they are thriving is truly a testament to three things.

I often think about the love they must have received from their birth mother. According to some documents we have, they were about a month and half old when she took them to the government office to put them up for adoption. The first weeks and months are so crucial for a baby, and I don't know for sure, but I am betting this woman loved on her baby boys the whole time she had them, due to the fact that they never showed any signs of neglect or malnourishment whatsoever.

The second is the institutionalized care they received in Ethiopia. They spent the first year of their lives in institutions and yet somehow have managed to remain pretty psychologoically healthy. That is not to say that there won't be challenges along the way. There is definitely still "attachment work" to be done. But these boys are rambunctious, sweet, funny little guys that are able to let us know their needs, yet are able to be comforted by us, and who already show signs that they are attaching. I'd say that is good evidence of good care over the last year. They were definitely adored at Layla House; we couldn't go anywhere there without a worker or child coming up, going "Yosey, Binny!" giving them kisses, etc.

The boys' doing well is finally a testament to (and this is the most important thing!) God's profound love for them. He has been loving them, providing for them, keeping them in His care for the last year plus. I have to admit that I get really sad thinking about all the things I've missed out on with my sons already. I feel so sad that I wasn't always there for them. But God was there the whole entire time! Before I even knew we'd be adopting at all, God was watching over little Yosef and Biniam, meanwhile preparing Kevin and Anna and I to be their family. He protected them from harm, from disease. God knew them and loved them and knew the great plans He had for them (Jeremiah 29:11.) I praise God that those plans included us!

Just last night Kevin and I were reflecting on the things that make us long for Heaven, and about how we don't always think about that all that much. I said that the boys' story (and knowing that their are millions upon millions of stories like that) makes me look forward to the day when there is no more pain or suffering, when we are present with God. It is tragic to me that a young woman who lost her husband and who is HIV positive herself must give up her two precious sons because she knows she can't provide for them. I find it tragic that due to these circumstances my sons had to leave their culture and country, and that they will never know the woman who gave them life. BUT, what an amazing promise that God will turn our mourning into dancing, and that He will work all for the good of those who trust Him.

So I praise God that our sons seem to be doing well in their new environment. I praise Him that even when our boys had no mommy or daddy, they had a loving Father who was caring for them and loving them and who would eventually bring them to us. I'm thankful that even though my sons have experienced more loss already in their little lives than I am sure I ever will, that God will work out His plans and do something truly beautiful with their lives. He knows their loss, their hurts, their pain. My hope for our sons is that they will come to fully rest in God's peace and sovereignty, and have great confidence that God knows the plans He has for them, to give them a hope and a future (Jermemiah 29:11).

Finally, I've always loved Psalm 139.
"You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in
your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had
That chapter of the Bible has taken on such new meaning for me now. It makes me so excited to think that I get to be part of God's plans for Ezra Yosef and Isaiah Biniam!

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