Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hearts and hope

Yesterday.

Children's Hospital.

Pediatric cardiology appointments for our two sweet girlies.



Anna came along, to help.  Because apparently, when you're seven, you have such a stinking big heart that you want to be there, at the hospital, with your sisters.  Yeah, my eldest daughter pretty much rocks.

We were there for SIX HOURS.

Six hours, people!



EKG's (abnormal, of course) necessitated echocardiograms.  For which Mekdes (above) had to be sedated.

And it turns out that Tigist has a PDA that needs to be corrected by a procedure of sorts.

And Mekdes has Incomplete AVCD that needs to be corrected by, well, heart surgery.

The cardiologist, after explaining all of his findings to me, paused a moment and asked the question I have a feeling we'll be getting a lot:

"Did you, uh, know about these medical issues when you adopted your girls?"

Yes, I told him.

Yes, we knew they had Down syndrome. 

Yes, we suspected they had heart defects that would require heart surgery.

Yes, yes, yes.

We knew.

And, we knew we loved these girls.  We knew that God is good and all kinds of faithful.  We knew that adoption and life and parenting are messy, no matter what you do. 

Now, we didn't know how it would feel to have Mekdes look into our eyes and call us "Mommy", or "Abbabba". 

We didn't know how it would feel to see Tigist smile with her entire face, her entire soul, her whole being.

So, yeah, I spent all of yesterday on the cardiology floor of Children's Hospital.  And yes, two of my daughters need heart surgery.  Which just might kill me, because surgery obviously carries risk, and none of my kids have ever had surgery, and who would ever wish it on their sweet, precious little girls?  It's huge.  And terrifying. 

But honestly? 

I left that place filled with hope.

Because Mekdes and Tigist are {finally} getting the care that they need. 

That they couldn't get living in an orphanage in a developing country. 

And if that means I have to swallow my fear and put on my big-girl pants, so be it.

Thus I'm taking a deep breath.

I'm choosing hope.

And while I'm waiting for the surgeon to call, I'm relishing each and every time Mekdes greets me with "Mommy!" and a hug, and every time Tigist smiles and laughs from the depths of her soul.

Slowly, but surely, their hearts are healing.

And, there is hope.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First moments

There is really nothing--nothing--quite like taking your child out of an orphanage, and into your arms, and walking away.  Away from their home for the past few years and away from the complexity that is, on the one hand, a lifeline...and on the other, a place no child should have to grow up.

And so on a Tuesday morning we showed up to Layla House, gathered our girls, and walked out of the gate.



video

We got them back to the guest house and waited to be picked up for our trip to the embassy.  Here they are in those first moments in a new place, with a new mom and dad.  Highlights to watch for include Tigist making us laugh, and Mekdes' jazz hands.  :)

And just so you know, these girls are every bit as sweet as they seem in this video.  SUCH dear, gentle souls. 

Goodbye, orphanage life.

Hello, beautiful daughters.

How truly blessed we are.

Monday, September 26, 2011

An update, one week in

Well, technically we're about two weeks into parenting the girls, but as of last night we've been HOME with them a week.  And since we all know that parenting your children in a developing country (where you don't normally reside) is basically survival mode, I'm not counting that one.  (Though it was great!)

Anyway, one week in and life around here is maybe, MAYBE, slooowwwwwly shaping into a routine.  (Did I say maybe?) 

Some things are really, really easy.  As in, easier than I imagined. 

And other things are hard.



Mekdes is flourishing.  Thriving.  Feeling more and more comfortable in our home every.single.day.  She is sweet, funny, kind, AFFECTIONATE, and sometimes a little bit naughty (as any good four year old is.)  Still a huge language barrier but, who knew, you don't have to speak the same language to build a relationship.  She is a family girl, for sure.  Oh, and she really likes giving kisses.  As in, if you meet her, be prepared for one (or five).  :)



Poor Tigist is having a bit of a tough time.  That smily, happy-go-lucky baby we met in Ethiopia?  Yeah, her world has been rocked.  She is insecure, out of sorts, and not nearly so ready with her smiles.  That being said, she is one delightfully-huge bundle of cuddly, squishy sweetness.  Oh, those cheeks!  And that belly!  And while she's going through a period of adjustment and grief, she trusts us.  She looks to us to meet her needs.  And she's simply getting more vocal about them--which is ultimately a good thing.

So, what's been easy?  The girls, and their transition.  They are both just very sweet-natured, flexible and, dare I say, generally compliant?  My other kiddos have been SO incredibly amazing, too.  The family is fitting together so nicely.  A huge blessing, for sure.

As for what's been hard?  Tigist's issues.  Because of that sweet little tongue of hers, she pushes out nearly as much food and water as she takes in.  She doesn't seem to know how to suck.  And she doesn't know how to hold a sippy cup or bottle, even though she's developmentally capable.  The eating and drinking issues are related to Down syndrome, but some of her developmental delays are the result of being in an orphanage.  Nothing is a HUGE deal, but mealtime is MESSY, and she inevitably gets frustrated, and I'm ever-paranoid about whether or not she's getting enough to eat and drink.  Most of all though, she's not always very happy, and that makes this mama so sad.

And, jet lag and fatigue have been hard.  Mary deciding not to sleep two nights in a row has been hard.  Feeling like our lives have been completely turned upside down, also tough.

BUT, we're making it.  We're surviving and seeing far enough around the bend to know that this too shall pass. 

Now for an update on the medical issues:

We've treated both girls for giardia, and Tigist for scabies.  Oh the joys of institutionalization.

Mekdes has a cardiology appointment and EKG this Wednesday at Children's Hospital.  And, most likely, we will be scheduling heart surgery.  I'm still processing that one.  But I'm oh so grateful that she is home and we can work towards getting her well. 

Tigist will also have an EKG this week.  Her heart is most likely fine, but it'll be good to know for sure.

I need to call and make appointments with the Down syndrome clinic and International Adoption clinic, both located at Children's.

So that's that.  No fancy words or life-changing insights over here, just some updates about our girlies from an admittedly sleepy mama.

More to come soon!



Friday, September 23, 2011

The early days




The early days of bonding with and caring for newly adopted children are exhausting.

There is honestly SO much to do...medical appointments, picking up prescriptions, GIVING medication, dealing with messes and tears and everything else that comes along with a child joining your family.  Add to that the jetlag, and attempting to maintain some sort of normal family schedule and, yeah, it's rough!

I know, once we're settled, that we're going to look back on these early days together and wonder, "How did we survive?"  I know that because we've been through this before.  In early 2006 we brought twin 16-month-old boys home.  And went from one to three kids.  Life felt kind of chaotic for awhile.  But, then, somehow, we adjusted and now it's all a distant memory that we cherish with fondness and a little bit of pride, because we made it.

But Wednesday was hard. 

Doctor appointments for the girlies that included some horrible blood draws and vaccinations.  Mekdes cried.  Tigist cried.  I cried.  (Well, my eyes got teary--I was able to mostly hold it together because I didn't want to further scare the girls.)  In fact, after the appointments were over, the three of us sat in the car and shared a candy bar and cried. 

Then it was off to the gas station (after nearly running out of gas) and eventually the pharmacy to drop off prescriptions. 

Due to a scheduling mistake made by my doctor's office staff, I missed my big kids' soccer games.  (More crying.  From me, not them.  They are so incredibly sweet and gracious and I think that contributed to my sadness over missing it.)

I had to get Tigist out of bed at 10 pm to administer some of her meds. 

I found out some of their meds wouldn't be ready until yesterday because they're compounds.  (But I'm not complaining, because as all parents of internationally adopted children know, Flagyl is basically liquid gold.  For reals.)

As for the girls?  They're doing amazingly well.  Sweet and kind and just so very cute.  Lots of adjusting going on, but overall?  They're doing great. 

Many dear and generous friends have been bringing us meals, for which we are incredibly grateful.  (Seriously.  We are so blessed!) 

And, for the record, my house is a mess, and we still need to unpack, and oh my goodness adoption is not for the faint of heart--even with the sweetest of kids--but I'm trying to remember that these are the life-changing days, the ones where you're trusting moment-by-moment that Jesus has you in His hand.

And the truth is, part of why you have that faith is because of your two new daughters.  The ones with Down syndrome, heart defects, parasites, scabies, burn scars.  The ones who survived relinquishment and institutionalization in a developing country. 

When I look at them, I see two precious little ones who survived against all odds.  Two daughters with sweet, tender hearts and gentle, beautiful souls.  If they are not a testimony of God's grace, provision, and faithfulness, I don't know who or what is. 

So yeah, it's hard.  I feel totally disoriented, I'm pretty sure it's impossible for me to go to Ethiopia without bringing home some sort of intestinal stowaway, and I have no clue how all of this is going to come together.  Life is all topsy turvy right now. 

But I'm all kinds of proud to be Tigist and Mekdes' mama.

And mama to Tigist and Mekdes' five siblings. 

And, in spite of being tired and out of sorts, I honestly feel like I have a front row seat to one of the best stories ever being told... right here in my own little, messy house.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New beginnings

We are home!

Let me tell you, few things are better than reuniting with your kids after being gone for a week.  That is just too, too long to be away.

In fact, the ONLY thing better than reuniting with your kids is reuniting with them and introducing them to their two new sisters.



All I can say about those early moments is, the compassion of my children is unparalleled.  Their enthusiasm, gentle hearts, and eagerness to love their newest siblings brought me to tears.  Truly.  It was beautiful.  Something I'll never, ever forget.

Mary pointing and squealing when each girl came out of the car.  I think she remembered them from our court trip in April.

The soft hugs and kisses and "do you want to play with my toys?" from my four older kids.

And, well, the fighting over who got to hold Tigist.

All of it, just precious.

One of my biggest hopes for my children is for them to have open hearts.  Hearts that are prone to love and to serve and to give without condition.  And, I saw some of that on Sunday night.  A glimpse into God's heart and Jesus' love, all from my kids.  How blessed are we?



Amazingly, Mekdes and Tigist are starting to feel safe

Mekdes begging to sleep in her new room with her two big sisters--no more sleeping in mommy and daddy's bed, thank-you-very-much. 


Tigist playing downstairs with Mary Lu.  Those two are going to get into some serious trouble together.  I just know it.

I have to tell you that Mekdes and Tigist are two of the bravest girls I  know.  They just left everything behind--ev.er.y.thing.--they've ever known, to live life in our crazy family.  And yet, they are smiling and playing and even doing some laughing.  For some crazy reason they're willing to give us a shot.  Humbling for sure. 

As you can probably imagine, looking around our dinner table now is incredibly surreal.  Seven children, seven blessings, seven signs of God's provision and of Jesus' redemption.  Truth be told I am oh so exhausted and I have no clue when life is going to feel manageable or normal again, but there is always the knowing that there are some pretty awesome people sitting around my table.

And we are finally all under the same roof. 

Life as a family of nine has begun.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

We'll be home soon!

Last day in Ethiopia.
 
Last macchiato.
 
Last moments with friends at the guest house.
 
Last alternately scalding/cold shower at the guest house.
 
Last day without my other five kids who I love, and miss, so very much.
 
Last day our seven kids will be seperated.
 
Last day Mekdes and Tigist will be Ethiopian citizens, living in Ethiopia.
 
I love this place.  Truly, I love this place.
 
But, home is good too.
 
So tonight, we go home.  With our two daughters.  To their new beds, new siblings, new house, new life.
 
Last day in Ethiopia.
 
Thanks so much for your prayers, love and support.  See you in Denver!!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

No doubt

If there was any doubt that Mekdes was unsure about wanting a family, that is gone now.
 
This morning was the girls' going away party at Layla House, the transition home where they have lived for the past couple of years.
 
There was singing, special treats, and much kissing and hugging.
 
And, while our daughter was so happy to see her friends and speak back and forth in Amharic, she was DEFinitely wanting it to be known that we were Mom and dad.  Giving us hugs as we hung back and watched, saying that we were "Mommy" and "Daddy."  So happy for us to be there meeting her buddies.  So, so cute.
 
Kevin and I both bawled during the singing portion of the ceremony.  We kept it together DEcently well, but there were tears.  So much emotion and meaningfulness (yes, that is now officially a word) as we watched our two girlies sitting up front, with all the kids clapping and singing in their honor.  It was beautiful.  And sad.  And lots of other things I'm still processing through.
 
We leave for Denver tomorrow night.  SO glad to be going home, SO anxious to start life with my two new daughters.  Today I found myself saying over and over to my oldest Ethiopian daughter, "Mekdes' mommy, Mekdes' mommy", while pointing to myself.  Then I said, "and Tigist's Mommy, and Anna's Mommy, and Yosef's Mommy, and Biniam's Mommy, and Kaitlyn's Mommy, and Mary's Mommy."  To which Mekdes replied (while clutching my hand) "Yes, yes!"  Oh, the preciousness.  My heart overflows.
 
Mekdes and Tigist are starting life as family girls now.  And I really kind of think it suits them. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

When it's sad

Tonight we went to dinner, and Mekdes cried.  No words, just quiet tears.  And, we don't speak the same language.  So I don't know why she was crying.  Offers of ice cream were of no help.  So finally I picked her up, walked her around, and sat her back down in my lap.  I blew her a kiss (she LOVES blowing kisses back and forth), but she didn't return it.  Instead, she buried her head in my neck and rested against me.
 
As you can imagine, I had tears in my own eyes tonight too.  My dear, sweet little girl was sad and not only could I not fix it, I have no way of knowing what it was exactly.  I can guess (grief, fear, stomachache, all of the above), but I don't know for sure.  And that is hard.  Really, really hard.  So I hugged, and kissed, and stroked her head and told her that I loved her and that soon we'd be going home.  It was all I had to give.  Not much, but it's a mama's heart and a mama's love, something that Mekdes didn't have until two days ago. 
 
This adoption thing is hard and sad sometimes, often in unexpected ways.  I long to look into my four-year-old's heart, but we don't have words to do that yet.  So far I see a sweet, gentle, brave, determined, beautiful little girl, but I also see a child who doesn't feel well struggling to communicate with her new parents.
 
So I'm longing for Saturday, when we can begin the long journey home and the long journey towards healing and helping these precious little ones feel safe.  They are both so dear, so willing to love us and trust us in spite of the fact that we were nothing more than faces in a photograph up until two days ago.  Hearts of gold, they have.  Sweet souls, these girls. 
 
My heart is broken into about a million and one pieces. 
 
Because I am reminded that precious children like Tigist and Mekdes don't belong in institutions.
 
And I am reminded that I am so dang blessed to be their mama.
 
Even when I have no words to comfort them with.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In Ethiopia!

Hi friends!
 
Well, we made it.  To Ethiopia.
 
Took custody of our girls on Tuesday.
 
Embassy appointment yesterday.
 
Best.chocolate.mousse.ever. at an Italian restaurant last night.
 
We arrive back in Denver Sunday night.
 
And, in a nutshell, Tigist and Mekdes are awesome.  :)
 
Super, super mellow. 
 
There has never been a happier 2-year-old that smiles more than Tigist.  She is always happy, and always smiling.  Cracks.me.up.  The girl is hilarious.  And she knows it.
 
Mekdes talks a lot.  (But in Amharic, so I don't know what she's saying!)  She likes to direct traffic while riding in the backseat of the car (no small feat in Addis--if you've seen the driving here, you know what I mean.)  And her rendition of the ABC song is all kinds of awesome.  She loves to blow kisses and keeps calling us "Mama" and "Papa."
 
The hardest part of being here is, honestly, missing my kids at home so very badly.  Things here are going quite well--the girls are super easy overall, we're staying healthy, they sleep and nap super well, but I just miss my other little ones soooooo much. 
 
I'm also anxious to get our girls home for medical appointments--Tigist has a rash and Mekdes does indeed have some heart problems (discovered during the embassy physical, and not at all surprising.  Roughly 40% of children with Down syndrome are born with a heart defect, plus she is SO small.  I just had a feeling.)  Also challenging is the fact that Mekdes is terrified of the toilet, but is potty trained (she uses a little potty seat at the orphanage, but we don't have one here at the guesthouse, and even if we did, we won't have one on the plane.)  Thus she holds it until she falls asleep and involuntarily pees in her diaper.  Suffice it to say she's not feeling the best on account of it.  (Also suffice it to say, she is one stubborn girl.  Which I really kind of love.)
 
Anyway, I just wanted to give you all an update and say that our daughters are beautiful, smart, funny, and we can't wait to get them home.  It's time now for a coffee ceremony, and then some shopping.  Thank you all so much for your prayers!  Life is good and we are so, so blessed!  I do love Ethiopia.
 
 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We're off

Well, the suitcases are packed.

Grandma is here.

We're leaving for Ethiopia.

Mekdes and Tigist, Mommy and Daddy are coming!  Sleep tight sweet girls.  We love you, and we'll be there soon. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

It's time

Our daughters are coming home!



Last week we found out that the embassy cleared our case.

So we're going to Ethiopia.  On Sunday.

And arriving back in Denver the following Sunday.



With Tigist.



And Mekdes.

And so very much catching up to do with these beautiful girls who are my daughters, these girls I scarcely know.

A chapter ending: the one of waiting and wondering, and praying for a resolution and living in limbo.



A chapter being written: the long, takes-a-lifetime road of knowing my precious daughters, giving my heart to them and doing my mama's-best to cherish and nourish two sweet souls.

Sweet souls who have spent years as orphans, watching baby after baby leave...while they remained.

Now, finally, it's their turn.  Their turn.

Now, finally, I can say:

Tigist and Mekdes, Mommy and Daddy are coming to get you next week!  Your towels are hanging in the bathroom, your beds are made, and oh, Mommy still needs to buy your toothbrushes.  We can't wait to begin our lives together, to give you hugs and kisses every day and to laugh together, and to never have to be apart again.  We're your Mommy and Daddy.  We're a family. 



It's time.


Saturday, September 03, 2011

Saturday stuff

Love this kid.  To pieces.



Are you like me?  I always wonder what other people spend their weekends doing.  (Of course I'm also that person who, when driving at night, peers into houses to see what the inside looks like.  While I'm driving, that is--I don't get out of the car to do it!  THAT would be creepy.  :)  So, maybe you're NOT like me.  Anyway.)

Today we're busy getting bedrooms moved around and set up, hanging some fun new things on our walls, and working around the house.  I need to make a paint run at some point for a couple of super fun projects and I'm also planning to hit up the thrift store.  A local monthly flea market is happening today as well and, time permitting, I may go take a look there too.  (Hopefully I won't have any flashbacks to the last time I was there!)

Tomorrow morning is Mass and then later, dinner with wonderful friends.

Kevin has Monday off and oh, how I love a three-day-weekend!

Even when it's filled with house projects.

What are you up to today and the rest of the weekend?

Friday, September 02, 2011

Bleach is beautiful (and other assorted household projects)

So I have been a spraypainting, bathroom-cleaning, slipcover-bleaching FOOL lately!



Finished up the chandelier that will hang in the babies' room (Mary and Tigist.)  It started out brass, and ugly.  (But cheap!!!  $12 on Craigslist.)  Now it is black, and cute.  (Anna informed me that black is not an appropriate color for a baby's room.  Oops.)





In-process on the schoolroom table.  Went quicker than I'd thought--which is good for a horribly impatient, instant-gratification type of gal like me.  BUT, I did this particular project out on our deck and at one point it reached 100 degrees outside--causing the paint to do some strange things.  Planning to fix that today.  Anyway, this originally-maple-colored table (and matching chairs, not pictured, that I plan to Craigslist) comprised the "dining room set" Kevin and I purchased for our apartment when we first got married.  I think it was $250 at KMart, for everything.  And, it's still going strong.




Bathroom cleaning self-explanatory.  But it's a bit easier now that I've bought a nifty little plastic container at IKEA for my cleaning essentials.  It all stays together now (as opposed to getting seperated in the cupboard) and is so easy to transport downstairs to the kids' bathroom.  It's the little things, right?

Now for my most exciting work of the day.  

Three and some odd years ago, we moved to Denver and sold our large microfiber couches (they wouldn't fit in our moving van with the rest of our stuff!)--and bought the IKEA Ektorp couch and loveseat with the white slipcovers.  Because I love white couches. 

But sadly, our old fixer-upper of a house had some really old, disgusting carpet that made your feet/bottom positively black when you stepped or sat on it.  Same with our falling-apart deck outside.  (That carpet is now long-gone, and while the deck is unfortunately still there for now, it is not as filthy.  Thank goodness!) 

So it didn't take long for those beautiful slipcovers to get more than a bit dirty.  I've tried washing them before, adding a little bleach, but have just not been thrilled with the results. 

Several months ago we bought microfiber couches (Craigslist) for the living room instead (moving the white ones to other parts of our house where we wanted seating).  I've come to really miss my IKEA couches, but never wanted to put them back in here because of their stains and propensity to get dirty.

But yesterday I decided to give it one last shot and Googled "how do I bleach my slipcovers?"  Lo and behold, my friend Lindsey's blog popped right up!  Someone in the comments section of this post had asked her that very question, and she talked about SOAKING them first.

Um, I am so not the sharpest tool in the shed.  That had never even occurred to me! 

SO I did a soak cycle with bleach and detergent, and then a "whitest whites" cycle with bleach and detergent.

And it was revolutionary!!!




My slipcovers look almost brand new!

HOORAY!

So back in the living room they shall go.  I am no longer afraid to use them, and I LOVE the fact that I can essentially wash my couch when it gets dirty.  Plus, they smell so nice!

Thank you bleach.  Thank you IKEA.  Thank you Lindsey.

The frenzy of activity and house projects are ultimately in preparation of bringing Tigist and Mekdes home.  Who knows how much time I'll have once they're here (okay, I know, and it's not much!) so I want to do as much as possible now.  Kevin just informed me yesterday that he wants to get all the "projects to be done within the next six months" finished in the next four weeks.

So come to think of it, I probably won't have much time to sit on those nice white couches.  (But they'll stay clean that way, right?)


 

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