Friday, February 26, 2010

I guess I have Bob Geldof to thank.

The first time I became aware of Ethiopia was in 1984.  I was vaguely aware of the famine that was ravaging the country; I'm sure it was on the news, but I only have fuzzy memories of the news reports before Band Aid sang their song in the winter of 1985.  Truthfully, considering I was 16 at the time, I was much more interested in and aware of the famine due to the fact that Bono and Sting and the members of Duran Duran were making a big deal about it and encouraging us all to "Feed the world... Let them know it's Christmastime."  After that I remember tuning in a bit more to the news reports about the famine and being so moved by the tragic images we all saw.

I had no idea my destiny was intertwined with that country.

Thanks to Gladney, and thanks to Lilah Abeba's father, I know a few bits and pieces of her story.  I know that her mother was 33 when she died in 2007.  That means that she was born in 1974.  She was a little girl when this horrible famine gripped her country- a little girl around the same age as my oldest son is now.  What was her life like?  How did she survive?  Was hers one of the faces we all saw on television- crying, wasting away?

I know that her dad is around 55 which means he was born around 1954.  He would have been in his late 20's, early 30's during the famine.  He was married to his first wife during that time.  Did he have to watch any of his children die?  I do know that his oldest child- a girl- was born in 1985.  Imagine.  Just imagine...

The lyric, "Well, tonight thank God it's them instead of you" takes on a whole new meaning when I think of my daughter's parents enduring all that struggle while my greatest struggle was how to perfectly french cuff my jeans and how to get my hair ever bigger.  Just unreal.

25 years ago.  Thanks Bob Geldof.  Maybe somehow God allowed you to help plant a seed in my heart that will very soon come to fruition.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

You, too, can be normal.

I like honesty.  I like reading blogs from people who are honest, even when that is hard.  I think I do best in my life when whatever I am going through falls into the category of "normal."  Not that I am striving for mediocre or the status quo, not at all.  

Understand it this way: when your first child becomes a toddler and suddenly stops eating what do you do?  YOU FREAK OUT!!!  You panic and think he is going to starve.  By the third day of not eating you are in tears because you are sure that his brain isn't going to develop properly and probably his muscles are starting to atrophy right before your eyes due to malnutrition.  But after a few (tearful) calls to the pediatrician and a few more to your friends who have kids just a few months older than yours and you are totally reassured that this crazy toddler behavior is totally NORMAL and happens to them all and you relax.   So when the next child stops eating you just shrug and go, "Oh well!" because you know it's normal and that he will eat when he is hungry.  

Well, that's what honest blogs do to help me.  They help me to know what the broad range of normal is and what to possibly expect at each turn in the road.  All through this adoption experience I have loved reading honest blogs by people who have gone before me in the process so that I can see what possibly to expect all along the way.  I would love to do that for someone else.  So I'm gonna be honest about what has been going on the past couple of weeks.

My husband and I have been fighting like a couple of Jr. High kids.  

So there you have it.  When you have your referral and have passed court and are preparing your home to welcome your new addition and you both start to let the stress get to you and you have a great big blow out fight, just think to yourself, "Gayla said this might happen." and then just take a deep breath, drink a glass of wine, and relax.  We lived through it.  You will too.

And although I will spare you the details, just know that no matter how bad your fight with your spouse gets, as long as you don't find yourself yelling, "NO, as a matter of fact you DON'T get to have an opinion!"  you'll know that you are doing better than me.  

And I lived to tell.  So you will too.  :-)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Gladney Fams Info

If you are a Gladney fam and want me to find your precious ones while I am in ET, send me an email to gaylgower AT cox DOT net.  Send me a pic and the house they are in and I will be happy to oblige!  I know the pics and little videos we have received from traveling families have meant SO MUCH.  So I'm glad to return the favor.  AND if you want me to deliver a package for you I'd be thrilled to.

I totally have Olympic fever!!!!  The opening ceremonies ALWAYS make me cry.  I really love the  Parade of Nations- all the athletes marching behind their flag- what a thrill!  It's like the world coming together to work as one... like a perfect world!  ET has ONE athlete competing, so tune in on Monday for the cross country skiing event to watch Robel Teklemariam compete.  He trains in Addis on roller skiis 1/2 the year!  God bless his little determined heart...  

Here was my FAV part of the Opening Ceremonies last night.  INSTANTLY burst into tears!  I don't know how to make it post on my blog- but click on the link.  It's worth your minute.  But grab a tissue first...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Travel Dates!

Okay, booked the tickets and the Bejoe Guest House today!!!  So exciting!

We leave on Friday March 12 and "have" to overnight in Washington D.C.  How great is that???  Our flight arrives in DC at 4pm and we don't leave until 8:30pm the next day!  So... BONUS!!!  We get a whole day to sight-see around DC!!!  I know that's not very long... certainly not long enough for me who could spend that entire amount of time in the Smithsonian JUST staring at Abraham Lincoln's hat (HIS HAT!!!  HIS ACTUAL HAT!  HIS ACTUAL HAT THAT HIS ACTUAL HANDS TOUCHED AND THAT HE PUT ON HIS ACTUAL HEAD!!!) but long enough to do some monuments and have a great time.  Kinda like a last vacation w/ just the boys... I'm so excited!  What an unexpected blessing!!!!

So then we leave DC on the evening of Saturday 13th and fly for 15 hours only to arrive in Addis Ababa on the evening of Saturday 13th!  (crazy, right?)  Yes, it's a long, brutal flight.  There's no getting around that.  BUT we are comforting ourselves by saying, "At least it's not as far as Australia!"

And then... we will be there!  Amazing.  We will be there with our girl.  I try to imagine those first few moments.  All our updates say that she is very quiet and shy, but not aloof.  She likes to engage, but she is shy.  I imagine her first moments with us will make her feel a little weary.  She will probably be wondering, "Who are these people?  Do I have to go with them?"  I mean- just imagine.  Poor girl.  I am not expecting our first moments (days?) together to be filled with joy and abandon.  Rather I am preparing to just be whatever she needs us to be.  If she needs to just cry, then I will just hold her.  If she just wants to hang back and observe us all, I will give her the space she needs.  We have a whole lifetime to learn to play and laugh and love together.  These initial moments and days will just be whatever they turn out to be.  I am not going into it with any expectations.  She is not a baby- she is a little girl.  She's old enough to know that something strange is going on and probably smart enough to know that it's frightening to have to go with people you don't know, but she's not old enough to actually process it all.  So we will just let her be whatever and however she wants to be.  Of course I want to hold her and cuddle her and carry her around and tickle her and make her laugh (OH! I LONG for her laugh!).  But I'm going to let her set the pace and the tone.  We will change to fit what she needs from us.

I think having the boys along will really help.  My friend Melissa (adoptive mom of 2 from China) very wisely pointed out that having children with us will help her to trust us.  Kids can get in tune with each other easier than adults, and if she sees that Jack and Ben think Mick and I are okay... well... then maybe we are.  And I think the boys will help her to relax- they will engage her on silly levels and get her to play and have fun whether she feels comfortable with us right away or not.

And who knows?  She may surprise us and just feel comfy right from the start.  Only one thing is sure: this is going to be a great adventure.  The adventure of Lilah Abeba.

Monday, February 8, 2010

ahn-CHEE lee-JAY-nesh. (You are my daughter.)

She is officially ours and we are officially hers.

I'm so proud to introduce you to my daughter: 
 Lilah Abeba Gower!

Our beautiful daughter!


Referral Picture!  The first picture we ever saw of our girl!

Love those yummy feet!  Wanna eat 'em up!!!

TEARS in her eyes... This one makes me sad for her...

She looks so strong.  Stronger than a little girl should be asked to be.

Lilah Abeba... 
Her Ethiopian name is Abeba which means 'a flower.'  The day before we got our referral we chose the name Lilah, which also means 'a flower'.  And we think she's pretty enough to live up to both names.  She's our beautiful flower girl!

My girl Lilah Abeba, we can't wait to see you SMILE.  You've been so strong  So strong for far too long.  We look forward to allowing you to be weak; allowing you to be a little girl.  To holding you when you cry.  To tickling you until you laugh... OH!  How I long to hear your laugh!  We are your family.  And we love you.  We will do whatever it takes to help you be all you ever want to be.  

Because we are YOURS.  Forever.  Forever and ever.  

We travel the week of Spring Break!  Is that great or WHAT?!?!?  My husband predicted we would be traveling March 11-19... and that is exactly the time frame (plus a few more days) that we will probably travel!!!!!!

Introducing Lilah Abeba Gower

Here she is! Along with a bit of our story...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Busy Weekend = less time to OVER THINK

(yeah, right.)

I am getting ANTSY.  I'm trying not to pin my hopes on my girl passing court on Monday... but I will admit that it's nearly impossible not to!  So it's a good thing that I have a lot going on this weekend to keep me busy.

Tomorrow is my oldest son's 9th birthday party- his actual birthday is next Tuesday the 9th- so it's his "Golden Birthday"!  He is such a great kid.  He prays for his sister every night- the sweetest prayers.  He prays for her to be happy and healthy while she waits for us to come and get her.  He prays that we will be a fun family for her.  He prays that she will like being in our family and that she will know that we will take good care of her.  All of these things totally unprompted by his parents!  He has the best heart.  A few weeks ago he chose a little doll with green hair for his prize at Bible Blast- "To give to my sister!" he explained.

(is he the sweetest or what???)

We are having his party out on our land.  A bunch of the boys are spending the night out there tonight in our barn- of course w/ parents involved.  But, oops!  I had to stay home and make his cake!  ;-)  So I'll just join them out there tomorrow.  It's the perfect place to have a boy birthday party- horses, 4-wheelers, bb-guns, and best of all a big dirt pile that they love to play on.  So THAT will be a blast.

Here's his super dorky cake I made tonight:

(it's supposed to be a dinosaur but it looks like a fish... and it looks like it was made for a 3 year old.  
good thing he's so sweet... 'cause that cake is pathetic.)

Then tomorrow night we are going to an awesome high school production of "Beauty and the Beast" directed by our good friend.  These HS productions are not what you would expect- super talented kids and sets and costumes borrowed from Broadway- so THAT should be fun too.

Then I teach in Ben's class (Kinders and 5's) on Sunday- the last Sunday for me to teach before I officially start my "maternity leave"!!!  I have to admit- I'm glad to be taking a break.  I've been teaching twice a month (once in Ben's and once in Jack's classes) for a couple of years now and so it will be nice to take some time off.  Although I do LOVE that my boys both get excited when they know it's my week to teach in their class- a HUGE compliment!  :-)  And so THAT will be fun- knowing that it will be my last time for a while.

Then Sunday afternoon I get to go to a shower being thrown for me and my girl by my BFF Kelly and my other "gals" at my church.  So many people have reached out and supported us through all this... amazing. And so THAT will be a BIG thrill!

Then Sunday night I get to help Jack make a cake for our Cub Scout "Cake Bake" this week.  And so THAT will be... interesting...

So all in all I have LOTS of wonderful things to look forward to this weekend.  So hopefully all this wonderful stuff will keep my mind busy so that I won't obsess over what will go on at a court in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Monday where hopefully the Ministry of Women's Affairs and a judge will find all our papers in order and rule that a sweet little girl... a sweet little girl with sad eyes... a sweet little girl whose smile I dream of seeing one day... is officially OURS and we are officially HERS.  That we are FAMILY.  And THAT will be a good day indeed.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Little Peek

Just a few more days
and (hopefully) I can show you more...

Seriously, people pay good money
hoping to get lips like these...

And these feet,
I think they are just edible...

Holding on till Monday!

(and congrats to all these people on getting court dates!  hooray!)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Countdown to Court: 6 Days

One week from today I could get a call telling us that our girl has passed court and is officially and legally ours.  AAAAAAAAUGH!!!!!!

I got a new photo today from a family who just returned from bringing home their baby boy and  OH. MY. GOSH.  I don't know how she does it but this girl gets more and more gorgeous with every photo!!!  I literally BURST into tears when I saw the photo!!!  I am overwhelmed at the thought that this little girl is going to be MY little girl.  That I will have the honor and privilege of being her Mommy.  That I get to be the one who dries her tears when she wakes up at night, and who teaches her how to skip, and who paints her nails and tells her she is the most beautiful princess God ever dreamed up.  The one who buys her pretty dresses for Easter and reads her bedtime stories and pushes her on the swing.  The one who gets to watch as she grows into a beautiful young lady and someday becomes a Mommy herself.  Oh.  I am overwhelmed.  

But coupled with my joy is the awareness that this is a very serious and daunting task.  I recently started reading Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft but luckily I emailed Emily shortly into the book and she wisely told me to, "Put that book down right now!"  I do NOT recommend that book.  I'm sure it has some good things to say, but in MY opinion I think the author (who had adopted a toddler sometime in the 80's) had a goal in writing that book and it was: "If I can scare people out of adopting a toddler I will be doing them a big favor."  I had already read other great books such as Attaching in Adoption by Deborah D. Gray and The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis both of which I highly recommend.  The latter does an especially good job in my opinion of addressing the very real problems that can arise, but the difference between it and The Weavers Crap, uh, I mean Craft is that Dr. Purvis offers ways to address these problems- actual steps to take to help children who may have difficulties in attachment.  It leaves you on a hopeful note- knowing what to look for but also being equipped to handle these tasks, not just scared of them.

Through these books and from stalking reading many blogs, I have come to realize that toddler adoption IS very different from infant or an older child adoption.  An infant, while she will of course have bonds with her caretaker, when adopted will adapt fairly quickly and bond fairly easily with her new parents.  (of course this is assuming we are talking about a situation where there has not been abuse nor neglect.)  An older child, say 5+ is old enough to take in what is happening.  They are aware of what has happened that put them in the orphanage or foster care center or whatever, and they can be talked to about the family that is going to come and adopt them and bring them into their family.  But a toddler is a whole different story.  A toddler is just starting to exercise control over her world ("Me do it!").  But when it comes to adoption, the children have no control.  What has happened and what is happening to them is completely out of their control AND beyond their comprehension.  Toddlers have no paradigm to understand what has happened nor what is going to happen.  It's just a whole different story.

As I have been reading all these books and preparing to go get our girl I have felt God saying to me, "THIS is what you were made for.  THIS is going to be one of the great purposes of your life."  On the one hand that feels very reassuring- like He is telling me that he has given me gifts and resources to be able to help our girl be all she was meant to be.  That every step I have taken in my life has lead me to this point- so that I could be the mommy SHE needs me to be.  That He is going to be with me every step of the way helping me to make this a beautiful part of all our lives.  On the other hand... the crazy part of my mind hears that and says, "Oh great.  She's going to be really difficult isn't she?  And then I'm going to have to 'cling to these words' in the hour of my darkest night trying to hold on by my fingernails..."  (In reality, it will probably be a bit of both, right?)

I know I'm kind of rambling... but bear with me just a moment more.

We are often asked, "why Ethiopia?" and "why the age range you chose?"  Other than the obvious statistics that we can all quote, the answer is a brilliant, "I dunno."  Really.  Neither Mick nor I have a very strong answer for why we chose Ethiopia, and the age range was even more random than the choice of countries.  But when I look into that girl's eyes... not just any girl's eyes, not even any Ethiopian girl's eyes, but THAT GIRL'S EYES... I feel like I know the answer.  Not many people choose toddler age ranges.  Maybe that has something to do with all the challenges that normally come with that age range and how they can be exacerbated due to the fact that toddlers have a limited capacity to understand what is happening to them and why.

But I think we chose Ethiopia and I think we chose that age range because we were choosing HER.  She's our girl.

Selam! G'day! Hello!