Friday, April 23, 2010

One Month Home

Wow.  Has she only been in our lives for 4 1/2 weeks???  That is amazing to me.  Judging by the way she has adapted to this new life, and by the way we feel so crazy about her, and by the way she has just bravely marched into every new situation and made it her own, it feels like she has been home for much longer than that.

I still haven't finished blogging about our last few days in Addis.  So I'll just wrap it up now.  (with a few pics from a recent trip to Woodward Park thrown in for good measure.)

I'll start by saying that it was very hard to say goodbye.  To Ethiopia, to Genet, to Abiey.  I cried as I looked around me at the airport and knew that we were taking a piece of Ethiopia's future away from it.  Does that sound nuts???  It probably does.  But as I held our bright little piece of sunshine, I knew that whatever she becomes in life, it will not be an Ethiopian.  And I was sad for her and sad for Ethiopia.  I don't have the right words to express this... but it broke my heart.  But then she pitched such a fit in the waiting area at the airport that my heart went right back into mommy-mode again.  And then when we buckled her in on the airplane and she didn't like the buckle and was squirming and trying to take it off and EVERY Ethiopian around us was trying to calm her and give her candy... I just totally checked out.  I mean it.  Not my most glorious moment, but I was exhausted- mentally, physically, emotionally, and I thought "if these people want to deal with her for the next 15 hours- FINE."  But then she so sweetly fell asleep on my lap within minutes of takeoff that I got over it.  I was an emotional WRECK, though, for many reasons.  My poor husband.  He is so patient with me and so quick to over-look my over-reactions.  (Most of the time. :-)

A note:  I did not enjoy Ethiopian Airlines.  The plane was HOTTER THAN HADES both there and back- what is that???  Aren't airplanes usually freezing cold???  And I have to say that the staff was, how shall I put this?  Well, not Asian.  Most of my overseas trips have been either to Indonesia or to Australia and I've traveled almost every Asian airline there is.  And I'm  not exaggerating when I say that the air staff on those flights make you feel so at home and are willing to bend over backward to accommodate your every need.  And... suffice to say, this wasn't quite the same.  You can't beat them for price, but good luck getting your water re-filled.

Immigration in DC was another nightmare.  She thought it was VERY funny to run away from us.  And I have to say I was very self conscious that I was surrounded by Ethiopians and that I could not control my Ethiopian child.  So after finally doing the "Okay!  Bye-bye Abeba!" thing and walking away from her until she ran to me, I grabbed her and put her in the sling I brought with me (Thanks Anj!  I need to get that back to you, don't I???) and I whispered in my best Mommy Dearest serious voice, "When Mommy says NAY (come), you NAY!!!  Do you understand me????"  And yes, indeed she did.  Sometimes you don't need to speak the same language to communicate just fine.  :-)

So from then on whenever she started to run away from us I would just point at the sling and say, "Do you want to get back in this?  Then when Mommy says NAY, Abeba NAYS!"  Yes, including the bad grammar.  But it helped me keep my sense of humor.  :-)

Arriving in Tulsa will always stand as one of the highlights of my LIFE.  It was so beautiful!  All these friends and family were there and they ALL felt like family to me!!!  It was so amazing to realize that she didn't just have a family waiting to love her, she had a whole community ready to embrace her and love her!!!  I was blown away.  Balloons, signs, toys and presents, and the wonderful, gorgeous people I am lucky to have in my life.  I'm getting choked up just thinking of it.  To see the tears of joy in THEIR eyes was a thing I will never forget.  I just felt so surrounded by LOVE.  It was amazing.  (BIG PS- IF ANY OF YOU WHO WHERE THERE HAVE PICS OF THIS AMAZING MOMENT, I WOULD LOVE TO GET THEM!  I HAVE RECEIVED A FEW VIDEOS, BUT NO PHOTOS!  THANKS!)

Best moment:  As soon as we came through the gate all holding hands, Charlie Buck (age 4) ran right up to Lilah and got right up in her face and said, "My mommy said you can come to my HOUSE!!!"  I melted.  Too gorgeous for words.

And then... we were HOME.  Lilah slowly came into the house and just spent some time looking around.  Then she spotted a picture of her on our bookcase and shouted, "ABEBA!!!"  Adorable.  When we showed her to her room she was in awe.  But that was nothing compared to when I opened her closet.  I don't know if I've mentioned it on here before, but the girl has a wardrobe that is almost a sin.  She took each of her 21 dresses out of the closet one by one and laid them on the floor so tenderly.  Then once they were all out she chose one to put on.  It was precious.

And every moment since then has been the same.  Even the moment when I put her in time out for the first time for saying something naughty to me in Amharic.  How did I know it was something naughty?  Oh, a mommy just knows.  Am I right, girls???  She looked at me with an attitude and said, "Blah blah blah blah!"  And I knew it was bad.  So I knelt down on her level and said very calmly, "Don't talk to Mommy like that."  And the little precious thing squared her shoulders, looked me right in the eye and SAID IT AGAIN!  Oh, yes she did.  And I said, "And now you have to sit in time out."  I moved a chair by the bookcase and set her in it, and let me tell you, we BOTH knew exactly what was going on.  She started bawling right away, which I took as a good sign- she knew she was naughty and knew she needed to get in trouble for it.  But even as it was happening I was thinking, "This is hilarious!  She's speaking Amharic, I'm speaking English, and we are communicating perfectly well."  ;-)

She is a joy.  We are blessed beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine.  I have to say that I really didn't expect it to be this easy.  I feel bad even typing that b/c I know not everyone has it easy, especially at first.  I mean, she just looked so SAD in all those referral pictures!  I really expected some issue: sleep, food, attachment, grief, temper, language... something to be an issue.  But it has been really, really smooth.  Almost too smooth.  Almost to the point that I am waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.  I know eventually there will be an inevitable time of grieving for her- acknowledging all she has lost and mourning the fact that she will never get it back.  But I expect that to come at a later time when she has more language and processing abilities.  So for now she just seems to be a healthy, well adjusted, foreign toddler!  Pretty amazing.  Someone did mention that you don't really see their full personality for at least 6 months, and that makes a lot of sense to me.  But all things considered, we know we have had it VERY easy.  She is SUNSHINE!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Not Judging

So the lady from Tennessee sent her Russian adopted son back to Russia.  Sad.  Tragic.  Absolutely horrible all around.  I'm not defending this woman nor condemning her.  I simply want to ask a question:

What would we have done in her place?

We would all like to say that we would have been committed to this boy for life.  That we would have helped him find help for his problems.  That we would have treated him just as if he were our biological son.

The fact is that adoption is not always easy.  The bonding process is vital.  It's not just important for parents to bond with a child and for a child to bond with parents- IT IS ESSENTIAL.  Just so very essential.  And attachment is not a given.  Not even with babies and especially not with older children.  It has to be worked on.  A lot.  Sometimes for a very, very long time.  

I'm about to tell the truth, but it's going to open the door for you to judge me.  Feel free, just don't do it in my comments box.  The truth is that as wonderful as Lilah is and as easy as we have had it so far, it still doesn't feel the same as my maternal feelings for Jack and Ben.  Does this make me a bad person?  No.  I think it makes me normal.  I have total faith that it eventually WILL feel the same, and very soon. She is wonderful and amazing and adorable... AND she loves us which makes it very easy to love and care for her.  But even if it was hard and she didn't bond with us right away we told ourselves we were committed to be her parents.  We tried to be prepared to walk any road she needed us to walk.  Counseling, therapy, whatever she needed- for a lifetime if need be!!!  We read all the books and tried to know what we should be prepared for.  We educated ourselves about what can happen to institutionalized kids.  Our agency did their best to help us look ahead and prepare for any possible problems.  But what if our agency had lied to us about who she really was?  What if she had mental problems we were never told about?  What if as soon as she got home she was threatening to kill us and burn down our house?  All this...AND WE WERE NOT YET BONDED NOR ATTACHED???!!!  So hard.  I cannot even imagine.

This lady tried for a year.  And we have no way of knowing the anguish she went through in making this decision.  But the woman who writes this blog does know something about it.  She lived through it.  And the bottom line is, we-  thank God, haven't walked in those shoes.  So we just shouldn't judge.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Before and After

Do you even recognize this girl?

Nope.  She is gone.  The little girl who lives in my house only looks sad when she doesn't get to wear a sundress.  Yes, that's right.  I forced her to wear pants because it was 40 degrees outside and the wind was sweeping down the plains and we were going to spend the morning watching Jack and Ben play soccer.  And you would have thought I had mortally offended her.  Hilarious!

I've completed the video I started when we passed court.  It takes the journey from paperwork to referral to travel to home!  I think the difference between our referral pix and our "now" pix are AMAZING!!!  I know people told me not to worry about not seeing any smiles... it's just that we had no idea how very smiley she was going to be!!!

Watch and enjoy...
(look, I know it's 4 minutes, so really it's probably only for family.  I won't be offended if you don't make it all the way through.  ;-)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter and an Extraordinary Event


This girl cannot get any cuter.

This is her on Easter Sunday.  How about that dress?  I bought it after Christmas at Target for $4.24... but she looks like a million bucks!!!

And she didn't mind telling everyone at church about her dress, and her shoes, and her tights.  I mean, she may not be speaking English, but I think she gets her message across pretty clearly.  ;-)

With her brothers.  Ben didn't like his shirt, can you tell?

First time hunting Easter eggs!

Seriously YUMMY, this girl is!!!

That crinkle nose gets me every time.  :-)

Not that Easter isn't an Extraordinary Event, but I have another extraordinary story to relate.

So, on her Gladney paperwork Lilah is listed as 2 1/2.  Long before we went to Ethiopia to bring her home, we could tell by her photos and her measurements that she was older than that.  But since (THIS PORTION REMOVED BY GAYLA FOR PRIVACY REASONS), Gladney just counted the day she was brought into care as her 2nd birthday.  That day was July 20, 2009.  We will always keep this as a Memorial Day in our family- But it isn't her birthday.  Since we have to do a re-adoption here in the states, we knew we would just be able to pick a new birthday for her.  Filling out the census made us chose a date sooner than we were really prepared to, so we chose April 12th.  April b/c it is the month of flowers and both her names mean "flower" and the 12th b/c 12 is my favorite number.  BUT... it was nagging at me that this wasn't her real birthday either.  And since she is definitely going to out grow her size 3T clothes by the end of summer, it's obvious that really she isn't going to turn 3 on April 12- she's already 3.  But when???  It was really starting to bother me.  Dentists can look at her teeth and tell us approximately how old she is, but our dental appts aren't until the end of this month.  It was bugging me so much yesterday that I just prayed about it and asked that if God wanted us to chose another date that was closer to her real time of birth to just help us to see what that might be.

So yesterday we had our family chiropractic appointments.  It was Lilah's first time so they had to take x-rays before they adjusted her, and then more x-rays after her first adjustment.  And then we had to go back in the afternoon for Jack and Ben and I to get our adjustments.  (I am a big believer in chiropractic care!  I think it helped Jack to heal from allergies and asthma when he was a toddler.  We faithfully go once a month!)  So all up I was in that office for about 3 hours yesterday.  That allowed for a lot of chat time with the staff.  I had mentioned when filling out Lilah's paperwork that we didn't really know when her birthday was, so Dr. Ray's wife said, "You know, Dr. Ray can probably look at her x-rays and tell by her teeth how old she is." I was thrilled!  So she asked him and he agreed.  As we were on our way to the room to look at her x-rays, he just happened to turn to his secretary and say, "Can you give me Jack's old x-rays?"  Kinda on a whim.  He put Jack's first x-ray from our very first visit to him on the screen, then put hers from yesterday right next to it.  He looked at them for a moment and then said, "These are identical."  And they were!  I mean- identical!  He pointed out the 3-year molars on each, how certain teeth were just below the surface on each, how others were still deep down on each... it was pretty amazing!  So, he said, "So that means that however old Jack was when these x-rays were taken, that's just about how old Lilah is today!"  We looked at the date on the x-rays- Jack was 3 years, 5 months and 11 days old.  Wow.  I just burst out crying!!!  We could know as close as is possible how old she is!!!   And get this... when you back up yesterday's date by 5 months and 11 days, guess where you end up???  ALMOST EXACTLY ON MY BIRTHDAY!!!  For real!!!  She was born in 2006 if not exactly on my birthday, then very, very close!!!  I mean, we could be off by a few days or even a couple of weeks, but we now know as close as we possibly can when she was born.  ISN'T THAT AMAZING???  

And to think- that the day I took Jack to the chiropractor back in 2004- who would have guessed that those x-rays taken that day would be used in such an incredible way so many years later!!!  She wasn't even born yet, and I believe God knew that we would be able to use those x-rays to give us a really big blessing yesterday.  Just incredible.

I have my dear, dear, heart-friend Becky to thank for the following words: "You may not have given her birth, but you can give her your birthday."  And that is exactly what I am planning on doing.  She can have my birthday.  I'm thrilled to be able to share it with her.

October 28, 2006

Thanks God.  What a beautiful blessing!!!!!!!!!!!

It may not be the "real" exact date she was born, but it's darn close.  And it's very special to me to be able to share it with my daughter.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Synopsis- Days 6 and 7

Might as well keep going while I have the chance!

Day 6- Thursday.  We got to tour the Holy Trinity Cathedral- amazing and beautiful!  Loved Belay's stories about the origin of Christianity in ET- did you know that ET claims it was the first country in the world to name Christianity as the national religion?  Belay said that Armenia claims it was first, but of course they are wrong.  ;-) Loved the story about how the Arc of the Covenant came to be in Ethiopia- ask me about this one.  Fascinating.  Really appreciated Belay telling the story of the communist take over that so tragically affected his family.  Amazing.  Unthinkable.  I still felt really crappy, but totally enjoyed this tour.

Day 7- Friday.

This is the day I'm going to find the most difficult to really talk about.

This is the morning we


And then as if that wasn't emotionally exhausting enough, that afternoon we visited the state run orphanages.  Quite frankly I'm crying too much writing this post already, so all I'm going to say is that we met some of the most amazing young men at the Kolfe boy's home.  Intelligent, good looking, wonderful boys with so much to offer.  And so few options.  And the other orphanages... so hard to experience.  We found out that Lilah was in a state run orphanage in Awassa (where she is from) for 8 days, but they didn't have any more toddler beds.  So they called Gladney and asked them to come and get some of their toddlers... is that mind blowing???  So... she was lucky that the orphanage didn't have room for her???  Is that the right way to think about it???  It's all just too much.  

There was one little boy at one of the orphanages who just quietly went up and held Jack and Ben's hands.  He walked between them the whole time we were there.  He was precious.  I asked Travis if he was adoptable and he told me that he has an older sister who is HIV positive.  So, no.  Probably not.  Not unless someone comes forward willing to adopt 2 siblings 7 and under with HIV.  I think I can publish this pic b/c it doesn't show his face.

So.  That was Friday.  We were all changed.

Wow. Catching up. Synopsis- Days 4 and 5

SO LAME.  I can't believe that I still have so much of the trip to document.  In my defense, I have this to blame:

I mean... AAAAAUGH!!!  She is really THAT adorable!!!  She's funny and fun and loves to be silly and laugh and sing... someone pinch me.  Am I asleep and just dreaming that she is this amazing???  

But I want to get some things down on "paper", so to speak.  

So where were we... Day 4.  Tuesday.  I woke up with a cold.  Can you believe it?  Such a bummer.  I was totally blocked up and I HATE that feeling.  Luckily I brought every medicine that there was any remote chance we might possibly need, and so I sprayed some decongestant up my nose and went on with life.  Life that day pretty much consisted of one thing:  getting to know Lilah Abeba.

She woke up next to us and just sat up in her crib.  Mick was closer to her, so he reached out to see if she wanted to come to him.  She gave him what we now commonly refer to as "The Eyebrows".  The girl has the most communicative face EVER.  Who needs language when you have eyebrows???  The look definitely said, "I am less than thrilled to see you."  So then I sat up in bed so that she could see me, and the look went away.  She reluctantly went to Mick but scrambled over to me as soon as she got into bed.  Mick was a champion about it all.  He knew that she just needed time and that they would have their own special bond- the fact that it didn't happen right away really didn't bother him.  

She chose her own clothes that day (and pretty much every day since then!  girl has opinions!) and we spent the day hanging out and playing.  I think Mick and the boys went with Abiey to a restaurant for lunch or went shopping or something... can't really remember.  I just hung out w/ my LA LA girl all day.  

OH WAIT!!!  I do remember that I took Jack and Ben to go visit our two kids that we sponsor through Children's Hope Chest!  How could I forget that???  I think it's okay for me to post their pix b/c they are not adoptable... I hope I'm right b/c I want you to meet them. 

Here are Adanech and Dagem:

They live with their mother, but she can't afford to send them to school.  So Children's Hope Chest provides them with a school for free and also a sort of "after school care" program for them to go to until their mom gets off work.  It's a pretty spartan place, but providing such an amazing chance for these kids who would otherwise be street kids during the day.

More than anything, I was just glad that Jack and Ben got to see these things and play with these kids who are, of course, just like them.

Despite the look on Ben's face, he had a really good time hanging out and playing with the kids.  Oh, wait.  I also think he threw up twice that day.  Maybe that's why he looks so bad...

Day 5- Wednesday.  This was the day we went to the Gladney Foster Care Center to visit/tour, see where she had been living for 8 months.  And guess what?  MY CAMERA STOPPED WORKING ON THE WAY THERE!!!  And guess what else?  MY VIDEO CAMERA'S BATTERY DIED A FEW MINUTES AFTER ARRIVING!!!  Ug.  So annoying.  I felt like the biggest loser b/c I had promised to take pix and video of so many waiting kids and I knew I was letting these families down.  :-(  I have no idea what happened to my camera.  It started working the next day, then quit again for a day, and now that we are back it has been fine.  ???  So strange and so annoying.  That combined w/ totally not feeling well and being on cold medicine made the visit to Gladney a bit of a fog for me.  That's too bad.  But back to the story.

Here's a pic of me and my 3 kids before we left that morning:

The people at the Bejoe were concerned that Lilah was not going to do well visiting the Gladney center b/c she had so quickly bonded w/ us.  I asked Genet to explain to her that morning what was going to happen so that she would not think we were taking her back there to stay- that it was just a visit and then we would bring her back with us.  And I guess she got the message b/c she was fine!  Her special mother gave her a traditional Ethiopian outfit, but unfortunately I didn't get a pic of her with her special mother.  I do regret that.  But on the other hand, Lilah didn't exactly act like any particular mother was very special to her.  She just drug me by the hand from room to room and outside again.  

A few pix:

The Gladney Foster Care Center

Lilah getting her dress from her special mother.

Walking down the street w/ Genet and Belay.  Yeah, she knows she's rockin' that dress and those headbands...

At the coffee ceremony

Those are all pix that people graciously gave me since my camera was out, or that I just stole from someone.  ;-)

Then off to a yummy lunch at a restaurant called Top View.

Seriously.  I could have spread her on a cracker and had her for lunch.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Dreamgirl meets Reality

I posted the below post waaaaaaaaaaaay back in December.  Check out the NEW photo below the OLD post...



I dreamed about her last night. It was fuzzy and short and just images seemingly randomly put together, but there she was... my little girl... in my foggy dream. 
I dreamed that the wonderful family from Houston who is taking her a package was giving it to her and she was so animated! She was doing the cute little leg stomping dance that my boys would do at the age of 2 when they were really excited about something- you know, kinda like running in place. It wasn't necessarily our package she was so excited about... but she was happy. And that was fun to see.

And best of all...

...when she smiled she wrinkled her nose.

And animated???  I had no idea...  :-)

We noticed this adorable trait the morning we met her.  I was holding her and the boys were entertaining her and Mick was snapping pix when he suddenly said, "Gayla- she wrinkles her nose when she smiles!  Especially when she laughs... JUST LIKE YOU DO!"  Precious.  

Selam! G'day! Hello!