This is the package that carried our hearts through Paris, Dubai, and on to Ethiopia :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Once Empty Arms Now Full

I can't believe that I have not posted since March! I really stink at this blogging thing! Since I last posted, our little miracle was born. I am getting teary eyed thinking back to that day (it doesn't take much to get teary eyed these days!). Christian shares a birthday with Nena which is April 7th, and we were having his first birthday party EVER. We did it up right by throwing a Spiderman pool party complete with a sweet Spidey cake and lots of friends. During the party, my water began to break. Thankfully it wasn't anything substantial until the end of the party, so I packed up, called my doctor and headed to the hospital. I was totally nervous - I didn't know what to expect, was worried were my other two going to be okay, etc. My time at the hospital was absolutely amazing. I really truly could not have asked for a better birth experience. The hospital staff was wonderful. They wanted to know all about the story of how we adopted our boys. My labor and delivery nurse even sat on the end of the bed with me and listened as I told my boy's story, and her eyes filled up with tears. Her shift was over before Avalyn was born, but she came up to recovery her next shift to visit me and to meet our baby girl. How incredibly precious is that! My ob doc was in France, so I got the doctor on call - who happened to be the only doctor in the entire practice that I had never met. Go figure! I am not saying this to complain though, because he was a superb doctor and I am so thankful he delivered my baby. I was in labor a long time, and he was there every step of the way making sure that I was okay and to see how I was progressing. A lot of people had warned me that they love to do C-sections prematurely at Winnie Palmer and to not let them rush it. Never once did anyone mention a C-section, and they did everything in their power to make sure I delivered naturally if possible. After 15+ hours of dilating to I think only a 5, he came back just an hour later and told the nurse that I was at a 10 and it was time to start pushing (we had to call Shane - he had just gone downstairs to eat lunch because we thought we still had plenty of time!). I had an epidural and it was amazing. I took the pain until it was about 6 on a scale of 1-10 before asking for it. I was able to completely enjoy the whole birth experience while hearing women in other rooms around me screaming in pain. Everyone is different and decides what is best for them, but I highly recommend it and will do it again next time, if there is a next time. :)My mom and Shane were in the delivery room with me the whole time helping me out. At 12:30 pm on Easter Sunday, Avalyn Makeda Somers made her grand entrance into our world, and I will never forget how it felt to hold her for the first time. It was much the same feeling I had last July when my two little boys ran out of the orphanage squealing, and little Joash jumped up into my arms. Two times in less than a year were my empty arms filled up meeting my children for the first time- precious and priceless memories.
Avie is doing very well! She was 6lb 1oz at birth. A little peanut! She is around 10 lbs. now at 9.5 weeks. She is absolutely beautiful, if I do say so myself! She started sleeping through the night at around 6 weeks, and she smiles all the time now too. Her daddy and brothers are completely smitten, and she is well on her way to being spoiled. She is our little miracle and I love to just stare at her face. I still can't believe that she is real. She reminds me of God's unfailing love every day. The boys are doing fantastic! They have adjusted very well so far with having a baby in the home. They love "baby sister", and ask to hold her all the time. Recently, Joash was holding her and she started to cry. He took her hands and started to sing Justin Bieber's song "Baby", and she immediately stopped crying and started smiling (Justin Bieber apparently made it all the way to Africa because they knew this song when they were still in the orphanage!). He's such a goofy kid! We expected to have a lot of behavioral setbacks when the baby arrived and we have had a few minor ones, but thank God nothing major. Keep praying! Our God is bigger! We think that they have done so well partly because of the orphanage they spent almost two years in. There were a lot of babies/toddlers at the orphanage and I think that the older children had some sort of interaction with the little ones, especially when families came to meet their children and the older kids were out playing. We heard several stories of how our oldest, Christian (Abiti), helped out some of the American families with their fussy child/ren. You hear horror stories of internationally adopted children who have serious behavioral issues because of being institutionalized and not having any love or attention. This is not the case with children who are cared for by America World Adoption - these kids are loved on by their nannies, their teacher, the cook, the America World staff, the gate guard, etc. There is no lack of love, care, or attention. They stand in the gap for these kids. I thank God for these people and the impact they had on our boys. A few weeks ago before school let out for the summer, we had a meeting with Christian and Joash's teachers at school to talk about their academic progress from this year, and to discuss if they would be moving up to the next grade. Joash's teacher, Mrs. Zeiler, was happy to report that Joash is completely on grade level, and in fact has done better academically than a lot of her English speaking students who have been there all year! This is pretty amazing for a child who came from another country, is learning the language while also dealing with grief and loss, and didn't start school this year until Thanksgiving. He will move on to first grade in the fall - yay Jojo! Christian's teacher, Mrs. Taylor, also had great things to report. She said that Christian is very driven and determined. Since starting school in November, he has improved two grade levels already! He started with being able to read at K-5 level (which was impressive in itself seeing as he spoke little English), and now reads at a second grade level. He will move up to third grade - yay! She also said that Christian is quite a character and keeps the rest of the class in line... not hard to believe if you know him! :) I cannot express how proud I am of these boys, and how thankful I am for their teachers. We couldn't have hand picked better teachers for them. God knew just who to put them with! We are also so thankful for the ESL teacher who worked very hard with them and made sure that they had every opportunity available to improve and succeed. She also loves God, and had a huge heart for these boys (they made her cry "happy tears" on more than one occasion). This school year with the boys has been a lot of hard work for all parties involved, but it has paid off. My boys are truly brilliant! We cannot take any credit for that, but can certainly work hard with them to be sure that they live up to their full academic potential. God is good! So how are we doing as a family? Our house is a zoo. Two parents, three kids, a dog, and a fish in our house...we have a very small house. At any given time there are dirty dishes piled high in the sink, piles of (folded, clean) laundry on the floor in the boy's room, piles of school papers and projects and Sunday school papers on the table, sticky popsicle stains on the floor, and dirty footprints from our rambunctious boys and their friends running in an the picture? I've had to work hard at letting go of the need to have a spotless house, but most days it still bothers the heck out of me. A friend shared this quote with me: "cleaning the house while the kids are still growing is like shoveling snow while it's still snowing". So true. I still try though, and it seems like I do many futile hours of cleaning each week! Most days I do manage to shower now that Avie and I are in a routine, but I did come to the sad realization that probably 5 out of 7 days this past week I got busy and forgot to put on deodorant. Yikes!There has only been one instance so far where all three kids have been crying at the same time...THAT was fun. We have doctor's appointments galore between the five of us right now, and Shane and I are pretty much walking zombies most days. Theo, our beloved weiner dog, has also decided that it's a good idea to do his business in the house lately, as if I don't already clean up enough poop and pee! BUT, we are the happiest we have ever been. Our lives are berserk, but so full. When I look back over the last eight months, I honestly don't know how we made it to this point. There were days where I cried alone in my room, there were times Shane cried alone, and then there were days when we cried together. Adoption is not natural. It's God's way of fixing something that is broken. With that comes emotionally broken children, who have to learn to love and trust. We saw miraculous transformations in our boys these past 8 months. When we went to Ethiopia in October to bring them home, Christian didn't want anything to do with me. I was crushed and scared. Not only did he not trust me, but he did not respect me either. It took hard work - unconditional love, space, time, perseverance...and now I have a little boy who snuggles with me at night, lets me kiss all over his face, calls me mama, and tells me he loves me. Again, God is good. Joash was a very angry little boy in the beginning, and he didn't know what to do with his anger. He would get angry and go in his room and scream at the top of his lungs and throw things. When we would go in to talk to him, you could see the fear in his eyes like he was terrified of us when we'd never given him any reason to be scared. Now when he is angry or upset, you can find him sitting on the green power box out in the yard, thinking. When he is done, he comes back inside, apologizes, and immediately moves on. There's still healing to be done, but God has brought us such a long way! I can't imagine my life without these two little impoverished it would be. They make me smile every day, and again remind me of God's love. I can't stress enough how good my God is. My first Mother's Day: Me and my princess: Jojo's first soccer season: Christian holding "baby sister":

Friday, March 16, 2012


So, it has been a long time since I have posted. I think about it a lot... and subsequently don't have the energy to follow through! Not that blogging takes much physical energy, but when you have "pregnancy brain", it's exhausting! :)

Things have settled a bit since I last posted. The boys are settling in more, learning how to be a part of a family, trusting us more, behaving better, and making us proud every day. I seriously am SO proud of them. Imagine being a kid, losing your father to death and your mother being unable to care for you. You then go to an orphanage and learn how to "survive" on your own, while not being at all mentally or emotionally capable of doing so. You stay there for two years, all the while seeing other kids being adopted and leaving. You say goodbye to friends you have made, and you cry yourself to sleep..."when's it my turn?". You finally are called into the office and hear that you have a family, and you cheer and run around the orphanage showing everyone a picture of your "new mommy and daddy" with big smiles on your faces. In all of the happiness though, you realize that you will be trading in having parents and a family for: your birth country, your native language, your culture, and being on the same continent as your birthmom. So bittersweet. You meet your new parents and everything is exciting! They tell you they love you and shower you with hugs, kisses, "I love you"'s and gifts. You talk about the future and all the things awaiting you in teams, school, new friends, tons of cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents who already love you, a comfortable bed in a "cool" room, and never having to go to bed without a mom and dad. Then they leave for an undetermined amount of time, and as they leave, you sob uncontrollably together. Then your birthmother journeys from your birth village ten hours away to say goodbye...and there are rivers of tears. She tells you she loves you, she is sorry, and that she wants you to have a better life. She tells you she wants you to come back to Ethiopia one day when you are grown, leaving you with a heavy responsibility in the future, although she probably won't even be alive past your teen years. You cry yourself asleep again. Then you wait...and wait...and wait. Finally you learn that your new parents are coming for you! You are ecstatic, but you know many hard goodbyes are ahead. Bittersweet. You say goodbye to your friends, caregivers, and mentors, and then leave with your new parents for this place called America. Everything is new and exciting, but it's also much harder than you thought. People don't understand you, you are scared, there are rules and discipline, and sometimes you are looked at funny because you are dark skinned and your parents are light skinned. And you are going to the doctor...a lot. There are doctors for everything! You feel like you have been poked and prodded and violated too many times and they ask your mom and dad a lot of questions about your past and where you are from. Most of them they can't answer. You're thinking "I came from Africa, people, not another planet!". BUT, you are loved immensely. You are reminded every day that you are special, that God has big plans for you, and that you were chosen. All your needs are provided, and you never go hungry. You are snuggled in bed each night while reading stories about God, prayed with, and sometimes held til you are asleep because it makes you feel comfortable. You are reminded that your past is a part of who you are, and that your future is bright. Bittersweet. Are you crying yet? I am. This is adoption, folks! It's not all puppydogs and rainbows. It's hard, deep stuff. There is so much healing to be done. Are the days where there are meltdowns or sadness hard? YES! So hard. But does it usually go so much deeper than just the issue at hand? Yes. The issue is not usually the real issue.

With all that said, I am immensely proud of my sons. They amaze me and are so brave! Their English is awesome. Christian is the second grade star speller...he makes at least a 100 on all his tests - sometimes 103 with bonus points. Joash is right on track with where he should be in kindergarten. He is reading! Christian finished his book at AWANA clubs took him a whopping two months. Joash is working hard too, and was "clubber of the month" last month. Christian is playing soccer and has his first game this Saturday. They are both taking Amharic classes so that they don't forget their native language. They love to swim, sing, help dad with stuff around the house and yard, are excited about becoming big brothers soon, and have both lost their "first" tooth in the last two weeks. Christian is a character - larger than life! He commands attention when in a room full of people. Joash is goofy and makes this mama laugh ALL THE TIME. They both have birthdays coming up and both want a Spiderman pool party. We are going to make the biggest craziest deal out of their birthdays. One, because their birthdays are both around the time their baby sister is to be born and they need to know that they are extremely special and valuable to us in the midst of the excitement of her birth. Two, because it is the first birthday party they will have ever had! Our house may be crazy at times, but it is full of love and laughter, and I just cannot imagine my life without these two special little boys. They are beautiful inside and out. I think about their birthmother just about every day and mourn for her...she carried these precious boys, gave them life at birth, and then gave them life again when she knew she couldn't care for them. She is missing everything. It BREAKS MY HEART. So thankful that out of the mess of a broken world, God has allowed me to be their "second mama".

And now for the picture so many of you have been asking for! Sorry for the poor quality - I am home by myself so therefore it's a crappy mirror picture :) My big baby belly at 35 weeks! Be praying for us as we start to transition yet again. We expect that there will be setbacks with the boys when she is born. We are going to do everything in our power to keep them involved in her care and make sure they know what an important and special job they have as big brothers!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Extracting the Precious from the Worthless

Over the Christmas holiday I read a book by Beth Guckenberger called “Relentless Hope”. This book caught my eye in a Barnes N Noble because of the sweet little African boy on the cover (I’m quite partial to sweet little African boys!). The book kept my attention because of the theme - “Extracting the Precious from the Worthless”. It talks about how whatever you are going through in your life right now is just a chapter in your story. You are not defined by the things that you have been through or the choices that you have made. We all have really hard things that we go through, and I know that I personally made some bad bad choices in my younger years (some of those bad choices stemming from hard times). If we can take these circumstances or trials and extract the precious from the worthless- His precious promises and precious intimacy with Him, and walk away with precious lessons learned, then it’s all worth it. Then can we learn to focus on extracting the precious from each day, and let go of the, um, not-so-precious.

Those of you who follow my blog know that I am pretty open about the things that are happening in our family. There is no shame in sharing your heart and your circumstances. God did not intend for us to spend life alone. I think so many women in Christian circles don’t share their raw emotions for fear of being talked about later, shared as a “prayer request”, or fear of opening up and being vulnerable just to be let down. We should all strive to be genuine – ask how someone is really doing, and then really listen and be there for them when they bare their soul. We should say “I am praying for you”, but then really do pray for them. We should try not to give pat answers, or try to “solve” anything – just listen and be there for each other…get “in the trenches” with them. Anyways, rabbit trail! Here goes. To honestly sum up our time since being home with our boys: beautiful, adventurous, heartbreaking, exciting ,exhausting, laughter-filled, eye-opening, frustrating, rewarding, and special. We have experienced the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum! We knew things would be hard when we pursued the adoption of our boys. We had many people say that we were crazy, and I’m sure even more were thinking it and didn’t verbalize. I think our social worker may have even tried to discourage us from changing from baby adoption to adopting two older children. Bottom line, they are without a doubt our boys...our sons. We loved them from the second we saw that first picture, and there was no way we were gonna say “No!” to God for fear of doing something radical, or fear of inadequacy, or being too young/inexperienced. When God asks you to do something, whether you feel it or not, He equips you and He sustains you. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. We have definitely felt very inadequate most days over the last three months, but His mercies are new every morning, He pours out His wisdom in abundance (at our pleading!), and He gives “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”. It has been HARD, but we are learning so much. Every day.

One of the things that we have gone through with the boys is hearing the things that they say to us when they are angry. Sometimes it’s “no love you”, sometimes it’s “you no my parents – my parents in Ethiopia”, and sometimes it’s “no like America- go back to Ethiopia”. Do they mean these things? No. Later there are apologies and remorse, and admittance that it was said out of anger. I have learned so much about our relationship with our (adoptive) heavenly Father these last three months from this, and from other situations we have encountered. We as children of God have everything at our fingertips – the keys to the kingdom! He adopted us, took us in, gave us a new name, redeemed our pasts – made us HIS. How many times in our relationship with our heavenly Father have we, maybe not with words but with actions, basically said to God “no love you – you no my Father…me go back to________”. How many times have we chosen to be angry instead of living in His love, or basically chosen our old life/way of living in exchange for all of the amazing things we have at our disposal as a child of the King? Granted, our boys do miss Ethiopia (and so do we!)- they miss their friends, their culture, and life the way it was before their father died and their mother had to give them up. But, do they miss going to bed without a mom and dad every night for two years, or someone consistent to hold them when they are sad? No. Do they miss their orphanage living conditions? No. Do they miss not having their own clothes, or anything to call their own for that matter? No. Do they miss not having a school to attend or a church they can go to every Sunday and make friends? No. Do they miss having no hope for the future? No. So we, in the same way, have what we need in Jesus Christ, but sometimes turn our backs and choose our old rags and way of living. It’s enticing sometimes to go back to the way of the world – Satan has a great way of making things looks easier or more fun, when in all actuality, we know that our old way of living brought no true joy, just pain. Why do we do this?

So, back to the book Relentless Hope. I’m reading it a second time. It’s full of stories of struggle with sin and of redemption. Full of stories of good people going through or struggling with bad things, how you can persevere with relentless hope, and how there’s always something precious to be gained. I guess the main thing I took away from the book was how to extract the precious. So, I try to do it every day now. Each day there is spiritual warfare in our home. Satan HATES adoption. If he can keep orphans as orphans, he knows he has a great shot at their souls. He fills orphan’s heads with lies. When God’s people adopt, Satan loses. He will then attack your home, trying to keep a foothold. Newsflash to Satan: You are NOT welcome in our home. We are fighting, and with God’s help, we WILL win. So, at the end of each day now with my journal, I sit down and write “Extracting the precious from today” and the date. I then list out every victory that we had that day, whether great or very small. Some days, there is very little victory, but I can find something to celebrate! Some days are really really good and there is lots to write down. This past Wednesday was a rough day for both boys at home. Anger abounded, attitudes were bad, nothing made them happy, and nothing we did or tried helped. BUT, they did go to AWANA that night, and both had an amazing time. Christian finished his entrance book and got his first AWANA book…and his little red vest…which he is very proud of. On a different day this week with little precious to take away, I recorded this about Joash: Joash LOVES the ice cream truck that comes through our neighborhood. He hears the music and will drop everything, grab a dollar from his Christmas money, and run outside. He puts his little hand out like he is hailing a cab in NYC, and he pays for his ice cream of choice. The funny thing is he never eats it! He will give it to a neighbor friend or to me, or put it in the freezer “for later”. The little guy just loves the whole ice cream truck experience. It gets me in the heart every time! So precious. So I write it down. I choose not to record the bad things that happen during the day. We have the ability to forgive, but not to completely forget, so I know one day I will still be able to recall some of these things when they are grown and way past all this and we are sitting around at the holidays talking and giving them a hard time about it! But for now, it does no good to rehash. All it will do is upset and discourage me all over again. Writing the precious things (that God has given us during a seemingly worthless day) down brings joy to my heart and helps me focus on victory. I want to break out my journals one day, and let them read through all of the daily victories and milestones…I want us as a family to remember the precious. My babies need prayer - they are hurting little individuals that have a long way to go emotionally. They are angry -they direct their anger towards us some days.It's hard, and it hurts. But their futures are as bright as the promises of God, and we will continue to fight! We are a family and we love them so much.

"And that's the key to our contentment. As Christians, we should be marked by our radically different approach to life. We have access to a God who offers us peace, but some days the most conflicted people I talk to are believers. I want to live by the verses I sing in the choruses on Sunday, songs about how I am content, and all I need is Jesus (not Jesus plus the right diagnosis, or Jesus plus having my way). If I get to be His spokesman, it'll be by reflecting to the world, as the prophet Jeremiah did, a truth not easily understood. And in this case, the truth is, even the most worthless of moments, whether big or small, can have something precious extracted from them. He doesn't waste anything." -Beth Guckenberger
Jeremiah 15:15-21