"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

1 Year Ago TODAY ******Wednesday********

1 year ago today was one of those super crazy days. Soccer practice, afterschool meeting, and dinner on the run. I remember coming home and standing in the kitchen sorting through the mail. I remember Ben coming in (he had been home with the kids for about 20 minutes) and saying, "there's an email you need to read." There was something in his voice that made me KNOW something was up. I started to head into the office and he said that I had better wait until after the kids were in bed... but of course I went to the computer instead. The email said (I have kept it and reread it 1,000 times) that there are 3 kids who need to be adopted right away. That the family that was supposed to adopt them had just found out that they (Janelle) had cancer and was starting treatments soon. (She is now finished with treatments and doing really well - we hope to meet them on our next trip to Spokane) The email gave us their names and ages (all of it was a little bit wrong) and a phone number. As Ben and I did baths, homework and prayers we talked. Our conversation went like this.
  • We can't adopt 3 kids
  • I wonder what they look like
  • maybe we should call and find out more
  • Do you think we could ever do that???
  • I wonder who will adopt them
  • 14 years old... wow
  • We always said we wanted Danny to stay the oldest.
  • I wonder what happened to other family
  • How much would it cost
  • There is NO WAY we could do this
  • We just said we had to wait for our court settlement from the flood before we could afford to adopt. ***an hour later our attorney called and said he was leaving his firm and no one else would take it on.
  • I wonder what it would be like to go to Ethiopia
  • We could never afford it
  • Our friends will think we are crazy
  • I always thought we were supposed to have a girl
  • 3 boys and 3 girls - that's nuts!
  • I wonder if they like sports
  • Should we call the number?
  • What will our parents say?
  • We don't have enough room for 6 kids
  • We don't have a car big enough (that was solved soon after when some friends GAVE us their Suburban that they were planning to sell)
  • I wish we were brave enough to do that...

The conversation went on all night like that. The next morning, on my way to school, I called the number. A couple hours later the phone rang and I spent my lunch hour talking to the woman who originally placed the kids and had met them on 3 different occasions. One of the stipulations on the email was that the family would have to have "successfully parented teenagers" and we certainly hadn't gotten to that point yet! We talked about the kids and our home and by the end of the conversation I was GIDDY!!!!!! I called Ben and we talked all about the posibilities... we started praying!

  • Could WE really do this?
  • Lord, is this YOUR will?
  • HOW?
  • Will Danny, Lilly and Addy ever love them
  • Would we ever love them the same as our biological kiddos
  • We don't have much left over at the end of the month now...
  • What are we thinking?
  • WHAT??????????????????????????????????????????

The days went on, we talked to friends and family... we asked them to pray. At one point I talked to my principal and he laughed... a few days later he said, "Brooke you know you are doing this... stop wondering!" Ben and I talked and talked and talked... you can imagine the conversations and less than 2 weeks later we KNEW the answer was YES!

Today, we are the Schuldheisz Bunch. Kind of like the Brady Bunch, without Alice (oh, how I dream of having an Alice)... We have been home together for almost 6 months and things are going so well! In a lot of ways it seems like we have always been a family of 8. The kids argue, get in trouble and cuddle all in a span of 20 minutes. Addy loves to have Jacob read to her. Lilly and Marti like to "hang out" in their room and read books together or watch movies in our room. Jacob and Danny are TROUBLE! :) In a good way. I love being the parent of a teenager and a tweenager. If you are driving past a soccer field or school gym and you hear a screaming mom (only saying good things) that is probably me. I jump higher and yell louder than just about any other parent... Ben's thinks it's embarrasing and shushes me often :).

So hear I sit with tears in my seys - so very glad that we didn't listen to the what ifs. We "dove in" to the greatest gift ever. We still listen to Dive by Steven Curtis Chapman all the time. We have told the kids how much Ben loves that song. How he was driving to school and was praying for clear direction from God and this song came on the radio. At that moment he knew... and the rest is history :)

The long awaited rains Have fallen hard upon the thirsty ground

And carved their way to where The wild and rushing river can be found

And like the rain I have been carried here to where the river flows, yeah

My heart is racing and my knees are weak

As I walk to the edge I know there is no turning back

Once my feet have left the ledge

And in the rush, I hear a voice

That's telling me it's time to take the leap of faith

So here I go

I'm divin' in, I'm goin' deep

In over my head I wanna be

Caught in the rush, lost in the flow I

n over my head I want to go

The river's deep, the river's wide

The river's water is alive

So sink or swim, I'm divin' in

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

1 year ago today

1 year ago today my biggest "worry" was my National Boards.
1 year ago today I had never heard of Addisu, Marta, and Esrael.
1 year ago today if you had asked me if I thought I would be the mom of 6 in a year I would have laughed that maniacal laugh that Lilly does when she is overly tired and cranky.
1 year ago today I would have never believed that we would have been able to travel to a 3rd/4th/5th world country.
1 year ago today I never would have believed that God would be sending me an email :) and blessing me with such PERFECT additions to our family.

Oh... my faith is tiny. Really tiny. I never, in my wildest dreams, would have imagined that THIS was His plan for me. The other day Joseph was watching us put up our pumpkins for fall (he was sick on the couch but I wanted him to come watch the fun) and he was telling us about how he used to decorate his house and then later the orphanage for Christmas - he did it all by himself. He would walk really far away to get a tree and then he would make paper decorations for it. He said that he really liked doing that and he did it every year. Once again, I was struck by this gift God has given Ben and me. Here is a kid from a zillion miles away who LOVES to decorate for Christmas. In case you are wondering... we LOVE to decorate too. And one of the things Ben "worried" about while waiting to meet the kids is if they would love the same things we love. And they do. They love to decorate for Christmas, play with the dogs, play sports, watch football, read books, pray and learn about God, spend time with family and a million other things that we love too. Thanks, God.

So a year ago today I was telling my Bible Study friends we were thinking about adopting... in 2 years. We thought we would adopt 1 four-year-old boy. I asked them to start praying for us. I guess they did. :)

Today our prayer request is pretty simple. Ha! Ben has an opportunity to travel with 12 other adoptive parents to meet Mesalech and Beniam and Ashenafi. Mesalech chose to keep her two youngest children (they are Lilly and Addy's ages) until she was too sick to care for them. We don't know if that time is near but we desperately want to KNOW Mesalech before she dies. We would also like to meet the boys. We don't know if God wants us to adopt them someday but we do know that regardless they will be a very important part of our kids memories forever and we want to know them too. So would you pray for us that we make a good decision about this trip. Both the time and financial aspects scare the bejebuz :) out of me... but we are praying about it anyway.

Today I thank our God... for bringing us these children and for giving us the courage to make a gigantic leap of faith. And for surprising us with their "perfect fit" into our family. Thank you, GOD!

Monday, September 15, 2008

I'm so excited... and I just can't hide it

I'm about to lose control and I think I like it. Ooooohhhh!

Can you hear me singing? I am super excited for tomorrow. Joseph plays in his first American soccer game (which I will miss) at Desert Hills and Marti has her first volleyball game in Hermiston. I get to drive Marti while Ben is in charge of Josepho the Great! I am so sad I will miss his game but I am so excited for both of the kids. They are a bit nervous tonight but also looking forward to their games.

They have been working so hard lately and have kept such great attitudes about school work, practices and their chores. I am constantly amazed at their drive and determination. Even Marta (who regularly admits to disliking "hard work") spent an hour on homework tonight without a single complaint.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me...

I guess I'll go eat worms!

Which is entirely too easy to do at my house today since I discovered PANTRY MOTHS, weevils AND larvae in my pantry today. Argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a huge frustration! I wanted to sit down and cry, but instead I put on my gloves (which were left from the bleaching party we had after the flood) and got to work! I was feeling mighty sorry for myself as I was throwing away 4 huge bags of groceries but then I looked at what I didn't have to throw away and I was very thankful for all the food left.

What a crazy month! We had 2 big repairs on the van, a repair to the furnace and now this!!!!!! So much for trying to budget our money carefully. Oh well!

I am still blessed and hugely thankful for my home (moths and all).

So... onwards and upwards and all that good stuff. I am off to another round of cleaning!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy Enkutatash

Tonight we will be driving 2 1/2 hours to celebrate Ethiopian New Year with friends and family in Spokane. There will be about 25 Ethiopian kiddos and their families in attendance. We are looking forward to spending some time getting to know some of these local families as well as letting the kids see that there are other families just like ours. :)

Enkutatash is the first day of the New Year in Ethiopia. It occurs on Meskerem 1 on the Ethiopian calendar, which is September 11 (or, during a leap year, September 12) according to the Gregorian calendar. The new current year according to the Ethiopian calendar is 2001.
Literally, Enkutatash means 'Gift of Jewels'. The date traditionally marks the end of the season of heavy rains and is more recently or historically set by the return of the Queen of Sheba to Ethiopia after her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem. It also marks the commemoration of Saint John the Baptist. Enkutatash is not only a religious holiday but it is also a day for young boys and girls to sing and dance and for exchanging New Year greetings among urban and rural inhabitants. (Thanks, Nancy... your explanation was fabulous)

I forgot that part of the tradition is to give children a small gift on Enkutatash... sorry kids!


Thursday, September 11, 2008

You know you are a soccer mom when...

You drive to soccer practice with 2 large pizzas in the car.
Drop off some of the kids.
Put a movie in for another kid.
Do an hour worth of math homework with the kid who is left in the front seat.
Drive home while feeding the soccer players the remaining pizza.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Part IV Ethiopia and Home

I woke up around 4 and was praying in bed when I hear Marta talking. I went over to check on her and found that she was crying and praying too. I sat with her as she prayed, the laid down next to her where we both fell asleep again. Around 7:30 we woke up happy and ready for our next day together!
From Part IV

It was so strange to wake up cuddling with Marta, who 18 hours earlier had been a stranger. We all woke up about the same time and gave hugs and kisses. The kids quickly learned, "Good Morning" and said it about 10 times each. We hung around for a little while and then slowly started getting showered and dressed for the day. (The kids made their beds and did a great job brushing their teeth), 1 1/2 hours later we headed down for breakfast. We decided to eat at the hotel buffet and the kids were so happy to see tibs, injera, doro wat and other familiar foods. They each tried pancakes and seemed to like them. I was so glad to have translators help us explain the concept of a buffet to the kids - I wonder what they were thinking? I was dying for a glass of their fresh squeezed orange juice but debated about the safety of it. I decided to go for it! The juice was so refreshing and smelled like home. Ben tried some Nile River perch that had been caught the day before (or so we were told). He didn't like it but was glad to be able to say he has had fish from the Nile.

After breakfast we headed out to the lobby to wait for our driver who would be taking us to the CWA offices to fill out paperwork and pay the remaining fees. The lobby was filled with important people and we quickly decided that 3 kids with a new ball should NOT be playing with it on the marble floor in the hotel. The beautful gardens called to us and we went to wait outside and play on the steps. The hotel was home to 2 large conventions, one was some sort of UN conference and another was about Agriculture. A senator from Florida shared our elevator at one point during the week.

In typical Ethiopian time (which Ben became a HUGE fan of) we were picked up about an hour late and taken to the care center. There were 4 other families with us - 2 with small babies and another with twin 8 year olds. Our kids were so glad to see their friends and had great fun looking out the window together at the things going by. We were more relaxed this trip and also enjoyed the scenery. The sights were everything I had thought they would be and then so much more. When we got to the CWA office (a beautiful building with marble stairs and a horrible bathroom) we quickly sat down and got to work. Ben said that he loved standing outside the building watching the kids and watching the sights... He was most amazed at the beer delivery happening across the street. The truck pulled up and honked twice. From every direction kids (7 - 14 years old) ran to the truck and turned around so that their back was facing the bed of the truck. The driver would then DROP and full beer keg onto their backs and the kids would RUN into the bar and come back for another load. It was AMAZING and sad all at the same time.

When the paperwork was done we took a couple of pictures of our friends and then headed back to the hotel for lunch. We had a delicious lunch by the pool at the Hilton. The kids tried their first hamburgers and didn't think they were so great. While we were eating we ran into a friend that lives about 3 hours away who was also picking up her son. They had decided to spend the day at the Hilton and were enjoying the pool side restaurant. Our kids had fun talking and getting to know each other and then we were off on one of my favorite parts of our trip.

Ben's cousin has 3 children from Ethiopia and has stayed in close contact with their kids biological grandmother, aunts, and extended family in Ethiopia. Amy had asked us to take a few things for them and we were excited to meet the family. I must also say that we were VERY nervous. We had been pretty insulated up to this point and we were unsure about what to expect. We also were very wary of making any cultural mistakes or offending anyone and that added to our "stress". We had hoped to be able to take dinner to the family but with all the uncertainties surrounding our German visas we decided we should make the visit to this family our first priority.

The drive to their house was a lot of fun. There are over 6 million people who live in Addis Ababa and it is obvious when you drive through the streets trying to outmaneuver taxis, buses, herds of animals and pedestrians. We only saw 2 accidents the entire time we were in Ethiopia - it is shocking that there are not more! :)

Our driver Dawit had also been Amy's driver so he knew the family well and knew right where to go. Because of our nerves, excitement and a million other things - I forgot to call first to let them know we were coming. I still cannot believe I did that - so much for being "culturally aware". I wish you all could have been there to greet this family. Their warmth and excitement for our visit was something I will always remember. They live in a compound which is about 1/2 an acre surrounded by corrugated metal fencing and a gate with 3-4 other families. The government owns all the lands and crops in Ethiopia, so even though our hosts own their own home they still must pay land rent each month. Their house was very nice and very small. They had a living room, small indoor kitchen, and 2 bedrooms for 8 or so people. Their bathroom was outside and was shared by all the families who lived in their yard. We had a great visit and it was so much fun to watch our kids interact with the family. Joseph can talk to ANYONE and we witnessed this about 50 times during our trip to Ethiopia - this was another one of those times. Ben and Rebecca, who are both a bit on the quiet side, barely said a word the entire time we were there. So I LOUDLY, nervously, and enthusiastically babbled on for about 2 hours. I always talk with my hands, and those were waving wildly too! They served us dabo and shai (bread and tea) and it was wonderful! We took lots of pictures and headed on our way to begin shopping and getting the kids some dinner.

It was about this time that Rebecca's battery died in her camera. This was the camera she bought specifically for this trip and she was so mad when she realized that her battery was at home. We had our junky camera that we brought mostly for the kids to use because we had lost our nice one about 2 weeks before we left on our trip... so the pictures for the rest of the trip are not as great as we had hoped. Oh well!

After a small tour of the city we headed to dinner at this a small Italian restaurant. They had pictures of Kennedy driving through the streets of Addis on the walls and it made me feel almost like I was home. We sat outside with Dawit and the kids and talked and laughed a bit too. I leaned over to Ben and asked if we wanted to have THE NAME conversation, he said yes so we asked Dawit to translate. We talked to them about having the choice of keeping their Ethiopian names in America or having American first names and keeping their Ethiopian names for their middle names... At this point, we really didn't care but wanted them to have the option. We were a little worried about Addisu because his names sounds a lot like Addy (and we have an Addy) and also sounds femenine. So we started with him and gave him the choice of keeping Addisu or going with Thomas, Robert, Andrew, or Joel. Right away he said, "I like Joe". We thought he said Joel and were so excited because that was the name we most liked for him. He was so excited to be Joseph Addisu - it was really cute. Next we asked Dawit to ask Marta what she wanted, and the only thing that was important to her was that she have Ben's last name. So Marta Grace it was. Jacob had been following this coversation and told Dawit in Amharic that, "I like football." We all laughed and still call him Football sometimes! I thought The Name conversation was going to be a huge ordeal, and it wasn't at all!

We headed home for the night and hung around the hotel room getting to know each other. We called home again and all the kids said 'hi' to the kids at home. They loved talking to each other and it was so fun to see them excited. Being in the hotel room at night was a great bonding time. The kids told us about their life in Wolayta and how much they loved their dad. They talked about how kind he was and he laughed a lot. Marta cried just a little as we talked about him. They looked through the small photo album that we brought and loved talking about the kids. We also watched the videos of the Danny, Lilly and Addy that were stored on our digital camera and they laughed and laughed as they watched them play and show off for the camera.

We said our prayers and went to bed... what a day!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Funny Things

When I was a little girl and my mom would often laugh at the funny things Rebecca and I said and did. I would get so mad! She always told me that she was only, "smiling out loud." We do a lot of REALLY LOUD smiling around our house these days!

  • Danny and Jacob have nick-names for each other. Danny is "milk" and Jacob is "chocolate milk" These names have nothing to do with skin color... Danny came out to recess the other day with a big milk mustache and Jacob (who has been practically gagging on the WORD milk) started LOVING chocolate milk and drinks 2 a day! :)

  • Jacob wanted me to remember that tomorrow was his snack day but kept telling me, "Show and Tell, snake." We figured it out

  • The kids are the best laundry folders around, they even fold the dryer sheets!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tell Me the Good Things

Several months ago I asked some web-friends about the Good Things that adoption has taught and showed them... it was during a period of doubting and wondering if we really were supposed to DO THIS! :) I loved the responses and looked forward to my creating my own list of THE GOOD THINGS... so here it goes!

  • Ben asked the kids about their favorite part of America - they said Mom and Dad

  • watching Lilly introduce her brother Joseph to the neighbors while holding his hand

  • cuddling in bed with 6 kids!

  • watching the kids light up when they like a new food

  • watching the 6 kids play together with Polly Pockets

  • listening to the kids giggle and whisper from their bunk beds when they are supposed to be sleeping

  • knowing, without any doubt, that God had this planned for us from the beginning

  • getting a phone call from a kid who doesn't speak English and still thinks talking on the phone is so cool

  • watching the kids with their own friends at school

  • teaching the kids songs in English
  • Watching the kids argue because I know that they have bonded

The Toothless Wonder

This is my sweet Lilly Bean after her (very wiggly) tooth was pulled out last night. She is so proud to hold the honor of being the FIRST KINDERGARTNER to lose a tooth!

She also holds the honor of being the first Schuldheisz to have their hair cut because of gum. She was playing last night and somehow got gum in her hair. A lot of gum. I cut her hair last night... she is now sporting a very cute and very short hairdo... We will be going to the salon to get it fixed up afterschool today. :)