"'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

Monday, March 30, 2009

What I have learned this year...

Here are some of the things that I have learned this year...
  • Being a mom to 6 kids is just what God had planned for me
  • Things like laundry and dishes are not as important as I thought
  • but they take more time than I have
  • Giving kids chores makes my life better - and their spouses will thank me someday
  • Ben is the best dad in the world
  • The best husband too
  • God is so good with the details
  • Taking this leap of faith has blessed ME in ways I would have never guessed
  • Having time for friends is super important
  • And I am thankful for the friends who lovingly get me out of the house and into Starbucks
  • That Starbucks was very helpful for my sleep deprived state the first few months
  • That a homemade dinner is sometimes over rated
  • Hannah Montana is no longer cute for 7-year-olds ~ she is way too sassy!
  • Muffins from Costco are sometimes worth the money
  • 2 dogs are sometimes 2 too many
  • Ethiopian kids may never like milk
  • Salsa is the most important item on my grocery list at all times
  • Even big kids like to cuddle (sort of)
  • Watching America's Funniest Home Videos as a family makes me super happy
  • Riding bikes with my kids is stressful
  • St Patrick's Day is really hard to explain
  • Ben does not eat broccoli no matter how many times I ask him to be a good example for the kids
  • Disneyland may never be in our budget
  • Our garbage gets full way too fast
  • Homework is an evil invention and I seriously have doubts about the benefits to children
  • and the benefits will NEVER outweigh the stress it causes parents
  • And I HATE Science Projects
  • I love reading with my kids, chapter books have really improved in the last 20 years
  • although I will always love Super Fudge!
  • Eating dinner outside is a great way to save my sanity
  • The Wii is a great bonding tool
  • Taking walks with my kids make them talk to me in ways that are very different
  • Making time for God somehow gives me MORE time for other things
  • Losing 25 pounds without exercise was harder than I thought it would be
  • I may never have time to exercise again
  • Reading a magazine brings me GREAT joy!
  • I love date nights more now than ever before in my life

OK... I am sure there are some other, much deeper, things that I have learned... but for now that is all I can think of!

Time Flies When You are Having Fun

It has been exactly one year since we first hugged our kids. I will never forget those first hugs... I was so very scared that they would not want a new mom - and the moment Joseph ran into my arms I knew that God really did know what he was doing :). I am not sure that I have ever been hugged so possesively in my whole life. The kids clung to us and had a very hard time letting go. Someone asked me the other day if the "kids call you mom yet?" OH! They have called me mom from the second we first met. She also asked if the kids get along well... OH Yes! They have so much fun together AND they drive each other crazy - it is definitely LOVE!

I have put together a vidoe of the last year in honor of our Gotcha Day on April 5th. We have decided to celebrate our first day ALL TOGETHER instead of the day that Ben, Rebecca and I met the kids. So... check back later this week for the video (don't be expecting too much - this is my first video).

Can you believe it's been a year?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Joseph

Happy 15th Birthday, Josepho The Great!

Happy Birthday, Joseph! We love you so much! I cannot believe I have a 15-year-old son! I cannot believe he is not here for his "first birthday". Right now Joseph is touring Monticello with his 8th grade class. He has a fever and a bad cold and is feeling horrible... and is 3000 miles away! I am praying constantly that he feels better soon so that he can enjoy his trip. If he knew how many times I would have kissed him and hugged him today, he would probably be glad that he was gone. It has been so weird not having him here. Having 5 kids is different... definitely not better... just different. We miss him so much - Jacob has been in tears several times and the rest of the kids miss him so much too! I am so glad Joseph is a part of our family. I am so thankful that he is the big brother in our family - what a wonderful example he is to the other kids. I could never have dreamed that Joseph would be so special... God sure knew what he was doing when he placed Joseph in our lives.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

To Ethiopia and Home Part VII

That night I ended up with a bad headache so Rebecca and Ben entertained the kids with her laptop. Marti entertained them with her "gymnastics" and the boys just had fun hanging out.

From Part VI
I had no idea how much a headache would worry the kids. No idea at all! They still worry every time I don't feel 100% - it makes sense and breaks my heart all at the same time.
We woke up on Thursday with anxious hearts. We had to return to the German Embassy to get our transit visas... and they were not overly helpful. I had finally figured out that the kids did not like pancakes or eggs for breakfast. They were perfectly happy to have a roll and tea or water. No Fruit Loops for them I assumed - I was wrong, they love them! :) Once we got dressed and ready we headed for the car with our $312 to pay for our German visas. We debated about taking more money but we decided that we would only need birr (Ethiopian money) for the rest of the day.

We arrived at the German Embassy and were quickly separated. They only allow 2 people in at a time and so I went with Jacob, then Ben followed with Marti. That meant we left Rebecca and Joseph outside the embassy walls alone. I was nervous. We were in a not so nice area next to a river where people bathed. I was so worried that someone would see Rebecca and think she was alone and steal her... I am such a worrier that way. Soon enough we were all back together and inside the waiting room with our paperwork filled out EXACTLY the way the man had told us to do it the day before.
When it was finally our turn we learned that the exchange rate had changed overnight and we needed $30 more dollars for our visas - we only had birr and had no idea what to do. We all searched our pockets and panicked. If we didn't get our visas we would have to stay for a few more days... and I REALLY WANTED TO GET HOME! Finally, Rebecca got the idea to ask if someone would "sell us some money". When we first asked they looked at us like we were crazy... after a minute one lady figured out that she would be making some serious money by exchanging our money. I think I may have hugged her because I was so excited. :) Phew... we were going home! OH! But not so fast. The same man informed me that I did not make enough copies of our plane tickets and that we would have to return tomorrow. Ummm.... let's just say that the "momma bear" came out fighting and I quickly showed him where I had written notes the day before and that no where did it say that we needed what he was asking for. In addition, I could see the copy machine right behind him and it seemed like since there was a break down in communication it would be best if he helped us immediately. I am guessing that it was NOT my excellent persuasion that encouraged him to make the copies... instead it was probably the fact that he could tell that "that crazy ferengi lady was about to start screaming and crying" if he didn't fix the problem.
15 minutes later, visas in hand, we were back in the car and I was all smiles!

We settled in for a long car ride out of the city to a place called Summer Lakes. It is an area with many lakes in a rural part of Ethiopia. The drive was absolutely beautiful. The acacia trees, small villages, and farms made me feel far from home. The kids sang and talked and cuddled the whole way - they were so cute! We arrived at a restaurant overlooking the largest lake. It was a very nice restaurant but still had a bathroom that made you willing to 'hold it' for a long time! The kids took over the camera during our wait and had a blast posing and showing off!

After lunch we went to a park and walked around. It was about 90 degrees so the lake water looked very inviting until we heard about the alligators that frequent the area. They had a dock with boats for rent... we decided to skip it! :)

After an hour or two we headed back to Addis and planned for a relaxing evening at the hotel. We called Mesalech that night. Dawit, our driver, translated for Ben and I as the kids talked to her and told her that they were OK. Joseph, while listening to Marti and Jacob talk, was praying and thanking God and had the biggest grin on his face. Ben and I got to "talk" to Mesalech too... it was wonderful and overwhelming and exciting and heart breaking and terrible all at the same time. We all cried and laughed throughout the conversation.

Once we hung up the phone we headed to Aunt Rebecca's room for a distraction. Later, we had some dinner, said our prayers and fell into a deep and sometimes troubled sleep - knowing that the next day we would be leaving Ethiopia.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What is your favorite word?

Marti asked this question the other day... in the middle of a baseball game where we were soaked and cold.

Hmmm... what IS my favorite word. I told her that I didn't know and then asked what her favorite word was.

Especially... I like ESPECIALLY

That was cute.

Joseph then told us that his favorite word was


I am especially thankful to have such wonderful kids! :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It is well... with my soul

Just letting you know that all is well around here! We started Spring sports yesterday and, with the exception of a freak hail storm, the kids loved it! The little boys had baseball, Marti had softball, Lilly is still having fun at gymnastics, and Joseph started track. He is one FAST kiddo! I cannot believe how good it is for them to have activity... the laughter and talking around the table at dinner made me smile. A LOT!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Contentment... seriously random thoughts.

I pray about contentment a lot.

Lord, help me to love my house. Lord, help me to stop wanting an iPhone. Lord, thank you for this body you gave me but help me to NOT be content with the way I have been treating it (I need to lose 40lbs if you were wondering). Today I found this thing called the BodyBug or something like that... it tracks your calories eaten and burned and looks really cool. Lord, help me stop thinking that it is so cool. Lord, help me to remember that in Ethiopia they don't have washing machines. Help me to be content with 1 washer and dryer and stop wanting another one.

If I stop and think about the streets of Ethiopia -- I am ashamed. Really. Sometimes I choose not to stop and think. Sometimes I purposely keep right on dreaming about the things I want or think I need.

But today I will remember the little kids who were begging on the streets. Kids who would be whisked to foster homes if they showed up on the streets looking like "that". Today I will also remember the mom who kept shoving her hands in the window of our car wanting food to feed her tiny tiny tiny baby who looked like it was barely alive.

Today I will remember that my kids had never owned a TV or an extra pair of shoes 1 year ago. So today I will stop and be thankful. Thankful for my fabulous house where I always know if someone is pouting or being ornery -- because it is so small, I can hear EVERYTHING! Thankful for the body God gave me and I will start treating it better so that someday my gorgeous grandchildren can climb on my lap. I will stop caring about the stupid iPhone (I actually may need prayer to help me get over that one :)) and be thankful that my kids know my cell number and call it constantly.

I will continue to pray for contentment and all the while thank God for HIS amazing blessings.

Friday, March 6, 2009

March 6th...

A year ago today as I was driving down the street on my way home from a meeting my cell phone rang! It was the news we were waiting for - we had "passed court" in Ethiopia and the kids were OURS!!!!!!!!!

You can read my original post here.

It was such an exciting and overwhelming day! I can still feel the rush of joy and the panic as I realized we would be traveling to Ethiopia and hugging our kids SOON! Today, as I was thinking over that day, I had a realization. It was a year ago today that our kids became ours. It was also a year ago today that our kids saw their mom for the last time. Mesalech had to travel to Addis (an 8-10 hour drive) to reliquish her rights to the kids. She got to spend several hours with the kids as they awaited their turn at the court. I can't imagine what that must have been like for her.

My "Mommy Heart" was rejoicing like crazy and Mesalech must have felt like she was dying just a little bit. So... today I rejoice for the year that has come and gone... but I also ache for my kids and for Mesalech. A year without a hug... that would be so very very hard!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Part VI

That night as we got ready for bed and said our prayers the kids talked about Kaleab, their dad. Marti cried as she talked about him and remembered him. It was so wonderful to hear that they were loved so well by such a godly man. We gave thanks to God that night.

From Part V

Oh... this day was so very special. The kids woke up giddy with excitement. Today was the day that we planned on returning to the orphanage to see their friends again and say goodbye to the nannies who were not working on the day we picked the kids up! Right away in the morning the kids began taking their new toys and clothes out and putting them into the bags of donations that we had for the orphanages. We had to stop them more than once from putting EVERYTHING in the bags.

Before we left for Ethiopia we collected infant Tylenol, hand sanitizer, tooth brushes, washcloths, antibiotic ointments and many other items that are difficult to find in Africa. These items along with the clothes the kids were wearing when we picked them up (we were asked to return these) and care packages from parents who were waiting to come get their kids were carried downstairs to the van. I was nervous on the way to the care center. What if the kids didn't want to come back with us, what if they cried again (Marti was especially sad when she left her friends last time), what if ..... the lack of good sleep was taking it's toll and I was worried.

When we pulled up through the gates the kids were practically jumping out of their seats. They could hardly wait for the van to stop before they got out. They ran to their friends and embraced in a way that American children would never do... probably never understand. Then the nannies came running. They were so excited to see the kids and have the chance to say their goodbyes. It was obvious that Joseph was a favorite to both the children and the nannies...

The first "job" we had was to sit down and speak with the counselor about our children. The information that we were given about their parents and home was not new... we had been able to communicate well enough with the kids that we felt pretty comfortable in what we knew. We did learn about how they had done in school and we were given some of their tests and schoolwork to take home.

Our next job was to pass out gallon baggies full of treasures to some of the children who were waiting for their parents to come. We had photo albums for one family of children, stuffed animals for others, candy and toys for others. It was totally overwhelming and so much fun to have that time to give kisses to the kids and to tell them (while crying like crazy) that their "mommies were coming soon and they wanted me to tell you that they love you so much!" I seriously bawled each time I gave those kisses.

Our final job was to pass out the candy, toys and soccer balls that we had brought for the kids. Chaos does not even begin to describe the next 5 minutes and when we heard a VERY LOUD little boy yelling at the other kids we were completely and totally shocked to find that Jacob had gotten all the little kids to sit down on the wall and wait for their treats - the look that passed between Ben and I was a mixture of "Wow! That kid has some spunk" to "Holy Cow! He is going to keep us on our toes!"

When we finally left we were all exhausted. Totally and completely drained!

Our next stop was to the German Embassy to try to get our German Transit Visas. Despite the fact that we would never leave the Frankfurt Airport the kids each needed one and this was a new rule (as of the day we left Washington DC) that ended up costing us more than $500. The workers at the German Embassy were NOT helpful but they did give us a large pile of papers to fill out and told us to come back the next day.

Finally we returned to the hotel for swimming, pizza at the hotel and hanging out. It was really nice to have the afternoon just to get to know the kids and have time to relax. Jacob and Marti were so funny in the pool but Joseph decided not to swim so that he could read his English dictionary. On our way back upstairs to change for dinner Marti somehow got onto the elevator without us. I am not sure how it happened but the next thing I knew we were all standing looking at the closed doors and Marti was not with us. PANIC mode set it. I went upstairs with Joseph while Rebecca, Ben and Jacob waited downstairs. We went up to our floor... no Marti. We waited for a while then went back down. We did this for at least 5 minutes. Finally we got to a point where we could hear Marti calling for us but we couldn't find her. (She had pushed the emergency button and stopped her elevator) It was another 10 minutes before we were all back together. I was about to pass our from fear. Jacob and Joseph were about to pass out from laughter and Ben and Rebecca just kept shaking their heads. We still tease Marti about her first elevator ride alone but she doesn't really think it is funny.

After we regrouped we headed down for dinner. While at pizza, we ran into Kurt and Kayla who we had gotten to know through an Internet group for parents adopting from Ethiopa, and they had just gotten into Addis to pick up Marti's best friend Senite. It was so fun to meet them face to face and it is one of my most favorite memories of Ethiopia.

That night I ended up with a bad headache so Rebecca and Ben entertained the kids with her laptop. Marti entertained them with her "gymnastics" and the boys just had fun hanging out.

You Know It's Going to Be a LONG Day When...

  • You get up to give 2 different kids Tylenol 3 times in 1 night.
  • You move from your bed to a kids bed to sleep
  • and then you move back to your bed
  • and then you move to the couch
  • and then you move back to your bed
  • and at 6:11 one of the sick kids say their better and they want to go watch tv but first can you make me some breakfast?
  • You go to church with 4 of the 6 kids who are healthy and when you get to church 1 of the healthy kids say their sick too
  • But not too sick to play the Wii when they get home
  • And when you go to the store while some of the kids are at Sunday School your husband call to say that Addy wrote on the bathroom vanity with green permanent marker
  • And your computer is dead so you can't google how to fix it
  • And your house is listed and the sign is in the yard and all you can do is wonder when someone will call for a showing
  • And you have to go to school to set up for the Book Fair
  • and I ate ice cream for dessert even when I said I wouldn't...

I am really glad it's bedtime and the kids are all asleep. I love that this day is over! I am absolutely certain that tomorrow will be a better day!