I suppose I could drag out my posts and do a post per day, but it’s the Holidays and time is precious, right? Not to downgrade these awesome paintings or the darling recipients of course!
First up is Nikki – She’s my cousin’s daughter. A bright, beautiful 8th grader (how is that possible?) and she specifically requested a painting of her own after little brother Stephen received his last month. She loves purple and all things zebra striped! Ah a girl after my own heart – I enjoyed making this sparkly canvas that she can enjoy until of course zebra stripes are no longer her thing. I am so happy she liked the results:
Little Henry is a one of the most handsome little fellas I’ve laid my eyes on and he happens to belong to two parents who I know are smitten beyond belief – I can’t tell you how happy I am that Henry is finally here! What a joy! He lives in a trendy and hip home, nestled in beautiful Seattle, Washington. I wanted to send a little token of my love to this darling fellow for his nursery -
Last, but not least – I was blessed with two new nieces this early fall – one of which belongs to my brother and sister in law. Sweet baby Mary – oh I can not tell you how much I am in love with this little girl. They are lucky that I don’t live closer, I would be all over this child. It is no secret that I’m a baby girl – I LOVE them, if I could work with babies everyday, I’d be a-okay with that. They are just such a precious gift! Well Baby Mary had her dedication at church so Auntie Annie wanted to give her something special – I am particularly in love with this piece I did for her nursery. Auntie Annie LOVES you SO much!
It is clear that this adoption is nothing short of an emotional adventure. One that somedays I navigate well, and others I am a puddle of messy goo. It is never easy to adopt a new norm. It is never is easy to change. I know that whether you bring a baby home fresh from the hospital or if you bring a grown child home from a foreign country, the adjustments are difficult at best. I’ll be honest – it’s nearly been three weeks – I mean ONLY three weeks. There are days when it feels much, much longer – as if a day is a weeklong span in and of itself. It’s when I remember it’s ONLY been three weeks I can take a deep breath and realize these moments of struggle won’t last forever.
It’s difficult to realize that this practically grown girl is so mature in some ways and so immature in others. She’s willing to learn so it makes it easy in some ways, but she’s as stubborn as they come so it makes it very, very difficult in others. Fortunately for her she has some pretty stubborn siblings and parents, so I don’t view her stubbornness as a flaw, just something that needs to be focused for good, not evil.
I will admit that some of the struggles are my own, I’ve suffered from panic attacks and anxiety in the past and the stress of this transition has done a number on my coping skills. It’s very hard for me to ask for help or to talk about what’s bothering me to anyone other than Ryan and even sometimes I keep it from him for fear of beating a dead horse or becoming one of THOSE people who do nothing but complain. Nobody likes a complainer or a whiner. I think too, pride sometimes gets in the way because well, duh – you’re adopting a teenager what the HELL did you think it was going to be like. On top of all of this – this time of year is always so bittersweet. It’s mom’s birthday this weekend, Christmas and the anniversary of her death all wrapped up neatly with a bow in the next month and a half. It’s a difficult time whether I have a bitter teen or not acclimating to a new culture and family. I keep thinking at some point it won’t hurt so much to have mom gone, but while it doesn’t consume my everyday, these bigger days it’s all too present. One day perhaps it won’t be the angry white elephant in the corner.
While our Thanksgiving holiday was a nice one with family, it brought it’s own challenges to the mix. The weekend was difficult, Messie had a hard few days, which in turn meant we had a hard few days. It’s so hard to console a child who refuses to acknowledge her pain because she’s been raised in a culture that just buries the pain and moves on. I suppose with as much pain and suffering the Ethiopian people have faced, it has become the ultimate coping skill to survive. In time I hope that she will adopt our families way of facing it, head on and moving through it, to actually heal her wounds. Until then we will hold her and suffer along side as they creep up.
The language barrier seems to be our biggest hurdle and I am so grateful for our school and all they are doing for her. She is enjoying it so much, learning and trying new things. She’s making friends, she’s loving choir and math and I think loving just being a kid. Sometimes she will recoil back into herself like perhaps it’s too good to be true or in someway she’s betraying what she’s left because she’s actually happy with what she has. I’m not sure which, but when she’s happy, it makes me happy, more happy than I can describe.
Please come back – I’ve got a few paintings to share and some crafty bits I’ve been working on, I don’t always link up to Facebook – because frankly Facebook doesn’t like to share blog links and redirect traffic AWAY from their site. Oh, and THE BEST PART is that we’ve got an Elf on the Shelf! He’ll be dropping by this Friday and I CAN NOT wait to share his adventures!
If you’ve followed us at all you know that we enrolled Meseret at school last Friday and her first day was yesterday. I think it went well, Messie answers most answers with an “okay” which means either A. it was okay or B. I don’t know what you are asking me, but I know if I say “okay” you won’t ask anymore. She was smiling and she laid out her clothes for today, so I’m guessing all went well.
I want to be clear that academic success is our priority for Meseret. She’s a smart girl and wants to learn, that being said, our goal right now is to get her acclimated into the American culture, improve her communication skills orally and written and for her to make friends and root herself in our family. I continue to pray that each day she is excited to face the adventure ahead – she’s lived enough adversity for three lifetimes, now it is time for fun. When I dropped her off today two girls were waiting for her in the office, girls in a few of her classes. She was all grins and walked ahead of me to go to them and say hello. It could not make me happier to see her be, just a teenage girl, meeting up with her friends. As a mother it brings joy, as a human it puts me in awe of her resiliency.
I joke with some of my fellow adoptive momma’s about “Adoption being HARD.” Oh my that term is thrown around like a football during Super Bowl warm ups. It drives me crazy, I mean cray-cray crazy. Why? Because it states the obvious. First off, parenting is HARD. Every kid is different, each of my kids need to be disciplined, talked to and handled ever so slightly different that the others. Growing up is HARD. On one hand – here are all sorts of liberties and freedoms you have, on the other you live in a benevolent dictatorship of a household and you will do as I say. So why in the world would anyone think adoption is easy? When I see people write adoption is hard, my reply is always, “duh.” I’ve always been curious what they mean – why is it hard? Is your child challenging in a way that is different? Do they have so many demands? What is it about an adoptive child that makes it so much harder than normal parenting? I can tell you I am confident that there are children who fit all of those questions above, which would in fact make your daily life difficult. In my limited experience, what has been hard for us is to watch Meseret struggle and know there is little if anything we can do. I’ve been finding myself step back in my frustrated moments and I have to think, is this her age or is this her circumstance. So many times it is simply her age – learning how to work through being a teenage girl, regardless of her past history or her recently adoptive status. Sometimes that clarity is easier to find that others, but in the end it is worth seeking. I’ve made a conscious decision to not just blame “adoption is hard” when things are a challenge. One of our biggest difficulties right now is communication [insert a big duh from the crowd here]. A good day will include two or three sentences out of her mouth. Most of the time we get “okay” or my favorite “uh-huh” to questions like, “Do you want pancakes or pizza?” I know though that with time and exposure she’ll be communicating, which will eliminate some of those “hard” moments.
In looking at where we are 2 1/2 weeks in, vs. where we were the first few days and where we will be, I can tell you the future is bright. It will have hills and valleys and as she becomes more comfortable some of the past will creep in and she will share when she is ready. Right now though, our focus is just being a kid in our family, embracing the siblings she’s been thrown in with and the parents who will walk with her from this point forward. It won’t always be riding on a unicorn through the lollipop forest, but when it is, we’ll be sure to grab a sucker for good measure.
Warm wishes to all of you on this Thanksgiving holiday! May you embrace and enjoy all you’ve been blessed with – I know we will! Until Black Friday – then I’ll cut you over the gifts I’m grabbing.Kidding. Sort of.
We’ve been home a week. Together for two weeks. In one instance it feels like a lifetime and a blip, it’s complicated to say the least.
At some point, when I’ve a bit more time I will elaborate on our week in Ethiopia. It was a good one, one that allowed us an opportunity to learn more about Meseret’s culture. I wish that we would have done more at our court trip. We felt so guilty doing anything outside of spending the day at the Transition Home, that we ended up doing NOTHING the entire week we were there. I regret it, but in all honesty I also don’t because what made this week better was having Meseret with us to experience some of her culture.
Our flight to Ethiopia was long and hard. We were exhausted, 14 hours on a plane is only worse than 17 hours on a plane (which oddly enough bookended our trip). We arrived, dropped our things and went to the Transition Home (from here on our TH) to see Meseret and bring her back to the guest house with us. Our reunion was a good one – she was excited to see us, ran into our arms and she quickly changed and we were out of there.
At this point, I conked out. Mother of the Year I tell you. I felt sick, tired, nauseous, emotionally drained. I laid down and fell into a deep, deep sleep. Dad and Meseret hung out, walked around with a few other families that had been in town a few days earlier than us. Jon dropped out after this point and Ryan and I tagged in and out so I could spend a little time with Meseret on our own, while we took turns napping. It was single handedly the longest day of my life to this point, but we had a good afternoon and evening.
The rest of the week was giving Meseret space to spend time with friends she would no longer see on a regular basis, it gave us a chance to soak in her culture and spend time with families we’ve grown close to over this adoption journey.
Coming home was bitter sweet – it meant everything familiar to us and nothing familiar to Meseret. She wouldn’t speak, eat, drink or look at us for the first 48 hours home. I felt as though I was transporting a child into slavery, not into a loving home. It was heartbreaking, exhausting and truly made me question every choice we had made. I hate how weak I am, how easily I will spin downward, how dark thoughts can creep so easily to my mind. I would be lying if I said I didn’t doubt what we were doing, how I looked longingly at the families bringing babies and toddlers home. Jealous of their road ahead.
What kept me going was knowing I had two other little ones at home who did love me, who did want me and that I was going to have them in my arms soon.
The flight home was nothing short of HELL. Beyond the stress of a miserable teen sitting next to me, there were crying babies, 17 hours of miserable, smelly bathrooms, smelly people, confined space, gross food. I believe I’ve sat in Hades waiting room – I don’t plan to visit again soon.
Our homecoming and the first few days that followed were difficult at best. We expected grieving, but like most things in life, you can never fully prepare for how you are going to FEEL when you encounter what’s ahead. It is the powerless feeling to know that nothing you say or do is going to truly change the outcome of the situation. I can comfort, soothe, talk through the tears, but I can’t fly her back to Ethiopia to be with the people she has grown close to. I can’t help that her friends live in Texas, Montana, Florida. I can’t change that we’re white and she’s black and that we live in a predominately white suburb. All I can hope is that by sitting there, comforting, soothing that she knows that while all these things suck, she is in a home that understands it sucks. That this home is now her home and that we love her, especially through the sucky-ness.
Each day has been a little better than the next. Everyday there’s a little more peeking through. Smiles, asking for things, helpful hands, the desire to go to school, to learn. There has been so much progress in the time we’ve been together that I can’t help but be hopeful for our future. That isn’t to say that we don’t or won’t have hiccups or issues along the way, I still have moments of doubt as soon as things get uncomfortable, longing for our well oiled machine of three weeks ago. Through it all though, I can see the forest through the tress, we just have to walk through the trees first.
Say a little prayer for us tomorrow – Messie is starting her first day of 8th grade. She managed to get through the tour and a passing period without running for cover, she also handled 6 eighth grade girls coming over to home to introduce themselves (we had to go two by two, it was a tad overwhelming, but they could not be sweeter). I’m excited and anxious for her, but I know that the schedule, the academics, the support, the friends are what she needs to feel apart of this world she now lives in.
Stay tuned and Happy Thanksgiving!
My apologies. I should have been on here shouting from the rooftops that we cleared embassy. I’m going to have to go back to my calendar to tell you the exact date, but it was two Friday’s ago – 4:30 am to be exact. We finally cleared, which means we can finally travel. It stinks that we’ve had to wait two weeks to travel because on one hand I wanted to leave as soon as we can, I mean Meseret has waited long enough! On the other hand, getting flights out isn’t as easy as hoping on a flight to Chicago. The embassy doesn’t make it easy either. They only take appointments M- Th. They celebrate both American and Ethiopian holidays. They are closed all the damn time! So between flight schedules, and holidays AND we have Drew’s birthday on Tuesday, it made for a bit of a challenge to figure out our interview date and exact time of arrival.
So we depart from Indianapolis on Friday, November 8th in the wee hours of the morning. We arrive in Addis, at a more respectable time of 8 am on Saturday. We will then head over to the Transition Home to pick up Meseret and remove her from institutional life forever. I can not tell you how good that feels. We then spend close to a week in Ethiopia with Meseret. Sunday we will be traveling north to visit her grandmother and have her show us around her town and where she grew up. Tuesday is our Embassy interview. Thursday evening we depart for home.
I am thrilled with how excited our friends and family are about us bringing Meseret home and into our family. I will say that with that excitement. I’m scared and I’m anxious. This is huge people. It’s going to be a change. It’s going to change the dynamic of our family, of our relationships, of who we are. I read a blog post from a well known speaker and blogger, Jen Hatmaker. She’s great, she’s loud and mouthy and sarcastic. All the things a good Christian woman isn’t suppose to be, and yet it’s comforting because I’m loud and mouthy and sarcastic. If we don’t end up in heaven we can at least make fun of the devil together. She did a post on “after the airport” which is great, it is. But I’m not a fan of do’s and don’t's, I think it sometimes sends the wrong message so I’m going to create my own list of what I’m thinking. Mostly of do’s, I’m not concerned with don’t's. I’d rather have friends and family do all sorts of do’s and if they end up being a don’t, we’ll at least you tried.
The What I’m Thinking at the Moment List:
Please understand that we are excited to add Meseret to our family. I truly believe in my heart that we are connected and that she is meant to be in our family. Too many things had to fall into place for us to be where we are now. BUT, this doesn’t mean we aren’t nervous and anxious for this transition. This doesn’t mean that we won’t/aren’t mourning the loss of the family we have at the moment. I mean we have a good thing, we’re a well oiled machine. We’re adding to the family and that will cause a ruckus of all sorts. It’s different than an infant because she won’t sleep all day and I can’t pop her in a swing or carrier and let her be, and I sure can’t nurse her for comfort, that’s just one CPS call away. She’s a walking, talking, feeling, TEEN. She’s had all sorts of loss in her life, horrible loss that no person, let alone child should have to bare. She is giving up EVERYTHING she knows. So please understand that while we are so excited, anxious, about her coming into our family, we also embrace the change we will feel and the mourn along side of her of all she’s lost to gain us as a family. It is nothing short of tragic.
While Meseret is excited to join our family, let’s be honest the family she wants is her own. She wants her mom and her dad and her relatives, who look, smell, talk just like her. Not this noisy, perfumed, pizza eating white family from Indiana. But that’s who’s in front of her, so she’ll acclimate and deal and that might go really well or that might be one catastrophic, sad, unhappy event after another. I don’t want to be a self fulfilling prophesy, so we’ll take it day by day, I will treat her as my own. We will love her, no matter what and I have to keep in mind that sometimes that love might need to be forced and sometimes it will come easy. Only time will tell.
One thing I do agree with what I’ve seen is that Meseret shouldn’t feel “grateful” that we’ve adopted her, nor should she feel “lucky” that she’s been brought to America. Sure she’s going to have all sorts of opportunities ahead of her that she wouldn’t have had ordinarily, but I’m guessing that if she could have her mom and dad back and lose those opportunities, she’d do it in a heart beat. I know I’d give up all sorts of things to have my mom back and I’m 37. So while the story of her life is taking a different turn from some of her peers in Ethiopia, make no mistake she is not lucky, she need not be grateful, she just needs to be herself and embrace the situation before her and we will embrace her while she does it. So if there is one thing you don’t do it’s don’t ask her if she’s excited to be in America and finally have a family.
Here’s a sensitive one for me: I need help. I do. It’s not in my nature to ask much. I generally have it under control. I realize I will have little, if any, control in the coming weeks and months. I’ve had all sorts of wonderful people offer meals, offer help, offer play dates for my other kids. You know what – I would LOVE that and frankly I think I’m going to need it. But here’s the thing. I’m not going to set up my own meal train. I’m not going to bug people to take my kids because I need to focus my efforts on connecting with my newest daughter. I’m not going to ask you for a GNO. I know that I’m normally in the role of the coordinator. I’m the person who schedules such things, not one that asks for them. So if you want to do any of the above things for my family. Don’t ask my permission, just do it. I won’t turn you down. I remember when my mom was sick and dying and people would say to her and me – “what do you need?” or “please let me know what I can do” etc. You don’t take advantage of those things because really who wants to call a person and say – ” hey, I need a dinner, when can you make one for me?” I mean just sit on that one for a minute. I dare anyone to say they’d be comfortable making that call. No? It’s just me then, I’m not comfortable making that call.
Finally, we’re probably going to hole up for a bit. We may not, who knows. I’m letting Meseret take the lead on this. If she seems like she’s cool with going out and meeting people, we’ll go out. But realize while she might speak a little english, it’s going to be overwhelming for her to be bombarded with the language. In all our communication, that is her biggest fear/source of anxiety: speaking English. She’s smart as a whip, so I know she’s going to pick it up in record time. I mean hell, lock her in a room with Penny for a bit and she’s going to be fluent as heck! But please keep in mind that English is a tricky language and that she won’t necessary understand sarcasm or slang, so if you do engage and she looks at you like you have three heads, don’t take it personal. I’m pretty sure I may or may not have asked her if I could comb a donkey’s hair when I last attempted Amharic. In all seriousness if we do end up holing up, please don’t stop sending me emails, cards, messages and the like. Just because I’m at home concentrating on my daughter, doesn’t mean I don’t miss the outside world.
Lastly, I have no freaking clue what to expect. This could be easy as pie or harder than escaping Alcatraz. I don’t know. So my plan is to take it day by day, and be grateful for new chances when we wake in the morning. Keep us in your prayers, hold us in your heart. This is a monumental shift for Meseret and for our family and we are grateful for any support that we receive.
We arrive home on Friday, November 15th at 2:05 (but let’s be honest we’re flying in from Dulles so we’ll probably be late). We will be united finally as a family of 6. It’s a totally inconvenient part of the day and I don’t expect anyone to come all the way to the airport to greet us. It does make me a little sad that there will be no pomp and circumstance because I know we’ve received so much love and support along the way. So many people have followed our journey with interest and it has been nothing less than moving. We thank you and we ask that your support doesn’t stop when we touch down in the US of A, we’re going to need the love and the prayers as we grow into this new family of 6.
Thanks so much! I will try to post while we’re in Ethiopia to keep people updated on our goings on and what our first days are like. How we are all fairing and what Jon thinks of this whole crazy trip. It will be interesting for sure! Say a little prayer for our trip home ‘cuz it’s 17.5 hours direct to D.C. and this momma is NOT looking forward to be cooped up for that long. Praying Ambien, melatonin and movies will sustain life until we land.