Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Oh my sweet child Ben.

I am sitting here in tears, at Panera of all places.. having just reviewed your final 2 days in Addis.. I was simply planning to get the blog post up.

You Mamas.. you mamas out there whose hearts literally hurt when you see your child in pain... you're feelin' me now.

These days.. Ben has moments here and there of fear.. anxiety... and it comes out in swinging of fists and frustration that he is trying to communicate with me that I took something away.. or I'm too far away usually.

But what I am feeling in my soul at this moment.. is all of the smiles, the kisses both given and taken.. the hugs.. the sweet little voice that sings in his crib in the morning.. and the chubby little brown arms always reaching for me.. ALWAYS... always always always.

When he smiles, which is all the time, his little face just lights up and his eyes have this twinkle in them that you just MELT. It's immediate.

So when I look at where he was.. who he was back then.. my heart is restored that maybe all the long and sleepless nights and days that I have poured into the last 4 months are not in vain. His beautiful heart is being restored day by day by the God that formed him in his birth mothers womb. The God who will love him and keep him and has a plan for him I could not conceive.

I can, for the first time in months, feel in my heart that God loves what I did.. and what I do every minute of every day... and I can actually SEE that I was "Jesus with skin on" every step of the way. Ben's little soul is coming out to bless the world and heal one day at a time.. and God put me there to do that.

News flash Erin. You're not a failure. You don't suck. You do something worth it.

I am humbled. I am blessed beyond measure. I have made the world a safe place for a little person who very much loves his mama. Just ask him. Or watch him chase me down the hallway. All the day long :-)

Exhibit A: When he wouldn't look anyone in the eyes...

Exhibit B: (taken a few days ago)

Ben Coming Home from Ethiopia- Post 6 Embassy and Coming Home

May 31st, 2011- Embassy day!!

Sorry.. but the entries going forward weren’t written in real time. Turns out taking custody of a traumatized child doesn’t quite leave time for “blogging”….

(okay real time for this moment.. what is HILARIOUS.. is that I wrote the statement above like 4 MONTHS AGO.. when I was just sure that I would have this up like 2 days later. 4 MONTHS AGO.. pre-"traumatized Ben" me is just so cute.. and clueless)

Anyway, from what I recall:

We were able to get up in a timely fashion, and thanks to my Mom the labor coach, were able to get presentable enough to load back into the van with the other families and head for the American embassy. The Embassy was… well… very American. Shiny and concrete and power toilets and a big 8x10 photo spread of Obama and Ms. Clinton. We passed through security with the regular screening… actually wasn’t quite as crazy as Colombia’s. Once sent into the crowded room, we were given a number. They don’t go in order and you never know when it will be your turn. I believe I was 2nd or 3rd in our group? I was a little nervous about this because I was armed with a folder of plastic sleeved documents (including original Powers of Attorney from Ted saying I could adopt him a kid in Ethiopia).

My interrogation was more than Colombia but not bad. I’m kind of a stickler for adoption related timelines and details so little escapes me. The most involved explanation my worker wanted was why I had traveled for court in December 2010 and why I was just then getting there. Oh, Mr. Officer, I’d like to tell you a little story called “Erin’s Adoption Drama” the details of which I am happy to explain to YOU. Ha. It wasn’t really that bad. Ben was in the Ergo and was getting tired, so he made it decently easy. We were told that his adoption was considered legal, binding, and FINAL by the United States government and that Ben would be considered a citizen upon entering the country. Sounds good to me! They never asked for any of my fancy documents I was all excited to impress them with!

We traveled home, we did nap time, we tried to get Ben to eat a bit more and I believe had some success with a vegetable soup thing that the guest house made. Mom went out with one of the other father’s that afternoon for a little additional shopping. Tuesday night, Mom and I celebrated with some African wine that was quite fantastic.

Real time again for a moment.. look at his FACE.. he was so scared.. I'm so glad I don't see that face anymore. Breaks my HEART to realize it now looking back.

June 1, 2011

Most of this day was spent hanging out with the other babies in the common area. It was our last full day in Addis and one of the only days where we could just enjoy our children. We did!! I went for one final shopping trip with a couple of the other Dad’s for my last time in Addis. It finally became more clear that I wasn’t going to be back in a few months. This was sad. This was Ben’s last day in the country of his birth, at least until he was older. That was sad. Pretty much everything about what I was about to do to this child was making me sad.

June 2, 2011
Here we are... Visa packet in hand.. and the rest is history.

This is what a much loved immigration packet looks like. Don't you dare open the envelope. The world might explode if you do.

This is what an "lap infant" can look like on a 16 hour flight if you're not careful... He is bigger now too. Oops.

All cleaned up and teeth brushed and clothes changed.. in Chicago.

Now back to real life for a moment.. here.. in October... 4 months since this picture was taken. THAT moment.. coming off the plane into KCI with this sweet child of God.. who was born in my heart over the course of a year and a half.. who spent his first days of his life under the saddest of conditions.. who spent every other day of his first year of life.. a little over 365 days in 3 different orphanages.. this picture says it all. You are MINE. You are loved. You are safe.

THIS makes me weep.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Because I'm not the only Ethiopian mama out there passionate about the famine. Please take a look!

Hi friends,

This is Shonda from God Will Add.  Erin has kindly let me take over her blog to tell you about an awesome Baby Shower like none other.  A couple of my friends have teamed up and we're trying to raise funds for an organization called FOVC.  They help provide aid and hope to the immediate areas where our kiddos are from, an area that has been hit hard by this horrible famine.

Shameless plug:  Will you hop on over to my shower?  I promise I won't make you smell mystery diapers and  no I won't let you wrap toilet paper around my abdomen.

For $13 FOVC can feed one starving child for one month.  So far, this shower has raised $710.  If you're amazing at math like myself, you know that 54 kids who didn't have food today, will have food tomorrow and for the next month because of the generosity of a select few.  Wow!  Can we make it 100 kids?  Will you please help me spread the word? 


Of all the great charities out there, why have I chose to rally behind FOVC?  A few simple reasons:

1) There are a lot of other great charities that are working to fight this famine, and I (despite my cynicism of big organizations) have supported them.  But FOVC is the only NGO working directly in the areas my boys are from, and where their first families still live.  Even if I liked nothing else about FOVC, this one simple fact would make me want to support them.  Thankfully, there are lots of other things I like about them:

2) They are a very small grassroots organization and very conservative with their money.  All their workers are volunteers, and they do all their traveling on their own dime, which means all the money we give goes directly to feeding the kids and helping their community fight poverty with long-term goals in mind.

3) I have a close friend who has done aid work with them in Ethiopia (and is on her way back in a few weeks), knows many personal details about how they operate and spend their money.  She's a Dave Ramsey fiscal conservative like myself, and she fully endorses them.  They have an independent bookkeeper who verifies that over 96% of the funds go directly to Ethiopia.

4) Directly from the president of FOVC:  "We have an amazing team of volunteers! Our board members and officers (if I do say so myself) are doing outstanding work! We spend a lot of time and effort educating ourselves on best practices of economic development (it's what my husband does!) and strive to implement every program using best practices. This means we empower, not enable. Every effort we undertake is aimed at offering long-term sustainability, success...and HOPE

Have I convinced you they're great?

Click here and support them:

And then (this part is optional), click here and tell MB how excited you are about his arrival into our family.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ben Coming home from Ethiopia- Post 5- Awassa and preparing for baby

May 29th, 2011

After leaving Shinshicho village we drove a few more hours to a town called Awassa (which is spelled all sorts of ways) and were able to stay at an extremely nice hotel there, at least comparison to the rest of the country. The bathroom was fantastic. Mom and I enjoyed a little pasta dinner in their restaurant, and then went up to our room where I spent some time writing and just relaxing and taking in the event of the day.

We also had the experience of enjoying Oprah’s farewell episode via Al Jazeera-English channel on the TV. We slept great that night and it was much needed.

The next day we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast for a whopping 13 birr- which comes out to be about $1.00 USD and climbed back in the van for a 3 hour trip back to Addis.

We arrived back at the guest house at about 12p. That afternoon we were able to get to know more of the families that were arriving for embassy that did not have to go on the Durame trip as they had already been there. On Friday night we and the Robinsons enjoyed a traditional Ethiopian restaurant called Yode Abysinnia that Ted and I had also gone to back in December. We had a fantastic time getting to know them better. They are from Clever, Missouri which is very close to Springfield and only a few hours away from us. It was a wonderful time spending a few hours learning about their journey to becoming parents and their experience over the last year.

We got back to the guest house around 8p and it occurred to us that perhaps we should prepare for this baby?! Perhaps we should set out the stuff, repack the bag for the next morning, and figure out how to put on the Ergo (which is my new carrier for large little people). Although we went to bed in a timely fashion, I was awake at 3am and unable to get back to rest no matter what I did. I was just so anxious for all that was about to happen!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ben Coming home from Ethiopia- Post 4- Durame trip

The trip to Durame

So the plan was to be up at 4:45am and be packed and ready for breakfast at 5:30am and be in the van at 6am.

Whoever planned that plan has obviously not given my mother prescription sleep medication. I say this lovingly because she has already made fun of herself for it many times. One alarm was set but never turned on, and the other somehow wandered into the bathroom late at night and thus was not heard by the narc’d out women wearing earplugs in the bedroom.

I woke up at about 1:30am and couldn’t get back to sleep but made a mental deal with myself that I had to lay there until 4am before I was allowed to get up. This is classic Ethiopian sleep drama for me just like last time. The deal I made with myself must have worked because I think I finally relaxed back to sleep again around 4am. I woke up at random at 5:40am and realized no alarms had gone off. Mom and I sprinted and made it downstairs around 6am and our driver was gracious enough to let us eat quick and take our malaria meds.

We were on the road and making our way out of town not long after 6am. We traveled with Muluneh who is one of the Holt staff here and one of the Holt drivers. Muluneh also brought some of his family. The pictures and video we attempted to take of the countryside just doesn’t do it justice. It’s beautiful, but also breaks your heart at the same time. We saw women carrying jugs and children herding donkeys for hours just to get decent water to take back to the huts along the road. We saw farmers working crops by hand with what most would call “primitive” tools, however resourceful. We shared the road with big trucks and wagons pulled by donkeys. We have a fair amount of video, but even that doesn’t really describe being there. The further we drove, the more we moved into the mountains of the lowlands which was much more lush and green. Navigating the mountain roads was a bit tricky.

The Shinshicho clinic that was built by Holt and provides basic health care to the area.

Durame is a region and Shinshicho is a village within the region and where Ben was born. Although our Holt worker speaks English, it is still limited once in awhile so while I was being taken to where he was found I didn’t really grasp what was going on. Usually families travel to Durame to meet with the birth parents which I knew would not be the situation for our case. I was just hoping to take some pictures of something. As we drove through Shinshicho, we bounced through muddy streets after the rain that had come through and people smiled and waived to us. We pulled up outside a school which I was told was a private secondary school. 4 men in suits came out to shake my hand but I didn’t really know why. We pulled up to pick up the social worker for the town, an older lady in African dress who was probably about 5 ft tall. We walked with her and a crowd of children forming down a dirt road. The social worker knocked on a residential home of a lady that was one of the witnesses for Ben’s case. At that point it clicked and I put it together… near the school.. person who knows something. I was about to see where Ben started his journey to me.

Muluneh and some of his paparazzi helpers

Shinshicho village social worker and two of the women who testified for his case

And for comic relief for such a heavy heavy topic, here is some sweet flushing of a really nasty toilet!

I will leave out the rest of the details for the sake of privacy, but it was such a humbling experience. I remember looking at Lucas’ little face as he was being handed to me at FANA in 2008 and just being floored by God’s grace to me. Yesterday I stared at this spot in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere Ethiopia where a tiny baby boy started his journey to ME.

I must note, that God does not love me or Ben or any child more or less than he loves the children that are left to wander the streets of Ethiopia or any other country. It is just a mystery that we have to let go and let faith take over. I don’t like it, and I don’t blame you if you don’t either. However, on this day, I need to give thanks for this one little boy that God allowed to be spared of that life. It just boggles my mind how something was happening 8,000 miles away from me in May of 2010 and that the story is coming to a close this week as Ben officially joins our family not just legally but physically.

I have been blessed with many “out of the box” experiences in my life, the majority of which I never planned. Each time, I get the sense that God is trying to teach me that I should quit limiting the options of his plans. I have two children from 2 continents for goodness sake… 2 continents I didn’t even visit until the last 8 years or so of my life. It inspires and yet weirds me out what He might have planned for my family in the future. There are brief moments, moments that have lessened with the passage of time, where I still don’t jump up and down with excitement over all aspects of being an adoptive parent- like baby showers for pregnant women etc. There are some pieces of “normal” woman life that just won’t be my story… but I suppose I have learned that perhaps the “normal” motherly experience must not be my road. Perhaps what I have learned in the past 1.5 years of this journey that I should have known all along is that God is obviously still good. He keeps His promises even if they don’t look like we think they will… and here I sit less than 24 hours from taking custody of a little boy who started his path to me 367 days ago… and God is still GOOD.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ben Coming home from Ethiopia- Post 3

Here we are, safe and sound and finally in Washington on May 26th, 2011. After the previous days events, just being where the weather was happy and the flights were on time was the best news in the world.

We could look worse after 3 hours of sleep.. here we are leaving the hotel in Washington..


To the casual observer, one would say "Who cares that that sign says that the flight to Addis Ababa is on time?" However, to a woman who spent the majority of the previous day with real fear that our travel plans would go to crap, this was exciting stuff.

The big plane and first day in Addis

We did a much better job of arranging our flight schedule this time rather than last time. After having to make the connection in Frankfurt, Germany between 2 long flights, we chose to go on one mother long flight so that we couldn’t get in late and get stuck missing a flight someplace in Europe.

This turned out to be a good call as we and our luggage made it on time to Addis, once we cleared the tornados of Kansas City of course.

The bad news? The flight was long. Of course it was. It was 13 hours. The good news? Most of it was during regular day light time when our bodies were used to being awake. Other than having minimal sleep in Washington due to our late arrival from Kansas city, we were otherwise happy ladies watching movies and reading books. Boring at times, but could have been MUCH worse. About 7 hours in, at about 7pm body clock time, we decided we should drug ourselves and try to sleep, because we were planning to machine our way through all of Friday in Addis without napping so we could reset our body clocks. This master plan sort of worked? Turns out mom and I both suck at sleeping sitting up. We both slept maybe 1.5 hours or so? By 11pm body clock time, the sun was coming up over Africa and the coffee and breakfast were being served. By 12:30am body clock time, we were beginning our exciting decent into Addis and the day was starting over again, as it was 8:00am Friday morning in Addis.

Luckily we were so doped up on 1.5 years of pent up adrenaline that nobody cared. We climbed down the steps to the ground and were taken by bus to the airport. We waited in line quite awhile for Mom’s visa but had no problem getting it. I was able to exchange our “drug dealer” esq about of money easily while she was in line. We passed customs with flying colors and spotted our luggage moving by rather quickly. We then entered the “line”- and by “line” I mean this big blob of people all pointing different directions which the airport ladies assured us was “the line” but really looked much more like random spaghetti from above… so we were like.. whateve we’ll be flexible. Eventually our luggage got scanned and we walked out into the sea of people where our Holt driver was waiting with sign in hand. All loaded in the van, we bounced through Addis for a few minutes, past the fantastic Italian restaurant we enjoyed last time, took a right again at the sign for the Cuban embassy (ironic) and drove a few blocks to the door of the Jemimah Guest house.

After exchanging the usual pleasantries, we were sent up to room 34 which neighbors the room Ted and I had used when here in December. It’s actually bigger with more windows. We even have a small patio out the side where you can see the mountains, the poverty, and watch some cows should you choose to.

By this time it was about lunch. We opted to stay at the guest house and enjoyed some traditional Ethiopian food. I haven’t done much Ethiopian food lately because I was a wee bit depressed, so now we can be excited about it again! There were 2 other Holt families around for court, so we decided to tag along with them to visit AHOPE, the Leprosy hospital, and also the coffee place.

For those of you that have read “There Is No Me Without You” by Melissa Green (and if you are close to my family, I very much wish you would because the culture, history, and general info about how adoption started in Ethiopia is VERY personal to me….) you would recall that AHOPE was referenced often. This is where the HIV positive babes and children go when there is no one else. This is the forgotten OF the forgotten. It doesn’t get any lower on the planet earth than being a child with HIV in one of the poorest countries in Africa. We were so blessed to be given a visit; to sit and do puzzles. The little gal that chose me as her partner was rather good at it too. HIV is still very taboo here as the education of how it is transmitted is not known by all people… therefore if you have the forbidden disease you are an outcast. Of course, the baby room did me in. There was a little baby there that had come in HIV+ and likely born from an HIV+ mother and was on deaths door. After a few months there he was improving and was getting the much needed triple cocktail of HIV drugs needed for children. Still, it is heart breaking. These are the kinds of things that take your view of the world and rip it in half… thus the starving HIV children of Africa are the babies holding your pant leg. I dare you to not change.

After a little sniveling and mental notes for advocacy we reluctantly climbed back into the van bound for the Leprosy hospital. I had been there on our last trip so this was not as difficult this time. We walked by the ladies visiting who were missing different parts of their original healthy bodies and proceeded to the gift shop to purchase some of the items made by the patients. After we dumped some birr for more Ethiopian wares, we drove again to one of the main coffee shops. Mom and I opted to wait this one out while the court folks picked up some last minute stuff.

Our windows were soon full of women with babies asking for food or birr. Its just something you don’t forget.

Once we returned, we went to dinner at Avanti with one of the couples who had passed court and was flying out that night and also with our friends the Robinsons who will be joining us on Tuesday for embassy and also picking up their baby boy. Avanti is SO fancy and so wonderful.. it’s kind of a must see when you are at the guest house. I highly recommend the gnocchi and their wine selection is fantastic.

After being fully stuffed with fantastic pasta of awesomeness, we returned back to the guest house to dope ourselves up in attempt to sleep. This was easy, as we had pretty much been awake for 2 days. I took 1 dramamine and was mouth open drooling before Mom came back from her shower. That’s about all I remember 

Ben Coming home from Ethiopia- Post 2

Leaving Kansas City- harder than you would think!!

First off, we left on May 25th, Ben’s first Birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEN!!

Well, women don’t forget labor. I didn’t go through labor with Ben, but his first Birthday tested my sanity. It started out well though…

So I was awake early. I had the weather channel on around 6am and could see there was weather moving through causing delays. I hoped that it would be moved through later as I did not need to be in Chicago until about 3p that afternoon. As we packed and organized and rapped things up, I continued to check my flight status and all was still showing on time.


At 10:30am I got an email that my flight had been cancelled. I immediately got on the phone with Erle (our trusted travel agent for most Holt traveling families and who I used before). Erle worked his Erle magic and got me on an alternate route that would take me through Memphis later in the afternoon and get me to Washington late that night.

BUT… then tornado Armageddon just HAD to start in Kansas City. My friend Paula arrived early to take us to the airport, but we spent the next 2 hours sitting there a little stunned as a tornado touched down south of downtown Kansas City and slowly worked its way north towards the children’s hospital where my husband was running the ER… so if you can picture it.. in that moment I’m sitting there going “My husband is in danger and I can’t get to my son”. After the tornadoes had moved a bit and we were sick of listening to the tornado alarms we got in the car anyway to head for the airport.

Look how brave we look.

Once at the airport, I was instructed to go to the United ticket counter and have them simply transfer my tickets that were already booked with Delta which was the only option available at the time. After waiting in like, United said “Okay you’re all set” so we re-loaded the car and drove to the other terminal. We waited in line again.. and then stood there for 20 minutes while Delta tried to find me. Delta says I don’t exist. I get back on the phone with Erle who says that my stuff wasn’t transferred properly. At this point, time is ticking away due to the tornadoes and we had already sent away our ride.

We are back to waiting for the transit bus for all of our luggage to ride BACK to United to stand in the line… this is where things started to unravel. The line was going nowhere and I was running out to catch back up flight. While waiting for United, I got on the phone with United. United on the phone said (very nicely by the way so they get half a point for that) I paraphrase “Very sorry… blah blah blah.. in this situation.. blah blah blah.. it needs to be done differently… blah blah blah.. when you get to the front of the line tell them to simply print your ticket. I can see it in my system. You can use that to check luggage back at Delta.” (which I have to catch a bus back to get to). It was at this time when half of the people processing “stepped away” from the United line and the first class lady wouldn’t take anybody that wasn’t first class. That left 1 GUY working, who had been working with the same family for over half an hour and there were still people in front of us. When first class lady continued to take first class, we and others in front of us were like “can’t you just take a couple to move the line?” and at that point we got yelled at very rudely by this woman. I was going to miss my 2nd flight plan and time was running out to get me to Washington. At that point, I did… I finally broke down and cried. For what it’s worth, Mom was pretty impressed I made it that long given the reason we were traveling. It was at this point that I got BACK on the phone with my travel agency and talked to one of Erle’s peers to see if there were any other options. ANY. OPTIONS. Not much I wouldn’t do at this point and cost is not an issue. They were able to find me a late direct flight from KC to Dulles that was on United which would make them much more likely to work with me with space on it.

It was at that point that the red sea of United airlines customer service finally parted and we made it up to the gate. I presented my case, and the guy had me on the direct flight about 2 minutes later (as I was already missing my 2nd flight at that point anyway). We gladly handed him luggage.

There were two glasses of wine promptly downed at that point and I ain’t ashamed of it.

The first flight was supposed to leave close to 6pm. We got checked in.. we waited. Delayed an hour. Okay… we can work with that. I just need to get to Washington by 10:30am the next day so “delay” is fine. Then it became a 2 hour delay… whateves… then it became a 3 hour delay… whatever. Just DON’T CANCEL THE FLIGHT. Finally, after attempting to get out of KC for 12 hours, we finally caught our break at 10pm at night and were on the plane. The rest was travel in the way it was supposed to be. Luggage obtained, shuttle taken to Best Western where we napped for 3 hours and got back up to head back to the airport 

Ben Coming home from Ethiopia- Post 1

Written May 25, 2011

After our embassy approval to travel that we received on May 9th, things got a little frazzled at our house. Although I had spent a lot of time preparing for Ben after we had thought we had passed court in December, I had to put in on the shelf for a long time for sanity reasons. Looking at and thinking about things just made the uncertainty more difficult to handle. So in the flurry of things, I tried to tie up our life as a family of 3. This involved some silly little projects (such as updating all photo albums to be current up to the day) and getting Lucas’ 3 year old pictures taken. We also needed to buy some specifics for Ben for his development stage and prepare other supplies for the trip itself. I went through his clothes for the 3rd time to get ready for a big baby as well.

On the Monday before travel, Lucas was packed into the car early in the morning to make his accent to Iowa to be dropped off with my Dad and step Mom. He was excited to spend time with his Grandpa so this helped with the transition and no crying on his part. There was of course, a few misty-eyed moments on my part because it means my “baby” that I had waited for and obsessed about for so long is now my big boy and a new little baby is coming. Lucas talks about baby Ben, but we don’t think he has a concept for just what this means in his life. For the first time, he will have to share Mom’s attention.

Once Lucas left with my Dad, I had some Indian food with my best friend from high school in Des Moines and headed to Perry to spend the evening preparing Mom’s packing stuff and chatting with Randy. I had been awake so long the night before that I was able to get some good rest which was much needed. Mom and I left early in the morning with my Mazda 5 stuffed with pushy toys, a double stroller we had been storing there, and my Mom bound for Africa.

I’m very glad that I gave myself an extra prep day because I ended up using every piece of it. We had a packing party and uploaded Ben’s video of pictures to the internet. We ate. We spent Monday at Walmart on all the last minute things. We watched the Biggest Loser finale which is obviously super important…. And there was champagne. Ted and I were both awake at 4:30am just due to nerves and he kissed me goodbye on his way out the door to the hospital.

It was officially Mom and me and an empty house that we were ready to leave!

I didn't take enough pictures of the packing, but I did need to brag just a little bit about my level of organization :-)

Tying up the loose ends

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We're Getting a Groove....

So I haven't written in almost exactly a month! On one hand that actually doesn't seem as long as it feels like as so many changes have happened, most of them good and progress.

So, YES, there will be posts on our time in Ethiopia. I even went back and re-read the journal that I typed as we were on the journey. I'm SO glad I did that! I highly recommend it for any other traveling families. Bring the laptop and use a word document and sit in your hotel and just TYPE. You can cut and paste it into your blog with the pictures later. Truthfully, had I not done that, I don't think I would have 10% of the record that I do of Ben's first few days with me. Everything up until the plane ride is cataloged and well.. you know its been what its been since.

So. How are we doing? What has changed since those first 2 weeks home where we all stood on the ledge of sanity every given hour?? I'll try to sum up the feelings.

Here are the challenges. Don't worry, there are many more positives happening now! This will NOT be that depressing!

1. Lucas has started having nightmares every 2-3 hours every night... usually just waking up screaming. Luckily, it doesn't take long to calm him, but it does involve me jumping up from bed pretty much every night and running through the house before he wakes up the neighborhood. Thus, my quantity of sleep is not that bad, but I really never sleep more than 2 hours at a time and it manifests itself in other areas
2. Ben is still clingy. Of course, given his trauma that is okay!!! It's just, well, exhausting when I'm home alone. There is still no sitting and playing with his brother in the living room while I put away dishes or something. There is no going potty for me when he is awake. If I want to accomplish something quickly, I just have to know that he will scream in panic and that is just that.
3. Lucas is 3. He is strong willed. He is vocal. He is fast. He is a normal 3 year old. I think most of his current behavior issues are normal, with a little heat turned up by the baby brother changes. Many of the most normal activities we have done 100's of times in his life can be an epic battle now. Such as wearing shoes, leaving the house, or having lunch. These days, when he misbehaves and disrespects or acts out physically he starts losing treasures and we have seen some success in that department, although it gets really old fighting the battles ALL. THE. TIME.
4. Ben is big. He is eating like a tank. He weights 1lb less than Lucas. He does not hold on, and when he is in upset baby mode he throws his head back and starts swinging. This is normal, but that is 30lbs of brunt force for me to control at any given second and sometimes it hurts.

See you survived let's hear some awesome things!
1. Ben SMILES. Big, giggly, "I JUST LOVE YOU!!!" smiles. The boys crack each other up. They are conspiring against me already.
2. Ben eats cheerios. To the casual observer you think "Of course he does. Why do we care?" Because I can give him a handful in his high chair and turn around and WALK AWAY to unload the dishwasher.. or pick up something, or make him some oatmeal without automatic screaming.
3. All Ben's stuff from the International adoption clinic came back clean. The guy still scratches at his skin all the time which we're working on, but we are intestinal and skin bug free along with other big whammys in his blood work.
4. Pretty much 90% of the time we get some precious nap overlap so I can breathe and eat. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord. Happy Dance. It's happening right now!!!
5. We were blessed by the ladies of Deerbrook Covenant Church with a shower that gave me a new stroller that was much needed so I don't always have to carry a child on my back in the heat. We also got a wagon (hooray!) and clothing, toys, wipes, and other necessities. I feel very loved.
6. Did you see our gorgeous new family pictures and Ben's 1 year photos? If not, I'll have them up here soon
7. As noted above, some small family projects are slowly getting done. I have all the photos from the trip delivered, family pictures done and being dispensed, health issues addressed, Ben's baby pictures taken and being dispensed, and a list of other things I feel I can slowly start working on.
8. Ben's Cert of Citizenship came last week! It went to our old address rather than the updated with with USCIS which is unforunate, but we finally got it through the forwarded postal system. Social security card here we come!
9. I have found small and simple ways to relax quickly when necessary and I feel like I am taking care of myself so that we can go on without getting so burned out that I question my own sanity, health, and overall existence. Cuts back on the crying and increases the love and patience I want to have for my children. Yeah, bubble baths, I'm talking about you and your amazingness.. with a little shout out to date nights... and the most glory to the sustainer of mother's who love our God. If it weren't for some quiet times of prayer and devotion I would have gone off the deep end in one way or another. Sometimes I just have to remember that He values me and my work for these little people.

Onward and upward. Psych it up. Ponytail up. For rest time will soon be over and there is more day ahead full of wonderful and exhausting things that are all mercies and gifts from God if you (and by "you" I am really preaching to ME) choose to see them that way.

In the words of Lucas as he repeats what I say all the time "Alwhite Sibwey boyz, whets do this!!!"

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A little example...

I totally borrowed this from my friend Lori Stark's blog that she used last winter while explaining to her family and friends about bringing home her 4 year old son Markos from Ethiopia. It touched me at the time, and now that I'm watching Ben live it I wanted to share it with you as well.... This is a little of what Ben's life has been like.. and he has no idea that it WON'T happen again.

Immense Loss; Walk a Mile in Baby’s Booties

Imagine for a moment…

You have met the person you've dreamed about all your life. He has every quality that you desire in a spouse. You plan for the wedding, enjoying every free moment with your fiancée. You love his touch, his smell, the way he looks into your eyes. For the first time in your life, you understand what is meant by "soul mate," for this person understands you in a way that no one else does. Your heart beats in rhythm with his. Your emotions are intimately tied to his every joy, his every sorrow.

The wedding comes. It is a happy celebration, but the best part is that you are finally the wife of this wonderful man. You fall asleep that night, exhausted from the day's events, but relaxed and joyful in the knowledge that you are next to the person who loves you more than anyone in the world…the person who will be with you for the rest of your life.

The next morning you wake up, nestled in your partner's arms. You open your eyes and immediately look for his face.

But IT'S NOT HIM! You are in the arms of another man. You recoil in horror. Who is this man? Where is your beloved?

You ask questions of the new man, but it quickly becomes apparent that he doesn't understand you. You search every room in the house, calling and calling for your husband. The new guy follows you around, trying to hug you, pat you on the back,...even trying to stroke your arm, acting like everything is okay.

But you know that nothing is okay. Your beloved is gone. Where is he? Will he return? When? What has happened to him?

Weeks pass. You cry and cry over the loss of your beloved. Sometimes you ache silently, in shock over what has happened. The new guy tries to comfort you. You appreciate his attempts, but he doesn't speak your language-either verbally or emotionally. He doesn't seem to realize the terrible thing that has happened...that your sweetheart is gone.

You find it difficult to sleep. The new guy tries to comfort you at bedtime with soft words and gentle touches, but you avoid him, preferring to sleep alone, away from him and any intimate words or contact.

Months later, you still ache for your beloved, but gradually you are learning to trust this new guy. He's finally learned that you like your coffee black, not doctored up with cream and sugar. Although you still don't understand his bedtime songs, you like the lilt of his voice and take some comfort in it.

More time passes. One morning, you wake up to find a full suitcase sitting next to the front door. You try to ask him about it, but he just takes you by the hand and leads you to the car. You drive and drive and drive. Nothing is familiar. Where are you? Where is he taking you?

You pull up to a large building. He leads you to an elevator and up to a room filled with people. Many are crying. Some are ecstatic with joy. You are confused. And worried.

The man leads you over to the corner. Another man opens his arms and sweeps you up in an embrace. He rubs your back and kisses your cheeks, obviously thrilled to see you.

You are anything but thrilled to see him. Who in the world is he? Where is your beloved? You reach for the man who brought you, but he just smiles (although he seems to be tearing up, which concerns you), pats you on the back, and puts your hand in the hands of the new guy. The new guy picks up your suitcase and leads you to the door. The familiar face starts openly crying, waving and waving as the elevator doors close on you and the new guy.

The new guy drives you to an airport and you follow him, not knowing what else to do. Sometimes you cry, but then the new guy tries to make you smile, so you grin back, wanting to "get along." You board a plane. The flight is long. You sleep a lot, wanting to mentally escape from the situation.

Hours later, the plane touches down. The new guy is very excited and leads you into the airport where dozens of people are there to greet you. Light bulbs flash as your photo is taken again and again. The new guy takes you to another guy who hugs you. Who is this one? You smile at him. Then you are taken to another man who pats your back and kisses your cheek. Then yet another fellow gives you a big hug and messes your hair.

Finally, someone (which guy is this?) pulls you into his arms with the biggest hug you've ever had. He kisses you all over your cheeks and croons to you in some language you've never heard before.

He leads you to a car and drives you to another location. Everything here looks different. The climate is not what you're used to. The smells are strange. Nothing tastes familiar, except for the black coffee. You wonder if someone told him that you like your coffee black.

You find it nearly impossible to sleep. Sometimes you lie in bed for hours, staring into the blackness, furious with your husband for leaving you, yet aching from the loss. The new guy checks on you. He seems concerned and tries to comfort you with soft words and a mug of warm milk. You turn away, pretending to go to sleep.

People come to the house. You can feel the anxiety start to bubble over as you look into the faces of all the new people. You tightly grasp the new guy's hand. He pulls you closer. People smile and nudge one other, marveling at how quickly you've fallen in love. Strangers reach for you, wanting to be a part of the happiness.

Each time a man hugs you, you wonder if he will be the one to take you away. Just in case, you keep your suitcase packed and ready. Although the man at this house is nice and you're hanging on for dear life, you've learned from experience that men come and go, so you just wait in expectation for the next one to come along.

Each morning, the new guy hands you a cup of coffee and looks at you expectantly. A couple of times the pain and anger for your husband is so great that you lash out, sending hot coffee across the room, causing the new guy to yelp in pain. He just looks at you, bewildered. But most of the time you calmly take the cup. You give him a smile. And wait. And wait. And wait.

--Written by Cynthia Hockman-Chupp, analogy courtesy of Dr. Kali Miller

The blog post I haven't written....

So... last you knew we cleared embassy. Since then the flurry of preparation for Ben's arrival happened, the epic journey to get Ben happened, and the having of Ben here at home has been happened. It's been happening now for over 2 weeks :-)

Yes, all the happenings of the trip are safely typed, at least most of them, in a word document I updated while we were there. Lots of pictures have happened... lots of Facebook status updates have happened.. I will get all that put up on here moving forward in life. I think.

Even knowing where to begin is hard. Do we talk about all the great stuff? Do I unload the extreme challenges? Do I even attempt to explain the fact that I am SITTING here able to accomplish ANYTHING at all is a small miracle? The fact that I even want to spend this blissful moment doing THIS and anything more than laying in the floor stretching my back is a miracle.

So, I have learned from my sweet saintly adoptive girlfriends and from my own experience that knowing to whom and how much you should share is tricky. People are full of advice... and I'm REALLY tired so being gracious 100% of the time is more challenging than I would like to admit. Unless you have adopted a terrified little person....... well lets just say I understand that advice is well meaning, but a lecture on why my 3 year old should be potty trained right now isn't timely? Or why I should just remember what he has been through... as if I didn't have a clue :-)

I will trust that anybody reading this blog must love me, and must love my family. I'm not really a big enough deal to attract total strangers.

So we'll out with the biggest point first: you think you can prepare, but you CAN'T. You just can't prepare for what trauma and loss is going to look like to a little person who has spent 95% of their lifespan away from you. And this isn't just some little person. This is a little person that I LOVE and prayed for and worried about daily for a long time. And I'M the one who took him away from his life. Although growing up in Care Center #2 in Ethiopia is his only alternative life, it still doesn't mean I don't feel like a giant jerk for ripping him away from where he seemed to be happy. Or at least understood.

I don't have biological children, but I DO have another adoptive child who I was able to parent at Ben's current age of 12 months... BUT the difference being that Lucas had been home long enough to understand English and to know the routine and trust that the routine and consistency and Mommy were always going to be there. I didn't have to toddler train and console simultaneously. Furthermore, even if I had had to do that, Lucas was my one and only. If he needed to be held? Fine. If he needed to be up at random times? Sure. I could sleep when he slept. But THIS... this is hard because I need to maintain order and consistency for a child who is thoroughly Sibley-fied and is still learning about life at the age of 3, but I need to be 100% available at all moments to console a terrified little person. A BIG terrified little person. A big terrified person can really kill your back, break some eardrums, give you a bloody nose, give themselves a bloody nose,and climb you with their fingernails because they are strong enough to do it. The 3 year old wonders why the terrified little person isn't getting a time out, because that is only fair.

Yes, I just listed some sad things... but what I want you to understand is that I COMPLETELY understand why he is reacting this way. Why shouldn't he? He has lost everything. EVERYTHING. Everyone and every thing that was ever familiar or made sense... and the thing that makes the most sense to him in his new environment is ME and he trusts me most to tell me so. The first few days in Ethiopia and when we first got home he was in shock. Smiles happened now and then... but he mostly shut his eyes to block out the overwhelming shock of it all. Now that we have been home two weeks... it makes sense that he has to grieve that just maybe he isn't going "home" today. Maybe his nanny who knows him much better than me isn't going to show up today and take him back to where the world makes sense.

Probably the most surprising reality that would surprise anyone who has seem him publically is that being home is the scary place. Home is where there is only one person to meet his needs with no back up plan. Home is where he could possibly be alone, or 5 feet away from that one person for 2 seconds thus igniting extreme panic. At least in public, his favorite person could walk away some some lady somewhere would surely come meet his needs... but in this house he looks around and it seems like he is WAY too close to being alone for his liking. He has never been in a scenario with less than 8 kids or so sleeping in a room and less than a few nannies at any given time for his entire life.

At church, or a family party, or when family is visiting, he will get down on the floor and play after assessing the situation. He would still very much rather be with Mom, but he will take this compromise... but at home? Not even being on the floor holding my pant leg is good enough. What if he lets go and I walk away and he is alone? When he has let me go for a moment and I keep talking as I move about you see this scream of panic and frantic walking/power crawl to get to where I am as soon as possible.

Understandable? Yes. Exhausting? More than you would think.

The Ergo carrier has saved me. It still hurts after awhile, but it puts most of the wait on my hips. I can put him on my back and still have the use of my arms and can do some housework and it works great at the store. It helps me "do" some life.. but it also means hauling 30lbs at all times which is more than 25% of my actual self.

We have made only slight peace with the high chair.. cause food happens there.. just don't think of moving more than 12 inches away from him while he is in it.

We hate the car seat. We grab hair and clothing and anything to keep from being put IN the car seat. Once driving it becomes almost okay, because he can at least see me and I can't get out of it while its moving. Once parked, I might be able to get out, thus it is not acceptable.

Strollers= dislike

I have lost 5lbs and the Ergo pushes on my pants anyway. We have had 2 incidents of de-pantsing at almost very bad times.

So how was I able to sit here and type? After a few days of adjusting to Lucas' new freakishly early wake up time and staying up later pattern and trying unsuccessfully to let Ben sleep when he seems tired... we finally tried keeping Ben up a little later than we should until 11am, feeding him and laying him down, and then waiting a bit to put Lucas down thus giving some blissful overlap. Once Ben gives up the fight to keep me in the room and finally rests he is out cold which is SOOOOOO helpful. Lucas knows the nap time expectations and welcomes lunch time alone with Mommy.

The first 2 days this magical plan worked were life changing. I could eat :-) I could speak to my husband if he were here. We could hold hands and assure each other that this was all going to be okay. Just having a few moments to BREATHE.. even if for a short time... to just have a cup of tea and stand in the kitchen to gear up for whatever will come my way for the rest of the day is amazing. There are moments when I have to call on God and repeat James 1:27 back to him... regarding being blessed for caring for orphans in their distress.. and how hard I'm trying to do that. I don't think of my children as "orphans" because they no longer are, however I do think that my sons have a special place in God's heart and sometimes I need reassurance and God's strength to do my job.

There is so much more to say, and will be said, but in this moment, the fact that I was able to eat a little food, and clean the bathroom, and redo my ponytail before attempting this means that I CAN do life, even only little pieces at a time. It's not that there is two of them, its that one of them has sssooooo much to grieve, and it's so hard to watch.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mother's Day 2011

I enjoyed my first Mother's Day at home this year! Because my step Dad Randy was down in Honduras this year, I invited my Mom to come down so she could relax with us!

We had a great mother daughter date night at the Melting Pot down at the plaza

The next day we enjoyed time at church and I was able cook up a meal in the new kitchen and use our new kitchen table!

Next year, I get to celebrate with BOTH my kids, and I'm pretty excited about that.