Monday, February 28, 2011

And Here We Are (con't)....

Like I said, the kids did great in church but I just couldn't shake my nervousness.  I was praying and asking God to help me shake it off, but the pit just continued to sit really hard in my stomach.

After church, we headed to Genghis Grill for lunch.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was so crowded and the line was really long and the kids were getting very tired.  Ended up with some fussy kids. Nothing terrible at all, but just the reality that what you have been told a zillion times about adoption is are kids and they don't look at you and say, "Oh, thank you so much for saving me from the orphanage".  Nope, they look at you and say, "I am hungry and you need to feed me now or I'm going to be a real pill bug at this lunch table".  (;  

I couldn't really eat too much lunch and I was on the verge of tears the entire day (and for the next two days).   My family and my sweet friend, Lana, were with us and I was just trying to keep it together so as not to fall apart at the lunch table.  I didn't want anyone to think that I was regretting our decision, because I wasn't, I was just completely overwhelmed, which surprised and frustrated me.  I wanted to be able to snap out of it, and I just kept continually asking God to make my stomach settle down, cause that was the thing that was making everything worse.  We finished lunch and headed home.

Looking back, I should have put the kids down for naps, but at the time, I thought that we should stay up so that everyone would be super tired and sleep really late and not wake up at 6:00 like they had that morning.  Brian and Jim (my mom's husband and the kid's "Papa", whom they adore) took the kids outside to ride bikes and jump on the trampoline (the neighbor's trampoline is their favorite thing and we are grateful that they share it with us).  We all just hung out and if I remember right it was pretty uneventful.  I let Gatlin have her friend, Jessie, come over so that she could have a little of her "normal" around her.

My sweet family picked up Zaxby's for dinner and then by about 7:30 everyone was falling asleep.  I made sure that the kids knew where the clocks were in their rooms and I told them that they were not allowed to get out of their beds until 7:00 (this is something we did with Coop and Gat when they were little and it worked very well).  They all seemed to understand that.   We said our prayers and our goodnights and gave our kisses.

The next morning, one of the kids (who will remain nameless) decided to get out of the bed before 7:00. This was done with lots of, "I'm sorry, Mommy" attached to it, but that made it more frustrating.  I had probably only slept about four hours because of my stomach and I knew that the child knew that what they were doing was wrong, but they just wanted to test us.  So, the morning started out a little rough.  We survived it, and started getting ready for the doctor's appointments that were scheduled for the day.

I'll speak to the disobedience a little here.  When Brian was in Ethiopia with them,  there wasn't much he could do by way of discipline.  I mean, in a foreign country, stuck in a hotel room, what are you supposed to do?  You just kind of have to get through it.  So, coming home to mom and the strictness that awaited them has been a very eye-opening experience.  We are utilizing time outs and it is working very well.  We are being very strict with "first time obedience" and are not allowing whining and begging (it was constant the first couple days).   We are not allowing anyone to tell us "no", or anyone to say, "I love you, NO".  Those are not allowed here and there is discipline given when those things are spoken (yelled) to/at us.

We also give a lot of love.  We are hugging and kissing constantly.  We are assuring them that they are safe with us and will not be taken back to the orphanage.  I will tell anyone who has kids (whether natural or adopted) that the very best thing you can do is stand your ground with consistent discipline.  Consequences for behavior.  It is hard and it is tiring, but there is no better way to get the results you want, and no better way for your kids to feel safe and secure and loved.  If you could see how much faster the turnarounds are now, you'd be amazed.  

My sweet friend, Beth Krehbiel, also brought over cute little jars with colored ribbons on them (each child has their favorite color) that we are filling with marbles when they do a good thing like obey first time, or help clear the table, or whatever.  Then marbles get taken away when they disobey.  When the jars are full, they get a treat.  They like the marble system and definitely respond to it.  (Thanks, Beth!)

Ok - this seems long and boring.  LOL   Just giving you the play by play.  I'll stop here and pick back up with the doctor visits on the next post.  

Friday, February 25, 2011

And Here We Are...

I'll start by saying that I'm gonna be completely honest in these posts - not that I usually lie, ha!   But I just don't want to candy-coat things.  I hope it doesn't offend anyone, but I just feel like it's important to tell you exactly how I've felt throughout this first week home.  I don't see how it does anyone any good if I say, "Oh, this has been a breeze."  So, here it is in all it's glory.

Brian, Gatlin, Bennet, Kaleb and Kali flew in on Saturday, the 19th, at 2:45.   My Mom, her husband, Jim, my sister, Debbi, and her daughter, Makenzi, had come into town from Oklahoma to welcome them home.  It was so wonderful having family here!   We got passes from United to go to the gate so that we could spend the first few minutes with them alone.   The kids were so sweet when they came off the plane.  Lots of hugs were given out and it was a wonderful time.

After those initial hellos and hugs, we headed out to the greeting area and about 50 friends were at the airport to welcome them home.  It was such a sweet time for the kids as they saw these awesome new friends holding up, "Welcome Home" signs for them.  There were balloons, too, which were a big hit.  One little guy in the group was my friend, Gina's, son, Mamo, who was in the same orphanage with them.  It was precious when Bennet went running to him and gave him a great big hug.  Sweet stuff!!

After the airport we headed home.  The kids were so excited to see their new house - especially their bedrooms.  They were actually pretty quiet on the way home and I was a little surprised by that.  I guess I kinda thought they'd be more chatty about all the new things they were seeing, I mean, it is quite different here than it is in Ethiopia.  But, they just really didn't seem to be taken in by it at all, they just chilled in the car.

When we walked into the house they immediately wanted to know where their rooms were.  Bennet was especially excited to see hers and when she did see it, she fell to the floor in excitement.  She was so happy and very giddy about the new room that she loved.   Kaleb and Kali loved their room, too, and I was very glad that they were happy with what we had chosen for them.  Whew!

Meeting the dogs for the first time was so funny.  I had the three of them sit on the couch and then let the dogs back in (we put them out while the kids first looked around).  The dogs immediately ran to the kids and all three of the kids were squealing (ok, screaming - ha!).  They'd kick their feet up in the air and just squeal.  Kali almost started crying, but then she'd just squeal and hide her head, and then quickly turn right back around to the dogs.  So funny.  The dogs aren't allowed on the couch so this process actually worked out very well.  Within a few minutes the kids had calmed down and were petting the dogs (Solomon and Simon are both small Japanese Chins - they bark when strangers come over, but are super friendly).  The dogs haven't been a problem at all and, thankfully, all three kids really love them.  YAY!!

We hung out at the house for a little bit and then everyone was hungry.  We had decided to get pizza and Gatlin was really craving Nick's pizza, and since she had just spent a week in Ethiopia (and sick three of those days) we decided to go with what she wanted.  We got in the car and headed to Nicks, but very quickly the kids fell asleep.  So, there we were, waking up sleeping kids to go into the pizza place to eat. That was the first bad idea we had.  LOL    The first moment of, "Oh, this might be really hard" happened at Nick's when the kids were very vocal about what they would and wouldn't eat and a bit impatient waiting for their food.  Realizing they were VERY tired, we did the best we could to keep everyone happy.  Kaleb slept the whole time and never ate.  We headed home.

We put everyone to bed as soon as we walked in the door...I think it was around 8:00.   When I got into bed my stomach was a nervous wreck.  I was tired, too, because I'd been staying up late getting things ready here and then Brian would call early in the mornings to talk from Ethiopia.  I wasn't getting as much sleep as normal so I chalked the knotted stomach up to that.   Brian slept hard and actually got up at 6:00am to be in the worship band (craziness!).   The kids got up a little after Brian - oh my GOSH.   I was hoping they'd be a little more exhausted than that.   LOL    I hadn't slept well at all.  It was like when you have a newborn and you are on uber alert listening for every little thing.  That's how I was.  I heard every little turn in their beds.  I was SO tired when it was time to get up.

Gatlin also got up early cause her clock was off - so she changed her mind about staying home and just going to the 11:00 service, and got ready and had our neighbor pick her up so she could go to her 9:15 youth group.  She left me.  ha!!   Thankfully, Cooper stayed home to help me.   I fed everyone oatmeal for breakfast and then started getting ready for church.  Nothing too exciting - the only hard part was that shoes didn't fit great so we were scrounging a bit to find shoes that would work with outfits.  We headed to church around 10:40.   Church was great and the kids were so well-behaved during the service.  We were introduced and I walked the kids up front so that our church family could see the kiddos they've been praying for.  I was very proud of them and how well they did.  They loved seeing their daddy on the stage singing and playing the accordion.

During the service, our pastor showed a picture of a 4-year-old little boy who had died in Africa that week and it reinforced in me that we made the right decision adopting our children.  I hate to think of what would have happened to them if they were left there.  A child can only be in the orphanage for so long.

After church we headed to lunch.  This is when overwhelmed began for me.

To be continued....

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ready, Set, Go....

Oh my goodness, I just can't believe that Brian and Gatlin are on a plane RIGHT NOW on their way to bring home Bennet, Kaleb and Kali.   I am jumping-out-of-my-skin happy!!!   A bit giddy!  Woo hoo!!  

As I write this post, they have been on the plane for 7 hours and have 5 1/2 more to go.   Oh my, I'm praying that they're comfy and able to take a couple naps so that it goes by quickly.  That's just a LONG way, people.

I've spent today running errands and continuing to get things ready around here.  So, the title to this post should probably have just been, "Go!" since I'm not technically all the way ready.  Oh well.  I had to exchange some decorative wall sticker things today (I'm sure there is a better name for them than that, but I can't remember what it is) and now I've got what I need to put the final touches on the wall in Gatlin and Bennet's room.  I went to Hobby Lobby and picked up some frames and knickknacks and now it's looking super cute.   Can't wait for Bennet to see it.

Gatlin tells me that Kali and Kaleb's room is too masculine so I need to get a few more "girly" things to put in there.  It's hard to decorate a room for a boy and girl to share.  I have a feeling Kali will spend most of her time in her sister's room, but we'll see.  Brian assures me that they're just going to be so happy to have a room that they won't be scrutinizing the decorations.  I'm sure he's right.

Our Embassy appointment in on Thursday and then they'll head home Friday night.  They arrive on Saturday at 2:40 so if you'd like to be there to greet them at the airport, be there around 2:30 or so and plan on us walking out between 2:45 and 3:00.  Don't feel any pressure to be there, but if you want to, it will be fun.  We have friends giving us an "Adoption Shower" on the 28th and you'll all be invited to that and get to meet them then - so come to one or both - or just come over some time.  (:

I want to give a shout out to my precious friend, Holly Virden, who is getting married on Saturday.  Brian and I were the music people for her wedding and we have had to bail on her since Brian is in Ethiopia and the wedding is right when they fly in on Saturday.  Holly is one of my closest friends and it makes me SO sad to miss her wedding.  She has been completely understanding and encouraged me to skip it all together as opposed to sing and run out the back door and race to the airport.  Thank you, Holly, for being such an amazing friend.  I love you and I couldn't be happier for you!!

Ok - this post will just be short and sweet  unlike most of my book length posts.  LOL    Please continue to pray for us this week, specifically for safety while there and for safe travels home.

"I will not leave you as orphans, I will come for you."   John 14:18    I've never been more thankful for adoption and all that it means -- to me as a child of God and to my sweet, adopted children.  Thank you, Jesus!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lessons from the Snow...

So yesterday I had a 2:00 meeting about 20 miles from my house.  I got out of that meeting around 3:00 and decided to make a quick trip into my favorite grocery store because it was just down the street, and the snow that was headed our way hadn't started falling yet.  I was happily shopping by 3:10.   At 3:30, as I was leaving the store, it started snowing, and it was coming down pretty good.  I pulled out of the parking lot and headed home only to stop less than 1/4 mile down the road.  And I sat.  And sat. And then sat some more.  We were not moving.  The road was a one lane road all the way home so I decided to turn around and go the highway route, thinking that my chances were better with that.  I turned around and got back to where I started and then I sat.  And I sat.  And I sat some more.  Nope, not moving again.

I finally made it about 1/8 of a mile and pulled into the McDonald's to grab something to eat cause I hadn't eaten since 11:00 and knew, by the looks of things, it was gonna be a while before I got home.  I called Brian and told him to expect me in two hours.   At this point, you could still see the pavement and I had no idea that such a mess was awaiting me.  I kept thinking, "It's just snow, people, GO!"

I was in Mickey D's all of 3 minutes and headed back out into the "blizzard" (by Tennessee standards).  Then a crazy driver tried to zip around a car in the lane next to me and almost hit the car in front of me.  This did not make me happy.  Since I knew a little bit of a back way around that area (which is easily backed up on a good day), I turned left to get out of the bottleneck.  As I passed a hotel on my right I decided to stop in and see if they had any rooms available just in case things got totally crazy - and honestly, I really had to use the bathroom, since I downed my Dr. Pepper 30 minutes prior.  (:   Seriously, it took over 30 minutes to get a few blocks.    The hotel was sold out.  

I proceeded home, but that path meant going up a hill that people were quite unhappily sliding down.  I knew I wouldn't have a problem getting up the hill (I have 4-wheel drive), but I was so afraid one of the sliders was going to hit me.  I called Brian about 10 times during this process and was SO frustrated.  I feel 100% comfortable driving in the snow (I actually did drive through a blizzard in New Mexico last year), but some of these other drivers were absolutely nuts!!   Some of them were frozen in fear.  Some of them were making terrible choices and wreaking havoc on other innocent souls.  Some were sliding all around and just had no idea what to do.  I just kept thinking, if we would all calm down and just take it nice and easy, we'd all make it home for dinner.   I was so frustrated that people were making it more difficult than it needed to be.

So, that brings me to adoption.  Why, you ask?  Because that's all I think about these days.  LOL   But really, the Lord allowed me to draw a parallel for my life right now.  You see, I was starting to fear yesterday morning (before the snow).  I've told ya'll that we tried to adopt twice before and both of those fell through.  I've been pretty good this time around just giving it to God and holding it loosely.  BUT, once the kiddos knew about us, I just couldn't imagine this falling through -- I couldn't imagine what that would do to them.  So when we found out that we had to have this extra document, the fear started to creep in.  What if we couldn't get it?  What if we did lose the kids at this point?  Yesterday morning in the shower, the tears were flowing as I was crying out to God, begging Him not to let anything happen - not to let us lose these kids.  And I was asking God to help me not be fearful.  I told Him that I trusted Him, but was asking Him to help me shake the fear that was creeping in.

I got out of the shower, and no sooner had I started drying off than I heard my email beep.  I walked over to my computer and seriously, right that second there was an email from our agency director saying that the needed document was being turned in to the Embassy the next morning (this morning).  WHAT!!   Oh my word, ya'll.  That was crazy.  I just started laughing cause the timing was just absolutely, 100%, GOD!   What a nice thing for Him to do for me.  Crazy sweet.

Back to the snow.   So, I made it up the hill and headed toward the highway.  It took me almost THREE HOURS to get to the freeway.  I don't even think it was one mile.   Oh my gosh.  Three hours to go ONE mile.  I got to the freeway and headed home.  It took a little over an hour to drive the rest of the way - about 20 miles.  All along the way, there were vehicles on the side of the road.  Two ambulances passed me heading to accidents.  I felt SO badly for the people who were having such trouble, all caused by circumstances outside of their control.

And there's the word that makes it so hard, at least for someone like me.  I'd like to be in control.  I wanted to go and drive these people home.  Go give 'em a pep talk and say, "You can do it, just keep going".  I also wanted to fly right over to Ethiopia and get that document taken care of.  LOL    But the reality is, we were stuck...just like I was in the snow.  The Lord ended up giving me four hours in the car to remember that He loves the kids more than I do.  He has it figured out.   He is allowing what He is allowing for a reason, and His ways are just much too high for me to understand.  BUT I CAN TRUST HIM.  He was gonna get me home in the messy snow, and he is gonna get my kiddos home in this messy journy called adoption.  (And by messy, I mean, a crazy emotional roller coaster).

So I finally got home a little after 7:30 and was welcomed by a great big hug and kiss from Gatlin.  Sweetness!!   Brian and the kids ate dinner and we hung out and watched American Idol and then went to bed with a peace knowing that God was going to work everything out for His good and His glory, all in HIS perfect timing.

And at 6:12a.m. my phone started buzzing cause my friend, Nick, couldn't contain his excitement....they had gotten an email saying that they were cleared to bring their daughter home and he was hoping that we had gotten the same email.  I quickly got to my email and there it was...the subject read, "Go get those kids!!"   Thank you, Jesus!!

Psalm 146:6-9...He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them-- the Lord, who remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow...

Thank You, God!!  

PS.  I now want to go over there and get all my friend's documents taken care of so they can bring their kids home.  I feel so badly that we got ours but they didn't get theirs.  Why do some of us make it home, but others get stuck in the snow?  Sigh.   I guess I have to let God be in control of their lives, too.  LOL  

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I See Orphans....

Well, thankfully, they're not orphans anymore.  Hallelujah!!  But the title, "I See Our Three Ethiopian Children" just wasn't as catchy.  LOL    But I do see our three sweet kiddos everywhere.  For instance, this morning we were at Cooper's basketball game and I could "see" Bennet sitting there with me cheering for her brother.  I heard her voice yell out, "Go Cooper" and saw her jump up off her chair.  I know that one day soon she'll really be sitting there, really be yelling, "Go Cooper", really be jumping out of her chair, and I'll have a deja vu moment cause I've seen it before.  Can't wait!!

To be honest, this has been a bit of a hard week with not so great news coming out of Ethiopia regarding adoptions.  Our Embassy there has decided to require some additional things for almost all cases.  We found out that in our case they are requiring an additional document.  The document that they want will prove that "the aunt had the right to relinquish the children for adoption".   In another friend's case, they want two documents.  1.  A life history document.  2.  A document stating that attempts were made to find the birth parents of the abandoned child (ie: newspaper ad).   Um, have they been to Ethiopia?  These sweet people are not reading the newspaper's classified ads.  Come on.  They don't have an extra quarter to buy the Sunday paper.  And if an ad ran in the paper that said, "Please come claim the baby that you abandoned on the orphanage steps", the birth parent is NOT going to come back to the baby because they'd be thrown in jail.  They abandoned the baby because they couldn't feed it, and that reality hasn't changed.  Oh my, it's just so sad.

Anyway, those are a few examples of the forms that our Embassy is requiring - and there are others.  Thankfully, we have an amazing agency who is diligently working with the orphanages to get these documents.  It is quite a process since these are documents that have never been required before.  I've already told you about the birth certificates and the death certificates, but I just found out that the death certificate actually has to have a picture of the dead person attached to it.  Oh gosh.  Most people do not have any photographs of themselves.   I don't know if they want the dead person dug up, or what, but it's just too much.

Now, having said all that, I DO believe that you want to take precautions so that you keep corruption out.  But the guy in charge of this (and it's one particular guy) has got too much power and needs to be deflated.  OH, one other thing - they are interviewing some of the children and got ugly with one of the 13 year old boys they interviewed.   Not good.   I just don't get it.  Anyway...just a lot of stuff going on over there right now and I would SO much appreciate your prayers!!  Pray for the sweet children who are having to stay in orphanages longer because of this red tape.  Pray that the Lord does a convicting work on this man's heart and causes him to see the error of his ways.   And mostly, pray that he is NOT able to shut down adoptions in Ethiopia.  He is the man who shut them down in Cambodia.  Scary!  He is out of the position in June, so our prayer is that he will NOT be able to shut it down between now and then.

On a happier note, we are very close to having the rooms all ready for the kids.  It's been fun decorating and I so appreciate the friends who have helped us with painting, etc.   Gatlin and Bennet's room has mint green paint and cute, whimsical curtains and their names on the big tall wall in black wire lettering.  Kaleb and Kali's room is a very cool blue with all black furniture and then touches of red throughout.  I've ordered black letters and will put their names on their wall as well.  Good stuff.

We are also very close to having all our money together.  We've been SO blessed by the donations of our friends - just couldn't have done this without it!   We still need a little bit more for our travel to get them, so please feel free to buy a CD or make a TAX DEDUCTIBLE donation to our Lifesong account.  The tab for that is at the top, right-hand side of this page.  THANK YOU to all who have given or are going to give.  All seven of us thank you from the bottom of our hearts!!!

And I have to end this by asking you -- are you seeing orphans?  I hope you are.  (:    And I hope you'll figure out a way to help them, whether by supporting them through an organization or taking the big jump and actually bringing one (or more!) home.  A friend and I were talking this week...she's just starting the process....she told me that if she got to the end of her life and had not adopted, it would have been a huge regret for her.  It would have been for me, too.    What about you?

And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name, welcomes Me.
--- Matthew 18:5