Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Funny Firsts!

Sunshine wearing her new bike helmet, elbow and knee pads, and dress up shoes.

As our new little ones adjust to life in America we are amazed at how they view life here. Many experiences that we take for granted I am witnessing through brand new eyes. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Sunshine is very observant and doesn't miss anything. As we drove around in the car at night she was perplexed by all the bright twinkling lights on the houses. She thought they were pretty but did not understand why they were there. We explained that the lights help us to celebrate Christmas. She said, "Ethiopia, Christmas, Yes...No lights. America, EVERYONE Christmas!!!"

Last week she was helping me gather the garbage. We were placing the bags in the garbage can in the garage. She put her fingers on her nose and said, "OOOH Stinky!!" I said, under my breath, not thinking she would understand, "There were a lot more icky smells than that in Ethiopia." She responded, "Oh yes, Ethiopia Stinky!" We then pulled the garbage cans out to the street together and as I turned to go back in the house she paused and said "Mom, what?" As if to say, 'why are we leaving our garbage here?' I realized that she didn't understand about garbage trucks. So I said, "Tomorrow, a big truck will come and take the garbage away." She gave a huge smile and said, "OOOH AMERICA!!! In Ethiopia, we take, we take. But AMERICA, truck!" Even bigger smile.

The next day I was sure to listen for the truck, so that she and her brother could see what happens to garbage in America. As we watched the truck there was more discussion about how stinky it was in Ethiopia and I became a little concerned that she might think that I didn't like Ethiopia. I made sure that I included how much I love Ethiopia. We talked about the beautiful country and people and about her siblings. She ended the conversation with, "I love Ethiopia, but Stinky in Ethiopia." I think a field trip to the dump might be in order.=)
Sweet Momma

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Here are our latest family portraits. We are thrilled with them and our little ones are so happy to be a part of the picture. When I showed our Christmas card to Sunshine she gave a big smile and joyfully said, "Everyone!!!" Yes, with these little ones here our family is complete. That is something to celebrate!

May you enjoy your Christmas as we focus on the gift of our savior born so long ago.
God bless you all!
Sweet Momma

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

One Month!

I was driving to have coffee with friends last night when I realized that today is our one month anniversary of meeting Sunshine and Little Buddy. That was the fastest month of my life. While in Ethiopia I was sharing with Almaz (the wife of the orphanage director) about some of the difficulties we were having with Little Buddy. She said, in her beautiful broken English, "One Month, be better!" She was right. Thank you Almaz.

Don't misunderstand. We are still in the major adjustment phase and I am anxious for them to know more English, but things are so much better than a month ago when they didn't know us and we didn't know them. I think they are doing amazingly well.

Sunshine has proven to be more of a parenting challenge than Little Buddy. Her issues are so emotionally based and come up when you least expect it. She understands much more than her brother about the adoption and I believe is grieving more than he is. She pursued me from the first day to bond with and that has been helpful as we rock and sing and pray together. We have a lot of pictures of their life before America. This has proven to be an invaluable resource as they share their world with us and we lovingly honor their past. Please continue to pray for their transition and that Stand-Up Dad and I could know the best way to meet their needs.

Christmas is a very difficult time to bring new kiddos home. We have tried very hard to stay home and not overwhelm them with too much stimulation. But it is Christmas and we have to celebrate a little bit.

The pictures below show all the fun we have had over the last several days. My favorite memory of the week happened today when I helped them wrap gifts for their siblings. We had not planned on them giving gifts to us as I did not think they would understand why we were doing this. Sunshine has informed me that in Ethiopia, "No presents at Christmas." I sat them both down and talked about the gift that God gave us at Christmas. They are very aware of the whole 'Jesus birth' story. I explained that in America we give gifts to each other to celebrate the gift that God gave to us. I took them in our room and showed them all the Ethiopian clothes that I had purchased for the whole family and asked them if they would like to give these gifts to their siblings and Daddy and I? They were so happy to help wrap the gifts. Tape is so much fun! They were rolling around on the floor giggling, they were so excited!

May God bless you all as you celebrate and delight in the wonder of His birth!

This is the favorite after dinner activity...Climb On Daddy!!!
Sunshine cutting her first sugar cookies
Gingerbread Houses
This tradition confused them, but when they saw all the candy they willingly joined their siblings in the fun!
Sunshine decorating cookies
Little Buddy, painting on the frosting
Sweet Momma

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Leotard Man!

Hi! This is Elsie. Since my parents came home with Sunshine and Little Buddy, I have noticed that Sunshine is definitely a girly-girl. Dress-up is a must. Little Buddy decided he wanted to get in on the fun, despite the fact that he did not like the boy dress-up clothes we have. The girl dress-up worked just fine. You can't tell from the pictures, but in the first two Little Buddy is wearing not one, not two, but six leotards. In the last picture he is wearing Sweet Pea's favorite princess dress while talking with Elmo on the phone. These were his clothes of choice. He cried when it was time to take them off. I'm sure the days ahead will be filled with more playing, lessons in love, and............... dress-up.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Memories in the Making

This past weekend was fairly busy with many new experiences for our newest family members. Now that we are all feeling better we knew we had to seize the opportunity to go out and get our Christmas tree. It is a tradition in our family to venture to the nearest tree farm, choose a tree and cut it down ourselves. Actually, Stand-Up Dad always cuts it down, but Pumpkin is hoping to help next year. As you can see in the picture, Little Buddy was a bit grumpy that morning. He and Sunshine had gone to the doctor the day before and his leg was hurting badly from the shots he got. Later the same day we were able to attend a Christmas Concert where Sweet Pea sang in the choir. We heard two choirs, a bell choir, an orchestra and a guitar ensemble.

The weather had been very cold and on Sunday afternoon we finally got a little of what we had been waiting for. It started snowing before nap time and after nap the ground was looking white. I asked Little Buddy and Sunshine if they wanted to go out and play. "Yes," was the unanimous answer. So even though it was getting dark they had their first snow experience. They loved it! The big kids even pulled them down the street in the sleds.

Posing at the Christmas Tree Farm
Sweet Pea singing in the choir
First Snowflakes

Sweet Momma

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Way to The Heart...

It has often been said that "The way to the heart is through the stomach." I know this is often true when trying to win a beau, but I have found it to be true with newly adopted kiddos.

These little people have left everything they know behind in Ethiopia. Everything here is new and different. They have both been doing really well with American food with only a few exceptions. There have been a few new favorites and a few things that they turned up their noses at. Broccoli is definitely an acquired taste.

Stand-Up Dad has been working in Seattle. Yesterday after work he found an Ethiopian market where he could buy injera. This is a bread that looks like a big pancake. It is eaten at most meals in Ethiopia, but is fairly difficult to replicate without Ethiopian ingredients. He bought two big packages, one to freeze and one to keep in the fridge. They were SO excited when they saw what Daddy had brought home. But nothing compared to the excitement of lunch today.

While in Ethiopia I bought some berbere (Ethiopian spice) and shiro powder. I used both of these to make a shiro sauce that is eaten with injera. I boiled eggs to add to the lunch. They often eat boiled eggs that are left whole and cooked in sauces.

When Sunshine saw what was on the plate she pushed her siblings out of the way and ran to me with hugs and kisses of thanks. Such a small thing that means so much to these precious little ones. They thoroughly enjoyed their lunch. Sunshine ate every last bite. After lunch there were more hugs and thank you kisses.

Since we have been home it has been very important to Sunshine and Little Buddy that they have the same food and portion size as everyone else. Today was different. To make the injera last longer I did not serve it to the big kids. They got leftovers. Sunshine was totally OK with it. She said, "Sunshine and Little Buddy, Ethiopia (motioning to her food), they, no Ethiopia!" Big smile, as if to say, "more for me!=)"
Sweet Momma

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"Two Ears, America!"

While in Ethiopia I noticed that Sunshine had pierced ears. While Stand-Up Dad and I were out shopping we bought her a pair of earrings. She squealed with delight when I showed them to her. Sadness soon followed when I realized that one of her ears was completely closed and I could only put in one earring. Many tears and two hours later we were able to have an interpreter explain that there was no longer a hole in one of her ears. We promised her that when we got to America we would have her other ear pierced.

Soon after this discussion she came up to me and said, "Ethiopia, one ear, America, two ears!" I assured her that this was true. It was very funny when we landed in Washington DC and told her that it was America, she turned to me and said, "Two ears, America?" I had to explain that it would be a little later.

The rule at our house has been that our daughters may pierce their ears when they turn ten years old. Our third daughter, Sweet Pea, has been waiting patiently to turn ten. She will be nine years old next month. We decided that she could pierce her ears with her little sister if she wanted to. I also thought it might be a fun memory for these new sisters.

Thursday evening we went to the mall and Sunshine got "Two ears in America!" She didn't even flinch. Sweet Pea was also excited to get earrings over a year early. They both look absolutely beautiful. One more promise kept, times two!
Sweet Momma

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brand New Shoes!

We are feeling better at our house. Thank you for your prayers. Yesterday I decided that we needed a trip outside of this house that did not involve the doctor. I am a total home body, but six sick children in a house for a week was my limit.

I thought it would be fun to take our newest kids and let them pick out new shoes. Shoes were a huge issue in Ethiopia. I brought gently worn shoes for them as I did not have any idea what size shoe they wore. My thought was that I could just leave whatever shoes did not fit at the orphanage. Of the three pair that I brought for Sunshine, only one fit to her standards. It was a pair of salt water sandals. Little Buddy had a pair of tennis shoes and a pair of light up sandals that I had been given by my sister-in-law. Only one of the shoes actually lighted up, but those shoes were the envy of both children.

Sunshine was very upset by her "unacceptable" shoes. In Tigrinia she said to me, "Where are my light up sandals? Why do I have to wear these ugly shoes?" (This is my best guess, but facial expression and hand gestures are 90% of a conversation.) One day when her brother wasn't looking she put on the light up shoes and wore them for two days. They were too small and she couldn't play soccer in them because it hurt her toes. But hey, a fashion statement is more important than comfort.

It was hard for me to watch and I felt bad knowing that as soon as we got home there would be more shoes than she could wear in a day.

So yesterday I took them to buy their first ever, brand new shoes. Light up shoes were a must. Fortunately I found light up winter boots for them both. Then we saw the glitter shoes. Who can resist red glitter on shoes. That was the color she had to have. Please don't call her Dorothy.=) I also bought Little Buddy some light up tennis shoes that he doesn't want to take off.

We had so much fun taking them into our large pantry, turning off the lights, and watching them light up the room with their new shoes.

Sweet Sunshine has thanked me more times than I can count. She kisses her shoes and says "pretty shoes" over and over. I am so happy to make her feel so happy. I only hope these little things will help her to understand that we love her and will take care of her and she can trust us. I know it takes time, but I am anxious for her and Little Buddy to know it and believe it!
Sweet Momma

Monday, December 7, 2009

Home One Week Today!

I can't believe it has already been a week since we flew in at 11pm to see our home-grown kids and introduce them to their forever siblings. It has truly been a blur.

Between jet lag and sickness, we are hanging in there. As of this moment all 8 of us are sick. 3 on antibiotics, 1 on albuterol for asthma, and the two littlest are running fevers.

In the middle of the night I got up with Little Buddy and realized that he had a fever and began to feel very overwhelmed. Stand-Up Dad was heading back to work today. He is part of a trial (as an attorney, not a defendant) in Seattle and would be very unavailable to me. As I began to worry I was reminded of one of the scriptures that always puts me back in the right perspective.

"You are my refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble. Therefore, I will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."
Psalm 46:1-3
"I will be still and know you are God. You, Lord Almighty, are with me. You, God of Jacob, are my fortress."
Psalm 46:10-11

So even though I am still exhausted and sick myself I don't need to worry. The earth has not given way and the mountains have not fallen into the heart of the sea. Even if they had, God promises that He will help me.

We are making some headway with Little Buddy and Sunshine. Things are a little more predictable than they were a week ago. It is so much fun to learn about who these little people are and what makes their hearts sing.

Speaking of singing, they both have beautiful voices and sing and dance every day. They are both very aware of Christmas and baby Jesus. They love playing with our Little People manger scene. We even had the opportunity to celebrate Advent with them last night.

Please pray for health for our whole family. Life just isn't quite right when we are all sick. But I know and believe that God is bigger than any sickness.
Sweet Momma

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Few Fun Pics...

This has been such a crazy week. We are surviving two grown ups and two little ones with jet lag. I was diagnosed with bronchitis yesterday, so I am not quite myself yet. These are sweet kids that God has placed in our home. There are definitely issues, but I can't wait to see how this all looks in a few weeks.

We are doing very well with food. Today, for lunch, I made Kraft Macaroni and cheese. Did you know that I am the greatest mom ever? Sunshine was thanking me over and over and kissing her food saying, "Good food, thank you Mommy, I love you, Mommy!" So funny! I am glad she liked it, because it is one of the four food groups at our house.

Here are a few pictures that show the fun at our house.

Here is Little Buddy playing piano with M&M while she practiced her Christmas music.
Here they are on their first ever teeter-totter ride. The reason I know that it was their first is that they both tried to sit down backwards! =)
Our poor dog Molly is so neglected that she jumped up into what was left of my lap as I held Little Buddy as he slept.
Here is Pumpkin with his latest and greatest Lego treasure. He loves Legos and got this kit for his birthday.
My Ethiopian Glamour Girl!!!
If anyone was wondering whether she would be a girly-girl, I hope this picture answers the question. I am not sure what her eyes look like, as she is constantly wearing these shades! =)
Sweet Momma

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Day We Met!!!

Sunshine with her new "Coffee Ceremony" set.
Little Buddy giving one of his adorable smiles.
Moments after we met we gave them backpacks full of fun things. Here they are exploring their new toys.
We cannot express the joy we feel after finally meeting these precious gifts of God!
November 23, 2009 will forever be Sunshine and Little Buddy's "Gotcha Day!" It will be very easy to remember as it is the day after Pumpkin's birthday. We arrived in Addis around 9:30 in the morning and were taken to our guest house where we settled in and waited for Sunshine and Little Buddy to arrive. We were up on the third floor and were unsure of how the first meeting would take place. Should we wait up in our room or go down to the court yard to wait.
Before long a van pulled in through the gates and I saw two couples with their babies get out of the van followed by our two little kiddos. I ran down three flights of stairs and met them at the bottom.

We took them upstairs and enjoyed their wide eyed smiles and giggles of delight as they went through their new backpacks. Soon after we all went down for lunch. They ate great and were still all smiles.

Our first meeting was precious and the beginning of a very up and down week. I will tell more about this at a later date.

Please continue to pray for us as we all adjust to life as a family of eight. Today has been pretty good so far. All the kids are doing well together and we have only had three or four melt downs from Little Buddy, and they only last ten minutes or so. On the flip side he has wanted me to hold him for a good part of the day, usually while I am trying to work in the kitchen. I am very thankful for big kids that can finish meals for me.

More to come later...
Sweet Momma

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

And two make six . . .

Just thought we'd post a picture of all our kids. I'm not sure all of this has sunk in yet.

Stand-up Dad

Home at Last!

We've arrived back in Washington. After several flights, the last of which being a quick flight from Portland, we landed at the airport about 11 p.m. last night. It was so good to get home and see the rest of the kids.

Thank you so much for your prayers, they are much appreciated. And many thanks to our host families, you are the best!

We will post soon with pictures from the trip.

Stand-up Dad