Monday, October 22, 2012

One Month Home

Can it really be one month already? While the past month has flown by, it's been one of big transitions, lots of laughs, sleepless nights and honestly, pure joy. Not saying it's all be easy but it's what we've been waiting for all this time. God has blessed us tremendously...almost still surreal to have Halif home. Can't imagine our family without this little guy with his bright eyes and infectious smile.

Here he is on his one month home. Hard to believe how much he has learned and grown in such a short amount of time! It's like watching a baby grow at lightning speed!
When we picked him up from Hannah's Hope he could barely hold himself up with his trunk but had gotten better with holding his head. This is what this little growing boy has learned this month at 7 months 9 days:

-Roll over ALL over the place and scoot around in a circle (really wanting to crawl!)
-Sit up with no assistance
-turn pages in his books
-clap his hands
-Say "da-da" and "ma-ma" which astounds me - he is SUPER verbal!
-eat oatmeal and today he started avocado
-wave bye-bye (just started this week!)
-stand up while we hold his hands (was far from bearing weight on his legs a month ago) - he LOVES to stand on my lap and bounce up and down
-use his thumb and index finger to pick things up
-Hmmmm.... I feel like I'm forgetting something....

Can you believe that?! I thought with his weight and malnourishment he would for sure be behind developmentally but so far we are seeing him where he needs to be. Such a praise!

So because it's been so long and because a few people really want to know the details, I'll give them to you!

He eats 4 oz. formula every 3 hours and yes... around the clock so we are up at night a lot. It's a season I know and now that he's catching up with his weight, I pray he will start sleeping longer. The bottle is his comfort so we will not be keeping it from him at all =) He did have 9 whole days of strictly breastmilk from my amazing childhood friend, Crystal, who pumped for us! Sadly, it was gone quickly. He also LOVES his oatmeal (I think it has to do more with eating with a spoon) and took avocado today like a champ! We will introduce new food every 3 days.

His routine is to go down for 30-45 min nap 2 hours after waking. Then he goes back down 3 hours later for 30-45 minutes before stirring I strap him in the ergo and get 40-45 more minutes for picking up Claire.Don't know what I'd do without the ergo (thank you Melynda!!) He's in bed about 7-7:30ish. Gets up every 3 hours to eat and usually goes down right away but not always =). About every other night the past 2 weeks he's done this interesting thing in the middle of the night...he eats and then for about 45 minutes to an hour he just stares at me. He doesn't move, doesn't cry but just stares until he finally falls back asleep (not sleeping with his eyes open!). Still trying to figure this out and see if it holds significance that I should address.

Thanks to amazing friends and especially my dear childhood friend Heather, we are using Kawaii reusable diapers and LOVING them! I still have to get Neil to master the snaps but overall we are happy with them - saving mola, good for environment and SUPER cute!

Yes, people think we're a little crazy with our cocooning but if you really think about it, it makes sense and we can see how it's working. We will be slowly getting out and reading his reactions so hang in there with us!! I know it's hard for people who have been waiting for him too but I promise that you will get to love all over him for the rest of his sweet life! Our going out has extended to dr. appointments and me picking up the girls. We took him to Neil's parents for the first time Sat. for the LSU/ATM game and he did well. We also took him to Claire's parent conference and he did well there too! I can tell when it's been too much stimulation for him or he is nervous, he doesn't give me eye contact and kind of shuts down with his sleeping and eating. The days of dr. appts are always interesting. 2.5 weeks ago he stretched out to go to my friend, a.k.a. a stranger to him, and it broke my heart to see him so comfortable to do that. It also confirmed we are doing the right thing. This past week we saw some great bonding as he found comfort in us after some traumatic dr. appts. It was so wonderful to be the one he stopped crying for!

Some have asked "well you can't do this forever... he has to get used to getting out and being around others. What happens when you can't meet his needs right away?" and yes! This is true. But we are building a trust between us right now that will equip him well when we do start going out and when he might have to wait a little longer to be consoled or have a need met. We are strengthening and even recreating this cycle that you and I take for granted.... cry/fuss = need met = love and trust... when that cycle has been broken it takes a lot to rebuild trust!  We will probably be branching out this week but when we go to church we might come in late and leave early at first, I'll go to HEB at 9 am and not 5 pm, we'll do one on one gatherings vs. a crazy amount of kids playing inside the house... more than anything we will be letting Halif take the lead to let us know what HE can handle. Creating this trust, bond and relationship is essential to how he will relate to others as a young man and even adult. So again, hang in there with us, show us grace and even if you think we are being crazy or over protective, try to open you mind and heart to what you would do if you were bringing a new child into your home who had already been through so much!

At our first appointment Halif was:
13 lbs even - not on charts
25.3 inches - 2%
44.5 cm head - 73%

and 3 weeks later he was:
14 lbs 9 oz. - 2%
26.5 inches - 15%
44.5 cm head - 61%

He is GROWING! Dr. Gulde was very impressed with just how much and didn't see why we would need to go back till his 9 mo check up in mid-December!

Helmet or Cranial Banding:
This might need it's own post because this has been an amazing testimony to God's continued provision to us! We went to Austin to get him measured and photographed at Cranial Technologies and will be getting it this Thursday. He will wear the helmet for 23 hours and for what they estimate as 3-4 months. I'll take him in weekly for appts. here in town. It will be another big transition for us and for him especially with sleeping so please pray for us!

So as you can tell, it's going really well...better than we expected! We definitely are the typical newborn parents... eating our dinner cold, eating at 8 pm after kids are in bed, spit up all over our shirts, not showering for longer than I'd like to admit, falling asleep before 10 p.m....and we love it. We might not like it all the time but we LOVE it =) And I know these days are fleeting. Being a family of 5 has been good. Eden is having the hardest time with the transition and today was by far the hardest day since Halif came home. Let's just say there were lots of tears (both of us including Halif being more fussy), lots of time outs and I'm drinking a glass of wine from a bottle that has been in our fridge unopened since May.

So there you go!! I want to go back a do a post from our second trip and our homecoming so hope to do that soon! Blogging has taken a back seat with the evenings being so short and the computer being in the same room as our little guy. I'm also working on a lot for The Chosen, our Church music ministry and Orphan Sunday coming up on the 4th. I've been posting more on facebook and especially pictures but I'll leave you with a few of my favorite:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A letter for you: Attachment & Bonding

Oh the whirlwind!! Found out Thursday that we were cleared to travel back to pick up our sweet boy and we leave TOMORROW! As we are getting ready to leave, I wanted to share this VERY important letter to all and everyone who will be around us the next few months as we bring our H home. We will be "cocooning" which means we will be staying close to home and working on our bonding and attachment with our son. We will be reading his cues to know when we can venture out more and expose him to more places and more people. Please read the letter below to understand the importance of teaching H who we are and what important role you can play!

Dear Family & Friends,

After over two years of waiting, our precious little guy will be finally home in a week! We know that
each of you reading this letter has, in some way, supported, loved and prayed for us. Because we know your care for H and our family, we want to share with you some information that we hope will best equip everyone around him to assist us in laying the strongest and healthiest foundation - emotionally, physically
and spiritually.

In many ways, H will be like the children who entered our family through birth; we will parent like other Christian families as we bring all of them up in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. But there will be a few, initial differences. For years now, we have researched bonding and attachment in children, especially those coming home through adoption from an institutional orphanage setting.

We are confident of this: God's design is PERFECT! His plan for parents and children is a beautiful and meaningful picture of His love for us. Attachment between a parent and child occurs over time when a baby has a physical or emotional need and communicates that need. The primary caretaker (usually mommy)
meets the need and soothes the child. This repeats between a parent and child over and over to create trust within the child for that parent; the baby is hungry, cries in distress, mom feeds & calms the baby - which teaches him that this person is safe and can be trusted. By God's very design, an emotional foundation is laid in the tiniest of babies, which will affect their learning, conscience, growth and future relationships. The security provided by parents will, ultimately, give children a trust for and empathy towards others.

Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process. The loss of a biological mother at an early age can be a major trauma on their little hearts. The good news is that we can now, as H's parents and family, rebuild attachment and help him heal from
these emotional wounds. When H comes home, he will be overwhelmed. Everything around him will be new and he will need to learn not just about his new environment, but also about love and family. He has not experienced God's design for a family in an orphanage setting. The best way for us to form a parent/child
bond is to be the ones to hold, snuggle, instruct, soothe and feed him. As this repeats between us, he will be able to learn that parents are safe to trust and to love deeply. We are, essentially, recreating the newborn/parent connection. Once H starts to establish this important bond, he will then be able to branch
out to other, healthy relationships.

Our sweet boy will have, what may seem like, a lot of structure, boundaries and close proximity to us. Please know that these decisions are prayerfully and thoughtfully made choices based on immense amounts of research and instruction from trusted adoption mentors. We will be doing what we believe is best to help
him heal from those interruptions in attachment as effectively as possible. Why are we telling you all of this? Because you will actually play an awesome and vital role in helping our H settle in, heal, and lay a foundation for the future. There are a few areas in which you can help us:

The first is to set physical boundaries. It will help us immensely if adults limit what is typically considered normal, physical contact with H. This will (for a while) include things like holding, excessive hugging and kissing. Children from orphanage settings are prone to attach too easily to anyone and everyone - which hinders the important, primary relationship with parents. Waving, blowing kisses or high fives are perfectly appropriate and welcomed! He should know that the people with whom he interacts are our trusted friends.

Another area is redirecting H's desire to have his physical and emotional needs met by anyone (including strangers) to having us meet them. Orphans often have so many caretakers that they, as a survival mechanism, become overly charming toward all adults. A child struggling to learn to attach may exhibit
indiscriminate affection with people outside of their family unit. It may appear harmless and as if they are "very friendly" but this is actually quite dangerous for the child. To share this is difficult for us because we have snuggled, cared for, fed and loved so many of your children. Please understand that we want nothing more than to have H hugged, cuddled and cherished by ALL of you (he's totally irresistible and huggable). But until he has a firm understanding of family and primary attachments, we would be so grateful if you direct him to us if you see that he is seeking out food, affection or comfort.

We are incredibly blessed to have so many loved ones around us. We couldn't ask for a better extended family & circle of friends for our precious little guy. Thank you so much for your love and support over the past two and a half years. If you have any questions please feel free to ask at any time!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Ethiopia - Trip 1

We've now been home for a week and as much as I want to share every detail on here, I have had quite a time processing everything we expereinced and saw. I journaled every detail for us and for "H" which was very therapuetic for in the midst of everything. I've never written so much in my life.

Our H is beyond adorable - He is sweet, smiley, curious, observant, interactive, ticklish... wow, do I miss him terribly but we know that each day is one day closer to returning to bring him home. He had a "Mommy Rocks" bib on for our first meeting =)
 So here are some pictures (not really in chronological order but don't have time to change it) and if you've been on facebook, you've already seen these. We still can't post pictures or his name on public forums but you know I have the real deal with me if you see me and I'm ready to show anyone who wants to see them!

 Father & Son
 We traveled with Josh and Andrea B and God knew we would be perfect travel buddies. We had the best time together and I know we will forever be friends! Here we are at the cultural dinner - ate amazing food, listened to traditional music and watched traditional dances. A wonderful evening out!
 Yummy injera with all the good stuff
 Playing with daddy!
 Around town
 "conjo" - beautiful
 love this one - snapped it while moving through the van window and it just captures a story. 3 generations and look at that smile
 Door out of guest house
 my sleeping angel
 Claire and Eden were READY to have us home (Eden was sleeping in car)
 In traditional outfits we brought back
 Laundry drying at Hannah's hope trasitional home (run by AGCI)

 Hannah's Hope
 Not rare to see wondering livestock - we were told they know where they live and return when they are done roaming. And everyone knows who belongs to who! Much like dogs here
 People and cars everywhere - this is the market Merkato - we didnt go drove by
 The bananas were out of this world!
 As was the coffe "buna" - the best coffee I've ever had no matter where you had it!
 Beautiful woman roasting corn - what a fun evening and experience to meet her!

These are just a few of the highlights:

-buying and delivering a goat to the orphanage H was brought to before Hannah's Hope
-getting locked out of HH and pounding on the gate to get back in
-early morning prayers and chants over the loud speakers
- obviously, meeting H for the first time and seeing him every time after that
-spending time loving on the kids
-shopping and having wonderful conversations and experiences with the people of ETH - they are kind and beautiful
-passing court and hearing the words "He is yours!"
-buying corn
-cultural dinner - food was amazing and experiencing the music and dancing
-cooking dinner with Andrea and Josh and eating in at the guest house while it poured
-shopping at the supermarket - bananas and returning our bottles =)
-trying new foods and liking every single thing we ate
-finding a beautiful painting to hang in our dining area that depicts africa

And the best of all....
Seeing God's fingerprints over every.single.detail. This trip couldn't have been more beautifully orchestrated. Not that there weren't times that things weren't hard or challenging. We had to truly stop and process daily what had happened and what we had seen. Our hearts we full of joy and heavy at the same time. Our lives were forever changed and we continue to praise God for His faithfulness through this journey.

We pray to be back in ETH in 4-6 weeks so please join us as we wait for a US Embassy appointment in ETH to get "H" visa to bring him back home!

(Btw we are keeping his given name and his middle name will be Samuel - H.Samuel Lewis - I like the sound of that!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Leaving on a jet plane - part dos

For those of you who are on facebook you already know I've had this song in my head all day!! Well, it's 2:00 a.m. and I can confidently say we are ready with bags packed and everything coordinated while we are gone (hope so!)

I'm feeling every emotional right now - excited, nervous, sad to leave the girls, looking forward to some down time on the plane and most of all anxious to meet our little H! This entire three weeks has been a complete rollercoaster but I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm so emotional right now I'll cry at the drop of a hat and I feel so out of control with my tears - feels very similar to the hormone surge I had right after I birthed Claire and Eden. I think my body is just getting ready to be a new mama again and once again, I wouldn't change it for the world. OH I can't WAIT to see him smile, kiss his head and cheeks, feed him, change his diaper, sing to him, tell him we love him forever and can't wait to bring him home... this will be a day we will forever be changed. (Might be Friday but we are scheduled to first see him Saturday)

Please pray for us as we leave for our amazing physical journey to our son - Lord knows we've been on the emotional journey for years! Here are some specific requests:

- Pray for H's heart to be prepared as we come into his world and he starts learning that we are now mom and dad. We will look different, sound different, smell different... might take some getting used to =)

- Pray for our safety as we travel as well as for our health - I'm still battling some health issues and Neil is notoriously sick when we travel. Hoping to not use our cipro but we are prepared if so (thanks Justin!)

- Pray for the girls - I'm nervous about leaving them this long as we've never stayed away longer than 2 nights. Claire is especially having a hard time with us leaving. She is really upset that we get to meet him and she doesn't and keeps saying "it's not fair" and "take a ton of video of H - make sure you get him making noises!" She has a tender heart that yearns to meet him just as much as we do. So hard to tell her she can't go. Eden is just excited to stay with the grandparents =) but talks about H - a lot!

- Pray for us to make every moment count and to soak in as much of Ethiopia as we can. We want to experience the people and culture so we can relay it to H as we raise him. We want to remember every moment as they are now the moments weaving our lives and stories together

- Pray that we get to meet H's birthmom - it's a slim chance because of where she lives but I've been praying this even before we were on a waitlist so I will continue to pray for this meeting to happen.

- Pray for our hearts and minds to be prepared and open to see what we will see and hear what we will hear. I've always heard and read that once you go to Ethiopia you are forever changed and leave part of you in Africa. We will see some hard things and we will see some incredible, beautiful things. We want to be open to what God is showing us and where He is leading us!

Thank you to so many of you who have been some of our #1 fans! We couldn't do this without your love and support. We are overwhelmed to see how the church just envelops each other and how great our God is through others.

I will try to update on here but not sure what communication we will be able to have while in Ethiopia so stay tuned for when we return!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Referral Call & Court Date Call!

(BEWARE! This post is LONG LONG LONG but ever so special for me to get it down for our family! Don't forget to check out the next post to see what donations we are collecting to take to Ethiopia with us!)

After you've been waiting for something SO long and it finally happens, you don't want to forget a detail of the day, moment, feeling... to say we were surprised by our referral call would be an understatement. We were still what I thought unofficially #5 on the list and in the depths midst of renewing our homestudy paperwork. So here it is... after 21 months and 2 days on the waitlist (26 months after we started this amazing process of adoption) we got our referral call throughout the day of Thursday, June 28, 2012...

Woke up that morning to Claire complaining for the 3rd day that she had a sore throat after she had just finished a round of antibiotics for strep throat so I called and made an appointment for her and Eden since she had a persistent cough lingering for 3 weeks. Why not take them both if I can? The appointment couldn't be made with our dr. so we made it with another dr. in the same office on the opposite side of the building (this is significant). So I packed up the girls for Claire's swim lesson that morning at 10 a.m. - yes, we still went - and didn't really stop for the rest of the day! After swim lessons, the girls went to my weight watchers meeting with me, we quickly grabbed Chick-fil-a (I noticed I missed a call from a 971 number but it didn't register) and got to the dr. office for our appointment. On our way to the dr. office, I got a call that showed up as AGCI so I picked it up and spoke with our case manager "T". She said since we were updating our homestudy she was looking through it and saw a couple of inconsistencies in regards to our parameters. I had noticed that the week prior with our home agency social worker and thought it very strange that there was an inconsistency found this late in the game. "T" asked me to discuss it with Neil and to get back to her - when asked when she needed to know by, she asked me to call that day.  Had to get the girls to their appointment and when we were taken back to a room, this is the one we were in - the African Safari room =) SO I had to take a picture because I thought "Oh how cool is that?!" and talked to the girls about the acacia trees in the background.

We wouldn't have regularly been in this room because remember it was on the other side of the office. When we were getting weighed, Claire caught a glimpse of a little girl peaking through another exam room and she said "Hannah!" which was a girl she knew from school. The little girl opened the door and I recognized the mom from working with her on the yearbook but we didn't know our girls knew each other from the playground. After a quick hello, we went back into the exam room to be diagnosed with another positive strep test and Eden with a sinus infection (yuck!) The mom and two girls (same age as my girls) were in the waiting room checking out when we left so we ended up talking more and quickly into the conversation she said "I don't know if I ever told you but we're adopting a little boy! The birthmom's due date is in two weeks so we are getting ready to bring him home!" SO of course I had to say "Really? We're adopting a little boy too but we're still #5 on our waitlist and don't really know when we will get our phone call. Actually, I was just on the phone with them this morning about something but it will probably still be awhile" (if I only knew!) So we really hit it off and exchanged numbers since we live in the same neighborhood and the girls will be in school together next year. I left thinking, that was really cool!! Just love it when God crosses our paths with others that we can relate to!

Now back to getting on the phone with AGCI! Not thinking anything but the goal of clearing up our homestudy, I called Neil and we spoke about our parameter decision... one we had gone back and forth on over the past years and decided we were going to change our homestudy. Now, this has been on my heart for a VERY long time and when I asked Neil, he didn't even hesitate. I was floored and thanked Jesus in the same breath for such a peace about something we had really struggled with before (not that we always feel peaceful when it's God's will!).

So when I got home, I called "T" back and I told her we'd like to keep the parameters that was in the back of our homestudy and again, wondering how it was in there in the first place - thank you Lord - so she asked me a few other questions just to clarify. I looked a few things up while on the phone with her and then she said it "Well, then...I have a little boy to talk to you about..."
I was STUNNED and almost speechless - all I could say was "No way! Are you serious?" and Claire was right by my side saying "What? What?"  And with tears in my eyes, I told her we got our phone call for baby brother! She screamed, hugged me and ran into the next room to tell Eden.  After only hearing that he was 3.5 months old and hearing his given name, I quickly got off the phone to call Neil so we could be on the call together with "T". When I told him "You need to come home now!" he couldn't believe this was it! We were all so surprised! Now I will tell you, the 20 minutes following our hangup was the LONGEST 20 minutes of pacing, celebrating with the girls (Eden was in her room cleaning it all on her own accord because "Baby brother is coming and he might put the small things in his mouth") and just not knowing what to do with myself! I was supposed to have a voice lesson in 5 minutes so I called them to let them know I had to cancel (the dad is an adopted dad himself so he totally understood!) but then we just waited. Claire wrote "H" a note with a giant heart and it said "We just got our call. We love you already. Can't wait to see you and hear what you learned in Africa." Could it get any sweeter?

The garage door went up and Claire FLEW out the door to hug Neil and Eden wasn't far behind! So we gathered by the computer in the bedroom and called "T" back. She wanted to go through all the details of our little guy before sending pictures which is a good thing because it helped keep my ears opened and mind focused. In retrospect, I'm glad I had that time waiting for Neil because it really gave me the time to calm down and be prepared to hear everything "T" was telling us. We put a movie on for the girls and then we heard the first words we ever knew of our little guy. We've never felt anything like it before... being so excited and heartbroken at the same time... it's nothing we could've ever been prepared for even though you've heard people speak of it before. And then we invited the girls in to see the pictures of him which only heightened these emotional polars. Such joyful tears but a sob I've never had before in my life... Neil and I were just overcome and I don't know how else to put it in words. To see his study that little love someone you've been praying for but are just laying eyes see his birthmother's pain on the last day she held him... it's beyond words and comprehension. My heart is broken and we are humbled and honored

We told "T" we would like to proceed so she sent all the paperwork to get started on. First thing first, a call to the international pediatrician and then out to get a picture printed to take over to our parents house to share our news! We went to Rome's pizza to celebrate and Claire made sure little "H"s picture was sitting on the table with us (we can't post anything public until we pass Embassy on our second trip!)

Our parents were thrilled and the girls enjoyed being part of telling them with the picture
as a surprise! Here are the proud sisters at Rome's =)
celebrating with ice cream
I insisted we get a picture of all 4 of us the day of our call and this is the best we got =) 9:30 p.m. and worn out with all the excitement and to-do list ahead of us
The most amazing man in the world!

So we were in the whirlwind of notarizing, overnighting paperwork, contacting the int. ped. over and over, calling and contacting everyone we wanted to tell before we posted on facebook,  going to the dr. (for homestudy and me dealing with an infection and then an allergy to a medication that ended up with me in the ER Monday night)... the 4th of July holiday threw us off as the day before we were told we had to redo some of our paperwork and we were frantically trying to track down a letter from our social worker that took 5 days to get to us in the mail!! July 3rd we had gotten a message in one of our emails from "T" that she was really praying for our family to make it through before court closures (which was why we were feeling like we were literally racing the clock to get everything done ASAP!) but that she honestly didn't see us getting a courtdate before closures. I was disappointed and cried at the news convincing myself that we weren't going to meet him till October.

To say the week was stressful, on top of my allergic reaction and the go around with 3 dr. offices for myself, is in understatement but we got through each late night and each day by the grace of God giving us the stamina we needed!

Friday, July 6th - yet another day that snuck up on us by surprise and will go down in history for our family. We celebrated Claire's last swim lesson with us all going to cheer her on! I included the pictures here since it was part of the day and I don't think I'll get back to them if I don't do it now... a family who knew our journey brought a baby gift to us and I broke down crying! She probably thought I was crazy but what a sweetheart to think of us and I told her I had just been an emotional mess!

(Eden and Julianna enjoying their time in the baby pool while their siblings were in class)

My fish with a mighty freestyle form
celebrating with donuts
Claire and her swim coach, Kelsey
We quickly got dried off, dressed and headed to Rome's (yes, again!) to meet up with some of Neil's coworkers and a formal coworker who was visiting from South America (he loves Rome's so it was his choice). 20 minutes into the meal I noticed I missed a call from 971 number and knew that we had someone else taking over our process as "T" is out of country for a few weeks. So I excused myself to call back and after "M" asked me how I was feeling she said "Do you think you'd be feeling up to traveling soon? Your court date is set for July 23rd!" Again, floored, surprised, taken aback... not knowing what to say or how to take it all in! I got all the info written down (get visa papers sent asap, call travel agents to get quotes, etc.) and got to celebrate with the girls, Neil and his friends with our amazing news! It was off and running again to get it all done on a Friday afternoon to the post office, money orders, passport pictures, calling a courier service, fill out application, call travel agent, get a quote, get it to AGCI to approve... my head was spinning and the craziest part? I had a dr. appt at 3 p.m. so we had one hour to get it all together so Neil could take over and get it where it needed to be (thanks to my dad for taking Eden to her swim lesson)! So I'm on my phone doing what I can as I have to literally SIT and WAIT in the dr. waiting room for one hour... oh the irony... I kept thinking "NO one in here knows what just happened to me and I want to tell them! All I can do it sit here and wait!" And you know what? The Lord just gave me a song "Be Still and Know that I Am God"... this whole journey has truly taught me about surrendering control, trusting Him... and I was once again in the position of not being in control literally (this is hard for me but God is refining me) and trusting that Neil would get it all done. And you know what? He did =) We make an incredible team! By the time I got home from the dr. we had everything completed along with our itinerary approved and tickets bought to leave in a week and a half. Now it's off to planning for the kids, researching and getting our immunizations done, making a photo album, getting donations for us to take to Hannah's Hope, coordinating all that was supposed to happen while we are now going to be preparing to leave or not here at all. My parents brought over these flowers and balloons to us to help us celebrate today!
This took a long time to compose but I really wanted to get it all down before I forgot any details since everything is happening lightening speed. I PRAISE our Father for moving mountains to get us to meet our son so quickly. There are so many of you who have been praying for us and supporting us throughout this journey and I thank you. God has used you to give us the strength when we needed it and has shown us His love through you all.

We're leaving on a jet plane - donations list!

Everything is happening so fast - we haven't even gottent ow rite down our referral call on here but we got our court date yesterday - July 23rd!!  We are all set with our travel dates and times (leaving Wed. the 18th and coming back the 25th)! Many have asked how you can help - we are taking donations for our agency's transitional home Hannah's Hope. If you can donate any of the items below, that would be really helpful and such a blessing!! Can't believe we will be meeting our little guy on July 21st - he will be just 4 months and 1 week and I will get to hug, kiss and tell him we love him! My birthday is the 15th and Neil's is the 25th and I'll have to say, this might just be the best birthday EVER!!!

• Diapers of all sizes; please include preemie sizes

• Baby wipes (this is always needed)

• Bibs

• ...Hand sanitizer

• Kleenex boxes

• Infant and children’s vitamins

• Formula: vegetable-based Similac, soy-based Similac, as well as regular formula

• Children’s clothing: this must be new or like new (no holes or stains)

Toddler clothing and shoes (at this time we are asking that families do not take infant clothing)

Light jackets or sweaters for all ages

Boys’ clothing for ages 6-10 years old

Girls’ clothing for ages 6-13 years old

Underwear for all ages—please consider slim clothing

Shoes for all ages, but especially older boys and girls. The popular “Croc” is great for these kids!

• Bottles: Avent bottles for both 8-12 ounce feedings.

• Diaper rash cream: Desitin is preferred, but A&D ointment or Butt Paste is also useful.

• Baby shampoos and baby oil

• Shampoo, conditioner, and lotion for older children

• Age appropriate development toys for infants and toddlers

• Blow up balls/outside toys

• Sidewalk chalk

• Bubbles

• Children’s DVDs and CDs

• Men’s and women’s deodorant

• Good quality electric shaver

• Rechargeable camping lanterns (for when electricity is out)

• Twin sheets (mainly flats) in children’s patterns and colors of pink, purple, red, blue, and green. Solid or

print materials are both acceptable.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Random catching up from May and June

Well, I'm back! Honestly, I needed to take a little hiatus from the blog world - writing them, reading them, getting lost in them but just tonight I tumbled across some really inspiring posts from people I know and people I'll probably never meet. My evenings have been filled up with so many other things so along with NEEDING a little break, I also just had other things to get done. So, this is my photo makeup for the past month! I can't post everything but here are some highlights and just some fun things too =)

Eden just loved her teachers this year - Ms. Myra and Ms. Megan - and asks almost daily to see them... still... even on July 5th... she can't WAIT to get back to school but is still trying to understand she will have different teachers! This is them at their end of the year program in her Red Classroom.
Mother's Day is almost my favorite holiday because when we didn't do anything to deserve our birthday, I feel like honoring our mother's (and father's on their day) is something really special! The girls spoiled me with cards and letters and such cute stuff about 2 weeks before mother's day and mostly on their own accord. We had a wonderful morning of worship and then spent time with the family at Billy's restaurant!

Daddy and his girls!

We stopped to visit with Mimi and Poppa too!
Daddy and his girls just hanging out in our usual choice of dress - the swimsuit
Claire chose between gymnastics over T-ball for the spring this year... she LOVED her gymnastics class and has really improved with her strength and balance. Her favorite is balance beam.
They each got medals for their end of the season performance!
We've really enjoyed just hanging out with friends!
The Lamar crew - Charlie, Andy and Mary
Eden's playgroup friends while the big girls are at school! Lyla, Lily, Eden and Lydia - we have a lot of "L" names in this bunch!
A Jed sandwich! Loved our visit with the Bowers family!
I have loved celebrating with my friends too! SO proud of Marie for graduating from PA school after teaching biology for a number of years.
Claire's last day of school came way too fast! Can't believe she is now a 1st grader! She chose her end of the year outfit =) Daddy's Rock Star with her nest necklace from Meredith!
sweet sisters
We've had some great visits with Heather, Mike and Pierce - can't believe how fast he is growing up too!
Can't be spring and summer without some nature projects! We watched carefully for weeks as a birds nest was built on our front door and out of 6 eggs, 2 hatched. I could write a whole blog on the pics of these little ones... how I get totally immersed in the nature projects around here! I think I like them more than anyone else!
Celebrating with more friends! Danielle is expecting her first and it was great to all get together to shower her with love!
Crystal with Julia, Casey, Christina, Danielle, Marie, Me and Kate with Everett
And yet another nature project (these aren't really in good groupings are they? That's really bothering me but I don't have the time to reorganize!)  We were given these AMAZING Tobacco Hornworms and Claire really got into learning about them. They really are unique in how they cocoon and their behaviors. Our kitty Rollo liked them too =) We didn't end up having a successful cocoon and emerging like we've had in years past but it was still really cool and the girls were proud to show them to their friends!

One morning, after a glorious sleeping in thanks to Neil, I woke up to the cutest bus set up I've seen =) These girls could play together for hours and I'm so thankful for that blessing! Each chair is labeled for each  of us including brother in the back!

We've spent a little time out at Sea World and the girls had a great time learning the difference between seals and sea lions. They thought the nursing mother was so cute and I just loved seeing that sweet little sea lion be cuddled by her mommy!
Having fun at Bay of Play at Sea World!
We went to a fundraiser for Children's Cancer called "Reese's Royal Ball" and the girls loved getting ready for the ball - nails and hair done by mommy and even mommy dressed up with them =) Its was a great event for an even greater cause!
These girls can't go a day without building something and playing with their squinkies! This one was built for daddy and this pic ended up on a decorated snack jar for Daddy's office for Father's Day

OK.... that's enough! Next up, anniversary post and another one on my little scientists =)
If you got this far, here is a nugget: we've actually got our referral for our amazing son in Ethiopia a week ago today on June 28th and I'm working on that blog post... it's not an easy one to write! Our hearts are overjoyed as well as grieving so it's not easy to put it all in words and some of it just won't be. Can't wait to share the news with those of you who didn't know yet!
Jenny came into town too!