Friday, December 11, 2009

5 Months ago Today...

5 Monthes ago on this very day, Tony and I drove out of a gated Transition Home with two new children to add to Team Dragovich. In the adoption world, we call this "Gotcha Day". It is the day that you pick up your children and they become forever a part of your family. Your "forever family"-- another adoption phrase. To try and go back and thread out the emotions which were flashing in and out of my entire being is about impossible. Some days I look back and it seems like that was forever ago. Some days, it was only last week.

Now, here we are, 5 months later. Could I ever have imagined the impact this adoption and these children and our new "forever family" dynamic would make into the very center of my soul? Absolutely not. I'm still imagining it and being opened up to it and walking through each new fold that opens. There are some days in which I still feel like I am swimming in a fog-- less and less this is the case, but still sometimes. The funny thing is, I remember thinking that way BEFORE adoption! Now, I think-- Gee, Shari-- you sure did have it easy "back then"!!!

In five months I have experienced some amazing transformations in my children. Sam and JB are fast becoming inseparable. And Risa is usually in there somewhere. Wyatt and Isaac are working hard to be helpful, positive and interact with the kids in playful ways. The majority of their time together-- which is considerable since we homeschool!-- all 5 of them are playing contentedly and enjoying one another. One of my favorite things is to hear one of the big boys explain to a new friend or some confused child; "YES. We are ALL brothers and sister. We ALL belong to the same family. This is my brother and this is my brother and THIS is my brother and THIS is my sister!" There are soooo many other things they could say, "Yeah, this is my adopted brother," or "He is my brother, but he is adopted...", etc... but they don't. It never even comes close to being uttered from their mouths. They claim JB and Risa with certainty and conviction. You may think I am weird for thinking such things, or offering my praise to my bio kids for saying something that I would hope to goodness that they would say anyway... but I take nothing for granted. Of course, Tony and I have always taught them that GOD alone puts a family together and He has put OUR family together-- through birth and adoption and both are of equal, eternal value. No difference, in that regard. But THEY have to accept this truth within their own hearts. I cannot force them to believe it. So... to have them be so positive and proud to others about their new brother and sister... like I said, it is one of my favorite things.

The transformation within JB and Risa continues to work itself out. Now that they have been home 5 months, we can sort of see what behaviors are still lingering and what deeper issues such behaviors may be pointing to-- beyond just the trauma of moving them from their homeland and into our family. JB in particular, exhibits behaviors which directly point to a lack of emotional health. He is attaching more slowly-- though he desperately works for our attention and affection-- it is spastic (for lack of a better word), controlling and tense. I have been re-reading some of my adoption literature on attachment, especially in regards to emotional development-- phases of, milestones of each phase, reviewing checklists for emotional health of children at the end of each phase, etc. JB has some gaps. Though there are many emotionally healthy things that JB DOES do-- and even has begun to do since he has been home-- there are a few key things that he does NOT do which, I believe, if we do not address them directly, will cause his emotional "heart" to mature in a warped, unhealthy way.

What is challenging about the things that we are directly tackling is that they are things that any child raised in a safe, secure, loving environment from early on would naturally develop. For most of us, we don't even think about having to "teach" our children how to accept affection, allow us to comfort them or relax in our arms. We take for granted that when they are hurt they will tell us what is wrong and cuddle into our comforting arms. When our children are older, we USUALLY don't have to worry about them throwing a temper tantrum of a 2-3 year old EVERY time they are mad (which happens A LOT in a day)-- or become reduced to a fit of crying when one of their siblings does something they don't like, ESPECIALLY if what the sibling did was meant as a gesture of love-- like patting the child's back, or trying to put their arm around him like a buddy does.

This is where we are at. I have always known-- like that crazy mommy instinct-- that JB's "heart" seemed to have some holes in it-- holes that went beyond the normal trauma and attachment issues all families walk through with their kids who are adopted-- especially those who adopt older kids. I think it is a super great place to be, because it is a place of deeper understanding, concrete and direct interventions/strategies... but best of all, it is a place of being in total and utter dependence of My God who does NOT withhold any good thing from His children! I know that I am so out of my realm of human wisdom, savvy or strength. It is only by the daily, moment by moment grace (action) of God in and through Tony and myself that JB's heart will heal. God's gotta do it-- but we have been chosen to be His hands and feet.

The final piece of all this is my own health and well-being. For 5 months, I have been in a whirlwind of emotions, added workload, added needs, adjusting to 5 children who are in a constant clamor for my love, attention, help, etc... This has left me, well... Exhausted. Beyond the normal "I have 5 kids" exhausted. Strangely, this was a light bulb moment for me-- I know, I'm quick, aren't I? :) All the sudden it dawned on me that for as many strides as JB has and continues to make, and as much as I am working with him on specific emotional issues-- he leaves me sooooooo weary. I mean-- that boy WEARS ME OUT!!! If you have someone you love in your life who is depressed or emotionally unstable and they just seem to suck life OUT of you, then you know exactly what I am talking about. (Note: if you are thinking, "Well, YEAH, Shari! Just reading your BLOGS sucks the life out of me!!"-- kindly keep it to yourself!). Strangely, this "lightbulb" moment was somewhat of a final confirmation that we are dealing with some issues of woundedness in our youngest son. So, part of our strategies for helping Joshua Biruk also need to include strategies for allowing me to experience some way of finding respite and an outside interest to invest more creative energy towards-- even if it is just getting to pursue new running goals, study more about gardening... or... maybe... learn a new language --just kidding!

5 Months ago Tony and I drove out of a gated Transition Home with two new children we didn't know at all but we called them son and daughter. Today... I am still getting to know them; but one thing I DO know in the depths of my soul-- Joshua Biruk and Rebekah Selame Dragovich ARE my-- God given, God designed and God planned from before the beginning of time-- son and daughter.

Grace and Peace,

Friday, December 4, 2009

"The tyranny of the urgent"

My life is flashing before my eyes. I want this blog to be so much more exciting, more posted on, more effective for orphans... blah, blah, blah. Instead, all I can seem to do is post once in a blue moon and ramble on about my personal thoughts, emotional battles, crazy life experiences as a mom and a family who took the plunge into God's heart for adoption. And what a plunge it has been AND continues to be. :)

It is so fun to watch JB and Risa experience all these "firsts" in our family... first birthdays (although that one was a little traumatic for JB), first family trip-- again, traumatic, but so good for our family; first Thanksgiving-- which was NOT a traditional Team Dragovich Thanksgiving at all; first Christmas tree finding and trimming, first Advent season, etc. Last night, during our bedtime prayers, JB thanked God for "Mommy making Christmas so beautiful". My heart was stolen into his and again, I was jolted into a new "view" of their little lives-- and our life as a family.

My heart screams out for the lives of the millions and millions of children living day to day, not knowing the love of a mother and father. One thing that JB is continually commenting on, roll-playing or talking to me about, is how Tony and I interact with one another. He always wants to "show" me how Daddy gives me hugs and kisses when he comes home from work, or how Daddy holds my hand when we are driving in the "makina" (car), or how we make funny faces at or tease each other-- things I completely take for granted. For JB, it is fascinating. Sometimes, he will say, out of the blue... "Daddy and Mommy, no hit?" Or, if he is in one of his silly, confused, insecure, teasing moods, he will say, "Daddy and a Mommy-- hit, hit, hit... ha, ha, ha!", then pretend he is "daddy", hitting "mommy" in the face. Of course, I am so very quick to correct him and reinforce how much Daddy and I love each other and are kind to one another. We will NEVER hit one another. But, all the while my head is reeling with sick wonder at what he saw before us and my stomach knots when I imagine it.

In general, the boy is fixated with "hitting". He talks about it alot, accuses others of doing it to him alot (unfounded-- beyond the normal brother, boyish hands-on behavior), roll plays it a lot, etc. He is super-oversensitive about it all and cries at the drop of a hat. And when he cries, it is a high-pitched, screeching, nerve-wracking cry. You would think that the kid was having his limbs pulled from his body, one at a time. And then... he just stops. He gets over it and moves on. Where any of my other children who are annoyed at their sibling will just say, "knock it off", or tattle, have me ignore their tattling and move on-- JB screams, wails and then stops. I am JUST now starting to distinguish these cries and not over-react to them. And, for as affectionate he has become with me especially-- constant hugs, kisses, holding hands, stroking my face and words of endearment-- he refuses to be comforted when he truly is hurt. He becomes stiff as a board when I pick him up, rocks back and forth, stops crying and then says, "All done, no more JB owie". I am working through all these things with him, trying to teach him to relax in my arms and give lots and lots of "off the spot" loving. Most the time I think I am blundering through it all, but he is making progress and God is good.

Did I mention that my heart screams for the faces of those left behind? The statistics of the world-wide orphan crisis are staggering. Here again, I find the task of giving you the numbers myself to be one step outside my time to blog ability. So here is the link to one family who has a ton of great stats:

My Crazy Adoption

There are others. If you go visit many of the families from my blog roll you will find more great stats, personal stories and practical ways you can be the hands and feet of Jesus and fight for the widow and the orphan. Another family who has some EXCELLENT ways you can give while you shop this holiday season is the Steiger family. Here is the link to Lenka's blog:

The Steiger Clan

It is more than frustrating to me to be in such a season where the "tyranny of the urgent" seems to always win over the "vision focused living". I hate not being more organized, more of a champion for the cause of adoption. I want so badly to do so much more... but alas, I cannot even go to the bathroom without have 2-3 children crying out my name in "desparate" need of something--and none of them are infants. Even to post this morning, I was interrupted SEVERAL times, we are now behind in our school day... and if I wait for tonight to blog, my brain will be fried in to several unrecognizable pieces all over my living room floor. You would probably be either incredibly disturbed or offended to read what would end up on the page.

That is so dramatic, isn't it? :)

Hopefully, later this weekend, I will post pictures of our latest adventures. We traveled last week to Elizabeth City to play while Tony worked and had some pretty fun adventures-- but mostly just more time to "pressure cook" together as a family. It was a good thing :).

Grace and Peace to you... and thank you for listening...


Monday, November 2, 2009

Some fall fun and some firsts...

Seems like we are truckin' right a long with life. Soccer season officially ended on Saturday-- oh, was that a HURRAAAAYYYYY you heard from the eastern part of the U.S.? It is fun to watch the kids play soccer and it was especially fun to watch JB and Sam play together on the same team. But, it is a lot of work to have that many kids playing at one time and I am ready for some down time-- or maybe just "different" time. What is "down" time anyway??

JB and Risa continue to unfold and become a bit more comfortable in their Team Dragovich skin. And we continue to walk through the adjusting and bonding process. Sam & JB are definitely becoming tight. It is fun to watch. They are both so creative in their play and until JB came home, Sam seemed to always be pretending to be something or play something-- by himself. He played with his older brothers A LOT, but there were just many times when they couldn't keep up with what was-- and is-- going on inside his little brain. I know how they feel! I can't keep up with the mind of Sam either!

There are still some oversensitivities-- oversensitive to sharing toys, teasing, touching, etc... but there is MUCH more happy laughter, hours of joyful and creative playing and TONS of communication-- enough to make my head explode. Having FIVE talkative children around me 24/7 is a whole new level of chaos that I am constantly working on breathing through :)

Here are some pics of our fall, end of soccer and Halloween '09. Excuse me while I attend to an oversensitivity-- let's see if I make it better or make it worse. Always a toss up :)

Risa after somersalting

Sam after... who knows what

Bammer and Mommy

Risa and Daddy

Sam & JB with their trophies

Pre-Halloween chaos

Posing for Halloween chaos (L to R: Army sniper, Little John, Snow White, The Black Prince of the Hundred Year's War, Aslan with a sword)

Post-Halloween... aaahhh

Grace & Peace,

Sunday, October 18, 2009

JB & Me

Mommy and her African babes :)

Now, those are some handsome boys!

Have you ever just been so overwhelmed with the fullness of your life?? I don't mean "fullness" as in stuffed to the gills with appointments, places to be, kids to clean up after, schedules to keep, etc... though certainly I DO get overwhelmed with those things. Way more often than I should or want to admit. No. I'm talking about a fullness that bursts forth with life, love and gratitude. There almost aren't words for it. All I know, is that when it happens-- that knowing of "fullness"-- there is an overwhelming sense that this life I am living is SOOOO much larger than me and yet, I have been chosen for "such a time as this" and for such a purpose as well. I have been given the husband, children, lifestyle, opportunities, responsibilities-- ALL of it-- for an eternal reason. Beyond me. Beyond human explanation and into a much greater, more expansive purpose. And it is good.

I love those moments. It is as if the veil is lifted and I can see clearly. I can see the point of it all... those every day struggles don't seem so tedious and mundane. Every task is God-given and God-ordained. My children's flaws are overshadowed by the beauty of who God has created them to be and gifted them to grow into. My husband is truly my knight in shining armor and my own struggles, weaknesses, fears and/or future plans pale in comparison to the Almighty Love of the Almighty Purifier of my mind, body, spirit and soul.

Ahhh.... and then the curtain closes. I don't know why, but somehow, the cares of the world and any unchecked sins try to creep in and steal my joy. I'm not really sure why I even bother to tell you all this, other than it is this feeling of "fullness" that is the only way I can describe the life of adoption. Overwhelming. Bigger than me or anything I could fathom. Thankfulness. Yes. Overwhelming gratitude. Even in the midst of the struggles and tensions and wondering. I hope when you've read my posts over the past few months you have walked away with more than just the "hard things". I hope you have seen the calling of God and His Grace to accomplish that which He has begun and the continuing walk of faith and that this walk is not always pretty. But it's not all ugly and pot-hole filled either. I, I KNOW our eyes have been opened to a whole new understanding of God's love through adoption. On so many levels. His deep abiding love for His children to know Him deeply and fully. His compassionate love for the poor, the widowed, the orphaned of the world. His gracious and un-ending love for ALL mankind to come to Him and be adopted into His family and become heirs to the throne of Grace! And what we are to do with all this "knowing" and new "eye-sight"-- oh my. That is for a whole different post!

I can't even tell you all the ways that adoption has changed our family for all eternity for God's Glory... but I am seeing some of it. Maybe only during those times the veil is lifted, but it is there and God is faithful. Even in the seemingly "bad" moments and days. You know... it has been very frustrating for me. And I wish I could say that I have been able to handle the "hardness" with great maturity and compassion. Not so much. But... here is the amazing thing. God is binding our hearts despite of my mess-ups and is faithful to continue teaching ME how to love and live in His fullness.

And here is another amazing miraculous thing. Despite the childish pettiness (and not always from the children, mind you!), misunderstandings, mis-translations, etc... JB is coming alive-- fully ALIVE!!! When he first came home, he clung to Tony inappropriately and tolerated me. He didn't know how to hug, didn't know how to handle affection and couldn't make eye contact to save his life. He cried at the drop of the hat and seemed only to know how to hit, bite, pinch or cry his way through communication. I struggled so desperately to be compassionate and then cried almost nightly at my own guilt over the lack of compassion, the fear of never "feeling" love, grieving for our family to never look the same again, wallowing in the agony of being the "2nd mom"-- agonizing for him, his biological mother and myself. I wish I could tell you I grieved FOR him. I DID grieve for his loss before he came home. When we got our referral back in February and learned of his story. I grieved then. And, since he has been home, I have been able to enter into his grief with him and hold him with a sense of God-given understanding. But not at first. Not for many weeks.

JB & Me in Ethiopia

But, now I see a new thing happening. The old is going and God's newness is slowly coming. In spurts and fits at first. But now it is flowing stronger and stronger every day. Is there still chaos? YES. Do I "feel" like we are a family yet? Hmmm.... what is your definition and what are your qualifying factors? It doesn't "feel" like it ever did before they came home, but I don't think that will ever happen again! How silly of me to think it should. JB hugs me every day and his favorite thing is to give me "loooooonnnng time, kisses, Mom." :) and "Everybody hug, Mommy and JB". Tony is currently on his second out-of-town trip and JB did no more than hug his dad goodbye and off he went to continue playing-- just like the other boys. He still teases quite a bit, but it is good natured and he seems to be learning when enough is enough. He is quite the chatterbox and LOVES for me to see him do ANYTHING! Every goal he makes in soccer (which is a considerable amount) ends with a look my way to be sure I saw it. He inhales school time with me like he inhales chocolate ice cream-- his few favorite snack. And he always wants me to sit down and watch his new favorite movie with him-- currently Narnia. We've moved on from Spirit.

JB & Me tonight (3 months home)

Have I mentioned that God is good? :) He is. Enjoy the photos.

Grace and Peace,

This was how he immediately "posed" when I asked if he wanted a picture with Mommy

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

God Made Smiling Eyes

Life is moving forward at a break-neck pace. I wish I could say I am handling it well and flying right along—enjoying the wind in my hair and the excitement of the forever new adventure. But alas, I hate getting tangles and I’m tired of lacing up my Indiana Jones boots. September began with a week long trip to IL to celebrate my mom’s retirement. It was a very fun trip—full of family, catching up with loved ones, time on the farm and bonding for the newest Team Dragovich additions. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it was pretty stressful, too. How would JB and RiSa react to my family? How would my family react to them? How would I react to all these reactions??? Of course, everyone showered them with love and even if they were cringing on the inside from the sheer amount of chaos my children now bring to every situation, they patiently endured the screeching, grumbling, crying laughing & general constant commotion with smiles, hugs and funny comments. Truthfully, I was mostly worried that the new kids would become clingy with my parents and begin to shun Tony and me for meeting their needs. I was also worried that the old kids would feel slighted or become jealous at the extra attention being focused on the new kids. I have read too many books and this is not a good thing. None of those things happened, and while I did notice some “old” patterns of behavior come out—especially in JB, no one regressed to “1st week home” behavior and again, I witnessed the refining fire of another “pressure cooker” experience. Like going to Florida, we were all stuck together and HAD to interact, deal with one another and learn to work through our differences.

Now, post-IL trip has been a bit hairy—for me mostly. For whatever reason, I experienced within myself a resurgence of “unnatural mommy-hood” syndrome. For whatever reason, I felt like I stepped backwards in my bonding an attaching with the new kids. Affection and compassion have been at a premium and that feeling like I am caring for someone else’s kids has been working at resurging. Praise God that He is at work and our “feelings” cannot be trusted!! I am not going to try to suppose why this happened. It is too hard and too full of potholes. Early on I made a promise to not sit and wonder every day when I would feel like JB and RiSa’s mom. I gave that up to the Lord to handle and am STILL giving it to Him to handle. Having said that, I would be lying (again) if I didn’t admit that my mind still wanders over to wanting to figure out “when” the feelings will be there, instead of focusing on the truth of God’s goodness, His deeper love & His plan for our children and our family.

I doubt that it has helped matters any to hit the ground running, either. Meaning, the two weeks following our trip home have been filled with beginning all our new routines (piano lessons, homeschool PE) plus doctor visits, dentist appointments, weekend soccer games, parties, etc. Amazingly, the kids—ALL of them—have handled the chaos incredibly well. Tony and I have continually commented on this fact after each event. And the people we see at all our outings are continually amazed that the new kids have been home for only 2 months. Other than one incident when JB snaked a toy from a 3 year old during a kids’ game this last weekend—which was incredibly awkward, embarrassing and yet ended up being a GREAT learning experience for him—all 5 kids have flowed in and out of our social gatherings, soccer games, out-of-house homeschool routines, etc. with little fuss, whine or the typical aftermath of meltdown.

I’m not sure what to make of all that is going on in my head and in my heart during this season of life. One thing I know for sure is that it is refinement and “the blowing away of the chaff” in my life. Some days I wake up and the colors of world are bold and vivacious. The smiles of my children are brighter, purer, wider and full of love. Other days I wake up and it is all I can do to smile back. One thing I am learning for sure, is that true love—God love—is NOT a human love. It is not something that I can manufacture within my own power. I also am learning that the love I can produce is not enough and it never will be enough and it isn’t MEANT to be enough. The love I can produce—without the help of the Holy Spirit-- will always have a selfish edge to it. It will always whisper, “What about me? Who is going to love me back?” That kind of love will not propel a relationship into true unity. It will not bind a marriage into oneness. It will not raise a child to truly “go in the way that he or she is bent to go”, or provide the springboard for them to soar.

But it is the God love-- the eternal, larger-than-life love-- that only comes from a daily surrender of myself to the One who CAN love in all those ways; who can cause all of the above to happen. And happen with fullness and abundance. I think that is why one of our family’s life verses is John 10:10… “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I come that they might have LIFE and have it to the FULL.” Our lives are not our own. They belong to the Lord Jesus Christ and He means for us to have FULL, ABUNDANT life IN HIM. The “full” life that Jesus speaks of isn’t full of “stuff” or earthly treasures. Rather it is a life—eternal life which is happening here on this earth and goes on for eternity—marked by fullness of relationships and the joy, peace and contentment which rises out of living with our “eyes fixed on Jesus”; walking in the path He has marked for us, doing the good works He has prepared for us to do in advance, and loving others with His “God-Love”—a love that WILL bring heaven down here to earth.

And here is the best part. GOD IS FAITHFUL and I am seeing a depth of His Love that I never even knew existed—right here in my home, in the heart of our adoption. I am overcome with emotion when I am able to sit back and contemplate all that He has done in our children’s lives—all of them—and all that He is continuing to do. And when I look a RiSa and JB and try to think back to those first few weeks home, I barely see a shadow of the scared, tearful, clingy yet resistant children we brought home from Ethiopia. Now every morning is met with hugs and kisses and every night is the same. There is so much “I lub you, Mommy” in my life and I can barely turn around without someone right there to give me a hug. RiSa tells me almost daily how much I am “Konjo”—beautiful. Sunday afternoon she was sitting at the table finishing lunch (which takes her a considerable amount of time to do) and chattering away about how beautiful I am, she is and the guys are. She was grinning ear to ear and you could just see the God-love oozing out of her. I was contemplating this as I was listening to her and thinking of what a change this was from 6 weeks ago when she would sit at the table and give me those evil “cat eyes” that girls do so well. I remember many days the first month especially, calling her out on those evil-eyes and teaching her to “smile with her eyes”.

I was agreeing with her about how beautiful Team Dragovich was and how God made us a beautiful family to be together.She was quiet for a while after that—back to eating, you know. Then she looked up at me and with a huge messy food face grin announced, “Mommy, God made smiling eyes.”

Yes, my sweet gift from God… He did.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yes, we are alive-- and even doing well!!!

RiSa digs birthdays-- who cares if it is hers!

Oops! Team Dragovich has been sorta busy for the last few weeks! But... we are doing well and truckin' right along! Let me see if I can soothe your withdrawls (ha, ha!) with some pictures. I'll try to post a more in-depth analysis of our latest adventures when I get more time-- RIGHT!!! (I mean, I WILL post later but let's just be clear that it won't be because I have time. I will be because I have chosen to neglect some real responsibility or child for a time so I can post to the blog.)

JB wasn't so sure about celebrating his b-day, but he wasn't about to say no to presents!

Too much attention, but smiling anyway
JB isn't so sure about birthdays, but keeps on smiling

Sam definitely knows what to do for birthdays!! The pictures are out of order, but his was before JB's in August

More to come!
Grace and Peace,

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Birthday, beach and Vomit????

Okay, I'm getting ready to commit a huge bloggie sin... and I have done it before, but this is really bad. I am getting ready to post about my newest son's first b-day as a member of Team Dragovich-- and I am NOT loading pictures. This is not by choice. I used Tony's camera to take pictures and he can't find the cord I need to upload the pics onto my camera. To make matters worse... I didn't even TAKE a camera yesterday to our day trip to the beach because again, Tony's camera is missing a cord AND his card is full... and my camera's battery is dead and I can't find the charger-- which it doesn't really hold a charge anymore, so I see the end of my camera coming... but still. How shameful.

So... Thursday, August 20th, was JB's 6th birthday. Luckily, Sam's b-day was two weeks before, so he got to see a birthday in real time as we celebrate here at Team D. As the days approached to his big celebration, we would mention to him that he was going to have a birthday soon. He would smile and say, "No. Biruk-e birthday. No". We didn't really know why he kept saying this, other than maybe it wasn't the day yet, so maybe he was confused. Then, when Thursday came, we all got up and did our birthday thing and he kept saying, "No. No, Biruk-e Birthday. Sam's birthday. No, Biruk-e birthday". Every time we would tell him happy birthday, or say, yes, it WAS his birthday, he would say no. He tolerated our birthday fun all day, but denied that it was ever his birthday. Tony and I were somewhat puzzled over this, not really knowing if we were making him upset, if he didn't understand, etc. We thought once we did the cake and presents, he would brighten up and say, "Sure! It can be my birthday!" Instead he seemed so uncomfortable and uncertain of what to make of all the fuss over him. And at one point, I thought he was going to cry. He kept his silly smile plastered on his face the entire time, but when Tony kept telling him it was his his birthday and he kept saying no, I wasn't so sure we weren't headed for trouble. The crazy thing is, I think it was exactly what he needed. The persistent attention, the celebration of him, the constant, "Yes! It IS your birthday!!"... he just doesn't know how to handle the attention, affection and consistent love. Tony and I had a long discussion and just wondering outloud about his entire reaction. We laughed that we had just witnessed a first-- a kid who DIDN'T want a BIRTHDAY!! Now, let me just clarify-- he DID want the presents and was happy to unwrap gifts labeled "JB". But, consistent with a lot of his little quirks, the anti-birthday reaction helped put more of a face on our little boy's tough life before us. Joshua-Biruk wears a lot of masks to hide the hurt that he has experienced already in life. Most of those masks seem to present themselves in ultra-silly behavior, resistance to a lot of attention and focus on him, immediate "wounded" behavior when he is offended by a brother, over obsessiveness over Tony... there are more than just these, but Tony and I see these masks the most.

But... PRAISE GOD!!!... we are seeing less and less of the "beaten down little puppy" and more and more of the truly wonderful boy, God has perfectly created. It seems as though in the past two weeks, we have started to turn a corner-- or maybe it is more of a very wide turn... but either way, ALL of us have begun to settle more and more into our new, expanded family. I know I have talked before about lack of eye contact-- just in the last week, JB has looked at me-- ON HIS OWN-- EVERY time I have asked him to!!!! And he will even maintain eye contact for more than 2 seconds! Even when it is for discipline purposes for which I am speaking to him... he looks directly at me, and responds in an appropriate way. He speaks to the boys before he whines at them. They have many hours a day of appropriate and happy playtime together AND he seems to be really digging both soccer AND homeschool-- both of which started this week. And the boys have become INFINITELY more compassionate, kind and tolerant of him. Every day we pray, multiple times a day, for God to weave our hearts together as a family and He is so very faithful. Of course He is!

Okay, so that was a lot about the "birthday"... I'll try to be more concise on the "beach & Vomit"... as they sorta go together. Earlier this week, Tony got a wild hair to take a day trip to the beach-- we live about 2+ hours away and have made it a day trip before. We're crazy like this. He wanted to see the Hurricane Bill waves. Sure! I RARELY turn down a trip to the ocean! So, yesterday morning we get up and out the door later than we wanted, but still pretty early and headed to the beach. I noticed that RiSa was more crabby and lethargic than normal as we got ready to go. She was more fussy and sassy. I assumed she was mad that we weren't eating breakfast before heading out the door-- the girl likes her food. Well... after about 40 minutes in the car, I found out the real culprit. RiSa was sick!!!! She still is. She threw up consistently on the drive to the beach and once while we were there. JB joined her, of course in the vomiting fun-- you know, he gets car sick pretty easily and we don't get to "our" beach via interstate-- two lane state roads, through little towns, full of starts and stops, slow moving vehicles, turns and uneven pavements. She seemed to liven up at the beach. We all had a blast in the waves and sand, came home sufficiently lobstered and I thought all was well. No. She started throwing up again around 7pm last night and is STILL throwing up. It is 10:30 am on Sunday. I have never had a child throw up for over 24 hours. And once she started vomiting last night, she maintained a steady rate of "sick, Mommy" every ten minutes or so. To say that I feel like my head is in a fog right now is an understatement. And I'm still blogging. Whatever. Pour me more coffee. My husband is calling me his "hero" and has crowned me a saint for "letting" him sleep all night while I stayed up. As if I could have woken him from his coma sleep if I tried. What a goof ball. :)

Okay... last but not least... here are a few more quick notes of our last week:

*We started doing school this week. Tricky with 5 kids in-tow, but after a few adjustments to the schedule and activities to keep little bodies busy at the right time... we had a GREAT WEEK!! Who knows what chaos will come, but at least I am over the "starting school again" hump.

*JB seems to really dig school. Don't get me wrong, he loves to play more, but he comes very willingly to the table when it is his turn for "Mommy time" (one-on-one instruction) and has even taken a couple of the things we discussed this week during story time and applied them to every day (the boys sees every American flag we drive by-- and is sure to point them out to me-- "MOM! FLAG-- America Flag!" Too cute)

*The RiSa cuteness factor continues... this morning AS she was vomiting into her puke bucket, Isaac made the comment, "Mom, I just can't get over how CUTE Selame looks in those new pajamas!" She's even cute when she is vomiting-- at least to SOME of us :)

*I have been able to run more lately. I either run while at the soccer fields during practice-- that is, when Tony comes with us, too; or I put RiSa in the jogger, JB and Sam ride their bikes and I even bring Penny-- the dog-- along. I let Wyatt and Isaac stay home, since I am staying right inside our little neighborhood. I can get about 3 1/2 miles out of the boys, and of course, RiSa is happy to ride as long as I can push her :).

*We found out that both of RiSa's ear drums are perforated this week. We are being referred to ENT where we will determine what needs to be done. Obviously, this happened before we had her-- not sure if the holes will close on their own or not. They must be pretty large to still be open after such a long time. We never received any reports while she was in the Transition Home that she had a bad ear infection-- not sure that we would have-- but still... I'm a little concerned that they won't heal on their own and she will need to have them surgically repaired. None of my children have ever needed to be operated on, yet. When the realization hit me (more like Tony mentioned it-- very casually, I might add-- yesterday on the way to the beach), my heart dropped to my stomach and I almost started crying. Then I knew...

... these ARE my children, given to me by God, Himself for a purpose and a plan.

Grace and Peace,

Saturday, August 15, 2009

One month down... an eternity to go!!!

Well, it appears that I am back to "reflecting" (aka-- purging my inner thoughts and turmoil) less and moving through our new family dynamics more and more. Thus, the two weeks between posts! And, really... I should be running. For real. I skipped meeting my running group on Ft. Bragg this morning due to multiple RiSa interuptions to my sleep. Not to mention a husband who came home LATE-- or should I say, early morning??-- from the neighborhood poker match... he just COULDN'T leave, he says. He was winning. Whatever. All that to say, by the time the alarm went off at o'dark hundred, I was not responding. It has to be pretty bad for me not to leave at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning and steal away some "adult" time as well as get in a good run. Now I'm wondering if I should have just sucked it up and gone... hmmmm...

Enough of that.

So much of this side of adoption reminds me of the first months of bringing home a baby-- no matter what the ages of the children... maybe those who have brought home much older children would disagree. In alot of ways, we DID bring home at least ONE baby-- and some times I think... well... nevermind. :) A fellow adoption friend was encouraging me on the phone yesterday and saying how even it has been a month and that feels like a long time right now, when I look back after a year or more, it will be a fog. I concure... I DON'T really feel like it has been a long time since they have been home. I know that "foggy" feeling all too well... I've done it three times so far, and thankfully I am getting a "two for one" deal on this "foggy season"!! I long for the days when I will wake up and not say, "Oh! Here you still are!!" Not in a bad way or an "I wish you weren't here" way; but in a "Wait a minute. How do I parent ALL of you, again?? Oh that's right. There is no manual. I have no clue. Okay. What's for breakfast??" Am I scaring you yet?

The boys are adoring their little sister. I often hear out of one of their mouths every day, "Mom, I think she is the cutest thing ever!" or "Mom, she is sooooo cute!" or "Mom, she is the cutest girl I've ever seen!!" Lots of cuteness. As for little brother??? Not so much. This has been one of the hardest things for me to watch as a parent. The subtle and not-so-subtle rejection of my children to my children. And to make it all more confusing and frustrating to me is the fact that in a lot of ways, I can understand their actions-- I did not say I CONDONE or ACCEPT or ALLOW their actions... I just said I UNDERSTAND. This, of course, says as much about my lack of "seeing through God's-eyes" as it does theirs. The great thing is that I see progress. More of like two steps forward and one step back progress... but progress, none-the-less. JB is a lot more complicated than RiSa is. He can be very obstinate when he wants to be. He is quick to whine when he doesn't get his way. He won't listen to the boys when they tell him to stop doing whatever annoying thing he is doing all the while laughing uncontrollably because he thinks it is funny. Unfortunately for him, these things all add up to "annoying little brother syndrome". Poor kid!! But, the progress I see is in these little things: when he pouts, it lasts less time than it used to. When he is "offended" by one of his brothers he doesn't do his Ethiopian wail (WAAaaAAaaAAAaaAAAA... WAAAaaaAAAAaaaaAAAAAaaaa and so one) as quickly or as long term as before. Note: I call this the "Ethiopian" wail because RiSa's whiny cry sounds the same. Maybe some other adoptive parents can concure this same cry???). He is making better eye-contact than ever before-- although we still have a LONG way to go in this department and I will be very honest in saying that for Tony and I, this eye-contact thing-- especially when he has misbehaved-- is VERY FRUSTRATING. You don't have to tell me how common it is. I know. It is still frustrating. He ADORES Tony. He seems to like me, as long as Tony isn't around. And he always wants me to watch him do some new thing-- esp. in the water. But, he saves all his kisses for Tony and when I tell him how much I love him, he always says, "NO love. Daddy love Biruk-e." Then he smiles and goes off to play, not knowing the inner turmoil between knowing in my head to not take it personally and trying to stop the bleeding in my heart. Like I said-- or at least implied-- bonding and attaching with JB is definately a different road with more twists and turns.

Some other highlights: we made an impromptu trip with Tony to Florida this week. He had a conference to attend in which he was speaking and at the last minute I decided I would rather risk it with 5 kids on a resort than be stuck at home for 4 days with them-- despite the familiar territory. I knew it would be a stretch, but we talked it over and just did it. I'm SOOOO glad we did. Not to say it was the easiest thing to do-- 7 people packed like gypsies in a hotel room (is that politically correct to say?)-- but here are some of the highlights:

** JB is practically swimming. Four pools, the Gulf of Mexico and three brothers you are desparately trying to keep up with, will do that for ya. He was unrelenting and I have to say that the hours we spent working with him to "move the water" resulted in some great bonding and eye-contact practice.

**After driving about 4 plus hours, RiSa started to say indignitely from the middle row, "MOM. House! Mom... Houuuse." "MOM. Draga-bich HOUSE!!" Sweet. My girl can't say her last name without using foul language. I have to confess that this was HILARIOUS!!!!! One for the Memory book.

**Tony and I both think that JB came home from FL more relaxed and connected with all of us than when we went. I consider that trip a "pressure-cooker" of sorts. 5 days of forced close proximity-- esp. between him and the boys. They HAD to interact and although we had a lot of tussles and fussy arguments, somehow God worked in spite of it. It has helped me look at our upcoming school year with a little more anticipation and a little less fear :)

**More than once (as you can imagine) I heard these words, "Are these ALL your children??" "Why, yes!" I would reply proudly. "They are." Some other common comments: "God bless you." "There is an invisible halo over your head and a place in heaven waiting for you." "Wow. I thought four was a lot! And you look so YOUNG!" Yeah... I liked that one. I won't lie. And even as uncomfortable as the rest of the comments were to hear-- It was amazing how at that moment, I was encouraged by them, uplifted and felt like I could finish the day well. Never underestimate the power behind your encouraging words.

**I actually took all five of them OUT to eat by myself THREE times-- two of those times being on the same day. I am crazy. We had to eat. They did GREAT!!!!!

I better wrap this up. Now I am in the middle of figuring out how the heck I am going to homeschool with 5 kids in my house, one of them being a 2 year old-- who is VERY vocal. I'll keep you posted on that adventure. I am also looking at my garden-- or what is left of it. I am so sad to confess that my garden was a complete mishap this year. It is full of weeds and regularly being eaten by the deer. All of my flower beds and pots look the same. Unloved. And running??? Well... it is random and not focused. Imagine that. I'm not Super-Woman after all!! :)

Grace and Peace,

Saturday, August 1, 2009

"Tri"ing for a cause... You can Help!!!!

So, if you haven't figured out by now, I am a long distance runner-- some might even say I am a bit obsessive. Fortunately for me-- just because it's fun to have fellow crazies to commiserate with-- I have family members who share in my endurance sport obsession.

Well, my cousin and my little sister-- both of whom are tri-athletes-- have teamed up to bring hope to children in Haiti. Recently, a mission pastor to Haiti came to speak at my cousin's church and shared his story of taking in over 20+ orphaned children who would most certainly have died otherwise. Pastor Isaac, his wife and over 20 children live together in a one room home. It is his desire to build an orphange to not only house the children he and his wife have taken under their care, but also to take in more children who currently live homeless-- and hopeless.

Here is the fun part: Krista and Emily have decided to raise money for Pastor Isaac in a unique way-- True Monke athelete style!! They are facing off in a fall triathalon and asking people to "bet" on who will win. All the detailes can be found on their blog:

Go on over, say "HI" and pick a winner-- backing it up with your financial donation, of course!! But, be ready to add to your amount, should your athelete lose!!!! And... do NOT ask me who to place a bet on-- I refuse to publicly take sides :D!!!!

Grace and Peace,

Monday, July 27, 2009

Week Two in Pictures...

Our official move to a 2 TV family-- SPOILED KIDS

Everyone is zoned to the movie but SassyFrass-- imagine that

Look how RiSa likes to carry Bitty Baby-- TOO MUCH CUTENESS!!

The "crash" on the couch after Wyatt carries JB on his back and RiSa on his front around the house-- this is a favorite game of theirs-- not Wyatt's :)
Sassy LOVES the water-- so does JB... he just needs to realize his limits :)

JB LOVES soccer!

Wyatt saving RiSa from the neighbors dog-- small yippy dog-- but still.. her Hero. Oh, did I mention my girl LOVES dresses???? She does.. Yeah me!

As you can see, we've hung out mostly at home or at our community's lake... good times :) Be sure to read the "Jars of Clay" post after this one. I didn't want to litter that post with too many pictures. Okay. Enjoy!!!

Grace and Peace,

Jars of Clay

Sam’s special pottery bowl broke yesterday. It was a horrible accident and RiSa didn’t realize what she was doing… but, it is broken and will never be able to be used for snacking again.

Yesterday afternoon, the kids were all playing on their bikes, trikes and rip-sticks. We had been having a very lovely weekend, really! I ran on Saturday morning with a new group of people from a chuch we are currently visiting, went to a baby shower Saturday afternoon and got so to see some old friends I hadn't been able to touch base with in a while, we went to church for the first time on Sunday morning since we have been home... oh! and I am VERY PLEASED to report that BOTH children were very shy when people oogled over them and either burrowed their faces into our shoulders or inched closer to our legs and grabbed on tight. They also sat amazingly well for the over 1 1/2 hour service-- I sorta thought they might do okay, after having them at our 2+ hour marathon lunches they had to endure while in Ethiopia. Not that I think we are close to "bonded"-- whenever that happens, who knows!-- but...

I digress.

Anyway; kids were playing and RiSa had apparently taken her trail mix outside—eating and playing, eating and playing. Of course, her snack was in Sam’s pottery dish that he made while Tony was deployed and we were on our way to IL with a pit stop in Gatlinburg, TN over Christmas. Yeah. I didn’t know that she had it outside—of course I would have never let that happen. But… I guess I did, just by not knowing. Anyway, she put the bowl on Sam’s back while he was bent down, and then he STOOD UP! CRASH!!!! Wailing, mourning and much other gutteral crying ensued. Wyatt and Isaac were HORRIFIED for Sam and at RiSa. I got the call, “MOM!!!!!” which I could of course hear from inside the house. I come running out, thinking a leg or arm or eye was missing. No. It is the bowl. I felt horrible, too. But, not only did I have to tend to a grieving Sam, but I had to deal with two outraged brothers who were ready to crucify little sister. As I was bent over Sam and the bowl—in the middle of the street, mind you—I kept hearing these words, “She’s not even sorry! Aren’t you going to spank her??! Can I throw Bitty Baby to the ground and run it over with my bike? I mean, she deserves SOMETHING!!!” All the while, little RiSa stood there with the most sober face. In fact, if I remember right, she was half way to the house to come get me and when I came out toward them all, she kept saying, “Sam, Sam, Sam,” with this very troubled look on her face. Obviously the angry brothers didn’t pick up on these signs-- nor the simple fact that little sister is 2 ☺. I looked at her and tried to explain as best I could that Sam was sad because his special bowl was broken. “Ish, ish” she said (alright or okay). I told her to apologize (obviously telling her what to say) and was more than happy to oblige. We all walked in the house, heads hanging low and still her face was sad and dreary looking. Once inside—Sam still wailing—she looked at me and kept saying, “Sammie. Sammie.” I pointed to Sam and said, “You can give him a hug.” And she immediately walked over to him, and tried to console him with her hugs and pats. I was—and still am—completely overwhelmed by this small child’s depth of remorse, insight, tenderness and desire to comfort a mournful sibling.

The boys are still a bit peeved about the bowl. Every time Sam opens the drawer where the bowls and cups are stored he lets out a little sob and says how sad he is that his bowl is gone. I ought to move the bowls. Drama. But, as I have reflected on the bowl incident and our family and this life… I can’t help but see so many God- applications. We are such broken people. We demand justice and retribution from others without looking at our own filthy lives. We mourn over our messes when a lot of times—no, 99% of the time—we are active participants in the stink. And yet, despite all our frailties and brokenness, God chooses to use us as His precious vessels—generously giving us the treasure of Christ. Adoption into His Kingdom… into His Family. Undeserved. Not so that WE look good… but to show that the surpassing power of God’s mercy may be known as coming from HIM… not us. And those who see it, may recognize His power, mercy and love—and be forever changed. Just has He has done for us—individually and as a family.

“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassing power is from God and not from ourselves… for we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.” -- 2 Cor. 4:7-12

2 Corinthian 4. God’s sweet rhema (spirit-filled word) to me. Especially the end…”So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (v.18) These are the days to live broken. “Ish”—it’s alright. It’s not about us. It’s about God, His Glory and His Kingdom come—Here on earth as it is in Heaven.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

Grace and Peace,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Just the nuts and bolts

I really enjoy posting-- especially now that the kids are home and I feel like I have a lot to share (ie... get off my chest) about life post-adoption. But, here is the thing... I like to have what I say be "pithy" and enjoyable to read-- otherwise, you all may stop coming by to read about crazy Team Dragovich and leave being encouraged that at least your family isn't "THAT nuts!!" But... it is hard to have time to be all quaint and cute. And every day, multiple times a day, I encounter "subjects" to a post... so that by the end of the day, I can't even sort them all out in my head or know which direction to take you! And besides that, I have to spend some time unraveling the ridiculous emotional side from the REALITY of what God is doing in our lives, so that I CAN write in a way that won't cause you to pause and maybe think you need to call a counselor for us :D!! I'm really sorta just kidding on that one-- but "sorta" is a key word there.

So... I will just give you some of the events and my thoughts/emotions that have been playing out in our family this second week into life as 7:

*RiSa likes Shirley Temple. We have had "Captain January" from Netflix FOREVER, and finally just sat down the other night to watch it-- per request of Wyatt. He LOVES movie nights and amazingly, all the boys like Shirley Temple-- weird, but good. But, because we live in a little bit of chaos right now, we ended up starting the movie before everyone was done with dinner-- ie-- RiSa and JB and me (because I never get to start eating until most everyone else is over half done with their food). As soon as Little Miss Temple came onto the screen and started singing, RiSa stopped eating-- food in mid-bite, which is saying something for this girl-- and stared at the adorable little doll-faced girl with the bobbing curls on the TV. Her eyes lit up and she got the biggest smile from ear to ear. After that, she slowly finished her dinner, with one eye on the TV the entire time, and then happily went to the couch and sat the rest of the movie-- MIRACLE!!!! Afterwards, she was singing in jibberish the music she heard on the movie. The girl likes Shirley Temple.

*Both kids are completely head over heels for Tony. This isn't to say they don't give me lots of affection-- especially RiSa-- but, the whole Daddy back to work thing sorta confused them at first, and yesterday, when I told them Daddy was on his way home, they got more excited than the dog does when she sees Tony pull in. They ran, screaming for the door, "DADDYDADDYDADDY... DADDY!!!!!!" Oh my. When they saw him pull in, they couldn't get the door open fast enough-- actually the door is somewhat hard for them to open still-- good. They jumped into his arms, showering him with hugs and kisses, repeating, "Daddy, Yeni... Daddy, Yeni (mine)!"... then they proceed to tease one another about whose Daddy he is-- then they say to one another, RiSa: "Mommy, Biruk-e's... Daddy, Yeni!" (meaning, Mommy is Biruk's, but Daddy is MINE!). They both do it. Nice. They laugh and have a great time with it, and still give me kisses and hugs... but Daddy is the apple of their eyes. All my kids have done this to me. What is that?

*JB and the boys are like oil and water right now. Especially with my second boy, who feeds his contempt to the next youngest brother, who is more than happy to oblige and parrot him. I was telling a fellow adoption friend on the phone yesterday that so much of the problem I think is communication. Not that there isn't the competition factor-- but really, when JB torks them the wrong way, it is because he is playing in a way that they don't understand, or wanting something that they have, and he doesn't understand he can't just take, or touching their hands and face which is so culturally accepted in Ethiopia and NOT here, or teases little sister to get a rise out of her-- which he rarely does anymore... they become personally offended and can't see the difference in culture or the lack of understanding he has over the offensiveness of his actions. Wyatt is doing the best with it, because he works more at parenting them than just being a brother-- which frustrates me, but I can get over it. Isaac, especially will become disenchanted with something JB does and then just pick on him in subtle-- or not so subtle ways. Yesterday, JB must have "cut" Isaac off while riding bikes and Isaac proceeded to bumb his tire against JB's until JB fell off his bike. Tony and I watched the entire thing transpire and it was hard to watch. It is so hard to watch your child be so mean-spirited to another. I kept waiting for Tony to intervene and asking him, "Aren't you going to do something?" But, it is true that a lot of times they need to just work it out and right now, the more we point out when Isaac is being mean, the more he retaliates and grows in self-righteousness. So... JB fell and didn't really hurt himself, but of course, his feelings were terribly hurt. I went out to comfort him and he wouldn't really let me. He is small enough that I can pick him up and "force it", but he never cuddled up to me and did the whole, "stiff as a board" thing. I kept kissing him, trying to soothe him with words and eventually let him down to see if he would ride again. He did get on, still bawling... until some people on a golf cart turned down our cul-de-sac. Then he shut off the waterworks like a faucet. Hmmmm....

*Yesterday, I HAD to go out to run a few-- yes, I said A FEW-- errands. Hospital on post, eye doctor for follow-up and vitamin shoppe. I am happy to report that all my fears of RiSa darting or seeking attention from doting strangers were disappointed. At the hospital, we stopped by to see if Daddy could chat (he couldn't), and in the meantime, one of the other docs started showering the kids with attention and trinkets that he keeps in his office. "Oh boy," I thought. "Here it comes. " Instead, when handed a stuffed dog, RiSa shyed away and buried her head into my shoulder. Of course, later she lunged for the car that the boys had. But, still! She was perfectly content to hang onto mommy or be in her stroller and JB was happy to hold the hand of a brother the entire time we were out and about. We managed all our errands with very little fuss-- besides the nit-picking attitude of older brothers... which I have already delved into at length-- sorry :)

*Finally, we have had a possible medical situation arise for our little RiSa. It showed up in her bloodwork and we are praying that it will pass without causing her long-term problems. God is faithful and good and I know He is our All-sufficient in every trial we are being faced with right now as a family and as individuals. I covet your prayers for RiSa's health and complete healing-- IF what the bloodwork showed is truly the case.

Every day brings new joys and new challenges. I find myself bouncing throughout the day between contentment and being overwhelmed. I constantly fight off the fears that try to invade my brain-- fear of brothers never meshing or accepting the presence of a new brother, fear of JB never letting me comfort him, fear of MY own heart never really getting to that point of "feeling" like they are MY kids and not someone else's kids whom I have been left responsible for. Every day I see evidence to the contrary of my fears. And I have never practiced the ACT of love harder and the constant denial of living in my fears and emotions more than now. Praise God for that!!! I KNOW that our family is becoming more Christ-like through this process. Not because of what WE are doing that is so great, but because of what Christ, in His mercy, is doing through us. He is not content to leave us in our own selfish state, but rather, He is faithfully continuing the "good work" He has begun in us-- not to be completed until the day we see Him face to face :)

Grace and Peace,

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Shake Shingles on a Double-Wide

Today, on our way to Raven Rock State Park, I noticed a double-wide trailer with shake shingles going up half the sides and on the roof. Hmmm... that is a unique thing, I thought. I sorta reminds me of Ethiopia. Awkward seg-way, but true. The whole time we were in Ethiopia, I witnessed, smelled and experienced things that seemed just very unique to me. Here are just a few examples: A herd of goats grazing in the median of what seemed to me to be a major highway. Seeing a highrise being built using tall wooden poles all criss-crossed together as it's scaffolding. Going to church half way around the world and feeling like I had just worshipped in America-- it WAS their English service, maybe we should have gone to the Amharic service :). Looking out the Yebsabi Guest House and seeing a herd of donkeys pass down our street. Having absolutely no order or regulations as to how or where people were driving and yet making it an entire week without a single car accident. Driving down several unpaved, unmarked, pothole filled roads until turning into a gated compound that was a five star restaurant, serving traditional Ethiopian cuisine. Finally-- and really completely frustrating, not unique-- stepping out of our van, onto the streets of Addis, walking past dozens of homeless, begging people and then into probably the most posh day spa I have ever seen before in my life (I don't frequent them often, but I've been to some nice ones here in the states), be completely pampered for over an hour, then walk out of that eutopia and back into the reality of poverty and want which exisists in abundance... no matter where you go. All of these completely surreal experiences have occupied hours of conversation for Tony and I over the past several nights. It has taken so long to process the entire trip, and I am still trying to peel back the layers. To say Ethiopia is a beautiful place is an understatement. If you could see the beauty of the mountains and the lushness of the vegitation, you would say it ranks with some of the most beautiful places in the world. I saw geranium bushes growing up the sides of buildings and when I asked our guide about this, he said they have to keep cutting them back to keep them in check. I told him that where I live-- which is a pretty great climate for growing pretty plants-- we can only grow geraniums in pots. For sure, I've never seen them the heighth of a single story home and as wide as half the outside wall!! He couldn't believe it. Neither could I :). And the people are beautiful. Kind, welcoming, hospitable, and smiling-- even with their eyes. Except for the hungry, down-cast and poor. Which is everywhere. In abundance. There is not a street in Addis that is not touched by poverty. We drove through the "Beverly Hills" section on our way to the coffee factory on our last day in Ethiopia. There were multi-million dollar houses... and homeless people. Granted, not so many in this part of town... but they were there, none-the-less.
You can't make sense of so much poverty. There is just no way to explain what it does to you on the inside. And I don't know about you, but when I can't make sense of something, it ends up making me angry and confused and helpless. Truly, in some ways, that is how I left Ethiopia. And now, when I look into the eyes of my children, I wonder how it is that they were rescued while millions of other orphans are left to try and survive against such daunting odds. How can I raise them "well" enough to honor this gift and not have them feel helpless about their homeland like I did? The truth is, I have NO idea what God has in store for them. And to think I can raise them "well enough" is such a prideful, self-important thought. Who am I to wonder at the workings of Almighty God or try and guess WHY He chose RiSa and JB for such a time as this? My job is simply to allow His love to flow through Tony and I to raise them and teach them of the love of a Father who has rescued us ALL out of darkness and into His Marvelous Light. I will never forget Tony's words one night while in Ethiopia, spoken in whispers over sleeping little heads: "All I know is that they were given to us. I don't know why," he said, "maybe for us, maybe for the boys, maybe for them... maybe for some crazy thing that we can't even fathom. All I know, is that it isn't an accident. They were given to us."

So, just like shake shingles on a double-wide (awkward seg-way, again) I don't have to understand. I am free from that. Instead, I can and will smile at and celebrate the uniquenesses of a land far away... which suddenly isn't so "far away" anymore! And praise my God in Heaven who saw fit to include our family into the wonders and uniqueness of adoption both from and INTO this land of Ethiopia. This, I may never be able to make "sense" of, but I stand in awe of it, none the less.

Grace and Peace,

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

So hard to be JB

RiSa LOVES looking at books-- yeah, me!!!

That is a pretty serious face!

Photos, Photos and more photos!

The tree cutting party this morning on our front porch

Three of my five cutie pies!!

Poor JB. He had a REALLY hard day today. Everything started fine, but by late this afternoon, he was terrified of the dog again, and full of tears over having to share the tricycle with his sister. His whole world has been just tipped over and spilled out all over half the world-- in front of everyone and he has no way of knowing how to make sense of it all. The worst part is, there isn't a whole lot I can do to "fix" it. In fact, I am the one (or one of the ones) who has helped make it sooo messy for him!

He doesn't seem to pick up on things as quickly as RiSa does. I swear she is understanding MOST of what I say to her- certainly she understands the obvious things and even the more subtle ideas-- like sharing and manners. JB-- not so much. And to make matters harder, he is having to deal with his older brothers try to talk to him and then quickly get frustrated that he doesn't respond to what they are telling him and then focus more of their attention on cute baby sister-- which is still beyond my comprehension. Today, he resorted to teasing them and sorta "picking" on them in order to keep their attention. The same kind of things he would do with RiSa at the guest house-- take her toy away that she would be playing with, copycat what she was saying, taunt her with something he knew she wasn't supposed to have or touch, etc. It's not that the boys don't try-- they do, but not for long, and certainly as soon as he doesn't share the toy of the moment they are whining at him and all fussy with him until they just decide to leave and go do something else. Now, every day hasn't been like this, but yesterday and today have been more and more.

Here is another issue. I know that in Ethiopia it is very culturally acceptable to feed one another and share off of one another's plates. I think that is very neat and I certainly don't have an issue with it-- except when I am trying to get my new kids to try and eat what is on THEIR plate and not go scavenging for everyone elses mashed potatoes after theirs is all gone. If I would let them, they would eat meat and starch forever and ever until they gorge themselves to death. Not cool. Especially RiSa. So... when she is done eating what she wants (the bread, pasta, potatoes) and asks for more I don't give it to her. I tell her to eat what is on her plate, then more. She gets it. Believe me. She pouts, and sniffs about and then looks at brother Biruk, who is all too willing to share what he has-- esp. if he doesn't really want it-- case in point with mashed potatoes tonight. Well, I wouldn't have it and this confused him. And tonight isn't the first time I've done it to him. It happens at one meal a day, at least- and once, I even caught him sneaking food to her. Bless his heart. That made me mad. I KNOW he is just doing what he has probably always done-- with her or any other kid sitting next to him. On one hand it is hard to stay firm when I know it is so confusing to him and frustrating, too. On the other hand, I can't let RiSa gorge herself on starch and carbs!!! And he needs to learn to try to eat a variety of foods, too! It's a hard one, and all I know to do is stay consistent and hope he doesn't resent me for it the rest of his life. :)

And you know the whole "breakthrough" with the dog? Well, forget it. I don't know WHAT happened (it was on Tony's watch!), but I guess Penny got frisky with JB and he pushed her away, which she took as a game and then went for the nipping of the leg. Yeah. Bad move, Pen-Pal. Tony said he tried to soothe his fears by "making him play fetch with Penny". Right... didn't work.

See what bright parents we are???? Ughhhh.

I know that most of what is happening in JB's little brain and heart right now is grieving. He is grieving his homeland, his caregivers, his friends, his language, his food, his culture, his people. This is my prayer-- that we would recognize his grief, enter into it with him and be able to love him through it. Not with our own love, but with the love of the Father who is able to give all comfort in all situations at all times.

Grace and Peace,

PS... Hopefully I can remember tomorrow to post about our shopping adventure to the mall-- RiSa darted on me while in Stride Rite buying her and JB new tennis shoes... can you believe it?? I almost lost one of my new kids before I've even had her for a week! Ugh.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bedtime, playtime and...Guacamole??

Sharing is hard-- whether you're 2 or almost 6! Or 34... Let's just be real, here!

JB and Sam are "sharing" and RiSa's getting the sleepy eye glaze

Boy... if you would have asked me this morning how life with 5 kids is going-- 2 of whom speak not a lick of English-- I would have either started crying off the bat, shot you an mean "RiSa" look, or maybe even made some sarcastic comment to let you really know how I feel. Whew-- good thing no one asked!!! :) The nighttime routine with RiSa is tricky. I lay down with her for both nap time and bedtime. She pretty much fusses for both, but at some point calms down and falls asleep. Actually, it doesn't even take too long. I can only imagine what is floating through her little mind-- going from sharing a crib with probably at least one other toddler in a room full of cribs that look the same, to having her own room, with both a HUGE crib (compared to what she had at the Transition Home) and a big girl bed with no side rails. Hmmm. I knew this would be tricky and was waiting to see how she responded to bedtime in general, before making any decisions as to where to have her sleep upon arriving home-- in her crib, which she hates; in her bed, which she hates less; in bed with us, which I'm not thrilled to start doing unless absolutely necessary; or let her sleep in the boys' room, which ended up not being an option since she doesn't really just lay down and go to sleep when it is bedtime. I remember this transition with each of my boys. That season of being too big for the crib, too unruly to be trusted to just lay down and go to sleep, waking in the middle of the night to sleep with us... she isn't so different.

The point to all this is-- I'm TIRED!!! Which doesn't help with the perspective thing. But... I sucked it up and took all the kids to the park in our community this morning while Tony went on post to try and get the kids registered in our military health care system. Both RiSa and JB LOVED the swings and monkey bars-- neither of which they could do unassisted. The boys fought over who would push RiSa, and RiSa whined and screamed every time someone other than me pushed her. The monkey bars were a trick, too. They don't really get the whole take turns or sharing thing. Or, maybe they do, but since they don't speak English they don't understand when I am trying to explain to them that we have to take turns doing the fun stuff-- like monkey bars. It didn't help, either, that Isaac and Sam kept getting frustrated with them for not waiting their turn. The whole language barrier is much harder for the boys to tackle than it is me and Tony. They get all offended when JB just goes in front of them, or doesn't respond to their directions. I am constantly reminding them that, "No, your new brother is not mean or rude-- he doesn't understand what you are saying, and I don't think he ever really practiced taking turns in his life before now." When it comes to RiSa, however... well, we'll just hold our comments for now :D!!

We ended up having a really nice day, actually. The new kids are completely enamored with bikes, scooters and tricycles of all kinds. They will spend FOREVER working the peddles, pushing themselves up and down our cul-de-sac and JB even started trying his hand at the bicycle. Of course, he saw big bro's doing it, and then they took off for a bike ride and he was left behind. That sparked the all out effort to learn to ride. Tony and I have sore backs and tight hammies tonight. Hmmm... wonder why?

Dinner and afterwards had to be my highlight, though-- except for bathtime. But, that's another story of bubble craziness. I have been working hard to put the freshest of fresh on the table at night-- goodness knows their little bodies have been lacking real nutrition. And we are trying all kinds of fruits and vegetables. But, here is a funny one that I discovered they like-- especially RiSa... guacamole!!! I made fresh salsa today and guacamole and that girl just chowed down!!! JB, too. And RiSa liked the fresh peppers off the grill, too. They are kind of picky about their fruits and veggies. So far they will eat peas and corn, fresh salsa, avacados, bananas and apples with a vengence. They are NOT hip on cherries, blueberries or strawberries. Neither of them took to the smoothies I made today, but they both LOVE homemade bread. YEAH! I knew they liked bread-- but I wasn't sure they would dig the "good" stuff.

We ended our night with lacing cards, matching bears and a bedtime story for RiSa. This was the sweetest night yet. No crying, fussing or fighting. She lay comfortably in my arms while I read "Goodnight Gorilla", then we shut out the lights, cuddled and within minutes she was out. Pray for a good night's sleep!! Speaking of which... I better get to bed!!!!!

Grace and Peace to you all,

PS... Please keep ALL the families who have just come home with their littles in your prayers. We are each experiencing such unique, exciting and challenging days post-travel and I know each family desires with all their hearts to live out these days for God's glory. :) Thank you!