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!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Home-- Day 2... Breakthrough

JB likes to bounce!

Nana made me an apron

Nana made RiSa a matching apron-- too cute!

JB playing in the neighbor's yard

One thing I think I may have not mentioned yet about the kids is that they are TERRIFIED of Penny, our German Shepherd. I can't say I blame them-- for a couple reasons. First, she does look sorta scary-- big, black, hairy and she barks a lot. Second, I don't remember seeing a dog on a leash while we were Ethiopia.... meaning, they weren't "man's best friend". No dog runs, doggy treat stores, people with their dogs in their purses, no one walking their dog... imagine that. The only dogs I saw were straggly, rough-looking mutts who were either scraping around for food or getting run off by the gate keeper of our guest house. I was anticipating this reaction to Penny, so it didn't surprise me at all. I have been wondering what will be the turning point to the fear of the dog, and today I saw maybe a turning point-- at least for JB. The boys have been all about showing off their new siblings to the neighborhood kids. So, they had JB over in the neighbor's yard this afternoon while RiSa slept, bound and determined to break the fear. The neighbors have 2 dogs-- one older, more docile large dog and another pure-bred German Shepherd who looks even more scary than Penny-- sorta. At one point, when I was looking out the window to see how they were doing, I saw them all crowded around JB and one of the dogs. I immediately knew what was going on. JB was clinging to Wyatt and trying to warm up to the animal, all at the same time. Very cute. I am so thankful for sweet neighbors and their children who are so accepting and excited for us and our new additions. Whatever the boys did with JB and the dogs seemed to work-- somewhat. This evening after dinner, JB was trying to show RiSa how to pet Penny; speaking who knows what to her in Amharic-- grinning, talking in soothing tones and SLOWLY walking up to Penny and doing his best to bravely pet her. I wish I had a video recording of it. He never really convinced RiSa... but I was sooooo proud of him for getting so close and petting Penny-- and he wasn't even clutching on to one of us while doing it!!

That is our "Breakthrough" for the day-- hence the title of this post. But, really I would say we had little breakthroughs all day long. In my quiet time this morning I read from Colossians and was reduced to tears over Paul's sweet words to that church... Colossians 1:9-14. Especially the part about being "qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption,e]">[e] the forgiveness of sins." How overwhelming and humbling and life-giving!!! RiSa is calming more and more every day and I am remembering more and more what it is like to have a 2 1/2 year old again. And I am being introduced to... GIRLS!!!!! We had fun, FUN in the kitchen today. I had to grind grain and bake bread and she was all too ready to help out. It is amazing what she understands despite the language barrier. She liked wearing her apron that Nana made her when she saw me put on mine-- MATCHING!!! Too much cuteness!! We had MUCH less fighting for naps today. While we were laying together during nap time she was playing with her Bitty baby and I watched my little girl so sweetly care for her doll-- doing many of the same things and even SPEAKING many of the same things that I have spoken to her over the past several days. Amazing. She sang to her baby the "clean up" song, played "Jump" with the baby (Wyatt started playing this with her), patted her bottom, washed her whole body and sang to her some more. I think I must be the most blessed person on this earth to have been able to witness this beautiful girl mimic the love that she has experienced thus far in her life-- only through the love given by the Father.

Thank you to ALL of you who have posted, prayed for and thought of our family during such a unique time! I'm so sorry I cannot respond to all your comments-- I want to soooo much!! Just know that I am increadibly encouraged by all of you who have gone before me, and am inspired to keep making love a VERB-- knowing that it is IN CHRIST that our family does ALL THINGS!!!

Grace and Peace,

Sunday, July 12, 2009

HOME!!!!! Day 1

Team Dragovich

Scooter Time!!

Papa and RiSa

More Scooter mania

I can't believe I was in Ethiopia this last week. In fact, after only 24 hours home, I sorta feel like it was all a dream... except for the fact that we came home with two little people who don't speak our language, don't know us at all-- but call us Mommy and Daddy. I will give you the logistics and facts first-- I'm not sure I can unravel all the emotions in one post... and CERTAINLY I cannot begin to share all the thoughts, suggestions for future traveling families and just general experiences of individual days in one post. So, I REALLY hope you keep coming back to check in with Team Dragovich. I'll try to post some pictures each time, too... just as "candy" to keep you coming back for the real stuff ;).

Let's see... From Tuesday on, I was pretty much on an emotional roller coaster. I could cry at the drop of a hat and usually did. I was overly tired most of the week, but could never go to sleep. Selame did NOT break us in easily to her energetic and head-strong personality, and even though I never was sick per say, I had no appetite and came home a little lighter than I went :). The Embassy Appointment went fine... for all the fuss that is made over it and all the paperwork you have to do to prepare for it the end result is rather anti-climatic. Unless, of course, someone has not done their job and paperwork is lost, then I guess it can be a real pain. Thankfully, all the families made it through without any problem and we were out in a couple hours. After that, we went shopping in what seemed to be a nicer part of Addis. I think that was on Wednesday, anyway. It is all a blur now. I will say that with each day, Selame seemed to become a bit more comfortable with us and looked to other "daddies" less. One thing I wasn't really ready for was how aggressive all the kids play with one another. It was not uncommon for either Selame or Biruk to just walk up to one another and kick, pinch, grab from one another or do some other overtly aggressive thing which blew my mind but seemed so everyday normal to them. Tony and I quickly responded and have been responding ever since. And it wasn't just the two of them. Whenever Biruk would play with the two older boys being adopted by another family-- it could quickly turn to mass attack on one another. It also took a lot of "NO's" to get them to stop. And in a lot of cases, when Biruk would be egging on Selame to get a reaction from her-- which he LOVED to do-- even when I told him to stop, he would just laugh hilariously and not really listen right away. The language barrier can be tough. But, I will say that now they are home, I have not seen him pester her at all and even as the week progressed, he did it less and less.

Our flight home went amazingly well. Both kids slept the entire time from Addis to Rome. At the stop in Rome for re-fueling, they woke up and Sassy-frass (my new nickname for Selame when she is acting sassy and 2) wanted to cause a little trouble. But not so much that she couldn't be averted with books, magazines and coloring. She HATED her seatbelt and tried like crazy to get it off. I was not really her best friend at that point. But, in the end we made it and only had one bag not make it to Raleigh with us. It came to our house sometime after midnight. We are guessing that it is because it had the coffee in it, so customs wanted to do an "extra good check" on that bag. Biruk was sick most of the 9 hours from Rome to D.C. He threw up 5 times before falling into a deep sleep the rest of the way. He was amazingly fine on the flight from D.C. to Raleigh which surprised me, since it was a little hopper plane which hit some turbulance.

So... here we are. I cried so much when I saw my boys' faces. They met us on the entrance road to our neighborhood with their bikes and scooters. Tony and I stopped the suburban in the middle of the road and ran full on to see them. Then we followed them the rest of the 1/2 mile home, full of grins the entire way. They have been just WONDERFUL with the kids. Sam takes J.B. everywhere and Isaac and Wyatt have been taking turns looking for Rebekah's attention. They both slept fine in their rooms-- I had no doubt Biruk would and the only reason Selame did was because she fell asleep downstairs so Tony and I could transfer her to her crib without conflict. She woke up at 4am fussing, but once I got her and put her in our bed, she fell right back asleep.

As far as Day 1 of being a family of 7 goes-- pretty okay. We said goodbye to Nana and Papa and that was hard. Especially for Wyatt. He is sooo nervous about these new siblings. I understand completely how he feels. In a lot of ways I am, too :). The boys were DYING to take the kids to swim, so we decided on the beach in our community, loaded up and off we went. JB and RiSa did really well. They had no concept of how once the water went over their heads they couldn't swim, so at first they followed the boys right on out until they could barely touch and were pretty much swept off their feet by any set of boat waves which came their way. Tony and I were right there, so it wasn't a big deal. They had a BLAST in the water and it was funny to watch them play, splash and rub sand all over themselves. And it was REALLY fun to watch the boys interact with them. Can you believe I didn't take the camera?? I wanted to, but I just didn't want to be snapping pictures if they ended up hating the water or start drowning while I was saying, "CHEESE!!"

But, here is the best quote I can use to sum it up... RiSa started to throw a total tantrum at lunch because we wouldn't let her have more tortillas before she ate some other parts of her lunch. She started into her continual cry mode while we were trying to eat. Wyatt finally looked at us and said, "Ummm... can we do something about the crying?" I answered, "Yeah. Get used to it."

Pray for us!! :)
Grace and Peace,

Thursday's Post... a little late

I wrote this post on Thursday in a Word Document, meaning to post it when the internet came up. Unfortunately, the internet never really "came up" too well after Tuesday, and so I have been saving this post until I could get home to get it up. You may wonder why I am still posting it-- since it is now Saturday and we are home-- the range of emotions and the intensity of traveling to adopt in Ethiopia is like nothing I have ever experienced. My desire is to share the realness of OUR experience, not some rose colored portrait. Even as I read the last couple posts I have done... I don't think I have REALLY shared the intensity of what has been happening inside my head and heart this past week. But, I am just going to do my best, by posting what I wrote while I was there, and continuing to share over the next days and weeks-- as honestly as I can. So... here is Thursday's post:

This is the first chance I have had to post since we brought the kiddos back with us. They are doing really well. Biruk is very easy going, does whatever we ask him to, and even if he doesn’t want to at first—he will concede and do whatever it is we need him to do. The good thing about this, is that he will say no and doesn’t just do whatever without wanting any say in the matter. I have caught him more than once just staring at me and when I look at him, he grins big and just keeps looking. Especially when we are all in bed—yes… we have the family bed thing going. Selame won’t have anything to do with the little crib in our room—I can’t blame her, it is too small for her.

Speaking of Selame, she has “calmed” down as far as not going to every other person here for attention. She is off the hook active and loves to test her limits in every way. She is definitely used to being the star of her own show and looks for attention wherever she can get it. Although, even in the past two days, she has looked more and more to Tony and I for her attention and easily calls us Mommy and Daddy—well, she names us in pictures and when Tony shows up, she lights up and yells, “Daddy!” It is hard to unravel what of her behaviors are from being 2 1/2, what is from not really ever having a mom and dad, and what is general orphan behavior. She is very quick witted, learns VERY fast and runs very fast, too. I question her age somewhat, but she can throw a tantrum like a VERY good two year old. But, then again, my boys all were worse behaved at three than two. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. It is what it is, and we have to work through all of it anyway.

This leads me to part of the other truth as to why I haven’t posted. Everything here is so raw—I mean all my feelings, emotions, physical energy and thoughts are so edgy and hard to reason through. I would be lying if I said that this big event is all rosy and wonderful. The truth of the matter is—we are in survival mode. I miss my boys more than life itself and I just cry and cry at the drop of the hat. I don’t “feel” all the loving emotions I wish I felt and I know this is normal and even to be expected—but it doesn’t change the hardness of it. We are seeing so much progress from Monday, but I don’t feel like I’ve progressed from feeling like I’m caring for someone else’s children to caring for my own children. All I want to do is get on the plane home and get Biruk and Selame in the mix with the boys and start loving them all together. I am SOOOOO thankful for dear friends who have adopted before me and shared their own very hard experiences—otherwise, I think I would me much more scared.

I hope this doesn’t sound so horrible to read. I want to be honest and real—not because it is comfortable for me… because it is not. I think one thing I fight the hardest is fighting my own disappointment in myself for not feeling all the loving feelings I want to feel. I am such a perfectionist and sometimes I have a hard time seeing outside of my immediate circumstances to the way I KNOW God will bring us full circle. So, rather, I am posting this for those families who may read this and be able to now exhale, or not feel so lonely if they experience the same things.

I can’t really post much more. I will say that several of the other families are feeling the same way—maybe about different things, or maybe they are having and easier time “feeling” love than what I am right now, but most all of us are ready to get home, we miss our babies at home desperately and we struggle to make sense of the whole process of adoption. One thing that we did last night that really ministered to my soul, was we came together in the evening and had a time of worship, scripture reading and prayer. At first I didn’t want to do this—I knew I would cry the whole way through and I felt like I couldn’t have anything positive to share. But, what God spoke straight to my heart through other people’s readings was sweet running water to my soul, and I think we will make it ☺

Grace and Peace,

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Whew!! What a day. We finished our papaerwork partey without too much mess up—we'll see if the US Consulate agrees on Wednesday. Then off to lunch – which no one cared about and finally… the Transition Home. All was fun and jolly until we got close. The silence in the van was telling—we had all waited so long for this moment. Nine overly "pregnant" families about to give birth and you could hear a pin drop.

We were called by alphabetical order and it WAS very orderly. I have heard all kinds of stories about this day—or should I say, read all kinds of stories—so really, I was prepared for some chaos. But, instead it was very orderly and each family had quite a few photo ops before the next kids were brought out. I can't really describe the experience, other than it was surreal. Biruk and Selame came out holding hands and they were timid, but came right to us and accepted our hugs, kisses and incoherent blabbing over them. We each picked up one of them and told them in Amharic, "I love you". Selame just looked at us sorta confused but more than ready to eat up the attention. Biruk looked right in my face and said, "I love you," in English and then looked at Tony and said, "You are my Daddy." Then he looked at me and said, "You are Mommy," and grinned from ear to ear. The tears abounded. Selame was thrilled with us, as long as I
took lots of photos. Then, she was off to capture the love of all the other families. Hmmm… fortunately, I had been a little clued in to this character trait of my girl, and wasn't totally shocked or distraught by her. But… Tony and I DID take turns over the next 2+ hours chasing her around, telling her "No," and trying to keep her attention on us and not every other Daddy she saw there. She definitely favored Tony to me, and that is okay. Of course it was a little stinging… but mostly it was just tiring. I was—and still am—bound and determined that she wouldn't win. ☺ I lost count of the number of times Tony and I looked at each other and said, "Boundaries!" at the same time. The good news is, that within the first two hours, she calmed down a lot, and seemed to accept our "no's"—not testing nearly as much as in the beginning. It is obvious that Selame has had the run of the TH and is a little bully when she
wants something. She also knows how to use her beautiful eyes and striking smile to get whatever she wants from others. I feel sorry for the people on our flight home with us, for sure!!

They both LOVED all the little "tricks" I pulled out of my bag—books, model magic and of course the cameras. But the cameras are a whole other blog—for sure!!

I would be lying if I said I left totally overjoyed. Rather, I left with a mixture of overwhelmed, out of my realm AND overjoyed. They are both too wonderful beyond words—Tony and I can both already see how they were perfectly designed for Team Dragovich. Biruk LOVED playing ball with Tony AND me—soccer, catch, tag, hand clap games. Actually, he just wanted to be with us and was thrilled with anything we suggested. Selame was happy as long as she had a camera in her hand, and when those were taken away—well…. What can I say? She is full of personality!!!! ☺

I'm not sure how many pictures will post. The internet is VERY slow tonight. If I can't get pics to post now, I will post a lot more pictures in the morning—which will be about midnight for y'all.

Grace and Peace,

PS To my boys: I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!! Biruk cannot WAIT to meet you!! You are going to have the BEST time playing with him—no doubt!!! And you will crack up over Selame… until she tries to steal your cookies. But, don't let her have them and love her anyway ☺ She's gonna come around ☺

Monday, July 6, 2009

Today is the day!!!

I left the camera upstairs so no pictures in this post. That's okay. I'm sure all you care about are seeing pictures of the kids anyway and we don't have those-- yet! But... today is the big day!!!! It will be pure torture until this afternoon, as we have our "paper work party" in the morning and then have lunch before heading over to the Transition Home to meet the kids during the afternoon. Is this just standard with paperwork? I mean the fact that paperwork is painful by itself is enough. But then to have to spend an entire morning doing paperwork-- which is keeping us from seeing the kiddos and add insult to injury by calling it a "paperwork party"??? Right...

But, we had great fun yesterday attending the International Church, having coffee at the Hilton and driving up with the Pritchett family to see Enoto mountain. This is were the first Orthodox church in Addis was built. This was also where the emperor built his first home-- so it was like visiting Mount Vernon in the U.S.A. We had the sweetest guide who proudly shared the history of his faith and his emporer. He was excited to have Americans who were asking questions and hanging on every word he spoke-- little did he know it was mainly because we could barely understand his english :) But that's okay.

So, pray for us today, as we meet our kiddos and spend our first hours with them. I have tried so hard to not put any expectations on this day-- how impossible is that!! But, really... all I can really keep thinking is, "Wow. How did I get to have a life that is so bigger than my life???" What an amazing day this will be.

Grace and Peace,

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday morning in Ethiopia-- or were we in America???

Well after a fun night of fellowship with the other two families here-- the other 9 are arriving throughout today-- Tony and I had an interesting night of jet-lag sleep. We were exhausted when it was time for bed, but at about 2am, we were up and ready to go. The only problem with this was the fact that no one else was ready with us-- except, of course for the patrons of the nearby nightclub. We should have joined them. After popping some Ambian and keeping time to the music in my head, I finally dozed off around 3am and woke from my coma to my cell phone's alarm-- which was an hour off (behind)-- and I didn't know it. So, when I thought it was 9:30 and proud of myself for being ready an hour early for meeting our driver and another family for church... it was really 10:30 and time to go. Tony was not ready and not so thrilled to have me burst into the room yelling, "Hurry up! My phone was wrong, it's time for church!!" He took it well enough.
We made it fine and now I know my phone is an hour slow, for whatever reason.

Here was the other funny thing-- we went to church in Ethiopia, and other than the African yodeling from one of the band's singers, I would have sworn I was back home at church in the US. It was strikingly similar to our church in Maryland-- which was very sweet and reminiscent... but not very Ethiopian :) That's okay. It was great to be in an International Worship Center and it is the church that several of the in-country AWAA staff attend-- including our driver "T", who is amazing and kind and very fun to be with. Everyone is wonderful and accommodating. Even when we throw out our American ignorance for full display, the Ethiopian people are so gracious and forgiving and make us feel like we didn't make a huge social blunder at all.

Our only glitch so far has been getting our mac to recognize it is in ET. Which the strangest thing is that yesterday I couldn't get it to work at all, and just before Tony and I left to go try the Hilton (which is where we are now), we made one last ditch effort to see if the mac would recognize the Yebsabi Guest House-- and it did. But Skype still wasn't working, so we decided to go ahead and come to the Hilton and try our luck here. It works here, but my parents aren't on line-- soooo... Nana and Papa,,,, if you are reading this, please put the computer on line so we can Skype you!!!!

I am posting some pics of our adventure so far. I don't know how to label them from email, so you figure them out. I'm still trying to get a good cow crossing the road picture. We have been especially intrigued by the method of construction, the goat herds and just all the sights and sounds which make me smile and make my eyes go wide, too!!

My love to you all,
Grace and Peace,

Saturday, July 4, 2009

We made it!!!!

I'm not going to go on forever about our experience so far-- hopefully :)  We had a great flight from Raleigh to Addis-- via Dulles and an hour stop at Rome, where we were not allowed to get off the plane.  Ethiopian Air was excellent to fly with-- I don't have any real experience with international travel, but they were great :).  Tony and I surprised the AWAA staff by arriving apparently unannounced-- not really, but I guess the right people didn't get the memo.  I was frustrated at first and overwhelmed by all of it at first, but the other guides who work for AWAA were truly professional and accomodating and got us to the Guest House without incident.  Once we got here, Tony and I both were overwhelmed with the entire process thus far--more me than him-- he was just tired :).  We took a good three-four hour nap and woke up a little more refreshed and ready to inhale the wonders of Ethiopia.  After a phone call from our driver "T" who apologized
profusely for the misunderstanding, we had some ET coffee and took to downtown on our feet.  How WONDERFUL!!  Very out of my comfort zone and unlike anything that I have ever experienced.  But we were so enamored by the bustle of the city, the beauty of the people and the wonder of a land so far from home.  We stopped in a recommended restaurant/bar called the Zebra Grill-- very fun-- and had a couple drinks and some fries topped with a sweet sauce.  Yum.  We also took the time to learn some Amharic from a native speaker and she was genuinely thrilled that "white" people would work so hard to learn the language.  She also commented on how white people who are adopting have such a sense of connectiveness to the children they are adopting-- it is as if they had "birthed them from their own womb" :) 

That is all for now.  I am overwhelmed, overjoyed and completely in awe of this place called Ethiopia.  My biggest hugs and kisses to my boys-- I hope you read this-- I can't get Skype to work right now-- Mommy will keep trying, but now it is time for dinner :) 

Grace and Peace from Ethiopia,

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Testing and Ta-Da!! Maybe

This is a test to see if I can actually email my blog and post pics from email. We'll see!! I'm posting pictures of the kid's rooms. Enjoy :)

We'll see you in Ethiopia!!!!!!!

Grace and Peace,