Bersisa’s “First” Birthday

2013-09-22 19.43.49Tonight we celebrated Bersisa’s ninth (ish) birthday.  I’ve posted a few pics.  He asked for a white cake, and he chose the red and green Christmas sprinkles for the top.  He loved that we had nine candles and a “nine” candle.

It has not exactly been a good day.  For some reason that we’ll never know, something upset him in the car on the way to Jake’s baseball game, and he was quiet and withdrawn the entire game.  Total strangers walked up to him to try to cajole him out of his funk, as well as  the parents on our team who kindly gave it the ‘ol college try.  No one made a dent in his sulkiness.  Some days are like that with him.  He’s the oldest of our adopted bunch.  And the oldest always struggles the most.

But this evening was fun.  I brought out his wrapped presents and he had to stare at them through dinner and post dinner clean up.  (My idea of a little birthday torture….)  He happily tolerated Saminas and Sahye complaining that it  wasn’t their birthday.  (It’s been impossible to explain this birthday thing to them.  They honestly feel slighted that it’s not their turn!   No matter how many times I explain it or act it out having a baby—which I’m not doing anymore!—they think birthdays are randomly assigned.  Oh wait….for them, they are!  You can see my problem here.)  Bersisa was engaged and helpful and sweet—our favorite version of him.  He took to the chaos of unwrapping gifts like a champ.  He started out cautious, of course—that’s our boy.  But Jake encouraged him to experience the joy of wrapping-paper-ripping, and with a little help from Saminas, the paper flew.  He had a great big smile over the cake and he blew his candles out with gusto.

Tonight, Bersisa was a happy, newly nine, boy.  Whatever weight he was burdened to carry through the day he put off, shrugging like Atlas to rid himself of the weight of the world.  No doubt, he’ll find that weight once again to carry around.  Probably tomorrow.  But my hope and my prayer is that each time he lets it go, he sees that he now has others to carry that weight for him, with him.  His mom and dad.  His big brother and sister.  His grandparents, his teacher, his coach.  His friends.  His Father in heaven.  Someday he’ll understand he’s not alone, nor is he in charge, and will never be again.  What a gift he has, waiting for him.

Happy Birthday, Bersisa.  We love you so very much!

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Day at the Spa – Not What I Expected

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This last Saturday I had the pure joy of a spa day.  And I do mean DAY, as in all day!  I was even out of the city….not far, only in Las Lunas, but enough of a drive to feel as if I was truly getting away.  This spa day was a gift I received from Rob way back on Mother’s Day, and I waited to redeem it until I needed a respite from the 5 kiddos.  (I still am slightly freaked out every time I type “5” in reference to the number of my children!)  The day was absolutely wonderful…I was able to enjoy the whole experience with my friend Cara, I got to eat food I didn’t have to prepare or clean up after, the weather was beautiful, the pool was warm, and the hot tub was fabulous. And when I arrived home, I was further spoiled by having a sparkling clean house, courtesy of a wonderful husband and 5 children (there’s that number again!). Why, exactly, am I waxing on eloquently (or not) about my day of bliss?  Because even a slice of heaven on earth is still on earth, subject to the griminess of all that is sad and ugly and forsaken in this world.  Let me explain…

I was enjoying the very last treatment of the day, a full body massage, complete with aromatherapy that smelled like a delightful, exotic flower.  My massage therapist had quite concernedly inquired about any problem areas of discomfort or pain, and I just as concernedly reported that my ankles were achy from running in the soft sand of the Bosque (one might suggest I stop running in the soft sand, as I DO have other options!  Like the trail right next to the soft sand…) and my arches were sore because I’ve worn flip flops all summer, and my shoulder hurt from sleeping on it funky.  With all sorts of seriousness, the therapist began to administer her ministrations to my Oh-So-Abused body (surely you are picking up on my sarcasm here!)  As I drifted to the edge of consciousness, not letting myself fall asleep, lest I missed a second of this pure bliss, my thoughts swirled delightfully into nothing…until they swirled upon a memory of a woman I saw in Ethiopia.  Why, I wondered, was I thinking of her?   I have no idea how old she was—anywhere between 40 or 70, with a possibilty of 10 years on either side of those numbers.  I saw her while we were driving down the mountain of Entoto, so steep a descent that it required our driver to keep the engine in 3rd gear.  This woman of indeterminate age was walking next to us on the side of the road, and even though she was all the way to the right, our driver still had to go around her because of the massive burden she was carrying on her back.  The woman had an enormous load of eucalyptus branches that gave her a wingspan of at least 6 feet.  She had this funny little trot, faster than a walk, slower than a run, yet a distinct gait that testified to the effect the steep grade had on her small body.  I had seen these women before, and had asked our driver about them.  He said they climb to the top of the mountain, cut the branches, and bring them down the mountain to cut and sell for firewood.  They, surprise, surprise, are called wood carriers.  I never did see a man with this type of load; it was apparently women’s work, and older women’s work at that.  The wood carriers are clearly women that are living at the fringe of survival, beating their bodies into old age while still fairly young, just to provide a waterless, lightless, toilet-less shanty for shelter, and food that would push any American into instant malnutrition.  As this one particular woman, the one and only wood carrier I made eye contact with, sprang to my mind’s eye in the middle of the highlight of my spa day, my heart broke.  Had this woman, in all her life, had a massage?  A foot rub from a child, or gentle hands on her lower back that must ache every day of her life?  What if I could give that woman my little moment of heaven…would that be a gift or a cruelty?  I then went from sadness to irritation.  What a waste, I thought to myself!  Now is not the time for First World guilt!  Enjoy what you have at this minute, I thought, because fretting over that woman NOW does no one any good, and especially not your pathetic achy ankles that are starting to tense up all over again!  But what could I do?  The moment of complete happiness was gone, marred by what I had seen, in a world so far away from my own.

I have thought at length about this whole thing…what do we do, with the memories of what we have seen, what we have experienced?  I can still see the wood carriers, still see the child playing on the street, kicking an empty water bottle for entertainment; I can still smell the rotting vegetables of the Merkado, see the produce that the most marginalized of Addis Ababa pawed through, looking for something to eat.  This illustrates to me the verity that all we experience becomes a part of us — those memories come to be as integral a part of us as our DNA.  That’s not to say that all we see, hear, smell, feel, and learn are always present, or at the forefront of our mind.  In fact, I would venture to say that the worst of it gets pushed back to the farthest recesses our minds, if for no other reason than to enable us to deal with the stresses and pressures of everyday life. And, so often the worst of what we know can be the catalyst for bringing about the best of what we do in our life.   But when the reality of someone else’s  aches—a  real live person with eyes the color of dark coffee–reaches in and sparks an ache of our own…what do we do with that???  What the answer is, I don’t know!!  But I DO wish I could rub that one wood carrier’s feet.  If only for a minute.

Guess which one loves international travel.

In Dubai……Guess which one loves international travel.

A Celebration Feast

A Celebration Feast

At the WTC Memorial.  R&R after first trip to Ethiopia.
At the WTC Memorial. R&R after first trip to Ethiopia.

First Camping Trip - smiles all around.

First Camping Trip – smiles all around.

The joy of camping - pick a tree.....any tree.

The joy of camping – pick a tree…..any tree.

Summer fun!

Summer fun!

A Summer To Remember

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Well, we are nearing the end of the summer, and more importantly, summer vacation!  My favorite commercial ever is the Staples commercial, with the mom and dad gloriously tossing school supplies into the basket while their sullen children look on…its funny because it’s so accurate!   Not that I want to get rid of my kids (no, no, of course not!).  But the school year brings routine and structure , two things that I love but struggle to implement, left to my own devices.  I confess that I have loved the going back to school thing even as a child.  I’m now revealing my inner nerd!  J

In the last four weeks, we have had our ups and downs.  Actually, a more accurate statement would be, in the last hour, we have had our ups and downs.  At this very moment, I only have three out of five of my children speaking to me.  Sahye informed me yesterday, “No like “theez”  family!”   (I was ridiculous enough to suggest she brush her teeth before she could have gum.)  Our Ipad has mysteriously cracked and is no longer working.  I have, at a minimum, one too many co-parents at any given moment (Jake and Em are just a tad bossy), giving instructions that I have to counter balance with grace and compassion or negate all together.  I have yet to find the one magical fruit that the entire family likes.  Saminas attempted to teach Emilie a bad word when she asked how to say “Sit down” in Amharic.  How do I know it’s a bad word?  Because the other two were laughing in that embarrassed but hysterically silly way that all moms recognize as problematic, as he repeated the word over and over for Emilie to learn.    (If anyone can translate “botatay”, I’d be so grateful!!)  Oh, and the other night at the park, Saminas found a bush and took care of business—serious business—before I had any idea what had happened!  This may be Potty Etiquette 101 in Ethiopia, but in America, if your dog does that and you don’t clean up, you’re in big trouble!  Can’t imagine the laws on 4 year olds!

Oh no…it looks like I’m sharing all the downs!  We have had lots of “ups” as well, and I’d be remiss to not to share those details as well!

Jake has made great gains in all his relationships with the kids, but most notably with Sahye.  He took my advice to heart (“Quit parenting her—that’s my job!”) and has won her over with his gentle teasing .  We left him home yesterday to run some errands, and as we were walking out the door, she said “No good bye Jacob!”  This is a vast improvement from “No like Jacob”, which we heard often  last week!

When Emilie goes to bed at night, she hugs and says “good night” and “I love you” to each of her siblings, even Jacob, which is new.   They don’t always say it back, but she is determined, and her reward will be great when they do.

Sahye and Emilie recently spent the weekend with my mom and dad and that went extremely well.  They girls did great together, and Rob and I got to talk on the phone with Sahye for the first time, which was really fun.  She was very sweet, with the limited English she had!  And Em got to receive some extra attention from doting grandparents.

The new kids are learning the names of the people in our lives and interacting with them in wonderfully healthy, confident ways.  They are observing all kinds of things….like today in the car, Barsisa said “Mom, go fast.  Daddy, no fast!”. (Apparently Mom has a bit of a lead foot).  They have a wonderful work ethic.  I have to actually turn off the vacuum and tell them “All done”!  (Don’t worry kiddos, I promise there will be more dirt tomorrow!!)  And, yee-haw, the seating situation in the Suburban seems to have been resolved (read my last email/post for full appreciation of this!).   What’s interesting, is that it only took one kid (which one, I don’t remember!) offering to trade places with someone who was upset to turn around the seating culture.  Now there’s a surprising sense of fairness and flexibility that I had very little to do with.  I was ready to strap them all to the top, Romney-style!  Just goes to show that God’s mercies truly are new every morning.

Just uploaded some pictures from our trip to Ethiopia—be sure to check them out!  More pics of our summer at home will be posted soon!

Email # 7 – Coming Together as a Family

Dear Friends and Family,

I am writing my last mass email update on the Burdick 7.  I will still write about our experiences and post pictures, but I will do so on our blog, burdicksneedaminivan.com.  I figure I have filled your inboxes enough already!  But please, whenever you are stuck in the tremendously long line at Dion’s drive thru, visit the blog, if for no other reason than for the pictures—we got ourselves some cute kiddos!  :)

So…where to begin recapping this past week?  Both Rob and I have decided there can be no other place to start but with praise.

All things considered (and there IS a lot to consider), we are feeling good and hopeful about how we are all starting to come together as a family.  Have I mentioned how much we appreciate your prayers???!!!  We have been so touched by people asking to help, wanting to know how they can pitch in.   But the truth is, most of you can’t come over and do my laundry or make a grocery run, or negotiate an argument between siblings or work on letters or clean toilets (lots of toilet cleaning going on here!!).  Only Rob and I and the kids can work these things out, together.  But you can pray, and quite obviously have been. Here’s the evidence of those prayers:   I have had patience when I was sure I was fresh out.  I have had compassion for all my kids, even the ones who certainly did not deserve it in the moment.  I have had energy for all the meals I’ve made (seriously, I have cooked more in the past two weeks than I did in the past two months!) and I’ve even squeezed in a little exercise.  The cooking alone thing must be an act of God, so please, don’t stop praying!  But seriously, we are praising Him who is sustaining us with strength we don’t possess.  Its still hard….but oh, God is good.

Speaking of cooking, we have found that if you offer salsa and/or barbeque sauce (spicier the better) with anything I make, there are few complaints.  That’s how I feel about ranch and guac, so I totally get it.  Also, sugary cereal  makes milk suddenly palatable, so yes, I am ruining them with Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms for breakfast. For all you purists out there, you are welcome to prepare for us, any morning of the week, a healthier breakfast!  :)  Its not that I’m “against” healthy breakfasts, I’m just more “pro” any extra minute of sleep I can steal.  I swear I do better with lunch and dinner.

A few little stories worth sharing…

Jake has continued to struggle the most with our new family dynamic.  However, after avery frank conversation with him about how his attitude is affecting the entire family, and after some prayer, and sharing of thoughts and feelings and Scripture, he has had a beautiful change of attitude.  We’re very proud of him. It has been amazing what a difference it has made in my attitude as well.  What is the saying?  A mom is only as happy as as her unhappiest child? (or something like that).  So true….
The kids are learning more English and as a result say things that are so funny.  Sayheinformed me she “No like Jacob!” when he tells her what to do.  Saminas said under his breath yesterday “No like Mom” when I insisted he finished his corn if he wanted dessert.  They know “Sorry!”.  They also know “No sorry!”.  Saminas sings to the radio, mimicking the songs line by line, exactly a line behind the actual song.  It’s SO cute…for about half a song!  :)
Our biggest hurdle thus far?  Figuring out who sits where in the Suburban!  UGH!  Its like watching a pack of wolves figure out the pecking order of the pack.  Of course, as lead dog, I get to over ride and re-arrange at will, like moving Saminas closer to me because he terrorizes his siblings in the third row.  But I seriously wonder if they would pee to mark their territory if I wasn’t around.  As the mom, I’m torn between wanting to be fair and rotate kids through the undesirable seats, or simply saying “This is where you sit, for the foreseeable future—live with it!”.  Any suggestions?  I’d love to hear how other families handle this crisis!  And for as much time as we spend in the car, it IS a crisis!  :)
I love how fearless the new kids are.  They learn to ride bikes so quickly, because they aren’t paranoid about falling.  They climb the equipment at the park with confidence.  They swim like they’ve been around water their whole life.  Its been refreshing to see their zest for life, minus the Nervous Nelly attitude that I’ve seen in my kids, and other kids I hang out with as well.    Its made me wonder about why that is… Have I coddled my kids?  Is it a cultural difference or a situational difference—are my new kids more brave because they’ve had to be, or because they’ve grown up thus far without helicopter parents?  I didn’t think I was a helicopter mom…but maybe I am, in comparison.  Are American parents doing their kids a disservice, parenting the way we do?  I think about the year it took Jacob as a 4 year old to put his face in the water….what could I learn from my new kids–who put their face in the water from day one?  What do I now protect my new children from?  Maybe they are in need of some “helicopter-ing”! I’ve not really worked it all out  yet, but these are the things I contemplate when scrubbing toilets…
It has been a good week.  We are finding our groove, and learning a LOT (never giveSaminas honey, under any circumstances).  We are laughing, if somewhat madly.  We are getting to know our kids and they are getting to know us.  We are struggling together and praying together and remembering its not about us, together.  I have fallen more in love with my husband than ever before, and I have turned to our Lord more often than ever.  This experience has constantly reminded me of the scene in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when Lucy asks if Aslan is safe.  The answer?  ‘No,  he is not safe.  But he is good.”  That is our God, and that is our experience.  It has not been safe.  But it has been good.
Much love to you all,
Jana

Email # 6 – Been Home 1 Week

Dear friends and family,

Well, it has been a week since we have been home…where do I even begin relating to you what this week has been like?

I have to begin with the homecoming we received at the airport.  Many of you were able to greet us at the airport! If the words are out there, I don’t have them to express what it meant to Rob and I to see you all there.  We had been traveling for 30 hours with 5 kids, one of who is 4 (ugh!), after a long week in a guest house in a country that was not our own.  To see the faces of those who love us, support us, and know us, was the greatest gift.  Even though the greetings were a little overwhelming for Sahye, I hope and pray that the new kids will remember the day they arrived in America and were greeted so warmly by the wonderful people God has placed in our (and their!) lives.

I will not lie, or be brave, or sugar coat this first week experience.  It has been hard!!  The language barrier has been more troubling than I had anticipated, as it not only interferes with the day to day logistics of functioning as a family, but it also prevents us from getting to know one another.  At one point I took the two boys with me on an errand, and by the time I got home I realized it had been a lonely experience!  I didn’t have the freedom of being alone, but I also didn’t have the company of being with someone.  I know this phase won’t last long.  Other friends who have adopted from other countries have reassured me that when they look back on this part of their experience, they remember it as a short blip on the radar of hard things they encountered.  Really, I’m not sure if that’s encouraging or not!  :)

Several people have texted or emailed and asked how I am feeling.  Frankly, I’m doing my best to discount my feelings, to even suspend them, if possible, for the foreseeable future.  My feelings are all over the map, anyways—they are so irregular and often irrational, that they have lost all relevance to even me.  Today, tomorrow, the next week….this is the time for obedience, not feelings.  Love is a verb, first and foremost, right?  Another friend reminded me this is a marathon, not a sprint.  One step at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time.  Only problem with that is, I’m a sprinter at heart!  Can we just hurry up and get through the hard time of transition?  This is where my beautiful husband comes in.  He IS a marathon runner, both in reality and in biblical reference.  He has kept us all laughing, even when his humor has that “I’m about to go stark raving mad” edge to it.  He keeps me talking and serves me in the smallest ways, ways that remind me we are in this together.  (The man puts toothpaste on my toothbrush for me when were getting ready for bed!  What a keeper!!)  He is a gift to me and to these five kids.  Give him a hug and high five when you see him…he needs both from his “people”.

Okay, enough about feelings!  I’ll share a few glimpses of our new life…

We keep forgetting Saminas!  We were all outside playing and everyone came in but him.  We hear a timid knock at the door, and there he is, with that little impish smile on his face!  We’re pathetic.

I was awakened at 4:30 in the am (curse you, jet lag!) by Emilie, who was up withBersisa and Sahye.  Apparently, a glow stick broke and was flung into every nook and cranny of  the kitchen.  The good news is, if you turn off all the lights, its easy to see for clean up purposes.  The bad news is, it was 4:30 in the am.  If you want to see me in my sin nature glory, just wake me up with a mess at 4:30 in the am….poor Em was just trying to help, but I had to ask her to please stop talking.  I can’t listen to chatter that early!

Saminas is a hoot and a holler.  :)  He terrorizes his sister (Sahye) with squirt guns.  He could care less how little he is when it comes to hanging with the big kids.  He’s a walking disaster when it comes eating, peeing, or keeping his room clean. He’s SO four!  But he also will crawl in bed with me in the morning and go back to sleep cuddled in my arms.  So truly, all is forgiven.

Bersisa has taught himself how to ride a bike.  Rob and I have been impressed with his determination and persistence!  He’s a sweet boy who tries very hard to do the “right” thing.  He is starting to, slowly, relax and loosen up.  My heart breaks for him the most.  He was the top dog at the orphanage, confident and sure of his place in his world there.  Now he has two older siblings constantly, and not all that gently, telling him what to do.  This has probably been our greatest struggle thus far, teaching the bios what their place is in regards to their new siblings.  Their lack of compassion and grace and mercy for them has been a heartache and a disappoint I didn’t expect.  I get that its normal and part of the process…I just didn’t want to see that kind of ugliness from my kids, you know?  I’m guessing this is also how our Father feels about me when I disappoint Him with my ugly heart.  Pray that we can respond to all our children in a way that glorifies Him.  Its hard to know when to talk our bios through their sin, and when to just beat them.  I’m kidding!!  Mostly.

I could write and write, but I should really feed the kiddos—-again!  (We have discovered Sayhe is our picky eater, nixing pizza and burgers.  She just might starve here in America, the land of the free and the home of the junk food.  Saminas won’t eat chocolate–weird!)  We are so thankful too for your notes and calls and texts and prayers—especially and most importantly, your prayers.  We are surviving on the backs of your prayers, and I’m not even exaggerating.  Thank you, again and again.

Jana

Email # 5 – Day 4

It is Friday morning, and we are packing suitcases. PTL!  Packing suitcases means going home. :). I fell into the sleep of the dead last night, not long after getting kids to bed, thus no update last night.  But now I am bright eyed and bushy tailed….mostly!

We had the going away party yesterday. The kids did great….it was me and the nannies who cried!  It was very sweet. All the other kids were dressed in their traditional ethiopian dress, and they sang for us. Then they played a variation of Duck, Duck, Goose and our three were allowed to be the stars of the game. The director said a few words, and then he asked Rob to get up and say a few words. Rob did a great job, being put on the spot like that!  The last thing we did was pretty cool, and reminded me of a wedding ceremony….they brought out a HUGE round pan of bread ( not injera, more like bakery bread, white and doughy and to die for!), and also a cake. They had us cut a cross into each, with me, Rob, Emilie, and Jake all making a slice. When we were done, they all clapped, just like at a wedding ceremony. Lastly, the kids were given gifts, which were traditional Ethiopian clothes, which they promptly changed into, in front of God and everyone. :). We enjoyed cake and bread and barley nuts and popcorn, and of course, buna, or coffee. The stuff is strong enough to make a grown man cry, but Rob and I politely, and may I add bravely, sipped it like the tolerant Americans that we are. :). It was as we were leaving that the crying began. Our driver explained to us that much of it was for Bersisia, as he had been such a helpful treasure to the nannies. It was so clear how much these women love the kids they care for. Ethiopians have a strong tradition of treasuring their young, and that was clearly evident at the Thomas Center. What a fantastic foundation these women have laid for Rob and I.

We DO have to report that we have already left behind a kiddo…that didn’t take long!  We had just returned to our guest house and, thinking the van was empty, we said goodnight to our driver and started in to the house. Our driver beeped his horn at us, and sure enough, there’s little Saminas, waiting at the sliding door inside the van!  We had to laugh…of course, it was only funny because we didn’t actually lose him. It’s all fun and games until an Amber Alert is issued.

We have had a few tears from various kids and adults. Saminas cried when he didn’t get his way, Sahye had some sad and quiet tears, out of the blue, Jake has tears just about every night getting into bed (thank heavens he has his own room waiting at home!) and of course there are the tears that come from me when it’s finally quiet and just Rob and I. (See, Amy, I DO cry!). It’s been a long week, and frankly friends, I think it’s going to be a long year. Please continue to keep us in your prayers. Whatever you can imagine would be hard, I’m sure it is occurring, or has occurred, or will occur!  No reason to candy coat it— this is hard.

We love you and look forward to being home. Home makes everything better, as that is where you all are.

Jana

Email # 4 – Day 3

Well, it’s been another day in paradise….

I will start out the update tonight with some good old fashioned complaining!!  ( aren’t you excited?)

I am tired of Addis. I can’t hardly stand to see one more kid digging in the trash, barefoot. Or old ladies, also barefoot, huddled together, begging on the street. Or small bands of boys hustling with their water cans to shine someone’s shoes, dressed in rags. There is trash everywhere. The smells assault me. And everywhere, there is poverty that simultaneously makes my heart break and my skin crawl. Please forgive my whining!  But every joy we have as a new family is clouded with the reality that exists just beyond the courtyard gates, and I can’t wait to run back to America and separate myself from it all. I wish I was more noble, tougher, more willing to stay here and fix something, anything, to do more.  But tonight, I just want to bury my head in the sand, and head home.

Also….it turns out that five kids are WAY noisier than 2. Why didn’t anyone warn me?  :). The new kids are really coming out of their shells, needless to say!  Fun to see, but finding myself in need of ear plugs!

We had the doctors appointment for the kids, and they are all the picture of health. The doctor was very knowledgeable and helpful and wanted to know what we had observed so far. He reassured us the kids are not only physically heathy , but also developmentally and socially. We knew this, but still, it was nice to chat it all over with the doctor personally.

The going away party will be tomorrow. We thought it would be today, but it was rescheduled. The kids were happy to visit the orphanage today, for the doctor’s appointment. When we pulled up to the courtyard, Saminas said ” We’re at my house!”   It was cute, but also bittersweet, that he’s  leaving “his” house soon.  The nannies at the orphanage have done such a beautiful job loving these kids, as was evidenced today by their warm welcome back, and they have only been gone one full day!  I’m anticipating lots of tears tomorrow, for everyone.

Oh, I forgot while I was complaining, to include my son (Jacob’s) response to lemon pound cake!  ( Sorry!  Would hate for you to miss out on any of my complaints!). :). We had bought three thick slices of lemon pound cake for the five kids to share as a little treat while we had stopped to buy some wonderful Ethiopian coffee. First, Jake wonders if this is what life is going to be like now, with 5 kids, sharing and such. A valid concern, but still, it rankled. Then when I broke off a piece ( a large piece, I might add!), and gave it to him, he had the gall to ask if that was all he got. It took all my self control in that moment to not grab the cake out of his grubby little hands and give it to the street kids sitting not 20 yards outside the window of our cafe!  You know, all this reminds me of how truly fallen we are. One us is complaining about the trash in the street, another one of us is complaining about limited quantities of pound cake.  Such sinners !!  How does The Lord put up with us??!!  With mercy and grace, thankfully!

We miss you, our friends and family!  Tomorrow night will be my last update, as Friday we get on a plane and start our 30 hour trip home. ( Can I get an ” UGH!”?  And also a “Yay!”).

Much love to you all!
Jana

Email # 3 – Day 2 Complete

First of all, thank you all for your continued prayer and support!

We have completed Day Two as a super sized family, and today was easier than yesterday. I must sing the praises of ALL of the kids. Jake has rallied from some of his tougher feelings of adjustment and truly enjoyed his new siblings today. Emme was made for this. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so happy! Really makes me wonder what she’ll be doing as a grown up….I’m starting to suspect we might be visiting her in a third world country some day. The new ones have been so easy going, kind to one another, without complaint, and It’s been an easier day for Rob and I as well. We’re starting to find a tiny bit of a groove. Today I remembered, when we ate out, to pack coloring books and such, something I haven’t done in years! I wish there was fast food here, but even the fast food is slow. Can be hard for a squirrelly four year old to be patient!

Here’s a few observations and antidotes:

Jacob and Bersisa have really bonded over soccer. Bersisa is quite the athlete, and Jake loves it. The trampoline here at our guest house has proven to be worth every extra penny that we spent for this place, as has a grassy yard and large courtyard. There’s no one here but other families adopting, so there are kids everywhere and they just can run free. This guest house will be at the top of our list next time we’re here adopting a gaggle of kids….:)). Haha!

Emilie and Sahye are inseperable . Sahye is very tolerant and patient! I think she can sense how much Em genuinely adores her, and lets her mother her. I’ve had to remind Em that I’m actually the mom, and please let me do some mother like things! She then sets her sights on Saminas….and, as most kids do, he lets her.

Saminas has bonded the most with Jake. He takes Jakes hand and sits in his lap and minds Jake. Me and Rob, not so much! He is a funny little guy! At one point we were all getting in the van to go eat, and without warning he takes off running back to where the trampoline was. Jake pipes up “We’ve got a runner!”, and me and Bersisa pop out of the van to go find him. Turns out he was looking for his ball cap, but he didn’t tell anyone that, not even his siblings! He also falls asleep almost on command. You say nap time and, boom, in two minutes he’s out. You say bed time and boom, same thing! And when he’s out, he’s OUT. The older kids were trying to wake him up to go play, and Em said they were making his arms swing and patting his cheeks, and NOTHING. Jake and Em think thats the funniest thing ever!

Tomorrow we go back to the Thomas Center for the Good bye ceremony. I’m anticipating that will be quite bittersweet for the kids. I’m concerned for Bersisa in particular. The Head Nurse, Sister Leti, is especially close with him. She told me he is her favorite, and he is clearly connected to her as well. Please for these little guys, saying goodbye to their home! As seems to be typical with the oldest, Bersisa seems to be having the hardest time. He’s sweet and obedient, but he goes vacant every now and then, and when you smile at him in those moments, you get a brave smile back. I’d rather he’d snarl! It tears my heart. That’s when the language barrier bothers me the most. Our words of comfort are gibberish….so we just put an arm around him and let him be sad. Sigh. And ugh.

As wonderful as our guest house is, we can’t WAIT to get home. I miss you all, and I miss the U.S. I miss my cats and the warm NM sun. And of far greater importance, I miss my bed ! Spoiled American… :)

Attaching a couple of pictures. The big guy with the kids is Eyassu, our wonderful driver. He’s been a huge blessing.

Much love and thanks to you all.
Jana

Email # 2 – We Made it Through Day 1

It’s 11 pm here, and all the kids are asleep. Boys are together, girls are together, grown ups are alone. Whew!  I would say overall it’s gone better than we could have hoped for. Jake was actually trembling after meeting them, and Em has not, for one second since introduction, stopped mothering Sahye. I’ve had to tell her to back down, actually!

We will send a video ASAP of our meeting w them. It says it all. After playing at the orphanage (our whiteys just just jumped right in!), we went to lunch for our first lunch out as a family. The new kids did great considering it was their first restaurant experience !
In an attempt to somewhat follow the orphanages schedule, we all laid down for naps. However, only the youngest and oldest of our family slept!  But Em and Jake did a great job entertaining the other two.

It’s been a day filled w mostly happy moments!  A few tears for jake, a few short lived moments of my eyes glazing over like a deer caught in headlights….but we know this whole adoption thing is a work in progress. We are so thankful for your prayers. I was much more scared last night before we got the kids, than I am tonight now that we have the kids. I think that’s progress right there. :)

We love u all. Can’t wait to get home.
Jana

Email # 1 – We’ve Arrived In Addis!!

Well, we are here in Addis!
Our trip to Dubai went well. The flight was long (duh!) but everyone slept some, so that was good. We saw a lot in the 22 hours we were there and decided Dubai reminded us a lot of Vegas. Jacob named the women in head to toe burqas ” assassins” and made us laugh often w his paranoia. He was in tears a few time with homesickness. After landing in Dubai he said he would like to just hole up in our hotel room and not see anything of Dubai. After out nap and downtime in the room, he said ” my emotional culture shock has subsided. I’m ready to go out now”. Emme, of course, had a total opposite reaction. She asked random odd questions mostly about what people were wearing and why. Like how does the woman on the beach in the full black burqa swim in the ocean? Good question, but still rather random. She’s up for anything and everything and isn’t worried at all about safety. Which is good….we can on only handle one over the top security oriented child!
Our guest house is great with lots of space to spread out. We’ve already had a wonderful rain shower w thunder and lighting and sheets of rain, which appears to have cleared out for the evening. My guess is that is does this every afternoon. Which will make mandatory nap time easy to enforce the rest of the week! :). I’ll let u know how that goes. Yeah right!
We see, then get, the kids tomorrow after lunch. We’ll hang out at the orphanage a few hours before talking the kids. Jake and Em are so excited to meet the kiddos. It’s pretty sweet. Em’s got big plans for the sleeping arrangements, which I seriously doubt come together as she imagines it will. Pray for her in case she is disappointed. Pray for jake to be strong and courageous ( thank you, Amy, for that verse before we left!) as we see much more of Addis tomorrow. Hopefully his “emotional culture shock” will be short in duration.
Our life changes for ever, ” for real”, for us. Pray for JOY to be the only overwhelming emotion!!!

We love you all. Could not do this without you.

Jana

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