"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Monday, February 28, 2011

Risovi Photography

My sister-in-law is just starting a photography business. One of the things that will make her business unique is that she is willing to set up her studio in your home. It is a really cool concept as kids are so much more comfortable and thus more photogenic in their homes.

Teresa's portable studio did not take up much space, and as you can see from the photos above, Joshua thoroughly enjoyed having his picture taken! He actually begged Auntie Teresa to take more pictures the following morning, that is quite a change from the studio shots I had of his siblings when they were three!

So... want to see the results?

The shoot was supposed to be all Joshua. I have framed photos of all the kids in their baptism clothes and I wanted a formal shot of him as well. Brenna just could not resist sneaking in a few! Unlike many of us, Brenna loves to have her picture taken!

To see more of Teresa's work visit http://www.risoviphotography.com/

Thank you Risovi Photography for capturing the heart of our Joshua Gebeyehu!

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Nobody was cranky at our house this weekend!

I hope you had a weekend full of laughter, too!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Daddy put you Joshua mah tah mah tah"

Last night mommy went to a BIG meeting (aka appetizers with a girlfriend) and Daddy put Joshua to bed.

Chad had attempted to put Joshua to bed one other evening several months ago... Joshua did not do well.

This time as we talked about it during the week Joshua got more used to the idea vs. more panicked. The first time I mentioned that I was going to a big meeting Friday night and that Daddy would put him to bed, Joshua yelled "NO!!!!!" I explained that I would sleep at home but my meeting would be too long and late for me to put him to bed. He was not convinced.

Throughout the week we kept reminding him off and on that daddy would be putting him to bed on Friday. We read a book about Dora and her daddy... they did all kinds of fun things together, just like Joshua and his daddy. In the end Dora's daddy put her to bed. He thought that was very interesting. (He is a big Dora fan!)

By supper time last night Joshua was saying, "Joshua I love it daddy put you Joshua mah tah mah tah!" We nearly fell off our chairs! At that point we knew that if Joshua has a hard time at bedtime, it would not be his "fault." Joshua was doing his best to be open to and excited about his daddy time. A panic at bedtime would be an indicator that it was more than he could handle NOT Joshua being manipulative or controlling.

As I gave Joshua a bye-bye hug and smooch I asked him if I loved him when I was at meetings? He said, "YEP!" I asked if I loved him while I was at BIG meetings? "YEP!" I reminded him that I would sleep at home, but daddy would put him to bed. He told me, "It OK."

When I left Joshua was standing on the garage step waving, smiling, blowing kisses, and yelling "Bye-bye! I lub you!"

Daddy and Joshua had the house to themselves. They had a lot of fun. I have heard stories about pretending to be puppies, horsey rides, and rocking out to daddy's favorite band, "Skillet."

At bedtime they read three books. Then they spent a long while examining Joshua's new favorite picture. It is of me, posing with my horse and dog, as a senior in high school.

Joshua is fascinated by it. He and daddy agreed that it would be a good thing to sleep with (yep melt my momma heart!) Then Joshua coached daddy through prayers and our bedtime song and went to bed.

He sang and talked in his crib a while, but then went to sleep without a tear!!!!!!!

I totally enjoyed having a long chat with a girlfriend without being interrupted by any of our children. I love, love our playdates - but grown-up time is such a blessing! It was the first time I had been out without a "Joshua bedtime curfew" since he came home.

He did wake up at 2:13 AM to make sure mommy came home. (That is not typical anymore.) He had to tell me a few stories about the exciting time he had with daddy before he was ready to snuggle in and go back to sleep. He was and is so very proud of himself!

Today he has been almost totally normal. He has been extra snugly - bummer! I have heard him fake cry and yell, "Momma's baby crying hold you!" several times. It has been a while since he has played that game, but it is just his way of asking me to give a little extra attention to him. I am very thankful that he is reaching out to me rather than rejecting me!

(I am ready to share bedtime duty with daddy, but I do confess that if Joshua would totally reject me at bedtime - I would not handle it as gracefully as daddy did!)

I am so proud of you Joshua Gebeyehu!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mighty to Save

(If you have not yet, click the play button. I think you should read and listen at the same time.)

This song is one we sing often during worship services at our church.. It is a favorite of mine.

"Savior, You can move the mountains!

My God is mighty to save,

He is mighty to save!"

Those lyrics contained words I clung to as we waited to bring Joshua home.

Eventually all the mountains were moved. Joshua came home.

Church was hard for Joshua at first. However, the music drew him in. He adored (and adores) watching the musicians play. We started sitting in the front of the church so he could see "Tommy" playing the guitar more clearly.

Then one Sunday I heard a toddler voice in my ear singing along. He was singing along with the chorus, "Mighty to save! He is mighty to save!"

Soon after that Joshua found his singing voice. He sang all the time. He sang loudly. He sang with great passion and enthusiasm. He sang with joy. He sang while he played. He sang while he jumped on the trampoline. He sang while we drove.

The words were always the same, "Ah me too way!"

I could not figure out what he was singing about. I asked and he would just repeat his words. I would say what does "ah me too way" mean? He would tell me it meant, "ah me too way."

I decided it must be Amharic. I asked Ageze to translate. He just shrugged.

I emailed a friend whose daughter had helped to translate Joshua's words other times. She replied, "My daughter says Gebeyehu is a baby. He made it up."

Joshua continued to sing "AH ME TOO WAY!"

His words seemed so powerful. Many times they seemingly came from his soul. I was determined to figure out what they meant to him.

One Sunday after church he was singing "ah me too way" once again. I asked him how he knew that song. He responded, "Tommy do that."

I sang him every worship song I could think of but none were "ah me too way." It was driving me crazy. I totally wanted to know my son's heartsong.

Finally, after months of trying, I figured it out.

"Ah me too way!" is Joshua's toddler/new English speaker's translation of "Mighty to Save!" The cry of my son's heart is the heart of his (and all of our) story.

Savior, You have and will continue to moved the mountains. You are mighty to save. Thank you Jesus, you are mighty to save. Amen

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Natural Childbirth

In the USA most people consider a childbirth experience "natural" if the mother did not have an epidural. When asked if the births of my babies was natural I previously would have answered, "Pretty much."

Let me tell you about the birth of Krissy. When I was exactly 40 weeks pregnant I was retaining a lot of fluid... as in I gained 10 lbs in one week and had stretch marks everywhere, even on my calves. I was about 3 cm dialated but labor did not come. So I went to the hospital. The doctor hooked me up to monitors, started an IV, and broke my water. When nothing happened after two hours of walking the halls, she started a pitocin drip. I labored "naturally" (as in without pain meds), for about 5 hours. By then it was the middle of the night and the doctor highly encouraged that I take something that would help me sleep in between contractions. So I agreed. They put something into my IV that made me sleep between contractions, but I certainly still felt them. (Still not sure about the point of that drug.) Soon after, I was fully dialated so I was very groggy when it was time to start pushing. Just as I began pushing, Krissy's heart rate dropped pretty low. The doctor did a quick episiotomy, grabbed the foreceps and pulled Krissy out. Krissy was fine. I hemmoraged a bit, so they stuck me with another drug... an upper this time. I was totally loopy at that point. I was too drugged out to call my mom. I was nervous about holding the baby (and I was very experienced with babies). I sent Chad home and tried to sleep it off, but because I was still hooked up to the pitocin to prevent more hemmoraging, and thus still contracting, I really could not sleep. I did not know where my glasses were or where the button to call the nurse was. I was way to unsteady to try get out of bed. It was horrible. It was terribly disappointing. It was also TERRIBLY LUCKY!

I have recently read, "The Hospital By the River; A story of hope" by Dr. Catherine Hamlin. In it Dr. Hamlin tells the story of her life. As a young OB, Dr Hamlin and her husband (who was also an OB) chose to go to Ethiopia to train midwives. Their hearts were broken for the mothers of Ethiopia. They never left. In fact, Dr. Catherine Hamlin is still practicing medicine in Ethiopia today.

Before reading her autobiography, I had heard of Dr. Hamlin. I knew she had become well known... she has even been on Oprah. The New York Times called her "the Mother Teresa of our age." I knew she had chosen service over a big salary. I was aware that she operated a fistula center in Ethiopia. In reading her book I learned so much more!

Let me tell you a tiny bit more about her life's calling.

Dr. Hamlin is a christian woman. She tells of her faith, her calling, the political climate in Ethiopia, the "elite" social life in Ethiopia, her research, her fund raising, and details of daily life. This book described it all.

But the heart and soul of the book is about the fistula patients. Prior to reading the book, I knew that a fistula was a childbirth related injury which leaves the mother incontinent. Incontinence is smelly and messy, thus these woman are outcasts.

What I did not understand was how a fistula usually occurs. A fistula occurs when a baby is either too large or just positioned poorly so it can not pass through the birth canal. A woman will go into labor and because there is no medical help... NONE literally NONE... when labor does not produce a baby she just continues to labor. Eventually the baby dies. Once the baby has died it usually "shrinks" enough to be delivered. By then the damage done to the mother is severe. When in labor for days and days... like 5... (can you imagine 5 days of labor and then delivering a stillborn baby?) the pressure from the baby causes lasting damage. The babies passage can tear the bladder and rectum leaving its mother with internal injuries that can only be repaired surgically. With no medical care available, surgical repair is impossible. The mother is left incontinent with no hope.

Throughout the book, Dr Hamlin tells story after story of the women they have healed. How they walked for miles and miles and miles to get to help. How they begged for YEARS for the bus fare to get to the hospital. How they have been sent away and/or divorced by their husbands. How they have truly lost all hope.

Dr. Hamlin and her late husband have worked tirelessly to help these women. They first needed to come up with a surgical technique to repair the damage. These injuries are not seen in areas with medical care, so no one had developed surgery to correct the damage.

They eventually perfected a repair technique and have trained many doctors. They have built a modern surgical center in Addis Ababa for the repair of fistulas. Although they are remarkably successful, they have a few patients that have not experienced 100% healing. They have developed a colony for these ladies to live in and work at. They are also doing some work in the rural areas of Ethiopia. They are working to educate the Ethiopian people about the dangers of young marraige and pregnancy. Dr. Hamlin is in her 80s and still working tirelessly for the patients she loves.

You can read more about Dr. Hamlin and her Fistula Hospital here and also here.

You can also buy the DVD, "A Walk To Beautiful" which tells the personal stories of several fistula patients, if you are a reader!

So why care?

First, I think we need to remember to be thankful. If I had had my first baby in Ethiopia there is a good chance both baby and I would have died. Krissy was in danger when her heart dropped. I was in danger when I hemmoraged. Because I was in an American Hospital, we were both fine. While it was not the labor and delivery of my fantasies, it was far from the nightmare it could have been.

I think we need to be aware.

I think we need to be inspired. The Dr. Hamlin's could have made a lot of money and delivered many healthy babies in the comfort of a beautifully equipped modern hospital. They chose instead to serve. The two of them made a HUGE difference in the way fistulas are treated world wide. Their talents, dedication, focus, faith, and love - not their money - have changed the lives of many.

I think we need to be challenged.

I think we need to use our talents, dedication, focus, faith, and love to change lives.

Homemade Scented Playdough

I don't know about you, but I am ready for spring temperatures and a day at the park! To combat the stir crazyness that is settling in, we made scented playdough today. Although we have spent plenty of time this winter working with playdough the novelty of making it ourselves and it smelling like Hubba Bubba Bubblegum made good old playdough a bit more fun.

Here is the recipe we used:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp cream of tartar or alum
1 T. oil
1 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until dough forms into a ball. For scented playdough add 1 package of Kool-Aid. This gives the playdough both color and a scent. Today we made grape, cherry, orange, and lemonade playdough. If you want really bright colors you may want to add a few drops of food coloring along with the Kool-Aid. I did not add any food coloring and I was happy with all the colors except yellow.

*** You can use an electric skillet to mix this playdough instead of the stove top. ***

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

FREE Resource!!! "Realistic Expectations the First Year Home"

I recently read about this free downloadable resource on another blog. I have just finished reading every word and I HIGHLY recommend it.

Following is a list of some of the topics/articles included:

Realistic Expectations
The first year home

for adoptive families as they put away their travel suitcases, preconceived notions, and get down to the job of parenting...

This 50 page guide offers information on a variety of subjects:

Scroll down for information on how to download...

A Different Perspective
by Cynthia Hockman-Chupp

Strategies for Building Attachment
by Karleen Gribble, BRurSc, PhD,

Top Ten Tips for Successful First Year Parenting
by Deborah Gray, MSW, MPA

Why Grandma Can’t Pick Up the Baby
by Sheena Macrae and Karleen Gribble

What is This Thing You Call Sleep?
by Dr Julian Davies, MD

Alone No More...Recognizing Post Adoption Depression by Heatherly Bucher

Adding The Oldest by Terra Trevor

Creating a Fit by Carrie Kitze

“When Do You Tell a Child he was Adopted?”
And Other Secrets We Shouldn’t Keep
by Adam Pertman

Unexpected Special Needs by Nancy Hemenway

Positive Outcome:
How Can You Combat the Effects of an Orphanage
By Mary Beth Williams, PhD, LCSW, CTS

The Impact of Trauma on the Adopted Child and Ten Keys to Healing Trauma in the Adopted Child
by B. Bryan Post

How to Find a Therapist Experienced in Attachment and/or Trauma by the Attachment Disorder Network

Sensory Integration And the Internationally Adopted Child
By Barbara Elleman, MHS, OTR/L, BCP

Facts About Parenting a Child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder By Teressa Kellerman

How to Avoid the Syndrome of Parent Burn-Out
by Harriet McCarthy

Being an Ally to Families Raising Children with Challenges by Ellin Frank

Help Your Child Ward Off a Mad Attack
by Lynne Namke, EdD

Being with Your Child in Public Places
by Patty Wipfler

Strategies to Deal with Anger and Power Struggles
by Christopher J. Alexander, PhD

When Adoptions Fail by Kim Phagan-Hansel

So what do I like about it?

  • It is only 50 pages but covers many, many topics.
  • Each article is written by a different author, so you get a wide variety of professional opinions. Each author has a lot of "initials" after their name.
  • It includes many additional suggested readings/resources so if you need to know more about any of the topics you have more in-depth resources.
  • It gives lists of children's books as well as adult resources.
  • It is free.
  • It is practical not clinical.
  • It is on-line so the link could easily be forwarded to family and friends trying to understand and support you as adoptive parents.
  • It talks about a lot of tough stuff, but is filled with HOPE and HEALING.

I actually would suggest this for anyone thinking about adoption - or anyone with close family members or friends who are adoptive parents. It even has some stuff that is good for every parent or teacher, like an article on Anger and Power Struggles. It gives a super, yet brief, synopsis of many potential adoption related parenting issues. You could use it to gather more information without spending a lot of time and money on books.

I have the link to this article on the left side of my blog under the "Links to Resources I've Found Helpful" listing. Or you can just click here to get it.


Treasures in my Mailbox

This arrived in the mail today.

If I have not mentioned it before... my sister-in-law is one of those people who can find the most original and thoughtful gifts. She found this beautiful, authentic Ethiopian, hand-painted box on EBAY. She (and her husband, don't mean to ignore Uncle Jeremy) purchased it in honor of Joshua Gebeyehu's baptism and had it shipped from Ethiopia right to my front door.

It is absolutely a treasure.

The scene painted on the inside of the box is of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. It is the perfect scene to have painted on a baptism gift - but to us it has another significance as well. We first saw Joshua's face and accepted his referral on January 19. In Ethiopia, January 19 is a very significant Christian holiday called Timket. Timket is celebrated in remembrance of Jesus baptism. Goosebumps anyone?

I told you it was a treasure!

Also found in our mailbox today was Joshua Gebeyehu Chad's social security card. It was a good day to open mail in the D. household!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Puppy Love

Lest you were concerned abut the safety and well being of my children after yesterday's post... here is the evidence that they are thriving despite a less than perfect mom!

We went to visit some puppies today. The kids are in love! The only thing I could have done to make the day better (for them) would have been to bring one home.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I have not been a fun person to be around this weekend. I have not been positive or energetic or giving. I have not have had a servant's heart. I have not been filled with grace and love. I have been CRANKY! (If my husband reads this he will be shouting "amen!")

Ever just been out of gas?

I am just wiped out.

At this stage in parenting there is never a break. When the kids were younger, they were all in bed early so I had an hour or two to myself after they went to bed. Then, we had a short phase of kids actually sleeping in on the weekends! I could either enjoy some extra rest OR get up and work out before they crawled out of bed. Now, Joshua wakes me up in the morning, and Krissy and Jamison are still awake and willing to chat late into the night. There is always someone talking to me... more often two or three persons.

There is also more work to do than I will ever get done. The laundry basket is always full. Someone always needs a snack. There are always dishes to do. The floors... yuck!!! One of my fantasies is to be in my house and have it be clean and quiet. I am sitting on my couch reading a book and sipping a glass of wine because everything else is done.

There is always someplace we are supposed to be. Between basketball, youth group, volleyball, piano, school drop-off, school pick-up, playdates, volunteer work, and household errands I truly feel like all I do is drive and cook.

I feel like I have lost me in the chaos. I have not worked out in 3 weeks, which in and of itself is enough to make me cranky! I truly do not know when I could fit it in? I have all these thoughts and ideas flowing through my brain and no time to share them. I do not want be a mom who has nothing to talk about other than her kids, to discover when they all leave that I have no idea who I am without them.

This weekend, I confess, I have wallowed in the crankiness. I have pulled my snout out of the slop once or twice and attempted to recognize the beauty around me - but just as quickly allowed myself to sink back into the mud. It is time to pull myself out of the muck.

So what does God want from me? How does He expect me to spend my days?

Hymn to a Good Wife
10-31 A good woman is hard to find,
and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
all her life long.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
and brings back exotic surprises.
She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.
She's quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn't worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing,
and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
Her husband is greatly respected
when he deliberates with the city fathers.
She designs gowns and sells them,
brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
"Many women have done wonderful things,
but you've outclassed them all!"
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!
Proverbs 31:10-31
The Message
The Proverbs 31 woman looks absolutely NOTHING like I did this weekend. To be honest, I knew that. I avoided thinking about who God wants me to be and how He wants me to act all weekend. I just wanted to wallow. But wallowing and avoiding God's call only made me miserable (not to mention my family.) Following the Lord is hard, just reading about a Godly woman makes me tired and a bit overwhelmed. However, allowing satan to take over (which is really what I did in totally ignoring who God would have me be) is unbearable, totally hopeless, and lacking all joy and peace.

My life is very full. It is full of activity and noise and work. It is also full of love and joy and laughter. While I do need to work on balance a bit, on carving out some time for me, on ignoring the work and enjoying the chaos - I also fully realize that my life is so good. I am blessed and the biggest desire of my heart is to be a blessing.

So, that means I have to ask my God and my family for forgiveness. I need to ask God continue to shape me - to fill me with more of Him and less of me.

"Do not be shaped by this world. Instead be
changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you
will be able to decide what God wants for you.
And you will be able to know what is good and
pleasing to God and what is perfect."
Romans 12:2
I am a work in progress.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cheddar Meatloaf

One meal my family enjoys is meatloaf. Any time I buy fresh ground beef I make several meatloaves. I serve one (well actually two... we need double these days) and freeze the other two for another day. Meatloaf is super quick and easy to prepare, especially if you do not have to thaw the meat, so I save a ton of time by mixing the loaves right away.

Here is our favorite meatloaf recipe:

1 egg
1 cup shredded cheddar or cojack cheese
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 tsp. salt, seasoned salt, or garlic salt
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion (I skip or reduce, not a popular ingredient around here)
1 lb. LEAN ground beef

In a bowl, beat the eggs and milk. Stir in cheese, oats, onion, and salt. Add beef and mix well. (I think it works best to just squish it all together with my fingers.) Put into loaf pan.

Top with:
2/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. prepared mustard

Mix together and spoon over the top of the loaf. (I sometimes serve the topping on the side. You can just warm it in the microwave before serving the meatloaf if you have a anyone who says, "Reddie stuff yucky! Joshua no I like it!")

Bake 350* 1 hour. Baked potatoes go with this really well because the bake time and temperature is the same for both the potatoes and meatloaf.

***I try to double as many recipes as possible and freeze half. It rarely takes a lot longer to make two than one. It creates half the mess. And it keeps me out of the kitchen more often! That is a win-win-win in my book.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Daddy and Joshua Hiding

Wednesday night's are daddy and Joshua's night! They play while I take the older kids to church. It has become a time that Joshua loves!

This is the scene I return to each Wednesday.

When Daddy and Joshua hear my SUV pull into the garage they start "hiding." When I walk in I hear lots of giggles and Joshua yelling, "Where oh where is Joshua?"

I pretend to check his room, the bathroom, etc... while the blanket on the couch wiggles and giggles.

Finally I pull back the blanket to discover this!

Joshua LOVES this game! He thanks God for "daddy Joshua hiding mommy" every Wednesday night as we pray before bed. He has one SMART daddy! Daddy came up with this game because it causes Joshua snuggling with daddy to be fun. (Mommy is not the only intentional parent at this house!)
It is so fun to come home to these twinkling eyes!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Connection... so much is in our eyes

This will always be one of my very favorite photos. It captured my very first eye to eye, heart to heart connection with my son. What makes the photo extraordinary is not just that we were finally together - but that you can see our connection. It is all about our eyes.

Eye connection is vital in relationships. If you do a search on eye contact and attachment you could read the studies forever. The amount of eye contact between mother and child has been attributed to all kinds of amazing things from IQ to social skills.

I never really thought (before the last year that is) about how many hours I spent gazing into the eyes of my babies. It is really the only way to connect with them at first. They can not do anything but stare at you, and so you gaze lovingly back. You make silly faces. You sing songs. You watch their every expression to guess at their every thought. And soon you can come pretty close! You know by the wrinkle of your baby's nose that he will burst into tears soon. You know in the way she place her hand over her left eye that she is sleepy. You know because you have studied, although the studying is as natural as breathing.

One of they ways I have very intentionally connected with Joshua is through eye contact. I have been lucky because he has been a willing participant. Not all kids with tough pasts are. However, even though he has been willing to lock gazes from the beginning, learning to read each other correctly has been a journey.

At first eye contact only happened in play. I played with Joshua for hours and hours, intentionally forging connections of joy with my boy. This was the basis for our early connection. For every interaction we had that was difficult (like nap time, correcting a behavior, or just mom needing to disconnect and get some work done for a bit) I followed with play. When we played mommy was not only an enforcer, mommy could be trusted because mommy was fun.

Probably the next phase of eye contact was peek-a-boo.

As language developed a great way to have eye contact was learning the words for and pointing to mommy's eyes, nose, teeth, etc...

As we have grown closer we have spent hours laying on the floor or snuggled in a chair eye to eye. We have had staring contests that end in huge bouts of laughter. We have made silly faces at each other.

Sounds familiar, right. All those things I did with my babies I have repeated with Joshua. But when the baby is not an infant, it has to be intentional. It is not as natural to play baby games with a toddler/preschooler. It was JUST AS VITAL ... perhaps even more vital in forming a bond with Joshua than it ever was with my babies.

You see, Joshua did not "just get it." When I gave him "the look" - you know the one that says ENOUGH! - he had no idea what I was trying to say. When I gazed deep into his eyes communicating my love, he had no idea what my eyes were saying. So we needed to practice.


The first thing we practiced was pausing to look into each others eyes when we said, "I love you." Oh you can not know how beautiful it was the first time he said to me (in the midst of silly play), "Mommy, look at eyes!" pause for mommy to look "I lub you!"

We went on from there and practiced all sorts of faces. I would make a face and ask him what my eyes were saying. I can not over estimate how much this has helped our relationship. Now when I tease him, he knows by the look in my eye. He can tell by my look when he is being warned to stop or when he is being silently prompted to say please or thank you. He also knows from across the room when I am sending my love through my eyes.

Connection is a beautiful thing, but it is not always magical. Many times it takes work. It takes intentionality. It takes time. It takes practice. But after all the work, intentionality, time and practice the result feels magical.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Glimpsing God's Goodness this Valentine's Day

I love viewing God's extravagant love in the colors He paints the clouds.

This beautiful sunset felt like God's Valentine to me on this Valentine's Day!

One of the things I have always loved is giving little gifts. In the last year I have made it a goal to have the majority of my little gift purchases give money to support causes I love (rather than stores I like). One of the little gifts I gave this Valentine's Day was bracelets made by a mom working hard to bring her little one home. Her goal is (was) to sell 3000 bracelets to cover the cost of her daughter's adoption. The bracelets come in many different colors and are packaged in a beautiful way (as seen above). You can buy yours here.

***God is so amazing! I purchased my bracelets a while ago and after I posted her link I decided I better check to make sure it still worked. Guess who was picked up by her mommy TODAY? Guess who is an orphan NO MORE... Isabella. The very baby that these bracelets were purchased in support of... AMAZING!

Check out the link just the same... Isabella's mommy has handed off her fundraiser to another family. So you can still purchase these cute bracelets and help bring a little one home - how cool is that?!***

Joshua Gebeyehu experienced his first Valentine making - complete with glitter glue. Look at the concentration!

And look at that joy and excitement!

One of our other Valentine projects today was scarf making. Pretty cute, don't you think?
I was snapping a picture of my sweet Valentine gifts when "my silly Valentine" insisted on being in the picture too. Happy Valentine's Day from our house to yours!

May we all remember today and every day the words of 1 Corinthians 13:13:
TRUST steadily in God,
HOPE unswervingly,
LOVE extravagantly.
And the best of the three is LOVE.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Grand Caymen...maybe next year!

Chad and I were "supposed to" spend this week being lazy on a beach in Grand Caymen.

Since Joshua is not ready to be left for a week AND we do not have his American passport yet (in order to bring him with us), we spent the week at home.

So instead of a late breakfast via room service followed by a run on the beach followed by a nap in the sun followed by a fancy dinner, our day looked like this:

9am-3:30 PM running the backhoe
5PM grill steaks for the family
7-10PM watch a movie with the kids

9 AM have coffee with Sierra and friends
1:30 buy groceries with Joshua, Sierra, and Krissy
12:00 drive girls to do some volunteer work
12:25 unload groceries
1:30 drop off Jamison to do volunteer work/pick up girls
2:45 take nap with Joshua
4:45 drop girls off at movie, bring Jay to buy Valentine for his girl
5:45 eat yummy dinner Chad made
7:15 pick up girls from movie
8:00 get Joshua to bed
8:25 watch end of movie with Chad and kids

Was staying home from this year's Incentive trip was absolutely the right decision? Without a doubt. Am I missing a week away with my hubby? Absolutely. Do I wish I were napping on the beach? Oh, yeah! Am I thankful to have my not-ready-for-the-beach-body covered today in jeans and a turtleneck sweater today? Affirmative!

See there is something good about everything!

Friday, February 11, 2011

PB and J

When asked what he would like for a snack before bed, Joshua replied, "What does Barney like?" (Yep, in addition to Dora he is now a Barney fan.) The only thing I can remember ever seeing Barney eat is Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches so that was my reply. Prior to tonight, "Joshua no I like it jelly!" But if Barney likes it, it must be worth a try!

"Peer" pressure can be positive! He loved the PB and J. He also ate yogurt this morning because his friends did. Other "new foods" this week were frosting and orange juice. So slowly, thanks to desire need to copy his friends, my picky eaters pallet is expanding... how do you think I convince his buddies to model eating broccoli or green beans?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

8 Months (and a few days) Home

This eighth month home has been a month of EXTREME emotional growth. In the first seven months at home, Joshua had grown tons physically. He had become stronger, more agile, and faster. He had learned our language and our family rules. He had become MOMMY'S BABY through and through. He had done TONS of growing. In most areas his chronological age was close to his developmental age. The one area that he seemed very delayed was emotionally.

Emotionally he was very much 7 to 9 months of age. This was appropriate as it reflected his family age. All my reading said that for the first year or two home children tend to be some crazy combination of their chronological age and their family age. I was not concerned, but I must admit wondering how and when his emotional development would begin to accelerate.


To me the above picture demonstrates some of this growth. Ethiopian things are no longer terribly scary. Joshua loves his "Ethiopia clothes." He has no problem with me calling him Gebeyehu.

He also enjoys and even looks forward to Wednesday nights with Daddy. On Wednesday night, I go to church with all the older kids and Joshua and Daddy have the house to themselves. For weeks and weeks and weeks Joshua threw an absolute fit when I left. Last night he told me, "Joshua I love it mommy meeting. Daddy Joshua havie fun home!" Today he even said maybe someday Daddy could put him mah tah mah tah, but not yet! (Another huge step!)

Joshua now clearly knows who he knows and who he does not know. He no longer hugs someone just because Brenna does. For example, the first (and only) time he met my uncle he ran to give him a hug because Brenna did. On the day of his birthday party, several months later, this same uncle was over again. Joshua did not run to hug him, he hung out behind me and whispered, "Who dat?"

He does really enjoy holding the attention of the adults he knows. He spent much of his baptism party upstairs charming the adults rather than playing with his buddies in the basement. However, he is much more himself in these interactions than the "charmer" or "show boat" he once was. He does not exhaust himself thinking of tricks and stories to keep all eyes on him. He also does a good job taking turns talking and visually checking in with me.

He plays with friends really, really well. He shares well. He takes turns nicely. He will stand up for himself when necessary, but does this politely.

I have been doing a bit fill in day care as a good friend's full time provider is on maternity leave. Joshua has done an amazing job sharing mommy and all his things.

Much of the time he responds like a typical three year old!

However, he still needs a TON of cuddle time. This is truly a need! He pushes himself hard being a "big kid" and absolutely needs mom to hold him and refuel his tank sometimes.
This week he found the Moby I bought before traveling to pick him up. I had hoped he would like this carrier, but at the time it was just too close and confining. This week he wanted to try it again and loved it! You should see him snuggle in like a little egg. (This was packed away again as he is too heavy for me to carry so much, but the picture is a good example of his longing to be close to my heart.)

Another time that he has very special needs for closeness is upon meeting new people. Many times when greeted by an unfamiliar adult he will cuddle into my chin and close his eyes. This is much more reflective of the stranger anxiety of a baby than the energetic three year old he is becoming. I have chosen to treat this just like I would a baby. I allow him to snuggle in and greet the adult for him. I am quite thrilled that he identifies strangers and depends on me to protect him.

He is incredible sensitive to any frustration he hears in my voice. One day while I was taking a nap, he yelled for me to take him to the bathroom. He could see I was sleepy and trying not to be grumpy. He quickly gave me a hug and said, "Mommy I lub you!" While this was sweet, the root of it was his need to hear that I loved him even when his needs were inconvenient. This happens frequently. I am thankful for the opportunity to tell him, "I love you too! Even when I have a tired or rushed or grumpy voice!"

The other area that has grown leaps and bounds this month is his balance and coordination.

When we gave him his trampoline he could only jump once without regrouping to find his balance. He is now up to 15!!! jumps without falling!
He loves to play basketball. Dribbling and getting his rebound have both been super for his hand/eye coordination.
I think his very favorite toy this month has been balloons! He has spent hours and hours bopping the balloon into the air over and over. The balloons move slowly enough that he has been trememdously successful. All this practice has helped both his balance and coordination.

Joshua is also beginning to speak in the first person. He uses the word "me" correctly most of the time. He still speaks of himself as "Joshua" rather than "I" most of the time - but I am beginning to hear him use the word "I" as well.

Each month as I think through all Joshua has learned and accomplished, I am simply amazed.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Barefoot Band

May I introduce... The Barefoot Band!!!!!!!

Featuring Abby on the flute, Ellie on the orange guitar, and Joshua rocking on the white guitar